August is National Back-to-School Month, and many schools have already begun or are about to begin the new school year, so here’s a broad list (alpha by title) of jFIC books (including some graphic novels) about school life, followed by a few personal favorites.
Amelia’s Middle School Graduation Yearbook by Marissa Moss
Anastasia Again! by Lois Lowry
Anna Wang: The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
Back to School, Mallory! by Laurie Friedman
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Big Nate in a Class by Himself (Big Nate Series) by Lincoln Peirce
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf (NEW 2019)
Diary of a Wimpy KidSeries by Jeff Kinney
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (Dork Diaries Series)by Rachel Renee Russell
Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm
Ellie McDoodle New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
The Fantastic and Terrible Fame of Classroom 13 by Honest Lee and Mathew J. Gilbert
Fire Girl by Tony Abbott
The First Day of School Forever by R. L. Stein
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney (NEW 2019)
The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan
Frindle and other books about school by Andrew Clements
George by Alex Gino
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park
Loser, Crash, and other books about school by Jerry Spinelli
Middle School Cool by Maiya Williams
Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm
Middle School Misadventures by Jason Platt
The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher by Sean Jensen
Middle School Series and other books about school by James Patterson and partner writers
The Misadventures of Max Crumbly Series by Rachel Renee Russell
My Homework Ate My Homework by Patrick Jennings
New Kid by Jerry Craft
One Tough Chick (from the Annabelle Unleashed Series) by Leslie Margolis
Posted by John David Anderson
Tales from Lovecraft Middle School Series by Charles Gilman
Reformed by Justin Weinberger
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Smile and Drama by Raina Telgemeier
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda Series by Tom Angleberger
The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (from the Timmy Failure Series) by Stephan Pastis
Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
The Unteachables and other books about school by Gordon Korman
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
And three favorites:
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Eleven-year-old Langston moves with his father from Alabama to Chicago in 1946 after his mother dies. Langston has to deal with many new experiences: a whole new way of life in the city, a new school, bullying, and different kinds of discrimination. Fortunately he walks into a library and discovers the comforting words of poet Langston Hughes, his namesake.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Cuban American Merci Suárez lives with her mother, father, and older brother. Her grandfather, with whom she has a close relationship and who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, lives next door. Other relatives live nearby, and the whole extended family helps each other in different ways. Her father doesn’t earn much money, but Merci has earned a scholarship to a private school for rich kids, where she experiences multiple challenges. Merci has to learn to balance the school’s expectations and her family responsibilities. Family comes first, of course.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
It’s 1967, and seventh grader Holling Hoodhood is being forced to spend each Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, whom he believes hates him. Holling slowly realizes that although Mrs. Baker is strict, she’s also caring and insightful. Through his teacher, his sister, friends, and the works of Shakespeare, Holling opens his eyes to the dangers in the world he’s living in: the Vietnam war and its tragic consequences and the problems of racism and discrimination. The Wednesday Wars is a humorous coming-of-age novel with a lot of heart.
“Coffee, coffee! It’s our drink! If we don’t get it, we can’t think!” ~Unknown
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