May 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Not-to-be-Missed 2014 Middle Grade Novels │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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From a new series to a final installment, the following are some of our favorite authors’ not-to-be-missed 2014 hits for middle grade readers. Jack Gantos is back with the conclusion to Joey Pigza’s story. Jennifer Holm introduces a curmudgeon you have to love. Cynthia Kadohata and Naomi Shihab Nye bring to life characters from other countries. A husband and wife team launches a new series about pirates, orphans, and wizards. Kids will find glimpses of themselves in diverse fictional worlds as these A-Listers transport them into these selections from Junior Library Guild editors.

Key that swallowedGANTOS, Jack. The Key That Swallowed Joey Pigza. 160p. Farrar. 2014. ISBN 9780374300838. JLG Level: C+ : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

When Joey’s mother checks herself into the hospital for depression, being “man of the house” takes on a whole new meaning. Between his missing medicine and protecting his baby brother from his baby-snatching-crazed father, Joey really has his hands full. No one can know he’s all alone; they might take him from his family. Between his old girlfriend and his estranged father, things just can’t get worse for him. Or can they?

In Gantos’s fifth (and final) Joey Pigza book, the author has saved the best for last. Full of dark humor and extreme circumstances, the work will have readers cheering Joey on, hoping for a happy ending. Fans can read more about the author on his website, while teachers will find the book’s study guide to be useful. Follow him on Facebook and Tumblr. His publisher has also posted an excerpt.

Current recognition includes: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Booklist Editors’ Choice 2014, Fiction, Middle Readers.

FourteenthHOLM, Jennifer L. The Fourteenth Goldfish. 208p. Random. 2014. ISBN 9780375970641. JLG Level: HIM : High Interest Middle School (Grades 5–8).

The young boy who comes home with Ellie’s mom isn’t just cranky and bossy like her grandfather. He is her grandfather and is attending her middle school. Melvin’s scientific work results in a successful experiment that reverses the aging process. What could be a nightmare becomes a turning point for Ellie—one that directs her to a new path in life.

Holm recently participated in The Global Read Aloud project, reading the last chapter of this work as kids in countries all over the world listened. On her website, readers can watch videos, learn more about her other books, and even discover the answers to burning questions. Random House has posted an educator’s guide, complete with Common Core State Standards tie-ins. Share the book trailer, which features the author discussing her inspiration and motivation for this project.

Current recognition includes: Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12; Booklist Lasting Connections 2014, Science: New York Public Library, 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2014, Stories for Older Readers; ALA Notable Books for Children 2015, Middle Readers; VOYA Top Shelf Fiction for Middle School Readers 2014.

Half a WorldKADOHATA, Cynthia. Half a World Away. 240p. S. & S./Atheneum. 2014. ISBN 9781442412750. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

Jaden, a troubled Romanian adoptee, knows he’ll hate the Kazakh baby his parents plan to adopt. But the family’s trip to Kazakhstan—and the adoption—is full of surprises.

A visit to Kadohata’s website reveals information about other books, as well frequently asked questions. Simon & Schuster has posted an excerpt from Chapter One. Educators who want to know more about the burdens that Romanian orphans may carry can read a recent Washington Post article or listen to the effects of neglect on a child at NPR. Wonderopolis has a lesson on adoption.

Current recognition includes: Booklist Editors’ Choice 2014, Fiction, Middle Readers; Booklist Top 10 Multicultural Fiction for Youth, 2015.

TurtleNYE, Naomi Shihab. The Turtle of Oman. 320p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. 2014. ISBN 9780062019721. JLG Level: A+ : Intermediate Readers (Grades 3–5).

Aref refuses to pack for the move to the United States. He’s too busy thinking of what he’ll miss in Oman: the turquoise sea, the call to prayer, but most of all, his grandfather, Sidi. It’s just for three years, but to a little boy, it feels like forever.

For kids who want to know more about turtle watching in Oman, the Sultanate of Oman’s website has an article they can listen to and read. Because Nye’s story is a tribute to “home,” ask readers to write what they like best about their home. Suggest ways that they could make newcomers feel welcome at their school or library. Students can use Canva or Haiku Deck to create presentations.

Current recognition includes: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Winner, IRA Notable Books for a Global Society, 2015; 2015 NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children, Recommended Title; ALA Notable Books for Children 2015, Middle Readers.

Map to everywhereRYAN, Carrie and John Parke Davis. The Map to Everywhere. 448p. Little, Brown. 2014. ISBN 9780316240772. JLG Level: ME : Mystery/Adventure Elementary (Grades 2–6).

When a gigantic ship floats by Marrill in an Arizona parking lot, she enters the otherworldly Pirate Stream and meets wizard Ardent and Master Thief Fin.

For fans of The Hero’s Guide to Being an Outlaw (2014) and The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates (2013, both HarperCollins), Ryan and Davis deliver an exciting new adventure series, “The Pirate Stream.” The librarian’s dream is quite fulfilled in the book’s website, which features activity guides, a cast of characters, map facts, and more. Fans will find the authors online in many popular social media. The husband and wife who make up this author team each have their own websites.

Current recognition includes: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Booklist Editors’ Choice 2014, Fiction, Middle Readers.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 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 (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.