End of the Year: Middle Grade Book Picks of 2010

Recently, I listed my top picture books for 2010 (click here to read the post).  Just as with the picture book category, there are a lot of great books that fall within the reading level of first grade to sixth to choose from.  I have limited my choices to releases within the 2010 release year.  The books listed below are not in any particular order of preference.  I loved them all because each spoke to me in their own way.  There may have been some better written books out there and even some that will win awards but these were books that I just plain loved - simple as that.

LULU & THE BRONTOSAURUS by Judith Viorst, illustrated by Lane Smith - Lulu wants a brontosaurus for a pet.  Lulu is use to getting her way.  Brontosaurus has other plans.  I found myself laughing as I read this book.  I have used this as a read aloud for first and second graders and have lent out my personal copy to so many children that I have lost count.  If you haven't read Lulu, what are you waiting for.

BINK & GOLLIE by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, illustrated by Tony Fucile - Graphic Novel? Comic Book? Early Reader? Call it what you may but this story of friendship, imagination, and adventure between an unlikely pair is just so fun.  I can't wait for the next Bink & Gollie book. 

GABBY & GATOR by James Burks - This comic-book style story about a friendship between the list making vegetarian (Gabby) and the meat eating, toilet fearing Gator is another fun read that makes you want more.  I need to particularly give this book some love and shout outs since it is only available on-line (Amazon, Borders, Barnes & Noble, etc.). This is local Los Angeles author/illustrator Burks' first book and I am looking forward to more from him. 

THE CLOUD SEARCHERS (AMULET BOOK #3) by Kazu Kibuishi - Emily, Navin, and an unusual crew are in search of a mythical city.  There is adventure, trouble, and a struggle to make the right decisions.  I don't know if I just love Kibuishi's illustrations or the fantastical element of this story or the combination but I will say that there are a lot of fans of this graphic novel series over at my school.  This and the previous two books were a big hit at our Winter Book Fair and the copies in my office are checked out as soon as they are returned.

THE STRANGE CASE OF ORIGAMI YODA by Tom Angleberger - Is the origami Yoda on Dwight's finger really dispensing wise advice or is it all a joke that Dwight is playing?  Follow along as a group of students try to navigate friendship, pop quizzes, and crushes while trying to figure out the answer to the question about Origami Yoda's advice.

This was one of the books I bought in the summer and finally had to buy a second copy because students kept taking it from me before I had a chance to read it.  This is a great book to recommend to kids who are fans of The Diary of a Wimpy Kids Series but need prompting to move to something else.  I was thrilled to hear that there would be a sequel to this book. 

A TALE DARK AND GRIMM by Adam Gidwitz - This debut offering by Gidwitz does the Brothers Grimm proud while offering an interesting re-telling of the story of Hansel and Gretel.  I loved this book and couldn't put it down.  Children who love scary tales will find this book to be just right for them. 

TORTILLA SUN by Jennifer Cervantes - A debut novel that mixes loss, hope, love, friendship, magical realism & homemade tortillas and produces a winner.  I read this aloud to my fourth graders who loved it.  Cervantes' book inspired our first Book Cafe which was a huge success and it sold out at our Winter Book Fair. 

OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon M. Draper - This story of a 10 year old girl with severe Cerebral Palsy who finally discovers her voice moved me deeply and reminded me of why I first went into teaching children with Special Needs so many years ago. As I read the book the first time, I find myself nodding in agreement - I knew and worked with many Melodies. What a powerful story.  I read this to the same class as I did Tortilla Sun and the discussion and thought that the book provoked was phenomenal.  If this book doesn't win an ALA award (Newbery, Schneider Family Award) I just may scream.

ONE CRAZY SUMMER by Rita Williams-Garcia - As much as I loved OUT OF MY MIND and want it to win an award, this is very likely the book that will challenge it for the Newbery.  Delphine and her sisters are sent to stay with their mother in Oakland during the summer of 1968.  The same mother who had walked out on them 7 years earlier.  This book left me feeling sad in some ways.  I think that despite the strong sense of place & history for the story (Oakland, 1968, Civil Rights) the message is timeless.  There are still children that parents have walked out on and children who are still trying to find a connection to those same parents.  But books that move me are often the ones I want to share with others and to read aloud with students.  And this is one of them. 

THE KNEEBONE BOY by Ellen Potter - I love watching an author grow as a writer and to develop his or her craft.  After reading SLOB by Potter in 2009, I really didn't think her next book could be better, but  I was so wrong.  Potter knocks it out of the park with this tale of 3 siblings in search of the mysterious Kneebone Boy but who eventually discover a more powerful truth.  Beautifully written and a personal favorite of the year and worthy of an award.

IT'S RAINING CUPCAKES by Lisa Schroeder -  This book is deceptive.  The title and cover may seem whimsical and light and sure there are recipes for cupcakes, but there is also a powerful little story here.  Isabel's mother decides to open a Cupcake shop but it is Isabel who needs to keep her mother from giving up when a mega-bakery opens nearby.  Isabel must also decide whether to please her mother by entering a cupcake recipe in a Baking Contest or to honor her own creativity and submit a completely different recipe that she has personally created.  Schroeder does an amazing job at capturing the struggles of living in the shadow of others and learning to grow into your own person. 

SPILLING INK: A YOUNG WRITER'S HANDBOOK by Anne Mazer & Ellen Potter - I had a chance to review this book before it was released and to try out the writing exercises with my sixth graders last winter.  I knew the book would be a winner when I read it but I didn't realize how much my reluctant writers would love this book until we started using it with them.  It did more for encouraging them to write then any other thing we tried.  If you are looking for a gift for a teacher in your life, I would highly recommend this one.

Now that I shared my favorite Middle Grade books of 2010, leave me a comment with what books moved you?