If you’re looking for new middle grade books, this May brings new titles with fantastic stories and topics! You’ll find magic, murder, mystery, heartbreak, and body size issues. As always, there’s something for everyone. All you need to do is decide which book to read first!
10 New Middle Grade Books, May 2023
The Takeout by Tracy Badua
REALISTIC + MAGIC (MAGICAL REALISM?)
A delicious story with a determined heroine who overcomes the odds against her! Mila loves helping her dad at his food truck of Philiipoino Indian fusion food. Her favorite celebrity chefs arrive in town to open a restaurant across the street, but they’ve stolen the food truck’s menu and recipes! Mila’s determined to prove the theft, but it’s difficult with no power or influence. Even still, she and her friend Ajay work to expose the chefs with a little help from her Philipino folk-magic potions. And as Mila pursues her goal, she learns that she can be herself…and that, in the end, her other friends really do accept her for who she is.
Work in Progress by Jarett Lerner
REALISTIC / VERSE
Will is self-loathing about his body size, which makes his eating even more disordered. He eats away the sadness and doesn’t eat to try to fix it, and it’s a horrible cycle. As he grapples with his identity and makes a new friend, Will begins to realize that he’s a work in progress and eating, his body size, and his shape aren’t bad. He concludes that it’s not his job to change, to bend or twist to what others want, but only to be himself. Written in verse, this is an unflinching, emotionally-charged look at disordered eating and body dysmorphia.
Scurry by Mac Smith
I love the art in this graphic novel about a post-apocalyptic time with no humans and only animals. The house mice are scrounging to survive from what the humans left, but there isn’t enough food for their community. When our hero Wix leaves to scout more food, he discovers the rat’s betrayal, dangerous predators, including hawks and crows, and a strange beaver kingdom. It’s an epic animal adventure of danger, bravery, and exploration!
One and Only Ruby by Katherine Applegate
Even though her aunties are excited, Ruby is dreading Tuskday because she associates tusks with the pain of hunters. So she tells her uncles (Bob and Ivan) about her life before, her life in Africa when she was happy and loved until hunters slaughtered her herd. After that, Ruby was rescued and cared for by a kind man, then captured again by greedy black-market animal traders and sent to the zoo in the mall, where they all met. Also, Ruby shares that she misses her beloved auntie Stella. Ruby’s new aunties help her to honor Stella, and it helps Ruby realizes that Stella was with her all along…and that she IS ready for the Tuskday growing up ceremony. Ruby’s story is heartbreaking because it’s close to the truth of how elephants are treated– hunted, abused, and separated from their families. Sad and beautifully written, this is a magnificent tribute to elephants and the youngest member of this multi-animal family.
Minerva Keen’s Detective Club by James Patterson and Keir Graff
Has there ever been an exciting kid-appropriate murder mystery? Not often, that’s for sure! In this murder mystery story, amateur detective Minerva finds one person after another who has been poisoned! She is intent on helping the police detective solve the case, so she, her brother Heck, and her new school friend Santos investigate every possibility. It’s fast-paced, interesting, and engaging.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef
This brilliant book mesmerized me from the first page! (And it is a favorite of 2023!) The layered storytelling, plot twists, and surprises made it impossible to put this story down. Marjan’s father recently died. She’s alone and the owner of her dad’s veterinary practice, even though she’s only a sophomore in high school. When she’s asked to help a sick gryffin, she’s shocked to discover her father’s secret job as a mythical creature vet. She tries to unravel the lies and secrets in her father’s life, including if he was murdered, but the world of magical creatures is confusing and filled with trickery. Marjan isn’t sure if she can trust her instincts about right and wrong…and she feels like she’s missing part of herself. Woven within the narrative story are her father’s Iranian folktales about mythical creatures starting with “Once was, once wasn’t.” I loved the surprising but perfect ending, too. At just over 400 pages, this middle grade book looks dense, but every page is worth it!
Race Against Death by Deborah Hopkinson
Zippy pacing with dialogue from first-person accounts, character arcs, and a true story arc makes this nonfiction book read like a narrative story. It’s well-organized and meticulously researched about what happened in the Philippines during World War II when the Phillippines fell to the Japanese, the US and Philippine soldiers and citizens were taken into horrific Prisoner of War camps. Notably, this book shares the contributions of women, including their underground resistance, which many books ignore. The historical events fascinated me and I predict your readers will also be fascinated. Note: This is about the violence of war and includes soldier language (damn, bastards), but it’s not detailed or salacious and is appropriate for middle-grade readers who aren’t bothered by either.
The Remarkable Rescue of Milkweed Meadow by Elaine Dimopoulos
ANIMAL ADVENTURE (SHORT)
Butternut grows up in a close-knit rabbit family with lessons, rules, and storytelling. Although, when he ignores his family’s rules, everything changes for the better. Breaking the rules, Butternut befriends a talkative, kind-hearted robin and a wounded fawn. When they discover coyote cubs without their mother, Butternut must decide how far his kindness toward others will extend — will it include predators? Metafiction elements about stories, plotting, and narrative twists add extra playful fun to this story as well. This is a sweet story of kindness, friendship, and community.
Squire & Knight by Scott Chantler
FANTASY GRAPHIC NOVEL
When a boastful knight seeks a dragon to slay, it is really his bookish squire who solves the mysterious curse, barters with the dragon, and saves the village. Of course, the knight takes the credit. But it’s a fun and clever adventure with a really cool illustration style! (Includes the word “damn.”)
Fox Point’s Own Gemma Hopper by Brie Spangler
REALISTIC GRAPHIC NOVEL
Gemma is a tall girl who loves baseball but feels like Cinderella, working nonstop to keep her family together since her mom abandoned them, and her dad is always working. She resents her older brother, the Prince of Baseball, for the attention he gets for his talent and that he doesn’t help her around the house. Plus, she is having school and friendship troubles. But after a video of her pitching goes viral and a good talk with her brother, her brother helps Gemma achieve her baseball dreams, too. And in an incredible character arc, not only does Gemma comes into her own, she finally admits the truth that her mom is never coming back. Gemma’s relatable journey of finding her place and growing up will appeal to readers who can understand exactly what she’s going through, whether they are baseball fans or not.