Since NPR started the Backseat Book Club for young listeners, I've been swimming in what folks in the book industry affectionately call "kid lit." Lucky me! I've always been a fan of children's literature — even before I had youngsters of my own — because it allows us to see some of the world's most complex issues through the eyes of a child.
In that sense, middle-grade fiction (for ages 9-14) is particularly rich terrain, because it targets an audience whose protective veneer of childhood innocence is starting to peel away. Sometimes it melts away slowly, like ice cream. Sometimes it's snatched away quickly, like a band-aid off a skinned knee. In any case, a door opens to a wonderfully complex and infinitely interesting chapter in a young child's life.
There were so many strong middle-grade titles released this year that culling the list to five was infinitely difficult. This list does nor necessarily include blockbuster best-sellers. None of these books is a blowout blockbuster; they are, rather, books that seep into your heart and leave you thinking about the characters long after you reach the last page. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.