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Fantastic feel-good reads for Middle Graders
Reviews by Melissa Oxborrow

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[October 27, 2014]  This month's pick of great books from Melissa Oxborrow of the Lincoln Public Library

Above All
by Shelley Pearsall

Mr. Collins is frustrated with middle school math students that don't care. In a desperate attempt to grab their attention he challenges them to build the world's largest tetrahedron. The idea of breaking a world record and seeing their names in print grabs hold of a handful of his students. They know that most people see their school as a dead end and don't expect much from its students. But that's about to change...

In this narrative based on a true story, each chapter is told from differing points of view, including four students, their teacher and other adults in the community. Each of the four students has their own reasons for wanting to participate in Mr. Collin's crazy scheme and each of them is dealing with some major issues outside the classroom. When the unthinkable happens, they will have to decide: do they have what it takes to see things through? This book has humor and heartbreak, characters that leap off the page, and is an anthem to perseverance in the face of other's skepticism. It's a perfect pick for boys and girls, grades 5-8.

Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life
by Wendy Mass

Jeremy isn't one for surprises. He embraces the predictable and likes to feel secure and safe. The most adventurous thing he does is collect mutant candy. His best friend, Lizzy, on the other hand, has a gift for trouble, so they make a good team. But things are about to change for Jeremy when a mysterious gift arrives in the mail from his dead father---a wooden box that is supposed to hold the meaning of life. There are four keyholes on the box, but no keys and the box is designed so that only the keys will be able to open it without destroying what's inside. Jeremy and Lizzy find themselves in a race against time and a fight against astronomical odds to find the keys before Jeremy's thirteenth birthday. Their search will bring some unusual people and experiences into their lives, and along the way they just might find out the meaning of life for themselves.

Full of humor, with quirky well-drawn characters and twists and turns that keep you guessing, kids will love this thought-provoking tale of a young man finding his way in life. This is a heart-warming story and a great choice for children, grades 3 7.

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by R. J. Palacio

August Pullman would love to be just like the other 10 year-olds in his fifth grade class. But he's not, and he never will be. Auggie was born with Treacher Collins syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes severe cranial deformities. His parents, in an effort to protect him, have home schooled him in the past. But now he's in fifth grade and trying to navigate public school. Can Auggie show his classmates and teachers that it is what is on the inside that counts? That what a person does is infinitely more important than how he looks?

Auggie's story of courage will break your heart---and inspire you. You'll cheer for his family and classmates that choose the path of acceptance and compassion and you'll be enthralled by their journey. The storytelling is beautiful and characters seem utterly real, because they're flawed. Auggie's sister loves Auggie and stands up for him, but sometimes resents how he is so often the center of their family's world. One of his classmates behaves kindly to Auggie's face, but then says something horribly hurtful behind his back. And some just won't be able to get past his face.

This is a story about the power of kindness in a world that can be hard and unforgiving and is a perfect choice for reading with your child to discuss choices and relationships. It's a wonderful pick for boys and girls, grades 3-7.

[By MELISSA OXBORROW, Lincoln Public Library District]

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