Tag Archives: middle grade

Friday Reads: Imaginary by Lee Bacon

Artwork by Asher Owen

I have an 11-year-old son that is going into middle school this fall, so when I picked up Imaginary by Lee Bacon this spring and saw that it was also about an 11-year-old starting middle school, I suggested we read it together. I mentioned to my son that I was going to write about the book for our Friday Reads series, and he kindly offered to just let me copy the review he wrote for school. It is summer after all, so I should be taking it easy, right?

“This story is about a kid named Zach who is going into middle school. Yeah, I know, like it’s middle school, it’s not that complicated… or is it? This book is in the perspective of his imaginary buddy, and not Zach’s.”

The imaginary buddy is Shovel, whom Zach invented when he was a small child. Shovel is basically a big ball of purple fur with arms and legs. Many kids have imaginary friends, but most outgrow those friends as they age. Zach does not. Shovel remains a constant in his life when so many other things change – his family, his home, his friendships, and his attitude. Shovel is our narrator and he is self-aware enough to know that his existence at this point in Zach’s life is both unusual and also necessary for some yet-unknown reason. He wants to help Zach but he is also afraid that Zach will forget about him, as all children eventually must.

The setting of this story is the backyard of a kid named Zach.”

The first appearance of Shovel takes place in the backyard of Zach’s first house. The story also takes the duo to Zach’s new home on the other side of town, to the middle school, and deep into Zach’s imagination, where he and Shovel are heroes that fight dragons and trolls.

“In this book the main characters, or the characters you have to know about, are named Zach, Shovel, Anni, Ryan, and Principal Carter.”

Besides Zach and Shovel, we meet Zach’s first best friend, Ryan, who by middle school has joined the cool crowd. Anni is a new student and Zach’s chance to start fresh with someone that doesn’t know his past. Principal Carter, towering over the student body, is an unexpected ally who knows how to gently guide her charges’ emotional development. Zach’s mom also appears frequently in the story, as well as flashbacks to Zach’s dad.

“Overall, I think this book is a funny, good, and amazing book and deserves a five star rating. Most people think it is worth a 1 star (which is reasonable), but I think it is worth much more!”

I am pretty certain no one would give this book only 1 star, because it is truly funny, good, and amazing, and definitely worth 5 stars. It is also about grief, forgiveness, empathy, learning when to hang on and when to let go, and the importance of a good imagination…and good friends.

Lee, Bacon. Imaginary ‎ New York, New York : Abrams, 2021.

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Friday Reads: Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake

I first read Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake last winter with my kids, who both enjoy humor and talking animals (who doesn’t, right?). A story of an unlikely friendship, Badger and Skunk must learn to co-exist in Aunt Lula’s brownstone. Quiet Badger has lived contentedly alone, doing Important Rock Work, when a knock on the door heralds the arrival of his new roommate, Skunk. An arrival Badger would have foreseen had he checked his mail more often and read Aunt Lula’s letter informing him of her decision to invite Skunk into the house. Alas, he had not and the knock is an unpleasant surprise. Now Badger’s world is chaos: no quiet time for reflection and Important Rock Work, piles of dishes to scrub after Skunk cooks them both delicious meals, an errant potato left in the corner of the kitchen. And the chickens! It’s too much for one Badger to bear. Change is hard, but sometimes even the most stubborn of Badgers will realize that life is better with a good friend.

This book was reread this past week by my 11-year-old to present as a book report, and an Important Brownstone Diorama is in the works on our kitchen table. We both highly recommend this first book in the series, as a read-aloud if you are more like Skunk, or as a quiet read-alone if you are more Badger-like. We are currently awaiting the arrival of the sequel in the mail, which we check about as often as a certain Badger.

Timberlake, Amy. Skunk and Badger. ‎ Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Young Readers, 2020.

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#BookFaceFriday “Fifty-Four Things Wrong With Gwendolyn Rogers” by Caela Carter

There’s nothing wrong with this #BookFaceFriday!

