When Serik’s attempt to capture a golden eagle goes wrong, Aisulu carries her injured brother down the mountain to their family for help. But as her uncle is preparing to set the broken leg, Aisulu decides to break a promise and tells her parents about the limp Serik has been concealing for months. And suddenly, her life changes completely. Her parents leave for the city to take Serik to the hospital, and Aisulu is left in the care of her uncle and his eccentric wife, unsure whether Serik will ever forgive her for her betrayal, even though she may have saved his life. And so, she decides she will save another life. Abandoning her responsibilities for milking the goats and carrying water, she heads back to the mountains and finds the dead eagle’s nest, rescuing its baby chick and bringing it home with her. At first she fears that her uncle will take the eagle from her, since she is a girl and eagle hunting is man’s work. But as she and the eagle bond, she sees a new side of her uncle as he encourages her to train the eagle as a hunter. As Aisulu and her eagle progress through their training, she sees the complexity of the attitudes about gender norms in her family and community and realizes that she may be in a unique position to save her brother–and the rest of her family–once again.
Set in the Kazakh region of modern Mongolia, this is the story of a girl finding her self-worth and realizing how much she is valued by her family, even though she is different. The uncertainty of Serik’s health and Aisulu’s eagle training drive the plot, but the real power of the story is in the transformation of Aisulu and her family. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to middle grade readers who enjoy character-driven novels and learning about other cultures.
People think it must be great growing up as the daughter of a famous child-rearing expert. But sometimes Emmy wishes she had a normal mom–or at least that her mom spent less time on her work and more time paying attention to the things Emmy is interested in. When her mom announces that she has accepted a job on a reality TV program and that Emmy will have to go to boarding school on the other side of the ocean, it seems like proof that her mom’s work is more important than she is. It makes her feel a little bit less guilty about the secret she’s been keeping from her mom: the mysterious note and the box of “relics” from her long-absent father. “Keep them safe,” the note commanded. Emmy never knew her father, has no idea what these “relics” are, and doesn’t know who wrote the note or what kind of danger the mysterious writer anticipated. But when she arrives at her new elite English boarding school, she begins to uncover more pieces of the mystery of who her father was, and in the middle of the web of secrets is a danger much more real and terrifying than Emmy could have imagined.
This intriguing start to a mystery series is a great middle-grade page turner. The plot draws on common enough tropes–missing father, secret society, “heroic trio uncovering secrets at a boarding school” with a pleasant Harry Potter vibe–but what it lacks in originality, it makes up for in likable characters and an engaging mystery to puzzle out. I look forward to the sequel!
Charlie’s little brother, Liam, disappeared almost exactly a year ago, and Charlie is the only one who remembers him. When he disappeared, every trace of him vanished with him–his clothes, his photographs, even the top bunk of Charlie’s bed. Charlie’s mother also changed when Liam disappeared. Even though she can’t remember him, she almost never gets out of bed these days. Charlie is determined to find Liam and bring him back, because he knows it’s his fault Liam is gone. After all, the night before Liam disappeared, Charlie fell asleep wishing he didn’t have a brother. As Charlie and his best friend Ana search for Liam, they stumble upon a secret asylum full of disappeared children and realize that Charlie’s unusual dreams about an Irish family from the past may hold the key to freeing the trapped children–but only if they want to be released.
No mistake is too big to be forgiven in this novel about how family makes us whole. As Charlie discovers what happened to Liam, the mystery of his disappearance gives way to a race to escape from a magical prison. Interwoven with this suspenseful story is the theme of self-forgiveness as the characters must learn to accept themselves and their past mistakes. Character development and plot work together beautifully to drive the story forward. I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy and character-driven suspense.
Lots of new books are set to be released this year! Here’s a peak at some of the new books announced by publishers for kids ages 8-14. Summaries and release dates are based on the information publishers have made available thus far and may or may not be completely accurate. But it looks like some great new books are coming this way!
