From magic and time travel to stink bugs and monster guts, these books are sure to keep your middle grade readers turning page after page. With so many great new books out there, it’s easy to miss gems, even when they can fill important thematic gaps on your shelves. To that end, here’s a round-up of some of our favorite middle grade titles we’ve had the privilege of publishing over the last several years, along with free discussion guides and other related downloads!
ZuZu’s first summer without her best friend is looking pretty grim, until she meets new kid Andrew at a visit to the historic Mapleton Mansion. Together they stumble upon some enchanted art supplies and discover that the shapes they draw and paint can come to life. Their creations are harmless—but ZuZu and Andrew aren’t the only ones with access to magic.
Soon, nightmarish half-machine, half-living creatures begin appearing around town, controlled by a power-hungry “caster” with a sinister mission. It’s up to ZuZu and Andrew to use their newfound abilities to protect their community.
Emily Barth Isler
After her brother’s death from a congenital heart defect, twelve-year-old Lucy is not prepared to be the new kid at school—especially in a grade full of survivors of a shooting that happened four years ago. Without the shared past that both unites and divides her classmates, Lucy feels isolated and unable to share her family’s own loss, which is profoundly different from the trauma of her peers.
Lucy clings to her love of math, which provides the absolute answers she craves. But through budding friendships and an after-school mime class, Lucy discovers that while grief can take many shapes and sadness may feel infinite, love is just as powerful.
“This book is a gift to the culture.” —Amy Schumer, writer, actor, and activist
Thirteen-year-old Eddie needs to do a community service project in preparation for his bar mitzvah. Against his better judgment, he ends up with a volunteering gig at Silver Brook Pavilion retirement home, where the residents call him “Eddie Whatever” rather than worry about remembering his last name. These old folks soon upend all Eddie’s assumptions about the boringness of the elderly. There’s a dramatic courtship unfolding, long-hidden secret identities, a rumor of a vengeful ghost, and a thief on the loose.
When suspicion falls on Eddie, he teams up with his fellow volunteer (and crush), Tessa, to solve the mysteries of Silver Brook.
Eleven-year-old Jack thought he had outgrown his imaginary friend, George—until his dad also disappears from his life. His mom’s bipolar disorder isn’t being properly treated, so while in the throes of a manic episode, she ditches Jack with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Jack decides that only George can help him figure out where people go when others stop believing in them—and how Jack can put his family back together.
Meanwhile, the imaginary George—half-walrus, half-human, all magic—has a problem of his own: with nobody to believe in him, he is slowly disappearing. Rejoining Jack is his only hope for survival. Or is it?
•A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year
If thirteen-year-old Marty Rafner had his way, he’d spend the summer of 1953 warming the bench for his baseball team, listening to Yankees games on the radio, and avoiding preparations for his bar mitzvah. Instead, he has to deal with FBI agents staking out his house because his parents—professors at the local college—are suspected communist sympathizers. Marty knows what happens to communists, or Reds, as his friends call them: They lose their jobs, get deported…or worse. Two people he’s actually met, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, have been convicted of being communist spies, and they’re slated to be executed in two months.
Marty just wants everything to go back to normal, but that’s impossible thanks to the rumors that his parents are traitors. As his friends and teammates turn on him and federal agents track his every move, Marty isn’t sure what to believe. Is his family really part of a Red Menace working against the United States? And even if they’re simply patriotic Americans who refuse to be bullied by the government, what will it cost them?
As the countdown to the Rosenbergs’ execution date continues, it may be up to Marty to make sure his family survives.
Twelve-year-old Finn is used to people in his family disappearing. His twin sister, Faith, drowned when they were three years old. A few months ago, his mom abandoned him and his dad with no explanation. Finn clings to the concrete facts in his physics books—and to his best friend, Gabi—to ward off his sadness. But then his grandmother tells him a secret: the women in their family are Travelers, able to move back and forth in time.
Finn’s mom is trapped somewhere in the timeline, and she’s left Finn a portal to find her. But to succeed, he’ll have to put his trust in something bigger than logic.
