The Tuesday Teaser “game” asks readers to copy a couple of sentences from their current read to “tease” other readers to read the same book. Today’s T T is from Alda B. Dobbs’ Barefoot Dreams.
WHOOPS! I placed it in my Little Free Library after lunch, not remembering I hadn’t copied my “lines” for TT, and although it is only four o’clock now, the book has already been taken! Stay tuned tomorrow for a full review. How’s THAT for a Tuesday Teaser? LOL
As I mentioned in my Tuesday Teaser, the book I read for this Saturday’s post was Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams.
Winner of several awards, this endearing novel is perfect for middle school students, middle grades, 5th through 8th.
In an authentic voice, Genesis, now in middle school looks back on 5th grade, when some “mean girls” start a list of “Things we hate about Genesis.” Instead of disregarding it, Genesis then saved it and even, over the semesters, added to it, listing things she hated about herself. The greatest of these was her appearance: too nappy-haired, too lanky, and most of all, too dark. Genesis was NOT like her mother, but looked just like her father. Little did she know that her father had a deep, dark, secret that caused him to hate himself too–to the point that he drank too much.
Genesis’s changing schools and having to go through making new friends (not that she had any anyway) is the plot of the story. Themes of loyalty to friends, self-esteem, body shaming, OCD and other “eccentricities,” and family secrets unfold as the story grabs the reader by the collar and marches her/him through the angst of middle school. We suffer with Genesis, laugh sometimes with her, wish alongside her that things will be different this time.
Carolyn Macklin has written about a problem many tweens face in Not if I Can Help It, remarriage. However, there is a twist–Willa’s father wants to marry Ruby’s (Willa’s best friend’s) mother. Both girls are heading to middle school as sixth graders, and all their friends, teachers, and even the principal think the situation is “cool.” Willa does not agree. How to handle the girls’ mutual friends and Ruby’s excited anticipation of becoming “sisters” is a bitter pill to swallow!
All the Ways Home by Elsie Chapman presents a boy’s story. Kaeda, a Japanese Canadian is in 8th grade, facing the strong possibility that he will have to repeat 8th grade in the fall, when his mother is unexpectedly killed in a car crash. Facing the unpleasant fact that he may have to live with his surly grandfather, Kaeda travels to Japan to plead with his much-older musician brother, Shoma. Kaeda has a summer to get his life on track in a challenge few boys his age must face.
Maggie “saves” little things, anchors to keep her Altzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother grounded. She refuses to let her mom or anyone throw her “treasures” away. This is a story of “loss” and “leavings”; it is a story of anxiety and hoarding in children, a real and challenging problem.
Here it is, Saturday morning, and here are a few recommendations for books targeted at 5th through 8th graders:
Jess Keating has set her series, “Elements of Genius” within the Genius Academy, a school for masterminds. Her latest offering, Nikki Tesla and the Ferret–Proof Death Ray (2019) finds the academy in an uproar. The death ray has been stolen. Enter Nikki and her genius crew, and they travel around the world, seeking to find the death ray and save the world from sure extinction. Very humorous.
Our Castle by the Sea by Lucy Strange strikes a note of mystery as the reader meets Pet, and eleven year old girl, obsessed with the legend of The Daughters of the Stone. All the elements of a good, suspense read are there: an old lighthouse, a castle, and a humongous storm.
Finding the only kid around a roller-skating girl who wears a cape and is searching out a secret leaves Gideon reeling and repulsed after a move from the east coast to Nevada. In this novel by Shaunta Grimes, The Astonishing Maybe,our hearts are with Gideon as the two new “friends/enemies” search for Rona’s long-lost father and the truth.
Parents divorcing is a theme often dealt with in middle grades fiction today. Dear Sweet Pea, Julia Murphy’s novel does just this. Patricia, “Sweet Pea” deals with the tension at home at the same time as the tension between her and her ex-best friend, Kiera. How this is resolved is not necessarily “happily ever after” but realistic and satisfying at the same time.
All of these are good reads for tweens and teens looking for characters that share their concerns and who are dealing with the same day-to-day issues as themselves.
Once again I am late posting this traditional Saturday morning post. My day was filled with rain which led to reading (nothing better than coffee and a good book on a rainy day) and a lunch visit with a student from last semester to check over her personal essay for a psychology graduate program application. Fortunately, she is a good writer, and it was a simple job of proofreading. Our visit was fun, and this is definitely a young woman I will make an effort to keep in touch with.
Today’s recommendation is for several middle school level fiction choices that I read for the Cybil’s judging that deserve at least a mention of excellent reads for this age group.
The first, How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons is a heart-tugging story of a young girl in the Jm Crow South who pays a visit to New York to meet family she has never known. The difference between the two environments and the people who live in them is highlighted, and the girl learns answers to family secrets which cause her to learn about herself.
Tina Athaide’s Orange for the Sunsets also deals with family secrets for an Indian girl and an African boy who are best friends. So many books nominated for this award dealt with diversity, the theme for this year, and so many portrayed over-protective parents who do their kids a disservice by assuming they are not mature enough to handle “the truth-” things in their own pasts which become big “secrets” that change the kids’ lives in massive ways when the truth is finally revealed. Most of the kid-protagonists feel by the ends of the books that, “Honesty is the best policy.”
To Night Owl from Dogfshby Holly Goldberg is an epistolary tale, one told in the form of letters, or in this case emails. It is cleverly formatted as such, and the opening email is from one boy who contacts another, stating that the two boys fathers are lovers. The boy on the receiving end of this message has no idea his father is gay, much less contemplating moving in with his partner, the boy who initiated the conversation’s father. It is witty, touching and problematic in family relationships, all in one great read.
Paula Chase’s Dough Boys is about boys who like to bake well enough and do so well enough that they decide to open a business. Also funny and warm, the overarching theme is “Friendship Over All.”
These were just a few books read as a Cybils First Round Reader that deserve at least a mention on Saturday Morning for Kids, middle grades edition.
Reading books for middle schoolers has certainly brought some good books my way. One good read is a book of short stories that all have a central theme: walking home from school. A 2019 publication by author Jason Reynolds, Look BothWays, locates its stories in a ten block area where the same kids from the same school pass the same crossing guard every school day. Interestingly enough, a metaphor or motif reoccurs in several children’s stories or conversations: a school bus falling from the sky. It made me think of the Magic School Bus series covers, for often the Magic School Bus is up in the clouds.
The problems and issues these middle schoolers face daily are the same any middle schoolers face: self-esteem issues, bullying, divorcing parents, anxiety issues, weight problems, being shamed for receiving free lunches, and the list goes on. Some stories are “wickedly funny,” especially the dialog. Others tug at the heartstrings and even generate misty eyes. All are very readable, and the book is definitely a good fit for middle schoolers, for they can pick up and put down the book, celebrating each story individually, yet take away a sense of community of youngsters just like themselves.