As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds

In recent years, Jason Reynolds has established himself as a master of his craft, publishing award-winning YA and middle grade books. (I’ve previously written about Reynolds’s YA title The Boy in the Black Suit.) As Brave as You, one of Reynolds’s middle grade novels, won many 2016 accolades, including the Schneider Family Book Award and the CorettaContinue reading “As Brave as You by Jason Reynolds”

The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan

In this slim, brisk novel by Patricia MacLachlan––author of Newbery-winning Sarah, Plain and Tall––the dog Teddy can understand human speech, but only children and poets can understand him. Teddy rescues siblings Nickel and Flora from a snowstorm and brings them to the forest cabin he once shared with his owner, Sylvan. As the mystery of Sylvan’sContinue reading “The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan”

Seven Books to Get and Gift in a Post-Election World

As we process and prod the results November’s US election, we begin to search for a way forward. What can we do now? How can we work for change? We need a plan of action in an uncertain world. Trump’s campaign fueled division and fear. He told Americans: immigrants are dangerous. People who pray aContinue reading “Seven Books to Get and Gift in a Post-Election World”

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

This book is not new, nor am I the first to talk about how wonderful it is. One Crazy Summer was well-received when it was published in 2010, winning plenty of deserved accolades––look at all those lovely stickers!––including the Coretta Scott King Award. I finally got to dive into this middle grade novel a couple weeks ago. And there’s noContinue reading “One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia”

George by Alex Gino

Alex Gino’s George won the Stonewall Book Award and has often been cited as a book that’s redefined what middle grade can be. George is earnest and heartwarming and one of the best middle grade books I’ve read this year. And for a groundbreaking novel, it’s also got a lovely, classic, modern-yet-familiar feel. Note: I’m totally late to the party!Continue reading “George by Alex Gino”

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

Lauren Wolk’s debut children’s book is a likely Newbery contender and a poignant historical novel set in rural Pennsylvania during World War II. Told in poetic, satisfying prose, Wolf Hollow is a coming-of-age story that shows narrator Annabelle dealing with the arrival of Betty, a new girl at school. Betty is cruel to animals andContinue reading “Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk”

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

This middle grade debut is getting a lot of attention for its science-based themes, its nuanced portrayal of a young girl coming of age, and its status as a National Book Award finalist. I’d like to dig a bit deeper here and analyze how Ali Benjamin pulls off her protagonist Suzy’s lurch toward young adulthood––and what aspiringContinue reading “The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin”

Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

Ever finish a book and feel your heart break a little bit when you remember the characters aren’t real? By the end of Rebecca Stead’s latest middle grade novel, Goodbye Stranger, I wanted to be BFF with Bridge, Tab, and Em. I definitely wanted to join their “set” (Bridge is allergic to clubs) and to live by theirContinue reading “Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead”

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

At SCBWI-LA over the summer, I had the pleasure of hearing Kwame Alexander speak in a keynote and a very inspiring session on poetry. Hearing Alexander in person reminded me how great The Crossover is––and how this novel in verse has a lot to teaching aspiring kidlit writers about their craft. Here are three things writers can take awayContinue reading “The Crossover by Kwame Alexander”

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly

Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut middle grade novel follows Filipina-American music lover Analyn––aka Apple––as she deals with the ins and outs of middle school social life. Her year gets off to a bad start: she’s on the Dog Log, the list of the ugliest girls in school, and one of her closest friends has begun to treat her likeContinue reading “Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly”