Book Reviews: New Novels from Hena Khan, Kate Messner, and Cindy Baldwin

More to the Story by Hena Khan

Jamella is a seventh grader who has a passion for writing. Someday she wants to be an award winning journalist, like her late grandfather, and she’s working toward that goal as the features editor of her school newspaper. 

When she learns that her father has to go overseas for six months for work, she and her three sisters and mom are heartbroken. Jam decides to write an amazing article that will make her dad super proud, but does so at the cost of a new friendship with a boy named Ali. On top of that, her family is shocked to receive news about her younger sister’s health. 

Not only is this an important story about family, friendships and hope, but the journalism piece that focuses on the microaggressions that today’s students face is important and powerful.  Highly recommend this middle grade novel and I’ve bought a copy for my 5th grade students. 

Chirp by Kate Messner

The summer after seventh grade, Mia and her family move from Boston back to Vermont to be closer to her grandmother who suffered a stroke a few months back. Gram is recovering nicely but is concerned that someone is trying to sabotage her cricket farm business, and Mia promises her to help any way she can. 

Mia’s mom has also told her that she must participate in two summer activities (one for her body and one for her brain). Mia chooses a Launch Camp (Maker space for kids) to help promote her Gram’s cricket business. She also picks a Warrior Camp so she can get stronger after last year’s gymnastics season ending injury when she fell off the balance beam and broke her arm. Later, the reader comes to learn that the broken arm was not the sole reason for Mia’s depart from gymnastics. 

This Middle Grade mystery has so much to offer readers. Friendships among strong girls, the science of entomophagy, the strength of family, and the courage of one girl to stand up and find her voice. Highly recommend for middle grade libraries. Preorder now. Publishes 2/4/20.

Beginners Welcome by Cindy Baldwin

Annie Lee misses her daddy. It’s been eighty-three days since he suddenly passed away, but the apartment where she and her mama live is full of his presence. The smell of his aftershave and hairs in the  bathroom sink and the CD player and TV turning on by themselves to play his favorite song & show are all constant reminders of the emptiness she and her mama feel. 

With her mama working full-time. Annie Lee needs something (and someone) to help her with the loneliness that surrounds her. But she’s afraid of letting down her invisibility cloak and letting others get close to her again. 

At her new school she meets Mitch, tough and confident despite being new, too. Annie Lee also meets Ray, an older pianist who plays at the local mall and gives her lessons. 

When something happens to Ray, Annie Lee must make a choice that may cost her her new friendship. 

With themes of hope, healing, and the strength of a community, this novel will be a middle grade reader favorite.  Publishes 2/11/20. Be sure to preorder!

Katie Reilley is a fourth and fifth grade ELA teacher from Elburn, Illinois, and a proud mom to two amazing daughters, ages 14 and 10 who has been married to a wonderful husband for 18 years. She’s a member of #bookexpedition, a group of teachers, librarians and authors who read and review ARCs and newly released middle grade books. She’s also happy to be part of the #classroombookaday community, and loves to learn alongside her students and fellow educators. She has been teaching for twenty-two years, and her passion is getting books into the hands of her students. You can find her on Twitter at @KReilley5.

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