8 New Middle Grade Books, Sept 2023

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Ready for your next favorite middle grade book? You’ll find a sci-fi adventure, kids who can travel through art, a space-obsessed kid whose brother has CP, a fairy tale reboot, a sibling story, an art heist, and a hilarious chicken time travel adventure, there’s something here for everyone.

Middle Grade Books, Sept 2023

Saving Sunshine written by Saadia Faruqi, and illustrated by Shazleen Khan
review written by Jemma Taylor
Saving Sunshine is both a heartwarming ode to sibling relationships and also, a sobering depiction of the daily prejudice Muslim kids face. In the novel, twins Zara and Zeeshan can’t stop getting on each other’s nerves—their constant conflict gets so bad that their parents confiscate their phones until the two can get along. Can the siblings finally learn to understand each other on this awful vacation?

Two-Headed Chicken Beak to the Future written and illustrated by Tom Angleberger
Our favorite two-headed chickens are back in the multiverse for another hilarious adventure, this time in the “Tammy” (the infinite time streams), which looks suspiciously like a piece of broccoli. As they travel, they’ll change shapes and try to avoid the evil Kernal Antlers. Dive into this wacky story and discover the art of silliness like random characters such as the poet Emily Dickinson, dumb knock-knock jokes, puzzling quizzes, a card game called “The Magical Gathering of Dragons in a Dungeon” (HAHAHA), and book-banning that leads to…you guessed it, DOOM. Plus, it gets a bit meta when the author offers marketing and writing advice, too. All in all, you won’t want to miss this smash hit. I promise your readers will love it!

The Little Match Girl Strikes Back written by Emma Carroll, illustrated by Lauren Child
With stunning black, white, gray, and red illustrations, this is a quick but compelling read set in Victorian England that improves upon the famous Hans Christian Anderson story about a little matchgirl. In this story, Bridie lives with a loving little brother and mother. She sells matches to help feed the family while her mother makes them at the match factory. The factory’s conditions aren’t just awful; the phosphorous fumes are toxic to the workers. Starving and hoping for a better future, she blows her last three matches, wishing as she does. Her wishes help her find the courage to get a reporter involved and organize a worker’s strike.

Beneath the Swirling Sky (The Restorationists) written by Carolyn Leiloglou, illustrated by Vivienne To
Sent to his great-uncle’s house for the summer, Vincent learns his mom’s greatest secret when his little sister Lili wanders INTO a painting–and doesn’t come out! His cousin Georgia leads him through paintings, corridors, and museums to find Lili. At the same time, she explains their family’s talent –they travel into paintings to protect the art from other nefarious travelers. They track Lili to where she’s been kidnapped by a mysterious Lady. But they are captured, too. Forced to attend the Lady’s training, it becomes clear that the Lady is using stolen children and art to gain power and wealth. Even still, Vincent never expects the horrifying truth of who the Lady really is! Fast-paced and exciting with unique world-building, this art-filled, faith-implied, illustrated adventure will captivate readers from cover to cover.

The Wild Robot Protects by Peter Brown
Roz, our favorite sentient robot, is a friend to all the creatures on her island and mother to a special goose. In this excellent third book, the island is beset by poison tides, so Roz leaves to find the wise Ancient Shark in hopes of saving her friends from the poison destroying their home. Along the way, she meets new creatures and has interesting experiences, which also will teach readers a thing or two about ocean animals and the ocean biome. When she reaches her destination, will the Ancient Shark be able to help?

The Mona Lisa Vanishes: A Legendary Painter, a Shocking Heist, and the Birth of a Global Celebrity written by Nicholas Day, illustrated by Brett Helquist
You will love the incredible writing, the fun illustrations, the biographical information about the curious, brilliant, and distractable Leonardo Da Vinci, the other art heists from the poorly guarded Louvre (one involving Pablo Picasso), the burgeoning science of fingerprints to replace France’s ear-measuring methodology and the surprising, eventual discovery of the Mona Lisa. Interestingly, the Mona Lisa wasn’t a well-known painting until this art heist in 1911. And the Louvre wasn’t well-attended until after this dramatic theft. The theft was dramatic because the thief simply walked out with the stolen painting tucked under his shirt. Highly recommended!

Farther Than the Moon by Lindsay Lackey
Houston and his younger brother Robbie are obsessed with space and being astronauts. Houston wants to find a way for his brother Robbie to go to space even though there’s never been an astronaut with CP. Houston feels conflicted about leaving Robbie behind when going to space camp. But he’s even more upset when he meets his astronaut grandfather for the first time –and is rejected. After a week of fighting with his fellow crewmates, Houston gets surprising advice from the person he least expects–about taking responsibility for his actions and putting the crew first. When he apologizes to his crew, it changes everything for the better. This story will get you excited about space, help you to consider the opportunities to see someone as MORE than their disability, and make you think bigger about inclusivity for all the Earth’s crew. This middle-grade gem is filled with wisdom, heartfelt writing, and relatable and interesting characters. It’s hands down one of the best books I’ve read this year with MUCH NEEDED representation.

The Shape of Time (Rymworld Arcana) by Ryan Calejo
If you like rollicking sci-fi adventures across worlds, time, and space, don’t miss this new book from Ryan Calejo. Our hero, Antares, is kidnapped and taken to a prison in another world. He meets two other prisoners who explain that his world is flat and surrounded by a world outside the edges called Rymworld. Rymworld is in peril from a group of mystics who seek to control time. Antares escapes prison with his friend, Magdavellía, but they’re almost immediately kidnapped AGAIN by space pirate aliens. Encountering one problem after another, the friends race to find the mysterious star artifact and, possibly, Antares’ missing parents. Detailed, creative world-building, this is a thrilling adventure that many kids will love.


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