Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to Convince Your Middle Grader That Books Are For Them When They Don't Like Reading

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied                  How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel                  How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue (My Life Is a Zoo, #3)

Maybe not the cleverest of blog titles, but since this post is about Jess Keating's series, I thought a little play on words titles would be fun.

Middle grade can be tough to keep kids reading.  Electronics are more accessible and the ability to communicate with one's friends becomes more appealing than getting lost in a book.

When I think middle grade kids, I think friends and how important friends and how friends, and peers, think about each other become to middle grade kids.  Jess Keating nails this concern right on the head with her Ana series

Meet Ana.  Ana is right smack dab in middle school.  She is trudging through the throes of that age, friendships changing, having enemies and those enemies knowing your weaknesses, losing and gaining friends, boy friends becoming boyfriends.   Fears must be conquered.  Can anything be worse than that?  Oh yeah, your family is going to move into the zoo.  Literally.

I think this series is the perfect one to pass on to middle grade readers.  Ana could be them.  The insecurities and fears that Ana deals with is relatable.  Ana has one of the best middle grade voices out there.  I hear Ana in kids.  Ana is clever and witty without being preachy or too much like an adult.  Kids know when you're trying to pass something over them or when you're trying too hard.  I think Jess Keating got Ana just right.

The first two books in the series are out now.  Find How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied and How to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel.

Here are some of my favorite lines from book one:

pg. 49 "I swear, if there were a place called Bright Side, my mother would be queen. Complete with a little crown of stars and glitter and happy unicorns of opportunity."

pgs. 70-71 "Next year's students getting to see my work? That would be like someone seeing inside my doodle notebook. That's practically like seeing someone in their underwear."

pg. 73 "For the first time in my life, I didn't even want to draw, which probably meant I was dying from some awful disease that I'd picked up from crummy math class. I always figured integers were contagious." {I am so with you, Ana!!}

pg. 86 "You can't stay anonymous and stand in front of a crowd of people at the same time. That's like vanilla ice cream wanting to be mint chip. And I am so sticking with Team Vanilla."

pg. 149 "I bit my lip to keep from saying anything. I was still too emotional, and there was no way I was going to get all Sweet Valley High on her." {oh, how I laughed at that one. That had to be meant for the teachers and parents - a SVH comment??? Love it!}

Then make sure you pick up the third book in the Ana series, How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue on October 6.  You won't want to miss it.  Pick it up for a middle grader in your life, too.

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