Two New Middle Grade Novels…

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In preparation for talking to Inly students about the summer reading list, I’m reading lots of middle grade fiction and think it’s causing me to do 5th grade things like doodling on my notebooks and having conversations about which puppies are the cutest (a conversation I heard today)!  The best part is reading so many good stories – and thinking about which kids will enjoy them the most…

Over the past week, I read two new books: Fish In a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt and Julia and the Art of Practical Travel by Lesley M.M. Blume.


I was particularly happy to read Hunt’s new novel, Fish In a Tree. As I read, I thought about all of the teachers who will enthusiastically add this novel to their “bag of recommendations.” It’s the story of Ally, a smart girl who spends lots of energy trying to hide the fact that reading is hard for her.  Although she is a talented art student, Ally has tried so hard to keep her “secret” that she unintentionally alienates kids and adults at school.  She’s right to avoid the mean girls, but there are some awesome kids in her diverse class as well – Ally just can’t recognize them. Her roadblock is reading, and her anxiety around that issue is so all consuming that she can’t see beyond it. Luckily for Ally, she has an awesome teacher who figures out that she is dyslexic. With his support, Ally learns strategies to be more successful in the classroom and, of course, what follows is more success in other areas of her life – both at home and at school.  Fish In a Tree is excellent. The kids are quirky and believable. The sometimes messy ways that Ally attempts to hide her learning difference is spot-on. And her warm and supportive teacher will inspire every educator who is lucky enough to read this book.


Julia and the Art of Practical Travel is more lighthearted than Fish In a Tree. The themes aren’t as big as in Hunt’s novel, but it’s a warm and pleasant read – may be just the right book for a sunny July afternoon! This is a road trip story set in 1968. The travelers are eleven-year-old Julia Lancaster who doesn’t go anywhere without her Brownie camera and her Aunt Constance. The event that sets them on the road is the death of Julia’s grandmother, the matriarch of the Lancaster family, a fancy bunch who have traditions and bone china tea cups. Julia and her aunt take to the road to find Julia’s mother who left her upper class family to become a hippie.  Like all good road trips, the travelers meet memorable characters, have entertaining adventures, and learn a few lessons. Yes, the story is somewhat predictable. But that’s okay. Sometimes it’s nice to know where you’re going.

More summer reading tips to come…..



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