Focus on the Cybils, Part 2: Middle Grade Fiction

There’s nothing to warm a librarian’s heart like coming home from a late shift at work and finding your daughter curled up in bed with a book. And a hefty book, at that: Roald Dahl’s The BFG. For some time now, she’s been zooming through short, easy chapter book series along the lines of the Rainbow Magic and Magic Tree House, but this was a step beyond. My mom reported that she’d been deep into it the book all afternoon.

We’ve had an eventful and very exciting week, what with the election and my mom visiting, but I couldn’t bring myself to make her turn off the light right away. 

“It’s the best book,” she said sleepily when I finally pried it out of her hands.

Even as I write this, Cybils panelists are reading reading reading like my kid was last night, winnowing the nominees town to a short list of finalists. The Middle Grade Fiction panelists have their work cut out for them, with over a hundred novels for children to choose from. 

These are ten that I would love to curl up with myself, and that have already made someone say to themselves—and to the Cybils organizers—“this is the best book”.

A book about a kid whose baby teeth haven’t fallen out yet. How did I miss this all year? My kid is in third grade and her baby teeth have only just started to fall out and I didn’t know there were any books about this phenomenon in the whole wide world!

I keep hearing terrific things about this book and it sounds like it has just the right mix of magic and coming-of-age to appeal to lots of kids. As well as, well, me.

Ooh the Harriet the Spy fan in me is totally looking forward to this one.

My favorite kind of historical novel: a regular kid with a distinctive narrative voice trying to have normal growing-up experiences in the midst of a Big Event, in this case the Civil Rights Movement.

I’ve actually read this one and it is so gorgeous. It has that perfectly jewel-like satisfying well-put-together feeling that just makes me so happy. Also it has a military father who defies stereotypes by being warm and thoughtful.

I read this one too and liked it in some ways even more than the first Moxy Maxwell book. You learn more about her family, her father especially.

Who wouldn’t want to read about a 2nd grader who’s so scared of school that he needs a Personal Disaster Kit, but plays a superhero named Firecracker Man at home? Cool. Fun.

Like tales of Jewish immigration to Ellis Island, the books I’ve seen about the Cultural Revolution have seemed to mostly feature girl protagonists. Here’s one about a boy, and it looks pretty good.

What are the odds of not one but two kids’ novels in the same year whose titles refer to being hit by lightning? From a brief glimpse at their respective descriptions, it seems like these two deal with similar themes, too: friendship, fitting in, and having your world turn upside down. Different settings, though, and very different first-person voices.

There are lots, lots more that look truly excellent, but I had to cut off my picks at some point lest I overwhelm anyone reading this. Here, once again, is the link to the whole list of Middle Grade Fiction nominees.

Happy reading!

November 9, 2008

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Comments

A Thousand Never Evers was great! Going into one of my best reads this year!

I'm on the Middle Grade Fiction panel, and you're right: I'm reading fast and furious. From your list, I can definitely second the recommendation for Alvin Ho and Moxy Maxwell and Violet Raines.

And there are lots more really good ones, too.

Like Sherry, I'm on the MG ficiton panel. From what I've read on that list -- not as many as I should have by this point, but there's only so many hours in the day (alas) -- I have to agree that they're charmers. The others, well, let's just say that I need to get to them. Soon. And I hope I enjoy them as much as you did.

These titles all sound like fun. Can't wait to try them out.

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