FLIGHT OF THE BLUEBIRD by Kara LaReau and Jen Hill (1/8)
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, Book 3
PRANK WARS by Matt Stanton (1/8)
Funny Kid, Book 3
TBH, TOO MUCH DRAMA by Lisa Greenwald (1/8)
TBH, Book 3
HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF PLANET EARTH by Paul Noth (1/15)
Sequel to HOW TO SELL YOUR FAMILY TO THE ALIENS
A PREDATOR’S RIGHTS by Anna Starobinets, Marie Murovski, and Jane Bugaeva (1/16)
Beastly Crimes, Book 2
A CIRCLE OF ELEPHANTS: A COMPANION NOVEL by Eric Dinerstein (1/22)
Sequel to WHAT ELEPHANTS KNOW
ESCAPE FROM THE PALACE by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (1/22)
The Royal Rabbits of London, Book 4
MIXED EMOTIONS by Heather Nuhfer (1/22)
My So-Called Superpowers, Book 2
SPIRITS, SPELLS, AND SNARK by Kelly McCullough (1/22)
Sequel to MAGIC, MADNESS, AND MISCHIEF
THE UNSPEAKABLE UNKNOWN by Eliot Sappingfield (1/22)
Sequel to A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX
THE END OF THE WORLD AND BEYOND by Avi (1/29)
Sequel to THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS
THE PHANTOM HOUR by Kat Shepherd (1/29)
A Babysitting Nightmares book
THE LAST LIFE OF PRINCE ALASTOR by Alexandra Bracken (2/5)
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, Book 2
A SPRINKLE OF SPIRITS by Anna Meriano (2/5)
Love Sugar Magic, Book 2
PRESIDENT OF POPLAR LANE by Margaret Mincks (2/12)
Poplar Kids, Book 2
MIDDLE SCHOOL: BORN TO ROCK by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (2/18)
Middle School, Book 11
THE LOST HEIR by Tui T. Sutherland (2/26)
Wings of Fire Graphic Novels, Book 2
THE HUNT FOR MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras (3/5)
Sequel to THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER
ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH by Roshani Chokshi (4/30)
Pandava, Book 2
BIGGER, BADDER, NERDIER by Obert Skye (4/30)
Geeked Out, Book 2
FREEDOM FIRE by Daniel Jose Older (5/14)
Dactyl Hill Squad, Book 2
SERAFINA AND THE SEVEN STARS by Robert Beatty (7/9)
Serafina, Book 4
QUEST FOR THE GRAIL by Audrey Mackaman (8/20)
Cavall in Camelot, Book 2
THE BATTLE by Karuna Riazi (8/27)
Sequel to THE GAUNTLET
Fantasy & Science Fiction
MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS by Lincoln Peirce (1/8)
A young aspiring knight embarks on a quest to rescue his uncle from an evil king.
DRAGON PEARL by Yoon Ha Lee (1/15)
A girl descended from fox spirits must embrace her powers and embark on a quest to find her older brother, who has disappeared.
ULTRABALL: LUNAR BLITZ by Jeff Chen (1/15)
A group of kids engaged in a competitive sport in their Moon Colony home find themselves involved in Lunar politics when an outsider joins their team.
THE WHISPERS by Greg Howard (1/15)
After his mother disappears, a boy travels into the forest in search of wish-granting fairies.
A TEAR IN THE OCEAN by H.M. Bouwman (1/22)
When their sea suddenly begins to become salty, two kids must figure out why before an ancient magical infection destroys their world.
FREYA AND ZOOSE by Emily Butler (1/29)
A penguin and a stowaway mouse undertake a harrowing journey to the North Pole.
THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu (2/12)
When things begin mysteriously disappearing around her town, a girl worries that her twin sister might be next.
THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi (2/21)
After her mother is executed for a crime she didn’t commit, a girl discovers that she can communicate with the sea serpents in the king’s army and gets swept up into a political plot that she wants no part of.
