What’s Good in New Middle Grade Books

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I’ve been reading new middle grade books, as I do. 🙂 Here are my favorite choices from the new release bookshelf for spring 2018.


What’s Good in New Middle Grade Books

If you like adventurous fantasy stories with unique plots, this book is for you. Homeless, orphaned 12-year old twins, Anders and Rayna, unexpectedly discover that they are both elementals — but that’s not the worst of it. Anders is an Ice Wolf and can attend the academy but Rayna turns into a scorch dragon, a feared, child-stealing creature. when Rayna’s kidnapped by other dragons, Anders decides to attend the academy to learn more about dragons so he can find and rescue his sister. Once there, he experiences a different kind of family than he had with his sister — a pack. Anders finds he has more questions than answers. Like did the dragons and wolves used to be allies? What’s happening with the magic?


by Kwame Alexander
Alexander’s latest slice-of-life / coming-of-age novel in verse is set in the 80s and is about the dad of the boys in his book, The Crossover. Engulfed in grief over his father’s recent death, his mom sends Charlie (soon to be Chuck) to his grandparents house for the summer. There, his cousin, Roxie, gets Chuck interested in basketball. He’s not so good at first but Chuck seems to have a natural ability. And something about basketball helps him grieve and heal; so does spending time with his grandparents. His grandaddy tells him:
“You gonna miss some.
Heck, you gonna miss a lot.
That’s the way the real world works.
But you gotta grab the ball and
keep shooting. You understand?”
Chuck makes a big mistake that gets him sent home early– but I love seeing his family’s example of boundaries plus unconditional love.


Tash is so angry about summer camp angry that she’s rude to Cap’n Jackie, the neighbor woman and friend who has always helped take care of her. Now that she’s returned (and had a good time,) Tash is feels terrible. She’s worried because Cap’n Jackie is missing and because she needs to fix things between them. Unfortunately, Cap’n Jackie isn’t coming home — she’s too sick. This is a touching coming-of-age novel about life, friendship, and grief.


The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
by Stacy McAnulty
My daughter and I love this book! The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl is a thoughtful coming-of-age story about a girl genius with OCD whose grandma wants her to go to public middle school to make one friend, read one non-math book, and join one school activity. Surprisingly, Lucy does find friends and more than that, too. A well-written, heart-warming story! Added to: Best Middle-Grade Chapter Books of 2018


Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Brodie doesn’t care that he’s risking his soul’s afterlife, he knows he must return to earth because his boy is in danger. He and a new dog friend named Tuck search for Brodie’s boy while avoiding the dangerous soul-sucking hellhounds. A ghost cat named Patsy helps but just as they’re about to warn the boy’s foster family, she betrays them to the hellhounds . . . Good Dog is action-packed and heart-warming. I love the single-minded loyalty and love this dog has for his person. Sure to be a new favorite for dog lovers.


by Cynthia Rylant
This is an atmospheric, small town slice-of-life story that takes place in Rosetown, Indiana. A big part of 4th grader Flora’s life is her friendship with Yury and reading in the used bookstore where her mom works. She’s also struggling to adjust to her parents’ separation and two different homes. But, no matter which house, she brings her cat, Serenity, with her. As it is a slice-of-life story, you’ll read about the day-to-day things Flora does like take piano lessons and help Yury with his dog training classes. This sweet story ends with Flora’s parents working things out and starting their own business together.


The Language of Spells
by Garret Weyr, illustrated by Katie Harnett
What beautiful storytelling! Grisha is a dragon who spends a few hundred years enchanted as a teapot. Later, he meets a lonely girl’s whose first and only friend is him. The girl’s friendship comes many years after a wicked magician has imprisoned or for the most part, enslaved, the world’s remaining dragons. Grisha, one of the dragons who has been working, begins to remember about the other dragons. So he and the girl, Maggie, quest to avoid the magician, find the missing dragons, and free them— no matter the cost. And there will be a cost. The ending is HEARTBREAKING but so, so good.


Amal Unbound
 by Aisha Saeed
Amal’s life is turned upside down when she offends a regional Pakistani overlord and is forced to leave her home and school to work in his home as a servant — indefinitely. She finds her inner strength and fights back, freeing herself and the other household slaves. The author deftly sets the scene of rural Pakistan. Readers will feel transported, feel the injustice, and cheer for Amal’s bravery.
Children's Chapter Books set in India or about Indian Culture and Indian Mythology
The Serpent’s Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) by Sayantani Dasgupta
This story pulls you in from the first page — in fact I took a screen shot of a sentence from the beginning of the book that just captures the humorous, mythological essence, and adventure of the story to come: “I was done for — abandoned by my parents, covered in rakkosh snot, and about to be eaten. This was the worst birthday ever!” Kiranmala discovers on her 12th birthday (well, a few days later when she actually believes it) that she’s a princess from another realm and her parents are trapped in a black hole-type place. But there’s a lot more she’ll learn — like who her real parents are (yikes!) and that demons can be your friends. The prince’s demon grandma, Ai-Ma, is my FAVORITE character. She says things like “Be good, sweet beetle-dung toadstools.” Okay, Kiranmala’s parents are super awesome, too. You’ll love every second of this entertaining, Indian mythology adventure.


The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
Written in a diary as letters to her Mama, Nisha shares how her life is turned upside down when the British rule of India ends in 1947, splitting the country into two — the Muslim north where she lives becomes Pakistan and the Hindu south remains India. Even though Nisha’s mom was Muslim, Nisha, her brother, her doctor Papa and her grandmother are forced to leave their home in the north because they are Hindu. There’s violence everywhere; nowhere is safe, not even the trains. It’s a harrowing journey and confusing time. This story, filled with historical significance, is masterfully told. You won’t want to put this one down.


Unicorn Rescue Society
by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Ally
On a field trip at his new school, Elliot meets Uchenna, a spunky girl who was new recently also. She sees a flash of color and drags Elliot off the forest path to chase after the colorful animal. The new friends discover it’s a mythical creature called a Jersey Devil. Later, it sneaks onto the school bus with them, turns invisible, and is now missing. They’ll have tell their teacher, Professor Fauna, what happened or the Blue Devil could be in terrible danger. This book feels like the first chapter in a bigger story.. . You’ll get a short, fast-paced adventure then be all set up for the rest of the book series.


The summer is different than Shayne expected. her BFF is acting weird. Her grandma, Bea, is supposed to be cleaning out her junk piles but she refuses to part with anything. And there’s an unusual, visiting neighbor kid who always wears a Civil War uniform that Shayne’s spending time with. The author does a respectful job of addressing hoarding as well as the challenges of growing up. Enjoyable and enlightening.


what's new in middle grade 2018


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    1. thanks! I think it’s always good to give readers variety since we all have topics and genres that interest us more than others. And, I’m so happy to see more diversity (finally) in the publishing world.