May brings a bounty of new middle grade books, fiction and nonfiction, covering many different perspectives and cross-cultural voices. Here is just a sampling of what’s new this month.
José and the Pirate Captain Toledano
by Arnon Z. Shorr (Author) Joshua M. Edelglass (Illustrator)
Set in the shadows of the Spanish Inquisition, this is the coming-of-age story of José Alfaro, a young refugee who forms a powerful bond with the mysterious Pirate Captain Toledano. It’s also a dynamic pirate adventure on the high seas, with hand-to-hand combat and ship-to-ship action, and the powerful story of a dark time in history when people took different paths to survive.
Rise of the School for Good and Evil
by Soman Chainani
The battle between Good and Evil begins. Two brothers. One Good. One Evil. Together they watch over the Endless Woods. Together they choose the students for the School for Good and Evil. Together they train them, teach them, prepare them for their fate. Then, something happens. Something unexpected. Something powerful. Something that will change everything and everyone. Who will survive? Who will rule the School? The journey starts here. Every step is filled with magic, surprises, and daring deeds that test courage, loyalty, and who you really are. But they only lead you to the very beginning of the adventures that are THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD AND EVIL.
The Lion of Mars
by Jennifer L. Holm
Small Town Pride
by Phil Stamper
Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio.When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.
Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake. But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?
Kings of B’more
by R. Eric Thomas
Two Black queer best friends face their last day together with an epic journey through Baltimore in this magnetic YA debut by bestselling author of Here for It R. Eric Thomas. With junior year starting in the fall, Harrison feels like he’s on the precipice of, well, everything. Standardized testing, college, and the terrifying unknowns and looming pressures of adulthood after that—it’s like the future wants to eat him alive. Which is why Harrison is grateful that he and his best friend, Linus, will face these things together. But at the end of a shift at their summer job, Linus invites Harrison to their special spot overlooking the city to deliver devastating news: He’s moving out of state at the end of the week.
To keep from completely losing it—and partially inspired by a cheesy movie-night pick by his Dad—Harrison plans a send-off à la Ferris Bueller’s Day Off that’s worthy of his favorite person. If they won’t be having all the life-expanding experiences they thought they would, Harrison will squeeze them all into their last day together. They end up on a mini road trip, their first Pride, and a rooftop dance party, all while keeping their respective parents, who track them on a family location app, off their trail. Harrison and Linus make a pact to do all the things—big and small—they’ve been too scared to do. But nothing feels scarier than saying goodbye to someone you love.
Singing with Elephants
by Margarita Engle
A powerful novel in verse from Newbery and Pura Belpré Award-winning author Margarita Engle about the friendship between a young girl and the poet Gabriela Mistral that leads to healing and hope for both of them. Cuban-born eleven-year-old Oriol lives in Santa Barbara, California, where she struggles to belong. But most of the time that’s okay, because she enjoys helping her parents care for the many injured animals at their veterinary clinic. Then Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American winner of a Nobel Prize in Literature, moves to town, and aspiring writer Oriol finds herself opening up. As she begins to create a world of words for herself, Oriol learns it will take courage to stay true to herself and do what she thinks is right–attempting to rescue a baby elephant in need–even if it means keeping secrets from those she loves. A beautifully written, lyrically told story about the power of friendship– between generations, between humans and animals–and the potential of poetry to inspire action and acceptance.
This Is My America
by Kim Johnson
The Hate U Give meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting first novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system. Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time–her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?
History Comics: The National Parks: Preserving America’s Wild Places
by Falynn Koch
In this volume, turn back the clock to 1872, when Congress established Yellowstone National Park as an area of unspoiled beauty for the benefit and enjoyment of the people. Meet the visionaries, artists, and lovers of the American wilderness who fought against corruption and self-interest to carve out and protect these spaces for future generations. See for yourself how the idea of National Parks began, how they’ve changed, and how they continue to define America.
Made in Korea
by Sarah Suk
Frankly in Love meets Shark Tank in this feel-good romantic comedy about two entrepreneurial Korean American teens who butt heads–and maybe fall in love–while running competing Korean beauty businesses at their high school.
There’s nothing Valerie Kwon loves more than making a good sale. Together with her cousin Charlie, they run V&C K-BEAUTY, their school’s most successful student-run enterprise. With each sale, Valerie gets closer to taking her beloved and adventurous halmeoni to her dream city, Paris.
Enter the new kid in class, Wes Jung, who is determined to pursue music after graduation despite his parents’ major disapproval. When his classmates clamor to buy the K-pop branded beauty products his mom gave him to “make new friends,” he sees an opportunity–one that may be the key to help him pay for the music school tuition he knows his parents won’t cover… What he doesn’t realize, though, is that he is now V&C K-BEAUTY’s biggest competitor.Stakes are high as Valerie and Wes try to outsell each other, make the most money, and take the throne for the best business in school–all while trying to resist the undeniable spark that’s crackling between them. From hiring spies to all-or-nothing bets, the competition is much more than either of them bargained for. But one thing is clear: only one Korean business can come out on top.
The Peach Rebellion
by Wendelin Van Draanen
From the author of The Running Dream comes a heart-swelling historical tale of friendship, family, and the power of sisterhood to help heal the wounds of the past and step boldly into the future.
Ginny Rose and Peggy were best friends at seven, picking peaches on hot summer days. Peggy’s family owned the farm, and Ginny Rose’s were pickers, escaping the Oklahoma dust storms. That didn’t matter to them then, but now, ten years, hard miles, and a world war later, Ginny Rose’s family is back in town and their differences feel somehow starker. Especially since Peggy’s new best friend, Lisette, is a wealthy banker’s daughter. Still, there’s no denying what all three girls have in common: Families with great fissures that are about to break wide open. And a determination to not just accept things as they are anymore. This summer they will each make a stand. It’s a season of secrets revealed. Of daring plans to heal old wounds. Of hearts won and hearts broken. A summer when everything changes because you’re seventeen, and it’s time to be bold. And because it’s easier to be brave with a true friend by your side.
Land of the Cranes
by Aida Salazar
From the prolific author of The Moon Within comes the heart-wrenchingly beautiful story in verse of a young Latinx girl who learns to hold on to hope and love even in the darkest of places: a family detention center for migrants and refugees.
Nine-year-old Betita knows she is a crane. Papi has told her the story, even before her family fled to Los Angeles to seek refuge from cartel wars in Mexico. The Aztecs came from a place called Aztlan, what is now the Southwest US, called the land of the cranes. They left Aztlan to establish their great city in the center of the universe-Tenochtitlan, modern-day Mexico City. It was prophesized that their people would one day return to live among the cranes in their promised land. Papi tells Betita that they are cranes that have come home.
Then one day, Betita’s beloved father is arrested by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and deported to Mexico. Betita and her pregnant mother are left behind on their own, but soon they too are detained and must learn to survive in a family detention camp outside of Los Angeles. Even in cruel and inhumane conditions, Betita finds heart in her own poetry and in the community she and her mother find in the camp. The voices of her fellow asylum seekers fly above the hatred keeping them caged, but each day threatens to tear them down lower than they ever thought they could be. Will Betita and her family ever be whole again?
Hope you enjoy these and the many other middle grade books releasing in May! Happy reading . . .
Maybe Land of the Cranes and Lion of Mars are recently out in paperback? Interesting to see a few YA titles in the mix– I thought that Van Draanen would work well for middle school and will have to take a look at the others!
Is this a new version of Land Of The Cranes? It was a Cybils Awards MG finalist in 2020.