Monday, October 3, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Pickles--The New Vampire-Zombies?

Clouds scud over the moon. Floorboards creek as the bedroom door clicks open. Something slithers towards the bed. Bella moans in her sleep. Vinegar. Yes, the smell of vinegar assaults her nose, startling her awake. An enormous green monster rears up, fangs bared. A vampire-zombie pickle. It lunges for her throat...

Well, I don't think Vampire-Zombie Pickles are really going to catch on, but if they do I'll be right there, ready to jump on the bandwagon. As it is, at least for this week's MMGM, Pickles Abound:

We have Eric Wight's Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace, Julie Sternberg's Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, and Eli Stutz's Pickle Impossible. A veritable pickle cornucopia for you all!

Strictly speaking, Frankie Pickle and Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie are chapter books, but I can see them being very popular in 3rd or 4th grade classrooms.

 Frankie Pickle and the Mathematical Menace (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers, July 2011) mixes text with a graphic novel feel, as Frankie battles number monsters, studies for his math test, and comes to realize that math is actually all around him. I particularly liked the humor and whimsy.

For example: "Maybe Frankie would get lucky and Miss Gordon wouldn't have time to grade their quizzes until Monday.

"Good news, everyone," said Miss Gordon. "I had planty of time last night to grade your quizzes."

(Other books in this series include Frankie Pickle and the Pine Run 3000 and Frankie Pickle and the Closet of Doom.)

Sternberg's Like Pickle Juice on a Cookie, (Amulet Books, March, 2011) is what I think is called a novel-in-verse--usually something I shy away from. (I guess I like my lush descriptions and meaty paragraphs.) But this short book may make a believer out of me. It is the heartfelt story of Eleanor Abigail Kane, whose beloved babysitter, Bibi, is moving to Florida to take care of her sick father. The tone is pitch perfect, with everything in Eleanor's world revolving around her:

"Bibi cannot move away," I said.
"She is moving to Florida," my father said.
"To be with her father.
He is sick.
He needs her."
"I need her," I said.
In the end, Eleanor adjusts to her new babysitter, Natalie, who is also wise and kind and who realizes she can never be another Bibi, the "first babysitter," but will "try to be an excellent second babysitter." (The title comes from something Eleanor's Mom says to make Eleanor laugh.)

This is a story full of caring grown-ups (which, as a caring grown-up myself, I must admit makes a nice change!) The illustrations, by Matthew Cordell, complement the text perfectly.

The third Pickle-o-rama title is a true middle grade book. Here's what GoodReads says about Eli Stutz's adventure, Pickle Impossible (Bloomsbury USA, 2010) :
Twelve-year-old Pierre's remarkable family is known far and wide for their delicious pickles. But when the pickle farm is threatened, only Pierre can save it--by safely transporting a jar of world-famous pickles to an international pickle competition. When Pierre is kidnapped, a cunning young girl named Aurore rescues him. Together they set off with just twenty-four hours until the competition begins. To protect their pickles on the journey, Pierre and Aurore must navigate the ghostly catacombs of Paris, figure out how to safely crash-land a plane, enlist the help of a world-class scientist, and escape a villain who will stop at nothing to capture their jar of pickles.
If you like a rollicking good read, this novel is for you. The story moves fast and my seven (now eight) year-old and I read it at breakneck speed!!

All of these books can be read in a day (in fact, the chapter books took me less than an hour each.) The chapter books would be excellent reads for kids in grades 2-4 and for kids who have to be enticed to read. Pickle Impossible is aimed at grades 4-6.

(And don't they all have GREAT covers?!)

Now, back to my draft of the Pickle-Vampire-Zombie Apocalypse


  1. Hmmm. I have got to think that pickles fall on the younger end of the middle grade spectrum. All I have is the Magic Pickle books, and those are something that only the 6th graders pick up. Good eye on a new trend!

  2. What a great round up and a trend I didn't notice. Got my eyes peeled now and my pickle jar totally. As for you Pickle Vampire Zombie Apocalypse, I am team werewolf...saaay, wait a sec. No werewolves? Maybe in book two?

  3. Great collage. A little something for everyone. I'm not a lover of the novel in verse either - OUT OF THE DUST is still waiting to be read on my shelf - but if I dive in, maybe I'll be a convert (or at least a liker of).


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