In the second part of my Advent season of book recommendations to celebrate Amazon's limited time deal on The Runaway Children of Chennai, I'm looking at Middle-Grade books.
The term 'Middle grade' has been around for a surprisingly long time - since 1967 at least. It refers to the middle grades of a child’s education, roughly ages 8 to 13. It's the age group I love to teach and love to write for. The children are old enough to appreciate difficult topics, great writing and humour; young enough not to be sceptical, dismissive or 'too cool to read'.
Apart from my own books which I would highly recommend :) the following books are some of the best. For adults as well as children.
Wonder by RJ Palacio
This one is right up my street – a book for children with heart! It’s the story of a boy called Auggie who has a severe facial disfigurement. Beginning from Auggie's point of view and expanding to include his classmates, his sister, and others, the story portrays the need for acceptance, kindness and empathy. The same values I have tried to convey in The Runaway Children of Chennai.
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
I only found this one after my daughters were older, so only read it once - to my son. We loved it. It’s the story of a boy who finds a magical toy. It probably wouldn’t pass the PC tests today, but it hasn’t been changed to "First Nation Gender Neutral Person in the Cupboard” -yet!
The Graceful Ghost by Eleanor Dixon
This is the series of books I needed as a child. Between the ages of 5 and 10, I was going to be a ballerina. I had the music, the satin shoes, the tutu and the tights. I just didn’t have the graceful long legs! But Eleanor Dixon did, and still does. She lived the dream and became a ballet dancer, before moving to Greece where she opened a ballet school. Now, back in England, she writes. The Graceful Ghost is a fabulous mix of school, dance and a bit of ghost busting. If you know any children who dance, or any children who don’t dance for that matter, they need to look at Eleanor’s books. I highly recommend them all.
The Falcon’s Malteser by Anthony Horowitz
Better known for his Alex Rider books, Anthony Horowitz is a master story-teller. This particular series includes other take-off titles such as Public Enemy Number Two, and South by South East. They are all very clever, exciting and funny, but this one holds a special place in my heart because of the character Jonny Naples. When we went to Naples a few years ago we livened it up (Naples is a bit grim) by insisting that every time the word 'Naples' was said, somebody had to follow it with 'Jonny Naples'. Small thing, but it was fun and has continued to this day.
Kensuke’s Kingdom by Michael Morpurgo
This is my favourite of the many Morpurgo books. Slightly less traumatic to read, and beautifully written, it tells the story of a boy called Michael who is washed up on an island – Kensuke’s island. Michael Morpurgo was a very memorable speaker at my daughters’ school many years ago. He was truly inspiring and made us all believe that we could write if we had the passion. By the way, Kensuke is pronounced ‘Kenski’ in Japanese.
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