Today’s post is sponsored by Candlewick and Elf Dog and Owl Head!
Title Elf Dog and Owl Head
Author and Illustrator M.T. Anderson and Junyi Wu
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date April 11th 2023 by Candlewick
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
From the singular imagination of National Book Award winner M. T. Anderson comes a magical adventure about a boy and his dog — or a dog and her boy — and a forest of wonders hidden in plain sight.
Clay has had his fill of home life. A global plague has brought the world to a screeching halt, and with little to look forward to but a summer of video-calling friends, vying with annoying sisters for the family computer, and tuning out his parents’ financial worries, he’s only too happy to retreat to the woods. From the moment the elegant little dog with the ornate collar appears like an apparition among the trees, Clay sees something uncanny in her. With this mysterious Elphinore as guide, he’ll glimpse ancient secrets folded all but invisibly into the forest. Each day the dog leads Clay down paths he never knew existed, deeper into the unknown. But they aren’t alone in their surreal adventures. There are traps and terrors in the woods, too, and if Clay isn’t careful, he might stray off the path and lose his way forever.
Graced with evocative black-and-white illustrations by Junyi Wu, Elf Dog and Owl Head is heartfelt and exhilarating, wry and poignant, seamlessly merging the fantastic and the familiar in a tale both timely and timeless.
I look forward to making Pop! Goes The Reader’s most-anticipated lists every single year! While being a mood reader means I’m not always able to strictly stick to a to-be-read list, it’s exciting to explore what’s being published in the months ahead. Posts like this help me better organize my thoughts and decide what I ideally want to prioritize and read first, not to mention give me lots to look forward to!
That said, I am doing things a little differently this year! Ordinarily my most-anticipated lists cover a six month time period (i.e January-June, July-December) but this year the lists I share will cover only three months at a time. This is not only because I find it extremely time-consuming and labour-intensive to cover such an enormous number of books at one time (For example, 2022’s January-June YA list was 100 books long!) but also because I think making these into slightly smaller posts will makes it easier for readers to consume. It can be really overwhelming to see a list of 100+ books, and because my goal is to specifically highlight the titles selected for my most-anticipated posts, this seems a little counter-productive. That said, I welcome all feedback about this issue. Did you like it better when the most-anticipated posts covered six months, instead? Please let me know in the comments!
Please Note: If you’re a middle grade author with a novel being published in 2023 and don’t see your book on one of Pop! Goes The Reader’s Most-Anticipated lists, please don’t be hurt or upset! This list is entirely subjective and based on my own personal reading taste. My favourite genres are contemporary and realistic fiction fiction, horror and historical fiction, which is why you won’t see many books outside of these genres on this list. While I try my best to remain up-to-date about upcoming releases, it’s also entirely possible that I simply haven’t learned about your book yet! If you’re the author of a 2023 middle grade novel that you think might make a good fit for me and Pop! Goes The Reader, please don’t hesitate to reach out – I would love to hear from you!
For even more wonderful middle grade novels being published in 2023, please check out this Goodreads list which currently includes over 200 MG novels being published this year for you to choose from. Hopefully you’ll be able to find the perfect book for you. Happy reading!
The publication dates listed below might be subject to change.
When eighth grader and aspiring journalist Indigo breaks an important story, exposing an unfair school policy, she’s suddenly popular for the first time.
The friends who’ve recently drifted away from her want to hang out again. Then Indigo notices that the school’s disciplinary policies seem to be enforced especially harshly with students of color, like her. She wants to keep investigating, but her friends insist she’s imagining things.
Meanwhile, Indigo stumbles upon a book by Black journalist and activist Ida B. Wells ― with private letters written by Ida tucked inside. As she reads about Ida’s lifelong battle against racism, Indigo realizes she must choose between keeping quiet and fighting for justice.
Urchin Beach isn’t the sort of place where bad things happen. The little seaside town is too lucky for that. But then one day, a thief steals something precious―the town’s dragonfly staff, which is the source of all its good fortune and the most important part of the upcoming Dragonfly Day Festival.
Amelia MacGuffin is no detective. She’s eleven, quiet, and unlike her four younger siblings, she has no special talents. But Amelia loves her town. Her family has lived there forever. Her parents run the Pacific General Store, and she and her best friends, Birdie and Delphine, are about to start middle school. If Amelia doesn’t find the staff, the Dragonfly Day Festival will be canceled.
The town needs that tourist money to survive. Unless she cracks the case, Amelia’s family will lose everything – including the adorable stray dog they’ve fallen in love with. She only has seven days to solve Urchin Beach’s crime of the century. It’s not a lot of time, but Amelia has her list of suspects. It might be the new kids next door. Or the grumpy mystery writer who lives in the town’s creepiest mansion. Or perhaps even someone closer to home.
Amelia wants to save the town. She wants to save the dog. She wants both, so much.
But first, she has to catch a thief.
A new middle grade novel from Adrianna Cuevas ― author of the Pura Belpré Honor Book The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez ― about a Cuban American boy who’s sent to work on a ranch as punishment for a school prank gone wrong, where’s he’s confronted with a mystery as inexplicable as it is familiar and discovers that uncovering secrets will lead to learning hard truths about himself.
Rafa would rather live in the world of The Forgotten Age, his favorite role-playing game, than face his father’s increasing restrictions and his mother’s fading presence. But when Rafa and his friends decide to take the game out into the real world and steal their school cafeteria’s slushie machine, his dad concocts a punishment Rafa never could’ve imagined ― a month working on a ranch in New Mexico, far away from his friends, their game, and his mom’s quesitos in Miami.
