Sunday, May 14, 2017

Terrific new middle grade fiction

I can hardly believe that the school year is almost over and yet it is.  It seems like only yesterday we were just starting and now we're starting to put things away and dream of long days with less structure and MORE READING.  Some people have started to count down the days, but I don't do that until we are in the single digits.  So, here are a few books to put on your summer reading list!

The first one is called "The World's Greatest Chocolate Covered Pork Chops" by Ryan K. Sager.  It's a very funny story about a girl named Zoe who is the arguably with world's greatest chef.  She is, at the very least, the world's best young chef, as she is only 12 years old and already has her own restaurant and a large group of very loyal patrons.  Zoe wants to open her own restaurant and convinces her parents that she should be allowed to apply for a business loan as well as choose the location and then open the restaurant.  Her parents, who are jazz musicians, agree.  Once Zoe opens her restaurant, she is hoping that a local food writer will come and taste her food and then write about it in a positive way and that she will be named the best chef in San Francisco.  This book is heavy on the fun and the food but there is also a bit of a mystery.  I think kids are going to like this one a lot.

The second one is a more serious story.  It's called "Caleb and Kit" by Beth Vrabel.  I read Beth Vrabel's first book, "A Blind Guide to Stinkville" about a girl with albinism who moves across country to a small town in SC.  THAT one was awesome.  (Here's the review for Blind Guide to Stinkville).  This one is at least as good, maybe even better.  Caleb is 12 and has cystic fibrosis.  If you don't know what cystic fibrosis is, this book goes into great deal about the symptoms as well as some of the treatments and side effects of cystic fibrosis (and parts of it go into greater detail than you would hope).  But what's great about this book is the character development- the story is told from Caleb's point of view so you get to hear about what's rotten about being chronically ill (and possibly only living a short life) but through the arc of the story, Caleb also comes to understand his (nearly perfect) older brother Patrick, and his parents (who have two very different ways of dealing Caleb's condition). He also meets a girl who is living the life he wishes he could live-Kit is allowed to do what ever she wants-walk in the woods, take a dip in the creek, sleep outside, eat whatever she wants.  It all sounds pretty awesome, until he finds out why she's allowed all this flexibility.  This year, my students really seem to love stories where people are sick so I think this one is going to be very popular.  

This last one is already in print because I checked it out of my local library and it's SOOO wonderful.  It's called "Princess Cora and the Crocodile" and it's written by Laura Amy Schlitz and illustrated by Brian Floca.  Laura Amy Schlitz has written a number of awesome books, like "The Hired Girl" and "Good Masters!  Sweet Ladies!" which won the Newbery a few years back.  Brian Floca won the Caldecott a year or two ago with "Locomotive" so you might expect that this is going to be a terrific book.  Well, let me tell you.  IT IS.  It's about a princess named Cora.  When she's born, her parents take one look at her and fall completely in love with her-she's so pretty and so sweet looking.  They then start thinking about what a difficult job it will be to be queen so they set out to train her to strong (by jumping rope), smart (reading lots of books), and clean (taking lots of baths).  Cora is a good sport about this for awhile, but she gets to a point where she's looking for a way out.  So she asks her godmother for a dog.  Except the godmother sends a crocodile.  Their plan to solve Cora's problem is absolutely hilarious and the story comes to a lovely conclusion (which I am SO not going to tell you).  What's also great about this one is the art work.  The pictures are lovely soft water colors which will evoke old fashioned fairy tales, but they add so much to the story... the expressions on the characters' faces are wonderful and you almost feel like you're a part of the story.  I loved this one.  Don't miss it!

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