Fall is an exciting time for school librarians. We head back to school, get our space reorganized, put up our displays, plan out what we’re going to teach the kids, and the books we will read to them. Far and away the most fun task – and the most difficult – is ordering new books. There is such a wealth of new middle grade books being published every day it can be hard to discern what’s a necessity versus what would be nice to add to your collection if you had more money. For your consideration today, I offer my list of the top middle grade books that you should add to your library collection. Or buy for your kids. Or offer to the students in your classroom. Or buy for your favorite niece or nephew for Christmas. Or just rush out and read if you love reading middle grade books like I do.
· Amal Unbound, by Aisha Saeed – In India, young Amal, who longs to become a teacher, has a social awakening while working as a servant to pay a family debt.
· Be Prepared, by Vera Brosgol – In this autobiographical graphic memoir, the author recounts her month at a Russian summer camp where she feels she doesn’t fit in.
· Front Desk, by Kelly Yang – Mia, a Chinese immigrant, ably takes over the front desk at the motel her parents are managing, while dreaming of a future as a writer. (I’ve been hearing Newbery buzz about this one!)
· Smart Cookie, by Elly D Swartz – Frankie lives with her Dad and Grandmother at a bed and breakfast, while dealing with Gram’s hoarding, ghost rumors and trying to find a new wife (and acceptable new mom) for her father.
· Louisiana’s Way Home, by Kate DiCamillo (releases October 2nd) – this companion to DiCamillo’s charming Raymie Nightingale follows the trials and tribulations of Louisiana Elefante. Manages to be heartbreaking, uplifting, and truly funny.
· Saving Winslow, by Sharon Creech (releases September 11th) – Louie doesn’t have a good track record with animal care, but when his father brings home an orphaned mini-donkey, he’s determined to save it. Perfect for E.B. White fans.
· The Dollar Kids, by Jennifer Jacobson – Lowen and his family move to a struggling town where houses are being sold for a dollar to encourage new residents. Various social issues are raised – job loss, class and race divisions, gun violence, prejudices.
· Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson (releases August 21st) – In a talking circle of sorts, Haley and her 6th grade classmates discuss issues such as incarcerated parents, death, families split by immigration, job loss and other daily struggles.
· Cilla Lee-Jenkins, This Book is a Classic, by Susan Tan – In her first book, aspiring author Cilla wrote her memoir. Now she’s working on a classic, and to do so, she focuses on the traditions around her, noting differences in the two sides of her biracial family, and centering on the wedding of her beloved Aunt Eva.
· Stanley Will Probably Be Fine, by Sally J. Pla – Stanley has anxiety and sensory processing disorders, and sometimes gets overwhelmed by crowds, noise and his brother’s pestering. Now his best friend is acting strange and he humiliates himself at school.
· The Science of Breakable Things, by Tae Keller – in the process of a classic egg-drop contest, Natalie is also dealing with her mother’s deepening depression, and a yearning for a deeper connection with the Korean part of her heritage.
· The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras – Set in 13th century Scotland, young Drest embarks on a quest to rescue her father and brothers when they are captured by a band of knights. She has five days to reach Faintree Castle and trade an injured knight for her family’s freedom.
· Hurricane Child, by Kheryn Callender – Caroline is considered unlucky in her Virgin Islands home, because she was born during a hurricane. Also bullied for her dark skin tone, she is lonely until she befriends newcomer Kalinda. Coming of age novel with LGBTQ elements.
· Just Like Jackie, by Lindsey Stoddard – Jackie has problems. There’s her short fuse, and now her Grandpa, her only family, is starting to become very forgetful. A class project to do a family tree is a catalyst for change and growth in her life.
· A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano – Leonora, youngest of five sisters, discovers that the secret to her family bakery’s wonderful goods is magic. Leo steals a book of magical recipes and her experimentation leads to all kinds of problems. Back matter includes non-magical recipes.
· Me, Frida & the Secret of the Peacock Ring, by Angela Cervantes – On Paloma’s first trip to her father’s native Mexico, she becomes embroiled in a mystery having to do with Frida Kahlo and a missing ring. Despite her low expectations at the start of the trip, Paloma makes friends and has more adventures than she bargained for.
If you have any other suggestions for this list, please share them below!