Category Archives: Middle Grade

Episode 16: Winter Survival MG Books

Put on your parkas and two face masks. You’ll need them for warmth in this episode as the mamas chill with a couple of Middle Grade survival adventure books set in the dead of winter. In one book, our young hero lives in a frozen fjord just as life is about to go berserk, and in the second book, the hero, plucked from the fjord and relocated to the prairie, battles a blizzard. If you can handle the cold, hang on until the end for a chat about reading in the time of COVID. 

Icefall by Matthew Kirby

Blizzard on the Plains by Heather Kauffman-Peters

Pick 2:

A Middle School Teacher’s Creative Way of Framing the Pandemic for Children

How Reading Habits Have Changed During the COVID-19 Lockdown

Reference Links:

Minnie Freeman

Amanda Gorman

Joseph Campbell

Heather’s “Surprise Me” Books

In Episode 2 of Two Lit Mamas, Margie and Heather surprise each other with book reports on Middle Grade novels the other one hasn’t read yet. Below are the two novels Heather shared:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Girl Who Drank the Moon is a 2017 Newbery Medal winner about a young girl named Luna who becomes magical after a witch, who saves her from abandonment in the forest, feeds her moonlight. The witch, Xan, then raises Luna as her own along with the help of a bog monster and a tiny dragon. On the other side of the mountain, in Luna’s hometown of the Protectorate, a young man vows to put an end to the evil witch who demands a sacrificial baby each year, but the real evil is waiting to be uncovered.    

Granted by John David Anderson

Granted is a middle grade novel about Ophelia Delphinium Fidgets, a Granter fairy who’s been given her first wish-granting assignment. To complete her mission, she must leave the safety of the Haven for the first time. Her mentors warn her that the human world is a dangerous place, but Ophelia isn’t afraid. She’s packed everything she could possibly need and is ready to make one girl’s wish for a new bike come true ­– or, so she thinks. 

To find out what the mamas thought of these books, listen to Episode 2.

Margie’s “Surprise Me” Books

In Episode 2 of Two Lit Mamas podcast, Margie and Heather surprise each other with book reports on middle grade novels the other one hasn’t read. Margie did her book reports on the following novels:

Eventown by Corey Ann Haydu

Eventown follows eleven-year-old twins, Elodee and Naomi as they move from their urban home to Eventown following a heartbreaking loss. Eventown promises to be a new start where nothing is good or bad but only even. Memories fade, both good and bad and everything is replaced with a perfect state of calm. The problem is, what makes things better for one sister, doesn’t always work for both. *Note* Contains references to teen suicide.

Slider by Pete Hautman

David Miller is a fourteen-year-old who is stuck in the middle. He’s the middle child living in the middle of Iowa and the only thing he seems to be good at is competitive eating. When a mess-up on an online auction site threatens to get him grounded for life, David has to break out of the middle and find a way to shine, even if it’s by eating two dozen pizzas.

Find out what the mamas thought of these books by listening to Episode 2.

Margie’s 5 Middle Grade Crushes

My top five writers are not snobby, literary, award winners but rather writers who have made my kids and I howl. They understand that kids are not dumb and also that kids deserve to be entertained and challenged. They also understand that their roles as creators of kid-lit mean they are more than just someone who puts words on a page. Great creators of kid-lit are kids too. They know that removing themselves too far from childhood takes away their skills. Great creators of kid-lit don’t write what they think kids should read, they write the books kids need and want. Here’s who made me howl and why:

Dan Gutman: Not only for the most fun chapter books around, the Weird School series, but also for the Genius Files which are also, genius.

Carl Hiaasen: For writing kid-lit that is as fun, wild and exciting as his adult books, just without the naughty parts.

Margaret Peterson Haddix: Because she challenges kids’ views of the world and makes them want to explore other worlds as well.

Jeff Kinney: For making storytelling with graphics mainstream and making it ok to be a total nerd. Beyond that, for creating a bookstore – An Unlikely Story, in Plainfield, Mass. – that is a haven for kid-lit and the best place in the world to spend an afternoon.

Judy Blume: For being the Grand Dame of telling important stories and making so many of us want to write for kids too.

Heather’s 5 Middle Grade Crushes

I love historical fiction authors who write stories that are accessible and make history jump off the page. I also enjoy those who share American experiences that can’t always be found in textbooks. Kids desperately need exposure to the diverse and multi-faceted ways Americans have suffered and thrived throughout history. Several of my favorite writers do just that and the others expand readers’ minds in other important ways. Here’s who I love and why:

Richard Peck: For writing about my hood with humor, love and respect in the A Long Way from Chicago books and for writing about a mouse in England that made my little, anglophile heart happy. 

Madeline L’Engle: For making this nerd think big thoughts that led to bigger worlds, ideas, and experiences than a farm girl ever could have imagined. 

Pam Muñoz Ryan: For shining a brilliant light on the Latinx experience and for writing horse stories that a horse-loving girl like myself cherished. Can’t wait to read Mañanaland.  

Christopher Paul Curtis: For saying, “I’m the kind of person who is excruciatingly slow to come to taking a risk but once I decide to, I’m all-in” and for creating Bud Caldwell and his Rules and Things for Having a Funner Life and Making a Better Liar Out of Yourself. Can we hang out, Mr. Curtis? I seriously love the way your brain works.  

Margaret Peterson Haddix: For using a journalism career as a jumping off point for a unique and fascinating children’s lit collection that captivated my son, as well as me.