Book Review Wednesday: Middle Grade Book Talk

Still I Read
by Anna J. Boll (with apologies to Ms. Angelou)

Baseballs slump on backstops
games unable to proceed
Worms drown on the blacktop
but still I read.

Yes, it seems that the only thing that I can find motivation for these rainy, rainy days is reading. If you  are looking for new books to place on the top of your TBR (too-be-read) pile, look no further than today’s Middle Grade Books. These brand new releases are sure to be a hit with savvy middle grade readers. First on the list is the ONE FOR THE MURPHY’S. (Happy Book Birthday, Linda Mullaly Hunt!)


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Linda’s summary:

In the wake of heart-breaking betrayal, Carley Connors is thrust into foster care and left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family.

Carley has thick walls and isn’t rattled easily, but this is a world she just doesn’t understand. A world that frightens her. So, she resists this side of life she’d believed did not exist with dinners around a table and a “zip your jacket, here’s your lunch” kind of mom.

However, with the help of her Broadway-obsessed and unpredictable friend, Toni, the Murphys do the impossible in showing Carley what it feels like to belong somewhere. But, when her mother wants her back, will she lose the only family that she has ever known?

My take:

Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s debut novel explores the conflicted feelings of Carley Connor as she leaves a dangerous home situation to join the foster care system and live with the Murphy family. Vaguely reminiscent of The Great Gilly Hopkins, Lynda Mullaly Hunt creates a story all her own with honest emotion and believable dialogue. Carley’s relationship with Foster Mom Julie Murphy is heartening and evolves beautifully.

For a sneak peak of the first chapter take a look on Linda’s website. (Growing book lovers tip: read this aloud to your middle grade students/kids. Who can resist a book after hearing the first chapter.)


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SEE YOU AT HARRY’S also launched this week (Happy Book Birthday, Jo!). When I asked her agent about this book before the launch he said, “Bring your tissue box.” Jo Knowles (LESSONS FROM A DEAD GIRL, JUMPING OFF SWINGS) recently won the SCBWI Crystal Kite for her novel PEARL. Jo is a wonderful and giving writer. If you are a writer, don’t miss her blog with Monday Morning Warm ups.

From the Candlewick site:

Twelve-year-old Fern feels invisible. It seems as though everyone in her family has better things to do than pay attention to her: Mom (when she’s not meditating) helps Dad run the family restaurant; Sarah is taking a gap year after high school; and Holden pretends that Mom and Dad and everyone else doesn’t know he’s gay, even as he fends off bullies at school. Then there’s Charlie: three years old, a “surprise” baby, the center of everyone’s world. He’s devoted to Fern, but he’s annoying, too, always getting his way, always dirty, always commanding attention. If it wasn’t for Ran, Fern’s calm and positive best friend, there’d be nowhere to turn. Ran’s mantra, “All will be well,” is soothing in a way that nothing else seems to be. And when Ran says it, Fern can almost believe it’s true. But then tragedy strikes- and Fern feels not only more alone than ever, but also responsible for the accident that has wrenched her family apart. All will not be well. Or at least all will never be the same.

My take:

With SEE YOU AT HARRY’S, Jo Knowles has given us a book that rings with emotional truth. In another author’s hands, the themes of family, self-discovery, and grief could feel heavy-handed or didactic. This reader never felt manipulated. In contrast, Knowles reveals a pathway into a very real family of six, each character beautifully whole and fabulously flawed. The plot was surprising and full of tension.

So there you have it. Book Review Wednesday (on Thursday) and plenty to read. Remember to support you local indie bookstore!

5 thoughts on “Book Review Wednesday: Middle Grade Book Talk

  1. Anna, I am so glad you picked these books to review. I’m going to read them both! Love the juxtaposition of the author/site review and then your take. Keep ’em coming!

    1. So nice to see you comment here, Helen and thanks for the feedback! Another interesting thing about both of these books is how each author handles the question/theme, “What is a hero?” In …HARRY’s, the adults around the main character Fern expect her to be a hero and wrestles with that expectation and her namesake throughout the book. Carley, in …MURPHYS has always had very low expectations from the adults around her but has a similar struggle.

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