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Middle Grade mini reviews

Joyride by Dee Phillips  (2011)

45 pages, rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Tanner, Hannah, Bailey, and I. The red car. "Look," says Tanner. "The keys are inside." One moment can change your life forever.

Review: I chose this book from a local junior high library in the "easy reading" section because it begins with J (yes, we're at that time of year when I go searching for quick reads that fulfill some of my challenges). I can see this book really appealing to junior high students who struggle with reading. The font is large with short sentences and the illustrations are bold and effective. And, the topic is good: 4 teenagers take a car, drive too quickly (like 90mph), and crash, killing 2 of the 4. The story emphasizes how they are laughing and having fun one moment and then, they are not.

Vandalism by Evan Jacobs (2018)

59 pages, rating: 4 out of 5

Summary: Ashley is shocked when the high school gets tagged. She asks for volunteers to fix the vandalism. The senior class president is behind her 100 percent. But when she finds some damaging evidence, Ashley is shocked.

Review: Graffiti and tagging are pretty common place in the US so I think this is a book many middle grade readers can relate to. Students have pride in their school and can't believe someone would ruin it. As they all rally round to fix the vandalism, security footage shows one of their own as the perpetrator. The story is for reluctant/low level readers, and deals with themes of friendship, forgiveness, and equity.

Sit: Stories by Deborah Ellis  (2017)

139 pages, rating: 4.5 out of 5

Summary: A seated child. With this single powerful image, Deborah Ellis draws our attention to ten children and the situations they find themselves in, often through no fault of their own. In each story, a child makes a decision and takes action, be that a tiny gesture or a life-altering choice.

Jafar is a child laborer in a chair factory and longs to go to school. Sue sits on a swing as she and her brother wait to have a supervised visit with their father. Gretchen considers the lives of concentration camp victims during a school tour of Auschwitz. Mike survives seventy-two days of solitary as a young offender. Barry squirms on a food court chair as his parents tell him they are separating. Macie sits on a too-small time-out chair while her mother receives visitors for tea. Noosala crouches in a fetid, crowded apartment in Uzbekistan, waiting for an unscrupulous refugee smuggler to decide her fate. Children find the courage to take control over their lives in ways large and small in this eloquent collection from a master storyteller.

Review: Ellis is so good at powerful story telling! Each of the short stories packs a punch as she gets inside the mind of a child fighting to be heard and seen. The moments described in each story capture what it is like for a child to interact with the adult world of work, fear, love, and more.

Challenges for which these count:
  • A to Z (title): J, V
  • Alphabet (author): E, 
  • Diversity: Asian characters
  • Literary Escapes: Uzbekistan, Indonesia

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