New Middle Grade Books, September 2021

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Ready for a batch of new middle-grade books — about history, faith, bullying, ghosts, dragons, and more?


Here are some fantastic stories that you’ll want to consider for your homes, classrooms, and libraries.


New Middle Grade Books, September 2021

Written in the second person, this story puts you squarely in the center of a historical fiction book about a Jewish girl named Ariel whose older sister falls in love and runs away to marry a Hindu boy after the Loving vs. Virginia verdict. Ariel misses her sister terribly but her parents refuse to talk about her sister or let Ariel have her sister’s contact information. Meanwhile, Ariel’s teacher thinks she has a learning disability called dysgraphia only Ariel’s mom refuses to listen to the teacher, triggered by her own experiences of a special ed class. Even though Ariel struggles with writing, her teacher encourages her to write poetry which helps her express her feelings. Inspired by the author’s own family history, the authenticity of the story shines through every moment. It’s a beautiful story of love, family, forgiveness, and growing up — you’ll love it.


Traitors Among Us
by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch
It’s a little-known history that after WWII, Russians kidnapped Ukrainian refugees for slave labor or death. In this true story, sisters Maria and Krystia are kidnapped by the Russians when another girl falsely accuses them of being Hitler Girls, girls who collaborated with the Nazis. The girls, including their accusor, are taken to a house in the Russian zone for Interrogation where they fight to survive and with the help of others, to escape. This well-written history shows the power of human kindness.


The Ghost of Midnight Lake
by Lucy Strange
Perfect for people like me who don’t actually like scary stories, this is a not-scary ghost story. (The bad people are scarier than the ghosts in this story.) When Aggie’s rich Earl father dies, her awful cousin and new heir sends Aggie to live with her mysterious real dad. She’s shocked to learn that the Earl wasn’t her actual father and as she adjusts to her new situation, she decides to figure out the truth about her heritage. That means following a ghostly light into her old estate, exploring a haunted island with a new friend, and surviving her cousin’s attempts on her life. It’s a wonderful story about a brave heroine who has a big mystery to unravel!

Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
by Alda P. Dobbs
Based on the true history of the author’s great-grandmother, this is a beautiful and important story of hope, resiliency, and family set in historical Mexico, 1913. Petra Luna, her Abuela, her little sister, and her baby brother flee their home when Federales burn the village. Petra’s Abuelita calls reading and writing barefoot dreams, meaning they’re not meant to go far but when they’re helped by a female rebel captain, Petra reaffirms that she can be more than her Abuelita thinks — that she can keep her promise to save her family and realize her barefoot dreams, too. Their trials culminate in a harrowing and life-threatening experience as they wait with throngs of other people trying to cross the bridge into the United States before the Federales arrive on the Mexican side. Exciting, interesting, and inspiring.

Ophie’s Ghost
by Justina Ireland
A page-turning historical ghost mystery about racism, justice, bravery, and friendship. When her father Is murdered by white men in Georgia in 1922, his ghost appears to Ophelia warning she and her mom to escape. After that, Ophie sees ghosts everywhere, even in their new home of Pittsburg. When she’s forced to drop out of school to work, she works for the same rich family as her mom. At her new job, she meets a beautiful, charming ghost named Clara who was murdered but can’t remember it. Ophie wants to discover the truth and help her new friend. But ghosts don’t have good intentions and will do anything, including possessing someone, to get their revenge. Ophie needs to be careful…


Recipe for Disaster
by Aimee Lucido
A heart-warming story about family, faith, forgiveness, and learning to define yourself instead of letting others define you. Hannah, a girl who loves cooking and food, wants to figure out what being Jewish means…and have her own bat mitzvah. Since her mom forbids her to be Jewish, her Grandma helps her secretly study the Torah with her Aunt Yael, a rabbi and the estranged sister of Hannah’s mother. As she pursues her lessons, other things aren’t going well in her life…her dad and brother argue all the time, her BFF dumps her, and her new friend Vee experiences anti-Semitism graffiti on her house. Ultimately, Hannah will use all of these experiences to discover who she is and who she wants to be in the world. And you’ll love Hannah’s insights into relationships with her unique recipes such as “Recipe for a She-ra” and “Recipe for a Best Friendship”.


Carry Me Home by Janet Fox
Fox skillfully transports us into the heart of the main character Lulu who is desperately trying to take care of her little sister after their dad abandons them at the RV park where they’ve been living. Hopefully, she makes paper cranes and wishes that her dad will come back as he has before. They go undiscovered by adults for several weeks but one day when she misses her sister’s pick-up time, Social Services is called and the truth comes out. When it does, Lulu learns what community means, that adults aren’t the enemy, and that her dad is never left them — he’s been a John Doe in the hospital. This is a moving story of a determined girl facing homelessness with courage.


