The Children’s Book Review | August 6, 2018
13 New Middle Grade Books for Ages 8-12 (and Beyond)
We’ve picked 13 middle grade books that we think are some of the best new books for preteens and tweens that released during the month of May. Here’s what you can expect to find: A magical story about the enduring power of friendship, the finale you’ve all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last, a delightfully eccentric illustrated middle-grade gem from an extraordinary new literary voice, a story about the fight for equal rights in America’s favorite arena: the baseball field, the compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude, and much more!
Which middle grade book will you share with your growing readers this month?
Written by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead
Illustrated by Nicholas Gannon
Publisher’s Synopsis: It’s been five years since Livy and her family have visited Livy’s grandmother in Australia. Now that she’s back, Livy has the feeling she’s forgotten something really, really important about Gran’s house.
It turns out she’s right.
Bob, a short, greenish creature dressed in a chicken suit, didn’t forget Livy, or her promise. He’s been waiting five years for her to come back, hiding in a closet like she told him to. He can’t remember who―or what―he is, where he came from, or if he even has a family. But five years ago Livy promised she would help him find his way back home. Now it’s time to keep that promise.
Clue by clue, Livy and Bob will unravel the mystery of where Bob comes from, and discover the kind of magic that lasts forever.
Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead, two masterminds of classic, middle-grade fiction come together to craft this magical story about the enduring power of friendship.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Feiwel & Friends | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1250166623
Written by Katherine Applegate
Publisher’s Synopsis: First Katherine Applegate thrilled readers with the action-packed Animorphs series. Then she stole our hearts with the award-winning The One and Only Ivan. Now she takes us on anunforgettable journey in this first book of an epic middle grade series!
Byx is the youngest member of her dairne pack. Believed to possess remarkable abilities, her mythical doglike species has been hunted to near extinction in the war-torn kingdom of Nedarra.
After her pack is hunted down and killed, Byx fears she may be the last of her species. The Endling. So Byx sets out to find safe haven, and to see if the legends of other hidden dairnes are true.
Along the way, she meets new allies—both animals and humans alike—who each have their own motivations for joining her quest. And although they begin as strangers, they become their own kind of family—one that will ultimately uncover a secret that may threaten every creature in their world.
Building upon the success of her critically acclaimed novels such as The One and Only Ivan, Crenshaw, and Wishtree, while also returning to her action-packed fantasy roots of Animorphs, the Endling series is Katherine Applegate at her finest. With its enthralling characters, unique setting, and gripping adventure, this series is the perfect next read for fans of Rick Riordan, Brian Jacques, and Tui T. Sutherland.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062335524
Written by Kelly Yang
Publisher’s Synopsis: Mia Tang has a lot of secrets.
Number 1: She lives in a motel, not a big house. Every day, while her immigrant parents clean the rooms, ten-year-old Mia manages the front desk of the Calivista Motel and tends to its guests.
Number 2: Her parents hide immigrants. And if the mean motel owner, Mr. Yao, finds out they’ve been letting them stay in the empty rooms for free, the Tangs will be doomed.
Number 3: She wants to be a writer. But how can she when her mom thinks she should stick to math because English is not her first language?
It will take all of Mia’s courage, kindness, and hard work to get through this year. Will she be able to hold on to her job, help the immigrants and guests, escape Mr. Yao, and go for her dreams?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books | May 29, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1338157796
Written by Stacy McAnulty
Publisher’s Synopsis: A lightning strike gave her a super power…but even a super genius can’t solve the problem of middle school. This smart and funny novel is perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by Sevens.
Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn’t remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she’s technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test–middle school!
Lucy’s grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that’s not a math textbook!). Lucy’s not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy’s life has already been solved. Unless there’s been a miscalculation?
A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty’s smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers | 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1524767570
Written by Jeanne Birdsall
Publisher’s Synopsis: The finale you’ve all been waiting for: The Penderwicks at Last is the final, flawless installment in the modern classic series from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jeanne Birdsall!
Nine years, five older siblings, a few beloved dogs, and an endless array of adventures–these are the things that have shaped Lydia’s journey since readers first met her in The Penderwicks in Spring.
Now it’s summertime, and eleven-year-old Lydia is dancing at the bus stop, waiting for big sister Batty to get home from college.
This is a very important dance and a very important wait because the two youngest sisters are about to arrive home to find out that the Penderwicks will all be returning to Arundel this summer, the place where it all began. And better still is the occasion: a good old-fashioned, homemade-by-Penderwicks wedding.
Bursting with heart and brimming with charm, this is a joyful, hilarious ode to the family we love best. And oh my MOPS–Meeting of Penderwick Siblings–does Jeanne Birdsall’s The Penderwicks at Last crescendo to one perfect Penderwick finale.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0385755665
Written by Gennifer Choldenko
Publisher’s Synopsis: Return to Al Capone’s Alcatraz with Newbery Honor-winning author Gennifer Choldenko in this charming addition to the beloved series about the son of a prison guard.
