Tag Archives: middle grade

The List

The List Book Cover The List
Patricia Forde
Juvenile Fiction
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 1, 2017

Farenheit 451 meets The Giver in this gripping story about the power of words and the dangers of censorship In the city of Ark, speech is constrained to five hundred sanctioned words. Speak outside the approved lexicon and face banishment. The exceptions are the Wordsmith and his apprentice Letta, the keepers and archivists of all language in their post-apocalyptic, neo-medieval world.On the death of her master, Letta is suddenly promoted to Wordsmith, charged with collecting and saving words. But when she uncovers a sinister plan to suppress language and rob Ark's citizens of their power of speech, she realizes that it's up to her to save not only words, but culture itself.



“The List” is a middle grade dystopia with a good premise: words are dangerous and by limiting them you can control how people spread ideas.  The city of Ark has 250 approved words, and it is up to Letta to keep the meanings of the others.  The problem is that the narrative is muddled and slow because so many other issues are tackled but not given any depth.  Everything from religion to the environment to prisoner’s rights are thrown in and it keeps the story from flowing well.  I would stick with “The Giver” when it comes to middle graders.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:


Fire Starters

Fire Starters Book Cover Fire Starters
Jen Storm
December 31, 2016



“Fire Starters” is an excellent book for middle graders about the prejudice facing indigenous peoples.  It’s also a morality tale about taking responsibility for your actions.  Tough subject matter to read, as it should be.  The artwork is great.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Violence, Hate Speech

The Bone Sparrow

The Bone Sparrow Book Cover The Bone Sparrow
Zana Fraillon
November 1, 2016

"Indispensable."-Booklist (starred review)

Subhi is a refugee. He was born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, and the center is the only world he knows. But every night, the faraway whales sing to him, the birds tell him their stories, and the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts. As Subhi grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of the fences that contain him. Until one night, it seems to do just that.

Subhi sees a scruffy girl on the other side of the wire mesh, a girl named Jimmie, who appears with a notebook written by the mother she lost. Unable to read it herself, Jimmie asks Subhi to unravel her family's love songs and tragedies that are penned there.

Subhi and Jimmie might both find comfort-and maybe even freedom-as their tales unfold. But not until each has been braver than ever before and made choices that could change everything.



There are not enough stars to give “The Bone Sparrow.”  Even a thousand would be insufficient.

Subhi, the main character, is a child born inside an Australian detention camp to a Burmese refugee.  The way the story progresses is a work of art, with the reader taking the journey with Subhi as he grows to realize the only world he has ever known is not at all normal or fair.  It’s a painful path to take with him.  There are occasional chapters written in third person about the life of Jimmie, a girl from the outside.  She provides both her own story and a way to see the contrast of what people think goes on and what actually happens inside of the camps.

The book is written for middle graders and does an excellent job of presenting very difficult subjects at an appropriate reading level without sugar-coating any of the horror.  I believe any age group ten and up should read “The Bone Sparrow,” but the fact that children can learn from the lessons contained within it gives me hope for the future of humanity.

Highly recommended.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.


Content Warning:

Violence, Abuse


OCDaniel Book Cover OCDaniel
Wesley King
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
April 12, 2016

A thirteen-year-old boy's life revolves around hiding his obsessive compulsive disorder until a girl at school, who is unkindly nicknamed Psycho Sara, notices him for the first time and he gets a mysterious note that changes everything.



I wish there were more stars to give to “OCDaniel.”  It’s a wonderful and emotional read that I think any middle or high schooler (or adult) will enjoy.

Daniel is 13 years old and has OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), but he doesn’t know what it is.  Written in the first person, he tells how his rituals affect his life and when the first symptoms began.  While OCD is the main subject, Daniel also describes feeling like an inferior sibling and being bullied for other reasons, making it a good look inside the overall hell we know as middle school.  There is a bonus mystery to be solved to add even more reason to keep turning the pages.

I’m going to get personal for a moment.  I have OCD, but it is the result of a bad accident that left me with a traumatic brain injury.  This book had me absolutely sobbing during many of the chapters.  The descriptions of the torment were almost too realistic.  OCD is bad enough as an adult, but to go through it as a kid must be horrible.  I hope those who have it, whether or not they know what it is, are able to find this book.  It has the potential to help many people.

“OCDaniel” is a book I recommend to anyone, even younger children who are able to read at a middle grade level.  It’s a fast read, making it a good choice for reluctant readers.  There are many opportunities for discussion for parents or teachers who wish to read it with their children or class.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.


Content Warning:

Brief Mention of Suicide, Bullying