New Release Spotlight – Middle Grade Books – Week of January 30, 2024

I’ve got six books on this week’s Middle Grade Spotlight, and three of them are graphic novels!

My top pick this week is The Wandering Hour by Zack Loran Clark! This book will be a popular pick for kids who love stories about cryptids and monster hunters. Give it to fans of Stroud’s The Screaming Staircase.

Links to the Google Slides presentation, printable list, the Ginormous Book List, and the YA and picture book Spotlights for this week are at the bottom of this post.


Realistic Fiction
Just Shy of Ordinary

Author: A.J. Sass

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: realistic fiction

Recommended for: Grades 3-9

Themes: homeschooling, LGBT+, trichotillomania (hair picking/pulling), anxiety, self-doubt, gifted and talented students, moving up a grade level, identity, new kid at school

Protagonist: genderfluid tween, age 13, white, 9th Grader, Jewish, homeschooled

Starred reviews: Publishers Weekly

Pages: 384

See it on Amazon


Thirteen-year-old Shai is an expert problem-solver. There’s never been something they couldn’t research and figure out on their own. But there’s one thing Shai hasn’t been able to logic their way through: picking at the hair on their arms.

Ever since their mom lost her job, the two had to move in with family friends, and the world went into pandemic lockdown, Shai’s been unable to control their picking. Now, as the difficult times recede and everyone begins to discover their “new normal,” Shai’s hoping the stress that caused their picking will end, too.

After reading that a routine can reduce anxiety, Shai makes a plan to create a brand new normal for themself that includes going to public school. But when their academic evaluation places them into 9th grade instead of 8th, it sets off a chain of events that veer off the path Shai had prepared for, encouraging Shai to learn how to accept life’s twists and turns, especially when you can’t plan for them.

Horror, Supernatural
The Wandering Hour

Author: Zack Loran Clark

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: thriller, supernatural, horror

Setting: fictional town of New Rotterdam, one of “America’s Most Haunted Cities”

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: monsters, monster hunting, cryptids, missing children, supernatural relics, magic, good vs. evil, urban legends

Protagonist: three 6th graders; one male and two females; one is Black and Dominican; other two are white

Starred reviews: Booklist

Pages: 224

See it on Amazon


New Rotterdam is no place for a kid―and that’s what Emrys Houtman likes about it. Emrys obsessively documents his town’s urban legends and cryptid sightings in a Wiki, along with his neighbors and fellow horror fans Hazel and Serena. It’s all in good fun until one day, the trio stumbles upon the Doomsday Archives, a collection of relics with dazzling powers and dangerous consequences.

When a mysterious blood-red hourglass begins appearing around town and children begin to go missing, the trio must band together to stop the horrors plaguing New Rotterdam, or risk losing their home . . . and possibly their lives. Because after all this time hunting monsters, the kids have realized the monsters are now hunting them back.

Early Graphic Novel
Day of the Living Liv

Author: Liv Livingston

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: graphic novel, supernatural

Setting: left side of Narrow Bridge, in Gloomsdale

Recommended for: Grades K-5

Themes: moving to a new neighborhood, ghosts, supernatural activity, new kid at school, school stories, fitting in

Protagonist: female, age 8, white; secondary cast is diverse

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 144

See it on Amazon


The only living girl in a ghost town struggles to find her place in the first book in the Spirited graphic novel chapter book series.

Olivia “Liv” Livingston thinks life on the right side of Narrow Bridge is, well, just right! What’s not to love about the perfect town of Pleasant Place? But then her parents pack up and move the family to the left, spooky side of the bridge…right into Gloomsdale.

Liv quickly learns that life is going to be very different, especially in a ghost town…literally. The town looks antique, some students have gleaming fangs, and let’s just say her new house might be haunted. Will Gloomsdale dampen Liv’s spirits? Or can she creep it real and find her place?

Graphic Novel, Humor
The Adventures of Invisible Boy

Author: Doogie Horner

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: graphic novel, humor

Recommended for: Grades 2-7

Themes: new kid at school, being invisible, science experiments, fitting in, making friends, school science fair

Protagonist: two boys who are polar opposites; both turn invisible due to a science fair accident

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 176

See it on Amazon


Think your wildest wish can’t come true? Just wait!

It’s his first day at a new school, and Stanley wishes he could disappear. He can hardly believe it when, after a big spill at the science fair, POOF!
Stanley is invisible! It’s awesome! He can do anything he wants, and no one will know!

But Stanley isn’t the only one who turned invisible. The inventor of the potion is not happy about the accident and takes his anger out on kids
all over town.

Stanley wants to use his power for good . . . which means going up against the one person who can make him visible again.

Get ready for a battle of the ages.

Graphic Fiction

Author: Ray Xu

Publication Date: January 30, 2024

Genre: graphic novel, realistic fiction, humor

Setting: Toronto, Canada; 1994

Recommended for: Grades 3-7

Themes: recent parental divorce, middle school, school stories, artists, everyday racism, immigrant families

Protagonist: male, age 10, Chinese Canadian

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 240

See it on Amazon


Kevin Lee is having a really bad week. Although he lives in a crowded Toronto apartment above the family’s alterations and dry-cleaning store, he mostly goes unnoticed. School isn’t exactly an oasis either—being one of the few Asian kids makes for some unwelcome attention. But when Kevin’s class plans a trip to Thrill Planet, a spectacular theme park, will he finally have a chance to turn his life around, or will it just be another day for Kevin Lee?

In Search of Superpowers

Author: Briana Lawrence

Illustrator: Joanna Cacao

Publication date: January 30, 2024

Genre: science fiction, adventure

Setting: Florida, USA

Recommended for: Grades 4-8

Themes: superpowers, family problems, telepathy, friendship, LGBT+

Protagonist: four 8th graders; all Black; one uses they/them pronouns; illustrations show range of body types and skin tones

Starred reviews: no starred reviews

Pages: 304

Notes: Includes occasional black and white illustrations.

See it on Amazon


Four kids. Four pins. Four superpowers. One dark secret.

Angela, Sophie, Travis, and Skylar are four normal middle schoolers. Angela and her dad just moved in with her future stepmom, but the wealthy neighborhood is not what’s she used to, and relations with the future stepmom are tough. Sophie lives in the shadow of her twin sister, Becca, and wants to find her own identity. Travis is his track team’s star, but he’s starting to think that video game coding (and his best friend) might be a LOT more interesting. Skylar is trying to help their family make ends meet . . . but sometimes, they’re stretched too thin.

After a mysterious explosion in the night, each of the four kids receives a limited-edition fantasy enamel pin. What’s more, it gives them superpowers! As the new friends work together to figure out where the pins came from and untangle their own livesthey discover a secret at the nearby theme park that might not be so fun after all.






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?

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