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Entries in middle grade books (12)


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.


little lit book series: middle grade

August is middle grade month for us at #littlelitbookseries.  If you read any book this month with your upper graders (ages 8-12) before the school year starts, let it be this one.

Two fifth graders from totally different backgrounds don't share too much in common—at first.  Ravi has just moved to America from India.  Joe has APD (auditory processing disorder) and is subject to misunderstandings and difficulties in communicating.  Save Me a Seat chronicles their story of standing up to one of the most intimidating bullies in their class and devising a plan to stop him over the course of a week.  Each chapter alternates between Ravi's and Joe's perspectives.  It's an exceptional story about friendship, acceptance and how assumptions are often wrong.  And how "it's possible for a couple of zebras to outsmart a crocodile."  It's relatable on so many levels.  Glossaries and recipes from both characters are included in the back.  A must-read.

Save Me a Seat was collaboratively written by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadajaran, and was published by Scholastic Press.  For more insights on the book, check out this interview with both authors on Sarah Weeks' website.

For more notable middle grade books, check in at @littlelitbookseries throughout the month and head over to see other favorites of ours today by searching the hashtag #littlelitbookseries on Instagram.


beatrice zinker, upside down thinker

Look out, world, for Beatrice Zinker!  We recently read this upside-down thinker's story and we are officially in love with her topsy-turvy ways.  She's funny, spirited and slightly mischievous, and we love how she is an independent thinker, confident in her own skin and is one who stands her ground.  SO fun and funny, and one of the most enjoyable reads we've had this summer.  Shelley Johannes' energetic  illustrations really bring Beatrice to life.  Can we hope for a sequel (or an entire series)?  Crossing our fingers!

Don't miss out on this fantastically written and illustrated early middle grade novel when it publishes on September 19.  Beatrice Zinker, Upside Down Thinker was written and illustrated by Shelley Johannes and published by Disney Hyperion.

Want to meet Beatrice?  We’re giving away an advance reader's copy of BEATRICE ZINKER on Instagram.  The giveaway ends Thursday, July 27.  Head over here to enter, and for a preview of Beatrice!


what avery's reading

A late update on #whataverysreading.  Happy first day of summer and here’s to slower days, warm nights and catching up on all those books you wanted to read during the year (that’s me).