Happy 2024 to all our readers! Here are some great new middle-grade books to start your year off right.
Alterations by Ray Xu
Kevin Lee is having a really bad week. Although he lives in a crowded Toronto apartment above the family’s alterations and dry-cleaning store, he mostly goes unnoticed. School isn’t exactly an oasis either—being one of the few Asian kids makes for some unwelcome attention. But when Kevin’s class plans a trip to Thrill Planet, a spectacular theme park, will he finally have a chance to turn his life around, or will it just be another day for Kevin Lee?
Amil and the After by Veera Hiranandani
At the turn of the new year in 1948, Amil and his family are trying to make a home in India, now independent of British rule.
Both Muslim and Hindu, twelve-year-old Amil is not sure what home means anymore. The memory of the long and difficult journey from their hometown in what is now Pakistan lives with him. And despite having an apartment in Bombay to live in and a school to attend, life in India feels uncertain.
Nisha, his twin sister, suggests that Amil begin to tell his story through drawings meant for their mother, who died when they were just babies. Through Amil, readers witness the unwavering spirit of a young boy trying to make sense of a chaotic world, and find hope for himself and a newly reborn nation.
Between Two Brothers by Crystal Allen
Isaiah “Ice” Abernathy has always worshiped his older brother, Seth. For years they’ve been not just brothers but best friends—and as Seth starts his senior year, Ice is eager to spend as much time with his brother as he can, making memories before Seth goes to college.
But when Seth announces he’s leaving much earlier than expected, and then he misses an important event—one he’d promised to attend—it causes a major fight.
Filled with regret, Ice plans to apologize to Seth later the next day, but later never comes, as he finds out Seth was in an accident—one that leaves him in the hospital. And the doctors say he may never recover.
Racked by fear and guilt, Ice chooses to step up, defy the experts, and help Seth recover in a way only he can—by trusting in their bond and the undying love between two brothers.
Break by Kayla Miller
Spring Break is full of possibilities…but not for Olive.
This year, Olive is leaving her friends and all of their exciting vacation plans behind to visit her dad at his new apartment in the city.
Goober is thrilled to spend a whole week with their father and has a long list of activities for their time together. Olive, on the other hand, still remembers the hurt of their dad moving halfway across the world. She would rather spend time with her friend Bree or scrolling through her new phone to keep up with everything she’s missing back home than catch up with him.
As the week winds on, the normally easygoing Olive finds feelings of loneliness and resentment throwing her out of whack. Is there any hope of salvaging the visit—or will Olive’s Spring Break be a Spring Bust?
The New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Kayla Miller returns with another vibrant and emotional story about the power of second chances and how the fear of missing out can lead to missing out on what’s right in front of you.
Chasing Stars by Meg Gaertner
Growing up comes with growing pains no matter what, but for twelve-year-old Libby, the changes feel like more than she can bear. After an incident caused by his worsening dementia, Libby’s grandfather comes to live with her family, a move that ripples out into other changes. Libby’s dad quits his job to become the grandfather’s primary caretaker, while her mom picks up the financial slack by working extra shifts. Meanwhile, Libby’s older sister and ex-best friend, Erica, packs for a move to boarding school to make room in their modest family home. Libby feels like her cozy world is crashing down around her. But how can she keep up when she’s the only one standing still?
The Code of Life by Dr. Carla Hafner, illustrated by Mike Scheier
Why do children look like their parents? Why are some people blond and others brunette, and where do we get our eye color from?
This book explains genetic theory, what genes are, why DNA plays an important role and what all these insights have to do with a curious monk. An exciting journey through the history of science, present-day genetic research and engineering and right through to the question of identity – because who would have thought how much of our personality is defined by our genes and how interesting genes can be?
The Curse of Eelgrass Bog by Mary Averling
Nothing about Kess Pedrock’s life is normal. Not her home (she lives in her family’s Unnatural History Museum), not her interests (hunting for megafauna fossils and skeletons), and not her best friend (a talking demon’s head in a jar named Shrunken Jim).
But things get even stranger than usual when Kess meets Lilou Starling, the new girl in town. Lilou comes to Kess for help breaking a mysterious curse—and the only clue she has leads straight into the center of Eelgrass Bog.
Everyone knows the bog is full of witches, demons, and possibly worse, but Kess and Lilou are determined not to let that stop them. As they investigate the mystery and uncover long-buried secrets, Kess begins to realize that the curse might hit closer to home than she’d ever expected, and she’ll have to summon all her courage to find a way to break it before it’s too late.
Emma and the Love Spell by Meredith Ireland
Twelve-year-old, Korean American adoptee Emma Davidson has a problem. Two problems. Okay, three:
1. She has a crush on her best friend, Avangeline, that she hasn’t been able to share
2. Avangeline now has to move out of their town because her parents are getting a divorce
3. Oh, and Emma is a secret witch who can’t really control her powers
It’s a complicated summer between sixth and seventh grade. Emma’s parents made her promise that she’d keep her powers a secret and never, ever use them. But if Avangeline’s parents fell back in love, it would fix everything. And how hard could one little love spell be?
