16 Must-Read New Middle Grade Novels, March 2024

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One of my friends asked me my favorite book I’d been reading this month, and I realized I’d read 16 middle grade books and have a lot of favorites. Which is a bit bonkers. Needless to say, March has been busy with tons of wonderful books.

(Believe it or not, there are a few March books that I still have yet to read. Next month!)

March 2024 middle grade books for kids

Here’s a bit more about my review process. First, I read the book — that’s hours of time. If I am not hooked by 25%, I abandon it. For books I like and finish, immediately after, I take notes on the plot and themes. Then, I write up my review which summarizes the gist of the story while also sharing my opinion on why I recommend it. I could probably rewrite the reviews forever but I usually read it a few times over, revise a few times, and leave it at that. After that, I add the cover image and links, and make the featured image and the pin for Pinterest. That takes hours, too. Before (or sometimes after) I publish, I add the books to my other evergreen lists such as graphic novels, books for 5th graders, or fantasy books.

All that to say, I’m capping myself at 16 books for March. I really can’t wait to share all these good books with you. Those of you who are on my Instagram have seen previews already. Comment with which ones you’re excited about reading!

Get ready to put all these on hold at the library. You are going to want them all. I could star every book on this list. (I might go back and do that!) For now, I starred my absolute FAVORITE and my March 2024 book of the month, Louder Than Hunger. Don’t miss it. And don’t miss the free activity pdf to extend the story.

New Middle Grade Books, March 2024

Wayfinders by Brian Chick
FANTASY, 350 pages
From the author of The Secret Zoo, comes an exciting, new fantasy adventure about a girl named Chloe who discovers magical creatures in her backyard. She agrees to save a mermaid, a unicorn, and the other fairy tale creatures being chased by a witch. They must get the mermaid into water, and try to find a portal back to their world. But first, she must convince her dad to drive their RV even though he’s scared to drive and to leave the house. Then, she must keep Fable the unicorn calm in the horse trailer even though their interaction reminds her of her deep grief for her horse and her days of horseback riding. As they encounter problem after problem, her grief over her parents’ relationship and her lost childhood, bubbles to the surface. With great pacing and rising tension, this adventure will appeal to fantasy and reality lovers alike, especially those who like adventure and excitement.

Cat Kid Comic Club Influencers by Dav Pilkey
HUMOR, 224 pages
Another outstanding book in the series, this story begins with — gasp — the end of the Cat Kid Comic Club! And the students are name calling, dad has some bad habits to fix, it’s a mess. Do not worry! The tadpoles learn about perception, the power of babies, and existentialism while telling hilarious stories and finding out how to work together and help each other.

Blue Stars The Vice Principal Problem written by Kekla Magoon and Cynthia Leitich Smith, illustrated by Molly Murakami
In this engaging, realistic graphic novel, two cousins who barely know each other, Riley and Maya, start sharing a room at their grandma’s house in a big city. Riley is confused because Maya doesn’t act like she doesn’t want to be friends. But Maya misses her parents, who are in Japan, and she has different interests than her extroverted cousin Riley. Eventually, the two girls realize that they have a common enemy– the school vice principal who is threatening to cut school clubs, sports, arts, and the library in favor of more detention. So they team up to be the stars they were meant to be. Working together, they become close friends and expose the truth about the selfish vice principal. (But they haven’t stopped him forever…)

Louder Than Hunger by John Schu
This verse story pulls us into Jake’s body sensations, his mind’s thoughts, and his everyday experiences. In other words, it’s an immersive reading experience that adds up to be profound on so many levels. After facing relentless bullying, middle schooler Jake’s mean Voice is the loudest thing he hears. Soon, Jake trusts the Voice and listens to it when it tells him he needs to be thinner, he shouldn’t eat, he shouldn’t trust anyone, and nobody loves him. His anorexia gets so bad that he’s hospitalized for weeks and months. And it isn’t an easy fix because the VOICE won’t stop pushing Jake to starve himself. Jake struggles and struggles. He’s in and out of the hospital, with the Voice sabotaging him every step of the way. Jake doesn’t find an easy answer or a quick fix, but he does find a glimmer of hope that things could be different with his grandma’s last request to take care of her boy (Jake,) an actual friend from the hospital, art therapy, and the surprising glimpse of a world with other kids who also like poetry and drama like he does. The writing is exquisite — every word, every line break, every capitalization, every bit of dialogue brings us on this painful journey.

