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Entries in middle grade books (15)


the house that lou built + giveaway

One of our favorite middle grade books this year!!! 🔨

Twelve-year-old Lou Bulosan-Nelson has a dream — to build a house of her own.  Not just any house — a 100-square-foot tiny house.  A “just right” space to get away to when she’s in need of some peace and quiet.  Lou’s hopeful plans are to build her house on some land inherited from her dad.  It’s not long, though, before she and her carefully-drafted blueprints run into a couple of obstacles.  It’s time to “seize the day” (one of Lou’s favorite mottos) and make things happen!

This book means so much to me.  It means so much to welcome another Filipino American voice to kidlit, and a character whose experiences are similar to my own — the language, culture, hospitality, community and loud, boisterous togetherness — it’s all there.  Mae Respicio’s writing is fresh and funny with beautiful moments that will resonate with all readers about family, friends, and the intangible things that make a house a home.  I hope you’ll welcome this story into your heart as I have and I hope you’ll love getting to know creative, resourceful, observant and lovable Lou.  You can read an excerpt from The House That Lou Built here.

The House That Lou Built was written by Mae Respicio and published by Wendy Lamb Books (Random House Children's Books).  It’ll be out on June 12 and is available for pre-order now.  And, we’re giving away an ARC of The House That Lou Built!  This giveaway is open to US residents and ends Sunday, April 22, at 11:00 PM PDT.  Head over to this Instagram post to enter.


the ostrich and other lost things

As someone who has people with autism in her life, I’m drawn to stories like THE OSTRICH AND OTHER LOST THINGS.  It’s written from the perspective of a sister whose older brother has autism.  Olivia is the (incredibly) observant type — she notices everything and everyone and no detail seems to escape her watchful eye.  She’s extraordinarily good at finding things — objects and belongings that people in her life misplace.  There’s one lost thing that eludes her, though — her brother Jacob’s beloved ostrich that she has not been able to find for months.  She feels like it has something to do with his worsening behavior which is odd, unpredictable and more often than not embarrassing.

Olivia craves normalcy and wants to carve out a space of her own, apart from being “Jacob’s sister.”  We experience her frustration, ongoing grief and her feeling of being “closed in” as she deals with her brother’s profound differences and the restrictions that they impose on her life.  We learn about how love is different when you have a person with autism in your family—it’s still there, just felt and expressed in ways you wouldn’t expect.  I love author Beth Hautala’s words — “We are all a little bit lost and a little bit found.” In our case, we’re glad to have found this heartfelt and meaningful story.

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things was written by Beth Hautala and published by Philomel Books.


the unintentional adventures of the bland sisters + giveaway

If you’re a word maven with a penchant for adventure, this book is for you.  Even if you don’t quite fit that description, you might find the Bland Sisters an interesting—or shall we say uninteresting—pair.  The sisters lead dreary lives—they each eat a cheese sandwich on day-old bread and drink a glass of flat soda for lunch every day.  Their hobby is reading the dictionary and they darn socks for a living.  One day, intrepid adventure comes knocking at their door, literally.

The Bland Sisters’ heaps of wry humor made us laugh out loud more than a few times and is one reason why the book makes an excellent read-aloud.  Kudos to Kara LaReau and Jen Hill for the best idea for chapter header concepts/illustrations that we’ve seen in a long time.  Head over to Kara LaReau's blog to read about how quirky Jaundice and Kale came to life in this smart and terrific middle grade book for ages 8-12.

We’re giving away a copy of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters: The Jolly Regina.  This giveaway is open to US residents and ends Thursday, February 22, at 11:59 PM PST.  Head over to this Instagram post to enter.


cilla lee-jenkins: this book is a classic


Cilla Lee-Jenkins was one of Avery’s favorite books this year. She's an independent reader, but I read it aloud to her because I didn’t want to miss out on it either, and it was a memorable shared experience. I loved it.

Research shows that children benefit so much from discussing books that they’re reading, and that even older children who are independent readers still benefit from being read aloud to by a parent. As a parent, you’re able to explain unfamiliar words, connect the new experiences in the book with kids’ prior real-life experiences and help them understand the themes of the story and the author’s intent. All this supports kids in better comprehending what they’re reading, connecting with the text more and most of all, enjoying it (which contributes to them becoming a lifelong reader and learner).

Cilla is absolutely enjoyable as a read-aloud. She’s a "future author extraordinaire" with a penchant for the sensational and telling stories with "creative license." In other words, she's hilarious, charming and has some serious spunk. We get to hear about Cilla’s mixed-race background—her unique experiences with each and the insights she gains from a diverse background. She tells us how she overcomes her struggles with reading, bumps in the road with friendships and realizations she makes about herself as she gets older. But here's the big news—Cilla feels overshadowed by the new baby aka "The Blob" making inroads into the family and she does not want to be an older sister at all. Her solution? To write a book about herself before the baby is born—and become a best-selling author—so that no one will have a chance to forget about her.

In her sequel Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, we continue to hear her lively voice as a young writer. She’s learning and writing about themes in her life and shares her family’s different traditions in detail, some of which involve moon cake and chocolate cake (because dessert is a BIG them in her family)!

In the first chapter, Cilla starts off Chinese New Year morning by donning all the red clothing she possibly can and leaving orange all over the house to bring luck for the new year! Auntie Eva comes to visit, and the whole family heads to Chinatown to celebrate Chinese New Year. The morning is filled with lively conversation, firecrackers, drums and catching up with her beloved aunt, who has some big news to share with the family.



our story begins

"Our story begins with a box in the basement. It's brown and heavy and one of many marked Elissa.  And it's filled, to the brim, with stories from my childhood. Stories I wrote." — from editor Elissa Brent Weissman

Before writers and illustrators were putting their work out into the world, inspiring children everywhere and turning them into lifelong readers, they were kids themselves.  Our Story Begins is an honest, funny and heartfelt collection of some of the earliest works written and drawn by twenty-six authors and illustrators as kids.  Included are Kwame AlexanderTom AnglebergerKathi AppeltAshley BryanTim FederleCandace FlemingMarla FrazeeChris GallAlex GinoChris GrabensteinGordon KormanJarrett J. KrosoczkaThanhha LaiPeter LerangisGail Carson LevineGrace LinYuyi MoralesPhyllis Reynolds NaylorR. J. PalacioLinda Sue ParkRohmann, EricDan SantatBrian SelznickCynthia Leitich Smith and Rita Williams-Garcia.

We read their candid words, thoughts and feelings as they spilled out onto looseleaf lined paper.  We have the privilege of seeing their earliest literary efforts and stapled-together stories, inventive even at a young age.  We learn who and what books inspired their love of words, pictures and stories, what they dreamt about, how they came to the realization that they wanted to write books for children and how they found their own voice.  "Their stories were just beginning. Your story is beginning too. Where will it go?" — E. B. W.

Our Story Begins was edited by Elissa Brent Weissman and published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers.