Middle Grade Fiction


girlcalledproblemA Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers

Shida is not a child anymore. At thirteen, she is now a young woman and her mother constantly reminds her to conduct herself as one. No more tree climbing and running around alone. Soon she will be ready to marry, if any young man will associate himself with a girl whose name means “problem” and whose family is cursed.

While her widowed mother sinks deeper into depression, the village leaders talk of moving the people to join a nearby community to share resources. Shida is excited. At last, she may have a chance to go to school, to become an educated healer, like the beautiful nurse who comes to her village sometimes.

Everyone struggles to adjust to life in the new village. Many people do not like the idea of girls in school. Shida and her cousins find themselves the target of bullying from adults and students alike. To make matters worse, she is still expected to care for her mother’s crops and cook and clean in addition to her studies.

When crops suddenly fail and illness strikes a small child, the village is thrown into turmoil. Are the ancestors unhappy? Have they cursed the people for moving their village? If they return to their former home, Shida will lose the chance to attend school and help the nurse. In order to stay, she will have to convince everyone that there is another explanation for the terrible problems that seem to plague her people.

 

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Shida and her people are caught between tradition, which dictates that misfortunes are caused by curses from witches or angry ancestors. While Shida strives to be respectful toward the elders, she also seeks alternate rational answers for why bad things happen. Her mother and another widow are sometimes referred to as witches, though neither are.

Violence
A boy pokes and hits the girls with a long stick during school and threatens them. No graphic details.

Drug Content
None.

 

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mingvaseThe Scratch on the Ming Vase by Caroline Stellings
Second Story Press

Fourteen year-old Nicki Haddon arrives in Canada, ready to begin her training at the Fire Dragon Academy. But when she reports to the academy to meet kung fu master David Kahana, Nicki finds him lying in a pool of blood. He is only able to slur out a few words and begs Nicki to find a priceless vase and return it to its owner.

The search for the Chinese vase causes Nicki to question her past. She wrestles with the absence of her wealthy adopted parents as they manage their hotel chain, and her origin as an abandoned baby from a Chinese orphanage. Are her real parents still out there? Do they think of her at all?

Bravely facing danger and following sharp instincts, Nicki pursues Kahana’s attacker and the Ming vase. She gives her Chinese name so that her adopted name is not recognized. She lies in order to get a job and gain access to restricted files. She doesn’t appear to have any qualms about these actions. Along the way, she receives help from the butler, another Chinese family and the generous owners of a small deli. Together, they will find the vase and return it to its owner, as Master Kahana has asked.

Language Content
None.

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violence
Nicki is the first to find her teacher after he has been stabbed. In several altercations, Nicki uses martial arts to disable her attackers. She handles a gun that a kidnapper produces, but does not fire. No gory details are given.

Drug Content
None.

Lucy's Tricks and Treats by Ilene Cooper

Lucy’s Tricks and Treats by Ilene Cooper

Bobby and his friends are excited about Halloween, and this year holds a special surprise: a pirate costume for Bobby’s dog, Lucy. But Lucy’s special treat isn’t the only surprise. Every time Bobby tries to talk to Jack, the new boy in his class at school, Jack seems to ignore him. Bobby, a shy kid himself, wants to give the other boy a chance to open up, but sometimes it seems like Jack’s problem is a lot more than shyness. When Lucy’s costume mysteriously disappears, Bobby can’t help wondering if Jack might be the culprit. It’s up to Lucy to find the costume and save Halloween!

Lucy’s Tricks and Treats is a fun read packed with quick-witted dialogue and the warm friendship between a boy and his adorable, if mischievous, dog. The story is a tribute to how a relationship with a pet can inspire greater empathy toward others. A charming story, great for younger readers. Recommended.

Language Content
none

Sexual Content
none

Spiritual Content
The story takes place around the time of Halloween and references some Trick-or-Treat activities. Might be a concern if your family chooses not to participate in this holiday.

Violence
none

Drug Content
none

Once Upon a MarigoldChristian is a young inventor living in the forest with his foster father, a troll named Ed. Life is pretty sweet until the day Christian discovers the lonely Princess Marigold and decides to send her a message via carrier pidgeon (p-mail). To Christian’s surprise, the princess replies to his message and the two become best friends.

But when Christian uncovers a vicious plot to kill Marigold, he can’t sit by and do nothing. But how can a commoner do anything to save the princess?

Once Upon a Marigold is a spunky, cute fairytale type story about having courage to do what’s right to protect the people important to you and the meaning of true friendship.

The sequel, Twice Upon a Marigold, releases in April 2009.

Language
None

Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The princess is under a curse of uncertain origin: when someone touches her, she knows their thoughts. She and Christian briefly discuss their astrological signs, and the fact that they share the same sign is viewed as a confirmation of their relationship.

Violent Content
A flying machine crashes, causing some minor injuries. A character is struck with an arrow that must be removed. Nothing graphic.

Drug Content
None

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of DarknessAfter escaping from one of the fiersome Fangs of Dang, Janner, Tink and Leeli Igiby and their loyal dog Nugget find their troubles are only beginning. As the Fangs’ search for the lost jewels of Anniera intensifies, the Igiby family only seems to fall deeper into the center of the conflict. Janner can’t let go of the mystery that surrounds his father. Why won’t anyone speak of him? And why does the strange recluse, Peet the Sock Man, seem to be protecting them?

Peterson’s style is both off-beat and uplifting, humorous and tender. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first book in the Wingfeather Saga. I’m stingy about buying books, but I think my shelf will see this whole series.

Language
None

Sexual Content
None

Spiritual Content
The characters often refer to the Maker, their creator.

Violent Content
One of the Fangs of Dang (a tall lizard-like creature that walks upright) attacks the children. The Fang army swarms the village where the Igibys live, causing injuries to the people. Descriptions aren’t very graphic.

Drug Content
None

They say it takes a town to raise a child. Or in this case, a graveyard.

After his family are murdered by a stranger named Jack, a toddler escapes to a graveyard where he is adopted by a pair of ghosts who name him Nobody. A vampire speaks up as Bod’s guardian, eventually sharing this responsibility with a werewolf.  Bod befriends other ghost children and even a witch buried on unconsecrated ground near the graveyard. But the mysterious man who murdered his family still seeks him and intends to finish the task he set out to do the night Bod came to live in the graveyard. Bod and his friends must find out who this man is and why he is determined to kill Bod before it’s too late.

Neil Gaiman recently received the Newberry medal for The Graveyard Book and has also been nominated for the Hugo award. The characters are well-crafted, memorable and endearing, but the story is very dark. The book trailer above shows some of the illustrations found in the book.The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Language
None

Sexual Content
None

Spiritual Content
Ghosts, ghouls, a vampire, werewolf, and a witch are included in the story’s cast of characters and save Bod from harm. Bod literally lives among the crypts and tombs of the graveyard and spends most of his life among the dead (and undead?).

Violence
The story opens after a man has murdered Bod’s parents and sibling. While the murders themselves are not graphically described, the killer is cold, complacent about their deaths, even the death of the other child. He intends to kill Bod as well, though he is only six months old at the time. While not graphic, the nature of those intentions seemed harsh to me.

Drug Content
None

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