I’m so grateful that many of these books are out in audio so that I could read them with my ears! I’m still working hard to regain my vision’s tracking abilities so I can read without concussion symptoms.
Nevertheless, I’m grateful for audiobooks and a timer to remind me when to stop reading and take a break. Kind of the opposite of what we want our kids to do, right?
Check out these new books — there are some gems here to discover!
New Middle-Grade Books, April and May 2021
The Last Gate of the Emperor by Kwame Mbalia and Prince Joel Makonnen
#OWNVOICES / SCIENCE FICTION
Yared’s Uncle Moti moves them around frequently so when Yared gives his real name during an augmented reality game, he doesn’t think the soldiers that arrive are after him. But they are. And everything he believed about his life turns out to be a lie…including his identity. Yared partners with another game player, the Ibis, to escape the troops and the giant monster and find the truth. The two clever, quick-witted kids face incredible danger, insurmountable odds, and a galaxy-spanning war but Yared has been trained for this and he is ready to fight. Set in a futuristic Ethiopian empire, this exciting adventure grabs your interest and keeps it through wild twists and turns that feature heroic main characters!
In These Magic Shoes by Yamile Saied Mendez
#OWNVOICES / REALISTIC WITH A BIT OF MAGICAL REALISM / BOOKS WITH LATINX MAIN CHARACTERS
A tenderhearted, beautiful story about family, asking for help when you need it, racism, and grit. When their mom doesn’t return home from work, Minerva steps up to care for her siblings and herself. She doesn’t tell anyone that her mom’s missing so they won’t get sent to foster care or a holding center. She knows her mom would never leave them but she doesn’t know what to do. She bravely faces each day with strength but desperately wants to just be a kid again with no responsibilities — like pulling her little sister out of an abusive daycare. At school, Minerva tries out for the Peter Pan musical and speaks up against the play’s racism. At home, her sisters talk about the fairies they see just like the fairies from her mamá’s stories. Finally, Minerva contacts her mom’s estranged mother, their abuela, for help because the kids are out of food and money and desperately need help.
The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz
REALISTIC / COMING OF AGE / #OWNVOICES / PHYSICAL DIFFERENCES
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera
#OWNVOICES / MYTHOLOGY / BOOKS WITH LATINX MAIN CHARACTERS
Cece’s town of Tierra del Sol fights against the criaturas, powerful, evil spirits that surround them in the desert, but Cece doesn’t believe the criaturas are all bad. When her sister is kidnapped, Cece decides to risk everything by becoming a forbidden bruja so she can capture a criatura and get her sister back. She’s helped by the legendary Coyote, but he’s just the first criatura who willingly helps Cece in her quest. If they work together, will she be able to rescue Juana?
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitch Smith
#OWNVOICES / REALISTIC / SHORT STORIES
These exceptionally written, interconnected stories are about kids and their experiences with the powwow, cultural aspects of the Native communities, growing up, and belonging. They’re wonderfully written and wholly engaging. At first, each story seems distinct, but the stories intersect with graceful wonder. It’s a beautiful collection of stories that amplifies Native voices and gives non-Native folks a view of the modern-day lives of Indigenous kids and their families.
Strong as Fire, Fierce As Flame by Supriya Kelkar
HISTORICAL FICTION / #OWNVOICES / INDIA
Don’t miss this powerful story set in colonial India about a girl finding her voice and inner strength. Meera’s dad holds fast to his beliefs that if her husband dies, so she must also die. She’s only twelve and still lives at home but just as she’s about to live with her husband (who she married as a child), her husband dies! Now her father expects Meera to join her husband’s funeral pyre. She doesn’t go. Her aunt gives her the courage to flee. But as she’s escaping, she’s captured by a British captain and assigned to work in his kitchen where she witnesses firsthand the institutional racism and cruelty to her people. Even though her friend and her friend’s sister are fighting for the resistance, initially Meera is afraid and won’t help them. Until…she can not look the other way and fights back by helping the resistance. A beautifully written, compelling, and important historical story!
Taking Up Space by Alyson Gerber
#OWNVOICES / REALISTIC / BODY DYSMORPHIA & EATING DISORDERS
Sarah’s mom’s dysfunctional relationship with food is affecting Sarah– who now thinks that her slowness in basketball is related to eating too much or too many “unhealthy” foods, instead of being from the normal growing pains of puberty. She’s confused, starving herself, and stressed out. (Her mom has HUGE food issues — she doesn’t buy food, often forgets to feed Sarah, gives Sarah passive-aggressive, incorrect messages on what being healthy means, and binges on hidden candy around the house.) But, Sarah feels excited to spend time with a boy that she likes who shows her a different way of thinking about food. Unfortunately, their time together causes problems with a good friend who likes him, too — and that friend stops talking to Sarah and so do many other girls. Finally, a friend pushes Sarah to get help…and, help is just what Sarah needs to understand the truth about her body, what health truly is, and how her mom’s disordered eating has affected her. Girls and boys need this book — they need to know that body image issues and eating disorders happen to other kids, too, that puberty changes their body, and there is NO shame in getting help.
Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion by Gregory Mone
Lewis’s scientist dad believes that Atlantis still exists and when Lewis sneaks off to find his dad’s lab, he ends up on a journey with his dad and his dad’s research assistant, Hanna, to find out the truth. Meanwhile, an Atlantian girl sneaks away from home and passed the guards to see if there could be life above the ocean. When their fates collide, the excitement at each other’s existence is short-lived because the Atlantian Eraser guards capture Lewis’s dad…and then Lewis and Hanna. Interesting, action-packed, and filled with cool tech!