The Children’s Book Review | May 3, 2017
14 New Middle Grade Books for Ages 7-14 (and Beyond)
We’ve picked 14 middle grade books that we think are some of the best new books for preteens and tweens that release during the month of May. Here’s what you can expect to find: wordplay and outrageous adventures, a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, a completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island, an original contemporary story about bullying, the first book in an epic alternate history series about three kids who try to solve the greatest mystery of the modern world, swashbuckling adventure on the high seas, and a graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends.
Which middle grade book will you share with your growing readers this month?
Written by Margaret Atwood
Illustrated by Dušan Petricic
Publisher’s Synopsis: Wordplay and outrageous adventures rule the day in these three humorous stories from Margaret Atwood, with illustrations by Dušan Petricic. Now published together in a chapter book for the first time!
In Rude Ramsay and the Roaring Radishes, Ramsay runs away from his revolting relatives and makes a new friend with more refined tastes.
The second tale, Bashful Bob and Doleful Dorinda, features Bob, who was raised by dogs, and Dorinda, who does housework for relatives who don’t like her. It is only when they become friends that they realize they can change their lives for the better.
And finally, to get her parents back, Wenda and her woodchuck companion have to outsmart Widow Wallop in Wandering Wenda and Widow Wallop’s Wunderground Washery.
Young readers will become lifelong fans of Margaret Atwood’s work and the kind of wordplay that makes these tales such rich fare, whether they are read aloud or enjoyed independently. These compelling stories of resourceful children are a lively introduction to alliteration.
Ages 7-10 | Publisher: Groundwood Books | May 16, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1554989331
Written by Nanci Turner
Publisher’s Synopsis: Perfect for fans of One for the Murphys and The Penderwicks, this poignant and moving middle grade novel tells the story of a girl who moves to a new town and meets an unforgettable family—one that will change her and her mother’s lives forever.
Magnolia Grace never wanted to leave Georgia. She never wanted to move with her mama to the farm her daddy owned before he died. But now here she is, in a tiny Vermont town where everybody sings the praises of the father Maggie never knew.
Then Maggie meets the Parker family—two moms, six kids, plus a pony. The Parkers are loud and wild, ask lots of questions, and don’t follow any of the rules Maggie grew up with in Georgia. Suddenly Maggie has questions too—questions about her father, and why Mama kept him away for so long. In her search for answers, Maggie will learn that families are like patchwork quilts, sewn together by love, and all the more beautiful for their different colors.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062374578
Written by Rita Williams-Garcia
Publisher’s Synopsis: From beloved Newbery Honor winner and three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Rita Williams-Garcia comes a powerful and heartfelt novel about loss, family, and love that will appeal to fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander.
Clayton feels most alive when he’s with his grandfather, Cool Papa Byrd, and the band of Bluesmen—he can’t wait to join them, just as soon as he has a blues song of his own. But then the unthinkable happens. Cool Papa Byrd dies, and Clayton’s mother forbids Clayton from playing the blues. And Clayton knows that’s no way to live.
Armed with his grandfather’s brown porkpie hat and his harmonica, he runs away from home in search of the Bluesmen, hoping he can join them on the road. But on the journey that takes him through the New York City subways and to Washington Square Park, Clayton learns some things that surprise him.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Amistad | May 9, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062215918
Written by Laurel Snyder
Publisher’s Synopsis: For readers who loved Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and Lois Lowry’s The Giver comes a deep, compelling, heartbreaking, and completely one-of-a-kind novel about nine children who live on a mysterious island.
On the island, everything is perfect. The sun rises in a sky filled with dancing shapes; the wind, water, and trees shelter and protect those who live there; when the nine children go to sleep in their cabins, it is with full stomachs and joy in their hearts. And only one thing ever changes: on that day, each year, when a boat appears from the mist upon the ocean carrying one young child to join them—and taking the eldest one away, never to be seen again.
Today’s Changing is no different. The boat arrives, taking away Jinny’s best friend, Deen, replacing him with a new little girl named Ess, and leaving Jinny as the new Elder. Jinny knows her responsibility now—to teach Ess everything she needs to know about the island, to keep things as they’ve always been. But will she be ready for the inevitable day when the boat will come back—and take her away forever from the only home she’s known?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | May 30, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062443410
Written by John David Anderson
Publisher’s Synopsis: From John David Anderson, author of the acclaimed Ms. Bixby’s Last Day, comes a humorous, poignant, and original contemporary story about bullying, broken friendships, and the failures of communication between kids.
