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2014: Favorite middle grade books

Cuckoo-Song-Frances-Hardingejinx's magic
Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge: I bought this one from the UK, believing that it wasn’t going to be published over here. But I was wrong! And you should all buy it when it comes out next year, because it is one of Hardinge’s best books: eerie, beautiful, and haunted by history’s ghosts. Hardinge writes some of the most complex middle grade books out there but what I love most are her strong characters and this one is no exception.

Jinx’s Magic by Sage Blackwood: A welcome sequel to Jinx, this one continues the story and characters but adds new complications. It’s a book that’s thoughtful without being preachy, and exciting without being thoughtless. I liked it quite a bit and can’t wait for the third book to come out next year (what is happening to Simon? inquiring minds wish to know!). [Full disclosure–Sage Blackwood is a Twitter friend and a lovely person, but I liked her books before I knew her.]

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor: I loved Cassie Logan’s story and its complexities. I wish it didn’t seem quite so prescient (I read it in March, long before August and Michael Brown’s murder), but I am glad to have read it and grateful for its hardness and its beauty both.

rollofthunderHIBAG - dustcover FINAL MAR192013.indd

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle: How I Became a Ghost is a heart-wrenching book, but a wonderful one. It brings a tragic period of history to life and at the same time, it refuses to be defined by that sadness. It’s also an unexpectedly funny book and I loved Isaac and his voice.

Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami: This book and its sequel are some of the most delightful I’ve read all year. I loved Dini and her transition from America to India, and how it feels to leave your best friend behind. I loved Dolly and the slightly-larger-than life plot that seemed really perfect for the Bollywood echoes. Most of all, this is a book that I really enjoyed reading and I’m hoping for more of Dini’s adventures.

The Lulu series by Hilary McKay: Hilary McKay’s Lulu books are a bit like Krishnaswami’s in that they are completely delightful books about a young girl with a strong interest. In Lulu’s case, it is animals, a love which leads her into (and out of) many sticky situations. I love the gentleness of these books, and of course they are hilarious because they’re written by Hilary McKay!

greenglass housethe crossover

Greenglass House by Kate Milford: This is partly one of my favorite books of the year because I had almost a perfect reading experience with it. But it’s also a lovely book–I called it elegant in my original review and I think that’s still true. I loved the descriptions of Greenglass House itself, and the puzzle of the plot and characters. It’s a bit Westing Game, a bit RPG, a bit locked room mystery, but it’s also greater than the sum of its parts.

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander: I’m often wary of novels-in-verse, but Alexander’s is wonderful. Short poems–some of which are lyrical and somber, some of which are bubbling over with enjoyment. I found myself genuinely moved at Josh’s voice and story and I thought the ending was beautiful.

* Disclaimer: my discussion of the Cybils-nominated books on this list should be taken as my personal opinion only

By Maureen LaFerney

My name is Maureen. I currently work as a library assistant in a public library in the Indianapolis area, and also just so happen to be a voracious reader. I frequently end up under a cat.

4 replies on “2014: Favorite middle grade books”

Someone else who loves The Crossover like I do!!!! YES! (I, of course, knew of our mutual love for other books on the list.) I feel like it hasn’t gotten nearly the amount of love it should be getting. I can not wait for the US edition of Cukoo’s Song to come out. So looking forward to reading it.

YES!!! It’s so good! I cried a lot at the end. And I think/hope you’ll like Cuckoo Song–it’s her scariest book so far, but so beautifully written & ultimately lovely.

I’ve started Greenglass House but haven’t been in the mood to keep reading. Let’s see if it will make it to my best of 2015 list since 2014 is almost over. 😛 Oh good to know that you loved The Crossover, I’ve been wanting to read it since I saw Brandy raving about it.

It’s definitely a slow one at certain points, but I really liked it in the end. And yes, The Crossover is great!

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