I AM HERMES by Mordecai Gerstein (2/26)
A graphic novel detailing the antics of the young Greek god Hermes.
OUTWALKERS by Fiona Shaw (2/26)
After escaping a prison-like orphanage, a boy and his comrades must hide off the grid as they struggle to escape the oppressive Coalition that has taken over the government.
THE POTTER’S BOY by Tony Mitton (2/26)
After a wandering warrior saves his village, a boy from humble origins embarks on a quest to find the hermit who can train him in martial arts.
THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K.S. Ansari (3/5)
When a boy’s brother disappears, everyone else instantly forgets that he existed, leading the boy to embark on a quest to discover what really happened to him.
THE REVENGE OF MAGIC by James Riley (3/5)
After his father is lost in a monster-attack, a boy is invited to attend a government school to learn how to harness the power of magical books discovered near the bones of dragons.
SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez (3/5)
Two unlikely young allies discover that together they can manipulate space-time, with potentially disastrous consequences.
SEVENTH GRADE VS THE GALAXY by Joshua S. Levy (3/5)
When his spaceship-school comes under attack, a boy accidentally launches it across the galaxy and must find a way to navigate home.
WE’RE NOT FROM HERE by Geoff Rodkey (3/5)
As the new immigrants on Planet Choom, Earthlings struggle to fit in.
WINGS OF OLYMPUS by Kallie George (3/5)
An orphan girl is chosen by the gods to ride a winged horse in a dangerous, high stakes race through the mortal world.
OVER THE MOON by Natalie Lloyd (3/26)
A girl gets a chance to escape servitude when she enters a competition to train magical flying horses.
THE TRAGICAL TALE OF BIRDIE BLOOM by Temre Beltz (3/26)
A tragic orphan and a wicked witch form an unlikely friendship.
KATT VS. DOGG by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (4/1)
When a katt and dogg are lost in the woods together, can they overcome their innate sense of rivalry to make it home together?
YE by Guilherme Petreca (4/2)
A mute boy embarks on a quest to defeat the Colorless King and restore hope to the world.
JACLYN HYDE by Annabeth Bonder-Stone and Connor White (5/7)
A middle-schooler invents a potion that is supposed to help her achieve perfection, but instead transforms her into a ruthless, moral-free monster.
LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA by Erin Entrada Kelly (5/7)
When a Filipino girl makes a foolish wish that endangers her island, she must undertake a dangerous voyage across the ocean.
ORDER OF THE MAJESTIC by Matt Myklusch (5/7)
In an attempt to save the last bit of magic left in the world, a boy gets caught in a war between two groups of rival magicians.
SPARK by Sarah Beth Durst (5/14)
After bonding with a dragon-like lightning beast, a girl must study to become an effective guardian, but instead learns disturbing secrets about her homeland.
BAD ORDER by B.B. Ullman (6/4)
A girl and her telepathic brother are called upon to heal a tear in the universe that threatens to overrun the world with bad thoughts.
THIS WAS OUR PACT by Ryan Andrews (6/11)
When two boys chase paper lanterns on their bicycles they wind up going further than anyone has ever gone into a magical world.
THE STORM KEEPER’S ISLAND by Catherine Doyle (7/12)
A boy finds himself at the center of an ancient war when a magical island needs a new storm keeper.
CHANGELING by William Ritter (7/16)
Two boys raised as twins discover that one of them is a goblin changeling and embark on a journey to discover their true identities.
CAPE by Kate Hannigan (8/6)
With her father off fighting Nazis, a girl dreams of doing more to save the world and finds herself transformed into a real superhero.
A SWIRL OF OCEAN by Melissa Sarno (8/6)
After swallowing a gulp of sea water, a girl begins having visions of a girl from the past who is eerily familiar.
THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA by Brenda Woods (1/8)
A Black WWII veteran saves a young boy’s life in the Jim Crow South and an unlikely friendship begins.
EMMI IN THE CITY: A GREAT CHICAGO FIRE SURVIVAL STORY by Salima Alikhan (2/1)
A German immigrant and the kids who bully her are caught together in the Great Chicago Fire.
SPY RUNNER by Eugene Yelchin (2/12)
When his family takes in a Russian lodger, a boy gets caught up in the Red Scare and wonders if he has stumbled upon a Russian spy.
GOODBYE, MR. SPAULDING by Jennifer Robin Barr (3/26)
Two kids in the Great Depression scheme to stop their town from building a wall that would prevent them from watching the Philadelphia Athletics baseball games.
THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS by Gail Shepherd (3/26)
Although her grandmother is obsessed with “keeping up appearances,” a girl just wants to get her Vietnam Veteran father the help he needs—even if it means reaching out for help outside of the family.
VOICES: THE FINAL HOURS OF JOAN OF ARC by David Elliott (3/26)
Through medieval poetry, people, animals, and objects close to Joan of Arc reflect on her life and legacy.
LAST OF THE NAME by Roseanne Perry (4/2)
When an Irish boy immigrates to America, his mother convinces him to pretend to be a girl in order to avoid being drafted as a drummer boy in the Civil War.
SINCERELY, HARRIET by Sarah Winifred Searle (5/7)
A chronically ill girl with a penchant for telling lies begins expressing herself through writing.
A PLACE TO BELONG by Cynthia Kadohata (5/14)
After being freed from an internment camp, a Japanese-American family returns to Hiroshima hoping to start a new life with their relatives, only to discover the carnage that took place there.
IT RAINED WARM BREAD by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith (8/13)
A boy survives the holocaust with the hope that came from an act of kindness.
THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE by Julia Nobel (3/5)
Three students at a boarding school uncover a secret society that may hold the answers to find one student’s missing father.
THE NORTH STAR by Kat Shepherd (3/5)
Three young detectives follow the clues to find a stolen diamond necklace.
THE STRANGERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix (4/2)
After reading a story about a very similar family that vanished, three siblings begin an investigation.
THE BOOK CASE by Dave Shelton (4/5)
A boarding school student and the Librarian’s Assistant work together to solve crimes.
SCOUTS by Shannon Greenland (7/23)
A group of scouts searching for a meteor in the woods wind up being chased by a violent group of Masons.
DOC AND THE DETECTIVE IN: THE GRAVEYARD TREASURE by Tim Tingle (10/15)
A boy and an elderly doctor team up to solve mysteries in their small town, despite the doc’s struggle with dementia.
CLICK by Kayla Miller (1/8)
A girl questions the strength of her friendships when she can’t find a friend to perform with in the talent show.
THE FRIENDSHIP WAR by Andrew Clements (1/8)
An unexpected button fad has damaging results on the friendship of two sixth grade girls.
LIZZY LEGEND by Matthew Ross Smith (1/8)
After being allowed to join the boys’ basketball team at school, a girl makes a wish on a magical phone line that she will never miss another shot and finds herself skyrocketing toward the NBA.
THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart (1/8)
After five years of living on the road following the death of her mother and sisters, a girl and her father finally head back home.
THE UNTEACHABLES by Gordon Korman (1/8)
Chaos ensues when the worst students in school are gathered into one classroom and assigned the worst teacher in school.
GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams (1/15)
A girl with low self-esteem and a verbally abusive family that criticizes the darkness of her skin finds new hope when she starts at a new school with a supportive teacher.
ONE THIRD NERD by Gennifer Choldenko (1/29)
A boy and his siblings must raise money to get their dog to the vet before the landlord finds out she’s been peeing on the carpet of their apartment.
PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS by Andrea Pyros (2/1)
In the wake of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, a girl struggles with her priorities and relationships with her twin brother and friends at school.
