ages 9 – 12


5M4B disclosure

The thing with the classics is that you grow up with them, and you love them, and by the time you’re ready to pass them on to your own kids, they are tattered and dog-eared and too-much-loved, and that’s if you’ve managed to hang on to them and not lost them in one of your many moves. It’s time for new versions, and Oxford University Press is obliging by coming out with new editions of all your old favorites. And they are delightful; they contain the original unabridged stories, of course, but also bonus material such as quizzes, reading recommendations, fun and unusual facts about the author, and more.

I chose four to look at, but they’re coming out with many more. With these reviews, I’m assuming you’re familiar with the basic stories and mostly highlighting the new versions.

jungleThe Jungle Book: Kipling’s classic tale of Mowgli, a boy raised by wolves in the jungle who has made friends with various creatures, is still as chilling and exciting a tale of loyalty and survival as ever. Mowgli must learn who he can trust, as the wicked tiger Shere Khan seeks his destruction. The Jungle Book contains the story of Mowgli’s adventures as well as the story of the valiant Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the mongoose who defeated the great cobras of the garden (I absolutely loved this story as a child), the White Seal, Toomai the Elephant, as well as several poems and other stories. This version also contains reading notes, tips from the cover artist, and recommendations for more books to discover. For kids who think the Disney movie is all there is, this book is sure to delight.


anneAnne of Green Gables: This was an absolute favorite of mine as a child, including all the following books and other series by the same author. Anne of Green Gables is a great read for all ages. The spunky, feisty orphan with the bright red hair who transforms the lives of an elderly brother and sister, disrupting their neatly ordered dull existence with life and joy in all its messiness, has in turn delighted generations of readers. Again, kids who have only seen the (really lame, in my opinion) TV series are in for a treat. This edition contains “things to think about,” which are questions the encourage young readers to go deeper with the text, a short interview with the illustrator, a quiz, and more.


treasure islandTreasure Island: This tale of treasure, adventure and piracy on the high seas is a classic for a reason, and may be singled-handedly responsible for the fact that pirates have never ever gone out of style. The story of young Jim Hawkins and his tale of Black Dog, Long John Silver, Captain Flint, the black spot, and the horrors of Treasure Island will never stale. I still remember shivering as he hid out in the apple barrel and heard plans that made his blood run cold. This edition includes “weird and wonderful words,” which is a glossary, as well as fun facts about the author and “things to think about.”

aliceAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: As it should be, both books are included in this edition, Alice’s first adventures down the rabbit hole, and her later adventures in the opposite world through the mirror on top of her mantelpiece. I loved Alice as a child, but I re-read the books as a young adult and found them even funnier. There are so many plays on words that went over my head when I was 10 or 12, but that made me laugh out loud when I was in my 20s, and again when I read this book to my own children later on. The illustrations in this edition are truly delightful, although I retain a soft spot for the original ones by John Tenniel. This edition includes recommendations for other books and movies, a quiz, some fun facts about author Lewis Carroll, and more.

Classics become classic for a reason — they age well. If you haven’t read them in years, never read them at all, or want to introduce them to a new generation, they are still really enjoyable, tales that will entertain and inform. They provide young readers a painless way to learn of other times and a great way to pass an afternoon.


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The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys

At first I thought The (Almost) Perfect Guide to Imperfect Boys was a little too cutesy and contrived, but that feeling didn’t last long. I was immediately taken back to 8th grade (or even better, the fun fictitious version of 8th grade), as I got lost in the story of Maya and Finley. Things are changing, like the fact that they aren’t super-close with all the girls they grew up with. Another thing has really changed, and is constantly changing, and that is the boys. Maya and Finley started classifying the boys in Finley’s science notebook, aka The Amphibian Life Cycle. The tadpoles are those boys who still burp and fart and act like 6th graders. Croakers have voices that croak, showing some sort of
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The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine: Friendship Over