Life at Rancho Espanto isn’t as bad as Rafa initially expected, mostly due to Jennie, a new friend with similarly strong snack opinions, and Marcus, the veteran barn manager who’s not as gruff as he appears. But when Rafa’s work at the ranch is inexplicably sabotaged by a man who may not be what he seems, Rafa and Jennie explore what’s behind the strange events at Rancho Espanto ― and discover that the greatest mystery may have been with Rafa all along.
When You Reach Me meets Love Sugar Magic in this unforgettable middle grade novel where time travel, family recipes, and family secrets collide.
Maya’s grandmother, Halmunee, may be losing her memory, but she hasn’t lost her magic touch in the kitchen. Whether she serves salty miyeok-guk or sweet songpyeon, her stories about Korea come to life for Maya.
Then one day, something extraordinary happens: one delicious bite transports Maya and Halmunee into one of Halmunee’s memories. Suddenly they’re in Seoul, and Halmunee is young.
This is just the first of many secrets Maya will uncover: that she and her grandmother can travel through time. As Maya eats her way through the past, her questions multiply — until a shocking discovery transforms everything she thought she knew about family, friendship, loss, and time itself.
Brimming with heart and interspersed with seven family recipes that readers can make themselves, this is a story to savor by rising Korean American author Flora Ahn.
An unforgettable story of magic, mediums, and séances set during the Chicago World’s Fair from the author of the National Book Award finalist The Way Back.
Twelve-year-old orphan Eva Root travels the country pretending to channel spirits at séances. Her audiences swear their loved ones have spoken to them from beyond the grave. This, of course, is impossible.
But one day, Eva experiences another impossibility: she hears a voice in her head telling her to come to the World’s Fair in Chicago. There, she meets a mysterious magician who needs her help to bring magic to life. But as their work progresses, Eva begins to suspect that the project’s goals may not be as noble as they seem. And when tragedy strikes, Eva will have to reach beyond death itself to unravel the mystery of the magician’s plan — before it’s too late.
From the author of the National Book Award finalist The Way Back comes a story of what to do when you get burned by the magic you’ve been looking for all your life.
This heartwarming, beautifully written middle-grade historical novel about an untold American frontier story is destined to be a cherished classic.
North Dakota, 1905
After fleeing persecution in the Russian Empire, eleven-year-old Shoshana and her family, Jewish immigrants, start a new life on the prairie. Shoshana takes fierce joy in the wild beauty of the plains and the thrill of forging a new, American identity. But it’s not as simple for her older sister, Libke, who misses their Ukrainian village and doesn’t pick up English as quickly or make new friends as easily. Desperate to fit in, Shoshana finds herself hiding her Jewish identity in the face of prejudice, just as Libke insists they preserve it.
For the first time, Shoshana is at odds with her beloved sister, and has to look deep inside herself to realize that her family’s difference is their greatest strength. By listening to the music that’s lived in her heart all along, Shoshana finds new meaning in the Jewish expression all beginnings are difficult, as well as in the resilience and traditions her people have brought all the way to the North Dakota prairie.
From the author of Blue Skies comes a lively middle grade novel set in 1960s Texas about a young, alien-loving girl trying to clear her grandmother’s good name in this mystery that has humor, hijinks, and heart in equal measure.
It’s 1964, the Space Race is well underway, and eleven-year-old Magnolia Jean Crook and the other residents of Totter, Texas, are over the moon about UFOs.
The whole town is gearing up for the First Annual Come on Down Day — in just one week, they are hoping to host any and all space aliens who would like to visit Earth. But right before the kick-off party, a meteorite goes missing — and MJ’s beloved grandmother Mimi, who is the vice president of the Totter Unidentified Flying Object Organization, is the prime suspect.
MJ is desperate to show the town that this Crook is not a thief. The only problem is that there is a lot of evidence against her, and Mimi herself isn’t helping things. She’s acting suspiciously, pulling disappearing acts, and worst of all, can’t seem to answer any questions about where she was or what she was doing.
But much like UFOs, extraterrestrial visitations, and sending people to space, the impossible has been known to happen.
Take Pippi Longstocking’s joie de vivre, blend it with a 21st century urban setting, toss in a dog named Otto for good measure and what do you get? This joyfully carefree story about two unlikely friends.
It’s a pair of silver sequined sneakers that unexpectedly flips Emily’s comfortable, predictable world upside down. Or, more precisely, it’s the girl wearing them.
The shoes belong to Rani, who moves into Emily’s apartment building — and her life — with absolutely no one but her dog Otto. (Her research scientist mother is away in Patagonia.) And that’s only the first rule that Emily watches Rani break without hesitation.
But it’s not just that Rani breaks rules. Most of the time, she doesn’t seem to know the rules exist. Why can’t she bungee jump off their building? Or bring an ice cream truck to school?
For steady and orderly Emily, Rani’s approach to life feels impossible…and more than a little irresistible. But is there a place for her in Rani’s world? And should she find a way to make space for Rani in her own?
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
After Shannon accidentally lands a lead role in the summer musical, she realizes she has bigger things to worry about than stage fright in this contemporary middle-school novel about strained friendships, the positive power of theater, and the realities of being a tween with OCD.
Shannon Carter never considered herself much of a theater person. Not like her two BFFs, Elise, an actress, and Fatima, a techie. Shannon’s always been content to stay backstage, helping wherever she can. But when the director of the summer musical hears Shannon singing, he encourages her to step out of the wings and into the spotlight.
At first, Shannon is hesitant. As a twelve-year-old with obsessive-compulsive disorder, she depends on routine. But when she braves the audition, she discovers that center stage is the one place where she doesn’t feel anxious. She lands a lead role, and everyone in her life is ecstatic…except Elise.
