Mini Reviews: Middle Grade Books Pax, Half a World Away, Same Sun Here, Book Scavenger, and The One and Only Ivan

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I have been reading a bunch of Middle Grade books recently and completely gotten behind on the whole reviewing thing.  The cure for that? Mini reviews! I am thinking of doing more mini review posts because I swear, it is impossible to keep up any other way! #pleasedonotjudge #itisonlybecauseIamlazy 

Pax by Sara Pennypacker cover

by Sara Pennypacker

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: February 2nd 2016
Rating: War is hell, man

“Because I am exactly where I should be, doing exactly what I should be doing. That is peace.” 

I'm not crying... you're crying.  Also, I have this thing in my eye.  Onion or something. Pax is the story of a box which is forced to abandon his pet fox and their quest to be reunited.  If you have a fox for a pet are you legally obligated to leave it in the woods thereby causing us all existential angst? This heartbreaking novel explores love, loyalty, and the true cost and meaning of war. My only complaint is one that I often have with Middle Grade: I wanted more from it.  I could have done with another twenty pages or so wrapping up the story.

Half a World Away by Cynthia Kadohata cover

Half a World Away
by Cynthia Kadohata


Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: September 2nd 2014
Rating: Immediately sent to my mother. Highest of praise.

“Loneliness flooded his whole body like it was a physical sensation, not merely a feeling. Like it was a liquid that had replaced his blood and flowed inside his veins as his heart pumped it through.” 

This book broke my heart over and over but left me feeling so full of joy. It is the story about a boy learning the meaning of family and love. Eleven-year-old Jaden goes through such a convincing and lovely journey. He starts out so angry and lost. The setting in Kazakstan realistic and well researched. I lived in central Asia for awhile, and it felt so familiar to me.  It also drove home to me yet again how important adoption is and how beautiful and complicated it is.

Same Sun Here by Silas House and Neela Vaswani cover

Same Sun Here
by Silas House and Neela Vaswani


Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: February 14th 2012
Rating: Constantly recommending

“In New York, the buildings are like mountains in some ways, but they are only alive because of the people living in them. Real mountains are alive all over.” 

Why does no one talk about this book? It is perfection.  I am a sucker for an epistolary novel. This is the story of penpals Meena and River.  Meena is an Indian girl who has immigrated to New York City, and River lives in the mountains of Kentucky. It is an unlikely friendship, but through it, they learn about one another, themselves, and what it takes to stand up for what you believe in.  I have been throwing this novel at students shamelessly for the last year and a half, and I will continue to do so.  #notatallsorry

Book Scavenger  by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman cover

Book Scavenger
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman


Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: Book Scavenger #1
Published: June 2nd 2015
Rating: Great Idea

“I appreciate my customers. And many of them are fine, fine people. But not all book people are good people. Don't mistake shared interests with shared ethics." 

This book was okay.  There was nothing wrong with it but also nothing extraordinary about it. It is the kind of book that is fun enough to read but that you forget everything having to do with it the second that you close it.  However, I loved the whole "book scavenger" idea.  The letter at the beginning of the book explaining the game was my favorite part of the book. I am in charge of an independent reading program at my school, and I  am dying to figure out how to set something like this up. Extra stars for the inspiration.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate cover

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate 

Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: January 17th 2012
Rating: A major book for a reason

“I like colorful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”

It isn't often that a book has me personally identifying with a gorilla and using him as a model for activism.  There is something so spare and so lovely about this book that I struggle to describe it.  The One and Only Ivan can be accessed by very young children  (as a read aloud). At the same time, it is sophisticated enough to foster discussion between high school students and adults. The book is a quick but compelling read that had me thinking long after I finished reading.  

Do you read Middle Grade? Or are they just totally not for you? If you don't read them normally what would draw you to a particular book?