Haunting the Middle-Grade Library Stacks

#2 likes to read Regency romances when stressed.  I like them too, but I can’t read a lot of them in a row.  In the worst of my stress and anxiety, I found myself gravitating to the middle-grade stacks in the local library.  Soothing.  Here are some books:

The Anastasia series by Lois Lowry.  I love these so much!  Anastasia, Absolutely… One of my favorites is Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (hilarious hijinks).  I have read the whole series at least once or twice.  They do have an order, but it’s not important to me.

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda.  The beginning of an adventure series with two kids in peril, based on Hindu mythology.

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough.  A kid learns that not every super-human is a hero, and not all heroes or sidekicks are what they seem.  Happy ending!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman.  Beautiful and also a happy ending.  What happens when people find out that your brother isn’t… like everyone else?

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.  Very pretty and moving graphic novel about family, love, ghosts, and culture.  Read it!

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill.  Another graphic novel for younger kids.  Princesses can do all sorts of active things.

I read all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder when I was young.  Turns out, she kept on writing while I grew up, and I found a bunch of her newer stuff (ca. 2008) on the shelves.  Try finding magic and friendship in The Unseen.

Grumpeteers, do you read any children’s books for comfort?  Which ones?

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31 Responses to “Haunting the Middle-Grade Library Stacks”

  1. Mr. Millionaire Says:

    I turn to the “The Black Cauldron” series, which is known as “The Chronicles of Prydain.”

  2. Hypatia Cade Says:

    I do – I’ve been working my way through some Lois Lowry, Madeline L’Engle, and LM Montgomery. Also, Anne McCaffery B&B series. I’ve either been re-reading romances or reading children’s books since about Nov.

  3. Zenmoo Says:

    Helen Cresswell’s Bagthorpe series is my comfort read. I find the family as hilariously ridiculous now as I did when I was 10.

    • Zenmoo Says:

      And in newer series, I’m very fond of the Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I LOVE THAT SERIES [The Bagthorpes]! We only have one of them and it’s hard to find the rest. I really have a hankering to reread the one where they all decide to sign up for contests. :/

      • Zenmoo Says:

        Ha – that’s Absolute Zero. It’s available as an e-book on IBooks (along with Ordinary Jack). I’ve got another three in hard copy (two of which appear to have come from the middle school library at my school… they’re in such terrible condition I’m pretty sure they were chucked out – although I can’t rule the possibility I nicked them when I left the school!)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        oooh! HEY, if I look for the title instead of the author there’s an ebook available. Not a cheap one, but a gettable one.

        Even though DC1 has shown absolutely no interest in the one Bagthorpe book we do own, I think I should push a little harder at getting more of the series.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Ordinary Jack is SO MUCH BETTER than I remember. I just (re)read the first two chapters and literally laughed out loud so much. It’s got hidden grown-up humor, and I think is better for adults. I suspect DC1 will appreciate Absolute Zero more, but zie liked Ordinary Jack too.

  4. ChrisinNY Says:

    I definitely reread middle school fiction for comfort. I read- Gone Away Lake and Return to Gone Away Lake (Enright); The Diamond in the Window (only the first, the rest of the series was written later/not that good); the first few Trixie Belden mysteries; The Wicked Enchantment (Benary-Isbert) every year before Easter); Harry Potter series; Edward Eager books especially The Time Garden; Tom’s Midnight Garden; The Greeen Knowe series (e.g. Children of Green Knowe, etc.); Swallows and Amazons (and some of the sequels); From the Mixed up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think my parents gave my entire set of Trixie Beldens away. :/ But to a rural school library so in theory more kids are getting to read them.

      You have great taste! DC1’s bookshelf has Edward Eager, Tom’s midnight garden, Green Knowe, Swallows and Amazons (which zie hasn’t been able to get into– I have a TON of books from my childhood with the “children get away from their parents and fend for themselves” themes and zie just isn’t into any of them) and lots of Koningsburg. (Also Enright and Harry Potter but those aren’t particularly obscure). I have not seen the diamond in the window or the wicked enchantment, but I will have to look it up.

      • accm Says:

        Loved Swallows and Amazons but I don’t know how to deal with the problematic “native” stuff (so I don’t give it as a gift to the kids of friends. And I’m having plenty of trouble reading LIW and Pippi aloud these days). The Bagthorpes were great; I’ll have to get hold of them and also Tove Jansson’s Moomin books. Every now and then I regress all the way to Ballet Shoes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Pippi is mostly fine … until you get to say, Pippi in the South Seas. In the early novels you can pretend that Pippi is talking about her dad being in some magical universe where people really do eat other people (and in reality her dad is probably just some boring guy). Once he shows up and they get on a boat and go to the island… not so much. :/

        I do not remember the “native” stuff at all from Swallows and Amazons! Maybe I should give it a reread…