EVENTOWN by Corey Ann Haydu (2/12)
After moving to a seemingly perfect town, a girl discovers that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2/12)
Two daughters of single gay dads find friendship when their dads start dating and hatch a plan to keep them together.
A DROP OF HOPE by Keith Calabrese (2/26)
Three sixth graders begin secretly making the wishes that townspeople make in the wishing well come true.
THE MOON WITHIN by Aida Salazar (2/26)
A girl struggles to find her true identity, while her mother insists on a traditional Mexican ceremony when she gets her first period.
STAND ON THE SKY by Erin Bow (3/5)
When her parents must take her brother to a hospital, a nomadic girl befriends an eagle and defies traditional gender roles to train it.
A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES by Jo Cotterill (3/5)
A girl with Down syndrome tries to help her family prepare for a big storm and to help calm family tensions, but it seems no one will pay attention to her.
A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE by Lisa Moore Ramee (3/12)
A rule-following girl decides to take a risk and show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
MOSTLY THE HONEST TRUTH by Jody J. Little (3/12)
With her dad in rehab, a girl tries to toe the line in her new foster home so she can be reunited with her real dad as soon as possible.
THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER by Sue Stauffacher (3/19)
When his mother disappears, a boy copes with his grief by imagining her as the hero of a fantasy story.
SWEEPING UP THE HEART by Kevin Henkes (3/19)
Stuck at home with a babysitter over Spring Break, a girl makes an unusual new friend who revives the memory of her late mother.
THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH by Andrew Smith (3/26)
A boy tries to overcome PTSD from a childhood trauma in order to regain some control over his own life and pursue his dream of becoming a chef.
THE BECKET LIST: A BLACKBERRY FARM STORY (4/2)
Everything changes for a city girl moving to her grandmother’s farm in the country.
CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn (4/2)
On an unexpected summer trip to her grandmother’s house, a girl has a chance to take a break from her role holding her family together and spend some time being a kid.
OPERATIC by Kyo Maclear (4/2)
A quiet girl tries to let the lessons she learns in her opera class impact other areas of her middle school life.
BIRDIE by Eileen Spinelli (4/9)
Still grieving the death of her father, a girl’s struggles deepen when both her older sister and her mother find boyfriends.
THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen (4/16)
After her mother’s sudden death, a girl tries to find a way to finish her mother’s research on sharks.
THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK by Ali Benjamin (4/16)
Although she is the new kid in school, a girl becomes enthralled with her new classmate’s stories about the class clown who moved away over the summer and their attempts to find someone to fill his role.
EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (4/30)
A girl who believes she is destined to someday transform into a bird finds new hope in a new foster home with a taxidermist who works at a wildlife rescue.
THE LOST BOY’S GIFT by Kimberly Willis Holt (4/30)
After his parents divorce, a boy has to move across the country and struggles to find his place in his new neighborhood.
MYA’S STRATEGY TO SAVE THE WORLD by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (4/30)
When her parents refuse to let her get a phone, a socially conscious middle-schooler tries to prove to them how responsible she is.
FINDING ORION by John David Anderson (5/7)
An unusual family’s unusual grandfather’s funeral turns out to be the start of an unusual adventure.
HURRICANE SEASON by Nicole Melleby (5/7)
A girl struggles with her father’s mental illness and her first crush on another girl.
NIXIE NESS: COOKING STAR by Claudia Mills (6/4)
When her mother gets a new job, a girl is sent to the afterschool program where she starts a cooking club.
FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama J. Lockington (7/30)
An adopted Black girl growing up in a white family struggles to find her identity and her place in her school community.
HOAX FOR HIRE by Laura Martin (8/27)
Despite his disdain for monsters a boy gets roped into the family business: spreading the myth of the Loch Ness Monster.
STARGAZING by Jen Wang (9/10)
When an unusual girl moves in next door, a Chinese-American girl finds an unlikely best friend.
