Spring always brings an abundance of riches when it comes to publishing. And this March is no exception. No matter your preference, you’ll find several middle-grade books to curl up with in bed, on your porch, or by a window watching the raindrops fall. Mouse over the titles for more about the books and/or to purchase.
Troublemaker by John Cho
Troublemaker (actor John Cho’s middle-grade debut) follows the events of the L.A. Riots through the eyes of twelve-year-old Jordan as he navigates school and family. This book will highlight the unique Korean American perspective.
Jordan feels like he can’t live up to the example his older sister set, or his parent’s expectations. When he returns home from school one day hoping to hide his suspension, Los Angeles has reached a turning point. In the wake of the acquittal of the police officers filmed beating Rodney King, as well as the shooting of a young black teen, Latasha Harlins, by a Korean store owner, the country is at the precipice of confronting its racist past and present.
As tensions escalate, Jordan’s father leaves to check on the family store, spurring Jordan and his friends to embark on a dangerous journey to come to his aid, and come to terms with the racism within and affecting their community.
The School for Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix
No matter what anyone tells you, I’m real.
That’s what the note says that Max finds under his keyboard. He knows that his best friend, Josie, wrote it. He’d know her handwriting anywhere. But why she wrote it—and what it means—remains a mystery. Ever since they met in kindergarten, Max and Josie have been inseparable. Until the summer after fifth grade, when Josie disappears, leaving only a note, and whispering something about “whatnot rules.”
But why would Max ever think that Josie wasn’t real? And what are whatnots? As Max sets to uncover what happened to Josie—and what she is or isn’t—little does he know that she’s fighting to find him again, too. But there are forces trying to keep Max and Josie from ever seeing each other again. Because Josie wasn’t supposed to be real.
This middle grade thriller from Margaret Peterson Haddix delves into the power of privilege, the importance of true friendship, and the question of humanity and identity. Because when anyone could be a whatnot, what makes a person a real friend—or real at all?
Drew Leclair Gets A Clue by Katryn Bury
In this modern take on Harriet the Spy, twelve-year-old Drew uses her true crime expertise to catch the cyberbully in her school—only to discover that family, friendship, and identity are the hardest mysteries to solve.
Drew knows what it takes to be a great detective. She’s pored over the cases solved by her hero, criminal profiler Lita Miyamoto. She tracked down the graffiti artist at school, and even solved the mystery of her neighbor’s missing rabbit. But when her mother runs off to Hawaii with the school guidance counselor, Drew is shocked. How did she miss all the clues? Drew is determined to keep her family life a secret, even from her best friend. But when a cyberbully starts posting embarrassing rumors about other students at school, it’s only a matter of time before Drew’s secret is out.
Armed with her notebooks full of observations about her classmates, Drew knows what she has to do: profile all of the bullies in her grade to find the culprit. But being a detective is more complicated when the suspects can be your friends. Will Drew crack the case if it means losing the people she cares about most?
Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros
Isaac and Marco already know sixth grade is going to change their lives. But it won’t change things at home—not without each other’s help.
This year, star basketball player Isaac plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork. Better grades will surely stop Isaac’s parents from arguing all the time. Meanwhile, straight-A Marco vows to finally win his father’s approval by earning a spot on the school’s basketball team.
But will their friendship and support for each other be enough to keep the two boys from falling short?
New From Here by Kelly Yang
When the coronavirus hits Hong Kong, ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe. Suddenly, Knox has two days to prepare for an international move—and for leaving his dad, who has to stay for work.
At his new school in California, Knox struggles with being the new kid. His classmates think that because he’s from Asia, he must have brought over the virus. At home, Mom just got fired and is panicking over the loss of health insurance, and Dad doesn’t even know when he’ll see them again, since the flights have been canceled. And everyone struggles with Knox’s blurting-things-out problem.
As racism skyrockets during COVID-19, Knox tries to stand up to hate, while finding his place in his new country. Can you belong if you’re feared; can you protect if you’re new? And how do you keep a family together when you’re oceans apart? Sometimes when the world is spinning out of control, the best way to get through it is to embrace our own lovable uniqueness.
