New Release Spotlight: June 2, 2020 (Middle Grades)

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Welcome to this week’s Middle Grade Spotlight! I’ve got three Spotlights this week because there are lots of great new releases to know about! For me, the standout titles on this week’s list are Sara and the Search for Normal (the prequel to OCDaniel) and The Way to Rio Luna.

As always, titles with a * by them received two or more starred professional reviews (none like that on this week’s middle grade list). This week’s YA and picture book Spotlights are linked at the bottom of this post. All titles have been added to The Ginormous book list, a searchable Google spreadsheet of over 700 new releases since October 2019. Bookmark it! I add to it every week!

Sara and the Search for Normal by Wesley King

Prequel to OCDaniel. Sara’s Rules to be Normal

1. Stop taking your pills
19. Make a friend
137. Don’t put mayonnaise on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Sara wants one thing: to be normal. What she has instead are multiple diagnoses from Dr. Ring. Sara’s constant battle with False Alarm—what she calls panic attacks—and other episodes cause her to isolate herself. She rarely speaks, especially not at school, and so she doesn’t have any friends. But when she starts group therapy she meets someone new. Talkative and outgoing Erin doesn’t believe in “normal,” and Sara finds herself in unfamiliar territory: at the movies, at a birthday party, and with someone to tell about her crush—in short, with a friend. But there’s more to Erin than her cheerful exterior, and Sara begins to wonder if helping Erin will mean sacrificing their friendship.

Sara is in seventh grade. I won’t be surprised to see this book on some state reading lists next year. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: mental health, panic attacks, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, selective mutism, group therapy, friendship, being normal, neurotypical, special education

The Woman’s Hour (Adapted for Young Readers): Our Fight for the Right to Vote by Elaine Weiss

American women are so close to winning the right to vote. They’ve been fighting for more than seventy years and need approval from just one more state.

But suffragists face opposition from every side, including the “Antis”–women who don’t want women to have the right to vote. It’s more than a fight over politics; it’s a debate over the role of women and girls in society, and whether they should be considered equal to men and boys.

Over the course of one boiling-hot summer, Nashville becomes a bitter battleground. Both sides are willing to do anything it takes to win, and the suffragists–led by brave activists Carrie Catt, Sue White, and Alice Paul–will face dirty tricks, blackmail, and betrayal. But they vow to fight for what they believe in, no matter the cost.

  • Genre(s): nonfiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-10
  • Themes: suffrage, feminism, activism, politics, gender roles, Nashville, Tennessee, perseverance, US history, social issues

Once Upon a Space-Time! by Jeffrey Brown

Jide and Petra are just two normal kids until they are selected to leave Earth and join their new alien classmates on an intergalactic research mission to Mars. Too bad Petra has no idea how she ended up in the program, seeing as the closest she wants to get to space is being a sci-fi writer. Jide, on the other hand, is the brains of the mission, but his helicopter parents make it clear he hasn’t left their gravitational pull behind quite yet.

What is meant to be an intra-species bonding experience soon turns to hijinx as the kids discover The Potato orbiting around their new space classroom and accidentally launch a mission of their own without any adult commanders around to supervise–or help!

  • Genre(s): science fiction, graphic novel, humor
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: Mars, space travel, writers, school, aliens

The Way to Rio Luna by Zoraida Córdova

Eleven-year-old Danny Monteverde believes in magic. He knows that pixie dust is real, that wardrobes act as portals, and that rabbit holes lead to Wonderland. Most of all, he believes that his older sister, Pili, is waiting for him somewhere in Rio Luna, the enchanted land in their favorite book of fairy tales.

Danny doesn’t care what the adults say. He knows that Pili isn’t another teen runaway. When the siblings were placed in separate foster homes, she promised that she’d come back for him, and they’d build a new life together in Rio Luna.

Yet as the years pass, Danny’s faith begins to dim. But just when he thinks it might be time to put foolish fairy tales behind him, he finds a mysterious book in the library. It’s a collection of stories that contain hints about how to reach another world. A map to Rio Luna…and to Pili.

As his adventure takes him from New York to Ecuador to Brazil, Danny learns that meeting your favorite characters isn’t always a dream come true. But nothing will stop him from finding his sister…even if it means standing up to the greatest threat the magical realm has ever known.

Booklist starred.

  • Genre(s): fantasy, adventure
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: South America, siblings, brothers and sisters, missing persons, runaways, foster children, magic, bookish, classic literature, Hispanic Americans, New York Public Library

Donut the Destroyer by Sarah Graley and Stef Purenins

Donut (middle name: The; last name: Destroyer) has a heart of gold and incredible strength. She lives in a world where everyone is born with a special ability and can choose whether to develop it for good or evil. Donut has just received the best news of her life–she’s been accepted to Lionheart School for Heroes!

But Donut’s parents are the most infamous villains around, and her best friend, Ivy, can’t understand why Donut would choose a life of boring heroism and ruin their plans to cause chaos. Donut is determined to prove that, despite her last name, she’s meant to go her own way and be a hero. Meanwhile, Ivy cooks up a plan to get Donut kicked out of Lionheart–and back on track to villainy!

  • Genre(s): adventure, graphic novel
  • Recommended for: Grades 3-7
  • Themes: heroes, villains, school, family expectations, confidence

Brave Like That by Lindsey Stoddard

Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is.

Cyrus is in sixth grade. SLJ starred.

  • Genre(s): realistic fiction
  • Recommended for: Grades 4-8
  • Themes: fathers and sons, firefighters, courage, dogs, animal stories, bullying




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