Marvelous Middle Grade Monday was started by the lovely Shannon Whitney Messenger as a way to address the bloggish imbalance in favour of YA books. I’ve decided to join in, since I love to read and write middle grade.
I’m going to focus on classics – older books or more recent books that have the staying power to become classics. In a market saturated with fairy fashion, underwear heroes and various magical time travel methods that stretch into series a hundred miles long, the books I review will be a bit more serious and thoughtful, standalones or parts of smaller series.
Here’s the blurb from Amazon.com:
“Because of Winn-Dixie, a big, ugly, happy dog, 10-year-old Opal learns 10 things about her long-gone mother from her preacher father. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal makes new friends among the somewhat unusual residents of her new hometown, Naomi, Florida. Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal begins to find her place in the world and let go of some of the sadness left by her mother’s abandonment seven years earlier.”
Winn Dixie is one of those books that sneaks up on you. When I first read it, I didn’t think I’d like it. It was southern and the protagonist’s father was a preacher. Being “northern” (I’m Canadian) and non religious, I was a bit turned off. But this is DiCamillo’s genius – she makes you relate to her characters and love them, as flawed as they are.
It’s a beautifully structured book, relying very little on plot and very much on character and pacing. And despite it being named after a dog, it’s really not a dog book, it’s much more about people and sadness and healing and hope. It’s short, just over 22,000 words making it a size that a reluctant or beginner reader can easily manage, however the reading level is Flesch/Kincaid 4.8 (grade four to five) making is appropriately challenging and enriching for confident readers too.
For parents and kids feeling a little “magic fatigue”, Because of Winn Dixie offers a nice break from unreality with a gentle, sweet and moving story for readers of all ages.
I’m going to end each MMGM post by pointing to a new release or upcoming MG book that intrigues me, and that I look forward to reading. Today I’m pointing to the first book in John Flanagan’s new series The Brotherband Chronicles, The Outcasts. I devoured his Ranger’s Apprentice series, so I hope for great things from this new one. The book was released on November 1 and is in stores now.
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