Friday, May 2, 2014

Cool Summer Read for Middle Grade Girls

Horrible Monster Glared at Them by Oliver Herford
It seems like kids go from Disney to disaster in a matter of seconds in their reading and viewing habits.  Having five daughters and one stepdaughter in the house over the years, I can tell you that's often the case. In schools, once your child reaches a certain age, the teachers start to assign some books with harsh themes and tough plots.  Personal reading habits often go from Bambi and Belle toward fantasy and fairy tales with added spice.  Then as the kids get into high school, it seems like many of the books assigned in class are meant to shock the kids out of complacency. Or rather, provide something so nasty any self-respecting teenager will at least open the book or summon it up on his or her reading device.

Writing classes are the same way.  In a writing class, kids might be asked to write themes on very difficult subjects--violence, war, euthanasia, poverty, pollution, etc.  I am not sure why these topics are taken up in a writing class when the kids are often only reading a few literary books a term.  If  I was an English teacher, I think I'd use the writing assignments to focus more on literature (write about Beowulf rather than biowarfare) and let the social studies teachers assign the current events topics for their papers.  But there are reasons for what goes on no doubt and I leave the classroom teaching up to the pros. 

But I will say that I was happy to publish our middle grade book, Maddie Takes the Ice, because it is a good step in between Disney and disaster.  Maddie faces pressure as she takes on competitive skating and experiences conflicts that all kids seem to face when they start to swap out the Mickey Mouse lamp and the Little Princess bedspread for something cooler.  Maddie is concerned with skating, kid fashion, friends, school work, food, and her brother.  And Maddie is written by real-life figure skater, Nicolette House.

There is little time between Disney and young adult literature so parents and teachers have to move fast.  Before you know it, your child might be reading Somewhere Over the Freaking Rainbow that is described thus: "Jamison is crushing on the new girl next door. Bad news—the neighbors are Somerleds--Amish-type cult-members killing off their own. Worse news—she’s next in line for sacrifice. Jamison will have to rise above the coward he thinks he is to get to the bottom of it all."  

First, as Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. Second, I wonder how the Amish feel about this description?  Third, this author is brilliant and she sells tons of books--so I am jealous.

Anyway, we have Maddie Takes the Ice that has been selected twice now for Americas Battle of the Books literacy program.  Maddie is fun for middle school girls to read and according to those who know the sport, the book provides an accurate view of competitive figure skating--but without man-easting skating trolls, frozen demons from beneath the rink, alien judges who kill off the losing contestants. You can buy Maddie on Amazon, selected bookstores, or from our web site here. We have also placed the book in hundreds of libraries, so if money is tight check there.  If your library does not have Maddie, don't be afraid to suggest a purchase.  Libraries often respond positively to patrons recommending books.  They like to buy books that they know will read and some libraries use patron requests to drive much of their purchasing. You might also suggest that they buy Somewhere Over the Freaking Rainbow so you can read it.

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Horrible Monster image from Library of Congress