READING FICTION (ages 9 -13): A good start to 2019

Yikes! My ‘to read’ list is growing and growing.  I blame the New York Times review. I blame award announcement season. I blame Amazon. I also blame friends who keep saying, ‘you have to read this!’.  I will get through the pile, book by book, but am mostly eager to start with novels ages 9 through 13. I’m really going to try not to buy any new titles for at least 60 days!!!!


IN YOUR SHOES by Donna Gephart

Miles and Amy are two very likeable characters each coping with the trials of middle school, the  strengthening  of family ties and the sorry of death. Miles is an avid bowler (his family owns the local bowling alley in town). Amy lives in a funeral home run by her uncle. She is the new girl in the school, trying to fit in and cope with a disability that requires her to wear special shoes. An enjoyable and rather breezy read.


Alex Gino, author of the book George, has written a great book to help young readers think about differences, about family and about friendships. Jilly’s sister is born deaf and Jilly wants to be the best sister she can be, learning to become an ASL user and doing the right things medically, politically. Jilly engages with a group of friends online and these conversations help her learn more about diversity which grows when she connects with Derek who is a Deaf Black ASL user. This novel is one of my favourites in this list.


All burnt-out teacher, Mr. Zachary Kermit wants to do is retire.  He just needs to stick it out for one more school year. Alas, he has been assigned a group of students – the unteachables – special needs ‘misfits’ that nobody wants to teach, especially Mr. Kermit who’d rather hand out daily worksheets while he does his crossword puzzle. Over the course of the year, these special kids get wiser and Ribbit (the kids name for their teacher) awakens to the challenges of life and teaching and caring. Another funny engaging novel from a terrific author. (Note: I invite educators to read The Troublemakers:  Lessons in freedom from young children at school by Carala Shalaby as a companion to this novel).

NOWHERE BOY by Katherine Marsh

When his father finds a new job,thirteen year old Max and his family have moved to Brussels Belgium. Ahmed a fourteen year old Syrian refugee finds himself stranded in Brussels and ends up hiding in the wine cellar of the house that Max and his family are staying in. Max eventually learns about Ahmed’s plight and is determined to get him to a place of safety. The adventure is a good distraction from the unhappiness that Max feels at home and at school. As the book proceeds the narrative is episodic and cinematic in nature as the two boys plot to defy the odds and struggle to find a hopeful life for a refugee. Highly recommended story of the refugee experience. Note: The graphic book The Unwanted by Don Brown provides is an important companion read to help readers further understand the plight of those Syrians who were forced to flee their country)


Newbery prize winner 2019. An engaging read about a Latino girl and the special people in her life.  Merci is a clever young lady and as a result she receives a scholarhship student at Seaward Pines Academy. Like many young adolescent girls, she tries to find a place of belonging. She is worried about friendships about her grandfather who has Alzheimers and being the best she can be as daughter, grandaughter, friend and student. Great to have a book with Spanish lingo and a caring family. I enjoyed the book but not as much as the Newbery Award committee did. (I prefered Ghost Boys and The Front Desk and Harbor Me)

THE BOOK OF BOY by Catherine Gilbert Murdock

This title was recently given a 2019 Newbery Honor award. The medieval setting and pilgrim quest is filled with mystery and miracles.  I would say however, that the narrative adventure has a strong appeal for particular readers who reading of long ago times, particularly regarding religious quests combined with fantasy adventures.. I would say that The Book of Boy would is particularly deemed for strong  readers. The writing is fantastic and the rich production of the book (woodcut illustrations introducing each chapter, bevelled pages) is striking.

MAX EINSTEIN: THE GENIUS EXPERIMENT by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein

Another adventure from the James Patterson factory. Max Einstein, an orphaned girl, is a genius who is challenged to do some good in the world. Max would certainly become best friends  (rivals?) with Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory. A frenetic plot has her and a group of other genius students solve the solar power problem in the Congo.  This book is for readers who are intrigued with espionage adventures and who connect strongly to the world of science. I am neither and sort of lost interest about 2/3 of the way through andfelt the ending sort of drizzled, because lo and behold there will be a sequel.

FRANTICALLY FANTASTIC by Adam Wallace; illus. James Hart

My friend Jim brought me this amusing chapter book title by Australian author Adam Wallace and artist James Hart. The authors have a popular series (Accidentally Awesome, Blunderingly Brilliant) that tell describe the farcical antics of kids caught in amusing circumstances. The hero of this funny story is challenged to find out who is stealing the chickens from the farm owned by his grandparents.


The bestselling author, Eric Walters has done it again with another terrific book.  Reading fiction can also be like reading nonfiction and with this novel, the author’s extensive research into the life of elephants (and wolly mammoths is evident. An engaging adventure about a girl and her father who run an elephant sanctuary. The plot thickens when a philanthropist enters the picture with a life-changing scheme that is certain to rock the world of biology. Nominated for a Silver Birch award 2018.



WISHTREE by Katherine Applegate

Katherine Applegate’s titles have appeared on several of Dr. Larry Recommends postings and Wishtree is worth mentioning again. And again.

His novel MUST be shared with students. A perfect read aloud for 8 – 11 years olds. A tree talks. The people in the tree’s community makewishes on the tree. A community of animals depend on the tree. A hateful message is carved into the tree. To help students work towards an understanding of what friendship really means, of racism, of Islamophobia, this book is mandatory reading. Thank you for your exquisite writing and heartbreaking narrative. Ms Applegate. Teachers, parents, please, please get this book! (I just bought 6 more copies!)

SHOUT OUT: Larry has a new book!!!

WORD BY WORD by Larry Swartz

101 ways to inspire and engage students by building vocabulary, improving spelling and enriching reading, writing and learning.