To make matters worse, Shannon’s eccentric and opinionated grandmother moves in with her and her mom after a fluke house fire. As opening night approaches, Shannon feels pressure to save her friendship with Elise, to make Mom and Grandma Ruby act like grown-ups, and to follow the old theater adage The show must go on.
From APALA Honor award-winning author Susan Tan, a middle-grade novel about a girl who must overcome her worries to find the truth behind her town’s urban legend.
Mo is not afraid of toast. Just to be clear. She is afraid of fires, though. Which can be caused by everyday appliances, like toasters. So toast isn’t the problem, but you could say it’s the start of a slippery slope. Since her family’s recent move, Mo’s been eating oatmeal for breakfast.
Moving to a new town is never easy, but it’s even harder when you’re dealing with a stepdad who just left and a mom who can’t get out of bed long enough to find a new a job.
But Mo doesn’t have time to dwell on these things. Because it’s her job to keep her family together. To keep them safe.
So when an elephant starts to haunt her dreams ― and a mysterious spirit attacks her home ― Mo knows it’s up to her to intervene before things get too dangerous.
With her new friend, Nathaniel, she embarks on an investigation, searching for the truth about the town, its people, and their history. But things are much more complicated and tangled than she thought.
To find out what’s really going on, Mo might have to live a little dangerously after all.
From best-selling author, Dustin Brady comes a new illustrated novel series perfect for fans who love funny, unexpected adventures and wacky plot twists.
For kids, life can be boring, but Liam and Elsa know how to create their own fun — or so they think. After finding a $3 time machine at a garage sale, Liam uses the machine to summon Thomas Edison for help with his book report. It’s not until the time machine sends a different Thomas Edison from the 1930s that chaos ensues.
World’s Worst Time Machine is the newest series from best-selling children’s book author, Dustin Brady. Using his signature style, Brady’s laugh-out-loud sense of humor and daring adventure will keep even the most reluctant reader wanting to turn the page.
From award-winning YA author Leah Johnson comes her middle grade debut: a laugh-until-you-cry, cry-until-you-laugh story about friendship, change, and the power we have to love ourselves.
Ellie Engle doesn’t stand out. Not at home, where she’s alone with her pet fish since her dad moved away and her mom has to work around the clock . Not at the bakery, where she helps out old Mr. Walker on the weekends. And definitely not at school, where her best friend Abby — the coolest, boldest, most talented girl in the world — drags Ellie along on her never-ending quest to “make her mark.” To someone else, a life in the shadows might seem boring, or lonely. But not to Ellie. As long as she has Abby by her side and a comic book in her hand, she’s quite content.
Too bad life didn’t bother checking in with Ellie. Because when a freak earthquake hits her small town, Ellie wakes up with the power to bring anything back to life with just her touch. And when a video of her using her powers suddenly goes viral, Ellie’s life goes somewhere she never imagined — or wanted: straight into the spotlight.
Surviving middle school is hard enough. Surviving middle school when paparazzi are camped out on your front lawn and an international pop singer wants you to use your powers on live tv and you might be in love with your best friend but she doesn’t know it? Absolutely impossible.
Agnes has been raised to keep her opinions to herself, but how do you keep silent when you’re full of burning questions?
Agnes has been encouraged not to question authority by her mom — but that’s especially hard in religion class, where it bugs her that so much gets blamed on Eve and that God’s always pictured one way. Fortunately, Agnes’ anthropologist neighbor, Gracy, gets Agnes thinking after they rescue an opossum together. Playing dead didn’t serve the opossum well, so maybe it’s time for Agnes to start thinking for herself. And when Agnes learns that some cultures picture God as a female, she feels freed to think — and write — about things from new perspectives. As she and her best friend, Mo, encourage each other to get out of their comfort zone at school as the quiet kids, they quickly find it’s sorta cool seeing people react when they learn you are very much full of thought-provoking opinions.
Ann Braden has written a fast-paced, funny novel that will resonate with anyone who’s ever been afraid to say what they think or question the status quo.
The Penderwicks meets The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street in New York Times bestselling author Morgan Matson’s middle grade debut about a young girl who gets to know her mom’s side of the family and hunts for hidden treasure over the course of one chaotic summer.
For as long as Ryanna Stuart can remember, her summers have been spent with her father and his new wife. Just the three of them, structured, planned, and quiet. But this summer is different. This summer, she’s received a letter from her grandparents—grandparents neither she nor her dad have spoken to since her mom’s death — inviting her to stay with them at an old summer camp in the Poconos.
Ryanna accepts. She wants to learn about her mom. She wants to uncover the mystery of why her father hasn’t spoken to her grandparents all these years. She’s even looking forward to a quiet summer by the lake. But what she finds are relatives…so many relatives! Aunts and uncles and cousins upon cousins — a motley, rambunctious crew of kids and eccentric, unconventional adults. People who have memories of her mom from when she was Ryanna’s age, clues to her past like a treasure map. Ryanna even finds an actual, real-life treasure map!
Over the course of one unforgettable summer — filled with s’mores and swimming, adventure and fun, and even a decades-old mystery to solve — Ryanna discovers a whole new side of herself and that, sometimes, the last place you expected to be is the place where you really belong.
A hilarious, heart-warming summer adventure from the bestselling author of Talking To Alaska. For fans of Lisa Thompson, Stewart Foster and Mamma Mia!
It’s the first day of the holidays and Sam is roaming the island of Texel, imagining what it’d feel like to be the last person on earth. Then, like a whirlwind, 12-year-old islander Tess swoops into his life. Sam’s only option is to go along for the ride.
