Tag Archives: juvenile books

Welcome the New Year

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 Suárez Changes 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*****

Inkling by Kenneth Oppel****

Miraculous Miranda by Siobhan Parkinson ****

Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr*****

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed****

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab****

The Collectors by Jacqueline West*****

The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr *****

Front Desk by Kelly Yang ****

Happy reading, and love to everyone!

“Home is where the tea is.” —Js Devivre

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Happy 2015!

Hello, Sweeteas,

Happy 2015!

My reading goal for the year is to read 1-2 books per week, which is between 54 and 108 books per year. I read 60 books in 2014, which means I met my goal but didn’t do as well as in years past. (I normally read between 80-100 books per year.) I’m going to try to do better this year.

My favorite book of 2014 was The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches: a Flavia De Luce Novel by Alan Bradley***** (BL: 6.5; Pts: 12.0). (I wrote about this mystery series on February 14, 2014. The post is titled “Flavia, Flavia.”) We have the first book in this series–The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie–in our library, and the rest will be joining it soon. A new installment (the 7th!) titled As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust is is being published this week. I can’t wait to read it!

Today I’ll tell you about the book Greenglass House by Kate Milford **** (BL: 5.4; Pts: 15.0):

The story takes place over the winter holidays in a remote mountain inn (Greenglass House) that’s frequented mainly by smugglers. The inn’s owners, their 12-year-old son Milo, their employees, and several mysterious guests are trapped in the ancient house as a result of a snowstorm. The problem is not just the snow, but that someone is stealing the guests’ belongings. It’s up to Milo and his new-found friend Meddy to solve, not just the robberies, but also a mystery having to do with the house itself.

The mystery-solving story line is interesting by itself, but there are three other elements that make this novel a truly remarkable read. 1) Milo is an adopted Asian boy dealing with personal issues regarding his adoption. 2) Milo and Meddy solve the mysteries while playing an elaborate and empowering RPG (role-playing game). 3) The book has a thrilling surprise ending.

Greenglass House will be in our collection by the end of the week. If you’d like to read it, you can place it on “hold.”

“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?” — From The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

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Suspenseful Reads!

Hi, sweateas,

My post is one day late, sorry!

Here are the books (Juvenile and YA) I read in August, with my rating and a brief description of the plot:

1- The Shadows (Books of Elsewhere Series #1) by Jacqueline West ****

Eleven-year-old Olive and her parents move into a Victorian mansion full of antique paintings that are really portals to a strange and dangerous world full of spooky shadows. I loved the talking cats! ****

2- The Ghost of Graylock by Dan Poblocki ****

A brother and sister solve the mystery of a ghost that haunts Graylock Hall, an abandoned mental asylum for young people. Suspenseful and creepy!

3- The Family Hitchcock by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett****

Seeking an affordable summer vacation, the Hitchcocks swap houses with a family in Paris,  only to find themselves caught in a web of political intrigue and end up fighting for their lives. Action-packed fun!

4- Falling In by Frances O’Roark Dowell ****

Sixth grader Isabelle Bean stumbles into a parallel fairy-tale world where villagers are afraid of a witch who supposedly eats children. Surprising story line!

5- Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage *****

Sixth grader Miss Moses (Mo) LoBeau (along with her best friend, Dale Earnhart Johnson III) set out to solve a murder mystery that affects the lives of the quirky people who rescued her when she was an infant and who became the only family she has ever known. Wonderful and humorous Southern-small-town yarn!

6- Graveyard Shift by Chris Westwood ***

Londoner Ben Harvester’s unique gifts make him the perfect candidate for an apprenticeship with Mr. October, an agent for the Ministry of Pandemonium, a secret organization responsible for tracking down lost souls and guiding them to the afterlife. This paranormal adventure is not very convincing, but it’s interesting and entertaining enough for a read, especially if you enjoy the genre.

7- Out of Mind by Sharon M. Draper *****

Fifth-grader Melody has cerebral palsy and is therefore unable to walk,  talk, or care for herself. She also has a photographic memory and is the smartest kid in her school, except no one knows. She faces these insurmountable obstacles with courage, intelligence, and determination, and –with the help of her loving family and her caregivers– discovers a way to communicate and shine. In the process she learns that people can sometimes be obstacles as well. This novel is simply awesome!

8- A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie by Matt Blackstone****

Rene Fowler is a 14-year-old boy who suffers from obsessive-compulsive behavior and the traumatic memories of his father who abandoned him and his mother when he was a young boy. The story of Rene’s struggle to fit into the chaotic world of high school is told in first person, so the reader is constantly inside Rene’s messy, noisy, anxious, and exhausting interior world. Being in Rene’s head is one wild ride!

That’s it for the month of August. I’ll post again by October 7.

Happy reading!

No coffee can be good in the mouth that does not first send a sweet offering of odor to the nostrils.~Henry Ward Beecher

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Reading Frenzy!

Hi, sweeteas,

This past two weeks I’ve been experiencing a sort of reading frenzy. Here are some of the books I’ve read. I’ve added a rating as well.


A Tale Dark and Grim by Adam Gidwitz (gory retellings of fairy tales with Hansel and Gretel as protagonists) ****

School of Fear by Gitty Daneshvari (four unusual children are sent to a wacky school to get cured of their phobias) ****

Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George (a royal family lives in a castle that has a mind of its own and is trying to protect them) ****

The Moon Over High Street by Natalie Babbitt (a boy chooses between the opportunity to have a life of ease and the freedom to follow his dreams) ****

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (the humorous summer adventures of a young boy in a small town) *****


There once Lived a Woman Who tried to Kill Her Neighbor’s Baby by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya (a collection of creepy fairy tales similar to scary urban myths) ***

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde (an imaginative magical adventure set in an alternate present-day Britain) ****

I Shall Wear Midnight by Sir Terry Pratchet (with the help of the wee free men, witch Tiffany Aching faces another dangerous challenge and ends up getting a boyfriend) *****

I love the Tiffany Aching books. Sir Terry Pratchet is a master fantasy storyteller, and the antics of the wee free men (tiny dwarf-like magical creatures) are always hilarious. Don’t miss this wonderful series!

Next on my YA book pile:

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman

The Whisper by Emma Clayton (the sequel to The Roar)

Chime by Franny Billingsley

How do I choose the books I read? I visit bookstores that carry a wide, quality selection of juvenile/YA books, and I write down the titles of the books that appeal to me. I also pay attention to the books my friends and students recommend. Then I request the books from my local library. If I start reading a book and discover that it doesn’t interest me, I put it aside and start reading another. There are hundreds of wonderful books out there, so I always find something I like or love.


Much love!

P.S. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman is going to be made into a movie! Yay!

Mothers are those wonderful people who can get up in the morning before the smell of coffee.  ~Author Unknown

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