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by Brian Selznick
I loved Hugo Cabret so much, so when I saw this out, I was excited and frankly, a little nervous. When you love a book and its author so much (I heard him speak at ALA after he won the Caldecott and I thought he was amazing!), your expectations can be incredibly high and I have to say, few authors live up to those expectations. I think that this book does live up. It surprised me, but it also satisfied the itch for the same kind of story as Hugo Cabret at the same time. It has the same incredibly textured pencil drawings and so many of them, telling an alternate story as the main word plot goes forward. You have to wait to figure out how they tie together. I also really liked how the silent/talking film story came to be a lot more, and how the Deaf culture was portrayed here. I know a lot of deaf and hearing impaired people and I was glad to see a book that didn't ignore them.
Planet Middle School
by Nikki Grimes
A novel in poems, this is the kind of book I could never write because it takes so few words to say so much. I felt so clearly the pain of the main character as she grow up out of middle school and into high school. The confusion about the change in other characters' personalities, and then when it happens to her, the sense that it is wrong, but also that she can't stop it.

Drawing from Memory
by Allen Say
I loved this book about a young artistic boy and the mentor he finds through wit and sheer determination in post war Japan. I also loved the illustrations that seemed perfectly matched to the story. I don't think this is really a picture book at all. It's a book with pictures for adults, and especially for anyone who has had or wanted a mentor.
by Raina Telgemeier
This is a graphic novel about getting braces. Doesn't sound deliciously impossible to put down, does it? But it is. It starts with a girl who has to get braces and isn't excited about it. But on the other hand, getting braces is part of being an American teenager, and she is just starting middle school. And then things get worse, as they always do in novels, right? She is running down the street, falls, and knocks her front teeth out. The graphic novel format and the skill of Telgemeier are perfect for showing what each step in the reconstruction is like on the outside and the inside. The tone of this book is so perfect for middle grade kids and I immediately recommended it to all my braces-wearing kids. I will say, though, that I have begun to wonder more and more about the American obsession with perfect teeth. Why is this acceptable when plastic surgery is not?

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda
by Tom Angleberger
This looks like a cheesy tie-in book, but it isn't at all. It's not really about Yoda except in a wonderful, twisty way. I think of this on the order of a retelling of the fairy tale of Star Wars. It's really about a group of middle school kids who need help, and the vignettes about what happens when they ask Yoda for advice are warm, funny, and touching. My kids all read this, from age 9 to 17 and all loved it in a different way.
The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place
by Maryrose Wood
This is a hilarious book about three kids who were raised by wolves and then go through a series of governesses attempting to civilize them. I wish I had the sense of humor necessary to write something like this. But there is a level of depth to it that interests me, as you would know if you've read my HOUND SAGA. I am fascinated by raised by wolves stories, and about thoughts on what makes humans different from animals and the same. Also by the fringes of humanity.

by Andrew Clements
This is a fun book about word play and the politics of a school classroom. I loved the teacher who hated the word "Frindle." So true to life, unfortunately.
Love That Dog
Sharon Creech
This is a great book for kids who are struggling with reading. Not only is it easy to read, but it has multiple layers for discussion. And I loved it, too, because I love poetry, and this book reminds me why.

Jack Gantos
I read this book right after my daughter was diagnosed with HDHD. It really helped me see the world better through her eyes. And to remember that things could be worse. Much worse.
by Cynthia Kadohata
This book drew me in, to the life of this poor struggling family, and the relationship between the two sisters. I cried at the very end, when they had their last fight. I thought it was so true to the problem of death.

When My Name Was Keoko
by Linda Sue Park
I recommend this book to every class studying prejudice in World War II. So often we focus only on Nazi Germany, but it was in every culture of the time. If we do not understand prejudice, we cannot fight it. But this is also a great story about a brother and sister growing up in a difficult time.
A Single Shard
by Linda Sue Park
I loved this deceptively simple story about an orphan boy and his dream to become a pottery maker, set in ancient Korea.
A Long Way From Chicago
by Richard Peck
Truly hilarious. A great read-aloud. And I sent a copy to my mother for her birthday. She grew up on a farm in Paris--Idaho! Small-town America during the Depression, and she loved this book, too. The best caper book for middle grade readers I've ever read. And by the way, adults love it, too! You won't guess the answer, but you'll have a great time guessing along the way. A cast of fun, eccentrics comes along with the price of admission!

by Louis Sachar
This is one of those great books that both children and adults will love. Utterly original. In my mind, it belongs in the category of great American literature, with Huck Finn by Mark Twain. About a boy who has to atone for wrongs his ancestors committed. About friendship. About a camp run by greedy adults. About redemption.
A Drowned Maiden's Hair
by Laura Amy Schlitz
I ached for the main character in this book. I so much wanted her to find the person who would love her, and I found myself looking through the choices, wanting to love them, but knowing they were wrong. There's also the fun of trying to figure out if the seances are real, and then, what will happen afterwards.

When You Reach Me
by Rebecca Stead
I read this book on an instore recommendation from our local indie, The King's English. It was before the Newbery. I read it, liked it so much that I gave the copy I bought (which was signed) to a friend for his birthday. He never read it, sadly. Then I bought another copy (unsigned) and read it out loud to my daughter, age 10. Then my friend's parents picked up the book about ten months later, after the Newbery which they knew nothing about, and they both read it and said they loved it. Then I went to ALA and got to hear Rebecca Stead give her acceptance speech for the Newbery. Then I hated her a little for being so gracious and funny (while I tend to be awkward and embarrassing in public). Which tells you very little about the book, doesn't it? It's about a girl whose old friends are changing as she changes. And also about time travel. I hope that wasn't too much of a spoiler. It's set in the 80's and her mother is a contestant on the $20,000 Pyramid, so lots of trivia for those who love it. For adults and kids.
My Angelica
by Carol Lynch Williams
Funny, funny book about a girl who wants to be a writer, and is awful at it, and the boy who likes her, and doesn't want to show her up. Get you eye patches out!

The True Colors of Caitlynne Jackson
by Carol Lynch Williams
A heart-wrenching story of two sisters escaping an abusive mother, on a journey that takes them "home."
Each Little Bird That Sings
by Deborah Wiles
You wouldn't think a story about a family that runs a funeral home could be this funny. Or poignant. About a dog and a girl. And a flood.

One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams-Garcia
I hated the mother in this book, deeply. I stayed home with my five kids and a mother who could abandon her kids like this I just thought I could never come to love. But somehow Rita Williams-Garcia works magic and at first I begin to understand the mother and then to love her, as her daughters to. A big cast, and I felt like I knew them all. This is a book for mothers and daughters to read together.
Palace Beautiful
by Sarah DeFord Williams
This is a great book for a child of a certain age, not ready to move into teen books, but able to live deeply in a book world. It is a bit old-fashioned in feel, and I mean that in a good way. It reminded me a lot of reading Half-Magic or Silpha Keatley Snider.
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Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2017 all rights reserved.
Last revised November 3, 2017.