Soon he’s dancing the waltz, burying a pet canary and coming up with an especially weird plan to help Tess find her father, who doesn’t even know she exists. Along the way, Sam discovers the true meaning of family and what it is to be alive. One thing’s for sure – this is a holiday he’ll never forget.
Natty deals with moving after her mom’s departure by pulling a “Ted Lasso” and starting a pep squad in this standalone middle-grade novel about friendship and toxic positivity by the author of TBH and the Friendship List series.
When Natty’s mom kind of takes a break from her dad and sort of the whole family, Natty and her dad move to his childhood hometown of Miller Creek. Now she’s starting middle school for the second time, this time in Miller Creek — without her mom — or her BFF. But Natty’s doing great! Really. Anything is possible. And what’s the point of dwelling on the stuff that stinks when there’s so much good stuff to think about?
Natty is absolutely, positively sure that she can turn it all around. Like 1,000 percent sure. As long as she stays absolutely positive! She’ll get her dad off the couch, make her tons of new friends, and even convince her mom to come live with them in Miller Creek. First step? Starting a pep squad to spread the good vibes.
But what happens when the leader of the pep squad has no more cheer to give?
From Lisa Greenwald comes a heartfelt and reassuring novel about the pros and cons of always looking on the bright side, the ups and downs of making a fresh start, and the power of friendship.
When a celebrity chef’s new restaurant threatens Mila’s family’s food truck, she plans to expose them for the recipe thieves they are — even if that means dabbling in the Filipino folk magic she’s tried to avoid. Fans of Tae Keller and Lily LaMotte will cheer for this charming story about food, family, and finding the place you belong.
Mila may have moved to Coral Beach months ago, but it still doesn’t feel like home. She wants to belong, but a few awkward incidents with her new friends make her wonder if she’ll ever neatly fit into the super-samey small town.
Mila feels the only place she can be herself is at her dad’s Filipino-Indian food truck, The Banana Leaf. But when celebrity chef twins the Fab Foodie Brothers open a restaurant nearby, it turns out the food they are serving is exactly the same as The Banana Leaf’s – right down to the recipes!
Suspicious of the similarities, Mila teams up with family friend Ajay to investigate. She soon realizes that she needs to take the beloved Fab Foodie Brothers down before they run her family’s tiny truck out of town. But that means dabbling in the Filipino folk healing and magical traditions that she has shied away from her whole life…as well as alienating her new friends.
Does Mila have to choose between her family and fitting in? Or, like the best recipes, will a blend of the traditional and the unexpected mix into something truly special?
Ghost Squad meets Hotel Transylvania in this sweetly spooky fish-out-of-water middle grade story about a human girl who must put on the performance of her life when she realizes what she thought was a LARPing summer camp is full of real monsters!
With her stick-on fangs and widow’s peak drawn in waterproof eyeliner, Sylvie is an expert at pretending to be a vampire. More kids at school would know that if they bothered to join her monster LARPing (live action role playing) club. Not even her dad understands her passion for the undead and denies her request to attend a monster LARPing summer camp. But Sylvie is not so easily deterred.
She decides to tell her dad she’s attending another camp located near Monster Camp then sneak over to her real destination after he drops her off. Sylvie feels bad lying to her dad, but there’s no way she’s going to miss the chance to finally meet other kids that share her interests. And when she lays eyes on Monster Camp, she knows it was all worth it — the immersive campgrounds look like they came off a Hollywood lot!
But when an obnoxious kid dressed like a werewolf gets punished by being magically turned into a Pomeranian, Sylvie realizes she made a critical miscalculation. These aren’t LARPers, they’re real monsters, and Sylvie’s preferred costume means she’s placed with blood-sucking, human-biting campers who would breathe fire if they knew the truth about her. She has no choice but to try to stick it out by doing exactly what she does best: pretending to be a monster.
Four kids meet at an airport for one unforgettable night in this middle-grade novel by four bestselling and award-winning authors.
When a thunderstorm grounds all flights following a huge Muslim convention, four unlikely kids are thrown together. Feek is stuck babysitting his younger sister, but he’d rather be writing a poem that’s good enough for his dad, a famous poet and rapper. Hanna is intent on finding a lost cat in the airport — and also on avoiding a conversation with her dad about him possibly remarrying. Sami is struggling with his anxiety and worried that he’ll miss the karate tournament that he’s trained so hard for. And Nora has to deal with the pressure of being the daughter of a prominent congresswoman, when all she really wants to do is make fun NokNok videos. These kids don’t seem to have much in common — yet.
Told in alternating points of view, Grounded tells the story of one unexpected night that will change these kids forever.
From the beloved author of Posted comes the story of Zeke Stahls – A thoroughly-average twelve-year-old who somehow finds himself in a competition to be named the World’s Greatest Kid.
Zeke Stahls is not the best kid in the world. Some days he struggles just to be good. He’d rather be pulling pranks than doing extra credit, and he’s too busy performing experiments on his little brother, Nate, or tormenting his older sister, Jackie, to volunteer for charity. Which is why Zeke and his entire family are shocked when they receive word that he has been selected as a contestant in an online competition to find the World’s Greatest Kid.
Zeke has no idea how he was chosen for this, and he knows that measuring up to the other nominees – a saintly lineup of selfless, charming and talented do-gooders with photogenic smiles and hearts of gold – is hopeless. Still, with a $10,000 cash prize on the line, and Zeke’s mom struggling to hold the family together on her single-parent salary, he decides to give it his best shot. As Zeke concocts various plots to show the world just how “great” he is, however, he finds himself wondering what that word even means, and who gets to decide. And what kind of kid he wants – and needs – to be.
