Category Archives: middle grade books

JFIC Novels in Verse

Hello, jFIC fans,

April is National Poetry Month, so here’s a list of outstanding novels written in verse. All have received starred reviews, and several have also won awards.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (award winner)

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The Canyon’s Edge by Dusti Bowling (starred reviews)

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Serafina’s Promise by Ann E. Burg (award winner)

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Love That Dog (award winner) and Moo (starred reviews) by Sharon Creech

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The Wild Book by Margarita Engle (starred reviews)

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Starfish by Lisa Fipps 2021 (starred reviews)

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Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes (starred reviews)

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Catching a Storyfish by Janice N. Harrington (starred reviews)

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Out of the Dust (award winner) and Witness (starred reviews) by Karen Hesse

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Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton (starred reviews)

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Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai (award winner)

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The One Thing You’d Save by Linda Sue Park 2021 (starred reviews)

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The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkey (starred reviews)

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May B. by Caroline Starr Rose (award winner)

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The Moon Within by Aida Salazar (starred reviews)

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Red Butterfly by A.L. Sonnichsen (starred reviews)

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The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan (award winner)

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Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (award winner)

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Brown Girl Dreaming (award winner memoir) and Before the Ever After (award winner) by Jacqueline Woodson

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For a more extensive list of middle grade novels in verse, visit this excellent website: https://readingmiddlegrade.com/middle-grade-novels-in-verse/

Happy reading!

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of toast and tea
.”
~T.S. Eliot

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For Women’s History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

I’m adding six fairly recent novels to the list I posted on March 13, 2019 titled “Herstorical JFIC”:

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman (2020)*****

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (2020)*****

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons (2020)****

Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park (2020)****

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (2019)*****

Some Places More Than Others by Renée Watson (2020) *****

Happy reading!

“I don’t drink coffee to wake up; I wake up to drink coffee.” ~ mug sentiment

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Celebrating Valentine’s Day and Black History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

Let’s celebrate Valentine’s Day with a sweet jFIC love story:

Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Louisa is not looking forward to spending another summer with her grandparents on the tiny island where they live. Her brother doesn’t mind, but she’s a writer, so even though she enjoys her grandparents’ company, she would rather be off having adventures with her ornithologist parents. This year, however, she discovers that the island has a lot to offer, and she meets George, a very special boy with whom she forms a very special friendship.

And for Black History Month, here are a few of my favorite historical novels by African American authors:

Finding Langston Trilogy (Finding Langston, Leaving Lymon, and Being Clem (coming in August, 2021) by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Elijah of Buxton and other awesome novels by Christopher Paul Curtis

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and other installments of The Logan Family Series by Mildred Taylor

Some Places More than Others by Renée Watson

One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia

P.S. Be Eleven

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

Happy reading!

“Words cannot espresso how much you bean to me!” –unknown

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2020 Favorites

Hello, jFIC fans,

Happy New Year! Looking forward to a year full of awesome reads!

My favorite dozen from 2020:

Eva Evergreen (Semi Magical Witch Book 1) by Julie Abe (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)

Eva Evergreen’s quest is to earn the rank of Novice Witch before her thirteenth birthday, for if she doesn’t, she’ll lose her magic powers forever. The problem is that Eva only has “a pinch of magic” – or so she believes. This delightful fantasy novel reads like an anime movie. I look forward to the sequels!

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)

After a reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant explodes, two rival fifth-grade girls from completely different backgrounds end up on a train on their way to stay with one of the girls’ estranged grandmother. A poignant multigenerational historical novel about the power of friendship.

Premeditated Myrtle (Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery 1) by Elizabeth C Bunce  (Ages 10-18; Grades 5-12) (some diversity)

Myrtle Hardcastle is a brilliant twelve-year-old girl obsessed with forensic science and detective work who persists in her investigations in spite of the social expectations of her time. The series has similarities to the award-winning Flavia de Luce Mystery Series by Alan Bradley, but it’s written for kids! Engaging and delightful!

The Sisters of Straygarden Place by Hayley Chewins (Ages 10-14; Grades 5-9)

A beautifully-written surreal fantasy about an enchanted house, menacing plants, bonds between sisters, and reality-bending revelations. I loved the little black dogs that squeeze inside their owners’ brains to help them sleep. Spooky and original!

Leaving Lymon (Finding Langston Trilogy Book 2) by Lesa Cline-Ransome (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (BIPOC author)

The second installment of the Finding Langston Trilogy follows the story of the bully Lymon, and includes the reasons for his anger, his love of music, and his finding hope for a better future. A moving and inspiring historical fiction story told by an outstanding writer.

One Time by Sharon Creech (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (some diversity)

With the help of a brilliant teacher and a boy with a generous smile, 11-year-old Gina Filomena and her classmates discover that their future is full of wonderful possibilities. An uplifting coming-of-age story that’s perfect for classroom reading groups.

