Kids Mystery

Featured Booklist: Book Club Titles for Kids and Teens

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The school year is underway, and whether you’re a teacher or librarian running a book club or a parent stockpiling good reading material for those inevitable Covid-exposure quarantines, I have a book list for you!

This list includes titles for upper elementary schoolers, middle schoolers, and high schoolers. All of the books were released within the last year, and they have a blend of unputdownable storytelling and though-provoking thematic content. As always, you will need to evaluate the individual titles to be sure they fit within the specific parameters and needs of your students/children, but think of this list as your launchpad.

I will continue to curate this list throughout the year, but titles include:

FAST PITCH by Nic Stone, a middle grade sports story about a girl combatting racial injustice while vying for a softball championship.

NIGHTINGALE by Deva Fagan, a middle-grade fantasy about an orphan thief, a reluctant prince, a magic sword, and worker’s rights in a racially diverse, Victorian-London-esque fantasy world.

GENERATION MISFITS by Akemi Dawn Bowman, a middle grade contemporary novel about four social outcasts and one popular girl who find friendship and the courage to express themselves through their mutual love of J-Pop.

ZARA HOSSAIN IS HERE by Sabina Khan, a YA contemporary novel about a Pakistani Muslim immigrant wrestling questions of home, identity, and belonging after a bigot targets her family with hateful vandalism.

VIOLET GHOSTS by Leah Thomas, a YA historical fantasy about a transgender boy in the ’90s coming to terms with his identity as he helps restless ghosts find justice and a safe haven in the afterlife.

THE DARKNESS OUTSIDE US by Eliot Schrefer, a YA sci-fi about two young men from rival countries on a mission to rescue a fellow spacefarer aboard a ship that may or may not be trying to kill them.

Check out the full list on Bookshop.org. (Don’t worry if you’re not looking to buy; just see what titles look good to you, then find them at your local or school library!)

FAST PITCH by Nic Stone

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I am a Bookshop.org affiliate. If you make a purchase by clicking through the links in this post, I will receive a commission, and Bookshop.org will donate a matching commission to independent booksellers. For more information, see my “About” page.

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Shenice “Lightning” Lockwood is making history. She’s the captain of the only all-Black softball team in her Georgia youth league, and they’re on their way to the championships. She knows she’s following in the footsteps of her great-grandfather, who was very nearly one of the first Black players in Major League Baseball before an event that no one will talk about derailed his career.

But when her parents take her to visit her granduncle Jack in his assisted living home, Shenice gets the first clue as to what happened in her great-grandfather’s past. He was accused of stealing a Joe DiMaggio baseball glove, and according to Uncle Jack, he was framed. Her parents claim that Uncle Jack is just senile, but Shenice can’t help wondering if what her uncle said was true. Is it possible that a white man framed her great-grandfather, destroying his career and the family legacy? As the softball championships draw closer, Shenice can’t concentrate on her game. She needs to find out the truth–before a past full of lies and injustices prevents her from leading her own team into their trail-blazing future.

Family, friendships, and a quest for justice burn bright in this gripping middle grade novel. The humor and Shenice’s loving community keep the story fun and uplifting even as Shenice’s quest for racial justice forces her to confront the darkness and pain of racism in the past and the present. This novel has something for mystery lovers, realistic fiction lovers, and sports fans–plus plenty of thought-provoking thematic material–making it an ideal choice for classrooms and book clubs. I highly recommend this book to all middle grade and younger YA readers (grades 4-8).

Fast Pitch by Nic Stone: 9781984893017 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

THE MANY MYSTERIES OF THE FINKEL FAMILY by Sarah Kapit

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Lara started FIASCCO (that’s Finkel Investigation Agency Solving Consequential Crimes Only) because she wanted something that was her thing. Everyone else in the family is good at something–or more than one thing in the case of her infuriatingly perfect cousin Aviva–and Lara just wants something that’s hers and hers alone. Why can’t her younger sister Caroline understand that?

But Caroline doesn’t understand. Why won’t Lara let her help with FIASCCO–especially considering that when they’re at school and Caroline desperately wants to be left alone, Lara won’t stop hovering? It’s Caroline’s first year of middle school–and her first year of attending school without an aide. She doesn’t need one; with her tablet, she can communicate just fine. She knows Lara is trying to help–and that since her sister has autism too she can predict some of the challenges Caroline might face–but how is she supposed to make friends when Lara keeps scaring them off?

When a blossoming friendship drags Caroline far out of her comfort zone, however, she might need her sister’s help after all. And when Lara’s detecting leads her to discover their dad has been fired, she realizes that some crimes are too “consequential” to be solved alone.

