J Realistic Fiction

THE TRAIN OF LOST THINGS by Ammi-Joan Paquette

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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.

SHE LOVES YOU (YEAH, YEAH, YEAH) by Ann Hood

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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.

JUST LIKE JACKIE by Lindsey Stoddard

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Robbie’s temper is no secret. So if Alex Carter didn’t want to get punched in the face then he shouldn’t have made fun of her name. She is not named after some robin bird. She is named after Jackie Robinson, and everyone knows it. But not everyone knows that her grandfather’s memory is slipping, that he sometimes forgets where he is or where he’s going, or how to do simple things that he once did so well. And Jackie has to work hard to keep this a secret, because her grandfather is the only family she’s ever known, and she’s not about to let anyone tear them apart. But Robbie didn’t count on the Family Tree project at school that begins to bring all of the secrets in her life–and the lives of her classmates–to the surface.

This beautiful and engaging story was a fun read thanks to its vivacious narrator. The book deals with themes of race, identity, community, and what family means. Ultimately, Robbie will find a much larger family than she ever expected. I thoroughly enjoyed this new realistic fiction novel and would highly recommend it to middle grade readers.

Coming Soon…Children’s Novels to Look For in 2018

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For the kids who’ve read everything…here’s some new stuff!  These books are slated to come out 2018 (although exact release dates may change).  I haven’t read these yet, so summaries and age ranges are based on promotional materials from the publishers and advance reviews.

All books below are for middle grade readers (grades 4-6).  I’ll be posting new YA announcements next week!

 

Continuing Series for Middle Grades

Fenway and Hattie Up to New Tricks by Victoria J. Coe (1/2)
Book 3 of Fenway and Hattie.  Ages 8-12.

A Sky Full of Stars by Linda Williams Jackson (1/2)
Sequel to Midnight Without a Moon.  Ages 8-12.

The Terrible Two Go Wild by Mac Barnett and Jory John (1/9)
Book 3 of The Terrible Two.  Ages 8-12.

The Uncanny Express by Kara LaReau (1/9)
Book 2 of The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters. Ages 8-12.  

War of the Realms by Kate O’Hearn (1/9)
Book 3 of Valkyrie.  Ages 9-13.

Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick (1/16)
Book 4 of Hilo.  Ages 8-12.

Dark Wyng by Chris d’Lacey (1/30)
Book 2 of Erth Dragons.  Ages 8-12.

Dragon Overnight by Sarah Mlynowski, Lauren Myracle, and Emily Jenkins (1/30)
Book 4 of Upside Down Magic.  Ages 8-12.

A Warp in Time by Jude Watson (1/30)
Book 3 of Horizon.  Ages 9-12.

Tempests and Slaughter by Tamora Pierce (2/6)
Book 1 in a new Tortall series.  Ages 10 & up.

The Oceans Between Stars by Kevin Emerson (2/13)
Book 2 of Chronicle of the Dark Star.  Ages 8-12.

Iron Tide Rising by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis (2/13)
Final book of The Map to Everywhere. Ages 8-12.

Boggart Fights Back by Susan Cooper (2/27)
Boggart book.  Ages 8-12.

Revenge of the Beetle Queen by M.G. Leonard (2/27)
Sequel to Beetle Boy.  Ages 8-12.

A Side of Sabotage by C.M. Surrisi (3/1)
A Quinnie Boyd Mystery.  Ages 9-14.

Phoenix Burning by Bryony Pearce (3/10)
Book 2 of Phoenix.  Ages 10 & up.

Bat and the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold (3/27)
Sequel to A Boy Called Bat.  Ages 8-12.

The Crooked Castle by Sarah Jean Horowitz (4/10)
Book 2 of Carmer and Grit.  Ages 10-13.   

Sunny by Jason Reynolds (4/10)
Book 3 of Track.  Ages 10 & up.

 Isle of the Lost by Melissa de la Cruz (4/24)
Descendants novel.  Ages 8-12.

Waste of Space by Stuart Gibbs (4/24)
Book 3 of Moon Base Alpha.  Ages 8-12.

Lost in the Jungle by Bill Nye and Greg Mone (5/1)
Book 3 of Jack and the Geniuses.  Ages 8-12.

The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan (5/1)
Book 3 of the Trials of Apollo.  Ages 10 & up.

Worlds Apart by James Riley (5/20)
Book 5 of Story Thieves. Ages 8-12.

Sandapalooza Shake-Up by Chris Grabenstein (5/22)
Book 3 of Welcome to Wonderland.  Ages 8-12.

Evil Emperor Penguin: Strikes Back by Laura Ellen Anderson (5/29)
Book 2 of Evil Emperor Penguin.  Ages 8-12.