The Clockwork Crow by Catherine Fisher (Ages 9-12; Grades 4-7)

Thirteen-year-old Seren Rhys is an orphan hoping for a better life in her Godfather’s country mansion. But nothing turns out as she expects, and she ends up going on a fantastic journey to rescue the family’s young son who has been stolen by fairies. A mysterious and fast-paced fantasy with themes of resilience, courage, and belonging.

A Pinch of Magic by Michelle Harrison (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7)

The Widdershins sisters discover that they’re under a generations-long curse that keeps them from leaving their island, so they set out to break the curse and save their lives with the help of three magical objects and a mysterious prisoner. An exciting fantasy adventure with excellent world-building and characterization.

The Time of Green Magic by Hilary McKay (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-7) (bi-racial blended family)

A gorgeously-written, enchanting family story that follows the daily lives of 11-year-old Abi, her two stepbrothers, and her father and stepmother, as they adjust to a new family and a new home: a mysterious and possibly magical ivy-covered house. A suspenseful and heartwarming novel from a brilliant author. My favorite juvenile novel of the year!

Of Salt and Shore by Annet Schaap (Ages 10-12; Grades 5+)

Lampie, the lighthouse keeper’s 11-year-old daughter, makes a terrible mistake that results in punishments both for her and her alcoholic father. Hers is to be sent to live and work at the Admiral’s house, where a monster is said to live. A fantasy adventure with extraordinary characters and themes of courage, friendship, belonging, and self-worth.

The Monster Who Wasn’t (Monster Who Wasn’t Trilogy Book 1) by T. C. Shelley (Ages 8-12; Grades 3-6)

Imp hatched in a monsters’ lair, but looks just like a human boy and is possibly something between fairy and monster. The gargoyles and their angel take him under their wings, but the king of ogres has sinister plans for him. A fantasy story of family, good vs evil, and seeking one’s place in the world. Exciting and heart-warming!

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk (Ages 8-12; Grades 5+)

The Great Depression forces 12-year-old Ellie’s family to leave their home in town and move to the untamed forests of Echo Mountain. There Ellie discovers a love of nature and is enjoying her new life until her father has an accident that leaves him in a coma. Ellie then decides to go to the reclusive “hag” of the mountain for help. A story about having the courage and persistence to become your own true self.

Happy reading!

“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly.

“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.”

“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.”

“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.

~ from Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

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Historical JFIC for Women's History Month

Hello, JFIC fans,

Reading is the perfect activity for these unprecedented times of social distancing. Many libraries and bookstores are closed, but you can still borrow or buy ebooks and audio ebooks or simply order books and audiobooks online (preferably from your favorite local bookstore).

On March of last year, I posted a list for Women’s History Month titled Herstorical JFIC. Here’s a list (alpha by title) of several books from that post that are probably available to borrow as ebooks and/or audio ebooks from your local library (they’re all available from mine: the Denver Public Library):

Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Birchbark House (The) by Louise Erdrich

Breadwinner (The) by Deborah Ellis

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

Endless Steppe: Growing Up in Siberia (The) by Esther Hautzig

Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Evolution of Calpurnia Tate (The) by Jacqueline Kelly

Full Cicada Moon by Larilyn Hinton

Green Glass Sea (The) by Ellen Klages

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lions of Little Rock (The) by Kristin Levine

Lyddie by Katherine Paterson

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

Night Diary (The) by Veera Hiranandaani

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

Paper Wishes by Lois Sepahban

Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

War That Saved My Life (The) and sequel by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

West of the Moon by Margi Preus

Witch of Blackbird Pond (The) by Elizabeth George Speare

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Stay home and read, everyone! ❤️

“For if I could please myself I would always live as I lived there. I would choose always to breakfast at exactly eight and to be at my desk by nine, there to read or write till one. If a cup of good tea or coffee could be brought to me about eleven, so much better. Tea should be taken in solitude.” ~C.S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

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JFIC for Black History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

It’s Black History Month, so let’s celebrate African American jFIC authors. Here’s a list of their awesome books :

The Crossover Series by Kwame Alexander

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

So Done by Paula Chase

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

New Kid (graphic novel) by Jerry Craft (Recent winner of the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature)

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Blended by Sharon Draper

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

Bird by Angela Johnson

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

The Season of Stix Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Ghost and sequels by Jason Reynolds (current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature)

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi


And also, because it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a sweet love story: Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Happy reading!

“I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.” —Toni Morrison

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JFIC Favorites 2019

Hello, jFIC fans,

Here are my favorite jFIC books of 2019:

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas (Fantasy/Folklore)

Eleven-year-old Buddy goes on a dangerous quest to rescue his dad from a magical crime Lord. His weapons are a knife and his father’s magical Parsnit cards, and his sidekick is a spider-folk girl named Tally. A fantastic setting, page-turning danger and adventure, quirky characters, a creative game of cards, great messages about family and identity, and a fascinating metanarrative all work together to make this novel an outstanding read.

Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (Realistic Fiction)

This is the third book featuring characters from the world of Raymie Nightingale. I loved this tenderhearted, sensitive story about dealing with grief and hardship, and finding unlikely friends in the process. Lyrical, poignant, and simply wonderful.

