Middle Grade Mondays: Live from the ALA Midwinter Conference

This is my first time at the ALA conference and for someone who is easily over-stimulated, it’s quite overwhelming. And this isn’t even their big one. Imagine booth upon booth of book displays for the latest award-winners, reviewer picks, and up-and-coming releases (with a definite slant towards children and young adult literature). Book-lover / educator paradise.


I had to stay focused or I would have imploded, so my tour of the publishers’ booths was primarily geared toward the upper middle grade reader, especially since I have to create a reading list for an up-and-coming class I’m teaching.

ARCS are Us

ARCS are us!

Below is a short list of some of the books I am excited about and I will post more later this week. I’ll list a variety – some literary fiction, genre fiction, non-fiction.

A few of the books I picked are young YA (generally 12+ on the ARC stats) with content that the publishers said would be “all right” for advanced MG readers.

Since I have no shelf-space at home, I might do a few ARC giveaways. If you’re lucky.

1) PARCHED by Melanie Crowder (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013)

IMG_0512The poster for this debut release immediately caught my attention. Set in the near future, it’s described as “very real,” not dystopian or post-apocalyptic, but “straight-up apocalyptic.” A world teetering on the brink tips into devastation.

It’s a story told from three points of view about a girl, a boy, and a dog struggling to survive in a parched and barren land.

Sarel knows which tree roots reach down deep to pools of precious water. But now she must learn how to keep herself and her dogs alive. She knows they can’t last long without water—and she knows, too, that a boy is coming; a boy with the water song inside him.

Musa’s talent for finding water got him kidnapped by brutal men, yet he’s escaped, running away across the thirsty land that nearly claims his life. Sarel, Musa, and the dogs come together in what might be their last hope of survival.

This sounds like a fantastic thought-provoking novel with curriculum tie-ins. I WISH I had a copy of this one to give away, but alas, they had no ARCS there.

IMG_05302) MY SISTER LIVES ON THE MANTELPIECE by Annabel Pitcher (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers)

This one is not brand new, but it’s by a British author and was just published in the US in August. More importantly, I had never heard about it and the publisher’s rep said if she could pick ONE book for me to add to my MG list, this would be the one. She recommends at least 1/2 box off tissues on hand if you pick it up.

From the publisher:

My sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece.
Well, some of her does.
A collarbone, two ribs, a bit of skull, and a little toe.

To ten-year-old Jamie, his family has fallen apart because of the loss of someone he barely remembers: his sister Rose, who died five years ago in a terrorist bombing. To his father, life is impossible to make sense of when he lives in a world that could so cruelly take away a ten-year-old girl. To Rose’s surviving fifteen year old twin, Jas, everyday she lives in Rose’s ever present shadow, forever feeling the loss like a limb, but unable to be seen for herself alone.

Told with warmth and humor, this powerful novel is a sophisticated take on one family’s struggle to make sense of the loss that’s torn them apart… and their discovery of what it means to stay together.

After the glowing recommendation I received from the rep, I have indeed added this to my student’s reading list.

3) CLOCKWORK SCARAB – by Colleen Gleason (Chronicle Books, 2013)

Clockswork ScarabI feel a bit giddy being able to post this one, as there was a bit of a buzz around it and the fantastic cover is brand new – you can’t even find an image online. It’s a photo of a real bug re-imagined. (for some reason winged creatures were the trend on covers – lots of moths and butterflies).

This one is on the tweens and up end of things and the concept sounds tantalizing: the half-sister of Bram Stoker and niece of Sherlock Holmes team up to solve a murder mystery in a steam-punk London.

Oh, yeah.

from GoodReads:

An unlikely pair, the fierce Evaline Stoker and logical Mina Holmes must follow in the footsteps of their infamous families—Miss Holmes has inherited her Uncle Sherlock’s keen investigative skills, while Miss Stoker has accepted her family calling as a hunter of the undead. The partners must find a way to work together, while navigating the advances of a strange yet handsome American, a clever Scotland Yard investigator, and a cunning thief, to solve the mystery of the clockwork scarabs . . . Steeped in Egyptian mythology and literary references, with a surprising time travel twist and compelling romantic triangles, Colleen Gleason has crafted a fast-paced and romantic debut young adult novel.

The fact that it has a “love triangle” screams YA, but the publisher said the pace and intrigue will hold the interest of younger readers not interested in romance.

(and I DO have an ARC … we’ll see if I can part with it)

More from the ALA Winter Conference to come (today is the final day).

In the meantime, please check out other Middle Grade Monday posts today at Shannon Messenger’s Blog.


cruising for books at ALA


Filed under Middle Grade Mondays, YA literature

12 responses to “Middle Grade Mondays: Live from the ALA Midwinter Conference

  1. Since I can’t make it to ALA, I appreciate updates from those who could. I did like Prisoner 88 but hadn’t seen the cover. Deep breaths. Everyone there should be friendly!

  2. My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece! Thanks for sharing about this one. I’m adding it to my to-read list immmediately.

  3. You’re so lucky to be attending ALA Midwinter! I love the premise of Clockwork Scarab (and the cover!), but I bet I would love all of these books. Thanks for the updates, Danika.

  4. Great stuff! Were you there for the Newbery awards this morning?

  5. Lucky you! Thanks for sharing your experience (and all the great books)!

  6. All of those books sound awesome. I’m always on the lookout for Maddy who is now reading at a 7th grade level. It’s a tricky line I’m negotiating because I don’t want her to read graphic, violent books nor books with sexual overtones to them, but I’m running out of choices.

    By the way, she still cites Brigitta of the White Forest AND the Ruins of Noe as 2 of her top 5 favorite books ever. That’s a big compliment, Danika, because she devours one book per week!!

  7. Pingback: Middle Grade Mondays: ALA Books for Boys (Preview Part Two) | writing to support my teaching habit

  8. OH. MY. Goodness!! I had not heard of the Clockwork Scarab before randomly seeing it on your blog but now I cannot see how not!! It sounds like such an amazing book and I am SO glad that you brought it to my attention. Thank you!!!

    • You probably haven’t heard of it because it isn’t out until October. I have an ARC copy, and I just started reading it yesterday. If you want it after I’m done, I’ll happily mail it to you (if you’re in N. America, that is). Send your address to info(at)danikadinsmore.com

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