June is here and so is a treasure trove of new middle grade to fill those long summer days.
There’s something for every reader in this month’s list – so get ready for some reading.
Kohei Fujiwara has never seen a big ryū in real life. Those dragons all disappeared from Japan after World War II, and twenty years later, they’ve become the stuff of legend. Their smaller cousins, who can fit in your palm, are all that remain. And Kohei loves his ryū, Yuharu, but.
.Kohei has a memory of the big ryū. He knows that’s impossible, but still, it’s there, in his mind. In it, he can see his grandpa – Ojiisan – gazing up at the big ryū with what looks to Kohei like total and absolute wonder. When Kohei was little, he dreamed he’d go on a grand quest to bring the big ryū back, to get Ojiisan to smile again.
But now, Ojiisan is really, really sick. And Kohei is running out of time.
Kohei needs to find the big ryū now, before it’s too late. With the help of Isolde, his new half-Jewish, half-Japanese neighbor; and Isolde’s Yiddish-speaking dragon, Cheshire; he thinks he can do it. Maybe. He doesn’t have a choice.
Sam is very in touch with their own queer identity. They’re nonbinary, and their best friend, TJ, is nonbinary as well. Sam’s family is very cool with it… as long as Sam remembers that nonbinary kids are also required to clean their rooms, do their homework, and try not to antagonize their teachers too much.
The teacher-respect thing is hard when it comes to Sam’s history class, because their teacher seems to believe that only Dead Straight Cis White Men are responsible for history. When Sam’s home borough of Staten Island opens up a contest for a new statue, Sam finds the perfect non-DSCWM subject: photographer Alice Austen, whose house has been turned into a museum, and who lived with a female partner for decades.
Soon, Sam’s project isn’t just about winning the contest. It’s about discovering a rich queer history that Sam’s a part of — a queer history that no longer needs to be quiet, as long as there are kids like Sam and TJ to stand up for it.
Cooper just wants to spend the summer before 7th grade drawing and having adventures with his best friend, Nacho. Anything to keep his mind off the fact that his dad’s new girlfriend and his mom’s announcement that she’s going to start dating.
But when one of his adventures with Nacho goes too far, Cooper’s parents freak out. Either he joins the Boy Rangers, a dorky club that’s all about discipline and rules, or that dream cartooning camp at the end of his summer? Will get erased.
At first it’s not so bad–the troop is a disorganized mess. But then a new scoutmaster starts. Mr. Pierce is a gruff ex-Marine who’s never worked with kids before, especially not a ragtag team of misfits like Troop 19. As he tries turning them into a lean, mean, badge-earning machine, Cooper longs for freedom. He doesn’t want to break the rules, but the rules are going to break him!
A fresh start. That’s all Evan Pao wants as he, along with his mother and sister, flee from California to Haddington, Virginia, hoping to keep his father’s notoriety a secret.
But Haddington is a southern town steeped in tradition, and moving to a town immersed in the past has its own price. Although Evan quickly makes friends, one boy, Brady Griggs, seems determined to make sure that as a Chinese American, Evan feels that he does not belong. When Evan finds a unique way to make himself part of the school’s annual Civil War celebration, the reaction is swift and violent. As all of his choices at home and at school collide, Evan must decide whether he will react with the same cruelty shown to him, or choose a different path.
Lucy’s always looked up to her big sister, Olivia, even though the two are polar opposites. But then, Lucy notices Olivia start to change. She doesn’t want to play with Lucy anymore, she’s unhappy with the way she looks, and she’s refusing to eat her dinner. Finally, Lucy discovers that her sister is not just growing up: Olivia is struggling with an eating disorder.
While her family is focused on her sister’s recovery, Lucy is left alone to navigate school and friendships. And just like her big sister, she begins to shrink.
But with time, work, and a dose of self-love, both sisters begin to heal and let themselves grow. Soon enough, Olivia and Lucy find their way back to each other–because sisters are the one friend you can never ditch.
Raymond has always preferred to keep life simple and leave adventuring to other people. But then he’s sent across the country, against his will, to spend the summer before fifth grade with grandparents who think he’s “troubled” and needs to have playdates set up for him. Determined to show everyone how brave, confident, and untroubled he can be, Raymond hatches a three-step plan:
1) Learn to ride a bike. His mom never got around to teaching him before she left.
2) Learn how to swim.
3) Make friends. On his own.
But can Raymond really change, or is this whole plan just a bunch of lies he’s telling himself? With the help of his great-grandfather’s old journal, a feral chicken, and a possibly imaginary new friend, Raymond might just overcome his fears and figure out who he really wants to be.
Zadie loves Tae Kwon Do, comic books, and outer space. She also loves visiting the community theater that her mom runs, especially the lighting grid over the stage and the stage manager’s booth, which is filled with levers and buttons like a spaceship control panel. So when the family’s finances suffer a blow and Zadie has to give up her usual activities to spend the summer at the theater, she doesn’t mind too much. After all, she’s always wanted to tech a show.
