Monday, November 23, 2015

MMGM: A bunch of fun books

Guaranteed to get you out of a November slump (the sun sets so early this time of year, it can be really depressing!) Here are a bunch of books from the Middle-Grade Cybils nominees that I found at my library and greatly enjoyed:

Diary of a Mad Brownie, by Bruce Coville—Angus was a hilarious narrator, and I loved his difficult relationship with his new—very messy—human, Alex. The curse was delightful and the plot resolution was very satisfying. Lots of chuckle-out-loud moments. Yummy like Cherry Blasters (those sour candies in the shape of cherries, like Fuzzy Peaches but better)

Harriet the Invincible, by Ursula Vernon—funny and brilliant on so many levels. I never liked the Sleeping Beauty story until I met Harriet, the Hamster Princess, who realizes the incredible upside of the evil fairy's curse: if she's going to get pricked by a hamster wheel when she's twelve, then obviously until then she can't die. So off she goes to jump off cliffs, rescue princesses from dragons (and dragons from princesses) and deal with those nasty Ogrecats. Really cute illustrations and really clever jokes. (An example: "Princesses do not go cliff-diving." "I bet lemming princesses do.") I just hope it reaches its audience, because the cover makes it look like a very easy reader, and I think it's for the same readership as Captain Underpants, or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Every bit as funny as Captain Underpants, which is my benchmark for awesome humour.) Salted caramel chocolate chip cookies—my brother makes them; they're to die for.

Pip Bartlett's Guide to Magical Creatures, by Jackson Pearce and Maggie Stiefvater—what if the Tribbles spontaneously caught fire when they got excited? That's the chaos-inciting premise of this fluffy adventure. Fuzzles are smaller than Tribbles: small enough to hide in your underwear drawer, which is a problem when the town is overrun with them, and whenever people find them in their underwear drawers the people tend to shriek a lot, which gets the fuzzles excited, and then . . . lots of slapstick humour in this one. I loved the other hilarious magical creatures, like the paranoid unicorn and the toxically smelly hobgrackle. I also liked that the adults both helped and hindered in realistic ways. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

These two aren't actually on this year's Cybils list, but their sequels are (and the sequels weren't in the library yet, so I read these ones in the meantime!)

The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, by Jeanne Birdsall—I adore this family of clever, loyal, proactive sisters who get into the most ridiculous situations just by being themselves. Birdsall captures families perfectly, in all their chaotic, messy, hilarious, fierce and tender reality. I love books with characters so leap-off-the-page fully-drawn that you have to smile just thinking about them. This one (Gardam Street) is the second in the series, and the one that came out this year (Penderwicks in Spring) is the fourth. I'm so happy I still have two more to read (and it looks like there will be a fifth one, too).

Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre—what's not to love about this band of friends who march off to slay a giant and only survive their adventures because of the surprising talents they each turn out to have. Clean, bright artwork and a full cast of interesting characters, including the adults (I loved Claudette's father.) This is book one, and the sequel, Dragons Beware!, came out this year.


  1. Recent middle school books I've read have some fairly depressing themes. These titles are a great alternative. I'm ready for a few laughs so thanks for recommending.

  2. The only two of these I've read are THE PENDERWICKS ON GARDAM STREET and HARRIET THE INVINCIBLE, which would not normally be my cup of tea but I laughed out loud while reading. Great idea for a post on a cold, dreary November day. I hate it when it gets dark early.

  3. I've read Giants Beware and loved it. I've been meaning to read Hamster Princess and you've convinced me.

  4. Thanks for the recommendations. I could use a little levity.