Awesome New Middle Grade Titles

I have been reading like CRAZY recently. While on one hand I would put up individual posts, I also think people really like lists to find a bunch of titles in one place. So sit back, here are some great titles that are coming out this fall! I will link to various individual, longer reviews. Thank you to NetGalley, Edelweiss, and the various publishers for making any title that hasn’t already published available. All opinions are my own.

Serena Says, by Tanita S. Davis, is a great middle grade book about the way that friendships change in middle school and the power in both believing in yourself and giving others a chance (Little, Brown and Company, November, 2020). It also highlights the power in putting your words out there, for yourself or for others, in writing or as videos. Sometimes we just have to get the words out to better understand how we feel. (Age: 8-12)

Silver Arrow is a middle grade fantasy by Lev Grossman (HarperCollins Children’s, Sept. 1, 2020). Kate & Tom are brother and sister and live boring lives where their parents focus on their phones and computers more than them. It is Kate’s birthday and she decides to ask her Uncle Herbert for a present. She barely knows him, she only knows that he is “super-rich” and, according to their mother, irresponsible. What a surprise when he shows up the next morning with a colossal steam locomotive called the Silver Arrow. What follows is an adventure Kate and Tom never saw coming. (Age: 8-12)

B.B. Alston creates a new world of magic in Amari and the Night Brothers (Balzer & Bray, January 19, 2021) This book was ah-maz-ing! It felt something like a cross between Nyxia and Men in Black. Amari’s brother, Quintin, is missing and people are starting to say he must have gotten into trouble and is dead. Amari knows he has to be alive. When she discovers a ticking briefcase in her closet, the real truth comes out. Quintin works for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs and was after something big. He has nominated her for the program. At this camp, she has to compete for her position against kids who have known and understood magic their whole lives. She is the outsider and then finds that her own supernatural ability is considered “illegal.” Immediately, Amari is considered the enemy by many of her classmates. Amari has to prove herself to her peers as well as herself even while a dangerous magician threatens the entire supernatural world. (Age: 8-12)

I was super excited to find Going Rogue (At Hebrew School) by Casey Breton as it is one of the few books about a young Jewish boy (Green Bean Books, Sept. 19, 2020). Ten-year-old Avery Green loves science. He loves football. He is crazy about Star Wars. But Hebrew school? No, thank you. Avery would rather have his arms sliced off with a lightsaber than sit through one more day of Hebrew School. He’s only asked about a million times why he has to go, but no one in his family has managed to convince him. And then one day, Rabbi Bob shows up. He is strange, but how strange? And strange how? Piecing together some unusual clues, Avery begins to suspect that this new rabbi might be a Jedi master. Armed with something more powerful than a lightsaber, he sets out to reveal the surprising truth. My review can be found here (Ages: 8-12)

Louise is a young girl with undiagnosed Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). Her mother is a piece of work who is trying to get Lou a career in the music business even though Lou really hates performing. They are homeless, live in their truck, and Lou hasn’t gone to school since one school thought she might be on the spectrum. Then a truck accident changes everything. Lou is taken away from her mother and sent to live with an aunt and uncle she doesn’t know. She misses her mom and life has been completely flipped on its head. Rather than being homeless, she is in a comfortable home and attending a private school. She makes a friend even before starting. But she does meet with a counselor on the first day who does suspect that she has SPD. It takes a long time to work through it, but having a team to support her is a welcome change. My review can be found here (Ages: 8-12)

Song for a Whale revolves around Iris, a 12 year old deaf girl who is a whiz when it comes to fixing technology. She is not understood and people in her school just assume that she is stupid. Iris is understandably frustrated and a bit angry at the world. She finds out about a whale that is lost on its own because it sings on a frequency that other whales do not recognize. Whales are very social animals, so this is highly problematic. Just as she fixes radios, she wants to help Blue 55, the whale. She and her grandmother set sail looking for the whale. In the process, Iris learns to shed some of her anger toward the world. I really enjoyed this book. (Ages: 8-12)

What happens when you leave your home, your culture, and your beloved grandmother? How does a young Taiwanese girl deal with moving to America where the foods that she eats are different, her parents rules are stricter, and the way of life just seems foreign? These are some of the themes in Measuring Up, a graphic novel by Lily LaMotte (HarperCollins Children’s, October 27, 2020). The story gets moved along by a cooking competition that Cici enters. Cici used to cook with her Ama (grandmother) and she enters the competition in the hopes of winning the money and being able to fly Ama to Seattle for her father’s birthday. Measuring Up is a great story of finding your own voice, representing your culture, and the power of food to bring people together. (Ages: 8-12)

There have been a number of re-imaginings of Little Women. Kathleen Gros presents us with a new take in Jo: An Adaptation of Little Women (Sort Of) (HarperCollins Children’s, Sept. 1, 2020). Jo is a graphic novel adaptation that has Jo set in modern time. Jo enjoys blogging about her life and wants to be a journalist. As the school year starts, she is excited by the prospect of something different. She definitely gets a year of change and Kathleen Gros handles tricky emotions well. An interesting way to bring a classic story to graphic novel format and good for kids to consider next to the original story. (Ages: 8-12)

Sometimes you just “know” that when certain authors write books that you are going to love them. That is the case with Gordon Korman. His newest book, War Stories hits a home run and will be loved by all of those middle schoolers who like reading fiction about WWII. I did receive a digital copy of this from Edelweiss+ but it was published in July. This one needs a full review which I will get to ASAP. This info is from the publisher.

There are two things Trevor loves more than anything else: playing war-based video games and his great-grandfather, Jacob, who is a true-blue war hero. At the height of World War II, Jacob helped liberate a French village and was awarded the bronze star. Now, decades later, Jacob wants to retrace the steps he took during the war – from training, to D-Day, to the village he is said to have saved. Trevor thinks this is the coolest idea ever. But as they get closer to the village, Trevor discovers there’s more to the story than what he’s heard his whole life, causing him to wonder about his great-grandfather’s heroism, the truth about the battle he fought, and the meaning of genuine valor.

This one sounds so spot on to issues we face in this house, that I’m headed to the bookstore to purchase a copy. Not Your All-American Girl tackles topics of fitting in, jealousy, and friendship. When best friends Lauren and Tara don’t have any classes together, they decide to try out for the school play. Both go for the lead with Lauren giving a stellar performance. But when the show is cast, Lauren lands in the ensemble, while Tara scores the lead role. Their teacher explains: Lauren just doesn’t look the part of the all-American girl. What audience would believe that she, half-Jewish, half-Chinese Lauren, was the every girl star from Pleasant Valley, USA? Can’t wait to see what happens with this one!

I got to hear Varian Johnson talk about Twins over the summer and it sounds great! Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister! Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?

If no one sees him, does he exist? This superhero-inspired adventure story explores friendship and what it means to be a truly brave. Nadia finds adventure in the pages of her Superman comic books, until a mysterious boy saves her dog from drowning during a storm and then disappears. Now she finds herself in the role of Lois Lane, hunting down the scoop of the Invisible Boy, and suddenly she’s in a real-life adventure that’s far more dangerous than anything in her comic books. The Invisible Boy is a mystery and an adventure story, as well as a story about child labor trafficking.

The books being published right now are rather awesome. Kids are really going to be able to find themselves in these books and lose themselves in the amazing stories. Happy reading!

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