Hold on to your hats because this list of new middle-grade books for 8 – 12 year olds IS AMAZING.
As usual, I’ve starred my favorites.
Ready to dive in?
BUT FIRST, check out my list of the BEST chapter and middle grade books for 2021!
15 Brilliant New Middle-Grade Books
A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus
A wonderful, heartwarming historical fiction story with close-knit siblings who stick together and eventually find their forever home. (If you like the Vanderbeekers, you’ll love this book, too!) Three siblings join the groups of children leaving London during WWII for safety. But in their case, their neglectful grandmother has recently died and they need to find a new home. Unfortunately, their placements are horrid. It’s only the library and the kind librarian who help them survive the bullying and hunger. What’s worse, the librarian is deemed “unsuitable” to be their foster mother since her missing husband is German. However, when things go from bad to worse in their latest home, the children demand to live with the librarian no matter what.
Treasure of the World by Tara Sullivan
REALISTIC / SOUTH AMERICA / MINING / GROWTH MINDSET
An engrossing, unique story about a girl’s struggle to realize her own dreams while helping her family survive in a poor Bolivian mining town…
Ana is a poor girl living in a small town high in the Bolivian mountains whose feeble economy revolves around mining. When her abusive dad forces Ana’s sickly younger brother into the mines, her brother doesn’t last long before he’s bedridden with a cough and fever. To help, Ana drops out of school and goes to the mine in her brother’s place. When her brother returns to the mines, a mine collapse kills her dad and leaves her brother’s whereabouts unknown. Ana hunts for her brother, scrambles to find work, and believes that her dreams of an education are over. But, not only does her brother get found but Ana thinks of a solution so she can work and go to school…
The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan
IMMIGRATION / ANIMAL RESCUE / FRIENDSHIP
A heartwarming story of family separation, animal rescue, and friendship!
Sila and her dad miss Sila’s mom who has been stuck in Turkey for a year trying to fix her immigration problems. When her dad brings her to a mechanic job, Sila meets Gio, a lonely older man who had won the lottery. Gio spontaneously uses the money to buy an old circus elephant named Veda. He hires Sila and a boy on the spectrum named Mateo for the summer to help with the elephant, building a close friendship with each other and the animals. When Gio’s mom, a lawyer, learns about Sila’s mom, she gets involved. The story’s beautiful ending made me cry!
City Spies: Golden Gate by James Ponti
ACTION / SPY
Action-packed from the first page, this is an energetic, page-turning adventure.
The City Spies are a family-like group of teenage spies. This second book is filled with danger and suspense, just like the first. After a complicated op on a research vessel, the spies learn that there’s a mole in their organization — and he or she has just committed a murder. You won’t be able to put this spy adventure book down — it’s excellent.
Shoe Wars by Liz Pichon
Written by the author of Tom Gates, this visually appealing, illustrated book is already a big hit in the UK. Ruby and Bear’s dad is a gentle shoe inventor in the Shoebox neighborhood of Shoe Town who works for the evil Wendy Wedge. He’s just perfected a flying shoe design and plans to enter it in the prestigious Golden Shoe Contest. But, Wendy gets word of these shoes she plans to steal them for herself…or put their dad in jail. It’s up to Ruby and Bear to outwit Wendy and her nasty son, fix the flying shoes, rescue their dad, and win the contest.
The Memory Thief (Thirteen Witches Book 1) by Jodi Lynn Anderson
An uplifting fantasy adventure with memorable characters showing the magical power of stories! Rosie takes care of both herself and her mom who is a shell of a person, her only solace was the stories she wrote. But in a moment of despair, Rosie burns her stories –and suddenly, starts to see ghosts. She learns that she’s the last of the ghost hunters and she’s in terrible danger from the thirteenth witch, the memory thief, who stole her mom’s memories. With her friend Germ’s help, Rosie uses her gift of storytelling to defeat the witch. The wonderful ending sets the stage for more adventures…after all, there are still 12 more witches!
The Accidental Apprentice by Amanda Foody
A fantastic, magical journey of self-acceptance, a bewitching plotline, and irresistible characters.
When gathering mushrooms in his latest apprenticeship, Barclay accidentally becomes his worst fear — a Lore Keeper bonded with a mythical beast. Even though he doesn’t want to be a Lore Keeper because his parents were killed by a mythical beast, Barclay is forced out of his hometown by scared villagers. He meets and travels with another Lore Keeper named Violet to a town where he tries to get rid of his mark by first entering a competition. All the while, he struggles with the unexpected joy of the wild Beast bond and the guilt for enjoying it. He’ll soon have to make a choice — cut out the Beast or embrace his new life.
Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki
REALISTIC / WWII IN JAPAN
An important, multi-layered story of a Japanese girl’s understanding of Hiroshima, grief, family, and the healing power of sharing stories.
