Read Harder 2016: Middle Grade Novels

I so enjoyed doing the Read Harder challenge in 2015, that I am thrilled Book Riot is doing it again! Task 5 is to read a Middle Grade Novel, and those are my JAM. So I thought I would make a list of recommendations of MG books that I think are great and would appeal to folks who don’t usually read them.

All Four Stars by Tara Dairman (2014).

Who can resist a book about a sixth grade restaurant critic? Gladys Gatsby *loves* food, but after an unfortunately creme brûlée incident, she is banned from the kitchen by her non-culinarily inclined parents. When an essay she wrote for a newspaper contest is mistaken for an actual job application, Gladys finds herself reviewing a restaurant for the New York Standard. Fans of Ruth Reichl’s Delicious, should sample All Four Stars.

Dragon Slippers by Jessica Day George (2007).

When Creel’s family sacrifices her to the local dragon, they never would have imagined that she’d talk her way out of his cave and head off to the capital with a pair of magical slippers. She arrives just in time to save the kingdom. If you like YA fantasy, then you should give the MG’s Dragon Slippers a try!

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson (2014).

Middle School schemer, Jackson Greene, swears he has reformed his ways, but when he suspects that the Student Council elections have been rigged against his friend, Gaby de la Cruz, he decides to pull off one last con for the greater good. If you like heist capers like Ocean’s Eleven, you’ll enjoy The Great Greene Heist.

Greenglass House by Kate Milford (2014).

Sometimes good things come from judging a book by it’s cover. I picked this one up because I liked the way it looked, and found such an engaging tale inside. Milo lives in a smuggler’s inn with his adopted, innkeeper parents. The holidays are usually a quiet time, but for some reason, this year, the inn has filled up with some very eccentric characters. It’s up to Milo to figure out what they are seeking before something bad happens. If you are a mystery reader, pick up Greenglass House!

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin (2014).

Celeste Marconi is forced to flee her home in Valparaiso, Chile after a brutal dictator seizes control. This book does a great job of showing life under/around a dictatorship through the eyes of a child. If you’ve avoided middle grade books, because you thought they couldn’t deal with serious topics, you should check out I Lived on Butterfly Hill.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy (2014).

A fun (and often funny) family tale of two dads and their four sons, who range in age from 6 to 12. If you have found memories of Ramona Quimby, or if you just really want to read a story where two dads are just life and not a plot point, I totally recommend The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher.

Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez  (2015).

Middle school student, Cassie Arroyo, is at school in Rome where her art historian father is doing research. All of a sudden her world is shaken when her father picks her up unexpectedly from school and then is shot in their attempted escape. Her injured father sends her to see a Monk, while warning her against a secret group – the Hastati – who are out to get her. If you enjoyed the action and art of The Da Vinci Code, give Moving Target a try.

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010).

Delphine and her two little sisters travel from Brooklyn to Oakland, CA in the summer of 1968 to spend time with their mother who abandoned the family when the youngest was a baby. Their “crazy summer” include Black Panther summer camp and a mother who wants little to do with them. This Newbery Honor book is a lovely mix of a historic moment in time and normal childhood. If you like historical fiction, you’ll enjoy One Crazy Summer. And bonus: This is a trilogy, so if you like this one, there are more to read!

Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer by Kelly Jones (2015).

When Sophie Brown’s parents inherit her Great Uncle Jim’s farm, they move from LA to a more rural, agricultural part of California. Sophie discovers some of Great Uncle Jim’s very special chickens and starts a self-education campaign to become an exceptional poultry farmer. If you enjoy magical realism, I like you’ll like Unusual Chickens!

Read Harder 2016: Middle Grade Novels

Twelve Books or Bust January!

I decided I wanted to do a stretch reading goal in January. In my most reading-heavy month in 2014, I finished 11 books (although a more typical month is 3-4), so this January, I’m going to read TWELVE books. This will serve two purposes: 1) Make me happy in an otherwise cold and gloomy month, because I love to read. 2) Keep me from wasting SO MUCH time on the internet. I mean, I love the internet, but surely I could stand to be a little more judicious in my internetting. And now I won’t have time to mess around, because I’ve got to get reading.

I have two basic guidelines to help me do this. (The beauty of challenging YOURSELF, is that YOU make the rules!)

1) Children’s chapter books are okay. Encouraged even. Probably all of my books will need to be no more than 300 or so pages in order to get this done. I can’t read twelve 600 page books in a month, that’s for sure!

2) The books must be finished in January, but they do not have to have been started then. I have a number of half finished books floating around in the universe. This is the month to finish them!

Anybody else been wanting to up their reading? You should do an “X Books or Bust” Challenge too! It could be any number of books – even one!

Alternatively and/or additionally, any suggestions for good, not-too-long, quick reads? I could use some!

Twelve Books or Bust January!

TBR: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken

One thing that is interesting to me about this To Be Read challenge is that I have a ton of books on my To Be Read list – all of which I read about somewhere and for the most part, I have no idea where any more. This is true of The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken by Laura Schenone as well – it’s been on my list for a couple of years and I have no idea where I first heard about it. It was good though – just what I needed to read during my snowiest week of the year – an interesting and engaging book, with loving descriptions of pasta. Mmm, pasta. Part food book, part family history, the Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken traces Schenone’s search for an authentic family recipe to call her own. The book reminded me of two very different books that I have read in the past few years: the learning about Italian food (in Italy) part reminded me of Heat by Bill Buford (subtitled An Amateur’s Adventures as Kitchen Slave, Line Cook, Pasta-Maker, and Apprentice to a Dante-Quoting Butcher in Tuscany, which should give you some idea of what the book is about), while the family history part reminded me of The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn (the subject matter is tougher in The Lost, where the author attempts to trace the lives and deaths of 6 of his relatives who died in the Holocaust, but the idea of (re)discovering your family was similar).

TBR: The Lost Ravioli Recipes of Hoboken