Griffin’s Feather by Cornelia Funke (7/31)
Sequel to Dragon Rider.  Ages 8-12.

The Law of Finders Keepers by Sheila Turnage (9/11)
Conclusion to Mo & Dale Mysteries.  Ages 10 & up.

 

Fantasy & Sci Fi for Middle Grades

The Eternity Elixir by Frank L. Cole (1/2)
A young potion master must prevent a dangerous elixir from falling into the wrong hands.  Ages 10 & up.

Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly (1/2)
A girl with shadow magic faces a dilemma when her own shadow takes on a devious life of its own.  Ages 8-14.

Flower Moon by Gina Linko (1/2)
An evil force in the moon threatens to push two “mirror twins” apart for good.  Ages 8-12.

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano (1/2)
A girl eager to begin her family tradition of baking magic decides to try a little spell on her own with unintended consequences.  Ages 8-12.

The Last Gargoyle by Paul Durham (1/9)
A lonely gargoyle must seek a human ally when the Boneless King seeks to take his ward.  Ages 8-12.

Magic, Madness, and Mischief by Kelly McCullough (1/9)
A boy with fire magic must learn to control his powers in order to save his mother from the Winter King.  Ages 10-14.

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko (1/30)
Two sisters discover a magical world in turmoil and embark on a journey to find the lost unicorns.  Ages 8-12.

The Problim Children by Natalie Lloyd (1/30)
Seven children in a quirky family find themselves caught in the dastardly schemes of their nosy neighbors.  Ages 8-12.

Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire by John August (2/6)
After joining an unusual scout troop, a boy learns to harness the power of the forest to survive a dangerous adventure.  Ages 8-12.

The Song of Seven by Tonke Dragt (2/6)
A mysterious letter pulls a notorious teller of tall-tales into a series of far-fetched adventures.  Ages 8-12.

Granted by John David Anderson (2/13)
A young wish-granting fairy finds her first assignment more difficult than she had expected.  Ages 8-12.

Sci-Fi Junior High: Crash Landing by Scott Seegert and John Martin (2/20)
The new kid must save his outer space junior high school from a mad scientist.  Ages 8-11.

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach (2/27)
In this graphic novel, a girl and her robot brother escape an orphanage and enter a high-stakes rally race, hoping to win archaeological artifacts to continue their late mother’s legacy.  Ages 8-12.

The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (2/27)
A sixth-grader discovers that she is an Indian princess from another dimension when demons abduct her parents.  Ages 8-12.

Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans (2/27)
After being transported to a fantasy world, four kids must unravel clues to defeat an evil stuffed animal.  Ages 8-12.

The Super-Life of Ben Braver by Marcus Emerson (3/6)
A non-powered boy stumbles upon a school for young superheroes and joins up.  Ages 8-12.

The Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras (3/6)
After her family is captured, the youngest member of a Scottish war band must embark on a dangerous journey to rescue them.  Ages 9-12.

Buttheads from Outer Space by Jerry Mahoney (3/6)
Two friends accidentally invite a gross butt-headed alien race to conquer the earth.  Ages 8-12.

A Bad Night for Bullies by Gary Ghislain (3/13)
The daughter of a horror novelist gives a boy “the stone of the dead” and his bullies begin being haunted.  Ages 8-12.

Bone’s Gift by Angie Smibert (3/20)
In a 1942 coal mining town, a girl with a gift for seeing visions when she touches inanimate objects must accept her gift and come to terms with her mother’s death.  Ages 9-12.  

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender (3/27)
An unlucky girl struggles with the crush she has on her best friend as the two girls venture out in a hurricane to look for her mother and escape the spirit that is following her.  Ages 8-12.

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi (3/27)
Trying to prove that an ancient lamp is cursed, a girl accidentally awakens a demon and must embark on a quest to free her mother and classmates from its curse.  Ages 9-12.

Peasprout Chen, Future Legend of Skate and Sword by Henry Lien (4/3)
A young figure skating martial artist must track down a vandal to clear her name in time for a competition.  Ages 10-14.

How to Sell Your Family to the Aliens by Paul Noth (4/3)
In an attempt to get rid of his grandma, a boy accidentally sells his whole family to aliens.  Ages 8-12.

Maggie and Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort by Will Taylor (4/3)
Two girls building a pillow fort discover an international network of magically interconnected pillow forts and wind up on the wrong side of “the authorities.”  Ages 8-12.

The Unflushables by Ron Bates (4/10)
A boy and a team of plumber superheroes must protect the city from sewer mutants.  Ages 8-12.

