Shaunta Grimes’ Center of Gravity (2020) is steeped with references to 1980s culture and aesthetics. Tessa, the novels twelve-year-old protagonist, is losing everything: her mother, her best friend, even her home in Colorado. She’s also gaining things shCenter of Gravity Chapter 1e doesn’t want: a twenty-three-year-old stepmom who is pregnant and a beach house in California. Her pre-existing anxiety is amplified amidst all the uncertainty and change.
Once in California Tessa bonds with some local boys with trouble of heir own. This helps put her own in perspective as she slowly begins to process the changes in her life that she has no control over.
Center of Gravity is a beautifully written middle-grade novel. The themes explored, including parental loss and child abuse, are expressed though the perspective of pre-teens whose lives are tethered to those of adults in their lives. This allows for critical reflection on adult-child relationships and constraints on youth agency.
Check-out Center of Gravity Chapter 1 (attached) and click here to purchase your copy today!
I love Carlos Hernandez’s Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (2019). It is a roller-coaster ride of a sci-fi adventure featuring amazing characters who are all exceptionally kind and utterly quirky. Sal, a young magician, has just moved to Miami with his dad and stepmom. He’s enrolled in a school for talented youth where he ends up spending more time in the principal’s office than the classroom. Readers learn pretty early that Sal is able to transport objects, including iterations of his deceased mother, from one dimension to another. His father is a scientist trying to figure the whole thing out. Although the science is never detailed it’s present throughout.
Anne Ursu’s The Lost Girl (2019) is a haunting middle-grade novel that dabbles in the fantastic, but it is real-world drama that drives the story-line. The novel is about two twin sisters, Iris and Lark, who mirror each other physically while having distinct personalities. The twins live with their mother and father, but (as is requisite for middle-grade fiction) the father is absent. He is in London on a six-month long business trip and is only introduced in the text through Skype. The story is really about the girls’ relationship with each other and their discovery of their uniqueness through a forced separation at school. The two had always been in the same class but start the new school year with separate teachers. This does allow them to experience individual challenges while learning that they can have separate experiences and still share a deep bond. Continue reading
Lindsay Lackey’s All the Impossible Things (2019) swept me away like a discarded paper bag on a windy day. It’s a beautiful story that is skillfully written and carefully paced with brave characters who love each other the best they can. I enjoyed it immensely and think you will as well.
At the center of the story is twelve-year-old Ruby “Red” Byrd. Red is in foster care after losing her grandmother to cancer and her mother to addiction. Reuniting with her incarcerated mother is a hope that lingers throughout the text, as do reminders of her relationship with her grandmother. This is a little girl who has known fierce love, even if the two women who loved her ultimately couldn’t care for her. Continue reading
One of the best things about book blogging is having access to Advanced Reader Copies of amazing books through NetGalley and, more directly, from authors and publishers. I am currently reading two amazing books for middle-grade readers, but I think both will be enjoyed by audiences 12 and up.
The first, Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky will spark curiosity and excitement about African and African American folklore. It needs to be in every 6th grade+ classroom.
Tristan is a well developed complex character who young readers are sure to admire. He is brave even when he is scared and loyal even when he is annoyed. Mbalia’s descriptions of settings and artifacts are cinematic. I’m a reader and rarely think a book must be made into a film but this book must be made into a film. I want to see this movie. I want to see Tristan and Gum Baby and Brer Rabbit.
The second, Lindsay Lackey’s All the Impossible Things, uses subtle doses of magical realism to allow readers to access the protagonist, Red’s, inner thoughts. Red’s mom is in prison and she is bouncing around from foster home to foster home… so far. I’m only a few chapters in but felt compelled to declare my love!!
More on these books soon!