Posted in Book Reviews, Elementary School, Middle Grade

Books for Birthdays: Part 2 of 3

Reposted from

This two-part series has now become three parts! Today’s installment: books that make great gifts for kids in 3rd through 6th grades. Later this week: books you can give teens that might tempt them away from their phones.

Third & Fourth Graders (8 to 10 years old)

Kristy’s Great Idea: The Baby-Sitter’s Club Graphic Novel Edition (Martin/Telgemeier): This classic series has been reissued in graphic novel form, and it’s a total success! My niece read all of these in third grade; the new versions are as big a hit with kids now as the originals were when I was growing up.IMG_2801

Drama and Smile (Telgemeier): Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels are a great match for all ages, starting in third grade and through middle school. Reluctant and confident readers alike will gravitate to her unflinching (but entirely appropriate) descriptions of sisterhood and teenage life. I’d suggest buying both titles – once your recipient finishes one book, she’ll definitely be ready for the next!

Spirit Animals: Wild Born (Mull): Combining magic and animals, this novel (first in a series) is a great choice for fans of Percy Jackson and Harry Potter. Readers will easily engage with Mull’s magical world and be delighted by the magical, mysterious adventures faced by Conor and his new friends; the story’s quick pace will keep them turning pages. (Full disclosure: apparently there’s an interactive, online component to this series, but I haven’t explored it!)

Nick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab (Pflugfelder): Two twins on a top secret mission. Actual science experiments. Cool illustrations. See my mini-review posted last week for more details.

Fifth & Sixth Graders (10 to 12 years old)

The Thing About Luck (Kadohata): The simple text of this story about entering adolescence conveys a nuanced, thoughtful world view. Children will appreciate the author’s realistic portrayal of family life, and adults will value her positive depiction of family, responsibility, and the challenges of growing up. On a side note, I appreciated the author’s detailed (but not dull) descriptions of modern farm life and the effort it takes to produce the food that we eat.
There Will Be Bears (Gebhart): This heartwarming, funny, and slightly sarcastic story follows Tyson as he attempts to navigate an ever-changing world, which becomes especially difficult when his beloved Gramps has to move into a nursing home. Gebhart deals with the power of intergenerational bonds and deftly explores the theme of aging (both into adolescence and becoming elderly) in this accessible chapter book.

Rhyme Schemer (Holt): Holt’s main character is the school bully and poetry bandit; in this novel written in verse, she explores the hidden depths of a middle school student whose outward hostility directly mirrors his struggle for attention and connection at home. A great read for poets and rebels alike! (See my longer review for more details.)

Brown Girl Dreaming (Woodson): Told in riveting verse, this is Jacqueline Woodson’s “long, long story” of growing up black (or brown, as the title suggests) in 1960s America. Dealing unflinchingly and beautifully with issues of race, equality, and identity, Woodson’s autobiographical novel offers a powerful insight into American history and its effect(s) on families and individuals. This modern classic belongs on every bookshelf.



Texan, teacher, writer, reader: that’s me in a nutshell. Originally from Texas, I now live in London with my husband (he’s a Brit) and our two boys. I spend my time devouring books (especially young adult/middle grade fiction), baking cookies and generally going in ten directions at once. More than a decade ago, I moved to London for a teaching job, met my husband, stayed, and started a family. The last few years have been a whirlwind: in 2013, we moved to Austin, TX and I decided to stay at home with our son; in 2014, we bought and renovated a house in South Austin; in 2015, we welcomed our second son at a local birth center...and in 2016, we packed up and moved back to London! 2017 is set to see more changes as our eldest little starts school and I head back to the classroom. Read on for renovation info, book reviews, creative writing posts, and the general flotsam and jetsam of my life.

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