New Release Spotlight – Middle Grade Books – Week of January 9, 2024

The Middle Grades New Release Spotlight for this second week of January is on the short side! I’ve got five new titles for you today, including two illustrated chapter books for elementary!

I don’t really have a “top pick” for middle grades this week. These titles look good, but none of them are blowing me away as “must haves” for the library. For most of these, I think it depends on your students and what’s popular at your school.

First Day, Worst Day will be a popular pick among fans of James Patterson’s Middle School series.

If you are looking for new sports fiction titles, Slugfest by Gordon Korman will fit the bill nicely.

Lulu Sinagtola and the City of Warriors will be popular with fans of the Percy Jackson series or the Rick Riordan Presents books.

Newbie Fairy, book one of the new Oona Bramblegoop series looks like a cute choice for readers who love the Rainbow Magic series.

The Reckoning will be great for budding activists who are too young for The Hate U Give or Stamped.



Author: Gordon Korman

Publication Date: 9 Jan 2024

Genre: realistic fiction, humor

Setting: summer school PE class

Recommended for: Grades 4-8

Themes: summer school, sports, friendship, different abilities, alternating perspectives

Protagonist: perspectives alternate among five rising 9th graders who failed PE for some reason; all default to white

Starred reviews: Kirkus 


See it on Amazon


Realistic Fiction
The Reckoning

Author: Wade Hudson

Publication Date: 9 Jan 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Setting: small and segregated town of Morton, Louisiana

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: grandfathers, filmmaking, grief, Black history, social issues, racism, murder, racial violence, activism, civil rights, systemic racism

Protagonist: male, age 12, Black

Starred reviews: no starred reviews


See it on Amazon


Lamar can’t wait to start his filmmaking career like his idol Spike Lee. And leave behind his small town of Morton, Louisiana. But for now, Lamar has to learn how to be a filmmaker while getting to know his grandfather.

When Gramps talks about his activism and Black history, Lamar doesn’t think much about it. Times have changed since the old Civil Rights days! Right? He has a white friend named Jeff who wants to be a filmmaker, too, even though Jeff’s parents never let him go to Lamar’s Black neighborhood. But there’s been progress in town. Right?

Then Gramps is killed in a traffic altercation with a white man claiming self-defense. But the Black community knows better: Gramps is another victim of racial violence. Protesters demand justice. So does Lamar. But he is also determined to keep his grandfather’s legacy alive in the only way he knows how: recording a documentary about the fight against injustice.

Tagalog Mythology
Lulu Sinagtala and the City of Noble Warriors

Author: Gail D. Villanueva

Publication Date: 9 Jan 2024

Genre: fantasy, mythology

Setting: Silanganan Village, a subdivision of Manila, The Philippines

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: Tagalog mythology, monsters, kidnapped parents, rescue missions, magical powers, quests

Protagonist: female, age 11, Filipina, adopted

Starred reviews: no starred reviews


See it on Amazon


Lulu Sinagtala can’t wait for a fun Christmas break. She’s excited to hang out with her sister, Kitty, and best friend, Bart; to reenact her favorite legends from Tagalog folklore (like the amazing tale of Bernardo Carpio); and, of course, to eat as much yummy street-side inihaw as possible!

But when a vicious wakwak attacks her neighborhood and kidnaps Mom, Lulu discovers the creatures and deities of Tagalog myth are real and that two additional Realms exist beyond our own. To make it worse, Lulu has superhuman strength and the ability to wield magic, meaning she’s the only one powerful enough to stop the evil spirit who’s determined to rule the three Realms at all costs. No pressure, right?

Lulu, Kitty, and Bart set off on a quest to rescue Mom, where they outsmart cunning enemies, battle vengeful beings, and form unlikely alliances. Soon they find themselves swept into a centuries-long fight, unraveling secrets about Lulu and her past that threaten to upend everything and throw the whole universe into chaos. Can Lulu muster the strength (superhuman or not) to find out who she really is and who she can trust to save Mom and the three Realms before it’s too late?


Illustrated Chapter Book
Newbie Fairy

Author: Kate Korsh

Illustrator: Marta Altés

Publication Date: 9 Jan 2024

Genre: fantasy, humor, illustrated chapter book

Setting: Blackberry Bog, a magical fairy land

Recommended for: Grades 2-5

Themes: fairies, spells, magic, slugs, friendship, Tooth Fairy

Protagonist: young slug fairy, green skin

Starred reviews: no starred reviews


See it on Amazon


Oona Bramblegoop is a Newbie fairy, and she’s determined to do big things, especially if they can impress her idol, the Tooth Fairy. There’s just one problem: Oona’s magic never goes quite how she planned.

Oona’s protection spells work great, but only if you don’t mind getting a wedgie from a pair of magical underwear. And don’t even mention the smell disaster that resulted from her first fire spell…yikes!

Good thing Oona is creative, and she never gives up, no matter how surprising her magic gets.

Packed with Fun Fairy Facts, humor, and lots of heart, this magical series celebrates finding friendship and your place in the world, even if you fit in a little sideways.

Illustrated Chapter Book
First Day, Worst Day

Author: Andy Nonamus

Illustrator: Amy Jindra

Publication Date: 9 Jan 2024

Genre: humor, illustrated chapter book

Setting: elementary school

Recommended for: Grades 1-4

Themes: new kid in school, bad luck, anonymity, embarrassment, gross-out humor

Protagonist: male, white, bright orange hair

Starred reviews: no starred reviews


See it on Amazon


[REDACTED] keeps his name and school secret—even hiding his appearance behind stickers. Why? Because his bad luck is super embarrassing!

It’s the first day at a new school, and this fresh new start means absolutely no one knows just how unlucky he is. But after missing his school bus, getting lost looking for his classroom, and getting smacked in the face with a basketball, he quickly realizes he is doomed forever. Luckily, some new friends might just help him make it through the worst first day ever!

With easy-to-read language and illustrations on almost every page, The Very Worst Ever chapter books are perfect for emerging readers.




This is the YA New Release Spotlight for January 9, 2024.    This is the Middle Grade New Release Spotlight for January 9, 2024.    This is the Picture Book New Release Spotlight for January 9, 2024.      


The New Release Spotlight began in May 2016 as a way to help librarians keep up with the many new children’s and YA books that are released each week.

Each week, school librarian Leigh Collazo compiles the New Release Spotlight using a combination of Follett’s Titlewave, Amazon, Goodreads, and Barnes and Noble. Recommended grade levels represent the range of grade levels recommended by professional book reviewers. See the full selection criteria here.

Inevitably, there are far more books that meet my criteria than can make it on the Spotlight. When I have to make the tough decisions on what to include, I just use my “librarian judgment.” Would I buy this book for my own library? Would my students want to read this book? Is the cover appealing? Does it fill a need?

    Your Cart
    Your cart is emptyReturn to Shop