The older I get, the more I marvel over what memories stay with me. For instance, I remember the first book that really sat with me. It was a book I chose to read myself. I was in 6th grade and I found it in the school library. Roll of Thunder, Hear Me Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.
By that age, I was already an avid reader. My parents introduced me to incredible books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and To Kill A Mockingbird. But this was the first book I remember discovering myself. It changed what I looked for in a book. It opened my eyes to the horrors of racism in a way that a little white girl from a small northern town wouldn’t get any other way. I lived a sheltered life. Even though Roll of Thunder wasn’t a memoir, it made me realize how little I knew of the world outside of my small town. From that point on, a large portion of my reading has always been made up of books that teach. I have Mildred D. Taylor to thank for that.
The 6th graders of today are far luckier than I. They have an entire genre dedicated to their age bracket now. Middle Grade Fiction is a relatively new genre for tweens. As I research for my first middle grade fiction book, I am spending a lot of time reading middle grade authors. Sticking with my theme of supporting other women, I would like to share three gems I think people should read.
Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga
Jude is happy living in Syria until the war makes her unsafe and she is forced to move to America with her mother. Throughout the book she struggles with worry about her brother and father, who are still in Syria. She also deals with anti-Muslim sentiment, the difficulty that comes with learning a new language and the reality that she may never go home. Written in verse it does not resemble a “typical” novel format. Instead, it reads like one very long poem. I found it very moving. It might be exactly what a small town tween needs to help them understand the very really conflict that is occurring half a world away and its implications on our own nation. It is a new book, published this year, and a necessary story everyone should be reading.
The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket: A Bandit’s Tale By Deborah Hopkinson
This story is a familiar tale. A poor immigrant boy comes to America and finds that the roads of New York are not paved with gold. His “misadventures” are harsh and the book does not attempt to soften what he goes through. What I really enjoyed about this book it how the narrator encourages you to consider every story from both sides. You can believe his story or you can see it from the other perspective. It was an intriguing twist or maybe addition to the immigrant story. In this day an age it is a good reminder that the United States has a history of misusing our immigrant children.
What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows
I found this book unsettling to read, in a good way. It looks at grief through every angle. It ponders the question does one grief hold greater weight than another because it was bigger or happened more recently. Through Gabby’s eyes, she navigates friendships, the lies people tell themselves to feel better and her own grief for a mother she has never met. It gave me a lot to think about and I think it would be a great conversation starter for tweens and teens around the topic of grief.
All three of these authors wrote challenging books that tackle timely topics. I hope you take advantage of the summer and check these three authors out!
Leave a comment below if you have any other great middle grade fiction or YA suggestions!