The 2015 Middle Grade Fiction Finalists

Blackbird Fly
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Greenwillow Books
Nominated by: bevpdx

Middle school ain’t easy. Just ask Apple Yengko, who learns that it’s hard being different in a sea full of many who are the same. She just wants to be a rock star and play her heart out but with her traditional Filipina mother wanting Apple to make her sole focus on school, let’s just say becoming the next George Harrison isn’t on her to-do list.

Apple’s story is one readers will relate to, sympathetize with and root for as it unveils the ugly side of school bullying but in a thought provoking way. You will not walk away from this book without feeling something, learning something and for that I’d recommend it to not only it’s intended audience but for younger and older book enthusiasts alike.

Libertad Araceli Thomas, Twinja Book Reviews

Book Scavenger
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
Henry Holt
Nominated by: sprite

Book Scavenger is a delight for readers who love a good mystery with references to other books and adventures. Garrison Griswold, a Willy Monkish character, has created an online game called Book Scavenger where players hide books all around the country and clues to those books on the website. When Emily moves to San Francisco she is thrilled to be in the same city as Griswold. But when Griswold is attacked on his way to revealing a new game, Emily and her friend James find themselves in a position to discover the new game for themselves. But the clock is ticking because the people who attacked Griswold may be after Emily and James. This book was a fun romp filled with ciphers, codes, friendship,mystery, and literary allusions galore. For fans of Escape from Mr. Limoncello’s Library, this book is sure to please. Check out the website for clues to real books hidden across the United States.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond

Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
by Susan Vaught
Simon & Schuster
Nominated by: Laurie Ann Thompson

When Fontana “Footer” Davis’s mother shoots a snake with an elephant gun and is sent away to a psychiatric hospital for Bipolar disorder, Footer’s life begins to unravel. Her neighbor’s farm burned down nine days ago. Mr. Abrams was shot and killed. His grandchildren Cissy and Doc were assumed dead in the fire, and Footer suspects that her mom might have something to do with it.

Footer teams up with her best friend, Peavine, and his sister, Angel to discover what really happened. The more she learns about the fire, the more she begins to have visions. She can smell the smoke & can see the gun. Could she have been there that night or is she going crazy like her mom? Written by author and practicing psychiatrist Susan Vaught, this page turning story explores friendship and what it is like to have a loved one with Bipolar Disorder.

Pamela Groseclose, Tween You & Me

Listen, Slowly
by Thanhha Lai
Nominated by: Mikaela

Mai’s plans for the summer involve the beach and her friends. They do not involve taking a trip to Vietnam so her grandmother can have a companion as she searches for information on Mai’s grandfather, who has been missing since the end of the Vietnam War. Mai knows this trip is fruitless. Her one goal is to get it over with as fast as possible and go back to her regularly scheduled life. After all, how much can a person be expected to take of mosquitos, pimple outbreaks, diarrhea caused by swallowing pond water, and not being able to understand the people around her? But as time passes, Mai makes a friend, learns more of the language, discovers the beauty and complexity of her parents’ home country, and learns about her family’s past.

Told in Mai’s snarky, loyal, perfectly middle school voice, Listen Slowly by Thanhha Lai tells a beautiful, vivid tale of family, friendship, and history full of humor and discovery.

Brandy Painter, Random Musings of a Bibliophile

The Blackthorn Key
by Kevin Sands
Nominated by: Melissa Fox

London, 1665. A mysterious cult appears to be killing off the city’s apothecaries. When apprentice Christopher Rowe’s master, Benedict Blackthorn, becomes the latest victim, Christopher sets off to unmask the killers, armed with his master’s final present, a silvery cube etched with mysterious symbols, and the coded message hastily scrawled in his master’s ledger. Christopher must use his wits and his knowledge of potions and powders to solve the clues within. Quick-paced, and mixing humor with hair-raising action, The Blackthorn Key is a satisfying mix of science, history, codes, puzzles and loyal friendships. I couldn’t stop reading this debut by Canadian author, Kevin Sands–and I’m certain middle grade readers will be just as captivated.

Michael Gettel-Gilmartin, Middle Grade Mafioso

Comments 1

  1. I enjoy the books by Susan Vaught very much. Her characters are so real you begin to think you know them personally.

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