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📚 Bookelicious Middle Grade Book Club: Duel

Updated: Apr 3


Y'all, it's no secret that I love the Bookelicious Middle Grade Book Club. If you've never participated, these monthly events feature a new title written for middle grade readers and focus on helping educators create meaningful connections between these books and the readers they serve. Structured, in part, as a "build your own book club" workshop, participants leave with book lists and resources to use back at school, but the best part is that the authors and illustrators of the books we read join us in conversation!

Oh, and did I mention these events are free??


This month, both Jessixa and Aaron Bagley joined us to chat about their new graphic novel Duel - which was one of my favorite books of 2023. This tender and funny story is, at its heart, about grief, family and learning to see the world beyond your own nose. It's the perfect book for middle grade readers with lots of layers for adult readers to dig into as well. I love it so much!

Book Club participants describe Duel.

That said, here's my review of this great book! One of the things I loved most about Duel was the author's note in the back, which is not to be missed! This post-script to the story contains fascinating information about inclusivity in the sport of fencing, some photos of Jessixa as a young fencer and even the music that Aaron was listening to when creating the illustrations. (Note: the prominence of "Metallica" in the word cloud! #IYKYK) Additionally, seeing how Aaron sketched out the floor plans to essential spaces in the story and learning that Duel was inspired, at least in part, by Jessixa Bagley's relationship with her own sister, Sisi, makes Lucy and Gigi's story feel even warmer and more authentic. Hearing Jessixa talk about how "Aaron was the only person who could illustrate this book" of her heart only reiterated how special this story, and the team behind it, are! 🩵


Inspired by Breathing New Life Into Book Clubs by Sonja Cherry-Paul and Dana Johansen, each month we share potential "book club bins." These micro-collections all feature that month's book club pick as an anchor text, along with several other titles that are connected by theme, genre, format or some other element that would be easy for kids to be in conversation about. The purpose of these book lists is to provide kids with voice and choice when selecting texts for book club (or literature circle) reading. Note: these suggestions are meant to serve as spring boards for educators to think about their own collections and what books might make a great book club micr-collection! It's my hope that you'll also learn about some new titles to support this work AND I'm always so grateful to those who attend our events who suggest even more great books during our book club meetings!

Here are this month's book club bins and themes:

Bin 1 Theme: Grief and Loss

Bin 2 Theme: Siblings

Bin 3 Theme: Sports

Bin 4 Theme: Middle School

Please enjoy a special discount of 20% off the titles mentioned above (or others of your choice) by visiting Bookelicious and using the code JENNIFERLAGARDE. Note: I do not make any money when you purchase books from Bookelicious, but I am delighted that you get to save some! HOWEVER, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that buying books from Bookelicious is the way we keep these events free while also supporting the authors and illustrators who join us each month, so... I hope you'll think of your book purchases from Bookelicous as supporting a good cause!

Each month, I also create an activity, related to that month's book club selection, for participants to download (for free) and use with their students. This month, that activity focused on scratch-off bookmarks as an asynchronous form of reader's advisory. I wrote about the process of creating these bookmarks here - including a link to the stickers I used. In addition to a blank template that educators can use to create their own, I also created a scratch-off bookmark for ALL 24 titles featured in the book bins (above) including Duel. All of these resources can be downloaded (for free!) here!

Finally, here are my slides from this month's event.


As much as I have shared here, really this is just the tip of the reading joy iceberg! The real value of these events comes from participating, with the next best thing being watching the recording later. However, only those who register in advance get access to the recording, so head on over to right now and reserve your spot for one of their upcoming events. While I'm (obviously!) partial to the Middle Grade Bookclub, there are lots of opportunities to join this joyful reading community. I hope to see y'all there!

In the meantime, checkout our next few book club selections below. Reserve your spot today!


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