My 10-year old is an avid reader, and her reading pile is ALMOST as tall as mine. We both have a problem walking away from a tempting book (and what a good problem to have), particularly as we are both making sure we are set for summer reading.
Of all the books we’ve both read lately, two stand out as superb choices for your kids: The Real Boy by Anna Ursu, and The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst. Both are excellent options for your kiddo to pick up over the summer because they are fun and engaging.
I picked up The Real Boy at the encouragement of our school librarian as a was shelving books one afternoon. “Have you read it? I NEED someone to read it so I can discuss it with them!” Once I read it, I agreed, as there is a lot going on in this book to talk about – and then we needed Miss M to read it because we wanted a kid perspective on it as well.
Oscar is…different. We the reader aren’t entirely sure WHAT makes him different, which is a bit intriguing, I must admit. He is an orphan living in the basement of Caleb, the last magician in the Barrow, where they live; it is his job to collect the herbs and prepare the mixtures and tinctures, although he doesn’t know how he possesses such a vast knowledge of the herbs and their properties. He is just an assistant, and not an apprentice; he does not relate well to people, and so he is meant to stay out of sight.
A bout of mysterious terrible illness starts to befall the children who live in the city and a terrible beast begins to attack and destroy magical things in the Barrow. Soon, Oscar and his friend Callie make a terrible discovery, and it is up to them to save the Barrow and the children of the city.
This book is a well crafted fantasy and perfect for middle schoolers or older elementary children. The themes addressed are pretty complex – identity, fitting in, responsibility, and power – who has the right to control the resources at hand (here, magic) all flow together to make a very thoughtful book. As to what makes Oscar different? Well, see if you can figure it out. (You can come back and ask me.)
My second choice, The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst, is a book also geared towards middle grades (although I enjoyed it immensely!) Ok, fair enough, I fell in love with this book; after hearing the description my 10-year-old was intrigued enough to beg for a copy (despite her having a reading pile as tall as mine.) When she found herself on vacation without an extra book, I lent her my Kindle (which she usually avoids) and she absolutely devoured this story – as in, stay-up-late-late-reading-in-bed/glued-in-the-cruise-ship-balcony-chair devour.
It’s funny, clever and adventurous with a delightful heroine and cast of unusual characters. Sophie does not dream, and for a very good reason – whatever she dreams comes to life, so her parents took away her dreams. She lives with her parents above their bookshop, below which they keep a secret shop where they sell dreams, caught in dream catchers, bottled and sold to others. But Sophie wants to dream – and she does, and Monster is the result. A furry, tentacled, multi-eyed, cupcake obsessed Monster with a sarcastic bent, you will want one for your own!
A mysterious stranger visits the shop, and not long after, her parents are missing. Sophie enlists the help of Ethan, Madison (an unluckier friend) Monster, ninja bunnies, a rainbow-pooping pegasus to hunt down the mysterious man and find, then rescue her parents. The resulting adventure is funny, scary, and a delightfully fun ride. I’d give it 10 stars if I could – yes, I really did love it, and I gushed about it back at the school librarian.
As I mentioned above, both picks would make for great summer reading for your middle grader, and both are entertaining and well crafted enough for you, too. These would be fun family book club picks as well! Let me know what you think of them!
NetGalley provided me with a copy of The Girl Who Could Not Dream in exchange for my honest review; I read my daughter’s library copy of The Real Boy (sorry Mrs. Snyder). All opinions (and dangling participles) are solely my own. This post also contains affiliate links, which help keep me in books and coffee (but won’t cost you anything.)