If you were too busy for books this summer, September is the month to dive back in! Time to cozy up and grab a new middle grade read . . . and there are lots to choose from. Here are some of the latest out this month.
Owl’s Outstanding Donuts by Robin Yardi
Robin Yardi, author of The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez, tells a story full of mystery, feathers, and sprinkles. After Mattie Waters loses her mother, she goes to live with her aunt, the owner of a roadside donut shop in Big Sur, California. When an owl taps on Mattie’s window one night, Mattie looks out to see something suspicious taking place nearby. With help from her friendsand from Alfred, a stuffy but good-hearted owl, she’ll set out to find the culprits, facing fears that have followed her since her mother’s death.
Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?
Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.
Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor, Illustrated by Rafael López
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez create a kind and caring book about the differences that make each of us unique. Feeling different, especially as a kid, can be tough. But in the same way that different types of plants and flowers make a garden more beautiful and enjoyable, different types of people make our world more vibrant and wonderful.
In Just Ask, United States Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor celebrates the different abilities kids (and people of all ages) have. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have as well. As the kids work together to build a community garden, asking questions of each other along the way, this book encourages readers to do the same: When we come across someone who is different from us but we’re not sure why, all we have to do is Just Ask.
The Women Who Caught the Babies: A Story of African American Midwives by Eloise Greenfield, Illustrated by Daniel Minter
The Women Who Caught the Babies highlights important aspects of the training and work of African-American midwives and the ways in which they have helped, and continue to help, so many families by “catching” their babies at birth. The blend of Eloise Greenfield’s poetry and Daniel Minter’s art evokes heartfelt appreciation of the abilities of African-American midwifes over the course of time. The poem “Africa to America” begins the poetic journey. The poem “The Women” both heralds the poetry/art pairing and concludes it with a note of gratitude. Also included is a piece titled “Miss Rovenia Mayo,” which pays tribute to the midwife who caught newborn Eloise.
If the Fire Comes: A Story of Segregation in the Great Depression by Tracy Daley, Illustrated by Eric Freeberg
It’s 1935, and the Great Depression and California drought has left eleven-year-old Joseph McCoy shining shoes to help his family survive. Through his hard work and games with his sister, Joseph has figured out how to get by as one of the few black people in a mostly white community. But the order of the town is disrupted when an all-black Civilian Conservation Corps camp comes to Elsinore, sparking racial tension. It isn’t long before prejudice spreads like wildfire and threatens to force the work camp to leave. Could Joseph’s secret project save the camp and bring his family hope for the future? If not, the whole town just might go up in flames.
Its the storytellers that preserve a nations history. But what happens when some stories are silenced? The I Am America series features fictional stories based on important historical events from people whose voices have been under represented, lost, or forgotten over time.
The Escape of Robert Smalls: A Daring Escape out of Slavery by Jehan Jones-Radgowski, Illustrated by Poppy Kang
The mist in Charleston Inner Harbor was heavy, but not heavy enough to disguise the stolen Confederate steamship, the Planter, from Confederate soldiers. In the early hours of May 13, 1862, in the midst of the deadly U.S. Civil War, an enslaved man named Robert Smalls was about to carry out a perilous plan of escape. Standing at the helm of the ship, Smalls impersonated the captain as he and his crew passed heavily armed Confederate forts to enter Union territory, where escaped slaves were given shelter. The suspenseful escape of the determined crew is celebrated with beautiful artwork and insightful prose, detailing the true account of an unsung American hero.
A Song for China: How My Father Wrote Yellow River Cantata by Ange Zhang
This is the fascinating story of how a young Chinese author, Guang Weiran, a passionate militant from the age of twelve, fought, using art, theater, poetry and song, especially the famous Yellow River Cantata ― the anthem of Chinese national spirit ― to create a socially just China. Set during the period of the struggle against the Japanese and the war against the Kuomintang in the 1920s and ’30s, this book, written and illustrated by Guang Weiran’s award-winning artist son, Ange Zhang, illuminates a key period in China’s history. The passion and commitment of the artists who were born under the repressive weight of the Japanese occupation, the remnants of the decaying imperial order and the times of colonial humiliation are inspiring.
Zhang’s words and wood-block style of art tell us the story of his father’s extraordinary youth and very early rise to prominence due to his great talent with words. We see and hear the intensity of what it meant to be alive at such a significant moment in the history of China, a country that understands itself as the heir to one of the greatest civilizations the world has ever known. The humiliations and social injustice the Chinese people had endured in the colonial period were no longer bearable. And yet there were major factional differences between those who wanted to create a modern China. Ange’s words and art paint the picture for us through his father’s story, accompanied by sidebars that explain the historical context.
The book ends in a burst of glorious color and song, with the words of the Yellow River Cantata in Mandarin, as well as newly translated into English. This great song turns eighty years old in 2019, and will be sung and performed by huge orchestras and choirs around the world, as the Chinese diaspora has embraced the cantata as its own.
Moon is everything Christine isn’t. She’s confident, impulsive, artistic . . . and though they both grew up in the same Chinese-American suburb, Moon is somehow unlike anyone Christine has ever known.
But after Moon moves in next door, these unlikely friends are soon best friends, sharing their favorite music videos and painting their toenails when Christine’s strict parents aren’t around. Moon even tells Christine her deepest secret: that she has visions, sometimes, of celestial beings who speak to her from the stars. Who reassure her that earth isn’t where she really belongs.
Moon’s visions have an all-too-earthly root, however, and soon Christine’s best friend is in the hospital, fighting for her life. Can Christine be the friend Moon needs, now, when the sky is falling?
Jen Wang draws on her childhood to paint a deeply personal yet wholly relatable friendship story that’s at turns joyful, heart-wrenching, and full of hope.
Lalani of the Distant Sea by Erin Entrada Kelly
Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is a gorgeous, literary adventure about bravery, friendship, self-reliance, and the choice between accepting fate or forging your own path.
When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls ill with an incurable disease, Lalani embarks on a dangerous journey across the sea in the hope of safeguarding her own future. Inspired by Filipino folklore, this engrossing fantasy is for readers who loved Grace Lin’s Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Disney’s Moana.
Life is difficult on the island of Sanlagita. To the west looms a vengeful mountain, one that threatens to collapse and bury the village at any moment. To the north, a dangerous fog swallows sailors who dare to venture out, looking for a more hospitable land. And what does the future hold for young girls? Chores and more chores.
When Lalani Sarita’s mother falls gravely ill, twelve-year-old Lalani faces an impossible task—she must leave Sanlagita and find the riches of the legendary Mount Isa, which towers on an island to the north. But generations of men and boys have died on the same quest—how can an ordinary girl survive the epic tests of the archipelago? And how will she manage without Veyda, her best friend?
Newbery Medalist and New York Times–bestselling author Erin Entrada Kelly’s debut fantasy novel is inspired by Filipino folklore and is an unforgettable coming-of-age story about friendship, courage, and identity. Perfect for fans of Lauren Wolk’s Beyond the Bright Sea and Kelly Barnhill’s The Girl Who Drank the Moon.