New Release Spotlight: March 10, 2020 (Middle Grade Titles)

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Check out new middle grade titles this week from Brandi Colbert, Avi, and Kenneth Oppel!

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. This week’s YA and picture book 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!

*The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.

Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.

When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: African-Americans, friendship, secrets, identity, journals

Bloom by Kenneth Oppel

The invasion begins–but not as you’d expect. It begins with rain. Rain that carries seeds. Seeds that sprout–overnight, everywhere. These new plants take over crop fields, twine up houses, and burrow below streets. They bloom–and release toxic pollens. They bloom–and form Venus flytrap-like pods that swallow animals and people. They bloom–everywhere, unstoppable.

Or are they? Three kids on a remote island seem immune to the toxic plants. Anaya, Petra, Seth. They each have strange allergies–and yet not to these plants. What’s their secret? Can they somehow be the key to beating back this invasion? They’d better figure it out fast, because it’s starting to rain again…

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): science fiction, thriller, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: allergies, plants, aliens, Vancouver, Canada, survival

*Gold Rush Girl by Avi

Thirteen-year old Victoria Blaisdell longs for independence and adventure, and she yearns to accompany her father as he sails west in search of real gold! But it is 1848, and Tory isn’t even allowed to go to school, much less travel all the way from Rhode Island to California. Determined to take control of her own destiny, Tory stows away on the ship.

Though San Francisco is frenzied and full of wild and dangerous men, Tory finds freedom and friendship there. Until one day, when Father is in the gold fields, her younger brother, Jacob, is kidnapped. And so Tory is spurred on a treacherous search for him in Rotten Row, a part of San Francisco Bay crowded with hundreds of abandoned ships.

Booklist starred. They called it “one of Avi’s best.” WOW!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-9
  • Themes: Rhode Island, San Francisco, California, Gold Rush, 1800s, 19th Century, US history, stowaways, siblings, brothers and sisters, kidnapping, gender roles

Raise Your Voice: 12 Protests That Shaped America by Jeffrey Kluger

Protests and demonstrations have spread throughout the United States in recent years. They have pushed for change on women’s rights, racial equality, climate change, gun control, LGBT+ rights, and more. And while these marches may seem like a new phenomenon, they are really the continuation of a long line of Americans taking to their feet and raising their voices to cry out for justice.

From the Boston Tea Party to the suffragists, from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to Stonewall, peaceful (and not-so-peaceful) protest has been a means of speaking up and enacting change from the very founding of America. This new collection recounts twelve of the major protests throughout the country’s history, detailing the people behind them, the causes they marched for, and the impact they had.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5+
  • Themes: protests, activism, suffrage, civil rights, US history, women’s rights, climate change, gun control, LGBT+ rights, social justice

The Newspaper Club by Beth Vrabel (Author) and Paula Franco (Illustrator)

The Newspaper Club, book 1. Shortly after 11-year old Nellie Murrow, named for one of the fiercest journalists who ever lived and daughter of two (former) newspaper reporters, moves to sleepy Bear Creek, Maine, rumours of vandalism and attacks at the only park in town are keeping Nellie saddled to the house.

Some townspeople say the attacks are gang recruitments. Others blame a vagrant spotted on the hiking trails around town. But when Nellie thinks like a reporter, none of those explanations make sense. Something is happening at the park, but what? All of the fake online news and rumours are clouding the real news.

Nellie wants to break the story-and break free from the front yard-but she can’t do it alone. She needs a whole club if she’s going to start the town’s first independent newspaper-The Cub Report. Creating a newspaper from scratch is going to be tough; but for Nellie, making friends is even harder.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: journalism, newspaper, Nellie Bly, Maine, rumors, parks

*The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

On a spring morning in 1986, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work–Chernobyl–has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who’ve always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna.

In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother’s secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they’ve wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend’s life? Would you risk your own?

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: Chernobyl, Russia, grandmothers, friendship, Jewish characters, discrimination, alternating perspectives

Worse Than Weird by Jody J. Little

Hoping to ditch two months of chicken coops, kale, and her parents’ antiscreen rules, Mac MacLeod sets out to win a citywide food cart scavenger hunt and the money she needs for the summer coding camp of her dreams.

But Mac discovers more than just clues during her cross-city sprint–like how her weird parents might not be the worst thing compared to the circumstances of those around her.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: summer camp, coding, scavenger hunts, parent-child relationships, treasure hunts, food, food trucks





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