Tag Archives: kid-lit

Best Middle Grade Series

Join the Two Lit Mamas as they disappear into their favorite Middle Grade series and forget about the dumpster fire that is 2020 for a while. The mamas talk Star Wars, supernatural powers and even exchange a recipe for Café de Olla, all while giving big props to genius authors who make parents cringe and kiddos cheer. So, go ahead, get lost in a neighborhood of make believe with the mamas. You might feel better – at least for 30 minutes. 

Margie’s Faves

A New Hope: The Princess, the Scoundrel, and the Farm Boy by Alexandra Bracken,  So You Want to Be a Jedi by Adam Gidwitz and Return of the Jedi, Beware The Power of the Dark Side by Tom Angleberger are three very different retellings of the original Star Wars movies from the 1970s and 80s. Though completely different in style, the three books fit together to tell the story from Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia’s meet cute (ewww, they’re brother and sister) to the defeat of their faaather.

The Genius Files is a series of five books by Dan Gutman following the McDonald twins, Coke and Pepsi, on a pop culture filled cross-country road trip. While their parents are enjoying the sights, the twins find themselves being hunted by a team of bad guys because Coke and Pepsi are no ordinary kids. The twins have been chosen for a secret government organization known as The Genius Files.

Heather’s Faves

War usually brings death and devastation but, for Ada, it might save her from abuse and misery. Set in the English countryside during WWII, The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, complete a coming of age story about a 10-year-old girl who learns to love life at a time when bombings and German spies are a normal part of living. 

Watch out world, the Beatumont children are coming into their powers and they can’t control them. Will there be a new mountain range in Kansas or a great lake in the desert? Anything is possible in this three book fantasy adventure series by Ingrid Law which includes Savvy, Scumble and Switch. Each book follows a new family member on the wild ride of discovering his or her powers. 

Pick 6: Great Shows Based on Great Books

  1. Matilda
  2. The House with a Clock in the Walls
  3. Anne with an E
  4. Holes
  5. Diary of a Wimpy Kid
  6. Series of Unfortunate Events


Show Reference Links:

VIA Character Strengths Survey
Café de Olla
40th Anniversary Star Wars article with Adam Gidwitz
Origamiyoda.com
Jedi Academy
Common Sense Media

Episode 4: Diverse Summer Reads

You might want to pour a glass of wine for this one. Heather and Margie dive into diverse American stories and get on their soap boxes about the importance of representation, true patriotism, letting sassy children lead us, and the power of mamas’ boys. They aimed for light summer beach reads but happily landed on more important books about black girl magic and the kindness of Latinx boys – much more fitting for the summer of 2020.   

A Song Below Water
By Bethany C. Morrow

This modern fantasy about two friends, Tavia and Effie, is set in Portland, Oregon where sirens and other magical creatures live among humans. In addition to dealing with racism and sexism, the play sisters also have to hide their magical abilities out of fear of attack after a siren murder trial rocks the nation. As if that isn’t enough, the young women also struggle with normal teen troubles like boys and hair. In the end, their strong friendship gets them through it all.  

Marcus Vega Does Not Speak Spanish
By Pablo Cartaya

Marcus Vega is a 6-foot, 180-pound middle schooler and while he might tower over most kids at his school, to his mom and brother, he’s just a big, overprotective softie. After a fight at school provides Marcus with some unexpected “time off,” Marcus’ mom decides it’s time for him to reconnect with his family in Puerto Rico. However, Marcus thinks this is the perfect time to search for the father who left them ten years ago. Through a series of adventures in Puerto Rico, Marcus learns that family is never quite the way you imagine it.

Pick Six: Read the Book, Skip the Movie!

1. The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

2. The Giver by Lois Lowry

3. Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer

4. Wonder by R.J. Palacio

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

6. Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Episode 3: Multicultural Middle Grade

In Episode 3 of Two Lit Mamas, Margie and Heather chat about heavy metal t-shirts, flower pictures, and flying teenagers before diving into a discussion on first gen Americans, language misconceptions, unfounded fears of the other, and the right kind of rule breakers. Margie even gets misty about her Turkish immigrant husband – you don’t want to miss it! 

Multicultural Middle Grade Book Discussion:

We’re Not From Here

by Jeff Rodkey

After the human race obliterates Earth, middle schoolers Lan and Ila are living on Mars with their parents. Unfortunately, Mars’ resources are nearly exhausted, but the far-off planet Choom has agreed to take on human refugees. Unfortunately, during the 20-year journey to Choom, the government changed and no longer has any interest in taking a ship full of violent human refugees. With little food and fuel left and the remainder of the human race counting on them, Lan and family have been given a chance to prove to all of Choom that humans are not as bad as they seem. No pressure.

Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

by Jessica Kim

Eleven-year-old Yumi Chung is a shy Korean American girl who struggles at her fancy L.A. private school where students call her names and she eats lunch by herself in the bathroom. Her one solace is her favorite comedians’ how-to videos and her notebook full of jokes. In a case of mistaken identity, Yumi joins a summer comedy camp without the permission of her over-protective parents. During that time to learns to fail forward and stick up for herself. Eventually she uses her comedy skills to save the day. 

Pick Six Multicultural Books:

  1. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  2. Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
  4. Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  5. The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez
  6. The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

Show Reference Links:

Teacher Guide for We’re Not From Here

#ownvoices

The Book Sommelier

11 Contemporary Diverse Novels for Middle Grade Readers on ReadBrightly.com

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.