Middle Grade March Team Wrap-Up!By: Cheryl Long
Team OwlCrate Jr's Stand-Out Middle Grade March Reads!
We hope you had fun participating in Middle Grade March and read many great middle grade reads! Here is a wrap-up of team OwlCrate Jr's reading month and the books that blew us away!
Feel free to share your favorite reads of March in the comments!
This fantasy graphic novel, set in the land of Irpa (yes there is a map of it in the book, I’m so glad you asked) tells the story of Bea, the adopted human daughter of the town’s apothocary, Pig Wizard. One day while gathering ingredients for a potion, Bea ends up in a precarious situation and is rescued by gentle giant Cad, a Galdurian. The Galdurians are a group that was thought to have died out hundreds of years ago, but Cad is alive and well and searching for answers about his history. I won’t reveal how the duo end up on a quest together, but the results are exciting, compelling, and very funny.
In addition to a great plot, I was struck by the incredible artwork (good news, they’re available as prints on Tim Probert’s website) as well as the clever visual representation of Bea’s anxiety which she deals with throughout the story. I will be reading book 2 this month and am crossing my fingers we get a book 3 in the future!
This award winning novel, written and stunningly illustrated by Brian Selznick has been on my TBR list since it was published way back in 2011. At over 600 pages, I was daunted by the idea of taking in on during a month where the goal is to read as many books as possible. But I was inspired by the Middle Grade March crew during their live book chat to finally pick it up, and once I did I couldn’t put it down, reading it cover to cover in less than 48 hours.
Wonderstruck tells the stories of Ben and Rose, two deaf children living in different times (1977 and 1927, respectively), each struggling with grief and family. Selznick uses his signature black and grey pencil illustrations to bring the visual world to life in at least 3/4 of the book, sometimes zooming in on the details of a single idea over several pages. It is beautiful and an incredible example of the ways we can tell a story.
The group read for this year’s event was A Rover’s Story, which I read last year and loved so much we built a box around it, but I had never read any of Jasmine Warga’s other books and decided it was time to change that. I’m so glad I did —Other Words For Home is currently in the number one spot for my favorite read of the year. The story in verse is told through the eyes of Jude, an outgoing 12-year-old Muslim girl who moves with her mother from her home in Syria to stay with family in Cincinnati. America is loud and different in almost every way, but Jude bravely immerses herself in this new world. By writing the story in verse rather than standard prose, Jude’s voice jumps off the page. It is impossible not to love this smart, funny, insightful character.
This graphic novel follows Marlene, a Dominican American girl who dutifully accompanies her mother to the beauty salon every Sunday to “tame” her naturally curly hair. But all Marlene wants is to be allowed to be her natural self, without being seen as “less” by her family and the kids at her school. She finds solace in her Tía Ruby, who helps her learn to love and be proud of her curly hair. This story transported me right to my tween years, attending quinceañeras and being surrounded by that ever-present “good hair vs. bad hair” conversation. My whole heart went out to Marlene and her struggles with self-acceptance, but Claribel A. Ortega handled this story beautifully. Everyone, whether they have straight or curly hair, should pick this one up!
This is the story of Logan Foster, a boy who’s given up hope on being adopted because of how different he is from the other kids at the orphanage. Then one day, a very nice couple asks Logan to come live with them, and he starts noticing all kinds of interesting things about them. Super interesting things. (Get it?) Logan finds out that his new prospective parents are actually superheroes! And so ensues this action-packed, unforgettable story, full of laugh out loud commentary from a super lovable character you can’t help but root for. Such a fun read! (I know, I know, I should have already read this one. I promise I’ll go sit in a corner after I finish writing this, ok?)
Rainbow Grey by Laura Ellen Anderson
Ray Grey grew up high in the sky, in a place called the Weatherlands, where everyone possesses magic that controls different kinds of weather. Well, almost everyone. Ray has never had any magic, but she’s set her sights on making a name for herself as a renowned Earth Explorer. After a daring trek down to Earth to retrieve a treasure marked on a map she found in an old library book, Ray is accidentally imbued with rainbow magic! But rainbow magic had been thought to be lost forever, and those who made sure it had been lost are now coming after Rainbow Grey. This book pretty much had everything I love in a fantasy story: whimsy, intrigue, humor, action, and of course magic! The plot and the world Laura Ellen Anderson created were so unique, and the illustrations throughout the book helped the story come to life all the more. A colorful and magical book for all lovers of middle grade fantasy!
This was my very first novel in verse, and I’m afraid it has set the bar extremely high! I always assumed you wouldn’t be able to attain great character depth and connection with novels in verse, but I was proven so so wrong. Lisa Fipps creates such a tender, passionate, heartfelt character through Ellie that I feel like I met her in real life! Read about Ellie’s journey as she struggles through the bullying, harassment, and prejudice she receives as she navigates junior high as a plus sized person.
I’m a major sucker for middle grade mysteries, crumbling old estates, buried treasure, & big family dynamics and The Swifts combines all of these in one big hilarious package. Join Shenanigan Swift as she, her sisters and cousin try to solve a murder that has occurred during the great big family reunion. This is a family unlike any you’ve read — for starters they are all named after random words in the dictionary! — and you’re going to love them.
I went off course with my middle grade March TBR and picked up this classic story and was completely swept away! I can’t believe I hadn’t picked it up until now!! I absolutely adored this timeless tale of a porcelain rabbit who travels thousands of miles, meeting all sorts of people and witnessing cruelties and compassions all in the sake of learning about the enduring power of love.