Category Archives: Middle Grade Fiction

The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher

Title: The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher
Author: Jessica Lawson
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-4814-0153-1

Book Summary:

So . . . what if Tom Sawyer wasn’t the real culprit in all his adventures. What if, instead, Becky Thatcher was the mastermind? That is the premise of The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher. Becky and her parents have recently moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri to start a new life. Her brother Jon died a year ago; her mother has become sullen and introverted and her father, Judge Thatcher, is busy at the courthouse. Becky fills her time exploring and trying to live up to the promise she made to her brother to have adventures.

Unfortunately for Becky, there are a lot of things that interfere with her attempted exploits. First, she has to go to school and her teacher, Mr. Dobbins, is mean and steals her cookies. Next, she has to convince Sid that she is worthy enough to participate in the witchy bet: to steal something from the town witch, Widow Douglas. Daddy’s watch, Old Reliable, always seems to tell when she has been sneaking out late at night. The Pritchard boys, wanted for train robbery, bank robbery, and murder, are on the run and headed her way. And finally, that dumb wimp Tom Sawyer seems to be putting his nose into everything.

Luckily for Becky, her new friend Amy is willing to stand by her and face whatever dangers might lie ahead. And Sam Clemens, a curious writer who is waiting for the next steamboat, also shares some good advice and wisdom. With any luck, Becky and her friends will be able to conquer the heroic feats that would make her brother proud.

Book Commentary:
What a fun book! Although it is written for middle school aged kids, any fan of Mark Twain will enjoy it. The story moves quickly and presents different explanations for events and characters in the original Tom Sawyer book, including the character of Huck Finn and the premise for “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” The author does a nice job at keeping just the right amount of references to the original while still telling a truly unique tale. As a younger reader, I was always jealous of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn’s adventures. Poor Becky had to sit and wait at home in her starched petticoats while the boys traveled down the river. Now it is Becky’s turn to save the day.

Who might like this book:
Switching back to my old teacher mode, I would love to teach this book in conjunction with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The two books presented together do a great job at showing students how perspective and point-of-view can completely change a story. What great parallels and contrasts could be discussed! The book even includes some discussion questions to get you started. This would be a perfect novel for a middle grade book club as well. Even if you haven’t read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, the book is fun and enjoyable for all ages.

Completely Clementine (Clementine Book 7)

Title: Completely Clementine (Clementine Book 7)
Author: Sara Pennypacker
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication Date: 2015
ISBN: 978-142312358-3

Book Summary:
Clementine is having a rough time.

It is the end of third grade and she isn’t happy about leaving her teacher. She worries that she hasn’t learned enough and won’t be prepared for fourth grade. But mainly, she really doesn’t like to say good-bye.

Her dad ate meatloaf and she isn’t happy about him going against her vegan rule. No one else in the family eats meat; why should her dad? She leaves him pictures with sad cows and frightened pigs. And . . . she isn’t talking to him . . . for many days and hours! She’s Clementine; of course, she’s counting.

Her mom is having a baby and she isn’t happy about the family not being ready. Her mom is going on a mad nesting craze and cleaning everything in sight. Clementine is worried that the baby will be a dud and have no personality, and worst of all, they can’t agree on any names!

Luckily, Clementine has her best friend Margaret, her cat Moisturizer, and even her little brother named Corn or Asparagus or Green Bean, depending on the day, to help her out.

Book Commentary:
These might be some of my all-time favorite middle grade age books. Clementine is a delight and although she often does the wrong things, they are always done for the right reasons. This lovely series is laugh-out-loud while still being very touching and sweet. She is quirky and looks at the world in a wondrous way; middle school age children will enjoy the humor and appreciate her view of the world. As she tells her brother when they are making their parents’ anniversary card, if their mom and dad hadn’t met, they would be extinct!

These are great read-aloud books to younger children and also good for moderate level readers. Amazon identifies them as Grades 2-4. The simple pen and ink drawings help the story along and are just as delightful as the story itself. My middle-schooler and high-schooler still have to read the newest Clementine book when it comes out because we all have become so attached to the characters.

Who might like this book:
This the seventh book in the series and I highly recommend starting at the beginning. These are wonderful read-aloud books although be warned that there will need to be many pauses for laughter. I read these books aloud to my children when they were younger and now, even though they are all past the reading level, they still have to read each new one as they come out.

Make sure you start at the beginning to enjoy all of Clementine’s adventures:
The Talented Clementine
Clementine’s Letter
Clementine, Friend of the Week
Clementine and the Family Meeting
Clementine and the Spring Trip