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Great Kids’ Fiction

The EatReadSleep Ten Year Celebration continues!

The beautiful middle grade years! When children can read on their own and have endless hours to fall into a book, soaking up classics and making memories that last a lifetime. These are the books we all remember from our childhood, from Charlotte’s Web to A Wrinkle in Time. They help to form our interior lives, peopling our minds with characters who speak to our deepest selves. Handing a child a good book at this age will mold adults with integrity and imagination.

Here are some treasures from the last ten years of EatReadSleep, arranged very loosely with the youngest in the beginning. Click on the title in the captions for full reviews.

Fortunately, the Milk, by Neil Gaiman. A rollicking, nonsensical, cumulative tale.
The Year of Billy Miller, by Kevin Henkes. A sweet story that is perfect for boys who have just learned to read.
Clementine and the Spring Trip, by Sara Pennypacker. This charming series is along the same lines as Junie B. Jones, but without the sass and with very nice parents.
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventure, by Kate DiCamillo. Everything she writes is gold. This one is fun, with a bit of fantasy. The Tale of Despereaux is about the same age, but has more of a classic readaloud vibe.
The Girl Who Drank the Moon, by Kelly Barnhill. A magical, enthralling story for those who love fairy tales.
Boys of Blur and others by N.D. Wilson. My favorite is the series that starts with 100 Cupboards, which was written before this blog started. Christian kids, especially, should read everything by Nate Wilson.
Counting by 7’s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan. Grief and loss meet genius and love. A complex, multicultural tale for upper elementary and middle school.
Louisiana’s Way Home and others in the series, by Kate DiCamillo. The queen of middle grade fiction.
Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. A difficult story that took the world by storm– and a very kind author.
Booked, and others, by Kwame Alexander. I can’t count how many books I have read by this amazing author, but I can see four solo reviews, and I have his next book on order at the library.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, by Kwame Mbalia. I love it when a local author succeeds, and this affable Raleigh man burst into the national spotlight with this very fun read.
The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley. A heartfelt, absorbing World War II story.


Still to come on EatReadSleep’s Tenth Anniversary posts: Children’s Nonfiction and Books for “Tweens.” There are some gems in there!

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Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson

Boys of BlurCharlie and his mother are back in Florida for the funeral of his step-dad’s high school coach. They are surrounded by fields of sugar cane, and it’s cane-burning time. Charlie finds out that he has a cousin, Cotton, and as the boys run through the fiery fields chasing rabbits, Charlie begins to have hallucinations about evil, undead creatures that smell horrible and bring up all kinds of anger and hatred in the humans they encounter. When Cotton brings Charlie to the sacrificial stone where dead animals are laid, the boys are surprised by Lio, a heroic young man wearing a beat-up helmet and wielding a sword. Strangely, the adults don’t think Charlie is hallucinating, and they seem to know a lot more about the area’s dark history than the boys do. As the evil creatures draw nearer, the townspeople begin to fight and riot for no reason. Cotton is badly hurt, and it’s up to Charlie to save his life by struggling to undo a curse he doesn’t understand.

Wilson draws on the story of Beowulf to craft a modern tale dealing with small-town football, family ties, and the reality of evil. Charlie’s biological father is white, and his step-father is black, and racial diversity is portrayed within one mostly loving group of people. The monsters are called “the Gren,” after Grendel, and the Grens’ mother is the power behind it all. I particularly enjoyed that the wicked mother is tall and thin, whereas the good mom, Mrs. Wisdom, is “soft” and wrinkled. Of course. This story is quite frightening at times, with breathless chase scenes and fantastical places mixing with the swamps of Florida’s sugar-cane area. Gators and Gren, panthers and burial mounds, cypress and sorceresses.

Nate WilsonNathan Wilson has had the sort of classical education that allows him to throw Latin phrases into his heroes’ mouths, and he writes complex books for kids who are good readers. While his prose can be beautifully poetic at times, it is always accessible to his young audience. He is a Christian, and although he doesn’t write “Christian books” (can a book be saved?), he writes with the worldview of good vs. evil and heroic virtues that will resonate with believers. It’s not fashionable these days to say “boy books” and “girl books,” but Wilson writes excellent books for boys. If you’ve been raising your kids on Narnia and Lord of the Rings, here’s your next writer, particularly his “100 Cupboards” series.

A heart-pounding story for courageous kids from nine to fifteen.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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