If you’re looking for new middle-grade books for your kids or students, these eight won’t disappoint. I particularly want to highlight The Rhino in Right Field, The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle and The Jigsaw Jungle. But all the books on this list are great!
8 New Middle-Grade Books, July 2018
The Rhino In Right Field by Stacy DeKeyser
HISTORICAL FICTION / BASEBALL
I loved this coming-of-age, historical fiction, sports story!! And, it’s based on the author’s grandfather’s real-life experience. Nick plays baseball (poorly) next to the city zoo near the rhino’s enclosure. When the local baseball team, the Mudpuppies, offer a batboy-for-a-day contest, Nick’ dad, a Greek immigrant, won’t allow Nick to go because Nick is required to work in the family shoe shop every Saturday. Nick lies so he can enter. He and his best friend, meet a girl named Penny who helps them improve their baseball skills. The author works in so much of the 1940s historical atmosphere and setting (“swell” is used a lot by the adults), narrating a vivid story about a young boy who, through his experiences, grows up a little.
The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss, illustrated by Jonathan Bean
Don’t miss this charming, quirky story filled with dry humor and adventure. You’ll fall in love with Bicycle, a lovable orphan girl who travels cross-country by bicycle in order to escape Sister Wanda’s mandated friendship camp. She hopes to ride 50 miles a day to make friends with a famous cyclist when she arrives in San Francisco California. On her journey, she meets unusual and kind people like a sponge factory owner, a Civil War ghost boy named Griffin who joins her on the bicycle, a cookie-giving stranger, and many more people. Her travels force her to rely on the kindness of strangers who become friends (while avoiding the sinister woman in black following her.)
Me, Frida, and the Secret is the Peacock Ring by Angela Cervantes
Mystery and adventure collide with Mexican culture in this story about a girl named Paloma whose summer trip to Mexico, her deceased father’s homeland, becomes much more than a summer vacation. Her new Spanish tutor and his sister ask for Paloma’s help to find Frida Kahlo’s missing peacock ring. But they neglect to tell her that their dad is in jail for the theft! I love that this mystery story is filled with information about Kahlo (my favorite artist) and has so much Mexican cultural richness from mariachis to paletas.
All Summer Long by Hope Larson
In a graphic novel about summer vacation and growing up, perfect to read in the summer, Bina’s best friend Austin leaves for summer camp. Bina can’t figure out what to do on her own. As the days and weeks pass, Bina will figure out what she likes and who she is.
The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine
REALISTIC / LGBTQ+
SO well-written, this book invites you on an exciting mystery adventure. When Claudia’s teacher-dad doesn’t come home from work one night, she and her mom have no idea what has happened until he sends Claudia a jigsaw puzzle piece that lets them know he is alive and starts her on a mysterious hunt. The puzzle piece corresponds to one of the many puzzles at his childhood home. The piece prompts Claudia, her new friend, and sometimes her grandpa to watch old home movies and take clue-hunting adventures around Washington D.C. The plot is absolutely compelling; it’s written in many forms — emails, dialogue, receipts, narrative, cell phone messages, text messages, and more. As you read, you’ll be like me and wonder what in the world is going on with the dad. It won’t be what you think. Spoiler alert: stop reading if you don’t want to know. Claudia’s dad is gay and too scared to come out of the closet; he hopes the puzzle pieces will help Claudia remember the good times so when he does tell her, she won’t be too mad. Of course, she’s just mad that he left without explaining more than anything else. The author writes this book from personal experience so kids who go through similar situations will know they aren’t alone. This is a really, really good book.
The Guardians of the Taiga by StacyPlays
Your Minecraft fans will probably know StacyPlays and her YouTube channel. The author has taken her love of wolves and made a fictional story about a girl, raised by wolves, who protects the forest from a new pack and a possible land development. This is the first story in the series. It’s a fast-paced adventure that has nothing to do with Minecraft but a lot to do with environmentalism.
A Stitch in Time by Daphne Kalmar
Donut’s father died and her aunt wants to move Donut to the big city– away from all she knows and loves. Donut runs away from her aunt. She survives on her own in a fishing shack until one mistake almost kills her. This tender story is about coming to terms with loss, both the loss of a person and the loss of the life you know.
Door to the Lost by Jaleigh Johnson
This book takes a familiar idea— magic and non-magic people worlds are separated with prejudice — and innovates a unique, exciting adventure. The heroine, Rook, can draw doors that become portals. She and other children with magic are refugees from the magic another world, sent without their parents in order to save them before their old world, Vora, was destroyed. But these magic-wielding Voran orphans are isolated and mistrusted. And there’s the mystery of why Rook continues to open a portal to the same place, a snowy forest, and a fox comes through. It’s a book where kids must make their own families, use their magical skills to survive, and discover who to trust — because not even the sorceress from their homeworld is what she seems.