Welcome to Day 11 of the 6th Annual March MG Madness, featuring Bruce Hale and his book, Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!
Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies!
by Bruce Hale
March 7, 2017
How well do you know the lunch servers at your school? Sure, they seem like nice people, but what if secretly they are something much, much weirder?
Best friends Carlos and Benny, who just saved their teacher from becoming a were-hyena, have been called upon to investigate the strange goings-on in the cafeteria. Why are the lunch ladies suddenly so grumpy? Why are the girls' meals different from the boys'? And what was that thing seen scuttling around the kitchen wearing an apron?
It's going to require a lot of courage--and more than an industrial size can of Raid--for the boys to avoid extermination in this buggy adventure.
10 Middle-Grade Reads I Can’t Give Away
by Bruce Hale
It’s a fool’s errand to create any kind of top ten list for middle grade books. How do you include Charlotte’s Web, yet leave out Holes? How can you possibly choose between Because of Winn Dixie and A Wrinkle In Time? You can’t.
Nevertheless, this fool is going to try. The only way I could dream of attempting this ridiculous task is by ignoring the canon and choosing instead the books I can’t give away — the ones that have remained on my bookshelves from house move to house move. (Plus a couple of recent titles I feel sure will join the pack.)
Here, based on nothing but pure whim and my inability to part with books, are my top ten middle grade reads:
1. The Girl Who Drank the Moon
If ever a book deserved the Newbery Award, this was it. A magical, moving fairy tale that feels old yet new, Kelly Barnhill’s book was my favorite read of last year.
2. The Schwa Was Here
I see these kids when I visit schools — the ones who sit on the edges and never say anything. Neal Shusterman was savvy enough to not just notice them, but to tell their story in a compelling way.
3. Winnie the Pooh
My battered paperback of this tale has remained with me since college days. Whenever my spirit needs soothing, the adventures of Pooh, Eeyore, and Piglet always do the trick. Plus, it’s deep. I mean how many other middle grade titles can you name that have philosophy books (like the Tao of Pooh) based on them?
4. Harry Potter/The Graveyard Book
Sometimes, you just can’t choose. The Harry Potter books have stayed with me from move to move, yet The Graveyard Book felt like an instant classic when it first came out. What can I say? I’m a sucker for that British storytelling voice.
5. Shadow Magic
Such a fun tale. It boasts a rascally hero, a strong female lead, an imaginative setting, plenty of magic and action, and best of all, giant bats. I love the spooky, yet gritty world Joshua Khan has created.
6. The Lightning Thief
As a 12-year-old, I would have devoured this book and begged for more. As an adult, I’ve read it several times, marveling over the masterful blend of humor, adventure, and emotion. The mythical underpinnings just put the cherry on top.
7. Phantom Tollbooth
One of my childhood favorites, this tale inspired me both to write and to draw. Norton Juster’s brilliant wordplay meshed so beautifully with Jules Feiffer’s clever artwork that they formed a whole that was greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the best adventure books of all times. As a hiker, I was particularly drawn to the wilderness survival element, and the grittiness of its hero resonates with anyone who has faced personal challenges.
9. The Great Greene Heist/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Another tie vote. I loved the caper movie flavor and multicultural cast of Varian Johnson’s Great Greene Heist, but my middle grade self would never forgive me for not including a Roald Dahl book on the list.
10. Bud, Not Buddy
It’s so hard to choose just one of Christopher Paul Curtis’s terrific books, but as a musician, I was particularly taken by this jazz-inflected tale of a boy seeking his dad during the Great Depression. It gets me every time.
Bruce Hale is the author and illustrator of over 40 seriously funny books for young readers, including the Chet Gecko Mysteries and Clark the Shark. His newest tale, the second in the Monstertown Mysteries series, is Mutant Mantis Lunch Ladies. You can find him online at www.brucehale.com. Website * Twitter
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