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (Historical Fiction)

A lovely novel, written in verse, about the Irish Land War (1881). Well done, suspenseful, and poignant. Excellent characterization.

Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction / Humor)

Carter Jones is dealing with his first year in middle school, his father’s absence, his brother’s death, his distraught mother, helping to take care of his three younger sisters, and a surprise English butler who wants him to behave like a “proper gentleman” and learn to drink tea and play cricket. Well-written and both funny and heart-wrenching.

The Runaways by Ulf Stark (Realistic Fiction)

A young boy helps his dying grandfather to run away from the hospital for a couple of days, giving him the chance to prepare for his final good-bye. Well-written with delightful characters. An inter-generational adventure full of humor and heart. 

Happy reading!

“What’s this?” I said.

“Tea with milk and sugar,” said the Butler.

“I don’t drink tea,” I said.

“All civilized people drink tea, young Master Jones.”

“Then I guess I’m not civilized.”

“A claim you share with Vikings, Huns, assorted barbarian hordes, and marauders of all stripes. I have taken the liberty of adding more sugar than one might normally expect.”

I sipped at it. I sipped again. It was pretty good.

“It stinks,” I said.

— from Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt

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JFIC Adventures 2019

Hello, jFIC fans,

Looking for a holiday gift for the preteen in your life? Here are seven jFIC adventure novels published in 2019 that I particularly enjoyed:

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas

A fantastical river setting, unforgettable characters, and a terrific storyline.

The Stormkeeper’s Island by Catherine Doyle

A beautifully-written high-stakes Irish fantasy. Fascinating!

The Storm Keeper’s Island (The Storm Keeper's Island Series) by [Doyle, Catherine]

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horowitz

The daughter and heir of a Dark Lord saves the day. Witches, unicorns, quirky characters, and a positive message. Very entertaining!

Time Sight by Lynne Jonell

A suspenseful time-travel adventure in the Scottish highlands. A page-turner!

Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly

A fantastical quest in a wondrous island setting with endearing characters and a great message.

The Good Thieves by Katherine Rundell (British cover shown)

A group of talented children stand up to an evil conman. High stakes and a clever twist at the end.

The Good Thieves

Maximillian Fly by Angie Sage

A post-apocalyptic adventure where the main character is a human cockroach. Terrific!

Happy reading + happy holidays + happy new year!!!

“There’s a happy feeling nothing in the world can buy
When they pass around the coffee and the pumpkin pie”
–from “Sleigh Ride” by Billy Gilman

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Twelve Christmas Classics

Hello, jFIC fans,

Last year I posted a list of holiday books:

https://elsapla.wordpress.com/2018/11/29/holiday-books-2/

Here are 12 Christmas classics to add to the list:

Little Women by Louise May Alcott

Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry

Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck (author) and Mark Buehner (illustrator)

A Treasury of African American Christmas Stories edited and assembled by Dr. Bettye Collier-Thomas

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Nueve Días para Navidad: Un Cuento de México by Marie Hall Ets (author, illustrator) and Aurora Labastida (author)

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry

Circle of Wonder: A Native American Christmas Story by N. Scott Momaday

The Taylor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter

A Christmas Story by Jean Shepherd

A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas (author) and Trina Schart Hyman (illustrator)

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski (author) and P.J. Lynch (illustrator)

Joyous reading and happy holidays!

“It snowed last year too: I made a snowman and my brother knocked it down and I knocked my brother down and then we had tea.”
― 
Dylan Thomas (from A Child’s Christmas in Wales)

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JFIC Family Stories

Hello, jFIC Fans,

Here’s a list of 25 diverse jFIC books about family stories. Some are happy and some are sad, some are contemporary and some are historical, most are realistic and a few are fantastical, and all are great reads. 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay and sequels by Julia Alvarez

My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

Hold Fast by [Blue Balliett]

The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall

The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson

The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Lotterys Plus One and sequel by Emma Donoghue

The Birchbark House and sequels by Louise Erdrich

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and sequels by Karina Yan Glaser

A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Riley Giff

The Family Hitchcock by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett

The Family Hitchcock by [Levin, Mark, Flackett, Jennifer]

Sarah, Plain, and Tall and sequels by Patricia MacLachlan

Saffy’s Angel and sequels by Hilary McKay

Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

The Borrowers and sequels by Mary Norton

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr

The Best Man by Richard Peck

Esperanza Rising and sequel by Pam Munoz Ryan

Shooting Kabul and sequels by N.H. Senzai

All-of-a-Kind Family and sequels by Sydney Taylor

Three Times Lucky and sequels by Sheila Turnage

One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Front Desk by Kelly Yang

Happy reading!

“Mercy on us, how they did talk! first one, then the other, then all burst out together–trying to tell the history of three years in half an hour. It was fortunate that tea was at hand, to produce a lull and provide refreshment–for they would have been hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

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