Perfect for fans of Kelly Yang and Rebecca Stead, this touching middle grade novel maps one girl’s quest to remember her grandfather through his scavenger hunts; reconnect with her family; and fight for her community in her rapidly changing hometown.
Thanks to her Ye-Ye’s epic scavenger hunts, thirteen-year-old Ruby Chu knows San Francisco like the back of her hand. But after his death, she feels lost, and it seems like everyone — from her best friends to her older sister — is abandoning her.
After Ruby gets in major trouble at school, her parents decide she has to spend the summer at a local senior center, with her grandmother, Nai-Nai, and Nai-Nai’s friends for company. When a new boy from Ruby’s grade, Liam Yeung, starts showing up too, Ruby’s humiliation is complete.
But Nai-Nai, her friends, and Liam all surprise Ruby. She finds herself working with Liam, who might not be as annoying as he seems, to help save a historic Chinatown bakery that’s being priced out of the neighborhood. And alongside Nai-Nai, who is keeping a secret that threatens to change everything, Ruby retraces Ye-Ye’s scavenger hunt maps in an attempt to find a way out of her grief — and maybe even find herself.
A warm, relatable middle-grade story about a friendship falling apart and the abandoned museum that becomes a shrine to lost connections
Vanessa isn’t sure which happened first: finding the abandoned museum or losing her best friend Bailey. She doesn’t know what to do with herself now that Bailey has left her behind — but when she stumbles upon an empty, forgotten museum, her purpose becomes clear. Vanessa starts filling the museum with her own artifacts and memories, hoping that perhaps, if she can find the right way to tell the story of her broken friendship, she can figure out how to make it whole again.
As Vanessa’s museum grows, it seems like the place might have the answers to other questions, too. Like why a mysterious work of art was left behind. Or how to deal with a military dad who’s trying to parent from thousands of miles away. Or why Vanessa’s bad habit is getting harder and harder to quit. Or even, maybe, how to set the past to rest and find a way to move forward.
Moving and charming, The Museum of Lost and Found is about how we grow apart from some people as we grow up — and how sometimes we can find new pieces of ourselves in the aftermath.
Breaking up is hard to do, especially when it’s with your best friend. Can these two ex-besties survive summer camp together?
Maddie and Chloe have always been best friends, until last year, when Chloe’s popularity and budding fame as an actor left Maddie in the dust one too many times. Their friendship is over, and they’re both ready to move on.
But when the girls arrive at summer camp, they discover that the universe isn’t ready to let go of this friendship just yet: They’re cabinmates, and each of them has to spend the summer with her ex–best friend. Is it time to try again, or are they doomed to drift apart for good?
A young girl aims to revitalize her lake town’s annual festival to reunite her family and honor her mom’s memory in this tenderhearted middle grade novel for fans of The Summer of June and Violets Are Blue.
Brooke’s mom always used to tell her, “It’s just a game.” But now that mom’s gone, Brooke is finding it hard to keep softball as just a game, when so much of her mom’s memory is woven into her favorite sport. And it doesn’t help that her older sister, Calla, has started avoiding the field, and Dad doesn’t have as much time to toss the ball in their backyard or go to all her games.
Then Brooke and her best friend, Derek, come across an album full of photos from when their town celebrated its annual Lakefest, a summer picnic that brought the whole community together at Brooke’s parents’ lake houses. When she brings up the idea to revive the event, Dad and Calla shut her down, but Brooke is certain that Lakefest can bring joy back to everyone in her town.
And maybe if her team of Derek and an unexpected classmate can pull off the picnic, her family can learn to heal and grow and create new memories, and Brooke can discover that she’s capable of more than she ever imagined.
A heartwarming debut from author Caroline Huntoon about a young figure skater discovering who they are on and off the ice.
Life isn’t easy on twelve-year-old Mars. As if seventh grade isn’t hard enough, Mars is also grappling with the recent death of their father and a realization they never got to share with him: they’re nonbinary. But with their skates laced up and the ice under their feet, all of those struggles melt away. When Mars’ triple toe loop draws the attention of a high school hot shot, he dares them to skate as a boy so the two can compete head-to-head. Unable to back down from a challenge, Mars accepts. But as competition draws near, the struggles of life off the rink start to complicate their performance in the rink, and Mars begins to second guess if there’s a place for them on the ice at all.
Skating On Mars is a tender examination of grief and a hopeful middle grade tale of self-discovery.
Lemon Peabody is certain that aliens visited Grandpa Walt thirty years ago, but she’s running out of time to prove it before he forgets his best story. This humorous and tenderhearted story about family, friendship, and always believing in yourself is for fans of Greg van Eekhout, Stuart Gibbs, and Hour of the Bees.
Lemon Peabody loves spending time with Grandpa Walt. Even though he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and moved to an assisted living facility, he’s still the same funny, loving grandpa he’s always been. One of Grandpa’s claims to fame is his story about meeting an alien years ago — and that it looked like a garden gnome. Ever since, it’s been something of a town-wide joke, and the cause of a rift between Grandpa and Lemon’s dad. Lemon is determined to find those extraterrestrial gnomes and vindicate Grandpa Walt — while Grandpa can still remember it.
Late one night, after seeing the flash of a spaceship during a storm, Lemon enlists the help of two friends to find out what might have crashed in the woods. But then the aliens find her, and nothing goes the way she expected. Lemon is sure she can convince the aliens to fix Grandpa Walt’s memory and bring back the grandpa she misses so much for good. But the aliens are dealing with problems of their own. With a little creativity and compassion, maybe they can all help one another.
Casey Lyall’s lively, voice-driven novel bursts with heart and humor. With family and friendship — and aliens! — at its core, Gnome Is Where Your Heart Is will captivate readers of Rebecca Stead’s and Wendy Mass’s Bob, Greg van Eekhout’s Weird Kid, and Adam Rex’s The True Meaning of Smekday.
