HomeBooks by AgeAges 4-85 Poignant Middle-Grade Novels That Miraculously Include Laugh-Out-Loud Moments
5 Laugh-Out-Loud and Reach-for-the-Kleenex Middle Grade Novels | Selected by Cammie McGovern, Author of Just My Luck

5 Poignant Middle-Grade Novels That Miraculously Include Laugh-Out-Loud Moments

Cammie McGovern | The Children’s Book Review | April 10, 2016

Five Exceptionally Good Middle-Grade Novels

My favorite middle-grade novels all seem to have one thing in common: a narrator with a wonderfully strong voice that makes me laugh even as the story makes me cry. The five books on this list which have come out in the last year do just this. I not only loved all these books, I know I’ll go back and re-read them in the future to study exactly how these skillful writers strike the delicate balance I’m always looking for between laugh-out-loud funny and reach-for-the-Kleenex poignant. I also admire the way a few of them have chartered what feels to me like new territory for middle-grade fiction—a minimum-security prison, a severely agoraphobic parent, a disabled girl escaping an abusive parent—in stories which, by the end, can only be described as uplifting.

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T CookAll Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

Written by Leslie Connor

For a young boy raised in a prison to defend his inmate mother, he must first learn the truth not only about her crime but her fellow inmates who have become his family. Endearing, honest, and most surprising of all: funny.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062333469

Courage for BeginnersCourage for Beginners

Written by Karen Harrington

The plot summary—a girl copes with a severely agoraphobic mother after her father has an accident that leaves him a coma—belies how truly hilarious the main character and her school friends are. This one is a jewel.

Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0316210461

The War That Saved My LifeThe War That Saved My Life

Written by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

This is the best historical MG book I’ve read in ages. A disabled girl escapes her abusive mother during the relocation program of London children at the start of WWII. Filled with fascinating historical details, it’s also a testimonial to how some children survive abuse.

Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0316210461

The Thing About JellyfishThe Thing About Jellyfish

Written by Ali Benjamin

A beautiful study of a science-obsessed girl’s inquiry into the death of a friend (and really into the death of the friendship before her death…) Though she’s never labeled with Aspergers, any child (or parent) with an interest in this, will love this book.

Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers | 2015 | ISBN-13: 978-0316380867

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie PriceThe Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price

Written by Jennifer Maschari

A book that combines elements of magical realism in telling the very real story of a very real boy coping with the loss of his mother and the weight of grief.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Balzer + Bray | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062380104

About Cammie McGovern

Cammie McGovern is the author of the teen novels Say What You Will and A Step Toward Falling as well as the adult novels Neighborhood WatchEye Contact, and The Art of Seeing. Her debut middle grade novel, Just My Luck, released in February 2016. Cammie is also one of the founders of Whole Children, a resource center that runs after-school classes and programs for children with special needs, and is actively involved in Beyond Differences. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her husband and three children. You can visit Cammie online at www.cammiemcgovern.com.

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovernJust My Luck

Written by Cammie McGovern

Publisher’s Synopsis: Critically acclaimed author Cammie McGovern’s middle-grade debut is a powerful and heartwarming story that will appeal to readers who loved R. J. Palacio’s Wonder, Ann M. Martin’s Rain Reign, and Holly Sloan’s Counting by 7s.

Fourth grade is not going at all how Benny Barrows hoped. He hasn’t found a new best friend. He’s still not a great bike rider—even though his brother George, who’s autistic, can do tricks. And worst of all, he worries his dad’s recent accident might be all his fault. Benny tries to take his mom’s advice and focus on helping others, and to take things one step at a time. But when his dad ends up in the hospital again, Benny doesn’t know how he and his family will overcome all the bad luck that life seems to have thrown their way.

Just My Luck is a deeply moving and rewarding novel about a down-on-his-luck boy whose caring heart ultimately helps him find the strength to cope with tragedy and realize how much he truly has to offer his friends and family.

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-0062330659

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Cammie McGovern, author of Just My Luck, 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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Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

  • What a great looking list! I haven’t read any of these- but I have almost all of them on my TBR already. 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    April 28, 2016
  • cool books i never will read them

    December 13, 2016
  • I either misunderstood the title of this article or the topics and plots of these books certainly do not match with the LoL concept. When I read the short descriptions, they seem to have very dramatic, almost tragic story lines and characters. I am not sure whether or how they get funny or fun at one point but the heading of this article and the books recommended seems not to be a good fit.

    This just made me more anxious about the right book selection for my 8 year old daughter.

    I hope I misread or misunderstand some concepts but if not I hope this will help The Children’s Book Review crew to take a relook at the books recommended under such heading: “5 Laugh-Out-Loud and Reach-for-the-Kleenex Middle Grade Novels”!

    October 4, 2019

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