Middle Grade Stories With Lots of Heart

We see an overwhelming selection of awesome books come through here on a daily basis. We do our best to watch for great books and build our “Reader’s Advisory”…that’s librarian speak for placing the perfect book in each patron’s hands. Sometimes, though, they come through in such a rush that they blend together and it’s hard to sift through and select just one book to give a go. I was thrilled to finally sit myself down and focus on a few that sounded wonderful. It paid off. Here are the youth fiction titles that captured my mind and heart this past week:

Counting-ThymeCounting Thyme by Melanie Conklin

What a charming, slice-of-life read about family and friends. Thyme has a lot thrown her way throughout the book: her family moves to New York City so her young brother can start treatment in a new cancer trial, she leaves her friends and grandmother behind, and she has to figure out life in a new middle school without her usual support system. Conklin takes on the issue of childhood illnesses with a delicate hand, and she deftly weaves this family drama with real middle school experiences. New York City comes alive with a lovely cast of characters who end up surrounding Thyme and her family with just the right kind of quirky support they are so in need of.

Lost-in-the-Sun-Lisa-GraffLost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

OK, so I listened to this one. And it was great. My husband got in on the story during a three hour drive, and though he joined the story ¾ of the way through, he was just as engaged. We both cheered for Trent, a middle schooler adrift in the aftermath of an unintended tragedy, middle school strife, and family issues. Trent befriends the lovable Fallon, a girl so full of life and spunk, I found myself wanting to hug her. Through this tender friendship, built first on escapism and then true trust, Trent and Fallon conquer their internal struggles and take on middle school. Gee. I’m sensing a pattern here with my selections. I guess I’m still working out my own middle school trauma by reading youth fiction…

13260524Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand

Fine. I like stories about middle school aged kids trying to make their way through the murk of life. I like them a lot. In this absorbing novel, Legrand takes on childhood depression with a tender hand. Finley (what an awesome name!) shares her story in real time as well as through the lens of a fictional story she created about a forest kingdom called Everwood. Weaving these two stories powerfully illustrates the nuances of depression. Finley tries to uncover family secrets and handle her “blue days” while living with her grandparents for the summer. Surrounded by a family she never knew, Finley discovers that the magical forest she thought she created in her mind is actually located behind her grandparents’ house.  Strong, supportive characters with very real story lines of their own add to the gentle touch Legrand has with what could be a tricky topic.

MeaghanBlogMeaghan Choisnet is a library assistant in Youth Services. She despised her middle school years, but then went on to become a middle school teacher and now works in a library positioned directly next to a middle school. Go figure. Have any middle school trauma and triumph stories to share?Email her at mjchoisnet@cityofportsmouth.com


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