Middle-Grade Books Review Round-Up

It’s been a long time since we editors of Hope By the Book have been middle-graders, so when we wanted to know what some of the best middle grade books were right now we turned to someone in this age bracket :) Felicity Younts is the daughter of author Elizabeth Byler Younts, and we’re thrilled to have her on board the HBTB team. Today, she rounds up a few of her favorite reads to share with us…

Bookmarked Review

Middle Grade Fiction
THE WILLOUGHBYS
Lois Lowry

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An unforgettable story with the most unconventional plot! The Willoughbys introduces the reader to parents who don’t particularly like their children and children who don’t particularly like their parents and do what they can to get rid of each other—but don’t let that scare you off! In the midst of the hilarity there is a message of hope laced throughout that will make this book a family favorite. While the plot is outlandish it offers readers sibling loyalty and perseverance through hardships. The Willoughby children and the adults that eventually love them create the kind of unconventional family that could even bring a tear to Lemony Snicket’s Count Olaf’s eye. A special story by beloved and award-winning author Lois Lowry is a perfect read-aloud for the whole family. (HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY, Mar 2008, 176 pp., $6.29)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
THE GAWGON AND THE BOY
Lloyd Alexander

From Award winning Lloyd Alexander comes one of his lesser-known books, The Gawgon and the Boy, a coming of age story about an eleven-year-old boy who must be tutored by his unusual great aunt who he calls The Gawgon (referring to a mythological monster). The Boy learns more than dry academics and the two comrades travel to places near and far and even in other times through their imaginations. They form a friendship no one would’ve expected. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You will love The Gawgon and the Boy. It makes for a wonderful read aloud, too! (DUTTON JUVENILE, May 2001, 256 pp., $5.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Historical Fiction
INSIDE OUT AND BACK AGAIN

Thanhha Lai

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The protagonist’s distinctive voice offers the reader a profoundly important perspective from a little girl who finds herself as a Vietnam refugee. The Hà family flees their homeland during the Vietnam war only to find that arriving to America brings them an entirely new set of unexpected challenges. This award-winning book is masterfully written in free verse—which moves the story along uniquely and quickly. Readers will cherish the family love and perseverance. (HARPER COLLINS, Jan 2013, 288 pp., $8.99 )

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
WONDER
R.J. Palacio

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Wonder is a thought-provoking and realistic story about the hardships of a boy, Auggie, born with birth defects that greatly affect his facial features. He’s been generally protected from the all-seeing-eyes of the public until he attends middle school. The reader will hear the unvarnished thoughts and feelings not only from Auggie but his older sister and a few of his friends. Wonder is a story about the strengths and weaknesses of the human heart and friendships when put to the test. (KNOPF BOOKS FOR YOUNG READERS, Feb 2012, 320 pp., $16.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Contemporary Fiction
A LONG WALK TO WATER
Linda Sue Park

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This gut-wrenching story, based on actual events, takes the reader deeply into Sudan. The dual timeline story joins the physical walks for water and refuge with the mental walks of sorrows and burdens in the young lives of two children during different times in Sudan’s tumultuous history. One thread is about a boy who must run from everything he knows because war is at his doorstep—he’s faced with soldiers, alligators, and even lions. The second is about a girl who must walk eight hours a day just so her family can have clean water. This NYT Bestseller is a take-your-breath-away story. (HMH Books for Young Readers, Oct 2011, 128 pp., $7.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Bookmarked Review

Middle-Grade Fantasy
TUCK EVERLASTING
Natalie Babbitt

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This fairytale-like story will bring readers on a timeless journey. While Tuck Everlasting is placed in a realistic and historical setting it is laced with the magic of eternal youth. Young Winnie is ripped from her quiet, boring life by a rogue family with an over 100 year old secret. Her adventure, the fountain of youth, a jail-break scheme, a little romance, and perhaps the luckiest toad in the world all together form a fantastical tale. Like a tall glass of cold water on a summer’s day—the reader will be left wanting more and yet will be fully satisfied at the same time. A wonderful read alone or read aloud. (SQUARE FISH, Aug 2007, 160 pp., $7.30)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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Middle-Grade Fantasy
THE MYSTERIOUS HOWLING
Maryrose Wood
SERIES: The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place #1

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This hilarious and mysterious story, noted to be worthy of the Lemony-Snicket fans, will soon be a family favorite. When Penelope, new governess and graduate from Swanburne Academy for Bright Females, arrives to Ashton Place she learns that her three charges are children who were found in the woods—aptly named Alexander, Cassiopeia, and Beowulf. Their academics become secondary to learning to eat and speak properly, and—for goodness-sakes—to stop chasing squirrels! This first installment of the series offers laugh-out-loud and tender moments—and a lot of howling. The hefty amount of intrigue about other characters also helps to keep the pages turning and a quick click to buy book 2. (BALZER & BRAY, Apr 2015, 288 pp., $6.99)

Reviewer: Felicity Younts

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