Welcome to this middle-grade edition of my Christmas recommendations list. If you missed my picture book post, you can find it here. The middle-grade market is particularly exciting at the moment, with a lot of author success stories – as you’ll see below – and there are a lot of others who could’ve made this list: Jaclyn Moriarty, Sally Rippin, Kelly Gardiner and A.L Tait. That’s just the beginning! It’s what makes curating so hard!
Here’s what I’ve put together, a mix of fiction and nonfiction.
The Magic Bookshop by Natalie Jane Prior, illustrated by Cheryl Orsini is a perfect example of what I mentioned above. It’s not really a picture book and a little something more than an early reader. It’s three connected short stories in one so might be a good choice for reluctant or struggling readers who are up for a challenge that’s a bit different and there are natural places to pause in the story if required. Riley picked this up straight away in a pile of books I brought home from the library, so it certainly has proven appeal for 12-year-olds! I love the setting because I think bookshops are magical.
If you have an Anne of Green Gables fan in your life (or are one yourself – as I am!) then take a look at House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg, illustrated by Julie Morstad. I came across it in a bookstore and became enchanted with the illustrations and the way Montgomery’s rather difficult life was told in a direct, honest, but age-appropriate, manner. Most of the material is drawn from Montgomery’s own diaries and I think this will be great for children who might be learning about, or living with, personal struggles and glean some insight.
These next two books might already be featured on wish-lists around the country: Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney. Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow is the sequel to last year’s blockbuster Nevermoor (which had a place on last year’s list) and Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown, the thirteenth in the Wimpy Kid series. Here’s a video of Kinney talking about it.
Famed critic and author Clive James wrote in 2016, “David Hockney, I have always thought, is running his own airline, on which one may book a flight to a better world” in his Guardian review of the adult version of A History of Pictures and now we have a junior version: A History of Pictures for Children by David Hockney and Martin Gayford, illustrated by Rose Blake. The vision we get of a better world may come through the art world and we get a glimpse of that laid out in this vibrant and loving examination of its past. A starred Kirkus review states it’s “A brilliant, knockout collaboration—one that will continue to excite, provoke, and engage kids and their grown-ups” and you can see a lovely selection of illustrations from the book in this sliding gallery on the publisher’s website.