Well, we made it! On this first day of 2021, let’s take a look at some new middle-grade releases coming out this January–from memoirs to graphic novels to youth immigration stories. Hope 2021 is filled with these and many other good books for you to read!
Oh My Gods! by Stephanie Cooke and Insha Fitzpatrick, illustrated by Juliana Moon; HMH Books, out on January 5
Oh My Gods!, the first in a new middle grade graphic novel series, reads as if Raina Telgemeier and Rick Riordan teamed up to write a comic, and offers a fresh and funny spin on Greek mythology. When an average girl moves to Mt. Olympus, she discovers her new classmates are gods and mythological creatures are actually real—as if junior high isn’t hard enough!
Karen is just an average thirteen-year-old from New Jersey who loves to play video games with her friends and watch movies with her mom. But when she moves to Greece to live with her eccentric, mysterious father, Zed, suddenly everything she thought about herself—about life—is up in the air.
Starting a new school can be difficult, but starting school at Mt. Olympus Junior High, where students are gods and goddesses, just might take the cake. Especially when fellow classmates start getting turned to stone. Greek mythology . . . a little less myth, a little more eek! And if Karen’s classmates are immortal beings, who does that make her?
The In-Between by Rebecca K. S. Ansari;
Walden Pond Press, out on January 26
A dark, twisty adventure about the forgotten among us and what it means to be seen, from the acclaimed author of The Missing Piece of Charlie O’Reilly.
Cooper is lost. Ever since his father left their family three years ago, he has become distant from his friends, constantly annoyed by his little sister, Jess, and completely fed up with the pale, creepy rich girl who moved in next door and won’t stop staring at him. So when Cooper learns of an unsolved mystery his sister has discovered online, he welcomes the distraction.
It’s the tale of a deadly train crash that occurred a hundred years ago, in which one young boy among the dead was never identified. The only distinguishing mark on him was a strange insignia on his suit coat, a symbol no one had seen before or since. Jess is fascinated by the mystery of the unknown child— because she’s seen the insignia. It’s the symbol of the jacket of the girl next door.
As they uncover more information— and mounting evidence of the girl’s seemingly impossible connection to the tragedy—Cooper and Jess begin to wonder if a similar disaster could be heading to their hometown.
Green Card Youth Voices: Immigration Stories from Upstate New York High Schools, edited by Tea Rozman Clark and Julie Vang; Green Card Voices, out on January 26
The Green Card Youth Voices series is a collection of books dedicated to sharing the immigration stories of young, new Americans from all over the country, with Rochester and Buffalo as our next stops. The upcoming “Green Card Youth Voices: Upstate New York High Schools” is a collection of personal essays written by 29 authors from Twelve Corner Middle School, Bilingual Language and Literacy Academy, Lafayette High School, and Newcomer Academy, and residing in New York State. The book includes a study guide, and a glossary to help teachers use the book as an educational resource when teaching about immigration. Included in the book are first perspective stories, full portraits, maps, 5-minute edited video links, a study guide, and a glossary which all adds a multimedia dimension to this already dynamic collection.
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li
Quill Tree Books, out on January 12
This #ownvoices debut about losing and finding family, forging unlikely friendships, and searching for answers to big questions will resonate with fans of Erin Entrada Kelly and Rebecca Stead.
The only thing Rosalind Ling Geraghty loves more than watching NASA launches with her dad is building rockets with him. When he dies unexpectedly, all Ro has left of him is an unfinished model rocket they had been working on together.
Benjamin Burns doesn’t like science, but he can’t get enough of Spacebound, a popular comic book series. When he finds a sketch that suggests that his dad created the comics, he’s thrilled. Too bad his dad walked out years ago, and Benji has no way to contact him.
Though Ro and Benji were only supposed to be science class partners, the pair become unlikely friends: Benji helps Ro finish her rocket, and Ro figures out a way to reunite Benji and his dad. But Benji hesitates, which infuriates Ro. Doesn’t he realize how much Ro wishes she could be in his place?
As the two face bullying, grief, and their own differences, Benji and Ro must try to piece together clues to some of the biggest questions in the universe.
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day
Heartdrum, out on January 5
In this evocative and heartwarming novel for readers who loved The Thing About Jellyfish, the author of I Can Make This Promise tells the story of a Native American girl struggling to find her joy again.
It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.
Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.
But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?
Explorer Academy Future Tech: The Science Behind the Story by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh; Under the Stars, out on January 5
You’ve gone on adventures with Cruz Coronado and his fellow recruits as they communicated with whales using the Universal Cetacean Communicator, camouflaged themselves using the Lumagine shadow badge, and deployed octopods to make speedy escapes. Now dive further into the near-future world of Explorer Academy by learning about the real-life scientific discoveries that inspired the gadgets. This cool book profiles real-life National Geographic explorers who devised innovations like RoboBees (Mell); it features cutting-edge tech that’s actually being developed, and provides empowering stories of how tech is enabling conservation successes. Fields of study cover wearable technology, submersibles, robotics, medicine, space farming, everyday technology, and the world of the future.
Every good explorer craves information, and now it’s time to amp up your technology knowledge. After all, the near-future world of Explorer Academy is just across the horizon, and much of its tech is already shaping the world we live in.
Pity Party by Kathleen Lane; Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, out on January 19
Dear missing parts, broken hearts, picked-on, passed up, misunderstood,
Dear everyone, you are cordially invited, come as you are, this party’s for youWelcome to Pity Party, where the social anxieties that plague us all are twisted into funny, deeply resonant, and ultimately reassuring psychological thrills.There’s a story about a mood ring that tells the absolute truth. One about social media followers who literally follow you around. And one about a kid whose wish for a new, improved self is answered when a mysterious box arrives in the mail. There’s also a personality test, a fortune teller, a letter from the Department of Insecurity, and an interactive Choose Your Own Catastrophe.
Come to the party for a grab bag of delightfully dark stories that ultimately offers a life-affirming reminder that there is hope and humor to be found amid our misery.
While I Was Away by Waka T. Brown
Quill Tree Books, out on January 26
The Farewell meets Erin Entrada Kelly’s Blackbird Fly in this empowering middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to 1980s Japan, where she was sent as a child to reconnect to her family’s roots.
When twelve-year-old Waka’s parents suspect she can’t understand the basic Japanese they speak to her, they make a drastic decision to send her to Tokyo to live for several months with her strict grandmother. Forced to say goodbye to her friends and what would have been her summer vacation, Waka is plucked from her straight-A-student life in rural Kansas and flown across the globe, where she faces the culture shock of a lifetime.
In Japan, Waka struggles with reading and writing in kanji, doesn’t quite mesh with her complicated and distant Obaasama, and gets made fun of by the students in her Japanese public-school classes. Even though this is the country her parents came from, Waka has never felt more like an outsider.
If she’s always been the “smart Japanese girl” in America but is now the “dumb foreigner” in Japan, where is home…and who will Waka be when she finds it?