If you choose books for a middle grade reader, or enjoy reading it yourself, I have two books to recommend.
This is wild-waving two thumbs up stuff.
At first glance, the two books are dissimilar . . .
Pam Munoz Ryan’s Echo is a weighty tome. The ARC I read is 592 pages long. The story spans decades, weaving the individual stories of multiple protagonists together with themes of prejudice, justice (and injustice) and the healing property of music. A lush mash-up of fantasy, fairy-tale, and historical fiction, it reads like Gone With the Wind for middle grade with a brushstroke of magical realism. Stories that cross the globe with elements of family danger, racism and heroism are rendered at a personal level. It’s the kind of book you “experience” as much as you read it. Wondering how it was all going to tie together, the pages flew by (and sleep was lost!). You will want to run out and buy a harmonica, dust off that recorder from grade school, drum on the desk.
The ARC of Tommy Greenwald’s Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting (and lives to tell about it) clocks in at 227 pages. Not counting the three page forward-looking epilogue, the storyline spans one week. The plot follows a single protagonist who makes the mistake of sending a text about misgivings about her boyfriend to the wrong person—her boyfriend. I began the book thinking the short chapters were the perfect interlude before I needed to go to the grocery store, and we ended up eating leftovers. It was a cover-to-cover single-sitting read. Part of the author's "Charlie Joe Jackson" series, this can be read as a stand alone title. The snappy contemporary first person narrative deals with the issues of honesty, social media, self-discovery and—the healing power of music.
Sometimes I wonder why I don’t have the radio on more now. When I was younger I studied to it, partied to it, sang to it every chance I could. While I didn’t personally identify with all of the songs that I heard, I identified with the singers’ angst and contemplation of the emotional journeys they had taken. And music has a way of freeing people up. A way of connecting people. Of making us stop, listen and feel. Going to go turn it on now.
Other great elements I should highlight. Both books have diverse characters. Both deal with important social issues. Short chapters in both make them easy to dive into.
I’m not sure about the boy appeal of these books. I’d love to hear from others to hear what you think!
Echo is published by Scholastic Press and went on sale February 24, 2015
Katie Friedman Gives Up Texting went on sale February 17th and is published by Roaring Brook Press.
I received a review copy from the publishers. No other compensation was received nor was a review required. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”