Wednesday, March 28, 2012

My Top Chapter Books of All Time (Stand Alones)

Here's a list of some of my favorite stand alone middle grade chapter books.  This list is not exhaustive by any means.  I still have many books in my to be read piles, some of which will undoubtedly become favorites.  But this list gives a glimpse into my reading preferences. Once again these are in no particular order.

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

I've loved this story from the time I first read it.  It personifies friendship for me. I wanted friends like Charlotte and Wilber.
The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby

I really liked the way Kirby merged the stories of Giuseppe, Hannah, and Frederick.  All three main characters were sympathetic and yet very different with very different problems. Giuseppe, who is trying to find a way back to his beloved family, and the magical violin that offers hope but also danger.  Hannah desperately trying to earn money to care for her family receives help from an unexpected source. Frederick bound and determined to be independent, but finds he needs help to complete his automaton.  A well-written, well-plotted, enjoyable debut.
  Fish by Gregory Mone--

The exciting adventure of a resourceful boy who discovers his hidden gift as a fortune-hunting pirate.

I'm not usually a big fan of pirate stories.  I guess I have a hard time seeing pirates as 'good guys' or heroes, but this book I really enjoyed. 

Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

A mermaid haunts Adrianne's dreams . . . is she coming to warn her, save her, or drag her down into the depths of the briny sea forever?

I loved Adrianne as a character, she's feisty, brave, and true to what she knows is right despite the derision of others. See here for a more complete review.

Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt

As a fourteen-year-old who just moved to a new town, with no friends and a louse for an older brother, Doug Swieteck has all the stats stacked against him.

I've heard complaints about how realistic this book is and I admit there are several plot elements that aren't necessary to the story and are in fact hard to believe, but Doug still won me over.  I found myself cheering for him throughout the whole book.

No More Dead Dogs by Gordon Korman

Nobody understands Wallace Wallace. This reluctant school football hero has been suspended from the team for writing an unfavorable book report of Old Shep, My Pal. But Wallace won`t tell a lie-he hated every minute of the book! Why does the dog in every classic novel have to croak at the end? After refusing to do a rewrite, his English teacher, who happens to be directing the school play Old Shep, My Pal, forces him go to the rehearsals as punishment. Although Wallace doesn`t change his mind, he does end up changing the play into a rock-and-roll rendition, complete with Rollerblades and a moped!
This book is just plain funny.  It's fun to watch the chaos Wallace causes by changing the play.  And the effect he has on follow-the-rules-to-the-letter Rachel. Lots of fun.

Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer Holm
It isn′t easy being a pioneer in the state of Washington in 1899, but it′s particularly hard when you are the only girl ever born in the new settlement. With seven older brothers and a love of adventure, May Amelia Jackson just can′t seem to abide her family′s insistence that she behave like a Proper Young Lady. She′s sure she could do better if only there were at least one other girl living along the banks of the Nasel River. And now that Mama′s going to have a baby, maybe there′s hope.
May Amelia has such a unique voice I fell in love with her character almost immediately. Of course I have a soft spot in my heart for feisty heroines who don't wait around for the men/boys to save them. May Amelia fits that definition to a tee.

The Night Fairy by Laura Amy Schlitz

What would happen to a fairy if she lost her wings and could no longer fly? Flory, a young night fairy no taller than an acorn and still becoming accustomed to her wings — wings as beautiful as those of a luna moth — is about to find out. What she discovers is that the world is very big and very dangerous. But Flory is fierce and willing to do whatever it takes to survive. If that means telling others what to do — like Skuggle, a squirrel ruled by his stomach — so be it. Not every creature, however, is as willing to bend to Flory’s demands.
This book is beautifully put together.  The book design and illustrations are gorgeous and the writing is spot on.  I found it delightful to travel with Flory on her journey of discovery and the twist at the end was very fitting.

Touch Blue by Cynthia Lord

Touch Blue and your wish will come true.
"Why take chances?" says eleven-year-old Tess Brooks. "Especially when it's so easy to let the universe know what you want by touching blue or turning around three times or crossing your fingers."
But Tess is coming to know that it's not always that simple.
The state of Maine plans to shut down her island's schoolhouse, which would force Tess's family to move to the mainland--and Tess to leave the only home she has ever known. Fortunately, the islanders have a plan too: increase the numbers of students by having several families take in foster children. So now Tess and her family are taking a chance on Aaron, a thirteen-year-old trumpet player who has been bounced from home to home. And Tess needs a plan of her own--and all the luck she can muster. Will Tess's wish come true or will her luck run out?

I loved Lord's first book, Rules so I was eager to read this one.  It did not disappoint. In fact I found I loved this one even more than the first one. One thing that I especially appreciated was how strong the setting was.  I felt like I could almost feel the ocean breezes.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

In the valley of Fruitless Mountain, a young girl named Minli lives in a ramshackle hut with her parents. In the evenings, her father regales her with old folktales of the Jade Dragon and the Old Man on the Moon, who knows the answers to all of life's questions. Inspired by these stories, Minli sets off on an extraordinary journey to find the Old Man on the Moon to ask him how she can change her family's fortune. She encounters an assorted cast of characters and magical creatures along the way, including a dragon who accompanies her on her quest for the ultimate answer. 

I love this book.  Not only are the illustrations fabulous, but the story is very appealing.  While the story is based on folktales, it holds together beautifully as a unique blending of folktale motifs.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat by Carmen Agra Deedy & Randall Wright

Skilley, an alley cat with an embarrassing secret, longs to escape his hard life dodging fishwives brooms and carriage wheels and trade his damp alley for the warmth of the Cheshire Cheese Inn. When he learns that the innkeeper is looking for a new mouser, Skilley comes up with an audacious scheme to install himself in the famous tavern. Once established in the inn, Skilley strikes a bargain with Pip, the intelligent mouse-resident, and his fellow mice. Skilley protects the mice and the mice in turn give to Skilley the delectable Cheshire cheese of the inn. Thus begins a most unlikely alliance and friendship. The cat and mouse design a plan to restore Maldwyn wounded raven and faithful guard in the service of Queen Victoria to his rightful place in The Tower, but first they must contend with a tyrannical cook, a mouse-despising barmaid, and an evil tomcat named Pinch. Will the famous author suffering from serious writer s block who visits the Cheshire Cheese pub each day be able to help?

I found this book delightful.  I wasn't sure at first because I am not a huge fan of Charles Dickens, but Dickens is a minor character.  The story focuses on Skilley, the cat, and Pip, the mouse.  I appreciated the emphasis on trying to correct mistakes.  There was a lot of wisdom in this story.

Here are some other books that I particularly love.  I just don't have time to summarize them.  
Moccasin Trail by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
A Crooked Kind of Perfect by Linda Urban
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
This Island isn't Big Enough for the Four of Us by Gery Greer and Bob Ruddick
Punished by David Lubar
The Magical Ms. Plum by Bonny Becker
Bobby Vs. Girls (Accidentally) by Lisa Yee
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
A Week in the Woods by Andrew Clements

1 comment:

  1. I have always loved Charlotte's Web! Such a fantastic story. I read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon in October after meeting Grace Lin and hearing her talk. I did a post on it after reading it because I loved it so much! I haven't read the others on your list- so I am excited to have a whole bunch of new books to check out. Yeah! Thanks for sharing!



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