Thursday, March 11, 2021

Middle Grade March: Fiction

I just learned yesterday that March is apparently known in the reading community as Middle Grade March. 

What does this mean? It means readers everywhere set their focus in March on reading primarily middle grade fiction, i.e. books published with the 8 - 12 year old crowd in mind.

I love this idea! I am always and forever working on my book list for my kids, but I also think reading middle grade fiction can help us build more empathy for kids and tweens as it puts us back in their shoes and reminds us what it felt like to live life at that age. 

I thought I would share a list of 20 middle-grade fiction books I have loved and recommend. It was so hard to narrow it down to 20 but I did it!

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T Cook... Such a wonderful secular book to read together and then use to discuss sin, forgiveness, and grace vs mercy! 

Anne of Green Gables... A classic, and for good reason. I adore this book and all of my children enjoy the picture book versions they've come to know and love.

Echo... One of my all-time favorite books, period. A WWII story following three different children and exploring so many good, powerful messages. The physical version is spectacular but the audio version adds in music and takes it to a whole other level 😍

An Elephant in the Garden... Also a WWII book, and one based on a true story. A zookeeper rescues an elephant and saves it from the bombings of her city. Along the way she and her children encounter a fallen soldier from the other side and so much reflection on loyalty and humanity is brought to the surface! 

The Edge of Everywhen... I've talked about this delightful Christian middle grade here in the past and I know I'll talk about it again in the future, too! I just adore this beautiful book about books which is not really fantasy at all but has a very fun fantasy feel to it. 

The Green Ember... Now this book is a fantasy. This is the first in a series about talking rabbits in a battle of good versus evil. It is so well-written and is written by a Christian author who incorporates Christian values and allegory into the story... but it is not strictly Christian and is definitely enjoyed by the secular community as well.

Lemons... It's kind of weird but I have a strange fascination with the idea of Bigfoot / Sasquatch / Yeti. Almost every culture has a legend about this mythical creature and many if not all of those cultures also have alleged "proof" of its existence here and there. This great middle grade book, set at the end of or just after the end of the Vietnam War is about two kids who are on the hunt for Bigfoot while also finding their place in the world and trying to grapple with grief. This book is so excellent.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe... This is the first book in the Chronicles of Narnia series and this will always have a special place in my heart as it was one of my childhood favorites. My family just adores this story and we re-live it again and again and again.

Little House and the Big Woods... I have read many reviews on the Little House series that call this first book and also a later book The Long Winter the most boring books of the series. This is very funny to me because these are my two favorites in the series! I love this cozy story of Laura and her family in their little Wisconsin cabin and my family revisits this one time and again as well.

The One and Only Ivan... This book is being made into a movie (or maybe has already been made into a movie) and I can't wait to watch it because I loved this book so much! I talked about this one in my post of favorite circus-themed books as well. I love that element of it and I love the perseverance, loyalty, and friendship shown in this book.

The Princess and the Goblin...  The title makes it sound like a book just for girls but this exciting, adventurous story will enchant boys as well. Princess Irene goes for a walk and ends up staying out past dark which is strictly forbidden. It turns out it's forbidden because the mountain is overrun with goblins and they do not have good intentions! She and a young boy man named Curdie work together in their attempt to escape. 

The Railway Children... Another delightful classic... I just adored this sweet book about siblings working together to help their mother and to set things right for their family as it undergoes a big change.  I don't know why I haven't read this book aloud to my children yet but it is suddenly up at the top of my list for later this year!

Snow and Rose... This sweet fairytale story is good and well-written, but the beautiful full color illustrations bring the whole thing to life. I really love Emily Winfield Martin's exquisite work in this book and I know my daughters will love it as well. I suspect my son just might enjoy it too!

Stella by Starlight... Stella is such a wonderful character and I love seeing her come out of her shell in this fabulous book in which she takes on the KKK through a simple writing project. There is so much wisdom and light in this wonderful book.

Understood Betsy... Also a classic, and one which has a strong Anne of Green Gables feel to it. Betsy is sent to live with some family she has never met before and learns so much about herself, relationship dynamics, prejudices... This is a fabulous book and one I am so happy I got introduced to!

The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street... If you are interested in a wholesome and modern story about family look no further! The siblings in this wonderful story not only love each other very well but also work together very well for a cause that will help the whole family. I love the family dynamics in this book and I love the really powerful lessons they learn by the end.

When Stars are Scattered... This graphic novel about a refugee true story is so powerful and so inspiring! This book really moved me and while it is not strictly Christian there are so many moments in the book that really moved me and touched my faith.

White Bird... Also a graphic novel, White Bird is a really powerful WWII story told by the author of Wonder. This book does have some slightly graphic illustrations so I personally put it on my kids list for 8th grade rather than keeping it in the 8-12 crowd but if you think your child can handle this and you are comfortable with it this really is a very powerful, moving story I can't recommend enough! Parents should be aware that the ending does tie in elements of World War II with the recent family separation taking place at the border. There was nothing political discussed here, simply a juxtaposition of the way parents and children were separated from each other in both instances. I thought this was handled very well, but I do think this could be really scary for some children so be advised.

Wonder... I have so much love for this beautiful book showing kids what life is like for those who are different from them. Auggie was born with severe cranial facial deformities and we get to see what life is like for someone who cannot at all hide from or escape their differences. I have since read a few reviews portraying this book in a negative light and saying that it is romanticizing and/or victimizing those with deformities, but many parents who do have children with deformities have reviewed this book highly online so I still see it as wonderful. However, The Good and the Beautiful has called this book a no and says there are many problematic elements in it which I haven't taken the time to revisit for myself yet so this would be another good one to review for yourself first before deciding whether or not you'd like to have your child read it. 

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