The Color of Sound by Emily Barth Isler
REALISTIC, 336 pages
Rosie is a violin prodigy with hidden synesthesia. She’s recently quit playing the violin because she’s sick of the pressure and wants to know what it’s like to be “normal” and also figure out who she is without her music. At her grandparents’ house for the summer with no devices, she realizes some important things — she’s lonely, she doesn’t want to give up music, and she wants to explore her Jewish roots. Also, when she meets her mom as a child in a time travel glitch, it helps her see her overbearing mom in a more empathetic light. This is a moving coming-of-age story with neurodiversity, music, a complicated mother-daughter relationship, and growing into yourself. This story includes both girl-girl and girl-boy crushes.

Lumbering Giants of Windy Pines by Mo Netz
Excellent writing and pacing, this middle grade novel with disability representation is a dynamic story that you won’t be able to put down. When Jerry’s mom disappears into the woods, it’s up to Jerry to find her. Before the disappearance, Jerry’s mom got a job at the motel where they just landed — but it doesn’t seem like it’s a cleaning toilets kind of job. Alone in their room at night, Jerry hears a mysterious radio transmission. She learns that people in the area have been vanishing without a trace for years, according to her new friend. Jerry doesn’t let being in a wheelchair stop her from finding her mom. She rolls into the woods, following their car tracks. Little does she know that her new friend is following behind and will be an asset to the rescue mission. Or that she’s about to roll right into dangerous demons and ghosts!

Survival Scout Tsunami written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III 
Who wants to get their 9 to 12-year-old readers reading more nonfiction? This hybrid (fiction/nonfiction) visually appealing graphic novel series could be your best gateway book to introduce readers to nonfiction in an appealing way. This story is about a girl and her skunk who experience an earthquake. The girl’s dialogue plus nonfiction informational sections explain the science of what’s happening. Alongside the skunk, readers will learn about plate tectonics, tsunamis, landslides, and much more about the science and preparedness related to earthquakes and tsunamis. I liked the balance of narrative and expository text, especially for readers who prefer one or the other so they can get practice reading both. Plus, I loved the illustrations —super engaging— and appreciated the larger size typeface.

Amil and the After written by Veera Hiranandani
What happens after The Night Diary ends with the family having fled Pakistan for India? This book is about what happens! Amil and his twin Nisha are trying to get used to their new normal. Their dad is stressed about his probationary doctor job, and Amil is struggling at school with an undiagnosed learning disability. He loves art, misses the mom he never knew, feels confused about his two religions, and is lonely for friends. He trades food with a boy who teaches him art and how to make a flipbook, but he learns the boy is homeless when he’s not in the refugee camp. Amil begs his dad to help the boy but his dad says they can’t help all the people who need help. Except when he finds his friend Vaim is sick and starving, Amil tries again. Isn’t helping one person enough? Despite the trauma that Amil’s been through and his daily struggles, his kind heart gives us hope. I love this story!

Table Titans Club written and illustrated by Scott Kurtz
Valeria is the new kid at school and has the worst first day ever which prompts the D&D TTRPG group “Table Titans” to invite her to join their campaign. Val loves the group who learns they’ll need a new club sponsor soon. To get the grumpy PE teacher to sponsor their club, they must try out for the wrestling team. Only Val makes the cut– and she’s GOOD! Actually, she’s amazing at wrestling. She confronts another girl named Kate who is jealous because she’s wanted to be included in the Table Titans club. Their physical altercation might get them both expelled and kicked out of their clubs, so she’s shocked at who saves them…and that Kate might not be so bad after all.

This is the best D&D book I’ve read because it makes sense, it’s a great story, and it’s super engaging with both the artwork and the plot. I highly recommend it and am adding it to our D&D books list. (Also, I think this was simultaneously released in hardback and paperback, giving you a more affordable purchasing option!)

The Deadly Daylight written by Ash Harrier
MYSTERY, 272 pages
This cozy middle grade mystery is about a brilliant and unique girl named Alice who lives with her father at their funeral home. She adds mementos to the dead bodies before the funerals, which sometimes speak to her in dream-like visions. One toy boat memento convinces Alice that the uncle of her classmate Violet, with a sun allergy, did not die of his sun/UVB allergy but was murdered. Alice convinces Violet to join her investigation into what really happened. Alice interviews the uncle’s coworkers, his wife, the teenagers loitering on the beach, and others as the pair follow the clues and false leads.

