When we created our wrap-up list of 2012, we of course had trouble keeping it to just ten books. We’re stretching our “best of” capacity by including a list of our top ten middle grade titles of 2012, too. Each of us shared five of our favorites, in no particular order. Enjoy the Top Ten Slatebreaking Middle Grade Books of 2012!
BRIANNA’S TOP 5
Was there any doubt that the two theatre majors who write for Slatebreakers would pick this book for a best of 2012 list? Nope. Of course I’m including this book! It is remarkably accurate in the way it captures the frantic awkwardness of middle school. Anyone who has ever felt more at home in drama club than anywhere else will love this book.
Ok, ok, this isn’t really a middle grade book. It’s more of an “easy reader.” But it’s still one of my favorites of 2012 for younger readers. The Bink and Gollie friendship is one of my favorite contemporary fictional BFF fairs. (They’re the new Anne and Diana!) The “Whack a Duck” story in this book is the funniest thing I read in 2012.
This book is packed with many Slatebreaking characters, all who challenge gender norms in unique ways. Claudette is the ringleader of a band of young misfits, who decide on a whim to take on a giant who terrorizes the land. I so enjoyed how the boys and girls in this book boldly challenged the stereotypes that adults labeled them with. Kid characters have true agency in this book, and that’s refreshing.
Kate Messner is a seriously prolific writer of books for young readers. She published several books in 2012, and I’ve read a few of them. They were all fantastic. My favorite was Eye of the Storm, because it is a futuristic fiction novel that could actually take place in the next 25 years or so. It’s dystopia that feels just close enough to make you believe it’s possible. Eye of the Storm features Jaden, a scientifically talented pre-teen who takes charge of a bad situation. This book is the answer to the prayers of many a teacher who is finding a way to incorporate creativity and imagination into curriculum with an emphasis on STEM.
I simply cannot ignore nonfiction on this “best of” list. There were some wonderfully Slatebreaking biographies published this year. My favorite is this thoughtful book about Temple Grandin and the way in which she sees the world. This book tells the story of Temple’s career in animal science with language that is carefully chosen and very appropriate for young readers. Montgomery also takes care to explain autism spectrum disorders in a way that is accessible to young readers, and she does it without perpetuating any myths about people living with ASD.
SARAH’S TOP 5
This book was on my “want to read” list for ages before it finally came out. I’m from Flint, and I love Christopher Paul Curtis’s earlier books. That he would finally write a book about a girl? Thrilling. Deza Malone had me from the very beginning, and this beautiful cover is one I would want to place on bookshelves everywhere this year.
This is one that I fell in love with right away, just from its tone. It’s a classic gothic horror story, with puppets and witches and magic and orphans. Along with all that, the characters are terrifically well developed, the historical sense of place is perfect and slates are totally broken along the way.
This book, and its predecessor, Princess Academy totally surprised me, in a great way. Rather than books about how great it would be to become a princess, this pair of stories offers a complex take on politics, class dynamics and disenfranchisement, and how a group of girls can take action to change their community for the better. Palace of Stone was a particularly good example of a sequel that can take what was started in the original book and continue it, creating a standalone story that builds and expands on themes, ideas and characters without rehashing them.
Margarita Engle has yet to disappoint me with her beautiful verse novels. This one, about a dyslexic girl in Cuba, struck me for the empathetic way she wrote about both major and minor tragedies, and the richly rendered portrait of its main character.
Another creepy yet fantastic slatebreaking book! With shades of Dahl and Gaiman, yet telling a totally original story, this book offers a terrifying look at what perfection really means, with a strong statement of individuality. Victoria is a Slatebreaking hero to be remembered.