My reading goal for 2014 is to read more middle grade books. I kicked off the year with three books that fall right in line with that goal, and I’m happy to report that they are all books I’m excited to share with you.
Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder caught my eye right away. I loved time travel fiction as a kid, and I always get excited to read something that I know that my ten-year-old self would have loved. At the beginning of this story, twelve-year-old Annie is on her way to visit the grandmother she never knew. When she and her mother arrive at the old hotel where her very ill grandmother lives, it feels like something out of a story to Annie. A mean grandmother, a crumbling old hotel, and then… something magical happens. Annie wakes up to find herself in 1937 when her grandmother was just a kid and the Hotel Calvert was still grand. Snyder writes in the acknowledgments that Annie’s story was inspired by her own grandmother and the wish to make something happy from a sad memory. It’s a sweet story that will definitely appeal to fans of time travel fiction and perhaps inspire readers to think about their own grandparents with a new perspective. (9780375969171. January 2014. Gr. 3-6)
The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods also features an estranged grandmother, but this time grandmother and granddaughter get to know each other in the present—no magic involved. Violet’s African-American father died before she was born, and she has been raised by her white mother in a small town where she is definitely a minority. As Violet considers matters of race, identity, and family, she realizes that there aren’t always easy answers to her questions and that her world is much larger than she had thought. I expect that there will be a fair amount of interest in this book since there are so few books about biracial kids, and I hope that it gets readers talking about the complex issues raised in its pages. (9780399257148. January 2014. Gr. 4-6)
Wanderville by Wendy McClure takes us back to 1904 to begin a series that starts on an Orphan Train heading west to Kansas. The ladies in charge keep telling the children that a better life awaits with homes and families, but there are rumors floating among the children about what really happens when children are “placed” with families—and it isn’t good. Jack has no intention of getting stuck working on some ranch with a hundred other orphans, so he escapes and takes a couple of other kids along with him. That’s just the beginning of this adventure. The trio find themselves in a place called Wanderville. At first, they aren’t sure what to make of it, but it just may change their lives forever. This historical novel is a story of friendship that will appeal to adventure-seeking readers. (9781595147004. January 2014. Gr. 3-6)
I think this is a good start to 2014, and I’m excited to read more for this age group. Feel free to share your favorite middle grade picks in the comments or tweet us @MackinBooks. We’d love to hear from our readers!