5 Middle Grade Books That I’ll Never Lend Out to Anyone Ever | Selected by Beth Vrabel, Author of Camp Dork
Beth Vrabel | The Children’s Book Review | June 15, 2016
When you become a parent, there is a secret you never tell anyone no matter how hard you are pressed. You keep this information behind sealed lips, hidden in the contacts folder of your phone, and resist referencing it ever.
That information, of course, is your babysitter’s number.
The perfect babysitter is old enough to drive but still a year or more from graduation. She or he hopes to one day be a teacher and is preferably the youngest in the family (oldest siblings tend to not have any romanticism around the idea of playing with littles any more). The sitter is quiet and prefers to stay home on Friday nights to build her Pinterest board or play Monopoly with her dad. You’re friends with his or her mom. She puts her cell phone on the kitchen table when she enters your home and it’s still there when you get home.
Perfect babysitters are like unicorns. Everyone has heard about them, all agree that they’re amazing, and—most critical of all—if you do happen to encounter one, you never, ever blab your mouth about it.
We had such a babysitter. And I raved about to her to everyone. How sweet she was, how she got my kids’ weird senses of humor, how she—gasp!—washed dishes. And then? Bam. Her calendar was booked right up until college drop off.
Finding the perfect babysitter is a lot like finding a wonderful book. You don’t—I repeat DO NOT—share that book. Of course, recommend that book. Do that. Please! (Amazon reviews, Goodread reviews—yes, post those!) I’m referring to the actual, physical book. Sort of like how it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “My babysitter is great. Look for one like her,” without actually sharing her information.
Because if you do lend out that book? Chances are, it’s gone forever. Off to other homes where they might earmark its pages, toss it under the bed, use it to even out the legs of a shaky desk, or slip into their bookcase never to be seen again.
Here are five books I don’t think you should ever share with anyone. You’re welcome to come here, though, and read them while I supervise. On second thought, you should probably just buy your own.
Written by Katherine Paterson
I’ve read this simple, poignant novel a half-dozen times and to both of my children. Never have I managed to get through it without aching for Jesse and wishing for a friend like Leslie. Together, they turn the woods that have been around Jesse forever into a magical kingdom where they are always in control.
Ages 9+ | Publisher: HarperCollins | 1977 | ISBN-13: 978-0064401845
Written by Kate DiCamillo
At the end of this beautiful story, Opal stands under a tree, and I swear I can hear the magic as wind tinkles the bottles hanging from its limbs. This is a gorgeous story about a young girl coming to grips with a world that takes just as much as it gives.
Ages 9+ | Publisher: Candlewick | 2000 | ISBN-13: 978-0763680862
Written by Wilson Rawls
What can I say? I’m sucker for dog books. Bonus points if they make me sob. I read this one, about a boy who sacrifices everything for two coonhounds only to see them do the same for him, to my son when he was nine. “Why did you do this to me?” he asked at the end, and then immediately reread it on his own.
Ages 9+ | Publisher: Yearling | 1961 | ISBN-13: 978-0440412670
Written by Natalie Babbitt
If you could live forever, would you? Like any middle schooler (and middle-ager, as it turns out), I was scared of death. The fact that I knew it was going to happen to me but didn’t know when or how or what exactly happened next robbed me of sleep for months (that and the fact my older sister told me a witch lived in our closet). Tuck Everlasting opened my eyes to what would happen if death weren’t a possibility. And you know what? I’d choose death.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Square Fish | 2009 | ISBN-13: 978-0312369811
Written by Holly Goldberg Sloan
My daughter read this before me. I heard her laughing, saw her crying, and took in the fact that during a six-hour road trip, she had done nothing but turn the pages. “You must read this,” she said as she closed the book and handed it to me. The entire return trip? I, too, was completely absorbed in this story about an intellectually gifted girl who struggles to understand what so many of us take for granted—what it means to have a family.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Dial | August 29, 2013 | ISBN-13: 978-0803738553
About Beth Vrabel
Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans—becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater—didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. She is the author of the Pack of Dorks series and A Blind Guide to Stinkville and A Blind Guide to Normal (October 2016). Beth lives with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two fat guinea pigs in Connecticut.
Written by Beth Vrabel
Publisher’s Synopsis: Lucy and her pack are back, in this sequel to Beth Vrabel’s heartwarming and humorous debut, Pack of Dorks. Sheldon convinces Lucy, Sam, April, and Amanda to join him at a weeklong sleep-away summer camp—Camp Paleo: Live Like a Caveman. Like cavemen, they’re going to have to make do without air conditioning or a heated pool. They’ll learn archery and dig for fossils. And Grandma’s coming too; she’s taking a job as lunch lady for the camp next door.
At the last minute, Sam backs out to go to a gymnastics training camp instead. Lucy wonders why she misses him so much—it’s not like he’s her boyfriend or anything. Why does the word “boyfriend” make her blush, even when she’s only thinking it? She needs a distraction. Enter Mr. Bosserman, the grouchy camp leader who won’t budge on the caveman aspect of the camp. The old man needs some softening up, and Lucy knows just the person for the job: Grandma.
One successful match made, Lucy starts to see potential lovebirds everywhere. And setting up couples keeps her from facing the question tickling the back of her mind: Is she in love with Sam? But when the wrong campers fall for each other, the pack falls apart, all under the watchful eye of a super secret blogger who’s been writing about the camp’s activities Gossip Girl–style. Even worse? A thief is targeting everyone but Lucy, setting her up to look guilty. Soon Lucy again finds herself alone, left to fix the messes she’s made and face her own feelings. If she fails, the pack may be splintered for good.
For readers aged 8 to 12, this is a funny but poignant book about bullying, crushes, the harmful nature of rumors, and the importance of friendship and telling the truth. A great book to read aloud in the classroom for discussions or to simply read on a summer trip.
Ages 8+ | Publisher: Sky Pony Press | 2016 | ISBN-13: 978-1634501811
Beth Vrabel, author of Camp Dork: Pack of Dorks, selected these five middle grade books (That I’ll Never Lend Out to Anyone Ever). Discover more articles on The Children’s Book Review tagged with Middle Grade Books and Books for Kids Age 9-12.