I love all kinds of books, but there is something special to me about middle grade realistic fiction. I was constantly searching for books to read when I was growing up, and constantly having to re-read books because I just didn't have access to tons of books. I find myself loving all the middle grade stuff that is being written and published now - and wishing a little bit that I was a fifth or sixth grader again with all of these fantastic options at my fingertips.
This past week I've devoured four books worth adding to your TBR - or handing off to the middle grade reader in your life.
1. Front Desk by Kelly Yang - Yang and her family came to America from China, much like the characters in this book. They also ran a motel, which is what ten year old Mia Tang and her family do in order to have a place to live. This story is sweet, yet shares with readers the struggles that many immigrants face: having to rely on their children to help with their jobs, facing discrimination, barely making ends meet - Yang knows these things from her own experiences. Mia is a character readers will root for. She's full of ideas and not afraid to take charge.
2. She Loves You Yeah Yeah Yeah by Ann Hood- this is the first children's novel I've read by Hood, although I've read and loved all of her work for adult readers. This is also semi-autobiographical as Hood writes about Trudy Mixer, a sixth grade girl growing up in Rhode Island in 1966, a time when Vietnam was center stage and Beatlemania was sweeping the country. She has started the Beatles fan club at school and things are going well, until her best friend Michelle finds another group of friends to hang out with, and the Beatles concert Trudy and her dad were planning to attend just happens to be when her father will be out of the country for work. I loved the way Hood addresses the growing and changing of friendships at this awkward age as well as the nostalgia for this period in time. Absolutely fantastic and everything I could have wanted as a tween reader.
3. Class Action by Steven B Frank, the author of Armstrong and Charlie, is back with a great school story that is fun and educational (I predict readers won't realize how much they learned by reading this book)- Sam is sick of homework. His school doesn't just assign a few minutes each night. He comes home every night with his backpack loaded down and hours of homework to complete. That's what life is like for his high school sister, too, as she has given up any leisure activity to try and secure admission to the college of her choice. Sam's simple protest in class one day turns into a big deal as he (with the help of his retired lawyer neighbor, Mr. Kalman) sues the school district. The case goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Readers will learn about the legal process, but also about some very thought provoking arguments for and against homework. I read this one in one sitting and am excited to share it with my students.
4. The House that Lou Built by Mae Respicio- Lou and her mom live in San Francisco, one of the most expensive cities in the US. Lou inherited land from her father when he died and has plans to build a tiny house on the acre so that she and her mom won't have to relocate to Washington. Lou has no plans of leaving her friends and family despite the fact that the cost of living is cheaper there. However, her mom hasn't paid taxes on the land in years and it is about to be auctioned off. Lou will need to think of a plan quickly so that she can save her land. Respicio does a great job of creating likable characters, and sharing her Filipina culture in the story as Lou talks about food and her culture as she spends time with her family.
I've had a lot of fun reading all four of these novels and can't wait to share them with my students. It's been a great weekend of books at my house.