What are the best middle-grade books of 2018? I’ve picked my favorite books of the year. Books that transported me to other worlds, made me feel deeply, and inspired me to think about big issues. And these books are so well written, I couldn’t put them down. Comment if you’ve read any of these or you want to share other favorites!
Find ALL these books on my Amazon store here.
Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018
by Jonathan Auxier
/ MAGICAL REALISM
Set in Victorian London, this is a beautiful, bittersweet story about a plucky girl and her protector golem
which in the telling, illuminates the horrifying lives of chimney sweep kids as well as the world’s anti-semitism. Young Nan’s Sweep father-figure is gone; she still dreams of his kindness and their life before he left. To survive, she works for a cruel chimney sweep. When another child sweep tries to burn Nan alive, a charcoal golem who was a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep emerges to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new, safer place to live but must stay vigilant so her old master doesn’t find them. On their own, they are helped by a street boy and a kind Jewish teacher. Sweep
is an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster.
Wow. I can’t recommend this book enough!! Marsh writes a stunning novel about two young boys from very different backgrounds — one is a refugee from Syria while the other is an American who has just moved to Belgium. Interwoven in this timely, poignant story are the big issues of refugees, prejudice, fear, friendship, and kindness. To avoid the overcrowded refugee centers, Ahmed hides in the basement of the house where Max lives with his family. When he’s discovered by Max, the boys develop a friendship; Max keeps Ahmed hidden from everyone. The boys come up with a plan to enroll Ahmed in Max’s school. And it works. But it can’t last forever. A local policeman suspects something and Max’s family will be moving back to the U.S. soon…
Get ready for an exciting adventure filled with Latin American and Spanish mythology! (Which the author calls Hispanic mythology.) This story is immediately engaging with the perfect balance of action, dialogue, & description interspersed with Spanish words and phrases. Charlie Hernández’s house burns down, his parents go missing, and he is sent to a foster home. But it’s when he grows HORNS, the WINGS, and meets the MYTHS in real life — like calacas, mukis, and El Justo Juez — that he’s really freaked out. Fortunately, a persistent classmate Violet Rey (also his crush) helps Charlie follow the clues to find out what happened to his parents — and what it has to do with La Mano Peluda and the prophesied Morphling who is meant to save the world. Incredible writing makes this magical adventure come to life.
Louisiana’s Way Home
by Kate DiCamillo
What a luminous, sparkling gem of a book with quirky, complex characters!
Granny drags Louisiana out of bed in the middle of the night, insisting that they leave their home to confront the family curse. Not only does Louisiana not want to leave her friends and home but things get even worse when Granny abandons Louisiana at a motel along the way. Forced to fend for herself, Louisiana figures out how to survive miles from home while worrying that the family curse has destined her for an unhappy life. You won’t want to miss a moment of this enthralling, emotionally resonant story.
Set in the time of early American settlers, this is a beautiful story of love about a night-spirit who is still connected to the powerful wood magic of her ancestors. When Willa accidentally discovers that her clan is keeping human captives and forbidden technology, her Faeran clan leader tells his minions to kill her. Fleeing the danger of the woods, Willa cautiously observes a cabin with a solitary human man, slowly beginning to trust him. When she realizes that his children were among the human captives she saw, Willa knows she must return to her clan and make things right. The author deftly explores the meaning of family, as well as the themes of prejudice and caring for the natural world. Magical and memorable.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
by Stacy McAnulty
/ BOOKS ABOUT MENTAL ILLNESS – OCD
My daughter and I love this book — it was her favorite of 2018 by far! The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD
whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school for three reasons: to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Although she’s reluctant to go, Lucy finds friends and connects with a rescue dog for a school project. It’s a well-written, heart-warming story that will change your perspective of mental illness and give you hope for humanity.
Mia and her parents have struggled ever since moving to America from China. When her parents take a new live-in job at a motel, they end up working around the clock for very little pay. Mia helps out by working at the front desk. She befriends the weekly tenants and uses her English skills to write letters advocating other people in tough spots— like her uncle whose sweatshop boss has taken his passport and weekly, Hank, who needs a letter of recommendation to get a job. This book is more than a memorable coming-of-age immigrant story, it’s also about tolerance and diversity. The author writes in a note at the end, “what happens when you include [others]…despite all your suffering and heartache…” I loved this story— the writing, the characters, the plot, and the messages of inclusion and determination.
Okay, wow! This book is brilliantly written for so many reasons. One, because it addresses the very real issue of police violence against black children but it does not vilify or stereotype. The author shows us the complexity of issues and the humanity of a police officer from the perspective of his daughter. After Jerome is unjustly shot, he becomes a ghost. Sarah, the police officer’s daughter, is the only one who can see and talk to him except for the other ghost boys who were also killed in racially motivated violence. It’s a well-written, fast-paced read but one that is going to stay with you as you ponder the important topics it addresses. “Bear witness. My tale is told. Wake. Only the living can make the world better. Live and make it better. Don’t let me (Or anyone else) Tell this tale again.” This book should be used in the classroom — it’s something that begs discussion.
by Jacqueline Woodson
tackles very big issues including race, immigration, bullying, learning differences, friendship, and forgiveness.
The story is about six diverse children with learning differences. They bond during a special group, kids-only time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns the others’ stories, Haley is reluctant to share how her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. When she does eventually share, it’s beautiful to see how the other kids support her. This incredible story deserves to be not just read but discussed deeply as it contains a wealth of ideas to ponder.