This fall, middle school fiction features new authors and work from established names.
“The Trouble with Shooting Stars” by Meg Cannistra, a new author published by Simon & Schuster, is a realistic fantasy about a young girl named Luna, who tells the reader her story in first person.
Luna is recuperating from a terrible facial burn and other injuries suffered in a car accident with her father. She has to wear a plastic mask on her face because the healing is not going well. She has withdrawn from her best friend and her family, and doesn’t want to go out of the house.
Luna doesn’t sleep well, sometimes staying up most of the night watching the neighborhood out her window with binoculars and drawing. She often wraps up in her rainbow comforter and goes out the window to the platform of a tree house next to her window.
One night, Luna sees a family with two children moving into the house next door. On the side of their moving truck she sees La Spazzatrici, Sapienti-Family-Owned Business, Established at the beginning of time, Stelle, Italy. Since her family is from Italy originally, she is very interested.
Asking her family about the name on the truck she finds out spazzatrici means sweeper. Watching the children, she sees magical things happening. Luna meets the children and is taken into their confidence. She finds that this Italian family has the job of sweeping the moon and working with young stars. She is invited to go up in the sky with the two children when they sail up to finish their chores of sweeping. And just maybe her wish upon a shooting star will help Luna and her family heal.
Cannistra is a strong new voice in children’s literature. Her novel is similar in tone to the Newbery winner “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” with a strong female character, but more realistic in setting. Readers will enjoy the family interplay, the use of art, and the magic of friendship. The cover and interior illustrations are by Dana Wulfekotte and add the perfect image of a young girl’s artwork to the book. Meg Cannistra lives in Charlotte, and we hope she will visit our area soon.
Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful writer and her books for middle grades are funny and poignant. “Beverly, Right Here” (Penguin Random House) is the final book in DiCamillo’s series about three girls in Florida who call themselves the Three Rancheros. There was Raymie, who has been left behind without a word, and Louisiana, who was taken to Georgia by her grandmother and abandoned. And now there is Beverly, who is lonely and sad.
After burying her dog Buddy with Raymie under an orange tree, Beverly decides to leave home. With no planning and no clothes, she catches a ride with someone she knows to Tamaray Beach. Once there, Beverly lies about her age and gets a job in a lunchtime seafood restaurant by the A1A highway.
An old lady in a mobile home nearby gives her a place to stay in exchange for driving her tobingo at the VFW. Beverly has known how to drive for years because her uncle taught her to keep her alcoholic mother from behind the wheel, so she takes the offer.
Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone but connections are formed — at the restaurant, at the local Zoom City quick mart, at the trailer park with Iola Jenkins. Beverly learns that others do not see her as she sees herself and it is a gratifying realization. Set in the 1970s, “Beverly, Right Here” is a coming-of-age novel written by a master of nuance and humor.
Many authors get their inspiration from their past lives. Comic artist Raina Telgemeier has written and illustrated another graphic novel in her series of childhood memoirs. “Guts” (Scholastic) is about fear and gaining the ability to face it.
Raina is afraid of many things, including getting physically sick from foods. Unfortunately, her fear and stress cause her to have a stomach ache which doesn’t go away. Change happens in school and at home, and Raina doesn’t deal well with it. Funny, true and with an exactly middle school tone, “Guts” captures the emotional waves of growing up in pictures and in text. “Guts” is sure to be as popular as the graphic novels “Smile,” “Sisters,” and “Ghosts,” also by Telgemeier.
These are three new books that will provide vicarious experiences for middle-schoolers to enjoy while seeing parallels in their own lives.