Ellen Outside the Lines by A.J. Sass
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.
Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.
Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.
Kelcie Murphy and the Academy for the Unbreakable Arts by Erika Lewis
The Otherworld is at war. The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts trains warriors. And Kelcie Murphy―a foster child raised in the human world―is dying to attend.
A place at AUA means meeting Scáthach, the legendary trainer of Celtic heroes. It means learning to fight with a sword. It means harnessing her hidden powers and―most importantly―finding out who her parents are, and why they abandoned her in Boston Harbor eight years ago.
When Kelcie tests into the school, she learns that she’s a Saiga, one of the most ancient beings in the Otherworld. Secretive, shunned, and possessed of imposing elemental powers, the Saiga are also kin to the Otherworld’s most infamous traitor. But Kelcie is a survivor, and she’ll do whatever it takes to find her parents and her place in their world. Even if that means making a few enemies.
Honestly Elliot by Gillian McDunn
Highly-acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer, Gillian McDunn explores boyhood in a funny, big-hearted story about a kid trying to find the best way to be his best self.
Elliott has been struggling since his closest friend moved away, and he’s not too sure where he fits into his own family, especially since his newly remarried dad and stepmom are expecting a baby. His grades aren’t too great, he’s always forgetting things, and he doesn’t really like sports. All together, the result is someone the complete opposite of his dad—a fact they’re both very aware of. Elliott’s only solace is cooking, where he can control the outcome, testing exciting recipes and watching his favorite cooking shows.
When he’s paired with the super smart and popular Maribel for a school-wide project, Elliott worries they won’t see eye to eye. But Maribel is also looking for a new way to show others her true self and this project could be the chance they’ve both been waiting for. Sometimes the least likely friends help you see a new side to things . . . and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes before you figure out what’s right.
Where the Sky Lives by Margaret Dilloway
When life doesn’t make sense, twelve-year-old amateur astronomer Tuesday Beals has always looked to the stars above Zion National Park, where she lives. Her beloved late uncle Ezra taught her astronomy, but now their special stargazing sites are all she has left of him, along with his ashes and a poem that may be a riddle.
Then a new housing development next door threatens to ruin the night skies and her favorite astronomy spots. Desperate to focus on something besides the growing uncle-sized chasm between her and her mother, the park archeologist, Tuesday takes up photography with her best friend, Carter, after they find an abandoned camera. With this new way of seeing the universe, she tries to solve her uncle’s riddle to save the land.
But one day, a photo reveals clues about an endangered animal—one that could halt construction. Will the discovery be enough to save the park and keep the rest of her world from falling apart?
Hearts and Crafts: Squad Goals #1 by Lisa Papademetriou
Mackenzie Miller has big goals. For instance, conquering 7th grade—with projects. There’s the Mom Project (finding her a boyfriend—even if she says she’s not interested), the Friend Project (win back the BFFs who dumped her and make a new friend), and the Band Project (so what if she’s never planned a fundraiser? How hard can it be?).
But finding real-life romance is a lot more complicated than her mom’s favorite movies make it look. And last year’s friends still won’t tell Mackenzie what she did wrong. And the fundraiser? It has to be beyond impressive, since Mackenzie sort of accidentally promised a live band so amazing it will “make everyone poop their pants.”
The harder Mackenzie works to craft the perfect school year, the more she feels like she’s failing. She can do it all, can’t she? Or do her big goals require something more—like a little help from her friends?
The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help.
After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are.
Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House. At the Mayor’s suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen.
But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?
Me Three by Susan Juby
Eleven-year-old Rodney is starting sixth grade in a new school, in a new home in a new state. The new school is really old and smells like someone ate a couple of pounds of glue and then barfed it back up, and he’s in a class with a bunch of kids who seem to sort of hate him. Even his best friend won’t write him back. It’s strange, because just a couple of months ago, Rodney was one of the most popular guys in his fifth-grade class. He lived in Las Vegas, with his mom, older sister and his dad, who was a successful professional poker player.
