New Release Spotlight: September 17, 2019, Part II (Middle Grades)

It’s Day 2 of this week’s huge New Release Spotlight! Today, we’re looking at ten awesome new releases for the middle grades, which for this list includes Grades 3-8. I published the YA list yesterday, and the picture book list will post tomorrow.

I always like to write about a favorite book on this list in my intro, and today, I’m going to focus on two titles. The first is Guts by Raina Telgemeier. My 12-year old son, like so many kids his age, just devours graphic novels, and I’ve already ordered Guts for him from Book Depository. If you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past several years, every library serving kids and teens–every single one–needs this book. Buy lots of them–it’s easily September’s biggest book release.

The other book that got my attention this week is Saving Fable. There’s just something endearing about a “character in waiting” who gets a chance to create her very own story. And bibliophiles will love all the references to other book characters. Looks fab!

*The Skylarks’ War by Hilary McKay

Originally published in 2018 as Love to Everyone. Clarry Penrose finds the good in everyone. Even in her father, who isn’t fond of children, and especially girls. He doesn’t worry about her education, because he knows she won’t need it. It’s the early twentieth century, and the only thing girls are expected to do is behave.

But Clarry longs for a life of her own. She wants to dive off cliffs and go swimming with her brother Peter and cousin Rupert. And more than anything, she wants an education. She helps Peter with his homework all the time, so why can’t she manage it by herself? When war breaks out, Clarry is shocked to find that Rupert has enlisted. Then he is declared missing, and Clarry is devastated. Now she must take a momentous step into the wide world–for if she misses this chance, she may never make it.

PAGES: 324
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 5-10
GENRE: historical fiction
THEMES: WWI, Europe, siblings
READALIKES: The War That Saved My Life (Bradley), Secret Soldiers (Hutton)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred, BCCB starred, Hornbook starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The characters’ intricate relationships and deep bonds give unusual emotional ballast to the story, which provides a poignant portrait of an era and a war “where absolutely nothing made sense” and of teens catapulted prematurely into adulthood.” (Publishers Weekly Annex, 5 Nov 2018)

Hobgoblin and the Seven Stinkers of Rancidia by Kyle Sullivan (Author) and Derek Sullivan (Illustrator)

Set in the faraway (and terrible-smelling) land of Rancidia, where it’s good to smell bad and bad to smell good, this…send-up of Snow White follows the adventures of the profoundly stinky Hobgoblin as he flees the jealous wrath of a monstrous, democracy-hating ogre tyrant named Fiddlefart. Along the way, he joins forces with the Seven Stinkers–an outcast band of foul-smelling creatures (Grody the bog monster, Yucky the skunk ape, Icky the sloth, Musty the mummy, Fusty the moldy pirate skeleton, Poot the sentient dung ball, and Toot, the dung beetle), the adorable barking spiders, and a mysterious squirrel known only as The Huntress.

PAGES: 167
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 2-7
GENRE: fantasy
THEMES: Snow White, puns, potty humor, parody
READALIKES: The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom (Healy); Sisers Grimm series (Buckley)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Happy, rounded, nonthreatening cartoon illustrations make Hobgoblin’s delighted tooting downright charming. Some of the Seven Stinkers are female, and one has two mothers. As the stench-loving Rancidians would say: It stinks!” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Jul 2019)

Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs

Decades ago, Albert Einstein devised an equation that could benefit all life on earth–or destroy it. Fearing what would happen if the equation fell into the wrong hands, he hid it.

But now, a diabolical group known as the Furies are closing in on its location. In desperation, a team of CIA agents drags Charlie into the hunt, needing her brilliance to find it first–even though this means placing her life in grave danger.

In a breakneck adventure that spans the globe, Charlie must crack a complex code created by Einstein himself, struggle to survive in a world where no one can be trusted, and fight to keep the last equation safe once and for all.

PAGES: 392
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 5-8
GENRE: adventure
THEMES: geniuses, spies
READALIKES: The 39 Clues series (various authors), Alex Rider series (Horowitz)
STARS AND AWARDS: none

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Charlie is a terrific hero-outrageously smart, courageous, and still believable as a kid. After this explosive start, young readers will eagerly await her next adventure.” (Publishers Weekly, 22 Jul 2019)

Caught!: Nabbing History’s Most Wanted by Georgia Bragg (Author) and Kevin O’Malley (Illustrator)

A humorous look at how famous people got caught, including Joan of Arc, Blackbeard, Al Capone, and more! Outlaw, assassin, art thief, and spy, these fourteen troublemakers and crooks–including Blackbeard the pirate, Typhoid Mary, and gangster Al Capone–have given the good guys a run for their money throughout the ages. Some were crooked, some were deadly, and some were merely out of line–but they all got Caught! Features history’s most wanted: Joan of Arc, Sir Walter Raleigh, Caravaggio, Blackbeard, John Wilkes Booth, Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Mata Hari, Typhoid Mary, Rasputin, Vincenzo Peruggia (Mona Lisa thief), Bernard Kuehn (Pearl Harbor spy), Anna Anderson (Anastasia impersonator), and Al Capone.

PAGES: 218
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 4-9
GENRE: collective biography
THEMES: outlaws, crime, history
READALIKES: How They Croaked (Bragg), Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves and Other Female Villains (Yolen)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Bragg’s flippant tone and chatty prose style are nicely complemented by O’Malley’s cartoon illustrations. Between each chapter is a page or two of information related to the activities of those profiled and their times.” (Kirkus, 1 Jul 2019)

Harvey Comes Home by Colleen Nelson (Author) and Tara Anderson (Illustrator)

A young boy volunteering at a retirement home finds a stray dog and notices that it revives decades-old memories for a bitter resident. The boy bonds with the resident as he listens to stories about growing up in Saskatchewan during the Great Depression. Thanks to his new friend and his canine companion, the elderly man is able to pass away peacefully, immersed in fond memories of his youth.

