New Release Spotlight: January 14, 2020 (Middle Grades)

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Favorite book on this week’s middle grade list? Without a doubt, that will be Go With the Flow. It may not be the most popular book with students, but we need more books that demystify and normalize menstruation. The protagonist of this graphic novel gets her period at school and–surprise, surprise–the school’s tampon dispenser is empty. After a bloody mess that her peers notice and comment on, the girls team up to show school administration that female health is at least as important as the football team. I’m so happy that a book like this exists!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s YA and middle grade Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. And don’t forget The Ginormous book list, which is now up to well over 300 titles!

Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena Newman (Author), Nathaniel Newman (Author), and Neil Swaab (Illustrator)

Normal. Who is to say what this word means? For Magda Newman, it was a goal. She wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments his friends took for granted. But Nathaniel’s severe Treacher Collins syndrome–a craniofacial condition–meant that other concerns came first. Could he eat without the aid of a gastrointestinal tube? Could he hear? Would he ever be able to breathe effortlessly? But Nathaniel looks at “normal” from a completely different perspective.

Point of view alternates between mother and son. Nathaniel’s photo on the wall at a hospital inspired RJ Palacio’s character Auggie from Wonder, and Nathaniel was apparently on-set for the filming of Wonder. I can’t tell exactly the extent that RJ Palacio actually worked with the family in her writing of the book, or if she worked with them at all. This would pair well with Wonder and Ugly

  • Genre(s): memoir, narrative nonfiction, biography
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: Treacher-Collins Syndrome, facial deformities, disabilities, bullying, siblings of disabled kids, mothers and sons, family, perseverance

*From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Debut author! Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed.

Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.

But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

Multiple starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: incarcerated parents, fathers and daughters, cooking, African-Americans, Boston, Massachusetts, biracial marriage, stepfamilies, racism, prejudice, racial profiling

Nessie Quest by Melissa Savage

Ada Ru finally thought her parents were going to agree to a Fitzhugh family vacation in Disney World the summer before sixth grade, until her father announces he’s taking a teaching position in Scotland, and moving the family there for the entire summer.

Ada Ru is anything but happy. She doesn’t like their new home, she hates haggis, and she certainly doesn’t like the idea that she will be away from her best friend all summer. To top it all off, there is said to be a monster in the lake near their house!

That’s when she meets Hamish Bean Timmy, Hammy Bean for short, captain of the Nessie Quest Monster Chaser boat tour. He knows everything there is to know about the fabled Loch Ness Monster and Scotland. But as the two unlikely friends embark on an epic adventure to spot the lake monster, they end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Scotland, Loch Ness Monster, moving, friendship, Scottish dialect

The Rabbits’ Rebellion by Ariel Dorfman (Author) and Chris Riddell (Illustrator)

“Rabbits don’t exist.” So decrees the new king, the Wolf of all Wolves, after conquering the rabbits’ homeland. He refuses to allow even one small, fluffy tail or long, soft ear into his kingdom. He orders the birds to broadcast this message far and wide. And he summons the old monkey to photograph him in his royal finery, performing his royal deeds. But in his darkroom, the monkey sees something strange developing in the photos. Is that a floppy ear? Whose grinning bunny teeth are those? How could it be?

I love the potential for fake news lessons here! Even the old monkey can see the rabbits in his photos. Rabbits do exist, no matter what the king decrees. I’m most definitely going to need to read this one!

  • Genre(s): picture book
  • Recommended for: PreS-Grade 5
  • Themes: allegory, rabbits, wolves, kings, fake news, animals

Go with the Flow by Karen Schneemann (Author), Lily Williams

Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs–or worse, squirms–at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.

Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?

Kirkus starred. Huge Goodreads ratings also!

  • Genre(s): nonfiction, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: menstruation, girl power, sexual health, rebellion, sexism

The Peacock Detectives by Carly Nugent

Debut author! Eleven-turning-twelve-year-old Cassie is an expert Peacock Detective. Her sharp eye for details is why the Hudsons from across the street call her every time their pet peacocks wander away.

But there are some things even the greatest Peacock Detective can’t figure out, like why her best friend is so angry lately; why her older sister is cutting her hair off; or why her parents are acting like they don’t know each other anymore. Cassie is an expert at solving things. But what’s a master detective to do when her whole world is changing, and all the answers are out of reach?

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: detectives, pets, Australia, family problems, death, mental illness

Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

I’ve been really impressed with the Rick Riordan Presents books so far! This new one also looks interesting and will be easy to booktalk with upper-elementary and middle schoolers. I will say that SLJ review was less-than-positive about incorrect or skewed Native American culture, even though the author is herself Native American (Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo).

Lately, seventh grader Nizhoni Begay has been able to detect monsters, like that man in the fancy suit who was in the bleachers at her basketball game. Turns out he’s Mr. Charles, her dad’s new boss at the oil and gas company, and he’s alarmingly interested in Nizhoni and her brother, Mac, their Navajo heritage, and the legend of the Hero Twins. Nizhoni knows he’s a threat, but her father won’t believe her.

When Dad disappears the next day, leaving behind a message that says “Run!”, the siblings and Nizhoni’s best friend, Davery, are thrust into a rescue mission that can only be accomplished with the help of Dine Holy People, all disguised as quirky characters. Their aid will come at a price: the kids must pass a series of trials in which it seems like nature itself is out to kill them. If Nizhoni, Mac, and Davery can reach the House of the Sun, they will be outfitted with what they need to defeat the ancient monsters Mr. Charles has unleashed. But it will take more than weapons for Nizhoni to become the hero she was destined to be…

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): mythology, fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Native Americans, twins, heroes, monsters, strong female protagonist, Navajo


Click on the images below to see more new releases for this week:



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