This fast-paced, heartfelt story is a powerful exploration of learning to embrace who you are, even when your true self is different from everyone around you.
Lulu Sinagtala and the City of Noble Warriors By Gail D. Villanueva
Lulu Sinagtala can’t wait for a fun Christmas break. She’s excited to hang out with her sister, Kitty, and best friend, Bart; to reenact her favorite legends from Tagalog folklore (like the amazing tale of Bernardo Carpio); and, of course, to eat as much yummy street-side inihaw as possible!
But when a vicious wakwak attacks her neighborhood and kidnaps Mom, Lulu discovers the creatures and deities of Tagalog myth are real and that two additional Realms exist beyond our own. To make it worse, Lulu has superhuman strength and the ability to wield magic, meaning she’s the only one powerful enough to stop the evil spirit who’s determined to rule the three Realms at all costs. No pressure, right?
Lulu, Kitty, and Bart set off on a quest to rescue Mom, where they outsmart cunning enemies, battle vengeful beings, and form unlikely alliances. Soon they find themselves swept into a centuries-long fight, unraveling secrets about Lulu and her past that threaten to upend everything and throw the whole universe into chaos. Can Lulu muster the strength (superhuman or not) to find out who she really is and who she can trust to save Mom and the three Realms before it’s too late?
The Misfits #1: A Royal Conundrum by Lisa Yee, illustrated by Dan Santat
When a notorious thief is out for priceless treasure (gems! cats! general decorum!)—who’re you gonna call? An elite team of crime-fighting underdogs, that’s who! Olive Cobin Zang has . . . issues. And they mostly aren’t her fault. (No, really!) Though she often slips under the radar, problems have a knack for finding her. So, imagine her doubts when she’s suddenly dropped off at the strangest boarding school ever: a former castle turned prison that’s now a “reforming arts school”!
But nothing could’ve prepared Olive for RASCH (not “rash”). There, she’s lumped with a team of other kids who never quite fit in, and discovers that the academy isn’t what it seems—and neither is she. In fact, RASCH is a cover for an elite group of misfits who fight crime . . . and Olive has arrived just in time.
Turns out that RASCH is in danger of closing, unless Olive’s class can stop the heist of the century. And as Olive falls in love with this wacky school, she realizes it’s up to her new team to save the only home that’s ever welcomed them.
The Unbeatable Lily Hong by Diana Ma
If there’s one thing Lily Hong can’t stand, it’s being second best. That’s why she and Max Zhang have been bitter rivals ever since he swooped into town as the new kid with the cool clothes and his fancy downtown Chinese school and showed her up in the fifth-grade reading challenge.
She had wanted to be the one to win the pizza party for their class. Okay, so that was two years ago . . . her best friends Kelli and Lauren didn’t totally get it, but they were on her side. And that’s why they agreed to help Lily with her submission for the Clarktown’s Got Talent video competition. Filmmaking is Lily’s passion—which means winning is more important to her than ever.
Unfortunately, finding time to work on her video submission is proving harder than ever. In addition to doing regular homework and attending the Chinese school her parents own and run out of the Clarktown Community Center, Lily’s been getting weird vibes from her parents lately and she can tell something is up. Then her mom announces that the Clarktown Community Center is having its first showcase, and the students of Hong Chinese Academy will be performing as a group—traditional Chinese dance!
Lily is more confused than anything else—the community center is practically falling apart and they think this is a good time to put on a show? Could it be that the community center is in trouble and the only way to save it is to make the showcase a huge success? Lily has no choice. She’ll have to juggle the video competition and the art of Chinese dance simultaneously. But when Max Zhang unexpectedly shows up in her class at Chinese school with his perfect Mandarin and his surprisingly good dance skills, Lily might just have to embrace her longtime rival as a key part of her plan to save the community center.
Shark Teeth by Sherri Winston
Sharkita “Kita” Hayes is always waiting.
Waiting for her mama to mess up.
Waiting for social services to be called again.
Waiting for her and her siblings to be separated.
Waiting for her worst fear to come true.
But Mama promises things are different now. She’s got a good job, she’s stopped drinking, stopped going out every night-it’s almost enough to make Kita believe her this time. But even as Kita’s life is going good, she can’t shake the feeling that everything could go up in flames at any moment. When her assistant principal and trusted dance coach starts asking questions about her home life, Kita is more determined than ever to keep up appearances and make sure her family stays together-even if it means falling apart herself.
As the threat of her family being separated again circles like a shark in the water, the pressure starts to get to Kita. But could it be that Kita’s worst fear is actually the best thing that could happen to her family . . . and to her?