From rising star Shakirah Bourne, author of Josephine Against The Sea, comes a mysterious adventure that explores one of the most chilling tales in Caribbean mythology: the faceless douen children.
Twelve year-old Serenity Noah has never told anyone about her recurring nightmares — the haunting images of silver butterflies whose flapping wings drive away all sound, leaving only suffocating silence in their wake. Her parents already favor her “perfect” younger brother, Peace, and she doesn’t want to be seen as the “problem” child.
Instead, Serenity’s found a productive way to channel her fears: creating a horror movie as scary as her nightmares.
When Peace suddenly becomes afraid of the dark and refuses to sleep alone, their parents take him away for “treatment” on Duppy Island. Serenity has a very bad feeling about the mysterious island and the facility’s creepy leader, Dr. Whisper. And when she sees a silver butterfly from her nightmares in the forbidden forest she realizes that something is seriously, dangerously awry.
But nothing could’ve prepared Serenity for the truth: the island is home to douens – faceless children with backward feet who are trapped in limbo between the world of the living and the land of the dead. And unless Serenity acts soon, her brother is going to join their ranks…
In this intimate and inspiring novel about the power of art and the value of community, award-winning author and former New Yorker Colleen Nelson brings life and liveliness to an eccentric cast of New York City neighbors.
Middle-schooler and Manhattanite Ruby Markowski wants to tell the truth fearlessly and powerfully, just like her idols at Veracity News. She and her best friend Scout already make YouTube videos together about East Village life, so when Veracity News announces a Young Voices video competition, Ruby knows it’s the perfect opportunity to make a name for herself, if only she can find a story worth telling. When a real-estate mogul threatens to buy her historic East Village apartment building, Umbrella House, Ruby sets out to create a video about the people who live in her building, depicting their love for art, community, and family.
With time — and her options for saving Umbrella House running out – Ruby finds herself caught up in the mystery of the Midnight Muralist, a famous East Village artist whose murals once buildings famous and valuable. Could finding this enigmatic artist be the key to saving her historic East Village apartment building?
Stella North (Virgo) has waited her whole life for a coveted birthday party invite that will guarantee a friend-filled summer in Washington. Forget summer, this opportunity could change her universe. Maybe in this universe, she’ll have less anxiety about big things, like the growing absence of her addict mom, and small things, like what everyone else is thinking or what she’s wearing or or or…breathe.
But those perfect summer plans implode when her Dad returns with a surprise from his business trip: his new fiancée, Whitney. Even worse, Stella and her brother have to spend the next couple of weeks in Whitney’s Las Vegas home pretending like these absolute strangers are her family. At least her potential stepsister feels the same way about ruining their parents’ wedding. Together, the girls set out to discover (and ultimately change) the future through astrology, crystals, and even Magic 8 Balls. Yet nothing can predict the surprising friends, new maybe-more-than friends, and ghosts from the past that Stella encounters on her quest to find calm in a galaxy beyond control.
The thrilling first book in the most extraordinary new fantasy series from debut author Pari Thomson.
Open the door to a spellbinding world where the wilderness is alive and a deep magic rises from the earth itself…
Eleven-year-old Daisy Thistledown is on the run. Her mother has been keeping big, glittering secrets, and now she has vanished. Daisy knows it’s up to her to find Ma―but someone is hunting her across London. Someone determined to stop her from discovering the truth.
So when Daisy flees to safety through a mysterious hidden doorway, she can barely believe her eyes ― she has stepped out of the city and into another world.
This is the Greenwild. Bursting with magic and full of amazing natural wonders, it seems too astonishing to be true. But not only is this land of green magic real, it holds the key to finding Daisy’s mother.
And someone wants to destroy it.
Daisy must band together with a botanical genius, a boy who can talk with animals, and a cat with an attitude to uncover the truth about who she really is. Only then can she channel the power that will change her whole world…and save the Greenwild itself.
Two seventh graders discover it takes more than grit and a good pair of shoes to run 13.1 miles. You’ve got to have a partner who refuses to let you quit.
Drew was never much of a runner. Until his dad’s unexpected diagnosis. Mia has nothing better to do. Until she realizes entering Half Moon Bay’s half-marathon could solve her family’s housing problems.
And just like that they decide to spend their entire summer training to run 13.1 miles. Drew and Mia have very different reasons for running, but these two twelve year olds have one crucial thing in common (besides sharing a birthday): Hope. For the future. For their families. And for each other.
From Julie Murphy, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’, comes a hilarious and creepy middle grade summer camp story that takes a bite out of fat camp and diet culture. Perfect for fans of Spooky Stories and Starfish.
Magnolia “Maggie” Hagen is determined to be in the spotlight…if she can just get over her stage fright. This summer, though, she has big plans to finally attend Camp Rising Star, the famous performing arts camp she’s been dying to go to for three whole summers.
But on the last day of school, her parents break the news: Maggie isn’t going to Camp Rising Star. She’s being shipped off to fat camp — and not just any fat camp. She’s going to Camp Sylvania, run by world-famous wellness influencer Sylvia Sylvania, who is known for her soon-to-be-patented Scarlet Diet.
When Maggie arrives at camp, things are…weird. There are the humiliating weigh-ins and grueling workouts, as expected. But the campers are also encouraged to donate blood — at their age! The cafeteria serves only red foods and the oddly specific rules change every day. There are even rumors of a camp ghost.
