David Barclay Moore | The Children’s Book Review | September 18, 2017
Reading shows us many faces, if we’re lucky. I love novels that draw you in and amaze with captivating characters and compelling stories. I love novels that amuse, divert and make you think and genuinely feel. The five books for young people that I’ve selected all have these qualities in common. A few are particularly plot-based, while the remaining ones are fairly meditative. I’ll let you figure out what is what and which are which. And whatnot. Enjoy.
Written by Mark Twain
One of the first great American novels, Twain’s controversial book is the tale of a wily youth and his long journey down a river, toward his own self-discovery. Huckleberry Finn is a timeless story that strives to humanize people while dehumanizing the institution of slavery.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Sterling | 2006 (Reprint)| ISBN-13: 978-1402726002
Written by Jacqueline Woodson
In this great narrative work of verse, author Jacqueline Woodson tells of her own journey through childhood, relating her discovery of her writer’s voice along the way. Woodson uses her experience being raised in both South Carolina and New York during the 1960s and 1970s as a springboard for exploring how and why one grows into writing.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books | 2014 | ISBN-13: 978-0399252518
Written by Virginia Hamilton
Author Virginia Hamilton was a master storyteller, who is in my opinion underappreciated today. Her novel, MC Higgins, the Great, won both the Newbery Medal and the National Book Award in 1975. A heartfelt coming of age novel, it tells the story of an African American boy who struggles with impinging change on his small Kentucky mountain.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Dial Books | 2006 (Reprint)| ISBN-13: 978-1416914075
Written by Matt de la Peña
Matt de la Peña’s YA novel, We Were Here, is a riveting tale told through the journal entries of Miguel Castañeda, a mixed-race adolescent Latino being detained for a crime at a group home near Stockton, California. Ultimately, it is a novel about facing one’s demons, accepting responsibility for one’s actions and confirming one’s identity, no matter how challenging.
Ages 13+ | Publisher: Ember | 2010 (Reprint)| ISBN-13: 978-0385736701
Written by Tove Jansson
The Moomins are some of my all-time favorite literary creations. I feel so lucky to have discovered these Finnish characters on my own as a child in my local Missouri bookstore. In Moominvalley in November, six of the Moomins’ troll-like acquaintances fight off anxiety in November as the Moomin family slumber in their yearly hibernation. A somewhat Taoist novel, and admittedly not for every child, there is nothing quite like this book’s soft reflective atmosphere, even among other Moomin books. A prize.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Square Fish | 2010 | ISBN-13: 978-0312625443
Written by David Barclay Moore
Publisher’s Synopsis: A boy tries to steer a safe path through the projects in Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death in this outstanding debut novel that’s been described as a “fast and furious read in which we meet some amazing people, people that stay with us” by Newbery Honor and National Book Award–winning author Jacqueline Woodson.
It’s Christmas Eve in Harlem, but twelve-year-old Lolly Rachpaul and his mom aren’t celebrating. They’re still reeling from his older brother’s death in a gang-related shooting just a few months earlier. Then Lolly’s mother’s girlfriend brings him a gift that will change everything: two enormous bags filled with Legos. Lolly’s always loved Legos, and he prides himself on following the kit instructions exactly. Now, faced with a pile of building blocks and no instructions, Lolly must find his own way forward.
His path isn’t clear—and the pressure to join a “crew,” as his brother did, is always there. When Lolly and his friend are beaten up and robbed, joining a crew almost seems like the safe choice. But building a fantastical Lego city at the community center provides Lolly with an escape—and an unexpected bridge back to the world.
David Barclay Moore paints a powerful portrait of a boy teetering on the edge—of adolescence, of grief, of violence—and shows how Lolly’s inventive spirit helps him build a life with firm foundations and open doors.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1524701246
About the Author
DAVID BARCLAY MOORE was born and raised in Missouri. After studying creative writing at Iowa State University, film at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and language studies at l’Université de Montpellier in France, David moved to New York City, where he has served as communications coordinator for Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone and communications manager for Quality Services for the Autism Community. He has received grants from the Ford Foundation, the Jerome Foundation, Yaddo, and the Wellspring Foundation. He was also a semi-finalist for the Sundance Screenwriters Lab. David now lives, works, and explores in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow him online at DavidBarclayMoore.com, on Twitter at @dbarclaymoore, and on Instagram at dbarclaymoore.
David Barclay Moore, author of The Stars Beneath Our Feet, selected these ‘5 Middle Grade Favorites.’ Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Middle Grade Books.