Favorite Middle Grade Novels of 2020 (so far!) for summer reading!

It’s August!  Eeeek!  Only one more month to catch up on our READING, so thought I’d post a list of favorite middle grade novels.   (You can read last summer’s post HERE)

Whether you know a child,  tween, or teen who might be looking for some great summer reading, or you are on the look-out for a new book for next year’s read-aloud, there is something here for everyone.

What trends have I noticed in MG novels this year?:  stories written from alternating points of view, relatable characters who stand up for injustices, and a good dose of spook!  Some very powerful books – well worth checking out!  Happy summer reading, everyone!

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A Field Guide to Getting Lost – Joy McCullough

So much to love about this book about Sutton, a girl with a passion for science and  Louis, a boy obsessed with robots who dreams of writing fantasy novels.  While the two have nothing in common, they must figure out how to get along when their parents start dating.  Told in alternating perspectives of Sutton and Luis, this book is so engaging and has such authentic characters and voice – readers will make SO many connections!  Loved it so much!

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Efren Divided – Enesto Cisneros

Raw, gripping and powerful.  Seventh-grader Efrén Nava’s world turns upside down when his mother, his Ama, his Superwoman, is suddenly deported.   Efren is left to dig deep to find courage as he struggles to look after his young brother and sister and find a way to get his Ama home.  An important book that will spark discussion about immigration policies and inequality.  Heart-breaking and heart-warming, I needed Kleenex for this one.

 

Rick – Alex Gino

Eleven year old Rick struggles with a toxic friendship and his sexual identity is as he navigates middle school feeling “different”.  Sequel to the popular book GEORGE by the same author.  This is an excellent introduction for younger tweens to the LGBTQIAP+ community, nonbinary pronouns and sexual identity.

The Blackbird Girls – Anne Blankman

Gripping historical fiction, told in two voices, tells the story of two young girls fleeing the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl.  Related story told through flashbacks of one of the girls fleeing the German invasion of Kiev during WWII.   Despite the horrible events both girls are experiencing, hope and the power of kindness shine through this book.  The details of daily life in Ukraine are fascinating.  If you enjoyed the HBO series “Chernobyl”, you will enjoy this book!

A Place at the Table – Saadia Faruqi

Told in alternating points of view, sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl are each in need of a friend.  Both girls are struggling with complicated home lives and a meet in a cooking class.  Mix in a cooking contest, middle school friendships, and a much-needed lesson on empathy, this book really surprised me.  Beautifully written and rich with important themes to discuss including race, religion and immigration, friendship, family, and how to make choices to be the type of person you want to be.

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From the Desk of Zoe Washington – Janae Marks

“Just Mercy” for kids!  Zoe Washington just turned twelve and has big plans to enter a kids baking show.  Things take a turn when she receives a letter from her biological father, whom she has never met and discovers he is in prison for a crime he says he did not commit.  She writes him back and so begins a summer filled with baking, friendship, and some important lessons about the criminal justice system that is accessible and easy for a tween to understand.   Another great surprise book for me.

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We Dream of Space – Erin Entrada Kelly

I can still remember vividly watching the Challenger tragedy unfold on TV.   Set in Jan, 1986 in the days leading up to the Challenger tragedy, this book is written from the perspective of Bird, Cash, and Finch – three different siblings living in a dysfunctional family.  Erin Entrada Kelly has captured the confusion and chaos of adolescence in a heartbreaking,  beautiful way.

Dress Coded – Carrie Firestone

A modern “Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?”, this powerful debut novel is told through narration, podcast episodes, and various letters.  So many themes to explore here, including girl-power, friendship, and standing up for what you believe in.  Molly, an eighth grader, starts a podcast to protest the unfair dress code enforcement at her middle school.  So relevant without being forced or fake.  EXCELLENT!

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Me and Banksy – Tanya Lloyd Kyi

Entertaining and thought provoking story that tackles the important issues of cyber bullying and cyber security in schools and includes themes of art and civic debates.  Dominica and her friends are targeted by a cyber bully, who is posting embarrassing images of them online.  They stage a protest to show how damaging the security cameras are to the students and teachers.  I loved the funny and engaging banter between the characters. This would be a great book to prompt a discussion with tweens about privacy issues in our digital world.  