The Lifters by Dave Eggers (4/24)
Two girls descend into a world of underground tunnels to stop a mysterious evil force from destroying their town.  Ages 8-12.

Endling #1: The Last by Katherine Applegate (5/1)
The last survivor in a species of mythical canines seeks a sanctuary as she flees from those who hunt her.  Ages 8-12.

Evangeline of the Bayou by Jan Eldredge (5/1)
An aspiring haunt huntress and her grandmother uncover a terrifying secret on a trip to New Orleans.  Ages 8-12.

The Rose Legacy by Jessica Day George (5/1)
In a world where horses have been banned, a girl discovers her ability to communicate with them telepathically.  Ages 8-12.

The Haunted Serpent by Dora M. Mitchell (6/5)
The son of a TV ghost hunter meets his dead next door neighbor and begins to investigate the strange goings-on in an abandoned factory.   Ages 8-11.

Not So Normal Norbert by James Patterson with Joey Green (7/3)
After getting caught mocking the supreme leader of Earth, a boy is banished to a wacky astronaut camp on another planet.  Ages 8-12.

Nightbooks by J.A. White (7/24)
A boy survives his imprisonment by telling a witch scary stories.  Ages 8-12.

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk (7/31)
After receiving a magic sketchbook, a sixth grader draws herself a best friend, who comes to life with unexpected consequences.  Ages 8-12.

 

Historical Fiction for Middle Grades

Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai (1/2)
At the start of the Arab Spring, a young girl and her family must flee their home in Aleppo.  Ages 8-12.

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis (1/30)
Hoping to pay off his late father’s debts, a boy agrees to track down some fugitive slaves before having a change of heart.  Ages 9-12.

The Sound of Freedom by Kathy Kacer (3/13)
A family hopes that auditions for a Jewish orchestra in Palestine will help them escape 1930s Poland.  Ages 9-12.

When the Crickets Stopped Singing by Marilyn Cram Donahue (3/20)
A girl must defy the trusting adults in her 1930s community when she realizes the new man in town poses a danger to her and her friends.  Ages 10-14.

Hardscrabble by Sandra Dallas (9/15)
In 1910, a girl and her family move west to accept the government’s offer of a free homestead farm.  Ages 8-11.

 

Mystery & Adventure for Middle Grades

Samantha Spinner and the Super-Secret Plans by Russell Ginns (2/13)
A girl’s uncle disappears, leaving her an old umbrella and a mysterious clue that draw her into a super secret adventure.  Ages 8-12.

The World Below by Wesley King (3/6)
An eighth grade field trip turns into a survival adventure when students wind up unchaperoned in a lake in the bottom of Carlsbad Caverns.  Ages 8-12.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson (3/27)
After discovering a letter in the attic, a girl tries to unravel the clues to her family’s dark past.  Ages 8-12.

The Elephant Thief by Jane Kerr (3/27)
A young pickpocket-turned-zoo employee must ride an elephant from Edinburgh to Manchester despite opposition from the dubious characters in his past.  Ages 8-12.

 

Realistic Fiction for Middle Grades

TBH, This Is So Awkward by Lisa Greenwald
A story of friendships and cyberbullying told entirely in texts.  Ages 8-12.

Funny Kid for President by Matt Stanton (1/2)
A troublemaker once accused of pooping in a school closet runs for class president in this illustrated novel.  Ages 8-12.

Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard (1/2)
A girl tries to figure out how she fits into her family as her grandfather and guardian battles Alzheimer’s. Ages 8-12.

All Three Stooges by Erica S. Perl (1/9)
When his grief-stricken best friend shuts him out, a boy tries to rekindle their friendship and the sense of humor they once shared.  Ages 8-12.

Ellie, Engineer by Jackson Pearce (1/16)
A young aspiring engineer hopes to build an elaborate gift for her friend’s birthday.  Ages 8-12.

The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor (1/23)
A boy becomes the victim of bullying when his best friend is found dead on his family’s property.  Ages 8-12.

Smart Cookie by Elly Swartz (1/30)
Hoping to repair the hole that her mom’s death left in their family, a girl secretly posts a dating profile for her dad online. Ages 8-12.

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen by Candace Fleming (2/6)
An illustrated novel based on the true story of a 1920s canine actor.  Ages 8-12.

The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley by April Stevens (2/6)
An aspiring anthropologist who prefers to be an observer struggles to find a place with the other people in her community.  Ages 8-12.

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (3/13)
Inspired by her idol, Vanessa Williams, a middle school girl enters a beauty pageant and discovers her own self-worth.  Ages 10 & up.