Woman with short hair poses with a book. The book is positioned so that the cover blends with the woman's body.

Writing your New Year’s Resolutions? Lots of folks create lists of things they’d like to accomplish or change about themselves. In this week’s #BookFace, “Fifty-Four Things Wrong With Gwendolyn Rogers” by Caela Carter (Quill Tree Books, 2021), our protagonist has a long list of things other people thinks she needs to change. But are they truly flaws, or are they just the traits that make Gwendolyn… Gwendolyn? This middle-grade book has a lot to say about acceptance of one’s self and others.

“This sensitive #OwnVoices novel balances the frustration and challenges being dealt with by all the characters. Particularly effective is the cadence of Gwendolyn’s thoughts and voice, creating a likable, realistic character that readers will gravitate to. Recommended to everyone, but particularly for those drawn to Kathryn Erskine’s Mockingbird and Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign.” — Booklist (starred review)

This title comes from our large collection of children’s and young adult books sent to us as review copies from book publishers. When our Children and Young Adult Library Services Coordinator, Sally Snyder, is done with them, the review copies are available for the Library System Directors to distribute to school and public libraries in their systems.

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday – “A Song Only I Can Hear” by Barry Jonsberg

If #BookFaceFriday were a mixtape.

With schools out for summer, librarians are just gearing up for our busiest season! You know what that means, Summer Reading Programs, teen and children’s book lists, and all the other ways libraries help combat the summer slide. So this week’s #BookFace is dedicated to you. Check out middle-grade read “A Song Only I Can Hear” by Barry Jonsberg (Simon & Schuster, 2020.) So whether you’ll be under the boardwalk, surfin’ USA, or spending your summer in the city, the library’s got something for you, like these Best Books lists for children and teens put together by Sally Snyder. This title comes from our large collection of children’s and young adult books sent to us as review copies from book publishers. When our Children and Young Adult Library Services Coordinator, Sally Snyder, is done with them, the review copies are available for the Library System Directors to distribute to school and public libraries in their systems. Public and school library staff are also welcome to stop by and select some titles for their library collections. We think this one would be a great addition to any library. Contact Sally Snyder for more information.

When Rob starts getting mysterious texts from an unknown number, he has to make a decision—stay under the radar, or risk being exposed in a way he’s not prepared for—in this “stirring” (Booklist) middle-grade novel that’s perfect for fans of Wonder.

This week’s #BookFace model is Holly Atterbury, one of our TBBS Reader Advisers.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available in our Book Club collection, permanent collection, and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday – The Retake by Jen Calonita

We didn’t need multiple takes for this #BookFaceFriday!

Ever wish you could have a do-over? Zoe doesn’t understand what went wrong with her friendship with Laura. She gets the chance for a “retake” when a magical app appears on her phone that lets her redo moments in her life and fix missteps. But second chances don’t always go as planned. Check out “The Retake” by Jen Calonita (Random House Children’s Books, 2021), on Nebraska OverDrive.

“While the notion of traveling back in time to repair the present isn’t new to middle-grade fiction, many readers will empathize with Zoe’s determination to succeed and her mishaps along the way, while sharing her confusion over the overlapping, conflicting memories that she has created.” —Booklist

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive. 173 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Bob by Wendy Mass

Confession: my son is a reluctant reader. This pains me both as a mother and a librarian. He was introduced to books as an infant, visited me at the library, was (and is) read to constantly, and there are books everywhere in our house. He can read just fine; it’s just not his preferred hobby. He’ll do whatever it takes to get through his daily 20 minutes of assigned reading and not a minute more. This is obviously a me-problem; what librarian doesn’t want their kid to know the joy of reading?

So I was pleasantly surprised when he voluntarily brought home a middle-grade novel this week. He will often check out a book about animals or cars, or just choose to read picture books aloud to his sister. But this week, he handed me Bob by Wendy Mass. “I heard it’s a good story.” Indeed, it is – I read it in early 2019 and it was a 2020/21 Golden Sower nominee. We are reading a couple of chapters a night (don’t want to exceed that 20 minute limit!).