Despite these horrors, Maggie makes friends and starts to actually enjoy herself. There are even tryouts for a camp production of The Music Man! This place might not be so bad…until campers start going missing and other suspicious things begin happening — especially after dark. The camp ghost might be the least scary thing about this place…
In this emotional and riveting middle grade novel that’s The Misfits meets Hatchet, two unlikely friends fly off on an adventure they hope will set them free — only to learn the value of what they left behind.
Gerty has a secret: She’s building an airplane. She wants to join the Civil Air Patrol, where pilots as young as twelve help with disaster relief — but she knows her parents would be outraged. They’re survivalists who raised her to be independent and only enrolled her in middle school to show her why they’ve decided to opt out of society. Still, Gerty is determined to protect her beloved Pando, a nearby ancient aspen forest.
Hayes has some problems of his own, but they aren’t the kind that can be hidden under a tarp. His mom is back from prison, but he’s not sure he’ll ever stop missing the mom she used to be. One thing is certain: He’s never going to be like her. He follows the rules. But Gerty is the only person at school Hayes doesn’t hate, so after she tells him about her hidden plane, he helps her finish it.
When wildfires break out nearby, Gerty wants to fly to Pando and make sure it’s safe — and Hayes is tempted by the chance to escape everything on the ground. But the duo will soon realize that they can’t escape their roots — and that holding onto those connections might be the real key to survival.
What if Louis Sachar’s Wayside School were a little less wacky – but just as funny – and centered on a young Black boy who IS going to be the great inventor of all time, and set in the top STEM middle school in the country, oh and it was written by someone who worked for years in independent schools, and it also tackles what it’s like to live in a blended family and to stand up to a parent who’s not being so great and to truly work together with your peers?
It might look a little like J.E. Thomas’s Control Freaks.
Benjamin Banneker STEM Academy is the top middle school in Denver. Let’s just say the kids are…competitive. When Principal Yee announces the start of an epic Team Competition for the school, Frederick Douglass Zezzmer knows that trophy’s got his name on it. That’ll show his sports-obsessed Dad that he’s worthy, right? Only problem is, it’s a TEAM competition…and Doug isn’t so great working in a team environment (except with his best friend Huey, of course).
Control Freaks is a clever send-up of school – and a genuine portrait of a kid and family – that kids across the country will see themselves and find joy and connection in.
Groundhog Day meets Eighth Grade in this time-loop story set on the first day of school, from the critically acclaimed author of Candidly Cline.
Vivian Lantz is cursed. Every year, terrible things happen on her first day of school. This year, Vivian has a plan to conquer eighth grade. But eighth grade? Turns out to start with her worst first day yet.
Vivian can’t wait to put it all behind her. But instead of waking up to a brand-new day, Vivian somehow gets stuck reliving her catastrophic one. Curse: 9,000 – Vivian: 0. Then she sees her misfortune for what it is: the golden opportunity to get her perfect plan back on track. But when her second chance turns into a third, a fourth, and a fifth, Vivian might have to let go of the perfect day of her dreams…and make a few surprising choices along the way.
This delightfully awkward saga of first crushes, mean-girl drama, and unexpected magic is sure to please fans of Mark Oshiro, Lisa Jenn Bigelow, and Julie Murphy — and any reader who’s ever been nervous about their first day of school.
Perfect for fans of From The Desk of Zoe Washington, Maggie, her best friend Daija, and her new half-sister Callie team up to create the ultimate hair-braiding business, but the Braid Girls aren’t the only hairstylists on the scene — Available simultaneously in paperback.
Maggie’s world is turned upside down when she learns that her father, whom she admires, has a second daughter, Callie, whom no one knew existed. But she won’t let a new family member get in the way of her summer plans with best friend Daija. They’re determined to make tons of money braiding hair for kids around the neighborhood.
Daija’s always felt like she had a sister in Maggie. So she can’t let new half-sister Callie take her place! And she can’t let her interfere with their new Braid Girls business, either. She needs the money to pay for extra ballet lessons so she can go en pointe and earn a spot in the fall dance showcase, making her distant father proud at last — if she pulls this off, he’ll have to pay attention to her.
Callie’s still grieving her late mom. Now she’s leaving her old home in the Bahamas behind, including her old school and friends to move in with the father she’s never met, plus his family. When she hears of Maggie’s and Daija’s business, she sees a chance to prove her skills and a way to be accepted.
With three very different girls on board, the Braid Girls arrive to a summer camp full of kids with locs begging to be braided. Business is booming, until rival Angela shows up with her friends and starts a new braiding business — the Sistahs Who Braid. With competition heating up, the Braid Girls are sure to have an unforgettable summer.
In the spirit of Judy Blume, this empowering and heartfelt middle grade novel celebrates finding yourself, making new friends, and standing up for what’s right as a girl becomes involved in menstrual activism.
Ever since a career-ending injury, former elite gymnast Eden has been feeling lost. To add insult to actual injury, her mom has been invited to present at her middle school’s career day, which would be fine except Mom’s company produces period products like pads and tampons. Having the whole school hear about it is total humiliation. And when Eden gets into a fight with a boy who won’t stop mocking her for it, she and her classmate Maribel both end up getting suspended.
Mom’s corporate executive job means she doesn’t have time to look after Eden while she’s suspended, so Eden is sent to volunteer at the food bank Maribel’s mom runs. There, she meets new friends who open her eyes to period poverty, the struggle that low-income people with periods have trying to afford menstrual products. Eden even meets a boy who gets periods. Witnessing how people fight for fair treatment inspires Eden to join the advocacy work.
But sewing pads to donate and pushing for free access to period products puts Eden at odds with her mom. Even so, Eden’s determined to hold onto the one thing that’s ignited her passion and drive since gymnastics. Can she stand her ground and make a real difference?
