Middle grade readers will find themselves in for a fantastic and magical “backyard” adventure when they read Elf Dog and Owl Head by M.T. Anderson (illustrated by Junyi Wu; Candlewick 2023). This novel’s summary threw me off, because it sounded like it would be about a boy dealing with the annoyance of remaining home during

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Middle grade novel Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (HarperCollins, 2019) captures one teen girl’s perspective as a Syrian refugee to America. Even without using dates within the text, Other Words for Home feels sadly applicable today since the Syrian conflict still rages and refugees flee to America from many different countries. Jude’s life

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Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (originally published 1924) weaves together tales the author collected during travels to Central and South America throughout his life. As with many volumes of stories, they range in interest, plot, and theme. Some stories are directly connected to the previous ones in the volume. Others are separate tales

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The Dark Frigate by Charles Hawes (originally published 1923) features pirate action as well as a slightly multifaceted adversary in the pirate leader Tom Jordon, with much the same attitude I found in Treasure Island, but a passionless main character and a series of bloody battles gave the overall book a jolt of boring reality

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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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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (published 1922) continues the story of the special doctor that talks to animals, John Dolittle, but this time with a different tone and child’s perspective. In this volume, the doctor travels across the ocean to the coast of Brazil to find his naturalist friend on his floating

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The Story of Mankind by Hendrik Van Loon (published 1921) was awarded the first Newbery Medal in 1922, an award intended to celebrate the “the most distinguished contributions to American literature for children” that had been published in the previous year. As a volume that hoped to portray history with a conversational style, Van Loon

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The Old Tobacco Shop: The True Account of What Befell a Little Boy in Search of Adventure by William Bowen (first published 1922) and runner-up to the first year of the Newbery Medal, is even worse than the tobacco-filled title can suggest. With racist sterotypes, smoking by a young child, and bizarre, unconnected adventures, The

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