She knows she’d be great at it, but her mom and the new stage manager are totally opposed to the idea of having a kid do tech. Instead, Zadie’s stuck handing out snacks and folding flyers. But the future of the theater rides on this show, and Zadie is determined to help. She’s going to make Spinderella the hit of the season–unless she accidentally turns it into a disaster
Carolina Aguasvivas grew up on Paradise Ranch, which she knows down to every last pony. But things are sure to change when the new owner’s daughter, Chelsie Sánchez, sweeps in with an attitude and a feisty Thoroughbred named Velvet. The mare is skittish, headstrong, and hurt — and Carolina is determined to ride her.
Chelsie, who considers herself too good to clean stalls, certainly doesn’t seem like a real horse girl. Caro knows she’s the only one who can help Velvet recover, and she’s ready to prove it — no matter what it takes.
The girls may discover they have more in common than they think… including a passion for bringing the healing power of horses to every kid.
When Faiza, a Muslim migrant girl from northern Ghana, and Abena, a wealthy doctor’s daughter from the south, meet by chance in Accra’s largest market, where Faiza works as a porter or kaya girl, they strike up an unlikely and powerful friendship that transcends their social inequities and opens up new worlds to them both.
Set against a backdrop of class disparity in Ghana, The Kaya Girl has shades of The Kite Runner in its unlikely friendship, and of Slumdog Millionaire as Faiza’s life takes unlikely turns that propel her thrillingly forward. As, over the course of the novel, Abena awakens to the world outside her sheltered, privileged life, the novel explores a multitude of awakenings and the opportunities that lie beyond the breaking down of barriers. This is a gorgeously transporting work, offering vivid insight into two strikingly diverse young lives in Ghana.
Twelve-year-old Daisy and Ruby are totally inseparable. They’ve grown up together, and Daisy has always counted on having Ruby there to pave the way, encourage her to try new things, and to see the magic in the world. Then Ruby is killed in a tragic accident while on vacation, and Daisy’s life is shattered.
Now Daisy finds herself having to face the big things in her life–like starting middle school and becoming a big sister–without her best friend. It’s hard when you feel sad all the time. But thanks to new friends, new insights, and supportive family members, Daisy is able to see what life after Ruby can look like. And as she reaches beyond that to help repair the world around her, she is reminded that friendship is eternal, and that magic can be found in the presence of anyone who chooses to embrace it.
Sisters Abby, Emma, and Ollie have gone from being best friends forever to mortal enemies.
Thanks to their months-long feud, they are sent to Camp Unplugged, a girls’ camp deep in the heart of the Idaho mountains where they will go “back to nature”–which means no cell phones, no internet, and no communicating with the outside world. For two whole weeks. During that time, they had better learn to get along again, their parents tell them. Or else.
The sisters don’t see any way they can ever forgive each other for what they’ve done, no matter how many hikes and campfire songs they’re forced to participate in. But then disaster strikes, and they find themselves lost and alone in the wilderness. They will have to outrun a raging wildfire, make it through a turbulent river, escape bears and mountain lions and ticks. They don’t have training, or food, or enough supplies. All they have is each other.
And maybe, just maybe, it will be enough to survive.
Funny, outrageous things didn’t stop for Jordan Sonnenblick after he left fourth grade. No, in many ways the events detailed to hilarious effect in The Boy Who Failed Show and Tell were but a prelude to sixth grade, a time when Jordan would have to deal with…
— A rival named Jiminy (his real name is Jimmy — but, hey, he looks like a cricket)
— A stickler English teacher who doesn’t care that all the old, worn copies of Great Expectations smell like puke
— An Evel Knievel obsession
— A first crush on a girl from band
— An assistant principal who brands Jordan a repeat offender… on his first day (If you want to know why, you have to read the book. A tooth is involved.)
— A continued reckoning with both anxiety and asthma
— And more!
The Mendoza sisters need a do-over!
Raquel and Lucinda used to be inseparable. But ever since their parents split, Raquel has been acting like editor-in-chief of their lives. To avoid her overbearing sister, Lucinda spends most of her time with her headphones on, practicing her skating routine.
Then a pandemic hits, and the sisters are forced to spend the lockdown at their dad’s ranch house. Suddenly Raquel sees a chance to get back everything they’ve lost. If they can convince their mom to come along, maybe they can get their parents to fall in love again and give their family a second chance, a do-over.
But at the ranch, they get a not-so-welcome surprise: their dad’s new girlfriend and her daughter are already living there! Lucinda finds she actually likes them, which only makes Raquel more desperate to get rid of them. And as her Raquel’s schemes get more and more out of hand, Lucinda starts to wonder what they are really fighting for. Is trying to bring the Mendoza family back together really just tearing them further apart?
