Middle Grade

Lucky Broken Girl

by Ruth Behar
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017
Middle grade, fiction
Ages: 10-13, Grades 5-8
ISBN: 9780399546440

A heartfelt story of hope and healing

Rich in detail, heart, and imagination, Lucky Broken Girl follows Ruthie Mizrahi, a Jewish Cuban immigrant in 1960s New York, as she struggles to navigate family tensions, forge friendships, and work her way out of the “dumb class” at school.

When an accident confines Ruthie to her room, her whole family reels. Baba blames herself. Mami resents the caretaking load. Papi works three jobs to pay her medical bills. Meanwhile, Ruthie’s left to stare at the ceiling and read Nancy Drew, Alice in Wonderland, and the poems of Emily Dickinson and José Martí to pass the time.

Up to her waist in a body cast, Ruthie battles shame, helplessness, and isolation to make a comeback. The ice-cold steel of her bedpan and the seemingly endless stretch of days on her wall calendar mark the time and distance to recovery. An unlikely cast of characters—including a hippie tutor, a tough nurse, and a buoyant neighbor—emerges to help her tap into the creativity, compassion, and perspective she needs to persevere. With a paintbrush and Royal typewriter in hand, Ruthie begins to write—and illustrate—a beautiful new chapter in her life.

Based on the author’s own childhood experience, Lucky Broken Girl explores trauma with a deft, forgiving touch.

“This story is etched into my physiology, my nerves and my many fears,” Behar writes. It’s a triumph that the author released the pain in the form of one poignant, charming novel.
-MPS

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Serafina’s Promise

by Ann E. Burg
Scholastic Press, 2015
Middle grade, poetry, fiction
Ages 8-12 years, Grades 3-7
ISBN: 978-0545535670
Honors: Kirkus Best Book of the Year * Parent’s Choice Gold Award Winner * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Serafina is an eleven-year-old girl living in Haiti. She works hard on her daily chores and at school but spends most of the time dreaming of becoming a doctor. One day, a devastating flood washes away her family home. While Serafina and her family try to come to grips with this horrible ordeal, an earthquake destroys the city of Port-A-Prince, where her best friend lives and her father works. Now there is no home, no money, and a group of people whose lives have changed forever.

While Serafina struggles to help her family rebuild, her dreams of becoming a doctor dwindle. Her mother tells her that her life should be about taking care of family and home, not daydreaming about something that will never happen. Fortunately, Serafina is strong in her beliefs. She teaches her family, friends, and community about hope and dreams. She teaches them the importance of never giving up. If you want something to happen, make sure to do it yourself.

This book is written in verse with beautiful language, Haitian proverbs, and rhythmic Creole. It does an incredible job of capturing life’s hardships and the struggle to carry on, stand up for your dreams, and to rely on yourself.
-BSM


One Half From the East


By Nadia Hashimi
HarperCollins, 2016
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 8-12, grades 3-7
ISBN 978-0-06-242190-6

Poignant and perceptive, this gender-bending novel introduces young readers to Obayda, a young girl, who becomes Obayd, a boy, to bring her family good luck after her father is wounded by a car bombing. In their Afghan society, boys are prized over girls, and it’s not unheard of for boyless families to have a daughter dress and behave as a son would in order to obtain some social currency. There’s even a name for the experience: bacha posh.

As Obayda embraces her short hair and the newfound friends and freedom of boyhood, she (and the reader) are left to ponder important questions about gender. What really separates boys from girls? Anatomy? Dress? Rules? Expectations? Self-belief?

And those questions become even more urgent and compelling as Obayd’s return to Obayda nears. Coming of age as a bacha posh is fraught with uncertainty yet rich with fresh perspective. The experience is only temporarily and the children must return to girlhood prior to puberty or risk bringing shame to their families.

Obayda won’t relinquish her newfound privileges–better food, fewer chores, greater independence–without a fight. Readers will enjoy this girl’s quest to live fully despite the perilous constraints of her family and society.
-MPS


Book Scavenger

by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illustrated by Sarah Watts
Christy Ottaviano Books, 2016
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 9-14,  grades 4-9, mystery
ISBN: 978-1250079800
Honors: Pennsylvania Readers Choice Award Nominee, Magnolia Award Nominee

Twelve-year-old Emily moves to a new state every year. Her parents think this is a great family learning adventure, but because of the constant moves, Emily never gets to really make friends. Her only outlet is through an online community called Book Scavenger. It’s a game where people hide books then make clues and puzzles for others to solve and find the book. Emily has become a master at deciphering codes and solving puzzles. Now Emily’s family is moving to San Francisco—home of Garrison Griswald—creator of Book Scavenger. Emily is so excited to have a chance to meet her idol and participate in his newest game. Unfortunately, Mr. Griswald is attacked and his new game is in trouble.

