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April 18, 2011 / Angela Sylvia

What I’m Reading: Middle-Grade Literature

This week I got into two middle-grade novels, both suggested by Anita Silvey on her website, Children’s Book-A-Day Almanac.  

The first I read was Love That Dog by Sharon Creech. From the point of view of a boy named Jack, this book is a love letter to poetry as Jack learns to write poems in Miss Stretchberry’s class. The book is written entirely in free verse, and at 86 pages it took me under an hour to read. One of the things I found absolutely delightful was the references to poems I love:

I don’t understand
the poem about
the red wheelbarrow
and the white chickens
and why so much
depends upon
them.

And later:

Maybe the wheelbarrow poet
was just
making a picture
with words
and
someone else–
like maybe his teacher–
typed it up
and then people thought
it was a poem
because
it looked like one
typed up like that.

But Love That Dog doesn’t just focus on poetry; true to it’s title, it’s also a book about a boy who loved his dog. Early on we know that something bad had happened, as Jack writes “Yes, I used to have a pet. / I don’t want to write about it.” But, it’s actually a happy memory that almost had me crying straight away, when Jack and his dad get his dog Sky from the animal shelter:

And in the car
he put his head
against my chest
and wrapped his paws
around my arm
as if he were saying
Thank you thank you thank you.

Love That Dog was a fantastic read, and quick enough that you can finish it before having to leave the library. But if you love animals, please listen and bring a box of tissues. I’m keeping my eye out for the sequel, Hate That Cat.

Another touching story was Rules by Cynthia Lord. This book followed Catherine, a twelve-year-old girl with an autistic little brother. Even without having dealt with a disabled sibling, I understood the character’s need to be normal, to not have people think things when they looked at her; to find acceptance and not have people realize how strange and different she really is. Rules also reminded me why I still love children’s literature: because actually, things don’t really change. Like when she’s trying to have a conversation with her new friend Kristi, and feels she can’t stop talking: “Soon as I say it, I wish I could stuff the words back into my mouth…Oh shut up, I tell my tongue.” I still don’t seem to have any control over how much I blather on, so I felt her pain.

This week I’ll start reading One True Thing by Anna Quindlen for my MFA, and continue to pick away at A Game of Thrones. Maybe I’ll even start to chip away at the stack of books I already have.

What have you read? And what’s in your pile?

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4 Comments

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  1. Erica / Apr 19 2011 12:20 pm

    Hey. I remember reading “Where the Siewalk Ends” by Shel Silverstein(?) and the drawings were always so spooky and the poems were dark but it was children’s literature. I still love that work to this day.

    Right now I am reading Breath of Angel by Karyn Henley. It is teen/fantasy about angels, gnomes, and cute but bad boys. Next I will be reading Son of Perdition by Wendy Alec, but may read something before then…I have a tall pile :)

    • Angela Eastman / Apr 19 2011 7:52 pm

      The Shel Silverstein book that weirded me out the most was The Giving Tree. But his poems are fun.

      Angels and gnomes together? That seems an odd mix.

  2. Erica / Apr 20 2011 11:46 am

    Actually they weren’t called gnomes, but they look like gnomes based on the author’s description of the short, stout angels. :)

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