Finding books to engage keen middle school readers can be a challenge. Nella Pickup provides some tempting titles that challenge young independent readers.
The following 2022 titles are some of the books I hoped would tempt my 10 year old grandson to widen his reading from his preferred re-reading of the entire Brain Jacques Redwall series.
Solomon Macaroni and the Cousin Catastrophe by Ashleigh Barton (2022), UQP
Vampire Solomon Macaroni is friendly, polite and makes a mean tofu bolognese. When his parents go on a one-hundred-year cruise without him, Solomon has to stay in creepy Transylvania with his six cousins, who are the rudest and naughtiest vampires in existence. (Well, apart from Lucy. He likes her.) Solomon must draw on all he knows – about old magic, wet wipes and the importance of a well-timed entrance – to save his catastrophic cousins and possibly the world.
August & Jones by Pip Harry (2022), Lothian / Hachette Australia
Jones and August meet when Jones moves to Sydney. Jones misses her farm, loves climbing and fears she has cancer in her remaining eye. August prefers to knit or read than to play footy. His parents are fighting. To cheer themselves up, they create their Must-See Bucket List. N.B. August & Jones is a CBCA 2023 Notable book.
The Dangerous Business of Being Trilby Moffat by Kate Temple (2022), Lothian / Hachette Australia
Triby’s Mum succumbs to a strange disease affecting adults – one which makes them bake ancient cakes, speak dead languages and then fall asleep and never wake up. Trilby must find her only other surviving relative, a 300-year-old aunt who lives on the edge of time. Trilby is whisked to a world outside time by an odious official who is trying to kill her. Fast paced, full of quirky humour and told by a very special narrator.
The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill (2022), Piccadilly Press
Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the townsfolk of Stone-in-the Glen to lose their library, their school, their park, and all sense of what it means to be generous, and kind. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever orphans of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town's problems are. When one of the orphans goes missing from the Orphan House, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The orphans, though, know this can't be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen. But how can the orphans tell the story of the Ogress's goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbours see the real villain in their midst?
Golden Swift by Lev Grossman (2022), Bloomsbury
Sequel to The Silver Arrow. It's been a year since Kate and Tom became conductors on the Great Intercontinental Railway, delivering animal passengers to their rightful habitats using their very own secret steam train. Until one day a new and mysterious train The Golden Swift almost rams them off the track! ate catches a glimpse of the conductors. They're children, like them, and they're dropping animals off at all the wrong stations!
Retired librarian, reader, member of IBBY Australia Inc, and Children's Book Council of Australia, Tasmanian Branch