The Children’s Book Review | March 1, 2017
18 New Middle Grade Books for Ages 7-14 (and Beyond)
Talk about March Madness! There are so many amazing books releasing this month. We’ve picked 18 that we think are the some of the best new books for preteens and tweens that release during the month of March. Here’s some of what you’ll find: the first book in an irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum, an endearing story about two foster children, a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships, a lyrical ode to poets from a Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree, a courageous debut novel from Holly M. McGhee, a novel bursting with love and humor, a warm-hearted debut novel about taking risks, a moving middle grade novel about a Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggling to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture, and a thoroughly-researched and documented depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939..
Which middle grade book will you share with your growing readers this month?
Written by Elana K. Arnold
Publisher’s Synopsis: From acclaimed author Elana K. Arnold and with illustrations by Charles Santoso, A Boy Called Bat is the first book in a funny, heartfelt, and irresistible young middle grade series starring an unforgettable young boy on the autism spectrum.
For Bixby Alexander Tam (nicknamed Bat), life tends to be full of surprises—some of them good, some not so good. Today, though, is a good-surprise day. Bat’s mom, a veterinarian, has brought home a baby skunk, which she needs to take care of until she can hand him over to a wild-animal shelter.
But the minute Bat meets the kit, he knows they belong together. And he’s got one month to show his mom that a baby skunk might just make a pretty terrific pet.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062445827
Written by Caela Carter
Publisher’s Synopsis: From rising new talent Caela Carter, author of My Life with the Liars, comes an achingly beautiful and endearing story about two foster children who want desperately to believe that they’ve found their forever home. Perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me, Leslie Connor’s All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, and Sarah Pennypacker’s Pax.
Flora and her brother, Julian, don’t believe they were born. They’ve lived in so many foster homes, they can’t remember where they came from. And even now that they’ve been adopted, Flora still struggles to believe in forever. So along with their new mother, Flora and Julian begin a journey to go back and discover their past—for only then can they really begin to build their future.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | March 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062385680
Written by Erin Entrada Kelly
Illustrated by Isabel Roxas
Publisher’s Synopsis: Acclaimed and award-winning author Erin Entrada Kelly’s Hello, Universe is a funny and poignant neighborhood story about unexpected friendships. Told from four intertwining points of view—two boys and two girls—the novel celebrates bravery, being different, and finding your inner bayani (hero), and it’s perfect for fans of Lynda Mullaly Hunt, Thanhha Lai, and Rita Williams-Garcia.
In one day, four lives weave together in unexpected ways. Virgil Salinas is shy and kindhearted and feels out of place in his crazy-about-sports family. Valencia Somerset, who is deaf, is smart, brave, and secretly lonely, and she loves everything about nature. Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic, whose little sister, Gen, is always following her around. And Chet Bullens wishes the weird kids would just stop being so different so that he can concentrate on basketball. They aren’t friends, at least not until Chet pulls a prank that traps Virgil and his pet guinea pig at the bottom of a well. This disaster leads Kaori, Gen, and Valencia on an epic quest to find the missing Virgil. Sometimes four can do what one cannot. Through luck, smarts, bravery, and a little help from the universe, a rescue is performed, a bully is put in his place, and friendship blooms. The acclaimed author of Blackbird Fly and The Land of Forgotten Girls writes with an authentic, humorous, and irresistible tween voice that will appeal to fans of Thanhha Lai and Rita Williams-Garcia.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Greenwillow Books | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062414151
Written by Sage Blackwood
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author of the acclaimed Jinx trilogy comes a spellbinding fantasy, perfect for fans of The School for Good and Evil, about a young heroine fighting to save a world that would dare to tame her.
Chantel would much rather focus on her magic than on curtsying, which is why she often finds herself in trouble at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. But when Miss Ellicott mysteriously disappears along with all the other sorceresses in the city, Chantel’s behavior becomes the least of her problems.
Without any magic protecting the city, it is up to Chantel and her friends to save the Kingdom. On a dangerous mission, Chantel will discover a cross-wielding boy, a dragon, and a new, fiery magic that burns inside her—but can she find the sorceresses and transform Lightning Pass into the city it was meant to be?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | March 21, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062402639
Publisher’s Synopsis: A Newbery Medalist and a Caldecott Honoree offer a glorious, lyrical ode to poets who have sparked a sense of wonder.
Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Candlewick | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763680947
Written by Holly M. McGhee
Publisher’s Synopsis: In a courageous debut novel, Holly M. McGhee explores the loss that shakes one girl’s world — and the unexpected consequences of the things we do for love.
