What I’m Reading Wednesday: The Summer Middle-Schooler Edition

WIRW Summer Middle Schooler Edition

Both of my kids are avid readers, and while for my eight-year-old any book involving princesses, fairies, or animals having an adventure, she’s in.

My ten-year-old is a tougher nut to crack.

Historically he hasn’t been a fan of science fiction/fantasy, so no amount of reasoning could get him to try the Harry Potter series or any of the other YA fiction in that genre that I love, although I have seen some Rick Riordan find their way to his shelves. He’s a big fan of sports fiction, with books by both Tim Green and Mike Lupica filling his shelves, and he does like fiction that’s either compelling (like Michael Morpugo’s War Horse) or fun and well written (like The Fourth Stall series or The Lemonade War series) so I’m always on the lookout for good fiction for him.

This week’s picks for What I’m Reading Wednesday should fit the bill nicely.

First up is Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown:


This book has lots of laughs and lots of heart. Arty Chambers is a 12-year-old stargazer searching for – what else – life on Mars. Life is pretty good – he has two good friends, Tripp (nicknamed for his lack of grace) and Priya, whose mom is best friends with his.  His dad works at the observatory – in fact, he comes from a long line of stargazers. But his life is shaken up when his father loses his job and finds a new one in Las Vegas (where those bright lights will surely obscure his view of the heavens.)

About the same time his dad loses his job a mysterious and grumpy old man moves in next door, who suspiciously leaves each night with a black hoodie and black trash bag in hand. (Tripp is sure he is a face-eating zombie.)  While Arty’s parents are in Las Vegas house hunting, an emergency arises with the very pregnant aunt left to watch over he and his sisters, and he finds himself spending the night at the grumpy neighbors house unexpectedly.

And he learns that grumpy neighbor, Cash Maddox, is indeed not a face-eating zombie (thankfully) but actually a retired astronaut!

Despite  Maddox’s outward demeanor, he and Arty form an odd friendship.

This story was much more than just Arty’s search for life on Mars. It spoke to themes of friendship, change and loss, and following through with a challenge.  It was a really fun read and Arty’s love of constellations and outer space offered up plenty of interesting side learning.  I can’t wait for my ten-year-old to read this one!

Life on Mars will be released on August 5, 2014 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books.


Next up is Jennifer L. Holm’s new book “The Fourteenth Goldfish“.



Ellie is an 11-year-old who doesn’t like change, and she’s seeing far too much of it.  Her beloved goldfish has died (and she learns that it isn’t the original goldfish she thought she had, but the thirteenth replacement.) Her best friend has joined the volleyball team, which has become too time-consuming to allow her to hang out with Ellie. The longer they are apart, the less they seem to have in common, too.
And then there is Melvin.
One day a pimply teenage boy shows up at her house. He claims he is her grandfather, Melvin – make that her scientist grandfather, Melvin, who has been searching for years for the fountain of youth.
It appears that he has found it – and the problem with becoming a teenager is that it becomes pretty difficult to get back into your lab to secure your research (or live at home alone, for that matter), and he needs Ellie’s help. In the meantime, though, her mom makes him return to high school with Ellie, and that presents problems of its own, as does living with a crusty old fart in the body of a thirteen year old.
The book offers up some pretty complex questions on the ethics and effects of science on nature in a way that is approachable to a young reader, and in a fun way. I wasn’t expecting the book to go in this direction, and I enjoyed the way the story played out.  The story is lighthearted and fun – and the exchanges between Ellie’s mom and her now-teenaged father are hilarious.
The Fourteenth Goldfish will be released on August 26, 2014 by Random House Children’s Publishing.
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Disclosure: Both Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books and Random House Children’s Publishing provided me with advanced reader copies. All opinions are my own.

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