Bob is the story of a small green creature, dressed in chicken suit, waiting not-so-patiently in a closet for his friend to return. That friend, Livy, has been gone for 5 years and when she does show up, she doesn’t remember Bob or the promise she made to him when she was 5 years old – to help him find his home. Now that they are reunited, they set off to figure out the mystery of Bob.

Bob may or may not kick off a lifelong affinity for the written word, but for this winter break at least, I’m going to savor each page read aloud by my favorite reluctant reader.

Mass, Wendy. Bob. Feiwel & Friends, 2018.

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#BookFaceFriday “Vote For Cupcakes” by Sheryl Berk and Carrie Berk

This #BookFaceFriday gets our vote!

Have an aspiring baker at your house? “Vote For Cupcakes” is the 10th book in The Cupcake Club series, which follows 4th grader Kylie and her cupcake-baking buddies as they battle the mean girls and deliver sweet treats. The series is written by Sheryl Berk and her cupcake-obsessed daughter Carrie. Their recipes are included in each book – yum!

“Kids and cupcakes are the perfect recipe!”—Sophie and Katerine, stars of TLC’s DC Cupcakes

The whole series is available through Nebraska OverDrive. 173 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday “Posted” by John David Anderson

It’s back to school with #BookFaceFriday!

I’ve got my lunch packed up, my boots tied tight, I hope I don’t get in a fight. As school gets ready to start, it’s the perfect time to talk to your kids about bullying; get a head start with “Posted” by John David Anderson (Walden Pond Press, 2017). It’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 17,165 audiobooks and 28,972 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. We also have the “Diverse Reads for Kids & Teens” collection of 56 titles available through August 31st!

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

“Anderson captures the tumultuous joys and pains of middle school with honesty, creating characters with whom readers will find common ground and insight. Words have lingering and persistent power, Anderson makes clear, but so does standing up for others and making one’s voice heard.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

I don’t know about you, but reading during this pandemic has been a challenge. Between working from home, keeping a school-age kid on track with his lessons and a preschooler out of the cookie jar, not to mention feeding everyone 3-5 times a day (why are we so hungry?!?), and the constant blare of the news, I just don’t have the time or attention span to concentrate on a book. Is it just me? (Apparently not).

Fortunately, my public library recently started contact-less pickup and I got a load of middle-grade novels and picture books for the aforementioned children. The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young was at the top of the pile.

Set on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, this is the story of a half-Irish, half-Ojibwe girl named Billie who is determined to win her town’s annual pumpkin race and get revenge on her former best friend for sabotaging her attempt the previous summer. It is also the tale of how every story has two sides, growing pumpkins is a full-time job, and sometimes winning isn’t something we do on our own. It was the perfect book to kick off my summer reading and yours too!

Young, Cathleen. The Pumpkin War. Random House, 2019.

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Friday Reads: The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

I’ll be the first to admit that you can put the word “library” in any book title, and I’ll read it without hesitation. But I am sure glad I picked up The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander, because it was delightful. I read a handful of middle-grade books around this time each year, and this has been my favorite selection so far of 2020.

Trying to abscond from her nanny at the library and get some quality reading time in, Lenora stumbles into the “staff only” section. Recognizing her potential, the head librarian offers her a job as “Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian”, tasking her to use her wits and valor to serve her patrons. Lenora embarks on a series of adventures, some comical, some harrowing, in her quest to answer patron inquiries. If only my days on the reference desk were this exciting!

This book clocks in at 208 pages, so it’s a fairly quick read, making it ideal for read-alouds. The fast-pace and fun facts will keep middle grade readers engaged. I have a certain niece named Lenora that will be getting a copy soon for sure!

Alexander, Zeno. The Library of Ever. Imprint, 2019.

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