Matthew is a seventh-grader now required to finish his school year online, isolated from his friends, due to the COVID pandemic. Nothing could be worse than having to help his 100-year-old great-grandmother (GG) sort her belongings. But it is through his isolation with GG that Matthew learns the secrets of her life and just how

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Doug Swieteck, a fourteen-year-old transplant to the small town of Marysville, learns to cope with his life as he adjusts to new situations during the 1968-1969 school year in Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2011). Even as he faces the struggles of moving to a new middle school, Doug must still

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The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2007) is a powerful young adult novel that shares the pivotal 1967-1968 school year from the perspective of seventh-grader Holling Hoodhood. In The Wednesday Wars, his fellow students go to their religious schools (Catholic school or the Jewish synagogue) on Wednesday afternoons. As the lone

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Betsy-Tacy by Maud Hart Lovelace (HarperCollins, 1940) is a sweet chapter book about five-year-old friends who are across-the-street neighbors. The girls are so inseparable that they are called by a single name: Betsy-Tacy. Betsy is a creative girl who tells stories and Tacy is a shy and quiet girl who nurtures Betsy’s imagination. In many

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It is quite rare to see a disease like cystic fibrosis depicted in an historical fiction novel, let alone historical fiction that takes place during the middle ages! In Breath (Atheneum, November 2003), creative storyteller Donna Jo Napoli retells the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin with a twelve-year-old boy that has cystic fibrosis

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The children’s novel The Great Quest by Charles Boardman Hawes (Atlantic Monthly Press, 1921) has a nice beginning, with an adventurous tone similar to that in Treasure Island. But for the modern reader, that wholesome, adventurous spirit becomes much more sinister about a quarter of the way through the book, with a tone that feels

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Gadzooks! The 1922 Newbery award “runner up” (later renamed Newbery Honor) Cedric the Forester by Bernard Marshall (originally published by Appleton, 1921) is a perilous romp, wherein knights clash with the churls of Medieval England, united in a quest against invaders from Scotland and Wales. Furthermore, the saga tells the story of a Cedric, a

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Ah, sigh. When you find the just right book for the just right time in your life, it feels magical! A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus (Holiday House, February 2021) was just right. My then fourth-grader and I read it aloud last year, and it took a lot of willpower to pace

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The 2023 middle grade novel Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson (Little Brown Books for Young Readers, February 2022) offers a hopeful and dream-like success for two children fleeing slavery. Just as they feel hope of escape ebbing away, a mystery man rescues them, leading them to an island community on the edge of the swamp. Homer’s

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Although the title of Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Variation by Alice McVeigh (Warleigh Hall Press, June 2023) suggests that it is a retelling of the classic novel focusing on the leading man, it actually presents the entire Pride and Prejudice story from a variety of perspectives. Along excerpts from Darcy’s diary and Mary’s papers,

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