Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Okay, Fine! I have two favorite books

By Stephanie Blake

This month on Smack Dab, we're discussing our favorite middle grade books. I already talked about my favorite books from childhood in my first post. Now that I'm a grown-up and a writer, I have a harder time choosing favorites, especially when I have become friends with so many great authors. How can you pick just one book?

Even though I have a soft spot for historical fiction, the books that really stick with me tend to be character-driven in nature. Here are two of my very favorite middle grade novels. For now.

by Sara Pennypacker

Clementine is the sort of book I'll always strive to write. The characters in Clementine's world are wholly original. She has normal parents. Basically, she is just a little girl who can't pay attention. Only Clementine is paying attention. She's just paying attention to things most people don't notice. She has the same experiences as most 3rd graders, but the difference is that everything feels new (and funnier) when Clementine describes it.

From page 22: It is very hard to color hair with a marker, let me tell you. But I did it. I colored all of Margaret's hair chunks with Flaming Sunset, and then another really great idea popped into my head and I drew Flaming Sunset curls all over her forehead and the back of her neck so her hair would look more like mine. It looked beautiful, like a giant tattoo of tangled-up worms.

Neil Armstrong is my Uncle & Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me
by Nan Marino

Ms. Marino really knows how kids operate, and she wrote pretty much the perfect story for 8-12 year olds, both male and female. It's got a moon landing, ice cream trucks, epic kickball, and a big fat liar who just wants to be everyone's friend. Somehow, even though Tamara, the main character, is really the biggest bully on the block, you can't help but feel sorry for her and even like her by the end of the story. You know you are going to love this story from the first paragraph.

From page 1: Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake, and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year old. The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it but me. In the entire town of Massapequa Park, only I see him for what he really is. A phony.

Other favorites:
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
Emma Jean Lazarus Fell out of a Tree by Laurent Tarshis
How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor
The Floating Circus by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer
Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes


  1. Choosing a favorite in MG, or even two? Way too hard! I can't choose a favorite anything (except chocolate for food and green for color). These books sound delightful, and I haven't read either of them. I like the idea of evaluating what it is that makes you love a particular book rather just knowing you do love it. I'll be making a list.

  2. I love love LOVE Emma-Jean Lazarus and How to Steal a Dog, too! I will have to check out some of your other faves...