Book Reviews

Children’s Corner: Two Middle Grade Reads That Are Suitable For Any Age!

It’s time for some middle grade recommendations. I LOVED these two novels for different reasons and I am sure you/your child/student/classroom will as well.

11594337[1]“Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.” ~Goodreads

You are not too old to read this! You are not too old to read this! You are not too old to read this!

What a heartwarming and thoughtful story about friendship and animals in captivity. It’s moving and funny and reminded me at times of Charlotte’s Web.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate was read to me by my 10 year-old and immediately took me back to that time when I was younger and hated seeing animals in captivity. I hated going to the circus and disliked seeing animals in the glass enclosures at the zoo and recently came across puppies in little cribs at the mall and vowed to never step foot in one again. Yes, some are being rescued and most are studied to help prevent endangerment, but in my child’s mind I felt bad for each and every one. As much as I loved seeing these animals up close, when I normally would never in real life, I felt sooo bad for them!

This story brings a voice to these animals and every time my daughter was going to stop reading, I asked her to read one more chapter.

An important note: Although this is a work of fiction, the book was inspired by true events. The true story of Ivan’s captivity (27 years!) is documented  and featured on National Geographic titled The Urban Gorilla. Below is a brief video about it.

*(Grades: 3-7  Ages: 9-12  Children’s Literature, Middle Grade, Fantasy, Realistic Fiction, Animal Narration, Humor, Treatment of Animals, Illustrated, 300 pages includes Discussion Questions and Author’s Note)


20701984[1]“Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?” ~Goodreads

What a fabulous introduction to memoirs with humor, heart and the use of graphic images! This was recommended to me by my own children ages 10 and 12 and I couldn’t agree more that it is so well done.

In El Deafo, Cece gets Meningitis at age four and as a result becomes hearing impaired. At that time she has to wear a Phonic Ear in school and becomes self-conscious of kids’ reaction to it and her. She copes by pretending it gives her superpowers while she navigates her disability and fostering friendships.

What I loved best about this story was not just the honesty and vulnerability she felt growing up being deaf but how true to childhood it portrayed. Remember that time when you became friends with neighbors solely because they lived close by? You might not seek those kids out otherwise and so forming authentic friendships was something because of proximity rather than what you had in common. It also reiterates that friends come and go with each passing grade. Whoever was your BFF in 3rd grade could change the following year when you met new people. I loved that she included that part of her childhood! And I think kids will not only get some education and compassion about what it means to be different but will also realize that finding lasting friends at an early age is challenging and very normal.

*(Grades: 3-7 Ages: 9-12  Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Memoir, Non Fiction, Humor, Disabilities, Color Cartoon, 230 pages, Author’s Note)

*All age and grade recommendations sourced from NoveList which uses School Library Journal, BookList, Kirkus and Publishers Weekly as reviews. I also use my own experience as a teacher, parent and literacy associate to guesstimate the ranges. Please read the novels ahead of time if you are unsure of the content and suitability for your child and/or classroom.


2 thoughts on “Children’s Corner: Two Middle Grade Reads That Are Suitable For Any Age!

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