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The One and Only Bob – Katherine Applegate

The much anticipated sequel to The One and Only Ivan did not disappoint.  In the story, we follow Bob after a tornado separates him from Julia while visiting his friends Ruby and Ivan. The story is action-packed, involves a diverse array of animals, and touches on the important topic of forgiveness.  You will be laughing in one moment and reaching for your Kleenex the next.  Bob’s voice is delightful and I love Katherine Applegate’s brilliant use of language, rich with metaphors and similes:  “When he opens the fridge, the light spills out like maple syrup on a hot pancake.” So many quotes worth savoring.  LOVE!

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Music for Tigers – Michelle Kadarusman

Beautifully written coming of age story set in Tasmania.  Louisa would rather spend the summer at home in Toronto playing her violin but instead is shipped off to spend the summer with her Uncle.  This book transports the reader to the lush Tasmanian rainforest of Australia as Louisa discovers a diary of her great grandmother.  In it, she learns a rich-family history to conserve the Tasmanian tigers.

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Stand Up, Yumi Chung! – Jessica Kim

This was such a fun, heart-warming story!  Shy Yumi Chung dreams of being a stand-up comedian one day, but that is not what her Korean immigrant parents have in mind for her.  When she stumbles across a comedy camp meeting in her neighborhood, Yumi finds herself pretending to be “Kay”, an absent student, and taking her spot in the camp.  I enjoyed this book so much.  It’s heartfelt and funny with many themes including family, comedy, and being your true self.  Lots of hype about this one, and now I know why!

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My Life as a Potato – Arianne Costner

I SO SO SO loved this book! (I know I say that a lot!)  It is laugh out loud funny and a perfect read-aloud for the beginning of the year.  Hilarious, accurate story of seventh grader Ben, convinced he is cursed by potatoes,  as he navigates his way through middle school with a main quest to avoid embarrassment.  Fans of the Wimpy Kid series will LOVE this book!  The character development is amazing, perfectly capturing the voice and mindset of a typical middle school student, complete with self-doubt and girl crushes.

Ghost Squad – Claribel A. Ortega

Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters  mixed together in this action-packed fantasy about two best friends, a ghost family and a quest for a spell book.  Twelve-year old Lucely Luna likes hanging out with her best friend, Syd, and spending time with her family.   Only most of her family are ghosts and she’s the only one who can see them.  If any book will be made into a movie this year – I predict this one!

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Bloom – Kenneth Oppel

High scores on the creep scale for this one!  Bloom is the first book in a trilogy (book #2 should be released in September) by wonderful Canadian author Kenneth Oppel, set in Salts Spring Island, B.C.   Killer vines begin a global invasion, growing fast and furiously after a rainfall.  Three teens: Anaya, Petra, and Seth, each with their own unusual trait, are the only ones who seem to be immune.  What’s their secret?  Eeeek!  This one actually creeped me out!  It’s a perfect suspenseful mix of dystopia, mystery, and horror. Sci-fi fans will fighting over this one!  Can’t wait for book #2!

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Cinders and Sparrows – Stefan Bachman

Spooky, charming adventure story filled with magic, witches, and a castle filled with ghosts.  Twelve-year old Zita is an orphan who discovers she has inherited an old castle and that she comes from a long line of powerful witches.  Zita, unfortunately, doesn’t know the first thing about being a witch.  The focus on family, friendship, and belonging in this story is fresh, magical, and enchanting.  Note – this book will be released in early October – just in time for Halloween!

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A Wolf for a Spell – Karah Sutton

I so enjoyed this magical retelling of of the classic Baba Yaga story told from the perspective of a wolf who must work together with the dreaded witch to save her pack and beloved forest.  The writing has a classic fairy tale feel and the author’s fresh twists and perspectives on this classic Russian witch tale really worked.

And there you have it!  My favorite Middle Grade novels so far this year!  Stay tuned for some exciting news about ordering these books for your school!

Thank for stopping by!  Hope one or two books have caught your eye!

 

 

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Filed under 2020 Releases, Diversity, environment, Family, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Identity, immigration, Middle Grade Novels, New Books, Novels, Point of View, Racism, Read-Aloud, Sci-Fi

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