New Release Spotlight: May 5, 2020 (Middle Grades)

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May is historically a huge month for new book releases, and while I still have my doubts that this May will be as awesome as previous Mays, it’s starting out strong. Because this week’s list is so large, I have split it into three groups: YA, middle grade, and picture books. This is the middle grade list. Picture books and YA titles are linked at the bottom of this post.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews. All titles on these lists have been added to The Ginormous book list, a searchable spreadsheet of all my Spotlight titles since October 2019.

*Once Upon an Eid: Stories of Hope and Joy by 15 Muslim Voices by S. K. Ali (Editor), Aisha Saeed (Editor), and Iman Rasheed (Illustrator)

Once Upon an Eid is a collection of short stories that showcases the most brilliant Muslim voices writing today, all about the most joyful holiday of the year: Eid!

Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy. The anthology includes a poem, graphic-novel chapter, and spot illustrations.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): short stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Muslims, holidays, Eid, culture, Ramadan, #ownvoices, identity, traditions

*Shuri: A Black Panther Novel by Nic Stone

Shuri is a skilled martial artist, a genius, and a master of science and technology. But, she’s also a teenager. And a princess. This story follows Shuri as she sets out on a quest to save her homeland of Wakanda.

For centuries, the Chieftain of Wakanda (the Black Panther) has gained his powers through the juices of the Heart-Shaped Herb. Much like Vibranium, the Heart-Shaped Herb is essential to the survival and prosperity of Wakanda. But something is wrong. The plants are dying. No matter what the people of Wakanda do, they can’t save them. And their supply is running short. It’s up to Shuri to travel from Wakanda in order to discover what is killing the Herb, and how she can save it, in the first volume of this all-new, original adventure.

Booklist and SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-10
  • Themes: superheroes, Marvel, The Black Panther, princesses

Tornado Brain by Cat Patrick

Things never seem to go as easily for thirteen-year-old Frankie as they do for her sister, Tess. Unlike Tess, Frankie is neurodivergent. In her case, that means she can’t stand to be touched, loud noises bother her, she’s easily distracted, she hates changes in her routine, and she has to go see a therapist while other kids get to hang out at the beach. It also means Frankie has trouble making friends. She did have one–Colette–but they’re not friends anymore. It’s complicated.

Then, just weeks before the end of seventh grade, Colette unexpectedly shows up at Frankie’s door. The next morning, Colette vanishes. Now, after losing Colette yet again, Frankie’s convinced that her former best friend left clues behind that only she can decipher, so she persuades her reluctant sister to help her unravel the mystery of Colette’s disappearance before it’s too late.

  • Genre(s): mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 5-9
  • Themes: ADD, Asperger’s Syndrome, sensory processing disorder, friendship, missing persons, twins, sisters

*We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly

Cash, Fitch, and Bird Thomas are three siblings in seventh grade together in Park, Delaware. In 1986, as the country waits expectantly for the launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger, they each struggle with their own personal anxieties.

Cash, who loves basketball but has a newly broken wrist, is in danger of failing seventh grade for the second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade on Main and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.

The Thomas children exist in their own orbits, circling a tense and unpredictable household, with little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga. As the launch of the Challenger approaches, Ms. Salonga gives her students a project—they are separated into spacecraft crews and must create and complete a mission. When the fated day finally arrives, it changes all of their lives and brings them together in unexpected ways.

Three starred reviews!

  • Genre(s): historical fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-8
  • Themes: alternating perspectives, siblings, 1980s, anger, twins, NASA, space shuttle Challenger, tragedy, school projects

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate (Author) and Patricia Castelao (Illustrator)

Bob (the dog in The One and Only Ivan) sets out on a dangerous journey in search of his long-lost sister with the help of his two best friends, Ivan and Ruby. As a hurricane approaches and time is running out, Bob finds courage he never knew he had and learns the true meaning of friendship and family.

