Best New Books for Preteens and Tweens | February 2017
The Children’s Book Review | February 1, 2017
14 New Middle Grade Books for Ages 8-14 (and Beyond)
From the middle grade books that release during the month of February, we’ve picked 14 that we think are excellent. Here’s some of what you’ll find: A high-flying adventure about a boy and his grandfather, a poignant middle grade animal story, a page-turning mystery, the heartwarming conclusion to the Finding Serendipity series, plenty of action and adventure and characters full of heart, a motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age, a warm-hearted debut novel about taking risks, a funny and moving novel about a space-obsessed boy and his dog, and a funny and tender story that goes deep into the heart of middle school. Which middle grade book will you share with your growing readers this month?
Publisher’s Synopsis: David Walliams, hailed as “the heir to Roald Dahl” by The Spectator, burst onto the American scene with the New York Times bestseller Demon Dentist. Now the UK’s #1 bestselling children’s author is back with this high-flying adventure about a boy and his grandfather, perfect for fans of Jeff Kinney and Rachel Renee Russell.
Grandpa is Jack’s favorite person in the world. It doesn’t matter that he wears his slippers to the supermarket, serves Spam a la Custard for dinner, and often doesn’t remember Jack’s name. But then Grandpa starts to believe he’s back in World War II, when he was a Spitfire fighter pilot, and he’s sent to live in an old folk’s home run by the sinister Matron Swine. Now it’s up to Jack to help Grandpa plot a daring escape!
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062560896
Publisher’s Synopsis: A poignant middle grade animal story from talented author Linda Oatman High that will appeal to fans of Katherine Applegate’s The One and Only Ivan. In this heartwarming novel, a girl and an elephant face the same devastating loss—and slowly realize that they share the same powerful love.
Twelve-year-old Lily Pruitt loves her grandparents, but she doesn’t love the circus—and the circus is their life. She’s perfectly happy to stay with her father, away from her neglectful mother and her grandfather’s beloved elephant, Queenie Grace.
Then Grandpa Bill dies, and both Lily and Queenie Grace are devastated. When Lily travels to Florida for the funeral, she keeps her distance from the elephant. But the two are mourning the same man—and form a bond born of loss. And when Queenie Grace faces danger, Lily must come up with a plan to help save her friend.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | February 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0062455833
Written by Lisa Thompson
Publisher’s Synopsis: Lisa Thompson’s debut novel is a page-turning mystery with an emotionally-driven, complex character study at its core — like Rear Window meets The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.
Matthew Corbin suffers from severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. He hasn’t been to school in weeks. His hands are cracked and bleeding from cleaning. He refuses to leave his bedroom. To pass the time, he observes his neighbors from his bedroom window, making mundane notes about their habits as they bustle about the cul-de-sac.
When a toddler staying next door goes missing, it becomes apparent that Matthew was the last person to see him alive. Suddenly, Matthew finds himself at the center of a high-stakes mystery, and every one of his neighbors is a suspect. Matthew is the key to figuring out what happened and potentially saving a child’s life… but is he able to do so if it means exposing his own secrets, and stepping out from the safety of his home?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1338053920
Publisher’s Synopsis: In this third adventure from the author of Finding Serendipity, Tuesday McGillycuddy must grapple with a new villain in the Land of Story.
After an unthinkable loss, time seems to freeze for Tuesday and her mother, the famous author Serendipity Smith. In the land of story, Vivienne Small’s world is frozen too―a perpetual winter has fallen. When a terrible villain takes Vivienne hostage, it’s up to Tuesday to save her friend―and herself. On her quest, she’ll discover what lies at the bottom of her heart, and at the heart of her writing. Beautifully told with warmth and joy, this great adventure is a celebration of life―and love.
Don’t miss this heartwarming conclusion to the Finding Serendipity series!
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. | February 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1627791564
Publisher’s Synopsis: Big Nate is in a class by himself. This feisty 11-year-old holds the school record for detentions, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming big!
Nate Wright’s a winner–in his own mind, anyway. So when things go wrong, he’s at a loss to explain why. How does his soccer team manage to lose to a school with a sixty-game winless streak? What’s he doing at the movies on a Friday night . . . with GINA? And why, oh why is one of his classmates (hint: she’s Nate’s dream girl) suddenly moving 3,000 miles away? It’s all enough to make a sixth-grade superstar feel . . . well, not so super.
But you can’t keep a good man down, and Nate’s still got pals like Teddy, Francis, and Chad to cheer him up. Sure, their methods aren’t always warm and fuzzy, but Nate doesn’t mind. After all, what’s a little noogie between friends?
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1449462291
Written by Aimée Carter
Publisher’s Synopsis: Simon Thorn only recently discovered that he’s an Animalgam–one of a secret race who can shift into animals. Now, for the first time in his life Simon has real friends to train and study with at the secret Animalgam Academy. The only missing part is his mother, held captive by his evil grandfather, Orion, who’s bent on taking over the animal world.
To rescue his mom, Simon must head cross-country with his friends, battling rogue Animalgams and their own doubts and torn loyalties along the way. But if Simon’s going to succeed, he will need to keep Orion from gathering together the fragments of a terrible weapon, or the lives of everyone Simon loves will be at risk.
With plenty of action and adventure and characters full of heart, this story is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Brandon Mull.
Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens | February 7, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1619637153
Written by Carter Roy
Publisher’s Synopsis: Ronan Truelove’s best friend, scrappy smart aleck Greta Sustermann, has no idea that she is one of the thirty-six Pure souls crucial to the safety of the world. But Ronan’s evil father has figured it out—and he’s leading the Bend Sinister straight to Greta. If they capture her, she’ll suffer a fate far worse than mere death. But to get to Greta, they’re going to have to go through Ronan first.