PAGES: 218
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 4-7
GENRE: animal stories
THEMES: home, dogs, Great Depression, Canada
READALIKES: Because of Winn-Dixie (DiCamillo), Ranger in Time series (Messner)
STARS AND AWARDS: SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “The title clues readers into the final outcome, but it’s the middle that moves the plot along. Dog lovers will drool over this multi-generational story.” (Booklist, Aug 2019)

*Guts by Raina Telgemeier

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?

PAGES: 224
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 3-7
GENRE: graphic novel, memoir
THEMES: anxiety, school
READALIKES: Frazzled (Vivat), Real Friends (Hale)
STARS AND AWARDS: Hornbook starred, Publishers Weekly starred, SLJ starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “With young readers diagnosed with anxiety in ever increasing numbers, this book offers a necessary mirror to many.” (Kirkus, 1 Jun 2019)

Bernard Pepperlin by Cara Hoffman (Author) and Olga Demidova (Illustrator)

When a girl in a blue dress crashes the Mad Hatter’s eternal tea party, the sleepy Dormouse feels more awake than he has in a long time. He wishes he could follow her and be a part of her adventure. And as luck would have it, a surprising twist of fate sends the Dormouse on an adventure of his own, where he must not fall asleep. For he is destined to save a magical world outside Wonderland, and it will take all his courage–and a few new friends–to do it.

PAGES: 204
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 3-7
GENRE: fantasy, animal stories, adventure
THEMES: mice, Alice in Wonderland
READALIKES: The Rat Prince (Hodder), The Tale of Despereaux (DiCamillo)
STARS AND AWARDS: Kirkus starred

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Everything a fantasy should be and more.” (Kirkus starred review, 15 Jun 2019)

Pavi Sharma’s Guide to Going Home by Bridget Farr

12-year-old Pavi Sharma is an expert at the “front door face”: the perfect mix of puppy dog eyes and a lemonade smile, the exact combination to put foster parents at ease as they open their front door to welcome you in. After four foster families and two shelter stays, Pavi is a foster care expert, and runs a “business” teaching other foster kids all she has gleaned. With a wonderful foster family in mom Marjorie and brother Hamilton, things are on the upswing for the industrious Pavi.

Then during a visit to her old group home, Pavi meets Meridee: a new five-year-old foster kid, who is getting placed at Pavi’s first horrendous foster home. Pavi knows no one will listen to a kid, so she makes it her responsibility to save Meridee.

With help from brooding eighth grader Santos, Hamilton, and his somewhat obnoxious BFF Piper, this rag-tag group will set off on an important mission to keep Meridee from the home that haunts Pavi’s nightmares.

PAGES: 265
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 3-7
GENRE: realistic fiction
THEMES: school, foster families
READALIKES: Louisiana’s Way Home (DiCamillo), All the Impossible Things (Lackey), Planet Earth Is Blue (Panteleakos)
STARS AND AWARDS: none

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Her story is well imagined and the pacing is good, but it’s Pavi’s convincing first-person narration that gives this chapter book its momentum and its undeniable appeal.” (Booklist, Aug 2019)

Saving Fable by Scott Reintgen

TaleSpinners, Book 1. Indira has been a character-in-waiting her entire life. So she can’t believe her luck when she’s finally chosen to travel to Fable and study at the renowned Protagonist Preparatory, a school known for producing the best heroes. But Indira’s dreams of achieving hero status don’t exactly go as planned. A failed audition lands her in the school’s side-character track, and her best efforts to prove advisors–famous characters like Alice from Wonderland and Professor Darcy–wrong are constantly sabotaged.

Indira is starting to feel like an evil antagonist might be to blame. As the danger spreads, Indira discovers all of Fable is under siege. With her friends Maxi and Phoenix by her side, she pieces together clues that will reveal who is behind the dark magic threatening them all. But the more Indira uncovers, the more doubt she feels about her place in this world of stories. After all, can a side character really save the day?

PAGES: 365
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 3-7
GENRE: fantasy, adventure
THEMES: sidekicks, heroes, fairy tales, books, reading
READALIKES: Whatever After series (Mlynowski), The Bookwanderers (James), The Land of Stories series (Colfer)
STARS AND AWARDS: none

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “Thankfully, this is the first in a series in which every character is brimming with potential, just waiting to be picked up and read.” (SLJ, 1 Sep 2019)

The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan

Hartley Staples, near-graduate of middle school, is grappling with the fact that his older brother has run away from home, when he finds a handmade postcard that fascinates him. And soon he spots another. Despite his losing interest in pretty much everything since Jackson ran away, Hartley finds himself searching for cards in his small town at every opportunity, ignoring other responsibilities, namely choosing a topic for his final project. Who is G.O. and why are they scattering cards about the town?

PAGES: 174
RECOMMENDED FOR: Grades 4-8
GENRE: mystery
THEMES: coming-of-age, bullying, grief
READALIKES: I Am Princess X (Priest–for MS/HS readers), When You Reach Me (Stead)
STARS AND AWARDS: none

WHAT THE REVIEWS SAY: “A charmingly eccentric tale of briefly intersecting lives making meaning from art.” (Kirkus, 15 Jul 2019)

 

THIS WEEK’S SEQUELS (MIDDLES):
 

 

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