brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Another reviewer said this was a book she enjoyed reading in short sessions and then looking forward to coming back to it. Not a gulping kind of book and not much literary tension. No big surprises or red herrings. Just beautiful poetic description of Jacqueline's youth. Such a vivid youth though--rural southern life with grandparents, Brooklyn NY with mother and three siblings, and the added interest of being a serious Jehovah's Witness. I really really liked this. Good for fifth grade memoir study. 4th+

Dragons at Crumbling Castle and other Tales by Terry Pratchett
With Terry Pratchett's death, this book seems even sweeter. It's a collection of stories he wrote as a young person. Imaginative and funny. The carpet people who set out to find the edge of their world. Or the caveman inventor--"This will change _ as we know it!" and fill in the blank. Loved this. 3rd+ (but just gave it to an eighth grade Pratchett fan.)

Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett
This is really an adult book, but it was recommended by an 8th grader that I trust. It was particularly funny as most of Pratchett's books are. Polly runs away and enlists as a boy in the army of Borogravia which is always fighting a war. There is also a troll, a vampire, an "Igor" and three other odd boys. Also a sargent who is a famous fighter. Gender politics, religion, war and all kinds of funny stuff. Excellent but really for very mature readers.

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata
Jaden was adopted when he was 9 from eastern Europe. His family loves him but he doesn't feel anything. He hoards food, lights fires, and steals. But he has grown and come up with some coping skills. Then his parents tell him they are going to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby. The story that . follows is a quick read but deeply emotional.Told from Jaden's point of view, this seems very very real. Excellent. 4th+

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Steven is a drummer, a good drummer, and is having a pretty good eighth grade year until his brother Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia. Everything in Steven's life is turned upsidedown. This is obviously a tearjerker, although not really tragic. But the circumstances of each of the family members as well as Steven's friends are presented in realistic and moving writing. Recommended to me by a girl in the bookstore. Thanks whoever you were. Excellent. YA for ?

The Luck Uglies by Paul Durham

a bit slow at the start--maybe the descriptions weren't as strong as Harry Potter for instance, but the ending made up for it. Rye O'Chanter lives in a muddy village with her mother and toddler sister. Ruled by an overbearing Earl Longchance, things drag along until a monstrous Bog Noblin shows up. In the past the Luck Uglies were the only ones to successfully battle the Bog Noblins, but the Earl has hunted them down as criminals. Great characters and complications. 4th+ Very good.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Excellent read although I'm conflicted about putting it in YA for middle school. It's written for adults although the main characters are from 12 to 14. Not any worse than Code Name Verity for war violence. There are just a couple of crude remarks as well as the raping of German women by Russian soldiers. But that is handled discreetly (if that's possible). The story weaves between blind Marie-Laure who lives with her father in Paris and orphan Werner in Germany who is a radio/electronics prodigy. Both must deal with the war happening around them. Their stories converge at the end with courage and human compassion. Not an easy read by any means. 8th+

El Deafo by Cece Bell
This is a graphic novel, realistic memoir of Cece's life in elementary school after she went profoundly deaf from meningitis. The characters are all rabbit children and adults, which takes some getting used to. But the feelings are real and full range of expressions. She is married to Tom Angleberger whose style is so similar. Very Good 4th+

Sammy Keyes and the Kiss Goodbye by Wendelin Van Draanen
Opening with Holly finding Sammy who has been thrown off of a third story fire escape, this is a farewell novel to Sammy Keyes. It's very much a recap and remember story tied together by the search for her attacker. All of the side characters are there. Sergeant Borsch seems to have made the most growth in this series. it's touching. 4th+ Very Good

Curiosity by Gary Blackwood
This is about a chess automaton and the boy who made it work. Historical fiction with references to Edgar allen Poe and PT Barnum. The story doesn't have much momentum. Rufus goes from bad to worse and it drags. but it's about Chess. So...Passable. 4th+