Five Good Stories


An 8th grade girl said something very interesting today. During a conversation about why parents are so often “missing” from young adult novels, the conversation turned to Harry Potter. We talked about the reasons why authors might decide that their young protagonists would be better off without parents.  We also discussed other thematic elements of the Harry Potter novels and what they meant to the story.  

“I liked the novels better the first time I read them – when they were just about the story,” said the student. As I thought more about it today, I think her point was a good one. Other students agreed that, while it was nice to learn about Rowling’s influences and to understand the symbols, it was even more fun not to know and to just read the series oblivious to the way things work.

There is that special time in a reader’s young life when they aren’t burdened by figuring things out or understanding the scaffolding of the story. That’s when reading is most magical. It’s why picture books are so enchanting to very young children or, as my student pointed out, why they remember the first time they met Harry Potter and Hagrid.  Here are 5 middle grade novels that are guaranteed to add a touch of whimsy – and magic – to the holidays.

Secrets at Sea by Richard Peck (I just finished this book today and think I laughed on every page. An adventure story with mice. It’s 1887, and the mice are sailing to England to help “their” human find love. Need I say more? It’s excellent.)

The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester by Barbara O’Connor (I’ve written about this one before. I love Barbara O’Connor’s novels for middle grade readers. They are charming, well-written and have memorable characters – no easy task, but O’Connor makes it seem effortless)

The Flint Heart by Katherine Paterson and John Paterson (An updated version of the 1910 fairy tale)

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick (If you read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, you know why this one is on the list. A triumph of the imagination)

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne (I saw a reference to the excellent game of Pooh Sticks today and was reminded how timeless the Pooh stories are. Not new, but absolutely necessary in any conversation about fun and whimsy)


6 thoughts on “Five Good Stories

  1. I’m a writer and book-blogger who agrees with you — Secrets at Sea is a real winner. I loved it from beginning to end. And the Pooh books (which I didn’t encounter until I was seventeen, and immediately fell in love) are a must, I believe.

    I appreciate that 5th grader’s comment so much “I liked the novels better the first time I read them — when they were just about the story.” I think that may be what turns some kids off reading — the amount of analyzing of every bit of literature that they have to do as they make their way through school. They lose that “joy of the story”. That’s a shame.

    I will be following your blog from now on! My google alert for the term “middle grade novels” led me to your blog, and I’m grateful it did!

    • Hi ElizabethAnne,

      Thanks so much for your kind words about my blog –
      I just checked yours out as well and was happy to learn about Nine
      O’Clock Lullaby. It sounds like a book we could use at school.
      Thanks for the heads up.
      Happy Holidays!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s