Now his old life is over—his mom even says they shouldn’t tell anyone their real last name. Because of something his dad did. Or something people said that he did. His dad says it’s all a big misunderstanding, but he’s now staying in a center “for people who are having problems, like being addicted to drugs or gambling, or because other people don’t understand that you are just funny and friendly and sometimes you give people hugs or put your arm around them and they accuse you of taking liberties and ruin everything.”
Rodney is confident that it won’t be long until the misunderstanding is all cleared up and they can all go back to their old life. But he can only keep the truth at bay for so long . . .
Sir Fig Newton and the Science of Persistence by Sonja Thomas
Twelve-year-old Mira’s summer is looking pretty bleak. Her best friend Thomas just moved a billion and one miles away from Florida to Washington, DC. Her dad is job searching and he’s been super down lately. Her phone screen cracked after a home science experiment gone wrong. And of all people who could have moved into Thomas’s old house down the street, Mira gets stuck with Tamika Smith, her know-it-all nemesis who’s kept Mira in second place at the school science fair four years running.
Mira’s beloved cat, Sir Fig Newton, has been the most stable thing in her life lately, but now he seems off, too. With her phone gone and no internet over the weekend at her strict Gran’s house, Mira must research Fig’s symptoms the old-fashioned way: at the library. She determines that he has “the silent cat killer” diabetes. A visit to the vet confirms her diagnosis, but that one appointment stretched family funds to the limit—they’ll never be able to afford cat insulin shots.
When Mira’s parents tell her they may have to give Fig up to people who can afford his treatment, Mira insists she can earn the $2,000 needed within a month. Armed with ingenuity, determination, and one surprising ally, can Mira save her best (four-legged) friend before it’s too late?
In Honor of Broken Things by Paul Acampora
Three unlikely friends become partners in heartbreak and hope during a middle school pottery class in this powerful, poignant novel–perfect for fans of Gordon Korman and Lynda Mullaly Hunt.
At West Beacon Middle School, eighth graders Oscar Villanueva, Ellie Baptiste, and Noah Wright become unlikely friends during Introduction to Clay class. Oscar, a football star, just lost his little sister to cancer. Ellie’s been dragged away from Philadelphia by her single mom to a new life in West Beacon, a tiny Pennsylvania coal town that’s smaller than Ellie’s old school. Noah’s spent his whole life as a homeschooler and just started West Beacon Middle School as a result of his parents’ train wreck of a divorce.
Through art, football, failure, faith, and trust, the friends help one another to piece things back together again. In true friendship, they also discover that some injuries may never heal, some things can never be unbroken–and that’s okay too.
Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada Kelly
There are twelve kids in the seventh grade at Fawn Creek Middle School. They’ve been together all their lives. And in this small factory town where everyone knows everything about everyone, that’s not necessarily a great thing.
There are thirteen desks in the seventh-grade classroom. That’s because Renni Dean’s father got a promotion, and the family moved to Grand Saintlodge, the nearest big town. Renni’s desk is empty, but Renni still knows their secrets; is still pulling their strings.
When Orchid Mason arrives and slips gracefully into Renni’s chair, the other seventh graders don’t know what to think. Orchid—who was born in New York City but just moved to Fawn Creek from Paris—seems to float. Her dress skims the floor. She’s wearing a flower behind her ear.
Fawn Creek Middle might be small, but it has its tightly knit groups—the self-proclaimed “God Squad,” the jocks, the outsiders—just like anyplace else. Who will claim Orchid Mason? Who will save Orchid Mason? Or will Orchid Mason save them?
Turn the Tide by Elaine Dimopoulos
Mimi has a plan for her seventh-grade year: play piano in the Young Artists competition at Carnegie Hall with her best friend, Lee; enjoy a good old Massachusetts snow day or two; and work in her community garden plot with her dad. But all that changes when her family’s Greek restaurant falls on hard times.
