Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Mary’s Great Middle Grade Reads

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On January - 28 - 2013

Hello Teen Writers Block readers! Today I want to share with you a couple of great middle grade books I read this month.

Gustav Gloom 102x150 Mary’s Great Middle Grade ReadsFirst, I was lucky enough to stumble upon Gustav Gloom and the People Taker by Adam-Troy Castro. It’s the first in a planned series, but never fear, it stands alone as a great read. Although Gustav Gloom is the title character, the real star of the book is Fernie, a plucky, scary-story loving ten-year-old who moves in across the street from Gustav Gloom’s weird, cloud-enshrouded house. She’s joined by her equally cool twelve-year-old sister and her hilariously cautious father. I couldn’t stop laughing at all the funny ways Dad had supposedly tried to keep the girls safe from imagined dangers. After noticing her cat’s shadow run off into the mysterious Gloom house, leaving the cat behind, Fernie is quickly moved to follow, and the adventure begins. The most amazing thing about this book is that it’s a fantastic adventure story all set inside a single house. This works perfectly because the house is much bigger inside than out and filled will all sorts of wonders and dangers. Gustav, the boy who lives among the weirdness, is an interesting, sympathetic character. Most importantly, there are plenty of laughs thrown in along the way. I’m so glad I came across this book and I highly recommend it!

The Mostly True Story of Jack 103x150 Mary’s Great Middle Grade ReadsSecond, I finally got around to reading my copy of The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill. Wow, is this book right up my alley! It has a slow-building mystery, ominous and subtle magic, and a cast of unique but relatable characters. I recommend skipping the publisher’s book description, because it really does a terrible job of reflecting the book’s coolness. In the beginning, Jack’s mother drops him off at his aunt and uncle’s house to spend some time while his parents work out their divorce. But it quickly becomes apparent that everything is not right. Jack’s mother seems to have a hard time remembering him. He tries calling both parents, but his calls never go through. His letters mysteriously erase themselves. There are two weirdly sentient and protective cats and a book that talks about magic that couldn’t possibly be true, could it? Then there are the twins down the street, the silent and scarred Frankie with a mysterious past and his plucky sister Wendy, who will do anything to protect him. The writing is fantastic and the artfully layered story comes together in a unique way. This is for fantasy fans who are looking for something deeper than a wham-bang action extravaganza, and I loved it!

Well, it looks like I got lucky with my picks this month. How’d you do?

Cover Images: Gustav Gloom—Penguin, The Mostly True Story of Jack—Little, Brown

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