Moose Flanagan lives on a famous island in California: Alcatraz, home to some of the most dangerous prisoners in the United States in the 1930s. It’s the summer before he starts high school, and Moose is going to play a lot of baseball and win a spot on the high school team. But he still needs to watch his special older sister, Natalie–and then the warden asks Moose to look after his two-faced, danger-loving daughter, Piper.
In the cell house there are rumors that the cons will a strike, and that Moose’s father might step up to a new job. Moose is worried: What will this mean for their family, especially for Natalie, who’s had some scary run-ins with prisoners? Then the unthinkable happens: Natalie winds up someplace she should never, ever go. And Moose has to rescue her.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books | May 8, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1101938133
Written by Matilda Woods
Illustrated by Anuska Allepuz
Publisher’s Synopsis: Friendship and magical realism sparkle on the page in this heartwarming, delightfully eccentric illustrated middle-grade gem from an extraordinary new literary voice. Perfect for fans of A Snicker of Magic and The Penderwicks.
Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora’s people.
Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto’s kitchen, a door in the old man’s heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too–but he’s also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?
With a tender bond that calls to mind The Girl Who Drank the Moon, charming characters reminiscent of The Penderwicks, and the whimsy of A Snicker of Magic, this is a novel to curl up with, an extraordinary work of magical realism that makes the world feel like a warmer and happier place. Complete with dazzling interior illustrations, a gem from start to finish.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Philomel Books | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0525515210
Written by Ellen Klages
Publiser’s Synopsis: A story about the fight for equal rights in America’s favorite arena: the baseball field!
Every boy in the neighborhood knows Katy Gordon is their best pitcher, even though she’s a girl. But when she tries out for Little League, it’s a whole different story. Girls are not eligible, period. It is a boy’s game and always has been. It’s not fair, and Katy’s going to fight back. Inspired by what she’s learning about civil rights in school, she sets out to prove that she’s not the only girl who plays baseball. With the help of friendly librarians and some tenacious research skills, Katy discovers the forgotten history of female ball players. Why does no one know about them? Where are they now? And how can one ten-year-old change people’s minds about what girls can do?
Set in 1957—the world of Sputnik and Leave It to Beaver, saddle shoes and “Heartbreak Hotel”—Out of Left Field is both a detailed picture of a fascinating historic period and a timelessly inspiring story about standing up for equality at any age.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0425288597
Written by Rebecca Petruck
Publisher’s Synopsis: Will didn’t plan to eat a stinkbug. But when his friend Darryl called new kid Eloy Herrera a racial slur, Will did it as a diversion. Now Will is Bug Boy, and everyone is cracking up inventing insect meals for him, like French flies and maggot-aroni and fleas.
Turns out eating bugs for food is a real thing, called entomophagy. Deciding that means he can use a class project to feed everyone grasshoppers, Will bargains for Eloy’s help in exchange for helping him with wrestling, but their growing friendship only ticks off Darryl more.
Will may have bitten off more than he can chew as crickets, earthworm jerky—even a scorpion—end up on his plate, but insects are the least of his problems. When things with Darryl and Eloy heat up, Will wrestles with questions of loyalty, honor—and that maybe not all friendships are worth fighting for.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Harry N. Abrams | May 8, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1419721410
Written by Deidre Baker
Publisher’s Synopsis: When eleven-year-old Becca returns to her grandmother’s rustic cottage for another summer, she finds herself seeing her beloved island in new ways. A hunting owl mistakes a bobbing ponytail for prey. A cozy sleepover on the beach takes on the tinges of a nightmare when a family of river otters shows up to claim their territory. An argument between a nestbound baby eaglet and its haranguing mother reaches operatic dimensions. Becca finds a dead bear on the beach and helps to give it a burial at sea.
Then there are dramas of the human variety. Aunt Meg is grieving over a miscarriage, and Aunt Clare’s medical work in Africa has brought on a sadness that even the love of family and the island’s beauty can’t cure. And there is the burning question of whether Aunt Fifi and the local plumber will ever become an item, and would that mean losing the only plumber on the island?
Meanwhile, cousin Alicia claims to be too old to participate in the kids’ summer project — a performance of The Tempest, a play that seems to find unsettling echoes in the natural surroundings Becca thought she knew so well.
Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Groundwood Books | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1554989577
Written by Rick Riordan
Publisher’s Synopsis: The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.
Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Disney-Hyperion | May 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1484746431
Written and Illustrated by Vera Brosgol
Publisher’s Synopsis: In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in―but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range―Russian summer camp.
Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: First Second | May 15, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1626724457
Written by Aisha Saeed
Publisher’s Synopsis: The compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.
Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.
Life at the opulent Khan estate is full of heartbreak and struggle for Amal–especially when she inadvertently makes an enemy of a girl named Nabila. Most troubling, though, is Amal’s growing awareness of the Khans’ nefarious dealings. When it becomes clear just how far they will go to protect their interests, Amal realizes she will have to find a way to work with others if they are ever to exact change in a cruel status quo, and if Amal is ever to achieve her dreams.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books | May 8, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0399544682
*Header image from the cover of You Go First, written by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, 2018)
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, Books for Ages 9-12, and Books Of 2018.