Julie Sternberg, author of Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie and its two sequels (linked to my reviews), writes books for the younger middle grade readers, with shorter chapters and expressive characters who represent the 8-10 year old age extremely well. My own third grade daughter was thrilled when I told her that Sternberg has started a new series. The first book, The Top-Secret Diary of Celie Valentine: Friendship Over introduces another lovable young girl trying to work through a highly-relatable experience. Friendship in childhood can be filled with ups and downs, and ten-year-old Celie is currently low down because her (former) best friend Lula suddenly stopped speaking to her. No explanation, no reason that Celie can think of. Having to see her every day at
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The Scavengers by Michael Perry #Giveaway

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5 Ways My Mom Helped Me Become a Writer {Friday’s Five}

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The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm

My 10-year-old son and I read The Fourteenth Goldfish aloud together. We often read books aloud, but it can be a slow-going process. The more we like them, the faster we finish, because one or both of us will say “Let’s read one more chapter” in spite of other interests and reading our own books. Sometimes it was him suggesting another chapter, other times it was me. We both equally enjoyed this book. Why? Sciencey stuff, in this case facts about scientists and researches (This won’t surprise fans of her Squish graphic novels) heartfelt family issues (which won’t surprise fans of her works such as Turtle in Paradise) such as adult parent/child relationships and a “broken” family (specifically I loved that in the divorced family
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Always, Abigal

Always, Abigail is one of those important stories for that demographic of girls who are entering middle school. That is a time that brings big changes, especially for girls. Some girls slide right into the make-up, boys, popularity mode, while others get left behind (or choose to stay behind). Abigail and her best friends AlliCam –yep, they only need one name– are set on ruling the 6th grade. They know the first step is to make the pom-pom squad. They practice all summer, and they buy just the right clothes. But the first day of 6th grade already turns out to be a bust when Abigail is put in one homeroom — the mean and old-fashioned Hawk-eye Hawkins — and AlliCam are together in another
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Star Wars: Jedi Academy series

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The Time of the Fireflies #MMGM

Many kids like mysteries. The Time of the Fireflies by Kimberley Griffiths Little is a perfect middle grade novel that incorporates mystery, friendship, and even a little time travel. Larissa and her family have recently moved back to her mother’s hometown. Larissa was in an accident which left her with a big scar on her face. That hasn’t made it any easier for her to make friends. With her best friend Shelby Jayne out of town for the summer, she’s left to spend long days working in her family’s antique store (which doubles as their house), reading, and imaging. When one of the antique phones rings one day and a young girl tells Larissa that her family needs her help, that she must find the
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Nanny X

When their mother goes back to work as a lawyer, Ali and Jake aren’t thrilled. They’re less thrilled when they meet their new nanny that first morning in Madelyn Rosenberg’s latest offering Nanny X. She appears during breakfast and introduces herself only as Nanny X and somehow seems to know all sorts of things about them that they hadn’t even told their parents, like how Ali got into trouble at school the previous Friday for chewing gum. Lunch was a disaster with peanut butter and anchovy sandwiches, but things pick up after school when Nanny X agrees to take them to a rally to save their local park. While there, their friend Stinky is arrested for throwing a rock at the mayor even though they know he
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Bram Stoker’s Dracula: A Choose Your Path Book #Giveaway

Recently I received Greek Mythology’s Twelve Labors of Hercules: A Choose Your Path Book (Can You Survive?), which I read and reviewed over on 5 Minutes for Mom. The publisher was kind enough to send the rest of the set, and while deciding between “Dracula,” “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” and “Sherlock Holmes,” pretty much everyone in my family said I should read Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the next one to review. I’ve always been a fan of vampire stories, but have never read this classic novel, so it didn’t take much for me to agree. Like the other Choose Your Path books, “Dracula” starts out with you as the main character, beckoned by a classic book. You’re then suddenly in the story as the
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The Meaning of Maggie #MMGM

On the morning of Maggie’s 12th birthday, her dad won’t stop beeping. She’s sitting in his hospital room writing in her brand new journal that was a birthday gift meant to encourage her gift of writing and reflecting. She decides to tell the story of her 11th year, since it was such a big one. It was filled with the regular things like bickering with her older sister Tiffany, with whom she shares a room and spying on her oldest sister Layla when she’s getting in trouble, but there were also some big changes. Her mother went to work full time when her dad had to stop working. A cute new boy at school catches Maggie’s eye (and maybe he’s looking her way too?). Maggie
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