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Middle Grade Monday – That’s Not My Kind of Book

I’m half way through a novel that seemingly has ALL the strikes against it: 

  • middle grade fiction
  • historical fiction
  • rural United States setting
  • multiple time periods
  • muted, sepia toned cover featuring a girl in overalls

It only lacks footnotes for it to reach the pinnacle of ‘not my kind of book.’ Have you guessed what it is yet? 

First, let’s talk about why I’m reading it. We only have one copy in our collection. Even though it won the Newbery Award, I had no intention of reading it. I also have no illusions that it will appeal to more than a handful of my students on it’s own. It is, however, on the state’s Battle of the Books list for next year, and it is the book I have been assigned for question writing.

But. But, but, but. It IS really good (obviously.) The characters are colorful and fully realized. The multiple time periods involve flashbacks to engaging stories mysteriously tied the ‘present’. It presents a clear picture of the reality of living in rural America during the Depression that is both vivid and realistic, without being preachy or heartbreaking.

Will it make me seek out more books like it? Let’s be honest, probably not. But maybe I won’t avoid them like they carry the plague. (Although, looking at the condition in which some of our books are returned, maybe they do.)

Are there any books you avoid reading? What difference could it make to your reader’s advisory ability if you tried some of them? I’m actually looking forward to being able to book talk this title next year for my sixth graders. I already have passages I want to read aloud picked out.


  1. This book doesn't appeal to me at all. But as a rule of thumb, I stock any books with an honor award on the cover, especially Newberrys because I do have teachers who will have their students do assignments with Newberry books.

    I have had to learn that I can't only stock my library with books that I like. If I did, they'd only be reading historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy. I don't like the sappy romance chick-lit or these fairy tale retellings, but they love it, so I get multiple copies of those. But I do try to find a balance in things I book talk/recommend to them, so it's not all the same. They've really enjoyed the ones I book talked this year, I can't keep enough copies on the shelves. So I'm really excited for next year!

  2. I like historical fiction, but was pleasantly surprised when my tween book club members chose this as one of their spring titles. After reading it, I listened to the audiobook of Vanderpool's new title, “Navigating Early.” It's pretty amazing. Working with tweens to help them transition from the Children's Department to the Young Adult collection and Teen programming has given me a new appreciation for middle grade fiction.

  3. I'm just curious what you have against books set in rural settings or in multiple time periods or middle-grade books? Why are these not appealing to you? Especially with a strike against middle-grade fiction. What is it about that particular grade level that doesn't appeal to you? Seems a gross overgeneralization considering the diversity of books for any grade level.

  4. It's a hard balance, isn't it? And with ever shrinking budgets. I wish I could buy everything I think they'd enjoy AND everything they ask me for AND everything the teachers want them to read. Sigh. Need more funding. Right now I have to stick with a little of everything.

  5. Vanderpool is really amazing, isn't she? She deserves all the accolades she's gotten.

  6. Oh, they're all just personal preferences. I tend to shy away from multiple time periods because they often draw me out of a story and make it difficult for me to track (same as footnotes.) Rural settings are a hard sell for my vastly urban students. I shy away from middle grade because, honestly, it often makes me cry. Not just the sniffly kind of crying, either, the heartwrenching sobs of the 'ugly cry.' Maybe I'm heartless (or reading the wrong books) but YA seldom involves the level of emotional investment a MG novel regularly requires of me. After a full day of emotionally investing in the lives of a multitude of 11 to 14 year olds, I need a break. That said, the MG novels I have read are some of my favorite books – I love Rebecca Stead, Anne Ursu, and Rita Williams Garcia's MG novels. I'm a huge fan of Bridge to Terabithia.

  7. Oh, this is so my kind of book. Everything you have in your list (except the middle school thing, ugh, I agree) that makes you NOT want to read it, makes me want to pick it up and read it twice! I was actually disappointed I had already read this one, as I was hoping for a new suggestion!

    That being said – if there is anything “fantastical” on a cover, I'm out. Dragons and corsets, I cannot get into fantasy to save my life. Or poetry/books in verse. Or books that have a high-school couple holding hands or gazing lovingly into each others eyes on the cover.

    I have stopped reading the inside flaps of books because they seem to cheapen the story so much. (i.e. Gone Girl … I thought that was great, then I read the inside flap and it made it sound like a cheesy whodunnit). But on the (probably very bad) flip-side, I now majorly judge books by their covers. And I'm loving it :o)

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