        I discovered today that even though our public library doesn’t have bagthorpes and paradise’s public library didn’t have anything but Ordinary Jack, the university library has all of them(!) WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

      • ChrisinNY Says:

        We found the trick with Swallows and Amazons was 1) reading it aloud and 2) strategically skipping paragraphs until they get to the island. I agree with the native stuff- which I remember more in some of the other series titles (the charcoal burners? ). Or maybe back when I read it, the use of native to me did not have racial overtones but just meant local inhabitants – my bad.
        This book actually inspired one of our parenting philosophies (“Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won’t drown.”) I could easily have been an overprotective parent. However, in our shorthand, this means teach our kid to have the tools to succeed and take care of herself, but don’t hover and let her fail if she needs to do so. She learned a lot of independence.
        It also was the source of a successful linguistic assignment- create a 5 word message that would reassure your family you were alive/well, but be indecipherable to others and not attributable to yourself. (Think spy/code.) Her message: Better drowned than duffers. (With the implication that if she was not a duffer she was alive.) It was the only successful suggestion from an entire class.

  5. Leah Says:

    Harry Potter, Lois Lowry (love the Anastasia series!), Ray Bradbury (okay, maybe not YA, but I read his stuff in middle school), Judy Blume, Encyclopedia Brown, The Westing Game (reread this every few years), The Outsiders . . . totally more I can’t think of now. I love YA stuff.

    I do read YA for comfort and for fun. I’ve read a decent bit of new stuff, as the YA shelves are right next to the picture books at the library, so I get books for me and my daughter at the same time. I just browse and pick something that looks interesting.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Bradbury has a couple middle-grade readers. I made a Halloween tree for a “book report” craft project in middle school for that middle-grade reader.

      Forrrrr beautiiiifullll for spacious skies….

    • tracylee Says:

      I do the same thing! They’re usually fast reads, so I can actually finish them. The first two Mysterious Benedict Society series we listen Ed to audiobooks in the car last year, then I finished the last book on my own (wasn’t available at the time in audiobook format from the library). Should probably add that one for this year’s summer road trips – it was an enjoyable listen/read.

      Love Lois Lowry, Madeline L’Engle (adult nonfiction is good, too), and some newer YA authors like Rainbow Rowell. The Girl Who Drank the Moon was a lovely, engaging read. I’ll go back and reread Z for Zakariah, Bridge to Terabithia, and others every year. My oldest is 6, and I think read to meet Harry Potter.

  6. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    #2 combined regency romance and YA last night by rereading some Wrede and Stervemer. Because sometimes the news makes you want to go to a different era where magicians can save the day.

  7. grrlpup Says:

    The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye is a recent comfort book for me. And Nnedi Okorafor’s Zahrah the Windseeker. (Most of her other books are YA or adult and more intense.) The Flora Segunda trilogy by Ysabeau Wilce for pirate adventure comfort. :D

  8. chacha1 Says:

    “The Velvet Room” by Zilpha Keatley Snyder is a longtime favorite of mine. “Fox Running” by R.R. Knudson is another favorite. “The Black Stallion,” Walter Farley. “The Trumpet of the Swan,” E.B. White. I don’t generally go to YA books for “comfort” but they certainly are *comfortable.* :-)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      ZKS is so awesome. A little creepy, but awesome. Is the Velvet room the one where the protagonist’s family are migrant workers? I still think of the scene where she talks about processing peaches every time I eat a peach.

      • chacha1 Says:

        Yes, only it’s apricots – peaches don’t grow for shit in California! To me, it’s the best conceivable book to introduce young readers to the concept of the Great Depression. And it’s all about loving books.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        oh man, my faulty memory! I’m probably mixing up memories of the book with memories of the Presidents of the United States song. Obviously I need to reread it since the last time I read it I was still living with my parents (maybe in high school?).

  9. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I gravitate to Harry Potter when it’s available for loan, the Honor Harrington books, lots of Mercedes Lackey though I can’t quite look at the Valdemar series the same way since someone pointed out that the Companions are emissaries for a government that doesn’t quite give you a choice about being recruited. I also enjoyed the Five Little Peppers.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      yay Five little peppers! I loved them as a kid, though it’s one of those series that I worry won’t be as good as an adult.

      • ChrisinNY Says:

        I think you are correct–the Five Little Peppers just is not as good as Little Men/Women, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Pollyanna, Understood Betsay, etc. I found it very dated.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        We’ve been really enjoying the Betsy-Tacy series (which, as an adult I note holds up extremely well with the three main characters all being different religions, having different immigrant backgrounds, and being from different social classes without banging you over the head with it– Betsy, Tacy, and Tib just are who they are) and the Moffits (well, DC2 has been enjoying the Moffits– DH and I are a bit weirded out, sort of like we were with The Great Brain with DC1). Though now we’re doing The Wizard of Oz which is still great (Dorothy just rescued the scarecrow last night), even if some of the later books don’t hold up as well.


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