In comes James, Emily’s new neighbor. James is just as much, if not more, of a puzzle fiend as Emily. A great friendship and partnership forms as they try to play Mr. Griswald’s new game while figuring out who attacked him. Emily gets so caught up in the problem, she doesn’t realize she is bullying her new friend with demands. She’s never had a good friend before and doesn’t understand why he won’t drop everything else in his life to do what she says.

The journey Emily and James embark on is filled with interactive puzzles to solve, codes to decipher, and a lesson in friendship that we have all had to face. Emily has to learn that sometimes helping a friend with their problems is more important that playing a game.
-BSM


Wolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016
Middle grade, historical fiction
Ages 10 and up, grades 5 +
Additional formats: Kindle, paperback
ISBN: 978-1101994825
Honors: Newbery honor * NPR Best Book of the Year * Booklist Best Book of the Year * Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of the Year * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year *Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of the Year * ALA Notable Children’s Book * Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award nominee * Goodreads Choice Award nominee * Carnegie Medal nominee

There’s a lasting sting to the first time we learn about hate, pain, and dishonesty. Wolf Hollow captures that sting in a compelling work of historical fiction set in rural Pennsylvania in 1943. In this story Annabelle, must find the moral courage to face down Betty, an “incorrigible” girl who has come to live in their town with her grandparents. Betty threatens people with sticks, kills birds by breaking their necks, and will create a terrible and believable lie about a man in their town who is suffering from PTSD, as a result of his service in the war.  This novel is a page-turner and a lovely look at rural Pennsylvania, a place of beautiful landscape, hardworking people, and simmering bigotry.  This is historical fiction and beautiful writing about people, the sorrow they carry, and how it reveals itself to the world. It is the story of a girl learning about how complicated morality can be – for her, for her friends, and for the greater community she has always called home.

“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie, the book begins.”
-GA


Our Favorite Trilogy! By Rita Williams-Garcia

goneCrazyInAlabama

Our 2017 Girls of Summer guest author is the fantastic Rita Williams-Garcia!

We are thrilled to share Rita in person with our RVA Community at the 2017 Girls of Summer party at the Richmond Public Library on 6/21. Check out this Richmond Times-Dispatch interview with Rita, Read Toward Your Dreams.  We encourage all of our Girls of Summer readers to dive into this beloved trilogy and all of  Rita’s incredible work.

We celebrated the first volume of the trilogy, One Crazy Summer, in 2011 – our first year of Girls of Summer – with this review by Meg:

by Rita Williams-Garcia
Middle grade
Amistad Books, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-06-076088-5
Awards/recognitions: * National book Award finalist * Newbery Finalist * Coretta Scott King Award *Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Once I got past the fact that a time period I actually remember qualifies for historical fiction, I warmed up to One Crazy Summer. I’m glad I did. This middle grade novel is about three dueling sisters, a mother who abandoned them, and the summer they are reunited — all against the backdrop of working with the Black Panthers in the late 1960s. Regardless of whether you think the Black Panthers were an armed leftist group or a justified response to the racial injustices of the time, this is a story that offers readers a more nuanced and honest look at the Civil Rights movement beyond Dr. King’s non-violent model, which has been the safer topic in children’s books. Williams-Garcia makes us look through the eyes of children who are awakening to the racism around them and to the power of their own response.

There’s so much to love about this book (note the long string of awards it has received), but for me what shines most are the characters of Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern. Eleven-year-old Delphine occupies the revered and burdensome role of oldest sister as they leave Brooklyn alone to spend the summer in Oakland with their mother, whom they haven’t seen since their infancy. Cecile now calls herself Nzila, and she is working as a poet associated with the Black Panthers. Their grandmother, Big Ma, refers to Cecile as a troublemaker, and at first, it seems as though Big Ma may be right. The girls immediately find themselves practically on their own, dodging Nzila’s gruff ways and spending their days at the community center run by the Panthers. They catch their evening meals at Mean Lady Ming’s Chinese takeout and eat on the floor.

This is the story of funny, squabbling girls who are developing personal power, and for that I adore this book.  In Delphine, I see depth, resilience and the practical skills of survival. I see a girl finding her voice and questioning what is around her. What is “mother”? What is fairness? What is the difference between making trouble and insisting on dignity? Delphine keeps her wits about her as she tries to decide whom to trust with what, keeping her heart open to what surprises the grown world brings. MM


Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia Tate

Calpurnia Tate
by Jacqueline Kelly
Henry Holt, 2009
ISBN: 978-0312659301
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 9-12, Grades 4-7
Additional formats: ebook
Honors:
Newbery Honor Award * IRA Children’s Book Award, North Carolina Young Adult Book Award, TN YA Volunteer State Book Award, Virginia M. Law Award * Josette Frank Award * Chicago Public Library Best of the Best * Junior Library Guild

Set at the end of the 19th century, eleven-year old Calpurnia Virginia Tate is having a difficult time learning”housewifery” things. She prefers swimming in the river or thinking about science to cooking or knitting. “Callie” sets out to be independent and do what she likes while learning to bond with her grandfather. He helps her learn about the natural sciences and how to cope with change and growing up.