When Nozomi’s art teacher, Mr. Yoshioka, leaves the school due to sickness, she and her friends plan a festival in his honor called “Hiroshima: Then and Now.” They interview people close to them about their experiences during the bombing (which they call “the flash”), learning many unknown stories including that Mr. Yoshioka lost his beloved and still visits her grave. As the kids learn about their family and neighbor lives and deaths, their stories impact the way the kids view things now and their hope for the future, which they each share artistically in the festival.
Starfish by Lisa Fipps
REALISTIC / BODY IMAGE & SIZE / CHARACTER ARC / VERSE
Heartbreaking and inspiring, this poignant story in verse shows a girl who learns, after years of fat-shaming and bullying, to define herself not based on what others say but on who she really is.
Ellie’s nickname is Splash because of her size but Ellie loves swimming; it’s her safe escape where she feels the most comfortable. Her biggest bully? Her mother–who won’t buy her new clothes because she thinks it encourages Ellie’s weight gain and is pushing for gastro-bypass surgery. Not even Ellie’s dad stands up to her mom’s cruel treatment of Ellie. Fortunately, Ellie finds an understanding therapist who helps her move from powerless to powerful. “As I float, I spread out my arms and my legs. I’m a starfish, taking up all the room I want.” It’s brilliantly written and empowering. Run out and buy this book, it’s a must-read, must-own, sure-to-be-an-award-winner.
Case File Little Claws Animal Rescue Agency #1 by Eliot Schrefer
ANIMAL ADVENTURE / ENVIRONMENTALISM
Esquire Fox, a fox, runs the Animal Rescue Agency with the help of her business manager, a rooster named Mr. Pepper. Despite the prey-predator scenario, the duo travels to the Arctic to save a polar bear cub adrift at sea, separated from his mother, and hunted by a dangerous human who wants to sell him. Entertaining writing, lovable main characters with distinctive personalities, and an exciting adventure make this an excellent start to a new series.
Wild Survival: Crocodile Rescue! by Melissa Cristina Marquez
#OWNVOICES / ADVENTURE / ANIMAL RESCUE
Adrianna’s parents have an animal sanctuary and host an animal rescue that is moving from YouTube to television. On this trip, which is being filmed for the new show, the family goes to the mangrove forest of Cuba to help an injured crocodile. (The book is interspersed with factual information about all the wildlife they encounter!) Andriana messes up and gets grounded but besides saving a dog, she realizes something the grown-ups missed– that the rescued crocodile had a nest of eggs. She convinces her brother to help her save the eggs but they have a very close call with poachers, adding in suspense and a touch of danger. Engaging and interesting!
The Magical Reality of Nadia by Bassem Youssef and Catherine R. Daly, illustrated by Douglas Holgate
#OWNVOICES / MAGICAL REALISM
Funny, entertaining, and filled with important themes of friendship, growing up, and racism, this is one of my new favorite books! Nadia unexpectedly discovers an ancient Egyptian teacher (Titi) trapped in her hippo amulet. He comes out onto a paper and TALKS! Tita helps Nadia with problems she faces at school like the new kid who is rude and prejudiced about her Egyptian culture and troubles with her friends who are working together on a school project. Totally wonderful, heartfelt, and relatable– don’t miss this new book for ages 8 – 12.
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca
#OWNVOICES / VERSE / IDENTITY / INDIAN-AMERICAN
Reha is struggling to figure out her place in her two worlds–India and America. She wants Amma to understand how she feels but when her Amma gets cancer, Reba focuses on being virtuous enough so her mom will get better. But, her Amma dies. And Reha feels so much grief. Then, she gets a letter mailed by a nurse from her Amma that helps Reha move into her future and belonging to two cultures. (It’s a heartfelt, beautiful ending and if you’re like me, you’ll probably cry!)
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
#OWNVOICES / REALISTIC / GROWTH MINDSET
Maisie feels sadness, grief, and anger at not being able to dance due to a knee injury. Dance was her life, so she pretends her knee feels okay and is healing, even though it still hurts. She takes a hiking trip with her parents and little brother where she reinjures herself with a bad fall. Now she really won’t be able to return to dance. Her mom and therapist help Maisie work through the feelings and envision a different future for herself. With themes of grief, identity, and Native American heritage, this story resonates with anyone who has felt the pain of shattered dreams.
Resistance by Jennifer Nielsen
HISTORICAL FICTION / WWII
Chaya is a Polish Jew who decides to fight back against the Nazis in honor of her siblings. She becomes part of a resistance group that, among other things, helps smuggle supplies to the ghettos. She’s a determined, flawed young woman who fights for justice all the while knowing she won’t make huge changes but that at least some resistance actions are better than doing nothing.