In middle school, words aren’t just words. They can be weapons. They can be gifts. The right words can win you friends or make you enemies. They can come back to haunt you. Sometimes they can change things forever.
When cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, Frost and his friends Deedee, Wolf, and Bench come up with a new way to communicate: leaving sticky notes for each other all around the school. It catches on, and soon all the kids in school are leaving notes—though for every kind and friendly one, there is a cutting and cruel one as well.
In the middle of this, a new girl named Rose arrives at school and sits at Frost’s lunch table. Rose is not like anyone else at Branton Middle School, and it’s clear that the close circle of friends Frost has made for himself won’t easily hold another. As the sticky-note war escalates, and the pressure to choose sides mounts, Frost soon realizes that after this year, nothing will ever be the same.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062338204
Written by Laura Ruby
Publisher’s Synopsis: From National Book Award finalist and Printz Award winner Laura Ruby comes the first book in an epic alternate history series about three kids who try to solve the greatest mystery of the modern world: a puzzle and treasure hunt laid into the very streets and buildings of New York City.
It was 1798 when the Morningstarr twins arrived in New York with a vision for a magnificent city: towering skyscrapers, dazzling machines, and winding train lines, all running on technology no one had ever seen before. Fifty-seven years later, the enigmatic architects disappeared, leaving behind for the people of New York the Old York Cipher—a puzzle laid into the shining city they constructed, at the end of which was promised a treasure beyond all imagining. By the present day, however, the puzzle has never been solved, and the greatest mystery of the modern world is little more than a tourist attraction.
Tess and Theo Biedermann and their friend Jaime Cruz live in a Morningstarr apartment—until a real estate developer announces that the city has agreed to sell him the five remaining Morningstarr buildings. Their likely destruction means the end of a dream long held by the people of New York. And if Tess, Theo, and Jaime want to save their home, they have to prove that the Old York Cipher is real. Which means they have to solve it.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | May 16, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062306937
Written by Claire Fayers
Publisher’s Synopsis: In this sequel to The Voyage to Magical North, Brine, Peter, Cassie and crew return for another swashbuckling adventure on the high seas.
Reaching the edge of the world can’t stop the crew of the Onion! It’s westward ho in search of dragons, no matter the obstacles. And there are obstacles. Flesh-eating vines, violent locals, and mischievous magi―not to mention Marfak West’s ghost―meet the pirates when they land on the Western Island, where a volcano threatens to end them all. Together, Brine and Peter might just be able to save the crew, the island, and themselves. Or they might all go up in flames. It really could go either way.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | May 16, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1627794213
Written by Shannon Hale
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Publisher’s Synopsis: Newbery Honor author Shannon Hale and New York Times bestselling illustrator LeUyen Pham join forces in this graphic memoir about how hard it is to find your real friends―and why it’s worth the journey.
When best friends are not forever . . .
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends ever since they were little. But one day, Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, the most popular girl in class and the leader of a circle of friends called The Group. Everyone in The Group wants to be Jen’s #1, and some girls would do anything to stay on top . . . even if it means bullying others.
Now every day is like a roller coaster for Shannon. Will she and Adrienne stay friends? Can she stand up for herself? And is she in The Group―or out?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: First Second | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1626727854
Written by Lauren Wolk
Publisher’s Synopsis: From the author of Newbery Honor–winner Wolf Hollow, the moving story of an orphan, determined to know her own history, who discovers the true meaning of family.
Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift in a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.
Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.
Vivid and heart-wrenching, Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea is a gorgeously crafted and tensely paced tale that explores questions of identity, belonging, and the true meaning of family.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101994856
Edited by Betsy Bird
Publisher’s Synopsis: Funny Girl is a collection of uproarious stories, rollicking comics, rib-tickling wit, and more, from 25 of today’s funniest female writers for kids.
What could be funnier than family? Read stories about Ursula Brown’s grandmother driving her on a road trip to disaster, Lisa Brown’s little brother getting a Tic-Tac stuck up his nose, and Carmen Agra Deedy’s mom setting the bathtub on fire.
What could be funnier than friends? Pretty much nothing, as Rita Williams-Garcia shows two besties hatching a bird-brained scheme to get on to a TV talk show, and Deborah Underwood introduces a dynamic dog-and-cat duo teaming up on a pet advice column.
