New Middle Grade Books, Jan 2021

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Ready for a batch of new books for your middle-grade readers, ages 8 to 12?

Some quick highlights…

Gone to the Woods isn’t just for kids, I think most of you who love Paulsen will find this profound and moving, too.

Don’t miss Amari, a wonderful fantasy book with a heroine of color!

The Beast and the Bethany and Alone both kept me reading past my bedtime. Talk about compelling!

See what you find on this list for the readers in your life.

Happy reading!

Gone to the Woods
by Gary Paulsen
This is a compelling, disturbing, and hopeful childhood story of hardship and survival with moments of kindness and time in nature that sustain the neglected, determined young boy. If you love Gary Paulsen’s stories or just enjoy survival and growing up stories, DON’T MISS this powerful book! Also, Paulsen writes his memoir in the third person which is an interesting choice and one that works extremely well…

The Beast and the Bethany
by Jack Meggitt-Phillips, illustrated by Isabelle Follath
If you like snarky illustrated books that make you laugh, don’t miss this entertaining fantasy. Ebenezer, a man over 500 years old, is kept alive by a monstrous Beast who gives him youth cream in return for exotic foods…and now the Beast wants to eat a child. Still wanting to be youthful, Ebenezer adopts the rudest girl at a local orphanage, Bethany, and begins to fatten her up. She is horrid for a while until she’s not…and Ebenezer feels so bad that he confesses his evil plan. Together, find a solution to get rid of the Beast and get a happy ending! (Or do they?)

Amari and the Night Brothers
by B.B. Alston
Fantastic fantasy world-building, excellent writing, a strong female heroine of color, and a surprise plot twist ending are just a few of the reasons you’ll love this book. Amari is an exciting action-packed, suspenseful story about Amari whose beloved older brother has vanished. But, she gets a virtual message from him revealing that she’s a magician like him and at his bequest, gets to attend a secret school. There, she discovers she’s actually a dark magic magician (which is outlawed) but she’s determined to prove she isn’t evil, stay in the school, and find her brother.

I Am Defiance
by Jenni L. Walsh
Brigitte grows up with the League of German Girls. She only recently starts to notice that her father and older sister don’t agree with Hitler’s policies. In fact, her older sister is involved with the White Rose resistance. The story is primarily about a German girl’s coming of age and seeing the truth about Hitler. 

by Megan E Freeman
A fast-paced, incredible survival story (in verse) with a female protagonist! Everyone in her town is evacuated town expect for Maddie because no one knows where she is. She and her neighbor’s dog are forced to survive for days, then months, then years….They face food shortages, hard winters, springs, and no humans except for looters once. She realizes that people can’t come back for her if they’re all dead and is determined to keep surviving.

Ground Zero
by Alan Gratz
This first-person story of a boy named Brandon who was at the towers during 9/11 with his dad shows the confusion, fear, and horror of this terrorist event. Sensitive readers, be aware that this book does include events like the wall of fire and the people jumping off the building so it’s disturbing. And, it shows a complete stranger taking responsibility and care of Brandon, ultimately getting him to safety even though Brandon’s father doesn’t make it out of the towers. Simultaneously, we read a first-person story about a girl in Afghanistan who helps an American soldier against the Taliban’s wishes. I didn’t love how disjointed the stories felt alternating back and forth but liked the way that Gratz tied them together and left us with the message of working to help one another.

Lion of Mars
by Jennifer L. Holm
Eleven-year-old Bell lives in an underground compound on Mars. His United States group is isolated from the other country’s settlements but when the grownups get a deadly rodent-borne illness, the kids leave and try to get help from the other colonies. An imaginative story of friendship and adventure…on Mars!

by Jared Cullum
Lonely Katya befriends a large bear while she’s staying in Alaska with her Meema. But she must return home to the city. Kodi misses her so much, he travels to Seattle to find her. It’s a sweet story of friendship and bravery, beautifully illustrated in watercolors.

Izzy and the Smart Squad Absolute Hero by Valerie Tripp
Izzy’s starting middle school and it’s crowded and her old friend Marie returns to town but doesn’t want to hang out. Nevertheless, Izzy and her best friends start a STEM club and try to fix the school’s temperature problem. In their efforts, Izzy reunites with Marie, makes a new friend, and with some help from her SMART Squad, solves the school’s lack of heating. Smart girls with diverse backgrounds who love science and teamwork make this a winning first book in a new series.

The Secret Notebook by D.A. D’Aurelio
An exciting mystery adventure set in Washington D.C.! Riley arrives at school to find her science teacher’s room trashed, her teacher missing, and Nicola Tesla’s journal with a cryptic clue left to Riley from her teacher. After giving the journal to the wrong person, Riley and her friends race to find both the journal and her teacher.

new middle grade books for kids, January 2021


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  1. My daughter reads books faster than I can get them from the library. I am so thankful for this and every other list you provide. There are so many wonderful books I would never have found without you, and I love reading many of them just as much as my daughter.
    Thank you!