New Middle Grade Books, August 2020

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Facing racism while growing up. Magic-filled forests. A harrowing escape from North Korea. This book list features a range of topics and genres, all with powerful, memorable, and entertaining writing.


New Middle-Grade Chapter Books, August 2020

Not Your All America Girl
by Wendy Wan-Long Shang and Madelyn Rosenberg
Lauren, a girl with Jewish and Chinese heritage, tries out for the school play but despite her talent, doesn’t get cast as the lead because, according to the director, she doesn’t look the part of someone all-American. Her best friend Tara, who is not as talented, gets the leading role because she fits the look of a so-called American girl. The story is filled with both micro-aggressions and overt racism like an incident at the mall’s food court, the stereotypes in the movie “16 Candles”, and the director’s casting decisions. Tara finds solace in the music of Patsy Cline, decides to help make the ensemble the best it can be with an unsanctioned performance, and finds her voice. A powerful, must-read story that will open readers’ eyes to the injustice of racism and micro-aggressions and portrays a multicultural girl’s coming of age.


Abbey feels unprepared when she gets her period on the day that 9/11 happens and since her aunt goes missing from the Towers, and her mom leaves to New York, she gets no support from her mom. Abby is tired of being the new girl in town, always moving with an army dad, and feels isolated while her body and the world changes around her. This compelling story in verse captures what it’s like to find your voice, adjust to your body’s changes, and live through 9/11.


Brothers Keeper
by Julie Lee
Based on her grandmother’s escape from North Korea, this historical fiction story is a powerful read that captures the fearful culture of North Korea, the marginalization of females, and the bond between siblings. As war erupts between North and South Korea, Sora and her family decide to flee from North Korea while they still have a chance. But she and her little brother are separated from their family. As they continue south, they experience death, kidnapping, starvation, killings, winter’s brutal cold with the Red Army marching right behind them. Even worse, her brother, Youngsoo, is getting sicker and sicker. The siblings’ journey is interspersed with memories of her childhood including her mother’s disdain and criticism and how she was forced to leave school to care for her little brothers. Amazingly, the two make it to the south where they’re reunited with their family but it’s a bittersweet ending.


Con Quest
by Sam Maggs
Twins Cat and Alex can’t wait for this year’s non-sanctioned scavenger hunt. While their famous comic book writer parents are busy, they leave their older sister Fi and start finding the clues. They’re constantly thwarted by an intense, rule-enforcing security guard and Cat loses sight of her values when she cheats at one of the tasks. Readers will love the fandom culture, the character arcs, and the adventure in this engaging comic con adventure about family, new friends, and fandoms! 


Show Me a Sign
by Ann Clare LeZotte
This mesmerizing historical fiction story takes place in the Martha’s Vineyard community of Chilmark where a high percentage of deaf individuals live. Mary’s a smart girl who speaks in sign language. She’s easily able to communicate with other islanders because everyone signs. She feels concerns with her friend Nancy’s prejudice against the “Indians” and notices the injustice of how the Native Americans are treated. Then, a researcher arrives with preconceived notations of the “infirmity” of deaf people and he kidnaps Mary as a live specimen. For months she’s imprisoned and forced to work, then locked in a room to be studied. She can’t communicate with anyone because no one else speaks sign and Mary doesn’t have access to a pencil and paper. Eventually, she gets a chance to write a message and makes it back home with help. This is an eye-opening, must-read story!


Otto Tattercoat and the Forest of Lost Things
by Matilda Woods
Otto’s coat-maker mother disappears as soon as they arrive in the cold, cold city. Then, when searching for her, he’s kidnapped into a shoe polish factory. After escaping the cruelty of the factory with the help of a street urchin aka. Tattercoat named Nim and her rat Nibbles, they venture into a magical forest with another Tattercoat boy in search of Otto’s mother. There, they find a suspicious witch, men/wolves, a kind giant, and a trickster traveling salesman. Eventually, they find Otto’s mother and learn the truth about why it’s always cold. To fix things, they’ll have to go back to the factory to rescue the imprisoned sundragon and the other children. If you like magical adventures featuring brave, resourceful children, you’ll love this story.


Kiki’s Delivery Service
by Eiko Kadono, illustrated by Emily Balistrieri
As a huge fan of the movie, I was so impressed at how true to the original book, the film stayed. This sweet story is about a 13-year-old half-witch named Kiki who leaves home for her year-long apprenticeship to a town. She flies with her cat and they find a seaside town that needs a witch. There, Kiki settles above a bakery and uses her wits and magic to endear herself to the town as a helpful delivery girl. Lovely, lovely, lovely!


A Pinch of Magic
by Michelle Harrison
A story about loyal and brave sisters, magic, and forgiveness, this will be your next favorite fantasy adventure. Betty is the middle of three sisters raised by their grandmother. She learns that their family is cursed to never leave their town and that the girls can each use one of three magical objects — a carpet bag, nesting dolls, and a mirror. A prison break goes terribly wrong and a rescue attempt out of town that curses the girls to die leads to the discovery of the curse’s origin and propels the girls into finding a solution for everyone.


Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch
by Julie Abe
You will love this captivating main character about an apprentice witch who struggles with insecurity, bullying, and self-doubt. She doesn’t have a lot of magic but does have strength, even if she needs a few reminders about it. She will be able to help her city even with semi-magical skills. A sweet, magical story.


New chapter books August 2020
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