Huggable October 2017 Middle Grade Releases

These reviews and photos by Kate Olson were originally written published on
The Loud Library Lady blog.

There is a reason I titled my blog and social media accounts all relating to LOUD ~ when I love books, I absolutely shout about them from the rooftops! So when I found these two ADORABLE middle grade titles publishing on the exact same day with so many parallels, I haven’t stopped gushing about them since. And guess what??? That release day is TODAY, October 3, 2017! YAY! Here are my reviews for these two huggable and lovable and HAPPY middle grade titles…… out now and grab your copy of BOTH of these, unless you followed my advice and pre-ordered them.


The Unlikely Story of a Pig in the City by Jodi Kendall
(Harper ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Adorable and appropriate for a wide-ranging middle grade audience, this book will be sure to delight readers, especially animal lovers. An excellent companion to the book I labeled as so huggable last week! 

Thanks to the author for sharing a copy of this book with Kid Lit Exchange for review purposes.

Book Description

In this modern-day homage to Charlotte’s Web, a little pig in a big city leads to lots of trouble. Can eleven-year-old Josie Shilling save the day?

Josie Shilling’s family is too big, their cramped city house is too small, and she feels like no one’s ever on her side. Then, on Thanksgiving Day, her older brother, Tom, brings home a pink, squirmy bundle wrapped in an old football jersey—a piglet he rescued from a nearby farm. Her name is Hamlet.

The minute Josie holds Hamlet, she feels an instant connection. But there’s no room for Hamlet in the crowded Shilling household. And whoever heard of keeping a pig in the city? So it’s up to Josie to find her a forever home.


This is another one that falls into the “huggable” category for me. The family, the PIG, Josie herself – they are all delightful and make this a hands-down feel-good middle grade read. The city setting is NOT NYC, which is a nice change for those of us and our students who live in middle America – I sometimes worry that my students will think the only city worth writing about is NYC! Josie’s family is realistic and lovable and their money troubles will be so relatable for readers (and the adults in their lives!). Also relatable will be Josie’s anxiety about gymnastics and her ever-increasing height. She goes through a very common “finding herself” journey as she strives to fit her new interests into her life and meld them with her old ones. Pet lovers will rejoice in Josie’s absolute devotion to Hamlet and keeping him safe.

As a school librarian, I recommend this for grades 3 -7 as a read aloud and grades 4/5 and up for independent reading. It’s 100% appropriate for even younger students, but the reading level might be too difficult. There is a Christmas timeline and theme, but Kendall includes mention of Hanukkah as well in reference to one of Josie’s friends, which is a welcome reminder that Christianity is not the only religion and Christmas is not universal.

Highly recommended for school libraries and classrooms, as as a home purchase for any kids who can’t get enough of Charlotte’s Web, pets, and/or gymnastics. Also a great one for kids in a large family.



The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street by Karina Yan Glaser
(HMH Books for Young Readers ~ October 3, 2017)

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Vanderbeekers are guaranteed to steal the heart of every single reader who picks up this book, children and adults alike. This is one of my top feel-good and huggable middle grade novels of 2017!

Thank you to the author for providing Kid Lit Exchange with a review copy of this title.

Book Description (from Goodreads)

The Vanderbeekers have always lived in the brownstone on 141st Street. It’s practically another member of the family. So when their reclusive, curmudgeonly landlord decides not to renew their lease, the five siblings have eleven days to do whatever it takes to stay in their beloved home and convince the dreaded Beiderman just how wonderful they are. And all is fair in love and war when it comes to keeping their home. 


Okay, so this is one of those emotional reviews for me – one where I really don’t tell you much about the book but just rave and rave and tell you how much I loved it. The Vanderbeekers instantly brought me back to reading the Melendy Quartet series as a child, books about a quirky and loving family that I read over and over and over and over, and have just recently returned to as an adult. The Vanderbeekers are just as timeless, and just as loveable. I was absolutely, 100% utterly enchanted by this book.

This story is set in Harlem with an incredibly diverse cast of characters about a family who lives in an amazing home in an amazing neighborhood with a fabulous sense of community. She describes the children and their features in beautiful ways that make it clear that they all look very different from one another, and connects them to their parents’ features through those descriptions. The relationships between the children and their family are realistic but also written in such a playful way – the language in this book is perfection. I love the storyline, I love the characters, I love the problems they have to solve – I just love it all.

Verdict: Required purchase for all middle grade classrooms and libraries. I just pre-ordered copies for both of my libraries as well as for my own family. Stay tuned for the next story about the Vanderbeekers coming in 2018 – I can not WAIT for this!

View all of my Goodreads reviews

Kate Olson is a PK-12 librarian in a small rural school district in Wisconsin, as well as a reviewer for School Library Journal and founder of Kid Lit Exchange. She lives on the top of a giant hill in the middle of nowhere with her husband, 3 feisty children, and dogs named Max and Booker. She can be found on her blog The Loud Library Lady and on Instagram as @theloudlibrarylady and @littleloudlibrary and Twitter as @theloud_library.

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