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

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This is another 3-list week! Links to the YA and picture books lists are at the bottom of this post. This is the middle grade list, which I generally define as Grades 4-7, with a few random Grade 3s and Grade 8s sometimes thrown in.

Starting off this week’s list is a new graphic novel from one of my favorites: Victoria Jamieson! I already ordered it for my 7th grader. What Lane? also looks interesting, especially as a book club novel paired with Jerry Craft’s New Kid.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. All these titles have been added to The Ginormous book list, which hit 600 titles this week!

*When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson (Author, Illustrator), Omar Mohamed (Author), and Iman Geddy (Illustrator)

Omar and his younger brother, Hassan, have spent most of their lives in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya. Life is hard there: never enough food, achingly dull, and without access to the medical care Omar knows his nonverbal brother needs. So when Omar has the opportunity to go to school, he knows it might be a chance to change their future…but it would also mean leaving his brother, the only family member he has left, every day.

FIVE STARRED REVIEWS! Definitely getting this one for my own son, who is a voracious graphic novel reader!

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: refugees, Africa, Kenya, refugee camps, special needs, brothers, hunger, orphans

The Prettiest by Brigit Young

THE PRETTIEST: It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be…until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.

Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her. Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two. And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.

It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.

SLJ Express starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: bullying, sexism, sexual harassment, objectification

*What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn’t think it’s his lane, but he goes. Here’s the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he’s not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he’s living in two worlds with different rules–and he’s been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends.

THREE STARRED REVIEWS! This would make an excellent choice for middle school book clubs or whole-school reads. I’m not a fan of the cartoonish cover though. It looks too young, more like an elementary book instead of middle school.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-8
  • Themes: racism, prejudice, discrimination, dares, biracial ethnicity, privilege, superheroes, Miles Morales, identity

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas

Justin doesn’t know anything these days. Like how to walk down the halls without getting stared at. Or what to say to Jenni. Or how Phuc is already a physics genius in seventh grade. Or why Benny H. wanders around Wicapi talking to old ghosts. He doesn’t know why his mom suddenly loves church or if his older brother, Murphy, will ever play baseball again. Or if the North Stars have a shot at the playoffs. Justin doesn’t know how people can act like everything’s fine when it’s so obviously not. And most of all, he doesn’t know what really happened the night his dad died on the train tracks. And that sucks.

But life goes on. And as it does, Justin discovers that some things are just unknowable. He learns that time and space and memory are grander and weirder than he ever thought, and that small moments can hold big things, if you’re paying attention. Just like his math teacher said, even when you think you have all the information, there will be more. There is always more.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: death of a parent, grief, loss, friendship, coming-of-age, bildungsroman

Beast: Face-To-Face with the Florida Bigfoot by Watt Key

Adam says he can’t remember where he was for the two months he went missing in a Florida swamp. That’s not true. He does remember. The truth: He was driving with his parents, and the car crashed when his father swerved to avoid colliding with a giant Sasquatch-like creature standing in the highway.

Haunted by his parents’ disappearance and hounded for claiming to have seen Bigfoot, Adam sets off into the deadly wilderness on a hunt for answers as to what really happened that night. The answer he finds is more terrifying–and more fascinating–than he could have imagined.

Give this one to Hatchet fans.

  • Genre(s): adventure, survival, mystery, scary stories, horror
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: Bigfoot, Sasquatch, Florida, missing parents, car accidents, swamps, explorers, nature, outdoors

Finally, Something Mysterious by Doug Cornett

Paul Marconi has always thought that Bellwood was a strange town, but also a boring one. Not much for an eleven-year-old to do. Fires are burning nearby, Paul’s parents are obsessed with winning a bratwurst contest, and his best friend, one of the founding members of their only-child detective club, the One and Onlys, is about to acquire a younger sister, sort of undoing their whole reason for existing. But then! Hundreds of rubber duckies have appeared on the lawn of poor Mr. Babbage without any explanation. Finally! There is something that Paul and his friends can actually investigate.

In the face of all these bizarre occurrences, Paul is convinced that uncovering who deposited the duckies will finally bring some sense to what has become an upside-down world. Soon the three friends have a long list of suspects, all with their own motives, but no clear culprit. When everything comes to a head at the town’s annual Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza, Paul discovers that some things don’t have an easy explanation and not every mystery can be solved.

Fans of Stuart Gibbs may like this one.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: puzzles, sleuths, puns, red herrings, amateur detectives

*A Game of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they’ve never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were… before she spoke up about their father’s anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called “A Game of Fox & Squirrels,” Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn’t prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she’d ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she’ll lose far more than just a game.

Pair with Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: Oregon, abuse, animals, tricksters, magic, games, quests, domestic violence, PTSD






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