Nightstand Reads: Trudi Trueit recommends middle-grade novels to read now

Seattle author Trudi Trueit’s newest book, The Nebula Secret, is part of the Explorer Academy series of novels from National Geographic. We asked Trudi to tell us about some other middle-grade books she’s been reading and loving. Here are five she recommends:



Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
When Amal, a young Pakistani girl, offends the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, she is forced into indentured servitude to work off her family’s debt. In a country where women are perceived as inferior, Amal refuses to abandon her belief that girls have as much right to pursue their dreams as boys. This story could have easily turned darkly tragic, but Saeed chooses, instead, to make it a hopeful one. Amal’s optimism, as well as her bravery and resolve, gives hope to us all that change is possible. At the end of the book, Saeed writes that she was inspired by the real life story of Malala Yousafzai.

Front Desk by Kelly Yang
An immigrant from China, Mia lives with her family in the California motel they manage. The cover suggests a light, frothy story, but in truth, Front Desk explores many of the issues that immigrant families face, including racism, employer exploitation, gender bias, bullying, and poverty. The writing is crisp and direct – just the way kids are. When Mia asks her mom why they came to America, her mother answers “because it’s freer here.’ Mia scoffs that nothing seems free in the U.S. What I adore about this book is that despite the struggles, Mia holds onto her power. She finds her voice and refuses to be silent. That is her triumph. Yang writes that she drew on many of her own childhood experiences as an immigrant for this book and you can feel it drip from every heart-twisting word.

She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah) by Ann Hood
What tween hasn’t totally crushed on a rock star idol and dreamed of a fairy tale life? It’s the mid-1960’s and things aren’t going well for middle schooler Trudy Mixer (I admit an affinity for any character that shares my name). Her Beatles fan club has dwindled, her best friend has gone rogue to become a cheerleader, and her father’s new promotion means less time for her and their love of all things Beatle. But Trudy is certain that meeting her favorite member of the band will fix it all. Hood perfectly captures the times, weaving in everything from the Vietnam War and feminism to the small delightful details, like bean bag chairs and muumuus. Yet, for all its nostalgia the message is far from dated. This is a book about feeling left out, about following your heart no matter how crazy the destination, about being young.

Two Truths and A Lie series by Ammi-Joan Paquette and Laurie Thompson (local author!)
I love reading nonfiction and this series gives it a delightful twist! Like the NPR game of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me (a contestant hears three news stories and must decide which one is a lie), Two Truths and a Lie presents three seemingly true stories per chapter, challenging the reader to decide which one is false. The first book, It’s Alive covers plants, animals, and humans, while the sequel, Histories and Mysteries explores history, geography, and human achievement. Answers and an extensive bibliography are provided in the back of each book. Along with the fun of trying to sort fact from fiction, critical thinking and thorough research are timely topics that will, no doubt, spark lively discussion.

The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats (Winner, Washington State Book Award)
In the 1860s, Asa Mercer, from one of Seattle’s founding families, made several trips to the east coast to find women willing to relocate to the remote Pacific Northwest. Those he returned with were known as the Mercer Girls (you may remember the 1960s TV show loosely based on this called Here Come the Brides). In this historical fiction tale, 11-year-old Jane heads with her widowed stepmother and baby brother from New York to Washington Territory for a new life, but must come to terms with the fact that the frontier is not what she has been led believe. Jane is likeable, spirited, and realistically portrayed and you can’t help but cheer for her to succeed. I am a huge history buff so this coming-of-age tale about the brave women who helped settle Seattle (my hometown) was fascinating!

Find out more about Trudi at her website. She’ll be doing a free reading at Ravenna Third Place Books on Friday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. 


~posted by Linda J.

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