“Top 5 Books for Backseat Readers”

  I’ve been following NPR onFacebook, and saw this article today, by Michele Norris.  It’s part of NPR’s “Backseat Book Club” for young readers, which began this past October.  In today’s article, Norris highlights the following as this year’s five best middle-grade books.

  • Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans  –  by Kadir Nelson
  • The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland In a Ship of Her Own Making  –  by Catherynne M. Valente
  • The Secret History of Balls: The Stories Behind The Things We Love To Catch, Whack, Throw, Kick, Bounce, And Bat  –  by Josh Chetwynd and Emily Stackhouse
  • Drawing from Memory  –  by Allen Say
  • Saint Louis Armstrong Beach  –  by Brenda Woods

I’m usually hesitant to label a book by age range, because of the stigma I’ve experienced against reading “below my age level” (see my previous post on this topic).  Of course, if the book was considered a classic, like The Chronicles of Narnia or Huckleberry Finn, it was ok to be seen reading it.  I am in NO way against those titles, mind you.  I just don’t like being told that only certain Juv/YA books are socially acceptable for an adult to read.

However, I do like Norris’ definition of middle-grade fiction:  “middle-grade fiction (for ages 9-14) […] targets an audience whose protective veneer of childhood innocence is starting to peel away.”  And for readers outside that age range, a “middle-grade” book “allows us to see some of the world’s most complex issues through the eyes of a child.”

Even the not-so-complex issues, I’d add.  What’s so wrong with putting yourself in a child’s or young adult’s shoes?  Reading Juv/YA books isn’t a sign of immaturity – it’s a sign of open-mindedness.

The books Norris chose were not super-well-known titles with major awards.  They were books that moved her.  Books “that seep into your heart and leave you thinking about the characters long after you reach the last page.”

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