THE BIG ONE by J.C. Geiger (10/1)
A boy whose older brother was lost to the ocean becomes obsessed with a prophesied tsunami and discovers a secret music festival.
DEAR SWEET PEA by Julie Murphy (10/1)
Overwhelmed by her parents’ divorce, a girl accidentally ends up writing an advice column in her town paper.
Marty’s father is sick. The kind of sick with surprise hospital stays, weeks in bed, and not much talk of the future. When he first found out about the cancer, Marty’s dad got him a present: a jean jacket so that the two of them could collect buttons and pins to represent different memories during the time they had left together. It is Marty’s most prized possession. So when the jean jacket goes missing during one of Dad’s hospital stays, Marty is frantic. It can’t possibly be gone! That conviction that the jacket must be out there waiting for him somewhere reminds Marty of an old story his father used to tell him about the Train of Lost Things, a train that flies around the world at night collecting the lost precious possessions of children and holding onto them until they can find be returned to their owners. Desperate for his jacket, Marty sneaks out one night in search of the train and stumbles into an adventure beyond his wildest dreams.
In this touching coming of age story, a dose of fantasy helps Marty and the reader process the grief and loss of a loved one. About half of the book reads like realistic fiction, so this book will be most appealing to readers who enjoy both realistic fiction and fantasy, or fantasies that are heavily rooted in the real world, such as Savvy by Ingrid Law.
Ever since the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan show, Trudy’s life has had a clear sense of direction. She and her father have had a way to connect, despite his busy work life, and she has been the president of the most popular club at school–Rhode Island’s first Beatle’s fan club chapter. But in sixth grade, things start to change. Other kids begin to leave the Beatles fan club, including Trudy’s best friend, Michelle, who never seems to have time to spend with Trudy anymore. Trudy’s dad is so caught up with work that he barely speaks to her. And her teachers are suddenly calling her “Gertrude.” Now the president of the least popular club in school, Trudy isn’t sure how to get her life on track. Until she finds out the the Beatles will be coming to Boston for a concert, that is. Trudy is certain that if she could just meet Paul McCartney, everything in her life would fall back into place. And even the most insurmountable obstacles won’t be enough to stop her from making it to that concert.
This coming-of-age story gives middle grade readers a glimpse of middle school life in the tumultuous sixties, while keeping the focus on the universal tensions of friendships and family life. I expect that it will appeal as much to realistic fiction readers as to historical fiction readers. An enjoyable, light read.
Xar, the son of the wizard king, is known for being a troublemaker–disobedient, destructive, leading his ragtag entourage of sprites and snow cats into all kinds of danger. And the fact that at thirteen his magic still hasn’t come in makes him even more unruly. Wish, the warrior princess, is downright weird. Her limp, her eyepatch, and her odd interests make her hardly fit to call herself a warrior. But the mischief of these two sworn enemies reaches new heights when two forbidden errands collide in the Badwoods. Xar has come to set a trap for a witch, the darkest, most evil magic creature ever to exist, which everyone believes are extinct, but whose magic Xar hopes to steal. Wish enters the Badwoods chasing her pet, an iron spoon that must be magic and is therefore thoroughly forbidden (much to her young Assistant Bodyguard’s anxiety). She also has a magic sword she found near her mother’s dungeon that has an inscription claiming that it kills witches. And unfortunately for both Wish and Xar, that sword may be blood-curdlingly necessary.
As much as this novel is the thrilling start to a creative and engaging new fantasy series, it is a coming of age tale for two very different protagonists, each struggling to find a place in their respective society and to work through a complicated relationship with their respective intimidating parent. I suspect that the cheeky omniscient narrator would have annoyed me had I not been listening to the brilliantly performed audiobook. But otherwise, I loved everything about it. Can’t wait for the next installment!
I highly recommend the audiobook (performed by David Tennant), a well-deserved Odyssey Award Honor recording.