Late! Again! Please bear with me, for I have a wonderful author who writes for middle schoolers, and adults whose sense of humor has remained at middle school levels, including yours truly.


This gift from a former student, Virginia, arrived in the mail a while ago. I could hardly wait to read the books and recommend them in Saturday Mornings for Children.
My favorite of the set!

Virginia Jones, a former online student whom I came to love as a friend as well as be impressed by as a student, sent me a set of books by a beloved children’s author in Britain, equivalent in popularity to of The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series here in the U.S. Stationed in England, she calls me often to check on me and tells me about her latest academic adventures. She is an amazing individual and a good friend. She follows my blog, and when she told me about this British author, I thought I should feature Williams on my Saturday Mornings for Kids post. Never did I dream she would provide me with the means of doing so.

My sense of humor has never progressed beyond middle school, and for that I am not embarrassed, but grateful. This series made me laugh out loud at the “proper British tones” in which it is written and nearly choke at the outrageously funny illustrations. Here’s one from my favorite book in the box, Awful Auntie.

Awful Auntie herself, in all her “glory”

When I googled the author of this hilarious set of books, I discovered I already “knew” him from watching “Britain’s Got Talent” on TV. There, he is a judge for unusual acts trying to hit the big time in Great Britain. My estimation of this “celebrity” has now climbed sky-high after reading his books. Out of five stars, I would have to give this series a 6.

Thanks, Evin


This grownup really enjoyed today’s selection.

Almost Famous by David Getz is a 182 page marvel. It “stars” Maxine, who is obsessed with Phil Donahue, who was a TV talk show host years ago. She keeps writing him to let him know she is “almost famous,” and he’d better invite her on his show while he can. What is she famous for? Well…nothing yet, but that doesn’t keep her from trying to invent something. What she’d like to invent is a machine that would make her little brother, Wat’s heart beat correctly.

Wat doesn’t want to sleep (He refuses to at kindergarten nap time.) because of his bad dreams about his heart murmur and other daily occurrences. Another person who can’t sleep is Maxine’s classmate, Toni’s grandmother. It seems that when grandma tries to go to sleep, instead she gets sad and scared. She nods off in the daytime, but she stays up all night and fails to take care of herself. Toni must cook for her and take care of her daily needs.

Maxine receives a strange letter announcing an Inventions of Children Contest, and she persuades the unwilling Toni to enter with her. What follows are some of the most hilarious “inventions” and invention-attempts the reader could imagine. Through it all, Maxine learns how to be a friend, something she has never learned. The ending is surprising and heart warming. This book is something you won’t want to miss.



The Humiliations of Pippi McGee by Beth Vrabel deals with every humiliation eighth grade has to offer. Several common themes appear in humorous ways: bullying, revenge, forgiveness, taking the “high road,” approaching high school, and finding one’s niche. Pippi is an unforgettable character who makes us cringe, makes us laugh, and makes us sigh, sometimes all in the same chapter.

On a more serious note,41473877  Gail Villanueva’s My Fate According to the Butterfly introduces the reader to Sab who sees a black butterfly and is convinced it is the harbinger of her imminent death. She awaits only her birthday to meet her fate. Set in the Philippines, this story is beautifully, hauntingly written.


This Saturday Morning for Kids I introduce a week-long series, “Tween Treasures.” Each day from Saturday, May 16th until Saturday, May 23rd, I will recommend and write a short review of a book that appeals to ages 10-14. Many of these are books I came across in 2019 as a Cybils Award First Round Reader; others are from donations to or purchases for my Little Free Library.


The first Tween Treasures recommendation for Saturday, May 16th is The Mystery of Black Hollow Lane by Julia Nobel. It involves a boarding school secret society where Emmy’s father supposedly disappeared when he was a student at the school and the efforts she and her friends make to solve the mystery.51cGXY5HHlL._SY346_

This was a suspenseful read even for an adult, and when it’s a kid and it’s your father that had gone missing, well, let’s just say there’s a great deal at stake. Emmy’s ingenuity and perseverance even in the face of danger made her one of my favorite protagonists in my Cybils’s Reader assignment.


