HomeBooks by AgeAges 9-125 Middle Grade Books to Love | Selected by Sarah Dooley, Author of Free Verse
5 Middle Grade Books to Love | Selected by Sarah Dooley, Author of Free Verse

5 Middle Grade Books to Love | Selected by Sarah Dooley, Author of Free Verse

Sarah Dooley | The Children’s Book Review | March 27, 2016

5 Middle Grade Books to Love | Selected by Sarah Dooley, Author of Free Verse

Five Books I Love (or Expect to Love!)

It’s always difficult to narrow down the teetering pile of “Books I Loved” and the tottering pile of “Books to be Read” to a manageable number. Just ask my cats. They spend their days darting in and out among stacks of books that won’t fit on the shelves.

Here are just a few middle grade novels I’ve loved, and a few more I’m looking forward to reading.

I loved:


Written by Jacqueline Woodson

This story of three friends figuring out their places in their families, their neighborhood, and the world remains one of my very favorite books. I could read it to the end, flip it over, and immediately start reading again. It’s one of those books that need to be read aloud so that you can taste each word.
And, speaking of Jacqueline Woodson, I’m looking forward to [the next book on this list.]

Ages 11+ | Publisher: Speak | 2010 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0142413999

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonBROWN GIRL DREAMING

Written by Jacqueline Woodson

I don’t know how I haven’t read this book yet. It is at the top of my teetering, towering To Be Read pile.

Ages 10+ | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0399252518

I’m looking forward to:


Written by Laura Shovan

Written in verse, this novel (coming April 2016) is the story of a classroom full of kids facing the imminent closing of their school. The excerpts I’ve seen come alive with kids’ voices, and I can’t wait to read more!

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books | April 12, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0553521375

I loved:


Written by Polly Horvath

Not only is this story of a child coping with her missing parents a complete delight from start to finish (and not nearly as grim as it sounds), but it also includes several recipes for all manner of things that can be served on a waffle.

Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Square Fish | 2008 (Reprint) | ISBN-13: 978-0312380045

And, finally, I’m looking forward to:


Written by J.K. Rowling

Because, aren’t we all?

Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books | July 31, 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1338099133


About Sarah Dooley

Sarah Dooley

Sarah Dooley

Sarah Dooley has lived in an assortment of small West Virginia towns, each of which she grew to love. Winner of the 2012 PEN/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, she has written two previous novels for middle-grade readers. Sarah is a former special education teacher who now provides treatment to children with autism. She lives in Huntington, West Virginia, where she inadvertently collects cats. She’s a 2006 graduate of Marshall University.

Free Verse Sarah DooleyFree Verse

Written by Sarah Dooley

Publisher’s Synopsis: A moving, bittersweet tale reminiscent of Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons set in a West Virginia coal-mining town.

When her brother dies in a fire, Sasha Harless has no one left, and nowhere to turn. After her father died in the mines and her mother ran off, he was her last caretaker. They’d always dreamed of leaving Caboose, West Virginia together someday, but instead she’s in foster care, feeling more stuck and broken than ever.

But then Sasha discovers family she didn’t know she had, and she finally has something to hold onto, especially sweet little Mikey, who’s just as broken as she is. Sasha even makes her first friend at school, and is slowly learning to cope with her brother’s death through writing poetry, finding a new way to express herself when spoken words just won’t do. But when tragedy strikes the mine her cousin works in, Sasha fears the worst and takes Mikey and runs, with no plans to return. In this sensitive and poignant portrayal, Sarah Dooley shows us that life, like poetry, doesn’t always take the form you intend.

Ages 10+ | Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0399165030

Available Here: 

Sarah Dooley, author of Free Verse, selected these five middle grade books. Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with  and Books for Kids Age 9-12.

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  • I recommend Snowflake River by Ben-Ami Eliahu. My oldest (14) loves it. It’s a fantasy, but seems well written. It’s very much more like a non fiction, reads like that. snowflakeriver.com is his site for it. That Waffle book has been a fav of my youngest lately. Good stuff!

    April 13, 2016

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