Every summer needs a story, and middle-grade novels have exciting stories galore. There are books about friendships and stories about fathers and sons. There are stories about real-life events and a novel relating the effects of a natural disaster.
This selection of middle-grade novels includes high-interest plots about protagonists ages 8 through 14. None of the titles contains violent scenes or objectionable language. The books mentioned are not currently part of a series.
Twelve-year-old Zane with his dog, Bandy, are visiting his great-grandmother in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hits. He is separated from her while they try to evacuate the city. The boy and his dog are rescued by an old man, Tru, and his young guardian, Malvina. Braving the rising water, the three are threatened by criminals, would-be law men, and the treacherous flood waters teaming with copperhead snakes and filthy debris.
Award-winning author Rodman Philbrick has spun a can’t-put-it-down thriller based on real conditions during the Katrina crisis. The unsafe conditions including death, the terrible stench and lack of law enforcement witnessed by the three personalize the story. Included is a map of the area before and after the flood as well as a timeline and supporting factual information about Hurricane Katrina.
"WIND DANCER,” by Chris Platt, Peachtree, $15.95, 124 pages (ages 8-12)
Ali and Cara are persistent until they finally get help for their neighbor's two abused and neglected horses. As the authorities board them on Ali’s farm, special feeding and medicinal schedules from the veterinarians are mandatory. But Ali has two problems in her 13-year-old life: Her favorite pony has recently been put down after an accident and caring for new animals is not her choice. And her brother Danny has returned from the war suffering from scars and PTSD.
“Wind Dancer” incorporates details about animal training, the far-reaching effects of war on families and the impact animals can make in people’s lives.
Felicity likes words: “I collect them. I like poems, songs, stories sometimes they have wings and sometimes tap shoes and sometimes zebra stripes.”
But Felicity has problems putting her own words together and especially when she has to say the words.
Felicity, her mother and sister return to Midnight Gulch where memories of the Brothers Threadbare bring back magic that still circulates among the villagers. Jonah, who wants to be her friend (something Felicity had never had before), calls it a “snicker of magic” town and helps her devise a plan so she can speak her precious words as well as render pass-it-on service.
“A Snicker of Magic" is delightfully unique with “factofabulous” characters and splashes of mystery that almost seem real.
“HALF A CHANCE,” by Cynthia Lord, Scholastic, $16.99, 218 pages (ages 6-10)
Lucy and her parents move to a house on a New Hampshire lake. When her father, a famous photographer, leaves on a work assignment, Lucy decides to enter a photo contest anonymously because her father is actually the judge. She uses the spectacular scenery, the next-door neighbors and the hatching of baby loons as subjects for her picture entries. “Half a Chance” also has a tender portrayal of an aged grandmother and new friendships, both of which give support through the bad times and celebrate the good ones.
Fifteen-year-old Harlan Q can’t tolerate his father’s “gospel-preaching, pulpit-thumping sermons.” He leaves his father, Harlan P, and moves in with the Hamiltons, who own the local funeral home. It is here he sees his grandfather Harlan O for the first time, laid out in death. Grandfather stipulated in his will that he is to be buried in Las Vegas — a long way from Bean’s Creek, their small Texas town.
Hemphill’s debut novel has a cast of quirky camera-ready characters: Harlan P, the intolerant preacher who piously colors everything he says and does; Harlan Q, a son who resists being “saved;” and Warrier, a hitch-hiker drifter who the father and son take along on a hilarious road-tip in a battered station wagon carrying the casket with grandfather to Nevada.
Grandfather’s old Las Vegas friends spice up the humor with their colorful antics and not-so-honest schemes. “Long Gone Daddy” reads like a script for a funny television movie.
“SO YOU WANT TO WORK IN SPORTS?” by Joanne Mattern, Simon & Schuster/ Aladdin, $9.99, 224 pages (nf) (ages 8-12)
Nonfiction writer Joanne Mattern introduces young readers to the possible ways to find a career in the sports field, including becoming a coach, journalist, broadcaster, agent, scout and even in sports medicine. Each career path is highlighted through Q-and-A profiles and interviews with celebrities and others now working in sports.
“So You Want to Work in Sports?” provides insight into ways sports can be a bigger part of one’s life.
It is the beginning of the school year with new classrooms for Auggie Jones and her best friend Lexie. It seems exciting until the friendship becomes “a little bit crowded” with the new girl Victoria, who is rich and opinionated and whose parents become the town’s Beautification Association. Victoria treats Auggie as if she’s beneath her socially, but even more traumatic is the threat to her Grandpa Gus’ house at the Junction of Sunshine and Lucky Streets because it doesn’t meet the association’s standards.
As Auggie and Grandpa try unique art projects to make theirs and the neighbors' houses more beautiful, they struggle with city codes, lawsuits and the threat of becoming homeless.
Auggie becomes a strong character that readers can cheer on. She and the supportive great grandfather with that colorful house will make all readers want to visit “The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky.”
“LOOT,” by Jude Watson, Scholastic, $16.99, 272 pages (ages 8-12)
It is a dark night in Amsterdam, and a son had just watched his father fall to his death with a pocketful of diamonds.
Archibald McQuinn, the notorious cat burglar who had taught his son the necessities of their criminal existence (how to buy fake passports, quick escape tactics, avoidance of authority, living lavishly at times and destitute at others), spoke a few words after his fall.
The sixth sense clicks in as March McQuinn slips away in the dark. Someone — someone very good at it — is following him.
March and Jules, his twin sister whom he’s never met, team up with accomplices from the detention center and follow clues left by their deceased father in a made-for-movie thriller. With many twists and turns to the plot, “Loot” delights young readers who love mysteries that have surprise endings.