Standing with Ronan are plucky hacker Sammy; witty, unkillable Jack Dawkins; and a sharp-tongued woman named Diz, who drives a dangerously souped-up taxi. One breathless close call after another leads to an ugly showdown: Ronan alone against his father, with the fate of Greta, his friends, and the entire world hanging in the balance. Will Ronan be able to rise up and prove once and for all that he has what it takes to join the Blood Guard?
By turns heart-stopping and hilarious, The Blazing Bridge brings the Blood Guard trilogy to a surprising, clever, and altogether thrilling conclusion.
Ages 9-14 | Publisher: Two Lions | February 21, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1477827178
Edited by Tammy Gagne
Publisher’s Synopsis: Icelandic Sheepdogs are born with extra toes. Dalmatians are born without spots. Some Siberian Huskies have one blue eye and one brown eye. Learn all about the characteristics of various dog breeds and much more! Packed with amazing photographs and fun facts, dog owners and fans will get an in-depth look at these curious, lovable canines.
Ages 9-15 | Publisher: Capstone Young Readers | February 1, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-1623706944
Publisher’s Synopsis: You gotta know the rules to play the game. Ball is life. Take it to the hoop. Soar. What can we imagine for our lives? What if we were the star players, moving and grooving through the game of life? What if we had our own rules of the game to help us get what we want, what we aspire to, what will enrich our lives?
Illustrated with photographs by Thai Neave, The Playbook is intended to provide inspiration on the court of life. Each rule contains wisdom from inspiring athletes and role models such as Nelson Mandela, Serena Williams, LeBron James, Carli Lloyd, Steph Curry and Michelle Obama. Kwame Alexander also provides his own poetic and uplifting words, as he shares stories of overcoming obstacles and winning games in this motivational and inspirational book just right for graduates of any age and anyone needing a little encouragement.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | February 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0544570979
Written by Carter Higgins
Publisher’s Synopsis: Garland, Derby, and Triple Clark spend each season traveling highways and byways in their Rambler—until summer, when small-town Ridge Creek, Virginia, calls them back. There they settle in, selling burgers and fries out of Garland’s Grill after each game the Rockskippers play in their battered minor-league baseball stadium. Derby’s summer traditions bring her closer than she’s ever been to a real home that isn’t on wheels, but this time, her return to Ridge Creek reveals unwelcome news. Now the person Derby loves most in town needs her help—and yet finding a way to do so may uncover deeply held stories and secrets.
Told in Derby’s unforgettable voice, this warm-hearted debut novel is about taking risks, planting roots, and discovering the true definition of home.
Ages 10-12 | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0544602014
Written by Mary Losure
Publisher’s Synopsis: A surprising true story of Isaac Newton’s boyhood suggests an intellectual development owing as much to magic as science.
Before Isaac Newton became the father of physics, an accomplished mathematician, or a leader of the scientific revolution, he was a boy living in an apothecary’s house, observing and experimenting, recording his observations of the world in a tiny notebook. As a young genius living in a time before science as we know it existed, Isaac studied the few books he could get his hands on, built handmade machines, and experimented with alchemy—a process of chemical reactions that seemed, at the time, to be magical. Mary Losure’s riveting narrative nonfiction account of Isaac’s early life traces his development as a thinker from his childhood, in friendly prose that will capture the attention of today’s budding scientists—as if by magic. Back matter includes an afterword, an author’s note, source notes, a bibliography, and an index.
Ages 10-13 | Publisher: Candlewick | February 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0763670634
Publisher’s Synopsis: Murder, madness, and sea monsters combine in this thrilling and atmospheric middle grade debut perfect for fans of Neil Gaiman, Lemony Snicket, and Tim Burton.
Sophie Seacove is a storyteller. She tells stories of what the world would be like if madness hadn’t taken over. If her parents hadn’t sold her off as a servant to pay for their passage out of London. If she wasn’t now trapped in a decaying mansion filled with creepy people and surrounded by ravenous sea monsters.
The mansion has plenty of stories, too: About fantastical machines, and the tragic inventor who created them. About his highly suspicious death. And about the Monster Box, a mysterious object hidden in the house that just might hold the key to escaping this horrible place—and to reuniting Sophie with her family.
But not everyone wants Sophie to have the Monster Box, and as she gets closer to finding it, she finds herself unspooling years-old secrets—and dodging dangerous attacks. Sophie needs to use her brains, her brawn, and her unbreakable nature if she wants to make it off this wretched island…and live to tell this story.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Dial Books | February 14, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399186349
Publisher’s Synopsis: A space-obsessed boy and his dog, Carl Sagan, take a journey toward family, love, hope, and awe in this funny and moving novel for fans of Counting by 7s and Walk Two Moons.
11-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like. But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.
For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.
Ages 10+ | Publisher: Dial Books | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0399186370
Written by Rachel Vail
Publisher’s Synopsis: Gracie has never felt like this before. One day, she suddenly can’t breathe, can’t walk, can’t anything—and the reason is standing right there in front of her, all tall and weirdly good-looking: A.J.
But it turns out A.J. likes not Gracie but Gracie’s beautiful best friend, Sienna. Obviously Gracie is happy for Sienna. Super happy! She helps Sienna compose the best texts, responding to A.J.’s surprisingly funny and appealing texts, just as if she were Sienna. Because Gracie is fine. Always! She’s had lots of practice being the sidekick, second-best.
It’s all good. Well, almost all. She’s trying.
Funny and tender, Well, That Was Awkward goes deep into the heart of middle school, and finds that even with all the heartbreak, there can be explosions of hope and moments of perfect happiness.
Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Viking Books for Young Readers | February 28, 2017 | ISBN-13: 978-0670013081
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.