From a young girl’s escape from Syria to a boy’s passion for hockey, you’ll find many incredible middle grade chapter books to read and enjoy this January 2018. Books like Just Like Jackie and Escape from Aleppo.
Best New Middle Grade Books to Read, January 2018
Jackie’s story is so emotionally rich, you’ll feel her angst, anger, and confusion as if it were you experiencing it yourself. Her Grandpa is forgetting things so Jackie tries to pick up the slack — helping more than ever at his mechanic shop and at home. But she keeps getting in trouble at school, ending up in a special group with the school counselor. A family tree project feels like absolutely too much for a girl with only a grandpa as her family. It’s a brilliant story about aging and what really makes a family. It will rip you up and put you back together. It’s my favorite middle grade book of 2017 so far.
I devoured this compelling, well-written story about a year in the teen life life of Betty who later became well known for being the wife of Malcolm X. Betty’s mother seemed to despise her but Betty had good friends and younger siblings who loved her. Eventually, kind church friends took her in and adopted Betty. During this period of her life, we see the importance of church, counting her blessings, the activist housewives group she belonged to, and how family is what you make it. Reading this account made me want to know more about the rest of her life — it’s excellent.
Checked is a slice of life story about a boy who lives for hockey but worries about his sick dog, his policeman single dad, and money. While it did surprise me that there wasn’t a major conflict, the atmospheric snapshot of the boy’s life felt authentic and held my interest.
Black Panther: The Young Prince by Roland Smith
SCI-FI / SUPERHERO
Fans will love this story of young T’Challa’s first trip. He and his best friend, M’Baku, are sent to Chicago for safety. They’re ordered to never reveal their true identities to anyone. But M’Baku is jealous of T’Challa; he wants his own fame and glory and falls in with a group of bullies who are practicing dark magic. Not to mention, he reveals T’Challa’s true identity to his new friends. T’Challa and his two new “nerdy” friends must figure out what’ the dark magicians are trying to do before they summon a dark, evil force. It’s a fast paced, well written, entertainment book.
Based on Ali Fadhil’s life experience, this story captures Iraq during Operation Desert Storm — an experience Fadhil likens to watching a video game of explosions. Readers feel like they are there with Ali and his family who are at the mercy of their twisted ruler, Saddam Hussein, bombs from the US, food shortages, and danger in the city. Plus, they fear they’ll never see their father again. This book is very well-written and appropriate for middle grade readers to learn about this not-so-distant past event. Readers will be satisfied to see what the author gets to do several years later, at the end of the story– interpret for Saddam’s trial.
There aren’t many books with Jewish main characters and I loved the richness of this cultural perspective, especially the way the main character interacts with his Rabbi. Noah and Dash have always loved comedy — but when Dash’s dad commits suicide, their friendship is shattered. The author contrasts comedy with grief as Noah tries to make sense of what happened and is happening.
It took me a few chapters to fall into the story but once I did, I was hooked. First in the series, we’re taking on an epic rainforest adventure where animals who should be sleeping all night (nightwalkers) magically stay awake during the day. They’re feared to be dangerous yet are the only animals that can stop the evil Ant Queen from awakening and taking over the world. The story begins with a panther named Mez who is recruited by a boa constrictor to unite with the others and fight.
I have mixed feelings about this story — it’s cool but really different. I’d categorize it as magical historical realism I suppose set in Europe during medieval times. It’s the story of a humpback boy who joins a “pilgrim” searching specific Saint Peter relics to redeem his soul. The pair develop a camaraderie of sorts; then the boy discovers his hump contains wings — and that he is actually an angel. Suspend belief for this engaging story filled with symbolism, Catholic history, and adventure.
Fantasy fans, you’ll want to be the first to read this new series… Claire knows her big sister, Sophie, has snuck into the other world, the one up the fireplace that she promised not to enter. But Claire knows she must rescue her and enters a world of magic with four guilds, wraiths, and missing unicorns. She teams up with Sophie’s friends to track a missing unicorn relic they think Sophie has stolen. They discover that the legends are wrong and Sophie didn’t steal the relic. Will Claire find Sophie in time before the Royalists kill her for her royal blood? And who will betray them? (added to: 22 Magical Children’s Books About Unicorns)
Dolphins: Voices in the Ocean by Susan Casey
The author vividly captures the situation of dolphins in the world today — I was mesmerized from the first page of this young readers adaptation. She details her trips to various places in the world with dolphins like Hawaii, Ireland, Japan, and Greece describing what she learns about dolphins from each situation. It’s both inspiring and troubling. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves nature and animals — and those who just want to know more about the world of dolphins.
There’s nothing that illuminates a situation more than reading a story about someone who is living it. The story alternates between when the 2010 violence erupted in Syria and the “present” time in 2013 when Nadia’s home is bombed and she escapes. But her family accidentally thinks she’s dead and leaves her behind. Nadia meets an old man and two orphans. They navigate through the city, the checkpoints and bombings, in hopes to reunite with her family. It’s a powerful story about a country and people in crisis.
The Ambrose Deception by Emily Ecton, illustrated by Gilbert Ford
It took me a few chapters to get into it but once I did I kept reading because I wanted to figure out what was going on. Three misfit kids are chosen to compete in a scholarship contest. They each get money, a chauffeur, a phone, and riddles to solve. The kids are supposed to work alone but eventually they team up and figure out what really is going on. You’ll love what they figure out and how the story ends!
What a well-written adventure that makes engineering seem enticing and creative! After a disastrous “french braid machine” tangles her best friend’s hair, Ellie, who already identifies herself as an engineer, plans to make her BFF a new birthday present — a dog house, getting help from a neighbor boy and a group of girls from school who are bitter rivals up until Ellie helps them work together. *Added to STEM Chapter Books for Kids.