Branching Out: Middle Grade and Young Adult Reads

For a couple of years now, I've focused Pickle Corn Jam on picture books. Picture books are (primarily) what I write, and with a five year old, picture books are (primarily) what I read. I've even been toying with getting this shirt, because it's so, so true: picture books are my jam. And I'll never give 'em up.

But now that the little is getting not-so-little, and now that I've decided to revive some of my older manuscripts that (gasp!) aren't picture books, I've been doing a lot more reading of books for the middle grade and young adult set. And guys! There is some truly fantastic stuff out there.

I want to read it (all of it) and recommend it (most of it) and share it with you (as much as humanly possible). So, (cue trumpets!) Pickle Corn Jam is growing up! Branching out! Getting even bigger and better!

In true Pickle Corn Jam fashion, we'll be kicking it off with...a shrubbery a giveaway!

How do you win? Get entered by subscribing (subscriber LOVE = all subscribers get entered for every PCJ blog contest, ever) OR by leaving me a comment about a recently published middle grade or young adult novel (or picture book, because picture books, y'all) that is your current fave by WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2017! Simple, right?

What could you win? This is the BEST part. There are THREE prizes, perfectly themed for Halloween (fairies, Bigfoot, ghosts, oh my)! (plus a bonus prize that will be given away on Instagram...are you following me yet?)

(THREE winners will each receive ONE of the following) 
CONGRATULATIONS TRISTA, ELLEN AND LINDSEY! I'll contact each of you via email!

The Changelings 
by Christina Soontornvat

"Readers will enjoy the balance among action scenes, quieter periods of character interaction, and rich descriptions of Faerie...The concept of the Changelings-and why they're important to keeping Faerie and Earth connected-is explained in bits with an enticing air of mystery that will keep readers engaged, and an additional final surprise puts the remaining pieces in place." - School Library Journal
Age Range 10-14 years 
Uncertain Summer
by Jessica Lee Anderson

"For every kid who has ever dreamed of doing something big, who has mourned friendships past, who has known with all their heart that they can make a difference...Uncertain Summer is an absolute must!" P.J. Hoover, author, Tut: The Story of My Immortal Life
Age Range 9-12 years 

A Properly Unhaunted Place
by William Alexander

"This novel explores the very idea of books, the purpose of libraries and the rather large theme of why the present must embrace a relationship with the past. It reminds us that if we are not brave enough to live alongside the haunting past, then we risk becoming nothing more than ghosts, haunting the earth but never inhabiting it." - New York Times (read full review, here)
Age Range 8-12 years 


Book of Bones (10 Record-Breaking Animals)
by Gabrielle Balkan and Sam Brewster

Ten record-breaking animal bones are introduced through a series of superlatives set up as a guessing game with clues. Readers examine animals' skeletons and guess to whom they belong; the answers are revealed in vibrant, full-color scenic habitats, with easily understood - and humorous - explanations.
"Gives both casual browsers and budding naturalists plenty to gnaw on...A rib-tickling gallery." - Kirkus Reviews
Age Range 4-9 years (Pre-K to Grade 4)

(Entries must be received by 11:59 PM, Central Time, Wednesday, October 18, 2017)


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  1. Oh my gosh! How to choose?? My always love will be picture books, but I am finding myself reading way past my grown-up bedtime with middle grade! My recent favorites that are continuing to haunt my daydreams are: The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd, Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGhee, and The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelli Barnhill.

    1. Ohh...The Girl Who Drank the Moon is definitely on my list of faves, too!

  2. I'm not sure what counts as "recently published" but a favorite that I read with Dayna was the Fablehaven series (is that middle grade?). Ryan has really been enjoying the 39 Clues series lately. It's fun watching him start to enjoying reading!

    1. I love that he's loving reading, too! I'll have to look up the Fablehaven books. Thanks for the idea!

  3. Shelby loves "Burn" by Elisa Sussman. I am not sure how recent that book is. We also are fans of Rick Riordan books. "Trials of Apollo book 2" is the latest read.

    1. Rick Riordan is definitely always a popular choice!

  4. I know it's not recently published, but A is loving the Click Clack Moo books lately. We read them all, daily!
    J is working on a series released by Usborne books, called Conspiracy 365. He's been working his way through all 12 books for a while. He's also loves any minecraft book he can get his hands on

    1. Have y'all checked out the Halloween one, Click, Clack, BOO!?

      And all-things-Minecraft is definitely a popular choice at our house, too!