“This is an incredible book, no matter which time universe you’re in. I couldn’t put it down. One of my favorite debut novels of the year.”—Erin Entrada Kelly, New York Times bestselling author and 2018 Newbery Medal winner
Yu’er and her grandpa live in a small neighborhood in Beijing—and it’s full of big personalities. There’s a story around every corner, and each day has a hint of magic.
In one tale, Yu’er wants to swim in the Special Olympics, a sports competition for people with disabilities. But she and her grandpa don’t have a pool! Their trick to help Yu’er practice wows the whole neighborhood. In another story, a friend takes Yu’er to a wild place full of musical insects. Later, Yu’er hears a special story about her grandparents. And in the final story, Yu’er and her grandpa show a cranky painter the sweet side of life.
- A 2019 Batchelder Honor Book
- An ALA Notable Children’s Book
- An Eisner Nominee
- A New York Times Notable Children’s Book
- A Booklist Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth
- A New York Public Library Best Books for Kids
“Jun’s exquisite graphics . . . offer nonstop merriment and whimsical delight.”—starred, Booklist
Auma loves to run. In her small Kenyan village, she’s a track star with big dreams. A track scholarship could allow her to attend high school and maybe even become a doctor. But a strange new sickness called AIDS is ravaging the village, and when her father becomes ill, Auma’s family needs her help at home. Soon more people are getting sick—even dying—and no one knows why. Now Auma faces a difficult choice. Should she stay to support her struggling family or leave to pursue her own future? Auma knows her family is depending on her, but leaving might be the only way to find the answers to questions about this new disease.
•A BEA Editors’ Buzz Pick
•A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle-Grade Book of 2016
•A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year
“A hard-hitting story of a resilient and intelligent girl who bravely confronts a devastating health crisis.”—starred, Publishers Weekly
“Honestly told, Auma’s tale humanizes and contextualizes the AIDs experience in Kenya without sensationalizing it.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
“[A] moving testament to the power of determination to overcome overwhelming odds is a recommended purchase for all libraries.”—starred, School Library Journal
Audrey Hepburn, Roberto Clemente, Albert Einstein—kids know the names, but do they know what some of history’s most famous figures were like at the age of ten? Carlyn Beccia presents ten brief and beautifully illustrated biographies to give young readers a fresh look at the lives of people they may only know through history books. Colorful timelines provide context and add additional details about these extraordinary lives.
Kate Messner, Photos by Jake Messner
Galápagos giant tortoises are fascinating—and endangered. They live only on the Galápagos Islands, a chain of volcanic islands in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Ecuador. These tortoises face threats from the humans who live on—and visit—the islands, as well as from Earth’s warming climate.
Join author Kate Messner on an a journey to the Galápagos Islands to see these incredible creatures up close and discover how cutting-edge technology is helping scientists to study and protect them.
•An NSTA/CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for Students K-12
“Messner smoothly introduces her readers to the formation and population of this famous archipelago . . . Science at work in a unique setting.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, Illus. by Eugenia Nobati
Eek, you reek,
You make a funk.
Where you have been
Things stink, stank, stunk.
You’ve left a path,
A swath of smell,
You did it very well.
Readers will be delighted by the malodorous melodies of poems calling out the different pungent attributes of a full cast of foul-smelling creatures.
•A Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Book of 2018
“[T]he foolish foulness may just hook those who think poetry stinks. Rancid rhymes and syncopated stank and plenty of eeeew just for you.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews
Could Dr. Frankenstein’s machine ever animate a body? Why should vampires drink from veins and not arteries? What body parts are best for zombies to eat? (It’s not brains.)
This fascinating encyclopedia of monsters delves into the history and science behind eight legendary creatures, from Bigfoot and the kraken to zombies and more. Find out each monster’s origin story and the real-world history that informed it, and then explore the science of each creature in fun and surprising ways. Tips and infographics—including monster anatomy, how to survive a vampire attack, and real-life giant creatures of the deep sea—make this a highly visual and fun-to-browse book.
- A YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers
- A Children’s Book Committee at Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year
- A Booklist Top of the List 2019
- A Kirkus Reviews Best Middle-Grade Book of 2019
“A fantastically researched, absolutely delectable approach to science education.”—starred, Booklist
“Informative and entertaining throughout for readers undead or otherwise.”—starred, Kirkus Reviews