Open Dictionary And Reading GlassesIn December, I did a post listing the best of the books I’d read during 2014 – the ones I hadn’t had time or space to review over the course of the year.

Rather than waiting until the end of the year, I’ve decided to do a mini-list at the end of each month, instead. I hope you’ll find it helpful as you consider your future reading. (And yes, I will use this as an occasion to ask for book recommendations!)

This month has been a mainly middle grade month, and the middle grade novels I’ve read this month have been stellar. There’ve also been a few picture books, so I’ll mention those too – they were very good, as well.

Picture books

Plant a Pocket of Prairie by Minnesota writer Phyllis Root with illustrations by Minnesota artist Betsy Bowen – Wonderful illustrations and evocative text combine to suggest many possibilities for the question “if you plant… then who will come?” The author has dedicated the book “For everyone who works to save our wild plants and places.” Here’s a link to the Kirkus Review.

Chik Chak Shabbat by Mara Rockliff with illustrations by Kyrsten Brooker (woohoo – the illustrator lives in Canada!) – Delightful book that brings people of many different cultures together to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath. Here’s a review from Erik, the Kid Who Reviews Books.

Winter Bees & Other Poems of the Cold by Joyce Sidman with illustrations by Rick Allan (both Minnesotans) (My friend Jan sent a page from the Star Tribune with a fantastic listing of picture books. Thank you!) I reviewed this one for Perfect Picture Book Friday last week.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke – This book is a joy from start to finish. After Julia’s house “settles by the sea,” Julia discovers she’s lonely, so she puts up a sign inviting lost creatures to come and live with her. She gets a bit more than she bargained for, but figures out a way to deal with them all. My friend Becky Levine featured this book on her blog. Thanks for the recommendation, Becky!

 

Middle Grade

El Deafo by Cece Bell – This is an excellent graphic novel about what it’s like to be a middle schooler who is hearing-impaired and has to wear a box-style hearing aid. The book is based on the author’s personal experience. Here’s a New York Times review of El Deafo.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander – I wouldn’t usually choose a book that features basketball, but I’m grateful I read this one. Written in verse, from the perspective of the two main characters (twin boys), it is a deeply thoughtful look at the difficulties of adolescence. Here’s the Kirkus Review.

Ghosts of Government House by Judith Silverthorne – This is an early middle grade mystery. There are ghost stories about Government House (the former dwelling of the Lieutenant Governor of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan), but people don’t often get to interact with the ghosts the way the kids do in this fascinating book. Here’s the page on the author’s website about the book.

A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd – This book was spindiddly splendiferous, to use two of the words the main character favors. Felicity Pickle hopes there’s just enough magic (just a snicker of magic) left in her mom’s home town for them to find a real home for the first time. The New York Times review will show you just how spindiddly this book really is.

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm – A book that, in its subtitle, encourages the reader to “Believe in the Impossible Possible,” is my kind of book. Although her parents, both involved in theatre, would like Ellie to find her passion in theatre, too, she learns that her true expression of self is through science. She learns this in a very surprising way. Erik reviewed it, and his review is excellent.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt – This book is a Newbery Honor book, and with good reason. As the jacket copy says, it’s about a seventh grader “who embraces his destiny in spite of himself.” It resonated with me not only because of the excellent story in which the main character learns about life through Shakespeare, but also because it is set in 1967 – the time period when I was about the age of the kids in the book, so much of the history that’s intrinsic to the time setting was part of my life. (In the same way, watching Boy Meets World resonated for me.) Here’s the Kirkus Review.

I’m currently reading another book by Gary D. Schmidt, Okay for Now, which is the story of one of the secondary characters in The Wednesday Wars. Here’s the Kirkus Review and a video conversation with the author. Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky is waiting for me at the library, and will likely be read by the end of the month. Thanks to Rosi for recommending it in response to the Diversity Challenge I mentioned in this post. [Edited to add: Both books are FABULOUS! Expect blog posts about them soon.]

I managed to fit a couple of adult mysteries into the mix, as well – the first two books in Elizabeth George’s Thomas Lynley series, A Great Deliverance and Payment in Blood. She has such a great knack for description: of characters, places, and scenes. Here’s a biography of the author from the PBS website (there’s also a PBS series based on her books.)

What are you reading, and what would you recommend?

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