Another year, another Cybils — it’s the fifth, can you believe that? — another Middle Grade shortlist. If you’re interested, the shortlists for all the categories are over at the site. But, Ill save you the trip, and put my panel’s hard work up over here. It’s an eclectic list, but one with a great diversity of books. A lot more “boy” books than usual, too, which surprised us. As always, I thoroughly enjoyed working with the other panelists, and the entire experience! I hope you enjoy reading these books. I sure did!
Rob Buyea, a teacher and first time author, has written Because of Mr. Terupt. It is a beautiful book about a class of fifth graders and their new teacher. The book is told by seven students. They write about their experiences with a special teacher. The students share the impact that tragedy has on their young lives. The experiences are sad, touching and life changing. Jessica, one of the students, tells Mr Terupt early in the book that she likes happy endings. This book does have one. –Kyle Kimmal, The Boy Reader
This is a humorous mystery that takes place in a zoo. The main character Teddy along with Summer, the zoo owner’s daughter, must figure out who murdered the zoo’s famous mascot, Henry the Hippo. The characters are well developed and will be loved by both children and adults alike. Listed for 8 – 12 year olds it is probably best for the higher ages due to some mild language. Children will love the gross descriptions and side splitting antics along with the believable parents in the book. The environmental element adds to the flavor of this book. Humor, save the animal type themes, and independent, can’t stay out of trouble kid. Who could ask for anything more? —Sandra Stiles
Babo is one of the leftover children. In an unnamed, war-torn country, she lives in an abandoned circus turned orphanage. She is a storyteller, she has friends, and she is happy. Then she’s adopted by an American couple, who change her name to Betti. In this heartbreaking, yet humorous and touching book, you get to know Betti as she struggles to adapt and adjust and come to terms with her new life while still yearning for the old. Nothing in this book is black and white: every character and situation is complex, appealing to the older readers, but yet the book is simple enough for younger ones as well. It’s a book that will generate discussion about war, refugees, adoption and immigrants. It’s not depressing, though; Betti is a spitfire, and readers of all ages will end up cheering for her and falling in love with both her and the book. –Melissa at Book Nut
Gasoline is not available at any price, so Dewey Marriss and his siblings have to tough it out until their parents can get back into town. Dewey was left in charge of the Marriss Bike Barn, and business is booming to say the least. We loved the believable characters and thought provoking circumstances of this story. It has a retro feel, but could easily be set in the near future. A mini-mystery keeps the plot moving along but doesn’t distract from the big question: What would life without gas be like? Crunch is a shoo-in for boys and girls ages 8 to 800. –Alysa, Everead
It’s a story with a sad premise — a boy trying to deal with the death of his mother. However, it reads like a surprisingly normal “kid overcoming an obstacle” kind of story.
Milo’s dad isn’t really up to talking about serious topics, and he keeps moving the family from house to house, seeming to avoid the memories of his wife. That means that Milo is dealing with yet another new school. At this school he finds a good friend who appreciates him for who he is and what he likes (Freezies drinks from the local convenience store) and a next door neighbor who keeps leaving him sticky notes. These friends and a widow neighbor fill part of the hole that his mother’s absence has left. Readers will cheer with Milo as he takes charge of overcoming his situation.
This story will speak volumes to any child who has lost a parent or is trying to help a good friend deal with that loss. But this book’s humor, use of line-drawings and cartoons throughout, and universal themes such as struggling in Math, having a crush, the power of friendship, and moving to a new home or new school will entertain and enlighten other readers as well. —Jennifer Donovan
Dashes of Dahl. Snippets of Snicket. Heaps of Horvath. Those are the comparisons from the blurb on the back of this rather gothic middle grade adventure novel that I read breathlessly to the end in one day. I would add: A modicum of Monty Python. Pinches of The Princess Bride (without the kissing). Even a whisper of Joan Aiken’s Wolves of Willoughby Chase.
No spoilers here, but it won’t hurt to tell that The Kneebone Boy has no vampires, no magic, only one very small ghost, one large castle and one small play castle, lots of adventure, many oddities, and a few crazies. Also, there’s not much blood, and lots of stuff happens at night . . . in the dark . . . in a spooky forest. Oh, and there’s a dungeon and a secret passageway. How can any kid with an inkling of imagination resist? —Sherry
There are kids all over McQuarrie Middle School who believe Origami Yoda can tell the future. Others think he’s just a stupid finger puppet made by the 6th grade’s biggest loser, Dwight. Tommy HAS to know the truth. He has to know if Origami Yoda is real before he makes a complete fool of himself. Tommy reasons that Origami Yoda MUST be the real thing because there is no way a loser like Dwight could ever offer such great advice. Still, what if he takes Origami Yoda’s advice and makes a fool of himself? In order to find out, Tommy opens a case file where his classmates explain their experiences with Origami Yoda’s Jedi-like advice. The Strange Case of Origami Yoda will delight readers. It’s filled with humor, great characters, a unique plot and the occasional glimpse of the force at work. Read it, you must. –Cheryl Vanatti for Reading Rumpus