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Best New Books for Tweens and Preteens | January 2018

The Children’s Book Review | January 26, 2017

10 New Middle Grade Books for Ages 6-14 (and Beyond)

We’ve picked 10 middle grade books that we think are some of the best new books for preteens and tweens that release during the month of January. Here’s what you can expect to find: a deeply poignant and beautifully crafted story about self-reliance, a novel that sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, an ardent and profound childhood memoir of growing up while facing adversity in the Jim Crow South, and an inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging.

Which middle grade book will you share with your growing readers this month?


Stella Diaz Has Something to SayStella Diaz Has Something to Say

Written and Illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Publisher’s Synopsis: In her first middle-grade novel, award-winning picture book author and illustrator Angela Dominguez tells a heartwarming story based on her own experiences growing up Mexican-American.

Stella Diaz loves marine animals, especially her betta fish, Pancho. But Stella Diaz is not a betta fish. Betta fish like to be alone, while Stella loves spending time with her mom and brother and her best friend Jenny. Trouble is, Jenny is in another class this year, and Stella feels very lonely.

When a new boy arrives in Stella’s class, she really wants to be his friend, but sometimes Stella accidentally speaks Spanish instead of English and pronounces words wrong, which makes her turn roja. Plus, she has to speak in front of her whole class for a big presentation at school! But she better get over her fears soon, because Stella Díaz has something to say!

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say introduces an infectiously charming new character with relatable writing and adorable black-and-white art throughout. Simple Spanish vocabulary is also integrated within the text, providing a bilingual element.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 6-9 | Publisher: Roaring Brook Press | January 16, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1626728585


The Truth as Told by Mason ButtleThe Truth as Told by Mason Buttle

Written by Leslie Connor

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the critically acclaimed author of Waiting for Normal and All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook, Leslie Connor, comes a deeply poignant and beautifully crafted story about self-reliance, redemption, and hope.

Mason Buttle is the biggest, sweatiest kid in his grade, and everyone knows he can barely read or write. Mason’s learning disabilities are compounded by grief. Fifteen months ago, Mason’s best friend, Benny Kilmartin, turned up dead in the Buttle family’s orchard. An investigation drags on, and Mason, honest as the day is long, can’t understand why Lieutenant Baird won’t believe the story Mason has told about that day.

Both Mason and his new friend, tiny Calvin Chumsky, are relentlessly bullied by the other boys in their neighborhood, so they create an underground club space for themselves. When Calvin goes missing, Mason finds himself in trouble again. He’s desperate to figure out what happened to Calvin, and eventually, Benny.

But will anyone believe him?

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books | January 23, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062491435


Just Like JackieJust Like Jackie

Written by Lindsey Stoddard

Publisher’s Synopsis: Family is family, no matter what it looks like. Readers will cheer for this pitch-perfect story, just right for fans of such books as The Great Gilly Hopkins and Fish in a Tree.

For as long as Robinson Hart can remember, it’s just been her and Grandpa. He taught her about cars, baseball, and everything else worth knowing. But Grandpa’s memory has been getting bad—so bad that he sometimes can’t even remember Robbie’s name.

She’s sure that she’s making things worse by getting in trouble at school, but she can’t resist using her fists when bullies like Alex Carter make fun of her for not having a mom.

Now she’s stuck in group guidance—and to make things even worse, Alex Carter is there too. There’s no way Robbie’s going to open up about her life to some therapy group, especially not with Alex in the room. Besides, if she told anyone how forgetful Grandpa’s been getting lately, they’d take her away from him. He’s the only family she has—and it’s up to her to keep them together, no matter what.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: HarperCollins | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062652911


Escape from AleppoEscape from Aleppo

Written by N.H. Senzai

Publisher’s Synopsis: Nadia’s family is forced to flee their home in Aleppo, Syria, when the Arab Spring sparks a civil war in this timely coming-of-age novel from award-winning author N.H. Senzai.

Silver and gold balloons. A birthday cake covered in pink roses. A new dress.

Nadia stands at the center of attention in her parents’ elegant dining room. This is the best day of my life, she thinks. Everyone is about to sing “Happy Birthday,” when her uncle calls from the living room, “Baba, brothers, you need to see this.” Reluctantly, she follows her family into the other room. On TV, a reporter stands near an overturned vegetable cart on a dusty street. Beside it is a mound of smoldering ashes. The reporter explains that a vegetable vendor in the city of Tunis burned himself alive, protesting corrupt government officials who have been harassing his business. Nadia frowns.

