Sunday, January 22, 2017

Our 2016 Staff Middle Grade Book Club Books - Favorites and 2017 Newbery Predictions

While others are talking about and watching the D.C. Women's March, the Presidential Inauguration, the NFL final playoffs, and the many other stories out in the world, I am thinking about the ALA Youth Media Awards right now.  Don't get me wrong, I'm very interested in all those other things as well, but tomorrow the children's literature world is going to be recognized in a very special way, and I can't wait to see what books, authors, and illustrators will be awarded!

This past March, I started a staff middle grade book club at my school.  I wanted to promote teachers as readers and take a look at the wonderful 2016 that were coming our way.  It didn't necessary start as a Mock Newbery Club, but it became one.  Our little club ranged from 3-7, meeting once a month in the media center before school.  We even met one time during the summer at Panera.  We discussed the book using discussion guides if available or just on the fly, took a look at any teacher materials the book had, and talked about how we would use it in our classrooms or what students we would recommend it to.  We teach around theme topics in our ELA curriculum, so we also brainstormed ideas around how they would fit into those themes.  Together, we chose a book for the next month.

Friday we met for the last time before the awards, so we voted on our favorite books of the year. Before I get to those, I wanted to highlight the books we read.  We chose wisely because, honestly, we liked them all!  I'm not sure why we didn't get a picture every time, but we one for most of the books!

MARCH - our first one!
 Wonderful for our 5th grade theme topics of FEAR and COURAGE, EMPATHY, and JOURNEY.  I LOVED reading it aloud during the Global Read Aloud in October.  My students really enjoyed it, and we had lots of great discussion around it.  Beautiful writing and story.

This was another 5 star book for me, and we had a great discussion about it.  Fits under the 5th grade FAMILY and HOME theme topic and the 6th grade LEAVING A LEGACY.  We also talked about the magical realism genre.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook 

This book really touched our hearts.  We fell in love with Perry - he is such an endearing character.  This book would fit perfectly in our EMPATHY and FAMILY and HOME theme units in 5th grade.  It would also fit SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY and LEAVING a LEGACY in 6th grade.  I love REDEMPTION books, so I do a little mini-unit on that in 6th grade, and this would do well there, too. Pair it with Ruby On the Outside by Nora Raleigh Baskin.


We planned to meet at Panera in June to discuss this book, but unfortunately, no one could make it.  DiCamillo's books are all special, though, and this one is no exception.  Even though the story is simple, it's message about love, loss, and friendship are important.


I just finished Some Kind of Courage as read aloud with my 5th graders.  Oh my did they love it! We can't wait to Skype with Dan Gemeinhart on Tuesday!  Our book club loved this title, too.  It's perfect for our FEAR and COURAGE and JOURNEY units in 5th grade!  We liked Summerlost a lot, also.  Theme topics such as FRIENDSHIP , FAMILY, and LEAVING a LEGACY are all covered. 

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

We really enjoyed this quirky story.  We agreed it probably fits best for 3-5 graders.  Our 5th grade theme topics of EMPATHY and DIVERSITY and FAMILY and HOME would fit well with this book.  Lots of great discussions possible about technology, acceptance, diversity, family, cooperation, and more.  There were some tender moments as well as good action.  The kids in my classes who have read it really liked it.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day 
Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

You wouldn't think a book with cancer at the center could be full of adventure and fun, but it is!  Not only did the book club love it, but a group of 6th graders did, too, when they read it during our LEAVING a LEGACY unit.  They wrote wonderful things about the characters.

NOVEMBER (had to skip October, so we chose two in Nov.)
Wolf Hollow 25311520
Wolf Hollow by Lauren Welk and Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

Wolf Hollow is a gorgeous book with the makings of a classic.  One of the book club participants and a 6th grade teacher, Tracy Kleis (the co-leader of our #ReadWalkWater project), is reading it aloud to her 6th graders and said they love it.  It's perfect for our SOCIAL INJUSTICE theme topic.  I listened to Save Me a Seat on audio, which was great.  This book would fit our EMPATHY and DIVERSITY theme topics at the beginning of 5th grade.  There's also a perfect example of the Aha Notice & Note signpost in it when Ravi realizes something very important about himself.

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Some Writer!: The True Story of E.B. White by Melissa Sweet and As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

I am a HUGE fan of E.B. White AND Melissa Sweet, so I am excited to see if this book will win an award tomorrow.  I think it has a great chance to be a Caldecott winner!  I got to meet her at NCTE and have her sign a book. Our club enjoyed it, too.  There have been several kids in my classes that have read As Brave As You and are big fans.  The obvious theme topic it would best fit is FEAR and COURAGE.

JANUARY 2017 (A 4th participant, Sharon, was at bus duty)
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz

Wow!  This is quite a piece of work!  Two of our book club teachers LOVED this story!  I also had a 6th grader read it, and she also loved it.  I read an interesting piece about this book in Elizabeth Bird's Newbery prediction post.  Read it here.  

And now, our top choices....


Wolf Hollow


So let's see what happens tomorrow!!  


  1. Such amazing books! I wish I had a group to read them with. Well, I do, but they're 10.

  2. So many of my new favorites are on this list! One of my students came in at Christmastime with a signed copy of Some Writer for me, and I nearly cried. The Wild Robot and Wolf Hollow are both high on my To Read list!