Category: Reading

41 Books for Tweens

Call them middle-grade, call them YA, call them a cab. These are the books I’ve read in the last year (or so) that I push on people whenever asked. And even when I’m not if I’m feeling gregarious and you look lost in the library or bookstore. Some you’ve heard of, some you haven’t. Take a look and maybe a buy a few for your kids. Or yourself.

I’m posting this with incomplete commentary on the books, but I’ll pop-in to add more. For realz. Maybe even add some celebrity-author photos.

Alan Silberberg
Milo: Sticky Notes and Brain Freeze

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I think Milo is mine. It’s hilarious and heartbreaking. I also love the mix of comics and text that brilliantly controls the pacing and heightens the emotional impact. It’s a work of art.

Tom Angleberger
Origami Yoda
Darth Paper Strikes Back

These are the books I’m most likely to push on the frantic mom at the library begging her son to get off the computer and pick out a book. Works every time. And he told me he’s read my blog when I met him this summer. How cool is that?

Dan Santat
Sidekicks Graphic Novel

Super-heroic adventure with funny animals? Sign me up! I’m a Fantat (I’m going to make that catch on, I swear!) He also makes the best book trailers out there. Check this out:

Suzanne Collins
Gregor the Overlander

Confession time: I haven’t read this one, but it’s been highly recommended to me by people I trust. And the author wrote a little series called the Hunger Games you may have hear of, so she knows what she’s doing. Favorite Suzanne Collins Trivia: She wrote several episodes of Wow, Wow, Wubbzy.

Guys Read Anthologies, ed. by by Jon Scieszka
Guys Read: Thriller
Guys Read: Funny Business
Guys Write for Guys Read: Boys’ Favorite Authors Write About Being Boys

I grew up reading short stories in science-fiction anthologies. I love the short story approach they’re taking with this series. I’d kill (metaphorically) to be included in it someday.

Lisa Yee
Milicent Min Girl Genius
Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time
So Totally Emily Ebers
Warp Speed

Jonathan Auxier
Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes

Brian Selznick
The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Wonderstruck

Olugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich
Eighth-Grade Superzero

This book made me want to be a better person. Seriously. The main character works through a lot of teen issues and comes out a community leader. Funny, spiritual (yes, spiritual…) and written with a style that just flows into your brain. Love it. And I’m not just saying this because the author commented here either. Really.

Adam Rex
The True Meaning of Smekday
Fat Vampire

Mac Barnett
The Case of the Case of the Mistaken Identity (Brixton Brothers series)
The Ghostwriter Secret (Brixton Brothers series)
It Happened on a Train (Brixton Brothers series)

Rita Williams-Garcia
One Crazy Summer

Matt Myklusch
The Accidental Hero (A Jack Blank Adventure)
The Secret War (A Jack Blank Adventure)

Jaqueline West
The Shadows: (The Book of Elsewhere; Volume 1)
Spellbound: (The Book of Elsewhere; Volume 2)

Clete Barrett Smith
Aliens on Vacation

Barry Deutsch
Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

Carl Hiaasen
Hoot

Patrick Ness
The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking Book One)
The Ask and the Answer (Chaos Walking Book Two)
Monsters of Men (Chaos Walking Book Three)

Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game

Lloyd Alexander
The Book of Three
The Black Cauldron
The Castle of Llyr
Taran Wanderer
The High King

Raina Telgemeir
Smile

Neil Gaiman
The Graveyard Book

Rebecca Stead
When You Reach Me

A Butterfly Flaps Its Wings & I Find a Book

It’s been a very busy week. I’m currently in the air, headed to the Big Sur Children’s Writing Workshop, I tried to cram the day job into a three day week, and I received my first tuition bill for the grad school adventure.

So, yeah, just a little crazy. That level of stress and distraction led me to forget my son’s lunchbox on the counter. And that threw off my carefully scheduled day because I had to get it to him before lunch or risk being a cautionary tale for forgetful dads everywhere. (He selfishly forced his son eat school snacks and water instead of going out of his way to bring the nutritious lunch his wife made. Shun him. Shun. Him.)

Since I had to be out of the house at lunch time anyway (I work from home), I decided to treat myself to a sandwich. It so happens that the sandwich shop is next door to a used bookstore. How could any bibliophile resist the siren call of aged parchment and dust mites? How?

I perused the shelves for craft books to support that grad school thing (no luck), and then took a turn through the kid’s section. That’s where I saw it, and a long overdue reunion happened, right there in the stacks behind self-help and adjacent to biography. Cue the chorus of angels.

I moved to Cape Cod at the beginning of third grade. The transition was rough, but not horrible. Nobody enjoys being the new kid, and I missed my old friends and my old school. But this new school had one incredibly cool thing my old school didn’t – hallways lined with books that anyone could borrow. A bonus library of sorts. Right there in the hall. I faked more than a few trips to the bathroom in pursuit of those stories. Even then I loved reading, seeking refuge and escape in stories of great adventures. And there was this one book…

Yes, there was this one book about a kid with a pet dolphin who lived with his scientist parents in an undersea lab. He spent his days swimming free in the warm Caribbean waters accompanied, and kept safe, by his dolphin buddy. A fierce, intelligent pet without peer. As I write this, I realize the pet dolphin may have been a big part of why I escaped into this particular story. My pet, a dog named Max, didn’t adjust well to our move. He unlearned his house training and got mean (he bit me twice). No longer boy’s best friend, Max was shipped off to the local animal shelter, leaving me just a little bit more alone.

Now here’s the thing. I’ve remembered everything about that book for decades, except, of course, the title and the author. But I recognized the cover when I saw it, and may have let out a little, audible gasp. I reached for it, feeling transported to a hallway in a small school a couple of decades in the past. Seeing in my mind’s eye, the hands of a lonely boy reaching with me. My past, my present, interwoven in a momentary fold of time.

Have you ever experienced that feeling? Long form déjà vu. A glitch in the matrix. A sense memory freed from the subconscious. The lingering, feathery touch of the eternal now. One with the universe.

Books can do that.

Secret Under the Sea, by Gordon R. Dickson.
Reunited at last!

The book? It’s not a classic. You’ve probably never heard of it, although it spawned two sequels (thank you, Internet). It’s a simple “sci-fi boys adventure” book in a style popular at the time of its writing. But the author! The author is a notable science fiction writer, who’s novels and collections of short stories I devoured throughout middle school and into college. That was the greatest surprise to me. This formative book, authorship long forgot, was penned by someone that was at one time a favorite. Were my tastes formed by this book, or already in place at the age of seven?

The book is Secret under the Sea by Gordon R. Dickson. Never heard of it, right?

But maybe you’ve heard of Mr. Dickson. He authored a pair of notable series, The Childe Cycle, and Dragon Knight.

In a mad-dash of a week, a moment of serendipity brought me great joy, reconnecting me with a favorite of childhood. A missing piece of my personal literary history revealed brought clarity to a host of reading choices made since.

All because I forgot my son’s lunchbox. A butterfly flaps its wings.

Sometimes it’s the little things.