Sussy and Guy are best friends, fourth-graders who share their silliest thoughts and deepest hopes. One afternoon, the two of them decide they must have something of their very own to love. After a trip to the pet store, they bring home a spotted lizard, the one with the ancient face and starfish toes, and they name her Matylda (with a y so it’s all her own). With Guy leading the way, they feed her and give her an origin story fit for a warrior lizard. A few weeks later, on a simple bike ride, there is a terrible accident. As hard as it is, Sussy is sure she can hold on to Guy if she can find a way to love Matylda enough. But in a startling turn of events, Sussy reconsiders what it means to grieve and heal and hope and go on, for her own sake and Matylda’s. By turns both devastating and buoyant, this story is a brave one, showing how far we can justify going for a real and true friend.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Candlewick | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763689513
Publisher’s Synopsis: Cilla Lee-Jenkins is 50% Chinese, 50% Caucasian, and 100% destined for literary greatness!
Priscilla “Cilla” Lee-Jenkins is on a tight deadline. Her baby sister is about to be born, and Cilla needs to become a bestselling author before her family forgets all about her. So she writes about what she knows best―herself! Stories from her bestselling memoir, Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire, include:
– How she dealt with being bald until she was five
– How she overcame her struggles with reading
– How family traditions with her Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins and her Chinese grandparents, Nai Nai and Ye Ye, are so different
Debut author Susan Tan has written a novel bursting with love and humor, as told through a bright, irresistible biracial protagonist who will win your heart and make you laugh.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | March 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1626725515
Written by Alyson Gerber
Publisher’s Synopsis: Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.
Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her–even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.
Written by a debut author who wore a brace of her own, Braced is the inspiring, heartfelt story of a girl learning to manage the many curves life throws her way.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books | March 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0545902144
Written by Victoria Scott
Publisher’s Synopsis: Sloan is a hunter.
So she shouldn’t be afraid of anything. But ever since her mom left the family and she lost hearing in one ear in a blizzard, it’s been hard to talk to people, and near-impossible to go anywhere or do anything without her dad or big sister within eyesight – it makes her too scared to be on her own.
When they leave her home alone for what should only be two nights, she’s already panicked. Then the snow starts falling and doesn’t stop. One of her neighbors is hurt in an accident. And the few people still left in Rusic need to make it to the river and the boat that’s tied there – their only way to get to a doctor from their isolated Alaska town.
But the woods are icy cold, and the wolves are hungry. Sloan and her group are running out of food, out of energy, and out of time. That’s when the wolves start hunting them. . . .
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | March 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1338043587
Written by Hena Khan
Publisher’s Synopsis: A Pakistani-American Muslim girl struggles to stay true to her family’s vibrant culture while simultaneously blending in at school after tragedy strikes her community in this sweet and moving middle grade novel from the award-winning author of It’s Ramadan, Curious George and Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns.
Amina has never been comfortable in the spotlight. She is happy just hanging out with her best friend, Soojin. Except now that she’s in middle school everything feels different. Soojin is suddenly hanging out with Emily, one of the “cool” girls in the class, and even talking about changing her name to something more “American.” Does Amina need to start changing too? Or hiding who she is to fit in? While Amina grapples with these questions, she is devastated when her local mosque is vandalized.
Amina’s Voice brings to life the joys and challenges of a young Pakistani American and highlights the many ways in which one girl’s voice can help bring a diverse community together to love and support each other.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Salaam Reads / Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1481492065
Written by James Patterson and Martin Chatterton
Illustrated by Daniel Griffo
Publisher’s Synopsis: In the newest installment of James Patterson’s bestselling Middle School series, everyone’s favorite underdog hero Rafe Khatchadorian is headed to the dangerous wilds of Australia!
Rafe isn’t exactly considered a winner in Hills Village Middle School to say the least, but everything’s about to change: he’s won a school-wide art competition, and the fabulous prize is getting to jet-set off to Australia for a whirlwind adventure! But Rafe soon finds that living in the Land Down Under is harder than he could’ve ever imagined–his host-siblings are anything but welcoming, the burning temperatures are torturous, and poisonous critters are ready to sting or eat him at every step. So with the help of some new misfit friends, Rafe sets out to show everyone what he does best: create utter mayhem!
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: jimmy patterson | March 6, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0316272629
Written by Margarita Engle
Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Publisher’s Synopsis: Musician, botanist, baseball player, pilot―the Latinos featured in this collection come from many different countries and from many different backgrounds. Celebrate their accomplishments and their contributions to a collective history and a community that continues to evolve and thrive today!
Biographical poems include: Aida de Acosta, Arnold Rojas, Baruj Benacerraf, César Chávez, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, Félix Varela, George Meléndez, José Martí, Juan de Miralles, Juana Briones, Julia de Burgos, Louis Agassiz Fuertes, Paulina Pedroso, Pura Belpré, Roberto Clemente, Tito Puente, Ynes Mexia, Tomás Rivera
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0805098761
Written by Kimberly Willis Holt
Publisher’s Synopsis: With unwavering emotion and masterful storytelling, National Book Award-winning author Kimberly Willis Holt explores themes of loss, family, love, and the importance of finding a place to call home.
