Visit Me at LibraryThing


June 2023

There’s something about the magic of roaming through a small town that makes you want to be a child again. Recently I’ve read through a pile of middle grade chapter books, all set in small towns, and all featuring spunky main characters who have any number of independent adventures. If you’re longing for simpler times, or want to share with your child the joy of a summer without cell phones, texting, video games or TV, then these are the books for you.

The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald

Spend time with J.D. and his older brother Tom, “The Great Brain.” The Great Brain concocts all sorts of schemes to get rich and make his life easier, while J.D. just tries to keep up.

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney

Eben longs to see the world and can’t imagine ever finding anything wonderful in his hometown of Sassafras Springs. When his father promises Eben a trip to Colorado if Eben can find seven wonders at home, Eben is certain that it can’t be done. Nevertheless, he begins his search the very next day…

Ronia, The Robber’s Daughter by Astrid Lindgren

Ronia will inherit her father’s band of robbers someday, if only they can defend themselves from the king’s soldiers and the competing band of robbers who have moved in next door. But Ronia doesn’t want to be a robber, she doesn’t want to fight soldiers, and her best friend is Birk, son of the rival robber chieftain. Magic, family, friendship and woodland adventures make this a tale that’s hard to put down.

Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright

Garnet finds a thimble which brings its own magic to her Wisconsin farm. Could a summer be anything but magical when it brings a new brother, a new barn, some new stories to tell, and of course, a blue ribbon at the fair?


Ludelphia lives in Gee’s Bend, an isolated community of share croppers in rural Alabama. Although her family struggles to make ends meet, Ludelphia finds joy in her stitching and in creating quilts that tell a story. When her mother becomes desperately ill, Ludelphia knows it’s up to her to bring a doctor to Gee’s Bend. Leaving her hometown for the first time in her life, Ludelphia ventures out with only her stitching in her pocket. Determined at first to save her mother, Ludelphia soon realizes that her entire community is in peril, and it’s up to her to save them all.

Unwanteds by Lisa McMann

07th December 2012

This was a fun book, perfect for young fans of  “Harry Potter” style stories. It’s a blend of dystopia survival with magical elements and intrigue. While it’s action packed and suspenseful, it’s not frightening or gruesome, and would be an excellent read-aloud or independent read for grades 4-7.

Hattie’s mom has died, leaving Hattie alone with her gruff, grieving father. After Hattie chops off her braids in a fit of rage, Hattie’s Pa buys her some boy clothes, introduces her as Harley, and trains her to help him as a river man. While she misses her Ma, Hattie begins to find some joy in her strange new life as a river rafting”boy.” When she and her Pa take a dangerous journey down river, Hattie begins to realize that there’s more behind her Pa’s silence than she first thought. Hattie is a strong heroine who will appeal to middle grade girls who love Laura Ingalls and are ready for a more challenging character.

Elsie is a baker’s daughter in 1945 Germany. Her family is somewhat sheltered from the realities of the war by her older sister’s participation in the Nazi Lebensborn (breeding) program, and the attentions of a Nazi official. When a Jewish boy follows Elsie home and asks for shelter, she must decide whether to continue being her family’s daughter, or if she should choose for herself what is right.

In modern day Texas, Reba meets Elsie, now a bakery owner with a daughter of her own. Reba discovers that the seemingly simple task of interviewing Elsie for a newspaper article opens a floodgate of emotions for both herself and Elsie. Together, the two women reveal pieces of their own stories to each other, and find a way to make peace with the past and the present.

Told in alternating points of view from young Elsie and present day Reba, this novel is hard to put down. While not quite as suspenseful as Sarah’s Key, the story is well-written, and the characters struggle with similar issues of right, wrong and what we can and should do about it.

Newer Posts »