I’m catching up on a few middle grade books I missed reading from previous months. I’ll admit that I’m in a bit of a reading slump. I’ve started and abandoned a lot of books — more than usual lately. I am looking for books that hook me, and if I’m bored or I hate the main characters (I really do sometimes,) I stop reading. Because, I don’t have time to waste on a book that doesn’t hook me.
Kids are as picky, er, discerning, as me. I wholeheartedly believe that all readers, no matter their age, should be allowed to abandon books. If they do, it’s a great opportunity to have conversations about why they’re making that choice, what they’re looking for in a book, and their readerly life — if this is happening frequently. As long as they don’t abandon every single book, I think it’s okay. What do you think?
In book-loving news, I’ve chosen my top 30 middle grade books of 2023!
Onward to the reviews…
New Middle Grade, November 2023
Night Raven: The Moonwind Mysteries written by Johan Rundberg, translated by A.A. Prime
An excellent, page-turning mystery set in 1880s Sweden about an orphan girl named Mika whose survival skills include an eye for detail, connections, and deductions! After an abandoned baby is dropped into her arms in the middle of the night, a police detective recruits her to assist him in identifying a dead body and then investigating a prison cell — all in pursuit of a copycat serial killer. But Mika realizes it’s not a copycat. In a dangerous game of cat and mouse, she and the detective need to avoid the corrupt prison officials and the serial killer. This observant heroine is my favorite kind — resourceful, aspirational, and interesting. I can’t wait for more books in the series. (Sensitive readers: Includes the word cr*p.)
The Curious Vanishing of Beatrice Willoughby by G.Z. Schmidt
Thirteen years after the mayor’s daughter disappeared from a party, the guests are invited back to the mansion for another All Hallows Eve party. One of the guests at this party is the kidnapper. The other guests will need to figure out the clues and solve the mystery to free the mansion’s owner from prison…and find the girl. A brilliant boy and his storytelling father stumble upon the party whose attendees follow clues, listen to the storyteller’s related sinister fairy tales, and forget about two of the party’s guests. With storytelling, magic, and deduction, this is a zippy, fascinating book that weaves the Grimm characters into a mystery readers will hope to solve before the boy does!
Dad’s Girlfriend and Other Anxieties by Kellye Crocker
I loved this book so much that I read it in one sitting! Ava’s dad surprises her with a visit to his girlfriend in the mountains of Colorado. This is a big problem for Ava because 1) a GIRLFRIEND? and 2) the mountains are DANGEROUS! (Ava knows!) Even though the Girlfriend’s daughter Z is nice, Ava wants to go home, so she sabotages the trip. But they don’t go home and Ava ends up hurting her new friend Z and her new ally, the Girlfriend, who is keeping a big secret. This is an emotional, multi-layered story of change, family, growing up, and living with anxiety with a main character you will adore.
Hither & Nigh The Golden Imaginarium Book 2 by Ellen Potter
Nell returns to the magical world of Nigh, where she searches for her missing brother, meets cool creatures, and has thrilling, dangerous adventures with non-stop action fighting evil magicians. This well-written book two will keep fans immersed in this unique world. Now, I can’t wait for book 3!