The Reading Café is changing a little bit. Instead of only addressing middle school students, I’ll be addressing jFIC (a.k.a. juvenile or middle grade fiction) fans of all ages. I’ll continue to share book lists, personal recommendations, and useful online resources, but all posts will have a jFIC focus and will be intended for a wider audience. I’ll also continue to include tea and coffee quotes.
So let’s begin:
Hello, jFIC fans,
Happy 2019! I’ve read approximately 45 jFIC titles published in 2018. Most were good and some were great. Here are my favorites:
The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
Twelve-year-old Charlie is forced to pay off a family debt by working for a terrible man who is tracking down fugitives. When Charlie discovers what’s really happening and who the fugitives are, he has to choose between conscience and survival.
Christopher Paul Curtis brilliantly combines humor and heartbreak in his historical fiction stories. He does it again with this outstanding novel.
Merci SuárezChanges Gears by Meg Medina
Sixth grader Merci Suárez deals with difficult middle school and family issues in this highly entertaining novel full of humor and insight. The writing is delightfully peppered with Hispanic American sayings and idiosyncrasies.
The Assasination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson
Elfin historian Brangwain Spurge’s mission is to deliver a peace offering to the goblin kingdom, but also to spy on them in the process. Goblin archivist Werfel’s mission is to serve as Brangwain’s host and enthusiastic tourist guide. But their ridiculously different cultures and conflicting historical perceptions result in dangerous consequences for the two of them and their kingdoms.
The novel alternates between illustrations showing Brangwain’s secret messages to the elfin kingdom and Werfel’s differing narrative, and delivers a funny, clever, and timely social commentary plus the story of a unique friendship.
The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock
Boy is a fearful outcast with a large hump on his back, a gift of talking to animals, and no recollection of his past. A mysterious pilgrim named Secondus notices his climbing abilities and takes him on as his servant on a journey to gather the seven precious relics of Saint Peter. Boy reluctantly agrees in the hope that Saint Peter will answer his prayer and take his hump away. Extraordinary adventures follow, and the reader soon realizes that neither Boy nor Secondus are what they seem.
The Book of Boy is a unique and surprising story about discovering and valuing your identity and gifts.
Nightbooks by J.A. White
Alex loves to watch, read, and write scary stories. When he is trapped by witch Natasha in her magical apartment, he discovers that his hair-raising tales can keep the witch and her home happy, which can buy him time to figure out how to escape. But he soon realizes that escaping—even with the help of two other captives—may be impossible. As he well knows, terrifying stories like the one he’s now a part of, hardly ever have happy endings.
Nightbook is sure to delight young writers and readers of dark and creepy tales.
Granted by John David Anderson
Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets is a Granter-in-training fairy. A Granter’s job is to leave their magical land called the Haven, fly out into the dangerous human world, and grant a previously selected human wish. Wish-granting is crucial to the fairies because it releases the magic that protects the Haven, so being a Granter is a huge responsibility. Ophelia is given her first assignment, and she enthusiastically sets out to complete her mission, but wish-granting turns out to be far more complicated and difficult than she expected.
Dangerous adventures and a heroine with a noble heart are what make this fantasy novel truly special.
Wicked Nix by Lena Coakley
The fairy queen and her court have gone away and left Nix behind. He concludes that it’s because he was given the important job of protecting the forest from humans until the queen and the rest of the fairies return. So when a trespasser arrives, Nix tries to scare him away with fairy tricks, but to no avail. Who is this trespasser, and what’s the real reason for the fairies to have left Nix behind?
Themes of home, family, identity, and belonging make Wicked Nix a unique and unforgettable fairy tale.
Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier
Chimney sweep Nan Sparrow’s protector has disappeared, but has left a creature made from soot and ash–a golem–in his place. Nan and the golem form a unique friendship and together find ways to survive and protect each other and other chimney sweeps.
Sweep is a fascinating historical/fantasy story full of wonder, friendship, heartbreak, and hope.
The Tale of Angelino Brown by David Almond
A tiny angel appears in the pocket of Bert, a bus driver. He takes “Angelino” home to his wife, Betty, and they both become his doting parents. Tiny Angelino charms and cheers up everyone he meets, or rather, almost everyone, for in any happy story, there’s always a meanie who wants to spoil things. But Angelino is not going to let anyone foil his mission of spreading goodness and gladness and of being a special blessing to Bert and Betty.
Angelino Brown is a delightful little story that will bring joy and hope to all who read it.
