A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan, a review

Authors Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan team up to tell a middle-grade tale with two points of view: one a Muslim Pakistani-American girl who just wants to fit in at her big new school, and the other a Jewish girl whose best friend has dumped her.

This contemporary novel focuses on the friendship the two eventually build, drawing in their mothers as well. Conflict comes from misunderstandings as well as downright animosity from one student who keeps saying racist things. Never fear, things are resolved well.

One of the most interesting things about this book for me was that it serves as a window into Pakistani culture, foods, family expectations, and so on. It’s the same for the Jewish family. I really felt like I got to know the two girls over the course of 313 pages, and I hope plenty of middle schoolers decide to read it despite its length.

Five stars: *****

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead, a review

Georges, that's with a silent s, moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, another twelve-year-old who starts a spy club for the two of them. They're spying on a bird nest, on people in the building lobby (through the videocam), on … [Continue reading]

Wanted: A Superhero to Save the World by Bryan Davis, a review

Bryan Davis, author of thirty successful young adult books, wrote this middle-grade tale and published it last year. It's a delightful comic book story of heroes and villains told as a novel, with plenty of gadget references that remind me of … [Continue reading]

Ghost by Jason Reynolds, a Review

Jason Reynolds' award-winning middle-grade novel Ghost tells the story of a boy who joins a track team. But he's not just any boy; he's one who, three years ago,ran for his life from his father. He's the one whose mother, struggling to work and go … [Continue reading]

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt, a review

Sometimes I stray from my core mission of reviewing middle grade novels. This novel is almost a middle-grade novel. After all, its narrator is twelve, perfect for middle grade. But the real protagonist is thirteen or fourteen, a boy who's already … [Continue reading]

I signed a publishing contract!

Elk Lake Publishing will be publishing a book of mine in about a year, I'm happy to announce. The book, a middle-grade novel, features time travel. I'm not going to tell you anything more about it right now. Sign up for my occasional newsletter if … [Continue reading]

Freerunner by Kathy Cassel, a review

In this young-adult book, Kia, a shy biracial kid whose issues usually keep her hiding in the shadows, is just entering high school. When a cool new coach shows up, she decides to join the track team. Turns out she’s good at it, because she’s been … [Continue reading]

So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom by Gary D. Schmidt, illus. by Daniel Minter

Picture book biographies are coming into their own lately, aimed at young kids and also older ones who can look at the notes in the back. Here's a truly notable book, set apart by its amazing illustrations and its jewel-toned prose. Sojourner … [Continue reading]

Iggy and Oz: the Plastic Dinos of Doom by J.J. Johnson, a review

Middle-grade voice involves a (usually) sassy or joking twelve-year-old who's finding himself or herself in a pickle and agonizing about it in a very funny way. It's unique to middle grade books, as far as I can tell. I've talked about it … [Continue reading]

Hunger Winter: A World War II Novel by Rob Currie, a review

Rob Currie's debut middle grade novel, Hunger Winter, tells a suspenseful tale of brave kids in World-War-II Holland. After a neighbor bangs on their door late at night, Dirk must grab his six-year-old sister and flee from the Nazi secret police … [Continue reading]