Middle grade book recommendations for parents of kids ages 5-12

Poetry & Novels in Verse

Well, aren’t we fancy?

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Crash! Pow!, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 0 comments

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

This fun novel-in-verse captures both the quick rhythm of a basketball game and the turbulence of the first year of middle school. Josh Bell and his identical twin, Jordan, are the stars of their school basketball team and as close and competitive as brothers can be. Jordan’s crush on a girl drives a wedge between them, though, and Josh fears he’s being left behind. The story is compelling and moves quickly, with bright, playful language. A warning to parents of sensitive kids: The boys’ father, who is a former professional basketball player and a strong role model for the boys, dies of a heart attack at the end of the book. Won the Newbery Medal in 2015, as well as the Coretta Scott King Honor Award. P&P...

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Joyful Noise: Poetry for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

Posted by on Jul 1, 2016 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Poetry & Novels in Verse, Read Aloud | 0 comments

Joyful Noise: Poetry for Two Voices by Paul Fleischman

Such fun! This series of poems about insects is designed for two people to read aloud. The lines alternate, and then sometimes come together, making the reading into a performance piece. It’s a great way to make poetry more active and accessible. Some poems are funny and some are more thoughtful. Those bugs really come alive as the words fly around between the two readers.  P&P...

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The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

Posted by on Feb 9, 2016 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 3 comments

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

What a wonderful way to introduce kids to poetry! This lovely novel in verse tells the story of the final year of an elementary school that is being closed. It is told, astoundingly, by eighteen narrators, and all in various poetic forms, from haiku to free verse to found poem and more. The novel’s diversity is highlighted by the different voices and types of poetry used, and a wonderful theme of peaceful protest runs throughout. A guide at the end of the book directs readers to the form of the different poems included. The book touches on challenging topics, like divorce, bullying, the death of a grandparent, and racial and cultural differences, but because it is told through poems, they are addressed in an easy, though powerful, manner. The book is not yet released (I was lucky enough to get an advance copy from the author), but it is available for pre-order, and will be out in April 2016. Amazon...

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Posted by on Feb 28, 2015 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Award Winners, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 0 comments

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

This 2014 National Book Award winner is not actually a novel, but rather a memoir-in-verse. Woodson tells the story of her childhood in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York through a series of spare and lovely poems. Verse books are a wonderful choice for kids who have trouble reading, because the text is clean and easy to read, but the themes are more mature. This book, in particular, is great because Woodson herself was a slow reader and always felt that her older sister was really the one who loved books, while she only wanted to play outside. And then she went on to win the National Book Award!  Woodson’s childhood (she was both in 1968) was at a unique juncture of history, where racial consciousness was growing, and the experience of being African-American in the recently Jim Crow South was in the process of a seismic shift. She encounters racism, as well as her parents’ divorce and her uncle’s incarceration. The book is a beautiful and accessible glimpse of recent history. Amazon  P&P...

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Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

Posted by on Jan 13, 2015 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 0 comments

Blue Birds by Caroline Starr Rose

This is a gorgeous and lush novel in verse about the lost English settlement at Roanoke. It is told by two narrators – Alis, an English girl, and Kimi, a Roanoke girl. The girls become friends at great risk to themselves during the escalating tensions between their clans. The story is gripping and heartbreaking, all the more so because it is based on actual historical events, as detailed in the epilogue by Rose, a former social studies teacher. There is some violence, including murders of both a settler and a Roanoke man, the latter killed by a boy Alis’s age. Both of these events take place off-scene. In all, the story makes historical events accessible and compelling.  Amazon...

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May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

Posted by on Dec 6, 2013 in Age 8-12, All Book Recommendations, Modern Classics, Poetry & Novels in Verse | 0 comments

May B. by Caroline Starr Rose

A novel in verse about a twelve-year-old girl who survives on her own on the American frontier of western Kansas. One summer, May is sent by her parents to help out for a few months at another homestead, just until Christmas. But when the couple she is serving disappears and no one knows May is alone, she has to survive hunger, blizzards, wolves, and an engulfing loneliness on her own. This story will appeal to fans of Little House on the Prairie, but it is grittier – and more realistic to the trials of that time. This is also a good selection for those who struggle with reading, as May has dyslexia, but yearns to read. The writing is simple, spare, and lovely.  Amazon ...

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