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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Reading Level MIDDLE GRADE, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 25
1. Goodbye, Stranger by Rebecca Stead 287pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE



Rebecca Stead is the author of four books, two of which, Liar & Spy and the Newbery Medal winner, When You Reach Me, I have reviewed here. When You Reach Me is a book that will stay with me the rest of my life. I shy away from making Top 5 or Top 10 lists, but I know that every time I see the cover for this book I will feel a thud of emotion and recall what a powerful experience reading that book was. And I know that I will have the same experience in the future after reading Stead's new novel, Goodbye Stranger. Stead is a gifted writer and a masterful storyteller. She reminds me of one of the few novelists for adults I consistently read and always find gratifying, Kate Morton. Morton's novels, which are rich with compelling characters, weave stories from the past and present, revealing the connection between the two at the end of the story and always delivering an emotional punch, one that has made me gasp out loud before. While Morton - and Stead's - novels are anything but formulaic, they both employ similar formulas for storytelling that keep me engaged and guessing. Having read so many books, I can often see a plot twist pages in advance (and I am no fun to watch movies with) but I never see coming the surprises and rewards Stead (and Morton) always have in store.


Of course, this also makes writing a review a challenge. Goodbye, Stranger divides page time between Bridge, Sherm and an unknown, first person narrator. Bridge and Sherm's stories unfold at the same time, but the unknown narrator's story takes place on Valentine's Day, with Bridge and Sherm's storylines catching up by the end of the novel. Stead has the incredible ability to write a relatively short book that packs an amazing amount of detail and layers into the story. Bridget Barsamian is a seventh grader who is part of a tight trio of friends who have agreed never to fight and never to end their friendship after one of the three experiences the end of her parent's marriage. Bridge is also the survivor of a traumatic accident that took four surgeries and a year of recovery. When she was eight, Bridge was rollerskating with Tab, their mothers walking a few yards behind, and, distracted by a VW Bug and her version of the "Punch Buggy" game, she was hit by a car. Except for a recurring nightmare, Bridge is fully recovered, although something a nurse said to her on the day she was discharged changed the way she thought about herself. The nurse told her that she must have been put on earth for a reason, to survive that kind of accident.

Sherm is also in seventh grade. While he is part of Bridge's story, his narrative comes in the form of letters to his grandfather, Nonno Gio. Bridge and Sherm connect when they discover they are both signed up for Tech Crew with Mr. Partridge, who also leads the Banana Splits Book Club for kids of divorced parents. Emily, the third in Bridge's circle of friends, is in the Banana Splits club. She is also a star soccer player and a pretty girl who is hitting puberty harder than her best friends. Then there is Tab, little sister to Celeste and newly radicalized feminist, thanks to her English teacher, Ms. Berman, who prefers to be called "Berperson." Together, the three friends weather the challenges that are part of growing older, growing up and discovering who you are. Stead takes Goodbye, Stranger into the 21st century when she has Em become involved with a popular eighth grade boy who encourages her to text increasingly inappropriate pictures of herself to him. Talking to this boy, Bridge thinks to herself, "Patrick was only one grade above them, but something about him was older, as if he'd crossed a line Bridge couldn't even see yet."

I realize that at this point, I really haven't told you much about Goodbye, Stranger that might lead you to believe it's as amazing as I say it is, and that is in part because of what I can't say about it. But it's also because Stead takes threads of everyday life and weaves them together to make something larger and more meaningful, much like the Georges Seurat painting pointillist painting that was at the center of Liar & Spy. Small details like Hermey, a character from a television show that Bridge and her older brother Jamie quote to each other, Mr. P buying black and white cookies from Nussbaum's for the Banana Splits and a pair of cat ears that become a "comforting presence" add up to something bigger. But it is the emotional complexity of Stead's writing that is most powerful and unforgettable. While talking about the most moving storyline in the book would be too much of a reveal, there is another emotionally mighty moment that comes when a character reflects on a betrayal of trust, asking, "Who is the real you? The person who did something awful, or the one who's horrified by the awful thing you did? Is one part of you allowed to forgive the other?" The character does something I think suspect is universal among adolescent girls - sharing a secret you promised to keep. In Goodbye, Stranger, this sharing is done as a way to reconnect with a friend who has begun distancing herself, a friend who has also begun to reveal a deep, wide streak of meanness. Stead describes the momentary, euphoric connection that this sharing brings and also the anguish, with a clarity that brought me vividly back to my own adolescence and my own missteps.

In the end, as with all her books, Stead tells a story about connections between people, connections that ultimately are about love and compassion. The connections may be tenuous and strained and characters may find themselves alone and hurt, but they always find their way to each other.


