Blogger Maria Trivisonno

Serving Social-Emotional Needs—Middle Grade Edition

For the past three years, my library system (Cuyhaoga County Public Library in suburban Cleveland, Ohio, aka CCPL) has reached out to school librarians, ELA staff, and school administrators through School Librarian Book Buzz.  This event informs school staff of the services and materials CCPL has to offer, such as educator cards, databases, and more.  In addition, library staff give book talks on topics pertinent to teachers—STEAM titles, diverse titles, and, this year, books that serve social-emotional needs.

I was honored to be chosen to discuss social-emotional books during this year’s online conference.  Last month, I shared titles for students in grades K-2.  This month, we’ll discuss middle grade books. 

Onto my four picks for middle-grade students!

Baloney and Friends by Greg Pizzoli

Baloney and Friends

Greg Pizzoli, author

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

ISBN: 9781368054546

That third grader who would really benefit from a social-emotional book but just hates to read might be convinced to give this book a try.  The colorful graphic novel features four friend—Baloney the Pig, Peanut the Horse, Bizz the Bee and Krabbit the very crabby Rabbit.  Overcoming fears, talking through a blue mood, and just negotiating the ups and downs of friendship are all contained in this quick read.

Doodleville by Chad Sell


Chad Sell, author

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf

ISBN: 9781984894700

This graphic novel aims as a higher reading level than Baloney and Friends.  Drew lives in a world where art comes to life, and her bedroom wall is chock full of a community of well-loved, and very curious, doodles.  After an inspiring trip to the art museum, Drew creates a huge Leviathan-like Doodle that dwarfs all the others.  However, when Drew becomes stressed over an art assignment, Levi starts wreaking havoc on Doodleville.  Could his behavior be attached to Drew’s mood?  How can Drew gain more confidence in her work and lessen her stress?  Luckily, her art club friends band together to help.

We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

We Dream of Space

Erin Entrada Kelly, author

Publisher: Greenwillow Books, and imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

ISBN: 9780062747303

It’s January 1986, and Mrs. Salonga’s 7th grade class is anxiously awaiting the Challenger launch.  For the Nelson-Thomas siblings, the upcoming event is a welcome reprieve from their unhappy and arguing parents.  Each kid reacts differently to the stress in their house.  Older brother Cash doesn’t believe he’s good at anything; he’s already flunked 7th grade once and fears it might happen again.  Fitch turns his unbridled anger toward a classmate with horrific results.  And Bird is the perfectionist, trying to stop every argument before it starts while planning on being NASA’s first female shuttle commander.  There is no easy answer for this family in crisis, just a slow realization among the siblings that together the three of them can form the family they desire.

Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Fighting Words

Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, author

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers

ISBN: 9781984815682

Fighting Words is a difficult but important book.  Foul-mouthed and tattooed ten-year-old Della’s mother is in jail for cooking meth.  Della and older sister Suki were living with mom’s old boyfriend Clifton until Suki caught him pulling down Della’s underwear.  Their new foster mom Francine is rough around the edges, but supportive.  Francine fights for the girls to receive counseling but, before the state approves it, Suki attempts suicide. Unbeknownst to anyone, Clifton had sexually abused Suki for years.  Della struggles to learn about her sister’s past, to adjust to a new school, and to confront Clifton in court.  Meanwhile, her therapist helps her develop calming techniques, make new friends, and stand up to a bully who has harassed her classmates for years.  Della will make it through just fine, in time.  The book concludes with a list of resources for children who find themselves in similarly difficult situations. 

What books have you read that serve the social-emotional needs of our young customers?  Please feel free to share!

This post addresses the core competencies of IV. Knowledge, Curation, and Management of Materials.

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