Hana Hsu can’t wait to be meshed.
If she can beat out half her classmates at Start-Up, a tech school for the city’s most talented twelve-year-olds, she’ll be meshed to the multiweb through a neural implant like her mom and sister. But the competition is fierce, and when her passion for tinkering with bots gets her mixed up with dangerous junkyard rebels, she knows her future in the program is at risk.
Even scarier, she starts to notice that something’s not right at Start-Up–some of her friends are getting sick, and no matter what she does, her tech never seems to work right. With an ominous warning from her grandmother about being meshed, Hana begins to wonder if getting the implant early is really a good idea.
Desperate to figure out what’s going on, Hana and her friends find themselves spying on one of the most powerful corporations in the country–and the answers about the mystery at Start-Up could be closer to home than Hana’s willing to accept. Will she be able to save her friends–and herself– from a conspiracy that threatens everything she knows?
Darius James–DJ to his friends–has a head for cons and a heart of gold. He pulled his last con months ago at his old school. Now safely enrolled in the Fitz (Ella Fitzgerald Middle School) he’s determined to keep his head down. But when Conor, his best friend from his old school, suddenly shows up, DJ knows his anonymous days are numbered.
Sure enough, within a week of arriving at the Fitz, Conor runs afoul of Lucky, the seventh-grade bully who runs a complicated contest based on tickets from Starcade, the games-and-pizza joint across the street from the school. Lucky has the power to ruin any kid’s life, including Conor’s, unless DJ agrees to come up with 100,000 Starcade tickets within two weeks.
It’s impossible! Or is it? If anyone can stay on the straight and narrow–and pull off the biggest ticket heist of all time, it’s DJ. In the process, he just might save his friend–and maybe even the whole school–from Lucky.
Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything–and she’s determined to prove them right. But at the end of seventh grade, on the same day she makes a gutsy play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad made a big mistake, taking money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that other lawyer is Xander’s dad.
Bea doesn’t want to be angry with her dad, especially since he feels terrible and is trying to make things right. But she can’t face the looks of pity from all her friends, and then she starts missing throws in softball because she’s stuck in her own head. The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She’s not sure what’s going to be harder–learning to throw again, or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?
It takes a special person to end up in detention on the last day of school.
It takes a REALLY special person to accidentally burn down the school yard while chasing a fire-breathing chipmunk.
But nothing about Valentina Salazar has ever been “normal.” The Salazars are protectors, tasked with rescuing the magical creatures who sometimes wander into our world, from grumpy unicorns to chupacabras . . . to the occasional fire-breathing chipmunk.
When Val’s father is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong, her mother decides it’s time to retire from their life on the road. She moves the family to a boring little town in upstate New York and enrolls Val and her siblings in real school for the first time.
But Val is a protector at heart and she can’t give up her calling. So when a mythical egg surfaces in a viral video, Val convinces her reluctant siblings to help her find the egg before it hatches and wreaks havoc. But she has some competition: the dreaded monster hunters who’ll stop at nothing to destroy the creature . . . and the Salazar family.
Twelve-year old Lia Park just wants to fit in. Her parents work with a mysterious organization that makes them ridiculously overprotective. Lia’s every move has been scrutinized since she was born, and she’d love to have the option of doing something exciting for once. So when she gets invited to the biggest birthday party of the year–and her parents say she can’t go–Lia sneaks out.
But her first act of rebellion not only breaks her parents’ rules, but also an ancient protection spell, allowing an evil diviner spirit to kidnap and ransom her parents for a powerful jewel that her family has guarded for years. With just the clothes on her back and some very rusty magical skills, Lia finds herself chasing mysterious clues that take her to her grandmother’s home in Korea.
From there, she has to make their way to the undersea kingdom of the Dragon King, the only person who knows where the powerful jewel might be. Along with her friend, Joon, Lia must dig deep and find courage to stand up for those who are weak–and become the hero her parents need.
When Joanie first encounters Masterpiece, he’s curled up in an alley and she mistakes him for (of all things!) a cat. Soon, though, she cleans him up and shows him home and discovers he is, in fact, a poodle.
What Joanie doesn’t know is that Masterpiece isn’t any ordinary poodle. No, Masterpiece is a world-famous poodle, who has been in movies and advertisements and has been seen hobnobbing with celebrities. So how did Masterpiece go from a palatial apartment in New York City to an alley in a small town in New Jersey? He was dognapped! And now not only does the dognapper want him back, but his former owner is offering a big reward.
Masterpiece knows he should want to go home to the luxury of his old life. But nobody’s ever loved him the way Joanie loves him.
What’s a dog to do?
There’s so many great books, I’m not sure where to start. Let me know which ones you’re looking forward to in the comments below.