The Gray is a sensitively told middle grade story from Chris Baron about living with anxiety and finding ways to cope.
It’s been a tough year for Sasha ― he’s been bullied at his middle school and his anxiety, which he calls the Gray, is growing. Sasha’s dad tells him to “toughen up” ― and he does, but with unfortunate, hurtful results. His parents and therapist agree that a summer in the country with his aunt might be the best medicine, but it’s the last place he wants to be. He’ll be away from his best friend, video games, and stuck in the house that reminds him of his beloved uncle who died two years earlier.
His aunt is supportive, and there are lots of places to explore, and even some potential new friends. When Sasha is introduced at a local ranch to a horse coincidentally – incredibly – nicknamed the Gray, he feels he’s found a kindred spirit.
But his own Gray is ever-present. When one of his new friends disappears, Sasha discovers that the country is wilder and more mysterious than he imagined. He tries to muster enough courage to help in the search…but will the Gray hold him back?
Perfect for fans of The Beatryce Prophecy and Catherine, Called Birdy, this historical middle grade coming-of-age story set in medieval times follows a strong-minded girl determined to prove she’s just as good a candlemaker as any boy.
Scholastica, or “Tick,” has grown up helping her father make candles in his shop. The experience has its ups and downs — while constantly smelling like tallow makes it hard for Tick to keep friends, stray cats love her. Still, she delights in the work and the fact that she can help Papa. Every summer, they use the long daylight hours to make as many candles as possible to sell at the Stourbridge Fair, the highlight of their year. And this year Tick is finally going to be allowed to make the special Agnus Dei charms that keep travelers safe.
Because she’s a girl, Tick can never be a true apprentice in the trade, but if she gets to do the job anyway, does it matter what she’s called? But one morning she finds a boy sitting at her workbench. Papa has taken on an apprentice and now Tick is forbidden from helping with the candle-making.
Tick isn’t about to stand for this unfairness. She’s going prove to Papa that she deserves to be his apprentice, even if it means sneaking away to the Fair…
A heartfelt coming-of-age novel about trying to find one’s place in the world, very much in the tradition of Judy Blume stories and perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl.
There are two things Ginny Pierce loves most in the world: geography facts and her father. But when her dad is deployed overseas and Ginny’s family must move to yet another town, not even her facts can keep her afloat. The geography camp she’s been anxiously awaiting gets canceled, and her new neighbors prefer her basketball-star sister. Worst of all, her dad is in a war zone and impossible to get ahold of. Ginny decides that running her own camp for the kids on her street will solve all her problems. But can she convince them (and herself) that there’s more to her than just facts?
With a fierce heart and steadfast determination, Ginny tackles the challenges and rewards of staying true to herself during a season of growth. This thoughtful novel explores the strength that develops through adversity; Ginny must learn to trust her inner compass as she navigates the world around her.
After being abandoned by her mother in a most unusual place, a defiant heroine sticks to her plan for staying hidden — even though getting caught could mean saving her life.
Twelve-year-old Mouse calls an amusement park home.
Nobody notices her, and that’s the way she likes it. Mouse sweeps the streets and wears a uniform she “borrowed” and sleeps on the top floor of the Haunted House of Horrors. She knows which security guards to avoid, eats the bagel left out each morning for the Ghost of Summer (a popular theme park legend), and even has the taco guy convinced that her lunch is paid for. She has her special hiding methods down to a science.
But one morning, a girl named Cat comes looking for Lauren Suszek. Cat notices her, and Mouse doesn’t like it. Mouse cannot let this nosy pest find out who she really is! If Mouse gets discovered living in the park, Mama might come back for her, and Mouse doesn’t want that. Or — even worse? — Mama might not come back at all.
Mouse knows she can lose this girl without blowing her cover. She just has to follow her rules. A carefully constructed life in the park is all she needs. Right?
Anchored by memorable characters and an extraordinary setting, Maura Jortner’s brilliant debut novel is bursting with grit, humor, and heart.
A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection
When a mysterious book by the legendary writer Jules Verne falls into the hands of three unlikely friends, it sets off a treasure hunt like no other — Get ready for a modern-day reimagining of The Goonies!
Owen Godfrey is spending his summer in Paris studying science fiction writer Jules Verne, the brilliant mind behind Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and Around the World in Eighty Days. When Owen and his new friends find what appears to be a dusty copy of Verne’s collected works in an old bookshop, they’re intrigued by the hidden codes written inside. As one clue leads to another, the trio gets swept up in an epic treasure hunt spanning the city — from the depths of the catacombs to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and by way of skateboard, boat, car, and even a hot air balloon! But they quickly realize they’re not the only ones searching for the hidden riches, and that there are others who will stop at nothing to get to them first.
This fast-paced larger-than-life adventure is filled with action, high stakes, and three friends who are dead set on cracking the Jules Verne mystery.
From critically acclaimed author Katrina Leno comes a fantastical middle grade novel about a boy determined to prove there’s more than just the weather behind his rainy town.
Oscar Buckle lives in a city where it’s always raining. And when it isn’t raining, it’s about to rain, so the townspeople have learned to embrace it. Oscar’s father is an umbrella maker — appropriate for a place where you can’t leave home without one! — but while Buckle Umbrellas are strong, reliable, and high quality, they’re expensive. Because of this, people are buying from the competitor instead, which is threatening Oscar’s family’s business.
To make ends meet, Oscar is forced to quit school and work in his father’s shop as an apprentice. But when extraordinary events start to occur in their rainy town, Oscar becomes suspicious of their competitor. Desperate to save his town, Oscar must enlist the help of his best friend, Saige, to discover if there’s more than nature involved in their city’s weather.