Source: Purchased


Other books by Rebecca Stead:








Another example of masterful storytelling 
that will make you gasp:


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2. Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll, 208pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

Sadly, I am reviewing Through the Woods, stories by Emily Carroll a month too late. I bought this book back in July and Adam Gidwitz's  review in the New York Times in which he reminds us the children like to be scared, should have been another nudge to me. But, creepy ghost stories, especially the graphic novel kind, are good all year round, right? With my students clamoring for scary

0 Comments on Through the Woods: Stories by Emily Carroll, 208pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE as of 11/18/2014 6:13:00 AM
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3. The Last Dragonslayer, the Chronicles of Kazam, Book 1 by Jasper Fforde, 287pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

The Last Dragonslayer is now in paperback, and with a cool new take on the original cover art!! <!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde is the first

6 Comments on The Last Dragonslayer, the Chronicles of Kazam, Book 1 by Jasper Fforde, 287pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 8/21/2013
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4. Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien, 512 pages, RL: Middle Grade

Boxers & Saints is the innovative new graphic novel diptych from Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese, winner of the Printz Award, the Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album - New and a 2006 National Book Award finalist. As the cover shows, Boxers & Saints presents parallel stories of two young people who find themselves on opposite sides of the turn-of-the-20th-century Boxer

0 Comments on Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, color by Lark Pien, 512 pages, RL: Middle Grade as of 9/16/2013 5:10:00 AM
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5. Etiquette and Espoinage, Book 1 in the Finishing School Series by Gail Carriger, 237 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

Etiquette and Espionage is the first book in Gail Carriger's Finishing School Series, which marks her first foray into the world of YA. Carriger's first series, The Parasol Protectorate, is set in an alternate-historyVictorian England that combines steampunk (quick definition: a sub-genre of science fiction set in an industrialized England and featuring steam-powered machinery, for Carriger's

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6. About Average, by Andrew Clements, 128 pp, RL 4

ABOUT AVERAGE is now in paperback! <!-- START INTERCHANGE - ABOUT AVERAGE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Andrew Clements is a prolific author of the bestselling (as in, 2.5 million) story about a boy who makes up a new word,

0 Comments on About Average, by Andrew Clements, 128 pp, RL 4 as of 5/31/2014 9:49:00 AM
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7. The Alchemyst : The Secret of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by MIchael Scott, 369 pp, RL MIDDLE SCHOOL

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE ALCHEMYST THE SECRETS OF THE THE IMMORTAL NICHOLAS FLAMEL -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> The Alchemyst : The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel by Michael Scott was published in 2007, the same

2 Comments on The Alchemyst : The Secret of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel, by MIchael Scott, 369 pp, RL MIDDLE SCHOOL, last added: 2/24/2013
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8. Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson, 440 pp, RL: MIDDLE SCHOOL

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - LEVIATHAN -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and illustrated by Keith Thompson is the first in a trilogy that also includes the companion book, The Manual of Aeronautics, which is

1 Comments on Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Keith Thompson, 440 pp, RL: MIDDLE SCHOOL, last added: 3/22/2013
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9. The Short Seller by Elissa Brent Weissman, 250 pp, RL 5

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE SHORT SELLER -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> The Short Seller is the newest book from Elissa Brent Weissman, author of Nerd Camp, Standing for Socks and The Trouble with Mark Hopper. What I love about

0 Comments on The Short Seller by Elissa Brent Weissman, 250 pp, RL 5 as of 5/10/2013 4:03:00 AM
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10. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, 480 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

  <!-- START INTERCHANGE - SERAPHINA -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> Seraphina by Rachel Hartman was published in July of 2012 and has received a lot of well deserved attention since then, including the Morris Award for a debut book by a

5 Comments on Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, 480 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 5/31/2013
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11. Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, by LA Meyer, RL: Middle School

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - BLOODY JACK -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} Bloody Jack: Being the Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy by L A Meyer has to be some to the best historical fiction I have read in a long time. Admittedly,

2 Comments on Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary "Jacky" Faber, Ship's Boy, by LA Meyer, RL: Middle School, last added: 6/10/2013
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12. Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, 480 pp RL MIDDLE GRADE

First reviewed on 2/20/09, Tunnels (and the whole series) still stands out as a stellar action adventure story. The writing, plotting and world building is superb, inventive and fresh, while also feeling a bit classic at the same time. Yet another book that remains a favorite and has stuck with me for years.  This was one of those books that I avoided when it first came out in January of 2008

2 Comments on Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, 480 pp RL MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 7/26/2013
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13. Well Witched by Frances Hardinge, 400 pp RL: MIDDLE GRADE

First reviewed in 2010, Well Witched remains the BEST ghost story for kids I have read. Harding is a brilliant, diverse writer and this book will give readers chills and make them think! Well Witched is a remarkable and completely different follow- up to one of my all time favorites, Fly By Night, which Frances Hardinge published as her first novel for children in 2006. Whereas her first

0 Comments on Well Witched by Frances Hardinge, 400 pp RL: MIDDLE GRADE as of 7/31/2013 4:05:00 AM
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14. W.A.R.P. Book 1 : The Reluctant Assassin, by Eoin Colfer, 352 pp, RL : MIDDLE GRADE

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE RELUCTANT ASSASSIN -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> W.A.R.P. Book 1: The Reluctant Assassin is the new series from Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame. When I was a bookseller, Colfer's Artemis Fowl series was