What could be funnier than YOU? Tell your future with Mad Libs, discover your Chinese Zodiac sign with Lenore Look, and learn the best tricks of the comedy trade from professional humorists like Adrianne Chalepah and Delaney Yeager.
With clever contributions from award-winning and bestselling authors including Cece Bell, Sophie Blackall, Libba Bray, Shannon Hale, Lisa Graff, and Raina Telgemeier, this anthology of funny girls will make you laugh until you cry. Or cry until you laugh. Or maybe you won’t cry at all. Either way, you’ll definitely laugh.
Funny Girl isn’t just an anthology: it’s a cause, a mission, a movement. Girls are funny. Now it’s time for the world to know it.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | May 9, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0451477316
Written by Pablo Cartaya
Publisher’s Synopsis: Save the restaurant. Save the town. Get the girl. Make Abuela proud. Can thirteen-year-old Arturo Zamora do it all or is he in for a BIG, EPIC FAIL?
For Arturo, summetime in Miami means playing basketball until dark, sipping mango smoothies, and keeping cool under banyan trees. And maybe a few shifts as junior lunchtime dishwasher at Abuela’s restaurant. Maybe. But this summer also includes Carmen, a cute poetry enthusiast who moves into Arturo’s apartment complex and turns his stomach into a deep fryer. He almost doesn’t notice the smarmy land developer who rolls into town and threatens to change it. Arturo refuses to let his family and community go down without a fight, and as he schemes with Carmen, Arturo discovers the power of poetry and protest through untold family stories and the work of José Martí.
Funny and poignant, The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora is the vibrant story of a family, a striking portrait of a town, and one boy’s quest to save both, perfect for fans of Rita Williams-Garcia.
Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | May 16, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101997239
Written by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel
Illustrated by Xanthe Bouma and Matt Rockefeller
Publisher’s Synopsis: The #1 New York Times bestselling creator of Amulet, Kazu Kibuishi, hails this first book in this groundbreaking sci-fi/fantasy adventure series as “a magical journey, as fun as it is beautiful!” Think Star Wars meets Avatar: The Last Airbender!
The Five Worlds are on the brink of extinction unless five ancient and mysterious beacons are lit. When war erupts, three unlikely heroes will discover there’s more to themselves—and more to their worlds—than meets the eye. . . .
• The clumsiest student at the Sand Dancer Academy, Oona Lee is a fighter with a destiny bigger than she could ever imagine.
• A boy from the poorest slums, An Tzu has a surprising gift and a knack for getting out of sticky situations.
• Star athlete Jax Amboy is beloved by an entire galaxy, but what good is that when he has no real friends?
When these three kids are forced to team up on an epic quest, it will take not one, not two, but 5 WORLDS to contain all the magic and adventure!
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101935866
Written by Melanie Crowder
Publisher’s Synopsis: A girl in foster care tries to find her birth mother before she loses her forever in this spare and beautifully told novel about last chances and new opportunities.
For a kid bouncing from foster home to foster home, The Book of Changes is the perfect companion. That’s why Marin carries three pennies and a pocket-sized I Ching with her everywhere she goes. Yet when everything in her life suddenly starts changing—when Marin lands in a foster home that feels like somewhere she could stay, maybe forever—the pennies don’t have any answers for her.
Marin is positive that all the wrongs in her life will be made right if only she can find her birth mother and convince her that they belong together. Marin is close, oh so close—until she gets some unwelcome news and her resolve, like the uneasy Earth far beneath the city of San Francisco, is shaken.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1481471879
Written and Illustrated by Ben Clanton
Publisher’s Synopsis: Narwhal and Jelly are back in action for a SUPER adventure! Join Super Narwhal and sidekick Jelly Jolt as they take on three SUPER new stories in this early graphic novel series.
Happy-go-lucky Narwhal and no-nonsense Jelly find their inner superheroes in three new under-the-sea adventures. In the first story, Narwhal reveals his superhero alter-ego and enlists Jelly to help him figure out what his superpower is. Next, Narwhal uses his superpower to help a friend find his way back home. In the third story, Jelly is feeling blue and Narwhal comes to the rescue. Ben Clanton showcases the joys of friendship and the power of believing in yourself and others through this irresistible duo.
Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Tundra Books | May 2, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1101918296
*Header image form the cover of Georgia Rules, by Nanci Turner
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.