I’ve already established that the middle grade category of books spans a wide range. Eight-year-olds and twelve-year-olds do not usually read the same books. They also span an amazing range of genres: historical fiction, tween chick lit, detective stories, funny books, sad books, books with a moral, books that make parents cringe.
Today I’m going to feature some novels with heart. What exactly does that mean? It’s a book that tugged at my heartstrings. It was either sad, or had such a sweet and tender resolution that it made me cry. As I posted last year in an On Reading post, I’m not really a crier in real life, but I love books that are So Good I Cried.
My 12-year-old daughter Amanda has been reading many of the books along with me, and she hates “sad books” — does not like them at all. However, she has read each of these books, and did enjoy them.
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze by Alan Silberberg has a sad premise (that kept Amanda from wanting to read it, until after I told her that I think she’d like it). A couple of years ago, Milo’s mom died. Since then, it’s just been his older sister and his dad and him trying to navigate life through “the fog.” They’ve moved several times and each time more and more things that remind Milo of his mom disappear. He and his dad never talk about anything real, and since he’s moved around so much, he doesn’t have close friends with whom he can share his thoughts.
Everything changes at this move, landing him at a new school for his 7th grade year. He meets a neighbor who lost her husband, he has two great friends, and a crush on the popular girl at school. This book reads like a typical middle-school misfit story, complete with the little line drawings that are so popular these days. Milo’s sort of an odd duck, but one of the morals of the story is that all a person needs is one good friend. I loved that he got to be who he was, and with the help of his new friends, he got to wade through the fog and embrace the memories of his mom. It wasn’t sad per se, but it definitely will help those who read it get an understanding of what it’s like to lose a loved one.
Because of Mr. Terupt by Rob Buyea is definitely a story with heart. Mr. Terupt is a young teacher who not only wants to teach his students the 5th grade curriculum, but he wants to do more. He reaches out to each student individually, sometimes in very subtle ways, such as assigning two girls to be partners on a project whose families are at odds with one another. The story is told in alternating points of views from the students whose lives he’s touched. The characters will be familiar, but they are in no way flat stereotypes. By getting inside the kids’ heads, the reader begins to understand those who are different from them. Each fifth-grade class has these types of students, and so readers will definitely be able to relate to the cast: the mean/popular girl, the shy girl, the misfit, the brainiac, the new kid. In addition to this diverse group, the class gets involved with some special needs students as well, which is a surefire way to change the pre-adolescent “Me, me, me” mentality.
This was a great book. It’s the kind of book that will appeal to adults and tweens alike. This story will be with me for a long, long time. It’s a 5 Star Read.
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart was seriously laugh out loud funny. And then by the end, I was hit with the heart. That’s the kind of one-two punch that makes for a knockout of a read.
I’m not crazy about the cover, because it just doesn’t live up to what’s inside the pages, but that little guy is Hammy, David Greenberg’s hamster who he features in the Talk Time videos he makes for You Tube, in the style of his hero Jon Stewart. Middle school (6th grade) is not easy for him. His longtime best friend teams up with the school bully, he is dealing with the loss of his mother, who ran out on them a while ago, and he’s getting bullied and nicknamed “Lameberg.” On the upside, he befriends Sophie, who is new to the school after being homeschooled, and he learns to develop some of his strengths and talents.
We both loved this one as well, and it is also perfect for 5th grade and up boys or girls), and is another 5 Star Read.
Though the Cybils Middle Grade Fiction Finalists will be announced on January 1, I will likely still be sharing reviews of lovely books that I’ve read as a round one panelist past that deadline.
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Jennifer Donovan absolutely loves to connect with her kids over books. She blogs at Snapshot.
My son tends to avoid more “serious” books as well, but he has been known to take one on if I talk it up enough. I’m going to show him your review and see if he takes the bait! 🙂
Jennifer (5 Minutes for Books) says
Honestly, they are all great, but I think that Milo is especially accessible, and though How to Survive Middle School has heart, it is completely hilarious, and not super-serious.
Amanda honestly enjoyed each of these, though I “made” her read Milo, and neither of us knew that Mr. Terupt would turn sort of serious.
Thanks! I have girls in grades 4,6, and 8, and am always looking for good books for them. So much of the YA lit is really into opposite-sex relationships and other topics that seem a bit mature.