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Louisiana Elefante’s granny wakes her up in the middle of the night with the cry “The day of reckoning has arrived!” and whisks her off on a road trip to wherever the gasoline left in their old car will take them. Their destination turns out to be a small Georgia town where Louisiana makes some unexpected friends while Granny stays in bed recovering from an emergency dental procedure. Louisiana’s difficult situation worsens when Granny unexpectedly takes off, leaving her with nothing but a shocking good-bye letter. What will happen to Louisiana now? Will she find a way back to her best friends, Raymie and Beverly? Most importantly, will she ever find a place to call home?
Great writing, humor and surprise, unique characters, and themes of kindness, friendship, resiliency, belonging, and forgiveness make Louisiana’s Way Home an oustanding story.
Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech
Louie is determined to save the sickly newborn donkey that his father has brought home. No one expects the donkey, whom Louie names Winslow, to survive, including his prickly new friend, Nora. But Winslow surprises everyone. He not only survives and grows, but also proves to be a valuable companion to the children and even a hero of sorts.
Saving Winslow is a sweet story full of tenderness, friendship, love, and the hopeful message of finding your place and purpose in the world.
Love to Everyone by Hilary McKay
Love to Everyone is the story from birth to adulthood of smart, kind, and loving Clarry Penrose. Clarry wants to get an education and discover her place and purpose in the world, but it’s not easy with a distant father who doesn’t believe that girls need to be educated and it being the early twentieth century. Fortunately, Clarry has the support of her brother Peter, her cousin Rupert, her grandparents, and her friends. But then World War I happens and everything changes for everyone.
Love to Everyone is both a heartwarming and heartbreaking story of resiliency, perseverance, and steadfast love. (My absolute favorite 2018 jFIC read!)
More 2018 jFIC novels you may like:
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson ****
Small Spaces by Katherine Arden****
The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown****
Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac****
Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender****
The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins****
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome*****
The Truth As Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor*****
The Ghost Road by Charis Cotter****
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson****
Otherwood by Pete Hautman****
Very Rich by Polly Horvath****
The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson****
The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras****
Bob by Wendy Mass*****
The Extremely Inconvenient Adventures of Bronte Mettlestone by Jaclyn Moriarty*****
Here’s a revised list (new titles!) of last year’s recommended JFIC holiday books. Ask Santa for some of these, or borrow them from your local library.
All-of-a-Kind Family Uptown by Sydney Taylor
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery
The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher
The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse by Nicholas Gannon
Dreidels on the Brain by Joel ben Izzy
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
Father Christmas and Me by Matt Haig
The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Ghosts of Greenglass House by Kate Milford
The Golden Dreydl by Ellen Kushner
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel and Trina Schart Hyman
Kringle by Tony Abbott
The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
A Little House Christmas Treasury by Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Lotterys More or Less by Emma Donoghue
The Naughty List by Michael Fry
The No-Good Nine by John Bemelmans Marciano
Nutcracked by Susan Adrian
The Nutcracker Mice by Kristin Kladstrup and Brett Helquist
Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
The Power of Light by Isaac Bashevis Singer
Santa’s Kwanzaa by Garen Eileen Thomas and Guy Francis
A Shiloh Christmas by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Top Elf by Caleb Zane Huett
Tru and Nelle: A Christmas Tale by G. Neri
The True Gift by Patricia MacLachlan
The Vanderbeekers of 141st St. by Karina Yan Glaser
When Santa Fell to Earth by Cornelia Funke
Winterfrost by Michelle Houts
Young Scrooge by R.L.Stine
Happy holidays and happy reading!
“Daughter of Eve from the far land of Spare Oom where eternal summer reigns around the bright city of War Drobe, how would it be if you came and had tea with me?”~fromThe Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
I’ve put together a great list of juvenile books about outdoor adventures. Check them out!
