Monday, April 16, 2018

Two Can't-Miss Middle Grades

Family Game Night And Other Catastrophes, by Mary E. Lambert

Annabelle has a secret. A secret so big she won’t let her friends come within five miles of her home. Annabelle’s mom is a hoarder. Her house is overflowing with toys, newspapers, aluminum cans, linens, milk cartons—you name it.

When a stack of newspapers falls on Annabelle’s sister, and her mom cares more about the newspapers than her own daughter, it sparks a fight between her parents—a fight that causes Annabelle’s dad to move out and Annabelle’s grandmother to move in. Grandma Nora is determined to clean up the mess, but after she moves in, things go from bad to worse. Annabelle’s mom has to want to change, and strange as it seems, she finds comfort in her massive collections of garbage, canned vegetables, and broken toys.

This book broke my heart, especially when Annabelle’s sister became physically ill from living in such a dysfunctional environment. But this story also put my heart back together again. Woven between the piles of garbage are family members who love each other. I love how Annabelle’s family supports each other in the end. Their problems aren’t over, but they are going to be okay.

My rating: Five stars. A heartfelt story on a topic not often covered in MG literature.

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade, by Jordan Sonnenblick

In sixth grade, bad things can happen to good kids. Bullies will find your weakness and jump on it. The kids who joke the loudest can drown out the quieter, nicer kids. 

But Maverick wants to change all of that.

Armed with a toy sheriff badge his late father gave him when he was little, Maverick sets out to make school (and his home) a better place for everyone…even if that’s an almost impossible thing to do. Maverick proves that you don’t have to be big or loud to be a hero. When he stands up to his mother’s abusive boyfriend, I cheered out loud. When he steps in to keep a classmate from getting beaten up, I cheered even louder. I love how everything isn’t tied in a neat bow by the final page. Life is messy, and this book shows kids how to deal with the messes and emerge a hero, even when things don’t work out quite like they expect.

My rating: Five stars. This is Sonnenblick at his best. Spot-on middle grade voice. Maverick is one hilarious kid. I read this book in one day.


  1. I’ve read Mary’s book and I agree: It’s fantastic! Adding The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade to my TBR pile!

  2. Thanks for these reviews! I haven't read either one yet...adding to my pile!