It is December 17, 2010: Nadia’s twelfth birthday and the beginning of the Arab Spring. Soon anti-government protests erupt across the Middle East and, one by one, countries are thrown into turmoil. As civil war flares in Syria and bombs fall across Nadia’s home city of Aleppo, her family decides to flee to safety. Inspired by current events, this novel sheds light on the complicated situation in Syria that has led to an international refugee crisis, and tells the story of one girl’s journey to safety.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1481472173


Love Sugar Magic A Dash of TroubleLove Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble

Written by Anna Meriano

Publisher’s Synopsis: Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.

Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.

Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.

And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?

Debut author Anna Meriano brings us the first book in a delightful new series filled to the brim with amor, azúcar, y magia.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Walden Pond Press | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0062498465


Can I Touch Your Hair Poems of Race Mistakes and FriendshipCan I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship

Written by Irene Latham and Charles Waters

Illustrated by Sean Qualls and Selina Alko

Publisher’s Synopsis: How can Irene and Charles work together on their fifth grade poetry project? They don’t know each other . . . and they’re not sure they want to.

Irene Latham, who is white, and Charles Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. Accompanied by artwork from acclaimed illustrators Sean Qualls and Selina Alko (of The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage), this remarkable collaboration invites readers of all ages to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 8-12 | Publisher: Carolrhoda Books | January 1, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1512404425


The Journey of Little CharlieThe Journey of Little Charlie

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis

Publisher’s Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Charlie is down on his luck: His sharecropper father just died and Cap’n Buck — the most fearsome man in Possum Moan, South Carolina — has come to collect a debt. Fearing for his life, Charlie strikes a deal with Cap’n Buck and agrees to track down some folks accused of stealing from the cap’n and his boss. It’s not too bad of a bargain for Charlie… until he comes face-to-face with the fugitives and discovers their true identities. Torn between his guilty conscience and his survival instinct, Charlie needs to figure out his next move — and soon. It’s only a matter of time before Cap’n Buck catches on.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | January 30, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0545156660


Martin Rising- Requiem For a KingMartin Rising: Requiem For a King

Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Publisher’s Synopsis: In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning.

Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.

Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the “Now Is the Time” history and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 9-12 | Publisher: Scholastic Press | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0545702539


March Forward Girl From Young Warrior to Little Rock NineMarch Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine

Written by Melba Pattillo Beals

Publisher’s Synopsis: From the legendary civil rights activist and author of the million-copy selling Warriors Don’t Crycomes an ardent and profound childhood memoir of growing up while facing adversity in the Jim Crow South.

Long before she was one of the Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals was a warrior. Frustrated by the laws that kept African-Americans separate but very much unequal to whites, she had questions. Why couldn’t she drink from a “whites only” fountain? Why couldn’t she feel safe beyond home—or even within the walls of church?  Adults all told her: Hold your tongue. Be patient. Know your place. But Beals had the heart of a fighter—and the knowledge that her true place was a free one.

Combined with emotive drawings and photos, this memoir paints a vivid picture of Beals’ powerful early journey on the road to becoming a champion for equal rights, an acclaimed journalist, a best-selling author, and the recipient of this country’s highest recognition, the Congressional Gold Medal.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 10+ | Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-1328882127


Betty Before XBetty Before X

Written by Ilyasah Shabazz and Renée Watson

Publisher’s Synopsis: In Detroit, 1945, eleven-year-old Betty’s house doesn’t quite feel like home. She believes her mother loves her, but she can’t shake the feeling that her mother doesn’t want her. Church helps those worries fade, if only for a little while. The singing, the preaching, the speeches from guest activists like Paul Robeson and Thurgood Marshall stir African Americans in her community to stand up for their rights. Betty quickly finds confidence and purpose in volunteering for the Housewives League, an organization that supports black-owned businesses. Soon, the American civil rights icon we now know as Dr. Betty Shabazz is born.

Inspired by Betty’s real life–but expanded upon and fictionalized through collaboration with novelist Renée Watson–Ilyasah Shabazz illuminates four poignant years in her mother’s childhood with this book, painting an inspiring portrait of a girl overcoming the challenges of self-acceptance and belonging that will resonate with young readers today.

Backmatter included.

Order a Copy Now: Indiebound | Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Ages 10-14 | Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux | January 2, 2018 | ISBN-13: 978-0374306106


*Header image from Escape from Aleppo, written by N.H. Senzai (Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman 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 .

Bianca Schulze is the founder of The Children’s Book Review. She is a reader, reviewer, mother and children’s book lover. She also has a decade’s worth of experience working with children in the great outdoors. Combined with her love of books and experience as a children’s specialist bookseller, the goal is to share her passion for children’s literature to grow readers. Born and raised in Sydney, Australia, she now lives with her husband and three children near Boulder, Colorado.

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