Bears of Blue River (The) by Charles Major Bearwalker by Joseph Bruchac Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk Call It Courage by Armstrong Sperry Call of the Wild & others by Jack London Cay (The) by Theodore Taylor Chasing at the Surface by Sharon Mentyka Downriver & others by Will Hobbs End of the Wild (The) by Nicole Helget Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (The) by Jacqueline Kelly Explorer (The) by Catherine Rundell Gentle Ben by Walt Morey Girl Named Disaster (A) by Nancy Farmer Gone-Away Lake & sequel by Elizabeth Enright Hatchet & others by Gary Paulsen Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley (The) by April Stevens Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green by Helen Phillips Hoot & others by Carl Hiaasen Ice Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan W. Eckert Island of the Blue Dolphins & others by Scott O’Dell Island Series by Gordon Korman Julie of the Wolves & sequels by Jean Craighead George Jungle of Bones & others by Ben Mikaelsen Keeper by Kathi Appelt Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson Lemons by Melissa Savage Little Savages (The) by Ernest Thompson Seton Lost in the Barrens and others by Farley Mowat Lumberjanes Series by Mariko Tamaki Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGee My Side of the Mountain & others by Jean Craighead George Nature Girl by Jane Kelley Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool Night of the Howling Dogs by Graham Salisbury Operation Redwood by S Terrell French Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C.Holling Pax by Sara Pennypacker Quicksand Pond by Janet Taylor Lisle Rascal by Sterling North Sign of the Beaver (The) by Elizabeth George Speare Skeleton Tree (The) by Iain Lawrence Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson Someday Birds (The) by Sally Pla Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner Stranded Series by Jeff Probst Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls Swiss Family Robinson (The) by Johann D. Wyss Treasure at Lure Lake by Shari L.Schwartz True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp (The) by Kathi Appelt Walkabout by J.V. Marshall Week in the Woods (A) by Andrew Clements Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls Wild Life by Cynthia DeFelice Wild Robot (The) by Peter Brown Wilder Boys Series by Brandon Wallace Wilderness by Roddy Doyle Winter Camp by Kirkpatrick Hill Wonder at the Edge of the World by Nicole Helget
My favorite from the list? The Wild Robot by Peter Brown:
A stranded robot learns about life by caring for an orphaned gosling and becoming an integral part of an island’s community of wild animals. An unusual and tender story about family and community values. The sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes, is now available.
Have a wonderful summer full of awesome books and adventures!
“Would you like an adventure now, or shall we have our tea first?” ~from Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
Here are five delightful 2017 books I recently enjoyed:
The Explorer by Katherine Rundell (2017) *****
Fred, Con, Lila, and Max are flying back to England from Manaus, Brazil. The small plane they’re on crashes in the Amazon, and the pilot dies. They must learn to get along, figure out how to survive in the jungle, and try to find their way back to civilization. Just as they’re running out of luck, Fred finds a map that leads them to an abandoned ancient city and its one mysterious inhabitant. Explorer is a thrilling survival story with interesting characters!
The Secret of Nightingale Wood by Lucy Strange (2017) *****
It’s 1919, Henrietta’s brother has died in a fire, her mother is severely depressed, and her father has taken a job abroad. She, her mother, nanny, and baby sister are now living in a new house full of strange secrets. Things start to get difficult when a doctor wants to place her mother in a mental hospital and his wife wants to take away her sister. How can Henrietta—who’s just a child— save her mother and baby sister and restore her family? Help comes from her brother’s lingering presence and the mysterious woman living in Nightingale Wood. This is a wonderful story of courage and perseverance in the face of overwhelmingly negative circumstances.
Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine Murray (2017) ****
Molly thinks her mother, a potion maker, and her unusual family life are too different from her classmates’. She longs to be “normal” like her best friend Ellen. Molly’s grumpy neighbors are angry because of her mother’s noisy rooster, so her mother decides to make a potion that will quickly grow a tree between their houses. Unfortunately, she accidentally drinks the potion and turns into the tree. Now Molly must figure out how to save her mother before the neighbors start cutting down the tree branches that are reaching onto their property. With the help of her inquisitive classmate Pim, she starts to appreciate the value of both the normal and the wondrous.
The Doorman’s Repose by Chris Raschka (2017) *****
Have you ever wondered what the lives of people living in a New York City’s posh apartment building are like? Here are ten fascinating stories about the inhabitants (including the mice) of one of those old buildings. The book gives young people a glimpse of adult life and an awareness of how people (and mice) living in close proximity affect each other. And did I mention that the elevator has feelings? A fun and poignant read!
The Murderer’s Ape by Jacob Wegelius (2017 English Translation) *****
Sally Jones, an extraordinary and super-talented gorilla, and the Chief are friends and partners. They operate a cargo boat business and live a pleasant and carefree life traveling from port to port. Unfortunately, their way of life is upended when one of their jobs turns out to be a dangerous con that ends badly, their boat sinks to the bottom of a river, and the Chief is falsely convicted of murder. Sally Jones escapes and embarks on a quest to prove the Chief’s innocence. Her talents and good heart win her some good friends, but there are many–especially the ones behind the botched job–who seek to destroy her. This fabulous story is told from the gorilla’s point of view and contains wonderful characters, exotic settings, and exciting adventures.
“If I were a wizard, I’m pretty sure my Patronus would be a steaming cup of coffee.” –Anonymous