The Laskarises’ relocation to Wilford Island, Florida, is a big key change for Mimi. Where does she fit in in this shell-covered paradise without Lee? Mimi is taken by the beauty of the island and alarmed by the plastic pollution she sees on the beaches. Then her science teacher, Ms. Miller, shows her class a TED Talk by Melati and Isabel Wijsen. At ages twelve and ten, they lobbied to ban single-use plastic bags on their home island of Bali—and won. Their story strikes a chord for Mimi. She’s twelve.
Could a kid like her make such a big change in a place that she’s not yet sure feels like home? Can she manage to keep up with piano, her schoolwork, and activism? And does confident and flawless Carmen Alvarez-Hill really want to help her with the movement?
Louisa June and the Nazis in the Waves by L.M. Elliott
Days after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Hitler declared war on the U.S., unleashing U-boat submarines to attack American ships. Suddenly, the waves outside Louisa June’s farm aren’t for eel-fishing or marveling at wild swans or learning to skull her family’s boat—they’re dangerous, swarming with hidden enemies.
Her oldest brothers’ ships risk coming face-to-face with U-boats. Her sister leaves home to weld Liberty Boat hulls. And then her daddy, a tugboat captain, and her dearest brother, Butler, are caught in the crossfire. Her mama has always swum in a sea of melancholy, but now she really needs Louisa June to find moments of beauty or inspiration to buoy her. Like sunshine-yellow daffodils, good books, or news accounts of daring rescues of torpedoed passengers.
Determined to help her Mama and aching to combat Nazis herself, Louisa June turns to her quirky friend Emmett and the indomitable Cousin Belle, who has her own war stories—and a herd of cats—to share. In the end, after a perilous sail, Louisa June learns the greatest lifeline is love.
For the Record by Monique Polak
Twelve-year-old Justine’s parents are recently divorced. She and her little sister, Bea, go back and forth between their parents’ homes in Montreal. Their mother, whose anxiety manifests as the need to control, believes that their father and beloved half-sister are a bad influence on Justine and Bea. So, she enlists Justine in collecting evidence that would lead to getting sole custody.
Justine accepts her mother’s view of her father at first and begins writing detailed notes about his behavior: He doesn’t stick to Bea’s strict bedtime. He’s late dropping them off at school. He makes sandwiches with white bread. But when Justine crafts an outright lie for her mother’s court case, she starts to question her mother’s behavior, and her own.
This thoughtful, supportive look at parental alienation and its impact on children tenderly balances this difficult topic with moments of joy, love, and connection. Throughout the book, Justine’s clever, unique voice guides readers as she navigates complicated family dynamics and summons the courage to tell the truth, no matter the consequences.
ILLUSTRATED AND GRAPHIC NOVELS
Once Upon a Tim by Stuart Gibbs, illus. by Stacy Curtis
Join New York Times bestselling author Stuart Gibbs in this first book in a hilarious, highly illustrated new middle grade series about a peasant boy who wants to be a knight, perfect for fans of Max & the Midknights.
Tim is just a peasant, but he dreams big. He wants more out of life than to grow up to be a woodsman like his father. Unfortunately, the only route to success in the kingdom of Wyld is to be born a prince. Still, Tim is determined. He is brave and clever and always tries to do the right thing—even though he rarely gets the credit for it.
Then news spreads that Princess Grace of the neighboring kingdom has been abducted by the evil Stinx and Prince Ruprecht needs a legion of knights to join him on his quest to rescue her. Tim finally has the lucky break he’s been waiting for, the opportunity to change his station in life. And even though he doesn’t know how to ride a horse or wield anything more deadly than a water bucket, he’s going to do whatever it takes to make sure his dream becomes a reality.
The Aquanaut: A Graphic Novel by Dan Santat
Dive in to this whimsically adventurous graphic novel from Caldecott-winning author-illustrator Dan Santat!
Ever since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been moping around Aqualand, a marine theme park. But Sophia’s world is turned upside-down when an “aquanaut” breaks into the park’s research lab.
