November 17, 2017

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Tears will Be Shed: Heart-Wrenching Novels for Middle Grades │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

An accidental death, a missing grandfather, and an overheard conversation can have an emotional impact on everyone involved. Librarians should have a box of tissues close by for sensitive readers. The following novels selected by the editors at Junior Library Guild are sure to pull heartstrings.

Penderwicks in SpringBIRDSALL, Jeanne. The Penderwicks in Spring. 352p. Knopf. 2015. ISBN 9780375970771. JLG Category: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5-7). LiveBinder Resources

After the death of her beloved dog, the once-youngest Penderwick daughter, Batty, is filled with grief. Though she distracts herself by walking dogs to secretly earn money for voice lessons, an overheard conversation reveals something that plunges Batty into darkness, causing her to lose her voice. Will her heart-heavy secrets forever take her joy?

Dear Hank WilliamsHOLT, Kimberly Willis. Dear Hank Williams. 224p. Henry Holt. 2015. ISBN 9780805080223. JLG Category: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5). LiveBinder Resources

In 1948, Tate selects Hank Williams, a new country western singer, as her pen pal. Through letters she writes to the radio star, readers get glimpses of life in Rippling Creek, LA, where Tate learns to live without her mama and daddy. Just when you think it couldn’t get any sadder, the full truth is finally revealed, and readers will be left wishing they could comfort the fictional heroine.

Curious World of Calpurnia TateKELLY, Jacqueline. The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. 320p. Henry Holt. 2015. ISBN 9780805097443. JLG Category: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6-9). LiveBinder Resources

Calpurnia and her science-driven grandfather are back, but the pressure is on for the young girl to put away her “foolish notions” and act like a “proper” girl. When the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 forces her to share her room with her city cousin, Calpurnia gets a dose of gumption that allows her to get a job worthy of a man and begin to find her place in the world.

Half a manMORPURGO, Michael. Half a Man. illus. by Gemma O’Callaghan. 64p. Candlewick. 2015. ISBN 9780763677473. JLG Category: A : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3-5). LiveBinder Resources

Michael’s grandfather was wounded in the war, leaving him with disfiguring marks on his face. When Michael begins to spend his summers with his grandfather, the young boy is more curious than afraid. Despite his mother’s admonitions that he shouldn’t stare at his grandfather’s scars, the two begin to bond. Michael learns that his grandfather is not “half a man,” but that he is more man than anyone could be.

Footer DavisVAUGHT, Susan. Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy. 240p. Paula Wiseman. 2015. ISBN 9781481422765. JLG Category: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6-9). LiveBinder Resources

After Footer’s mom is sent to the psychiatric ward for shooting a snake with an elephant gun, Footer can’t help but wonder if she’s crazy, too. After all, how could she not know she was eating all the food and sleepwalking at night? Did her mom set the fire or kill Mr. Abrams’s grandkids? Footer and her best friend are determined to solve the mystery and find the killer—even if it might be her mom.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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