11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018

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Want to know about the best new middle grade books? These will draw in tween readers with their compelling characters, important themes, and emotionally resonating stories.


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018

11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
Sweep by Jonathan Auxier
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. It’s a book that reminds me of bitter dark coffee ladened with sweet cream — the bitter being the girl’s hard circumstances and the sweet being the hope that comes from love and friendship. I loved it so much I already want to read it a second time! 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, formerly a piece of charcoal left to her by Sweep, emerges to save her. She and her growing protector golem, Char, find a new 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. It’s an irresistible story that will expand your heart…and your definition of what makes a monster. Added to: Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
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, 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. Don’t miss this enthralling, emotionally resonant story.


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
No Fixed Address
by Susin Nielsen
Felix doesn’t want to tell anyone that he’s been living in a van for months and months. His mom, Astrid, is worried about social services taking him so he keeps quiet even though he really wants a bathroom. His hope is that he can win his favorite TV game show so they’ll finally have enough money to get an apartment. One of the things I loved about this story is how it shows a child’s love for a parent despite all the parent’s flaws–and his mom has many! Lying and not holding down a job, for example. It also depicts homelessness as circumstances beyond a child’s control — which is something most kids don’t know or think to consider. This well-written book is beautiful, important, and highly recommended. (Added to Books That Facilitate Empathy: Poverty)


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
The Benefits of Being an Octopus
by Ann Braden
This is a well-written story with an emotional poignancy about poverty and relationships. Zoey is trying to stay hidden to survive her life living with she and her siblings, mom, and her mom’s newest boyfriend in his trailer. She cares for her siblings while her mom works, trying not to make a mess or too much noise. A kind teacher at school encourages Zoey to join the debate club. This activity eventually gives Zoey the courage and perspective to talk to her mom about everything — from her mom’s boyfriend’s belittling to her own friendship worries. I hope this book encourages readers to ponder what makes a healthy relationship and how to stand up for yourself when you’re not in one. (Added to Books That Facilitate Empathy: Poverty)

11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
Harbor Me
by Jacqueline Woodson
Harbor Me tackles some 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 kids-only time on Friday afternoons where they share their stories, many of which Haley records on a tape recorder. Even as she learns about the other kids who are, Haley is reluctant to share that her own dad is in jail for the car accident killing her mother. When she does eventually share, it’s beautiful to see 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. Such as what does it mean to “harbor” someone? Amazing!! Added to: Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018


I found this to be such a sad but memorable story. It will make you think and feel and wonder… Arthur Welsh is a poor homeless Norwegian boy who works for passage on a ship to England as the caretaker of a captive polar bear, a gift for the King Henry of England. The conditions for the polar bear are worse than the boy’s, both being victims of their circumstances, powerless and captive. It’s a physical and emotional journey of survival and friendship. The two survive a pirate attack, escape in the wild, and a new life in England. While I hated the captivity of the bear, I loved this story and the bond of friendship between animal and man.


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
Elephant Secret
by Eric Walters
You’ll zip through this interesting story about a girl named Sam who lives on an elephant sanctuary with her father. A mysterious benefactor has paid for an elephant to become pregnant — but it’s not actually an elephant that she births, it’s a wooly mammoth cloned from DNA. Sam’s connection with the elephant is amazing, especially the baby mammoth whom she names Woolly. Things go very wrong when their benefactor forces she and her father to leave the sanctuary. As she deals with this, Sam must also come to terms with her father’s long-term girlfriend. It’s a delightful book that will keep animal-lovers enthralled with its plot as well as new knowledge about elephants and their behavior.


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
Wicked Nix 
by Lena Coakley, illustrated by Jaime Zollars
Fairy Nix is left to guard the woods for his beloved queen. He’s particularly annoyed by a human man who lives in a cottage in his woods because the Queen won’t like it. Nix tries to figure out how to get rid of the man. His friendship with the wise human child, Rose, gives him new ideas. But after another encounter, the man reveals to Nix that Nix is really not a fairy but a human child who was stolen long ago from his family. It’s a bittersweet, tender story about a lost boy who finds that everything he’s believed is a lie. And I LOVED it so much. This is a magnificent tale with an innocent, unreliable narrator for whom you’ll feel all the feelings…


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
Black Beauty Puffin Graphics + (The Graphic Novel and Original Text in One Volume)
by Anna Sewell
Puffin Books is releasing children’s classic novels as graphic novels like this one along with The Wizard of Oz. I enjoyed the story in graphic format, finding it very close to the original text. This book contains both the story in graphic novel form as well as the original narrative text in the second half. It’s a fantastic way to introduce kids to classic novels, don’t you think? Read the graphic novel, then read the original text!

The House in Poplar Wood
by K.E. Ormsbee
Lee and Felix are twins separated, each lives with one parent and can’t see the other due to The Agreement of their parent’s servitude to the shades of Death and Memory. Not only that, but they’re next in line to work for the shades. Unexpectedly, they get help from the daughter of the mayor and a supposed enemy, Gretchen Wipple. Together they realize that by sharing information, the boys may have a chance to break The Agreement.


The Vanderbeekers 
and the Hidden Garden by Karina Yan Glaser
This is a sweet story for previous fans of this close-knit family. When their beloved neighbor has a stroke and must stay in the hospital, the kids decide to make a garden for their plant-loving friend in an old lot near the church.


11 Must-Read Middle Grade Books of Fall 2018
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