Though the premise may snag some mystery readers, at its heart, this novel is contemporary realistic fiction; rather than solving suspenseful mysteries, the girls “detecting” leads them to learn more about each other–and themselves. THE MANY MYSTERIES… is sweet, funny, and impactful, with family and friendship predicaments that will be immediately accessible to any 4-6th grade reader.

Both protagonists have autism, and the book features other neurodiverse characters, as well. All of the characters have realistic and well-developed personalities, giving readers in the Autistic community a chance to see their experiences reflected and normalized–and giving neurotypical readers the chance to “get to know” a diverse group of kids with autism and see a story unfold through their perspectives.

An excellent read and a must-buy for your MG fiction collection!

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (AS TOLD TO HIS BROTHER) by David Levithan

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When they first discovered that Aidan was missing, they thought he was playing hide and seek.

By the end of the first day, they were in a panic.

By the end of the week, they were looking for a body.

So the last thing Lucas expected when he went up to the attic was to find his big brother lying on the floor in front of the old dresser–alive, disheveled, and muttering about visiting another world.

Aidan’s story is so absurd that no one believes him. His parents are frustrated that he won’t tell them where he really was. The town is furious that their search efforts were wasted on a liar and a runaway. His classmates mock him, calling him Unicorn Boy. Only Lucas seems to wonder if Aidan might be telling the truth–and if knowing might be less important than believing.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN… sits near the intersection of thriller, mystery, and magical realism, but it might find most of its readership among fans of contemporary fiction. Though the suspense brought by questions of “what really happened” and “what is true” drives the plot, thriller fans might be disappointed by the slow-boil plot–and mystery fans by the lack of clues and investigation. But contemporary fiction readers will relish the deep exploration of themes of acceptance, trust, bullying and community. By drawing these themes out of a fantastical event (Aidan’s story of visiting another world), Levithan gives readers an opportunity to connect these themes into their own lives without pigeonholing any specific real-life scenario. (Though one of the most beautiful moments in the book is the casual, matter-of-fact introduction of Aidan’s boyfriend near the end; that way, the world of the story is thoroughly inclusive–Aidan never judged or bullied for his sexuality–but the parallel between the need to accept Aidan’s truth (about the fantasy world) and the need to accept people in general for their true selves (e.g., sexual identity) is difficult to miss.) It’s a highly literary and masterful way of exploring these complex themes. A great book for book clubs and classrooms (but possibly not for your mystery/thriller fan).

THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE by Julia Nobel

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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!

THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K. S. Ansari

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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.

Coming Soon: Middle Grade Fiction in 2019

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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!

 

Continuing Series

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.

 

Historical Fiction

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.

 

Mystery/Thriller

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.

 

Realistic Fiction

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PROPERLY UNHAUNTED PLACE by William Alexander

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Rosa Diaz doesn’t know why her mother, the best Appeasment Specialist any haunted library had ever seen, would want to move to a town with no ghosts.  Well, she does know why, but she doesn’t like it.  They shouldn’t be trying to escape the memory of her father’s death.  They should be honoring him.  And living in an unhaunted town is just creepy.  But as Rosa explores her new town, she realizes that it isn’t the unhauntedness unsettling her.  Ingot is definitely haunted, but in a strange way, and for some reason, none of the inhabitants seem to see or remember the hauntings.  With the help of Jasper, a Renaissance Faire squire, Rosa sets out to discover what is haunting Ingot and why.

An enjoyable mystery with two engaging young heroes, this story has both humor and intrigue to keep even a reluctant reader engrossed–plus enough depth of character and theme to make it enjoyable for the perceptive reader as well.  I’d recommend it to middle grade fans of mystery, fantasy, and non-scary ghost stories.

DEEP, DARK, AND DANGEROUS by Mary Downing Hahn

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Ali is so excited to get away from her overprotective mother for the summer and stay at the old cabin on the lake with her aunt and cousin, Emma.   She feels a little bad for going, knowing how frightened her mother is of the lake. But it will be fun to babysit for Emma. And more importantly, maybe Ali can solve the mystery of the torn picture of her mother, aunt, and a mysterious girl that Ali found in the attic.   The summer starts going all wrong, though, when a girl named Sissy shows up and starts taunting Emma. Ali tries to keep her cousin away from the “bad influence,” but instead uncovers a tragedy that may still be haunting the old cabin–and her mother’s memories.

Not as creepy some of MDH’s other books, this ghost story is more mysterious than harrowing.  It will be good for middle grade readers who are looking for a less scary ghost story or who enjoy character driven mysteries.