Saturday, December 26, 2015

Middle-Grade Novels I Gave For Christmas - The Voracious Reader

My 8-year old niece presents a different challenge than her brother, the reluctant reader.  She loves to read, reads well above grade level, and finishes books very quickly.  She also does not have any strong interests like her brother, or specific genres that she likes (and probably has not been exposed to some).  Her mother suggested that she would like classics, but I also wanted to find books with characters she could relate to and identify with as the poor shy, neglected middle child who is always overshadowed by her 3 more out-going, boisterous, attention-seeking brothers, or that might inspire her to break out of her shell.  I originally intended to get her two books, but couldn't make up my mind, so went on and gave her three since I know she will read them.

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.  December 9, 2013 (originally published in 1908).  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.  224 pages.  Ages 10 & up.

This well-known classic tells the story of Anne Shirley, a spirited 11-year old orphan who has been mistakenly sent from an orphanage in Nova Scotia to the Cuthbert farm on Prince Edward Island.  Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, middle-aged unmarried siblings who still live together on the family farm, had planned on taking in an orphaned boy who could help the aging Matthew with work on the farm.  But, Matthew is immediately taken by the lively, chatty, and imaginative Anne, and Marilla eventually agrees to let her stay.  The story follows over the next 5 years as Anne becomes very close to the Cuthberts and builds a life in Avonlea. 

This was a book the mom had suggested, but I wasn't sure that an 8-year old would be quite ready for it, even a very smart one.  I remember reading it and liking it as a child, but I'm not sure I was that young when I read it.  I also wasn't sure how relatable it would be to kids today.  But I figured it was worth a try, knowing she can always read it when she gets a little older if she's not quite ready for it yet.  And, if she does read it and likes it, then she has five more books in the series to follow Anne throughout her life, as well as 3 books about Anne's children. 

Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott.  September 1, 1995 (originally published in 1875).  Puffin Books (reissued). 320 pages.  Ages 10 & up.

13-year old Rose lost her mother when she was very young, and has now lost her beloved father as well.  She is sent to live with her extended family of aunts and uncles, and now finds herself the only girl in her generation of the family, surrounded by eight boy cousins.  Rose must learn how to make good choices and grow into a responsible and productive young woman.

My sister had first suggested Little Women for her daughter, which I loved as a child myself.  But, I thought Kat would be better able to relate to Rose, who is surrounded by boy cousins, than Jo March, who has three sisters.  I also like how Alcott promotes education for women, as well as an active, healthy lifestyle, and that women should have control over their assets and finances.  There is a sequel to this book that continues Rose's story into adulthood, Rose In Bloom, as well as the Little Women series, if she really enjoys Eight Cousins.

Matilda by Roald Dahl.  August 16, 2007  (originally published in 1988).  Puffin Books, reprint edition. 256 pages.  Ages 8-12.

In this story young Matilda is a very bright girl, born into a family that is nothing like her and doesn't appreciate her intellect.  Her parents are crass, uneducated, and have questionable ethics.  But Matilda discovers the public library and discovers all kinds of other worlds, facts, and information contained in the books.  She uses her intelligence to play pranks to get back at her father.

Eventually Matilda ends up at a school run by the cruel and evil Miss Trunchbull, who subjects the children and staff to all manner of abuse and ridicule.  Fed up with the Trunchbull, Matilda's anger leads to a wondrous discovery-she can make things move with the power of her mind!  Matilda uses her powers to drive away the evil Trunchbull, who is replaced by a kind and competent headmaster.  Matilda's parents have to skip town, and Matilda takes advantage of the situation and suggests they leave her to live with her beloved teacher, Miss Honey, to which they readily agree.

I felt like this story was probably the best choice of the three for my niece as it is more contemporary and has a very fun, lively story that celebrates a little, quiet girl with a powerful intellect, and it's a bit shorter.  I like the message of taking responsibility for your own education and not letting anyone hold you back; plus who doesn't like seeing the villain get what they deserve in the end.  And it promotes the public library system, another bonus!  Another reason I chose it is that it has just a bit of fantasy to test the waters to see how she likes it.  Roald Dahl has many more books with all different kinds of characters she can read if she likes this one. 

It is definitely helpful to find series with many installments when you have a voracious reader so you can stay one step ahead of them and keep them supplied with books.  Of course, you have to remember to start looking for a new series as they approach the end of the one they are one.  If it's a series that hasn't concluded yet, then it gives them something to look forward to with excitement as they wait for the next book to come out.  But of course you shouldn't overlook the many one-of gems that are out there, as well.

If you'd like to see what I chose for her older brother the reluctant reader, see my previous post, and if you'd like to see the zombie picture books I choose for her little brothers, see my post on my other blog, Adventures In Storytime.

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