Apparently, I just love Jenny Han. Everything she writes, I love.
It's always hard to explain what it is that makes intermediate novels good, because, well, here's the plot:
Clara Lee is in the third grade. She's Korean-American, and her grandfather interprets dreams. She has one day of incredible good luck after her , and she decides to sign up to be Little Miss Apple Pie, and she really really wants to be Little Miss Apple Pie in the apple festival, but she'll have to give a speech in front of the entire school. And her luck has started to turn bad.
So, not super exciting, right? The stakes, not so high. But this book is incredibly charming. Clara Lee's family--her "Korean dream genius" grandfather, her sister's preference for eating kimchi for every meal--is warm and quirky and loving. Her town is small and sweet and has a personality of it's own. And Clara Lee herself, all of her fears and hopes and her unique phraseology, is a fantastic protagonist. And that's what makes a good book for this age range. Main characters with lots of personality and secondary characters who are realistic and have sparks of their own. In a realistic contemporary novel, stakes in third grade are never super-high, but if the character is good, and if the stakes matter enough to them, they can feel pretty darn important.
Anyway, I love Clara Lee and her grandpa, and I want to live in Bramley with them.