To her amazement, Sophia discovers that the aquanaut is not what it seems: inside lives a band of goofy sea creatures! And when they all realize that Aqualand is more sinister than advertised, Sophia is determined to help the aquanaut crew free the park’s captive marine life before it’s too late.
Isla to Island by Alexis Castellanos
This stunning wordless graphic novel follows a young girl in the 1960s who immigrates from Cuba to the United States and must redefine what home means to her.
Marisol loves her colorful island home. Cuba is vibrant with flowers and food and people…but things are changing. The home Marisol loves is no longer safe—and then it’s no longer her home at all. Her parents are sending her to the United States. Alone.
Nothing about Marisol’s new life in cold, gray Brooklyn feels like home—not the language, school, or even her foster parents. But Marisol starts to realize that home isn’t always a place. And finding her way can be as simple as staying true to herself.
Wingbearer by Marjorie Liu, illus. by Teny Issakhanian
Zuli is extraordinary—she just doesn’t realize it yet. Raised by mystical bird spirits in the branches of the Great Tree, she’s never ventured beyond this safe haven. She’s never had to. Until now.
When a sinister force threatens the life-giving magic of the tree, Zuli, along with her guardian owl, Frowly, must get to the root of it. So begins an adventure bigger than anything Zuli could’ve ever imagined—one that will bring her, along with some newfound friends, face-to-face with an ancient dragon, the so-called Witch-Queen, and most surprisingly of all: her true identity.
This captivating middle-grade graphic novel, the first of a series, is perfect for fans of the Amulet books and the Wings of Fire series.
Big Nate: Beware of Low-Flying Corn Muffins by Lincoln Peirce
Sixth-grade dynamo Nate Wright has all kinds of big plans and tricks up his sleeve, including writing a new hit children’s book, trying to convince his dad to get him a new dog for Christmas, and helping his friend Chad score a new nickname at P.S. 38.
Along the way, he encounters resistance from all the usual suspects, including Mrs. Godfrey, classmate Gina, and anyone skeptical of his plans to become an award-winning author. And as usual, things never quite turn out exactly like he planned. Join Nate and friends for another laugh-packed installment of Big Nate comic fun.
Rebel Girls Climate Warriors: 25 Tales of Women Who Protect the Earth by Rebel Girls
Join Greta Thunberg for a climate strike. Plant a tree with Wangari Maathai. Stand with water protector Autumn Peltier. And turn trash into profits and independence with Isatou Ceesay. Rebel Girls Climate Warriors tells the stories of the ingenuity and commitment of these women and more, including Canadian novelist Margaret Atwood, Nigerian activist Esohe Ozigbo, Indigenous Ecuadorian leader Nemonte Nenquimo, and Thai landscape architect Kotchakorn Voraakhom. It is illustrated by female and nonbinary artists from around the world.
This collection of 25 stories follows in the footsteps of the New York Times best-selling series Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.
Unlock bonus audio stories of some of the extraordinary women and girls featured in this book on the Rebel Girls app. Whenever you come across a bookmark icon on the page, scan the QR code, and you’ll be whisked away on an audio adventure! You’ll also discover 100+ creative activities and stories of even more trailblazing women on the app.
Be the Boss of Your Stuff: The Kids’ Guide to Decluttering and Creating Your Own Space by Allie Casazza
Through her podcast, online courses, and first book titled Declutter Like a Mother, Allie Casazza has encouraged women to simplify and unburden their lives. Now she’s helping Moms equip their kids and tweens to discover the same joy of decluttering as they:
*Design and create a space that supports their interests and goals
*Make more room in their lives for playtime and creativity
*Increase productivity and find renewed focus for schoolwork
*Become conscientious consumers
*Learn valuable life skills
*Contribute to the family and household
*Cut down on cleaning time, reduce stress, and feel more peaceful
As she helps kids see that the less they own, the more time they have for what’s important, Allie breaks down each step of the decluttering process.