Yusef Azeem Is Not a Hero
by Saadia Faruqi
Step into the shoes of Yusef around the 20th anniversary of 9/11, a Pakistani-American Muslim who lives in a small Texas town. He’s bullied at his middle school with hateful notes and his small community is besieged with hate and anger from the Patriot Sons group. Yusef tries to focus on his robotics team and his family but when a robotic toy that he made for his sister gets him accused of bomb-making and detained at the jail for twelve hours, he has to decide how he’ll respond. Assimilate, leave, only befriend other Muslims, or stand up to the bullies. He decides to take his father’s advice and try using love to overcome hate… Growing up is hard but in this is a powerful story inspired by true events, you will feel deep empathy and sorrow for what Yusef experiences because of his religious beliefs.


Born Behind Bars
by Padma Venkatraman
Kabir is too old to continue living in jail with his mom who was unjustly imprisoned. He’s forced to leave the jail without his mom and quickly realizes that his so-called uncle is trying to sell him into slavery. Kabir runs away and meets a worldly-wise girl named Rani who helps him survive the streets. Together, the two journey to another city where they hope Kabir’s grandparents live and where Kabir and Rani find kindness and second chances. This powerful story illuminates the problem of homelessness and the justice system in India, yet gives readers hope in human kindness and the possibilities of change. I honestly felt like crying with joy during the last third of the book — it so emotionally resonate.


Partly Cloudy
by Tanita S. Davis
Madalyn’s parents send her to live with her great Uncle Lobo so she can attend a safer middle school. But when her new friend acts scared of black boys like Madalyn’s neighbor, Madalyn feels hurt at Natalie’s racist actions. Destructive California fires leave Natalie without her guardian and she asks to stay with Madalyn. At first, Madalyn doesn’t want to say yes. However, her uncle reminds her that we have a choice of how we want to be in the world whether or not people deserve kindness or not — and that we can choose kindness even to people who might not deserve it. I read this book in one sitting, it was too good to put down, loving the writing, the wise message, and the French Creole flavor of the main character’s family.


City of Thieves (Battle Dragons)
by Alex London
In Drakopolis, gangs of kins clans run the neighborhoods with violence and crime, using dragons to fight each other and work as taxis and cargo carriers. Abel finds it and bonds with the dragon his sister stole but a kin finds out and forces Abel to fight in their kin battle. He’s devastated to learn that his best friend who happens to be non-binary is in a kin and never told him– and that his family is in danger if Abel doesn’t fight. In an exciting plot twist, Abel uses his strengths, his family, and his two 7th grade classmates to fight against ALL the kins to erase his family’s debt once and for all. Cool world-building with fantastic character development — this was a fun read!


Kingdom of Secrets
by Christyne Morrell
A twisty-turney adventure that follows two stories — first, Prismena whose balloonist father is imprisoned for something that Prismena did– well, that a troublemaker kid named Abi put her up to… Now Abi, a rebel orphan, and Prismena are teaming up to both get what they want — and Prismena must face the hard truth about the kingdom’s leadership. Throughout the book, we also read the backstory that explains the Queen’s history and her seemingly cold heart. A complex girl power plot infused with STEM problem solving and growing into yourself.


Raven Heir
by Stephanie Burgis
Cordelia is a triplet who lives hidden away in an enchanted forest with their sorceress mother. When their castle is besieged, the siblings escape their violent, power-hungry relatives. They’ll discover a grandmother who tricks them and tries to capture them. They’ll also learn the truth about their history and the broken crown that must be fixed to end the bloodshed. A good fantasy escape adventure.


The Beatryce Prophecy
by Kate DiCamillo, illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Set in medieval times, a traumatized, memory-less Beatryce is helped by a kind monk and an uncannily intelligent goat. Since she can read even though it’s forbidden, the monks suggest that she shave her hair and pretend to be a boy so she can help with their illumination work. After a perilous trip to town, Beatryce remembers the attack on her home and feels determined to go see the king to right the wrong that’s been done to her family. She’s joined by a boy, the kind monk, and a former king as well as the goat Answelica. I got this review copy PDF book from Netgalley and it had pages missing so perhaps I missed too much of the story but I felt underwhelmed. Comment if you’ve read it and want to help me change my thinking!


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  1. Ooh, thanks for including me in such a great haul of books. (And trust, my TBR list is teetering with some new additions…) I’m so glad you enjoyed it!