Cybils Logo 2018 - MasterI have been so busy reading middle school books as a first round reader for the Cybils awards that I have not have time to share them with you. To remedy this, I offer three excellent reads I came across last week:

Pie in the Shy by Remi Lai — I am a softie for a good immigrant story, but when it is a story about an immigrant kid, I melt into a little puddle. Jinqwen, whose hobby in his homeland is baking, finds that it helps him cope when he comes to America and struggles with English and making friends in general. Pie is a humorous middle school novel that not only amuses, but touches the heartstrings.

And talk about tugging at heartstrings, Right as Rain by Lindsey Stoddard does just that. Rain, a young track star, who recently lost her brother in a tragic accident, deals with a mother who stays compulsively busy in order to not deal with things and a father who is clinically depressed. Her family is disintegrating, and there’s little she can do–but run, and run, and run. The one year anniversary of her brother’s death brings the big track meet and a ray of hope for a new beginning.

Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly is a beautiful story of Iris, a middle school deaf girl whose empathy for a whale whose song is “different” from all others leads her to take daring chances and reach out to help. This enables her to make some hard decisions that will change her life forever.

I have been so blessed by this “project.” In my twenty-odd years of teaching 5th through 8th graders, I never felt closer  to this unique demographic than I do after reading these books/novels I have read so far. Although I am totally fulfilled by my teaching assignment at the university, these books make me want to “return to my first love”–middle school



Yesterday got away from me. Here I have been reading over one hundred middle grade (5th, 6th, 7th & 8th) books for a new project, and I didn’t post a single recommendation of a middle grades book to read. My bad. Here, a day late are some EXCELLENT reads for kids in 5th grade and junior high. They are all 2019 publications.

Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya–This story about Emilia Rosa (NOT Emi Rose as her nemesis, Clarissa, insists on)  has “Inattentive ADH,” a condition which limits her ability to focus. She has special considerations in school, but still struggles at times. Especially challenging is Mr. Richt’s social studies project, a tour guide for her home town. Instead of touting the glories of Merryville, Emilia focuses on how the town is divided along class lines, where people from the “wrong side of the track” are treated differently. The resources list (help for veterans, civil rights laws and issues, etc.) provided at the end is very helpful.

Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole Panteleakos introduces Nova, a 13 year old Asburger’s , middle school student who is obsessessed with the stars. When she learns that the junior high she will attend has a planetarium, she is ecstatic. She is anxiously awaiting the event of the Challenger Flight, which of course, ends in tragedy and reveals to Nova a personal tragedy if her own. Interestingly enough the author is on the spectrum, and thus offers an insider’s look into the autistic mind.

The Next Great Paulie Fink by Ali Benjamin describes how someone “becomes legend.” Caitlyn, the “new girl” at a small, private school in Vermont , must deal with not only being new to a class that has been together since kindergarten, but with the mystery of who in the world was the glorious, missing student, Paulie Fink. I will review this book at a later date on PWR.

All of these books were a delight to me, and adult, because they included inclusion, bullying, ethnic differences, “keeping up appearances” and so much more than “just” a good plot. Characterization on these three and the development of it due to overcoming obstacles made these three books the deliverers of life lessons middle schoolers will not soon forget. All three receive 5 out of 5 stars.


Friday Firstliners

First Line Fridays asks the reader to “tempt’ another reader to add the book they are currently reading to their TBR Lists/folders/ shelves. I have found several of my favorite reads in just this way. All you have to do is read the author’s “hook,” the first sentence or couple of sentences.

My Firstlines today are from Goodbye Mr. Spalding, a fabulous middle school novel by Jennifer Robin Barr and concerns all things baseball history/baseball.

“Jimmie Foxx is definitely dead. I can tell by the way his glassy eyes are staring at me through the fishbowl.”

Jimmie Fox, the fish, is named for Jimmy Frank’s favorite ball player. Jimmy’s life revolves around baseball. I have read half to three-fourths of the book, and at the moment the human Jimmie Foxx is hospitalized for an injury from the game. I am hoping the first line is not a foreshadowing of the man’s demise! LOL


“First Line Fridays is hosted by Hoarding Books. The blogger asks that one put the first

IMG_0648.JPG or a couple of lines of a book you are reading down, and I am asking for you to comment on whether you would read this book, judging from just that first line or so.

My First Line Friday is from Wendy S. Swore’s middle school book, A Monster Like Me:

“You’d think monsters would have their own grocery store, but they don’t. They walk around with a cart the same as regular people and keep the monster part hidden inside where no one can see it.”