by Ashley Dickson-Ellison (@teachingtheapocalypse)
We know many of you are excited about celebrating Middle Grade March by reading lots of middle grade book picks! While I'm not a middle grade expert by any means, I've read quite a few middle grade picks over the last few years, and I'm excited to share some recent favorites with you all.
Middle Grade Book Recs Perfect for Middle Grade March Reading
Jerry Craft's New Kid ( Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): Despite hearing so many great things about this one from the time it came out, I just now finally read it, and I loved it! This graphic novel (which is the start of a series!) focuses on Jordan, a new student starting seventh grade at a private school. I read this one in December, and it made it on my list of favorite reads from 2022. Here's what I said about it there: "Jordan, one of the few students of color amid a predominantly white, mostly very wealthy student body, feels out of place on a number of levels. However, his placement at the private school makes friend dynamics in his home neighborhood challenging as well. And to make things harder, his parents are divided on the best pathway for him. Jordan feels like he doesn't quite fit in anywhere, and yet we see his kindness, his creativity, and his generosity of spirit shining through amid the challenges."
Tae Keller's When You Trap a Tiger (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): Lily and her mom and sister move in with her sick grandmother, and Lily finds herself face to face with a tiger that seems just like one of the tigers in her grandmother's Korean folk tales that she always told Lily. One thing Lily learned from her halmoni is that tigers are tricksters and to be careful what you bargain, but in her desperation to help her halmoni get well, she'll do anything. I loved so much about this powerful story. I shared this one as a pairing for Kelly Barnhill's The Girl Who Drank the Moon in episode 242, our book club episode this past November.
Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu's Measuring Up (Bookshop.org): This graphic novel focuses on Cici, a twelve year old who moves with her family from Taiwan to the US. When her family moves, her beloved A-má stays in Taiwan. Cici desperately wants her A-má to come visit them, but with the prohibitive cost of plane tickets, it doesn't seem possible. When an opportunity to participate in a cooking show for young chefs comes along, Cici decides to give it a try in hopes of winning the prize money so that she can buy a plane ticket. This is a lovely, compelling story full of beautiful illustrations.
Mae Respicio's The House that Lou Built (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): Lou comes from a large, loving Filipino family living in San Francisco. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother's house, and although she absolutely loves her family, she is also eager to have her own space. As a passionate young builder, Lou has a vision to build a tiny house where she can go. When circumstances come her way that create the opportunity to have a place to build, coinciding with a need to deepen her roots in the area, Lou jumps at the chance to make her dream a reality. I loved the way this book shows girls as builders
Elly Swartz's Finding Perfect (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): This story explores the protagonist Molly's attempts to keep her life from unraveling after her mother moves out of their family home. What at first looks like simple organization and a desire for routine becomes an increasingly invasive part of Molly's life as she finds herself panicking about the health and safety of her younger brother and unable to cope with the thoughts and patterns that are taking over. I really appreciated the way that this book explored the role that internal and external factors can play in the manifestation of mental health issues and how that can feel for a young person like Molly.
Middle Grade Books I've Shared Before
Once Upon an Eid (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org), edited by S. K. Ali and Aisha Saeed (This collection of short stories is perfect for the 2023 Unabridged Reading Challenge!): This collection is a gorgeous middle-grade work, and it conveys a wide array of different experiences, all of which center on Muslims celebrating Eid. Read my full review here.
Kacen Callender's King and the Dragonflies (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): This book captivated my attention from the second I started it, and I was so compelled to find out what was going to happen. I listened to this one on audio, and the narration by Ron Butler was outstanding. This was a strong five-star read for me. Check out my full review here.
Rebecca Stead's The List of Things that Will Not Change (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): Bea is the main character in this one, and she is sweet and fun and lovable, but she also has a lot of anxiety. She also has eczema. She is around twelve when she's telling the story, but over time readers learn that when she was eight, her mom and dad separated. When they divorced, they wanted to make sure that she understands that each of them loves her very much, and that they love each other but in a different way than they did. And so they make this list. And that's the title of the book-- it is the list of things that will not change. I loved this powerful book, and it has really stayed with me. I shared this one on Episode 195: Unexpected Joy - Books that Surprised Us in Excellent Ways.
Jasmine Warga's Other Words for Home (Libro.fm | Bookshop.org): I absolutely LOVED this brilliant middle-grade novel in verse. Warga covers so many important topics here in a beautiful, moving way that also propels forward the story. When the book begins, we meet Jude and her family and learn about the tension in Syria between people who want democracy and others who want the stability that comes with things remaining the same. Because of the instability in Syria, it's eventually decided that Jude will go with her newly pregnant mother to America, where her mother's brother already lives with his family. Read my full review of this brilliant book here.
What middle grade books are you loving? Let us know what we should add to our list!
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