2013 Finalists: Middle Grade Fiction

Chris Grabenstein
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Melissa Fox
When a book is compared to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Night at the Museum, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and The Westing Game, you know you have something very intriguing in your hands.  A quirky benefactor invites 12 kids to spend the night in a new library. While there, they have to solve puzzles that involve famous literary characters both classic and contemporary. They also have to learn to work together. My avid readers have loved this book because of the mystery, the challenges, and the allusions to other books.  One even recently told me he needed to read it again to try and figure out more of the puzzles.  It also inspired him to read some of the other books mentioned in this book.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond

Alan Gratz; Based on a true story by Ruth and Jack Gruener
Nominated by: Becky L.
Yanek Gruener lives in Krakow, Poland when the Germans invade in 1940.  After spending two years in the Krakow ghetto as conditions continually worsen, he is taken to his first camp.  There he meets the only member of his family yet living, his uncle Moshe.  Yet after his uncle is killed, Yanek is forced to find the will to survive within himself, with no help from anyone else.  As he struggles to survive the most horrid conditions, he somehow he holds on to a smidgen of hope that someday the war will end.  But will it all be too much?The plainness of the telling here makes this a powerfully emotional read.  Gratz has captured the spirit and strength of a young man who struggles to survive despite having lost everything.  The author’s note at the end explains that while this is based on someone’s personal experiences, it has been fictionalized to provide a more complete picture of the Holocaust.

Heidi Grange, GeoLibrarian

Ann E. Burg

Nominated by: Svale

When I’m looking to get deep into a good story, free verse isn’t the first format that comes to my mind. Serafina’s Promise is a novel in verse, and though it seems non-traditional, the scarcity of words is accessible to readers of all interest and ability-levels.Serafina’s story made me realize how very different the life of a young girl living in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, is from mine or my children’s. Of course I knew that, but Serafina’s hope in the midst of her daily trials inspired me: her longing to go to school, something that might not even be possible for her that we all take for granted, her loss of a baby brother who failed to thrive, her concern for a friend who lost her mother, and in the midst of it all, her perseverance. She talks so much about being hungry, a feeling my children only think they feel when they have to wait an hour for dinner. Her circumstances were sad, and when tragedy heaped upon tragedy, I was on the verge of tears, which doesn’t often happen to me when I’m reading. But Serafina is a strong heroine, full of hope, who isn’t defined by her circumstances.

Jennifer Donovan, 5 Minutes for Books

Greg Pincus
Arthur A Levine

Nominated by: Mike Jung

Gregory’s family loves math, and they think Gregory does too, due to one of the many fibs he tells them. Instead Gregory loves to write and the only person who knows is his best friend, Kelly. He and Kelly want to go to Author’s Camp for the summer, but Gregory knows he can’t ask his parents unless he passes math. So he decides to enter the Citywide math contest that his dad and brother have previously won. But as Gregory gets in over his head, the number of fibs he tells to make everyone happy goes up. Filled with a variety of relationships (parents/children, brothers/sisters, friends/friends and teachers/students) The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. is a great book for kids to experience. Not everything is tied up into a neat bow at the end, with the ending real and true to itself.
Jennifer Rumberger, Jennifer Rumberger
David Carroll
Scholastic Canada
Publisher/ Author Submission
Quinn is a thirteen year old boy competing as the youngest-ever participant in a 100-mile, 24-hour ultra marathon. The race will take him on a physically and spiritually exhausting run into the forest and up a mountain. It was a race he was going to do with his father, but now it is just Quinn who represents the father-son duo.
A coming of age, sport and survival story, Ultra is a multi-layered novel with that magical blend of literay merit and wide appeal that makes this one for the shortlist. Without leaving the reader confused, the author skillfully weaves sections of interviews following the race, flashbacks to a time when the family of three was a family of four, and of the race itself. You want to know the outcome of the race, you want to know what happened to the father, where he is, and you look forward to the interactions between Quinn, his mother, best friend and little brother at each of the rest stops. You want to know what happens with other characters he meets in the race. And through it all you care because Quinn is a good kid with a serious load he is carrying up that mountain. It all comes together in a novel that is a smooth, compelling read for a wide range of ages and reading interests.
Deb Marshall, Reading and Writing for Children and Teens http://www.debamarshall.com/