Great timing with The One and Only Ivan becoming a movie this fall. Libraries will need multiple copies. Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): animal stories
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: friendship, adventure, hurricanes, dogs, siblings

Any Day with You by Mae Respicio

Kaia and her family live near the beach in California, where the fun of moviemaking is all around them. Kaia loves playing with makeup and creating special effects, turning her friends into merfolk and other magical creatures.

This summer, Kaia and her friends are part of a creative arts camp, where they’re working on a short movie to enter in a contest. The movie is inspired by the Filipino folktales that her beloved Tatang, her great-grandfather, tells. Tatang lives with her family and is like the sparkle of her special-effects makeup. When Tatang decides that it is time to return to his homeland in the Philippines, Kaia will do anything to convince him not to go.

SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: camp, movies, California, The Philippines, folklore, grandparents, grandfathers, family, home

One Last Shot by John David Anderson

For as long as he can remember, Malcolm has never felt like he was good enough. Not for his parents, who have always seemed at odds with each other, with Malcolm caught in between. And especially not for his dad, whose competitive drive and love for sports Malcolm has never shared.

That is, until Malcolm discovers miniature golf, the one sport he actually enjoys. Maybe it’s the way in which every hole is a puzzle to be solved. Or the whimsy of the windmills and waterfalls that decorate the course. Or maybe it’s the slushies at the snack bar. But whatever the reason, something about mini golf just clicks for Malcolm. And best of all, it’s a sport his dad can’t possibly obsess over. Or so Malcolm thinks.

Soon he is signed up for lessons and entered in tournaments. And yet, even as he becomes a better golfer and finds unexpected friends at the local course, be wonders if he might not always be a disappointment. But as the final match of the year draws closer, the tension between Malcolm’s parents reaches a breaking point, and it’s up to him to put the puzzle of his family back together again.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-7
  • Themes: arguing parents, competition, miniature golf, friendship, disappointing parents, family

Connect the Dots by Keith Calabrese

Is there anything more random than middle school? Sixth graders Oliver and Frankie don’t think so. Their first few weeks have been full of weirdness–lunchtime thievery, free beef jerky, and Matilda, the mysterious new girl who knows everything about them, but has a lot to learn about making friends.

But what if none of it is random at all? What if a reclusive genius is keeping an eye on them and making sure the tiny pieces of his puzzle fall into place, one by one, until strange, seemingly unconnected incidents snowball totally out of control? Imagine the odds! First a cardamom shortage takes down the school bully. Then a giant dog leads to some extracurricular spying. Soon Oliver is being followed and Matilda is hacking the FBI. And by the time they discover a gang of angry clowns and the world’s largest game of Mousetrap, an insanely brilliant plan has been set in motion that will change their lives forever.

Kirkus starred.

  • Genre(s): humor, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: bullying, middle school conspiracy theories, spying, capers, math, geniuses

The Sewer Rat Stink by Geronimo Stilton (Author) and Tom Angleberger (Author, Illustrator)

A stinky smell is taking over New Mouse City! No mouse can live like this! Geronimo and his best friend Hercule, the private detective, head underground into the sewer world of Mouse Island to investigate. Can they save the city from the stench?

A new graphic novel version of Geronimo Stilton–give it to fans of Dog Man. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, humor, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 2-5
  • Themes: mice, detective stories, recycling, conservation

Trespassers by Breena Bard

Debut author! Gabby Woods is looking forward to another summer vacation at her family’s lake house, even though she would rather bury herself in a mystery novel than make new friends. But soon Gabby meets Paige, a snarky kid from Chicago, and they get caught up in a local mystery: the sudden disappearance of a glamorous couple and the extravagant lake house they left behind.

To gather clues about the missing couple, Paige coaxes Gabby into trespassing. Though Gabby knows it’s wrong, each sneaky visit to the abandoned lake house uncovers new mysteries. With suspicions mounting about foul play, Gabby must decide what she’s willing to risk to uncover the truth, or if solving this mystery–and keeping her friendship with Paige–are more trouble than they’re worth.

  • Genre(s): graphic novel, mystery
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: summer, bookish, friendship, missing persons




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