Stevie’s life seems safe and full of love until the day tragedy strikes. Stevie is sent to live with her estranged grandfather Winston at his rundown motel. Though the colorful tenants who inhabit the motel are quickly charmed by Stevie, she struggles to connect with her grandfather. What dark secret is he keeping from her? It will take another difficult departure before Winston realizes just how strongly Stevie has taken root at the motel–and in his heart.
Ages 8-14 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | March 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1627793247
Written by Pete Begler
Publisher’s Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Nell Perkins knows there is magic at work that she can’t yet understand. Her mother has been taken by witches and turned into a bird. Nell must journey to get her mother back, even if it takes her deep into the Wicked Places ― the frightening realm where Nightmares resides. There she must break the spell and stop the witches from turning our world into a living nightmare.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Capstone Young Readers | March 1, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1623707996
Publisher’s Synopsis: My name is Mischa “Ish” Love, and I am twelve years old. I know quite a lot about Mars.
Mars is where I belong. Do you know how sometimes you just know a thing? My mom says that falling in love is like that, that the first time she saw Dad, she just knew. That’s how I feel about Mars: I just know.
I’m smart and interesting and focused, and I’m working on getting along better with people. I’ll learn some jokes. A sense of humor is going to be important. It always is. That’s what my dad always says. Maybe jokes will be the things that will help us all to survive. Not just me, because there’s no “me” in “team,” right? This is about all of us. Together.
What makes me a survivor? Mars is going to make me a survivor.
In Karen Rivers’s riveting new novel, Ish’s dreams for a future on Mars go heartbreakingly awry when an unexpected diagnosis threatens to rewrite her whole future.
Ages 9-13 | Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1616205706
Written by Steven B. Frank
Publisher’s Synopsis: Charlie isn’t looking forward to sixth grade. If he starts sixth grade, chances are he’ll finish it. And when he does, he’ll grow older than the brother he recently lost. Armstrong isn’t looking forward to sixth grade, either. When his parents sign him up for Opportunity Busing to a white school in the Hollywood Hills, all he wants to know is “What time in the morning will my alarm clock have the opportunity to ring?” When these two land at the same desk, it’s the Rules Boy next to the Rebel, a boy who lost a brother elbow-to-elbow with a boy who longs for one.
From September to June, arms will wrestle, fists will fly, and bottles will spin. There’ll be Ho Hos spiked with hot sauce, sleepovers, boy talk about girls, and a little guidance from the stars.
Set in Los Angeles in the 1970s, Armstrong and Charlie is the hilarious, heartwarming tale of two boys from opposite worlds, Different, yet the same.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | March 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0544826083
Publisher’s Synopsis: The exciting true story of the captaincy, wreck, and discovery of the Whydah — the only pirate ship ever found — and the incredible mysteries it revealed.
The 1650s to the 1730s marked the golden age of piracy, when fearsome pirates like Blackbeard ruled the waves, seeking not only treasure but also large and fast ships to carry it. The Whydah was just such a ship, built to ply the Triangular Trade route, which it did until one of the greediest pirates of all, Black Sam Bellamy, commandeered it. Filling the ship to capacity with treasure, Bellamy hoped to retire with his bounty — but in 1717 the ship sank in a storm off Cape Cod. For more than two hundred years, the wreck of the Whydah (and the riches that went down with it) eluded treasure seekers, until the ship was finally found in 1984 by marine archaeologists. The artifacts brought up from the ocean floor are priceless, both in value and in the picture they reveal of life in that much-mythologized era, changing much of what we know about pirates.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Candlewick | March 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763689513 | ISBN-13: 978-0763680336
Publisher’s Synopsis: In 1945, in a now-famous piece of World War II archival footage, four-year-old Michael Bornstein was filmed by Soviet soldiers as he was carried out of Auschwitz in his grandmother’s arms. Survivors Club tells the unforgettable story of how a father’s courageous wit, a mother’s fierce love, and one perfectly timed illness saved his life, and how others in his family from Zarki, Poland, dodged death at the hands of the Nazis time and again with incredible deftness. Working from his own recollections as well as extensive interviews with relatives and survivors who knew the family, Michael relates his inspirational Holocaust survival story with the help of his daughter, Debbie Bornstein Holinstat. Shocking, heartbreaking, and ultimately uplifting, this narrative nonfiction offers an indelible depiction of what happened to one Polish village in the wake of the German invasion in 1939.
This thoroughly-researched and documented book can be worked into multiple aspects of the common core curriculum.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | March 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0374305710
Which of these middle grade books will you be sharing with your tweens? For more of the best new middle grade books for kids ages 8 through 14, follow along with our articles tagged with New Books for Kids, Middle Grade Books, Books for Ages 4-8, and Books for Ages 9-12.