Two weeks before school let out, my 11-year-old suffered a concussion which left her unable to do much of anything – like watching TV, running outside, or the worst possible punishment when you could inflict upon her – reading. This proves especially painful (pun intended) when your order of Scholastic books arrives the day after you bonk your head. Thankfully, the concussion cleared up in time for vacation and Maddie spent nearly the entire 3200 mile drive reading. As such, SHE has a pile of middle school books she would love to recommend.
They run the gamut from fantasy to supernatural fiction (dealing with grief) to historical fiction, and she was enthusiastic about each and every one of them.
I’ve asked her to chime in on just what it was she liked about the books (and maybe even why she thinks I NEED to read them)!Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
Published by Greenwillow Books on January 1st 1970
Sophie has the great misfortune of being the eldest of three daughters, destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking it lies in the ever-moving castle in the hills: the Wizard Howl's castle. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl—and herself—than first meets the eye.
Maddie loved it because:
Full of surprises! You won’t know what is magic and what is just luck. Easy to fall in love with the characters, and feel the same emotions as them.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
on January 1st 1970
Four mysterious letters change Miranda’s world forever.By sixth grade, Miranda and her best friend, Sal, know how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it’s safe to go, like the local grocery store, and they know whom to avoid, like the crazy guy on the corner.
But things start to unravel. Sal gets punched by a new kid for what seems like no reason, and he shuts Miranda out of his life. The apartment key that Miranda’s mom keeps hidden for emergencies is stolen. And then Miranda finds a mysterious note scrawled on a tiny slip of paper:
I am coming to save your friend’s life, and my own. I must ask two favors. First, you must write me a letter.
The notes keep coming, and Miranda slowly realizes that whoever is leaving them knows all about her, including things that have not even happened yet. Each message brings her closer to believing that only she can prevent a tragic death. Until the final note makes her think she’s too late.
Maddie loved it because:
Amazing emotions and descriptions. Relates to another amazing book I just love (A Wrinkle In Time). At first, many things seem to be just side details or confusing facts that don’t add up. But in the end, everything makes sense.
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt, Alison McGhee
Published by Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books on March 8th 2016
Sylvie and Jules.
Jules and Sylvie.
Jules adores her older-by-one-year sister, Sylvie.
Sylvie: beautiful like their mother.Sylvie: supreme maker of tiny snow families.Sylvie: faster than fast.
Into thin air, Sylvie goes missing, and as Jules stumbles in grief, a fox cub is born. A shadow fox, spirit and animal in one. From the minute the cub opens her eyes, she senses something very wrong. Someone—Jules.
Jules: steadfast like their father.Jules: supreme maker of tiny snow foxes.Jules: collector of rocks.
Who is this Jules? Who is this Sylvie she cries out for? And why does the air still prickle with something unsettled? As that dark unknown grows, the fates of the girl Jules and the fox cub, laced together with wishes and shadowy ties, are about to collide.
In this book you will cry at some points, whether it is happy or sad tears. You feel sad for Jules when she’s sad, and happy when she’s happy. This book is full of twists and turns that lead to a wonderful, loving ending.
Interested? Click here to find Maybe A Fox on Amazon.com
A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd
Published by Scholastic Press on February 25th 2014
Introducing an extraordinary new voice---a magical debut that will make your skin tingle, your eyes glisten . . .and your heart sing.
Midnight Gulch used to be a magical place, a town where people could sing up thunderstorms and dance up sunflowers. But that was long ago, before a curse drove the magic away. Twelve-year-old Felicity knows all about things like that; her nomadic mother is cursed with a wandering heart.
But when she arrives in Midnight Gulch, Felicity thinks her luck's about to change. A "word collector," Felicity sees words everywhere---shining above strangers, tucked into church eves, and tangled up her dog's floppy ears---but Midnight Gulch is the first place she's ever seen the word "home." And then there's Jonah, a mysterious, spiky-haired do-gooder who shimmers with words Felicity's never seen before, words that make Felicity's heart beat a little faster.
Felicity wants to stay in Midnight Gulch more than anything, but first, she'll need to figure out how to bring back the magic, breaking the spell that's been cast over the town . . . and her mother's broken heart.
Maddie loved it because:
Wondrous characters, they all have amazing and quite different personalities. The events that weren’t full of magic were full of description and emotion!
The Girl in the Well Is Me by Karen Rivers
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on March 15th 2016
Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. (The Girls have gone for help, haven’t they?)
As hours pass, Kammie’s real-life predicament mixes with memories of the best and worst moments of her life so far, including the awful reasons her family moved to this new town in the first place. And as she begins to feel hungry and thirsty and light-headed, Kammie starts to imagine she has company, including a French-speaking coyote and goats that just might be zombies.
Karen Rivers has created a unique narrator with an authentic, sympathetic, sharp, funny voice who will have readers laughing and crying and laugh-crying over the course of physically and emotionally suspenseful, utterly believable events.
Hilarious sequences throughout the book even though there are some sad parts in it. The anticipation for the end killed me – I couldn’t stop reading it.
The Apothecary (The Apothecary, #1) by Maile Meloy, Ian Schoenherr
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on October 4th 2011
It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows—a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies—Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
Maddie loved it because:
Another book full of surprises! You won’t know who to trust, but you’ll be eager to read anyway. This book captured my attention and drew me in with the action and a touch of romance.[Mom says: what???!!!!!!]
Interested? Click here to find The Apothecary on Amazon.com
The Apprentices (The Apothecary, #2) by Maile Meloy, Ian Schoenherr
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on June 4th 2013
Two years have passed since Janie Scott last saw Benjamin Burrows, the mysterious apothecary’s defiant son who stole her heart. On the other side of the world, Benjamin and his father are treating the sick and wounded in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam. But Benjamin has also been experimenting with a magical new formula that allows him to communicate with Janie across the globe. When Benjamin discovers that she's in trouble, he calls on their friend Pip for help. The three friends are thrown into a desperate chase around the world to find one another, while unraveling the mystery of what threatens them all.
Acclaimed author Maile Meloy seamlessly weaves together magic and adventure in this breathtaking sequel with stunning illustrations by Ian Schoenherr.
Just like The Apothecary, this book is full of action and surpasses. You seem to learn what Benjamin learns and feel what Janie felt. In times of war, they fight to find and help each other; yet with a touch of romance.
Interested? Click here to find The Apprentices on Amazon.com
Have you read any of Maddie’s middle school picks? We’d love to hear what you thought if you have (or if you are inspired to grab one – or seven – for your reader!)
I have to give a shout out to the helpful staff at Parnassus Books in Nashville who made a few recommendations and who, when she hit the alloted amount I’d given her for purchases for the day, encouraged her to write down everything else she had found that she loved. Thanks too to the helpful staff at Island Bookstore in Duck, NC, when we needed to reload books (she forgot her Kindle) and we couldn’t find books on her list.
As much as I love my Kindle, there’s nothing like independent bookstores and their staff to help you discover new-to-you authors.