A Possibility of Whales by Karen Rivers (3/13)
Hoping to find her estranged mother, a girl embarks on a journey of self-discovery.  Ages 8-12.

Without Refuge by Jane Mitchel (4/1)
A young teen and his family flee the war in Syria and seek refuge in Turkey.  Ages 9-12.

My Life In Smiley: It’s All Good by Anne Kalicky (4/3)
A boy uses a journal full of smiley faces to chronicle his life in middle school abroad.  Ages 9-12.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes (4/17)
After being killed by police officers who thought he was holding a weapon, a boy’s ghost meets Emmett Till and together they try to process the racism that led to their deaths.  Ages 8-12. [Technically fantasy due to the ghosts, but the subject matter and interest is clearly realistic fiction.]

Storm Chasers by Ginger Zee (4/24)
A young aspiring meteorologist gets caught out on a horse ride during a dangerous storm.  Ages 9-12.

Secret Sisters of the Salty Sea by Lynne Rae Perkins (5/15)
Two sisters make an unforgettable first trip to the beach in this illustrated novel.  Ages 8-12.

Just Under the Clouds by Melissa Sarno (6/5)
A girl searches for hope when her family becomes homeless.  Ages 8-12.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell (6/5)
A group of kids build a small civilization out of cardboard and use their big imaginations to explore big issues in their real lives.  Ages 8-12.

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin (7/3)
While her father struggles to keep the farm going in the midst of a drought, a girl struggles with her mother’s mental illness.  Ages 8-12.

Rising Above Shepherdsville by Ann Schoenbohm (8/28)
After her mother’s suicide, a girl find peace and healing at her aunt’s home in rural Ohio.  Ages 8-12.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

RESTART by Gordon Korman

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When he wakes up, he is in the hospital, surrounded by strangers.  A woman is crying and calling him Chase, but the name doesn’t seem right.  He looks in a mirror and realizes he doesn’t know himself.  After falling off the roof, Chase has lost all memory of the first thirteen years of his life.  What’s even stranger than not knowing people is that people do seem to know him.  And most of them don’t like him–even seem afraid of him.  The more he learns about himself, the more Chase dislikes himself.  But how could that be?  Did the fall change who he was?  Or is Chase the bully still inside him somewhere?  As he grows closer to the people who once feared him, Chase must figure out who he really is or risk hurting the people he cares about most.

A wonderful coming of age story in which a boy is able to rebuild himself, piecing together those parts of him that he likes and discovering a new capacity for compassion.  It gives inspiration to all of us who fall short of our ideal hopes for ourselves and strive to be better friends and citizens.  I highly recommend it to middle grade fans of realistic fiction.

HELLO, UNIVERSE by Erin Entrada Kelly

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Virgil has a problem.  He knows that he and Valencia are destined to be friends. (They have the same initials! It is fate!)  But Valencia doesn’t know he exists, and unlike the brave Filipino heroes in his grandmother’s stories, Virgil is a shy and quiet and too scared to introduce himself.  Fortunately, he knows just who to take his problem to: Kaori.

Valencia has a problem, too.  She has been haunted by nightmares that she doesn’t understand.  Not to mention being tormented by the local bully, Chet the Bull, who mocks her for being deaf.  When she discovers an advertisement for Kaori, the child psychic, she decides to take the risk and make an appointment.  But her appointment is interrupted when Kaori realizes that one of her other clients has vanished, and Valencia joins in the search.

This story of the intertwined lives of four children has just enough intrigue and suspense to keep the reader going.  I wasn’t personally fond of the switching point of views and mixture of first and third person narration, but the story itself is engaging.  I’d recommend it to middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction.

A BOY CALLED BAT by Elana K. Arnold 

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Bat got his name because his initials are B. A. T. But it stuck because of the way Bat flaps his arms when he gets excited or overwhelmed. And because of his extra sensitive hearing, which sometimes requires him to wear earmuffs.  It’s okay with him because a bat is an animal, and Bat loves animals.  When he grows up, he is going to be a vet like his mom.  When his mom brings home a newborn skunk kit, Bat is ecstatic.  It will be a perfect pet! There are only two problems.  First, Bat still has to spend Every Other Fridays at his dad’s house, which is bad both because it breaks up his normal routine and takes time away from the kit.  And second, his mom says they have to turn the kit over to a skunk rescue in a month.  Bat can’t change Every Other Fridays, but he embarks on a mission to change his mom’s mind about the skunk rescue.  Step One: contact international skunk expert Dr. Jerry Dragoo.   

A sweet story about a boy’s love for his pet and struggle to find a place in his community.  This novel will be best for readers who have graduated from transitional to full-fledged chapter books (typically grades 3-4).