Sona and the Golden Beasts written by Rajani LaRocca
FANTASY, 400 pages
In a world divided by race where the conquerers rule the land and persecute the native race with golden-tipped ears from having basic human rights and using their magic in music, Sona rescues a forbidden but sacred wolf pup with golden ears chased by a hunter. He’ll stop at nothing to kill the pup and steal its gemstone. To save the wolf, Sona flees to her grandmother’s after learning that she’s an illegal child of both the ruling class and the persecuted class. To save her sick grandmother from the goldstorm, Sona and her mistrustful cousin travel across the country to find the sacred drops that are only given to the worthy and give them to her grandmother. It’s an exciting adventure in a unique world reminiscent of India’s history in which our heroine faces moral quandaries, the complexities of humanity, and the power of forgiveness and kindness. 

Light and Air written by Mindy Nichols Wendell
11-year-old Hallie is devastated when her mom goes to a tuberculosis hospital. She tries to be brave, but she’s lonely, sad, and hurt because her Dad acts indifferent and cold towards her. Soon, Hallie gets sick, too, and arrives at the tuberculosis hospital with pneumonia. She’s separated from her mom and only allowed with other kids who have the TB virus, active or inactive like her. Hallie feels very worried about her mom, who is not getting better, and remembers that her mom believed in honey water, so she asks for help getting honey sent to her mom. This is a sweet, lovingly written historical story with a great redemption arc!

Uprising written by Jennifer A. Nielsen
You’ll be enthralled with this Polish WWII historical fiction novel about a real person, a young Polish girl named Lidia who took a stand against the invading Nazis by joining the Resistance. Lidia sees the injustices and refuses to stay safe by doing nothing. She feels that she must fight in any way she can so she works as a messenger. It’s amazing how many close calls she had! I found myself considering how much Lidia’s story made me think about what I’d do in the same situation which, in some ways, we’re seeing the beginnings of again. What do I do when I encounter people spouting antisemitism and ugliness? Besides unfollowing and unfriending them? It’s important for me to consider my non-negotiable moral compass and what I can do to not speak up. Ultimately, I want to be more like Lidia! Actually, the world needs more people like her.

The Luminous Life of Lucy Landry written by Anna Rose Johnson
Orphaned for the third time after her guardian dies, Lucy is taken in by a family of six living in a lighthouse on a small island. The father is on probation with regular surprise inspections about how spotless the lighthouse is– no easy feat with kids or with Lucy, whose carelessness and daydreaming are disastrous, making many of her new siblings act resentful and hostile toward her. Lucy is focused on finding a ruby necklace from a shipwreck story her dad told her. When she does find it, she puts her new family’s home in peril. She must decide if she truly believes in finders keepers. Under 200 pages, this beautifully written historical fiction story is a wonderful glimpse into the life of lighthouse keepers, a family trying to keep their Ojibwe heritage alive by learning more Anishinaabe words and a faith-filled life that includes prayer and scripture.

Unicorn Legacy Tangled Magic written by Kamilla Benko
FANTASY, 342 pages
If you like fantasy stories like I do, you don’t want to miss this engaging story about a girl named Olivia without the magic of her family’s guild. She sneaks away to a newly formed Unicorn Academy, where her magic is revealed: she’s not a Tiller; she’s a Spinner! The other guilds represented at the school include Gemmers and Forgers, and the school hopes to unite the separated guilds in this one-year experiment. Olivia is an outcast almost immediately when her sister and her nan are accused of trapping unicorns, but she befriends a girl named Violet without magic, and together, they try to prove her sister’s innocence by finding the actual unicorn-trapping culprit. A mesmerizing story with a plot twist I did NOT see coming!

Gut Reaction written by Kirby Larson and Quinn Wyatt
REALISTIC, 272 pages
Tess is navigating a new school while giving her dad, along with intermittent stomach pains and bathroom issues. Her favorite thing is baking, which she learned from her dad, and it helps her make new friends at her school. But she’s hiding how often she experiences the stabbing knife-like pains and running to the bathroom. When she passes out at school, tests show she has a chronic illness called Crohn’s Disease. This is a heartfelt story about the challenges of living with a chronic illness, the journey of grief, friends who have your back, and figuring out who you are based on Quinn’s personal experience.

new middle grade books for March 2024

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