4 Comments on W.A.R.P. Book 1 : The Reluctant Assassin, by Eoin Colfer, 352 pp, RL : MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 8/12/2013
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15. Reckless, written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch, 394 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE

With Reckless Cornelia Funke returns to the dark world of fairy tales, however this time the portal to another world is a mirror instead of the magical voice of a reader. Although their last name is Reckless, brothers Jacob and Will seem to be direct descendants of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and the fairy tales that they recorded. In Reckless, the first book in what is to be a series, Funke proves

2 Comments on Reckless, written and illustrated by Cornelia Funke, translated by Oliver Latsch, 394 pp, RL: MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 2/21/2011
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16. The Popularity Papers: The Long Distance Dispatch Between Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, written and illustrated by Amy Ignatow, 205 pp, RL 5

Amy Ignatow has knocked my socks off again with The Popularity Papers: The Long Distance Dispatch Between Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang! I really don't know how she does it. Not only does she capture, wonderfully, the personalities of her two main characters through their writing and drawings, but she also manages to create a plot that is so genuine and real and filled with humor and

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17. Page by Paige, written and illustrated by Laura Lee Gulledge, RL: Middle Grade

When I read and reviewed my first graphic novel, Rapunzel's Revenge, written by Shannon and Dean Hale and illustrated by Nathan Hale, back in January of 2009 I was skeptical of the importance of the genre but fully aware of its growing popularity and presence among readers. Drawn to the often amazing artwork (Shaun Tan's The Arrival, Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series) and vibrant characters (Barry

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18. A Year Without Autumn, written by Liz Kessler, 294 pp, MIDDLE GRADE

Liz Kessler is the author of the very popular Emily Windsnap series of books about a twelve year old girl who lives on a boat with her mother. When Emily takes swimming lessons she discovers she is half-mermaid and her legs turn into a tail when she is underwater. Kessler is also three books into her Philippa Fisher series in which an eleven year old girl who's life is pretty miserable and gets

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19. The Popularity Papers: Words of (Questionable) Wisdom from Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang, written and illustrated by Amy Ignatow, 208 pp, RL 5

One of the few downsides to this blog is that I have such a full shelf of books I want to read and review I feel like I rarely have the time or luxury to read a complete series of books. In terms of reviews, I feel like a positive review of the first book in a series is a pretty good indicator of the rest to come and readers don't need me to keep telling them that every time a new book in the

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20. Drama by Raina Telgemeier with color by Gurihiru, 233 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

Oh, how I love Drama, the new graphic novel from the incredible Raina Telgemeier! Telgemeier's first graphic novel, Smile is a masterpiece. Autobiographical in nature, she tells the story of knocking out her two front teeth while in middle school and the years that followed trying to fill the hole in her mouth and cope with the new social landscape ahead of her as she enters her teen years.

3 Comments on Drama by Raina Telgemeier with color by Gurihiru, 233 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE, last added: 9/4/2012
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21. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, 338 pp, RL

Linda Sue Park (Newbery Winner for A Single Shard) wrote a first-class review of between shades of gray by Ruta Sepetys for the New York Times Book Review in April of 2011 in which she very accurately called the book a "superlative first novel." For a coherent, concise review, follow the link and read more of what Park had to say. I'm not sure I can do this book justice because I was so deeply

2 Comments on Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, 338 pp, RL, last added: 9/10/2012
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22. Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby, 256 pp, RL 5

** January 23, 2013: A report from a National Institute of Health council unanimously recommended that almost ALL of the 451 chimpanzees currently housed at their facilities for the purposes of research and testing be retired, as reported by James Gorman in the New York Times yesterday. Sadly, the N.I.H does not have the funds to retire some 400 of the chimps OR enact the changes to the

5 Comments on Hurt Go Happy, by Ginny Rorby, 256 pp, RL 5, last added: 1/23/2013
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23. On the Day I Died:Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming, 199 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - ON THE DAY I DIED STORIES FROM THE GRAVE -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave is the newest book from the multitalented (and multi-awardwinning) Candace Fleming with

0 Comments on On the Day I Died:Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming, 199 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE as of 1/25/2013 3:22:00 AM
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24. Okay for Now by Gary D Schmidt, 368 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

OKAY FOR NOW is now in PAPERBACK!! <!-- START INTERCHANGE - OKAY FOR NOW -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> If you read my review of Gary D Schmidt's book The Wednesday Wars, you might know that Okay for Now plucks a minor character

0 Comments on Okay for Now by Gary D Schmidt, 368 pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE as of 2/5/2013 4:12:00 AM
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25. The Last Dragonslayer, the Chronicles of Kazam, Book 1 by Jasper Fforde, 287pp, RL MIDDLE GRADE

<!-- START INTERCHANGE - THE LAST DRAGONSLAYER -->if(!window.igic__){window.igic__={};var d=document;var s=d.createElement("script");s.src="http://iangilman.com/interchange/js/widget.js";d.body.appendChild(s);} <!-- END INTERCHANGE --> The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde is the first in the Chronicles of Kazam, his new series for young readers. Many years ago I gleefully gobbled up

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