2022 Middle Grade Books to Have on Your Radar, Part One
I find myself reading more and more middle grade these days. It used to be that I mostly read YA and picked up a middle grade book when I had time in my reading schedule, but didn’t prioritize those books. I don’t know why, but it’s true. But now I will realize I’ve read a whole slew of middle grade books in a row and make myself go to my YA pile to start to make some progress there, too. There’s just SO MUCH good middle grade these days!
This list is heavy on the contemporary fiction. It’s what I like best. I’m not saying there are no good fantasy or sci-fi or whatever books—this is just my personal list of anticipated reads. I scrolled through various lists for a looong time and eventually decided I had to stop adding things to my list and seeking out more information. I’m sure I missed plenty of things that I, personally, would be very excited about. Thank goodness the internet and publishers will make sure I don’t overlook great books as release dates get closer! I’ll have to do another list in a few months as these all fall into the first half of the year.
Hop in the comments or catch me on Twitter @CiteSomething and tell me what you are excited to read in 2022!
All descriptions from the publishers or Goodreads summaries.
Operation Sisterhood by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich (ISBN-13: 9780593379899 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 01/04/2022, Ages 8-12)
Fans of the Netflix reboot of The Babysitters Club will delight as four new sisters band together in the heart of New York City. Discover this jubilant novel about the difficulties of change, the loyalty of sisters, and the love of family from a prolific award-winning author.
Bo and her mom always had their own rhythm. But ever since they moved to Harlem, Bo’s world has fallen out of sync. She and Mum are now living with Mum’s boyfriend Bill, his daughter Sunday, the twins, Lili and Lee, the twins’ parents…along with a dog, two cats, a bearded dragon, a turtle, and chickens. All in one brownstone! With so many people squished together, Bo isn’t so sure there is room for her.
Set against the bursting energy of a New York City summer, award-winning author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich delivers a joyful novel about a new family that hits all the right notes!
Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega (ISBN-13: 9781338745528 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/01/2022, Ages 8-12)
A magical adventure for fans of Amari and the Night Brothers and Nevermoor, about three witchlings who must work together to do the impossible if they have any hope of earning their full powers.
Every year, in the magical town of Ravenskill, Witchlings who participate in the Black Moon Ceremony are placed into covens and come into their powers as full-fledged witches.
And twelve-year-old Seven Salazar can’t wait to be placed in the most powerful coven with her best friend! But on the night of the ceremony, in front of the entire town, Seven isn’t placed in one of the five covens. She’s a Spare!
Spare covens have fewer witches, are less powerful, and are looked down on by everyone. Even worse, when Seven and the other two Spares perform the magic circle to seal their coven and cement themselves as sisters, it doesn’t work! They’re stuck as Witchlings—and will never be able to perform powerful magic.
Seven invokes her only option: the impossible task. The three Spares will be assigned an impossible task: If they work together and succeed at it, their coven will be sealed and they’ll gain their full powers. If they fail… Well, the last coven to make the attempt ended up being turned into toads. Forever.
But maybe friendship can be the most powerful magic of all…
With action-packed adventure, a coven of quirky witchlings, Claribel A. Ortega’s signature humor and girl-power vibes, you won’t be able to put down this middle grade Latine witch story.
New from Here by Kelly Yang (ISBN-13: 9781534488304 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 03/01/2022, Ages 8-12)
From the New York Times bestselling author of Front Desk comes a poignant middle grade novel about courage, hope, and resilience as an Asian American boy fights to keep his family together and stand up to racism during the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.
When the coronavirus hits Hong Kong, ten-year-old Knox Wei-Evans’s mom makes the last-minute decision to move him and his siblings back to California, where they think they will be safe. Suddenly, Knox has two days to prepare for an international move—and for leaving his dad, who has to stay for work.
At his new school in California, Knox struggles with being the new kid. His classmates think that because he’s from Asia, he must have brought over the virus. At home, Mom just got fired and is panicking over the loss of health insurance, and Dad doesn’t even know when he’ll see them again, since the flights have been cancelled. And everyone struggles with Knox’s blurting-things-out problem.
As racism skyrockets during COVID-19, Knox tries to stand up to hate, while finding his place in his new country. Can you belong if you’re feared; can you protect if you’re new? And how do you keep a family together when you’re oceans apart? Sometimes when the world is spinning out of control, the best way to get through it is to embrace our own lovable uniqueness.
Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros (ISBN-13: 9780062881724 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/15/2022, Ages 8-12)
Ernesto Cisneros, Pura Belpré Award-winning author of Efrén Divided, is back with a hilarious and heartfelt novel about two best friends who must rely on each other in unexpected ways. A great next pick for readers who loved Ghost by Jason Reynolds or The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez.
Isaac and Marco already know sixth grade is going to change their lives. But it won’t change things at home—not without each other’s help.
This year, star basketball player Isaac plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork. Better grades will surely stop Isaac’s parents from arguing all the time. Meanwhile, straight-A Marco vows on finally winning his father’s approval by earning a spot on the school’s basketball team.
But will their friendship and support for each other be enough to keep the two boys from falling short?
Ellen Outside the Lines by A. J. Sass (ISBN-13: 9780759556270 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/22/2022, Ages 8-12)
Rain Reign meets Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World in this heartfelt novel about a neurodivergent thirteen-year-old navigating changing friendships, a school trip, and expanding horizons.
Thirteen-year-old Ellen Katz feels most comfortable when her life is well planned out and people fit neatly into her predefined categories. She attends temple with Abba and Mom every Friday and Saturday. Ellen only gets crushes on girls, never boys, and she knows she can always rely on her best-and-only friend, Laurel, to help navigate social situations at their private Georgia middle school. Laurel has always made Ellen feel like being autistic is no big deal. But lately, Laurel has started making more friends, and cancelling more weekend plans with Ellen than she keeps. A school trip to Barcelona seems like the perfect place for Ellen to get their friendship back on track.
Except it doesn’t. Toss in a new nonbinary classmate whose identity has Ellen questioning her very binary way of seeing the world, homesickness, a scavenger hunt-style team project that takes the students through Barcelona to learn about Spanish culture and this trip is anything but what Ellen planned.
Making new friends and letting go of old ones is never easy, but Ellen might just find a comfortable new place for herself if she can learn to embrace the fact that life doesn’t always stick to a planned itinerary.
It’s the End of the World and I’m in My Bathing Suit by Justin A. Reynolds (ISBN-13: 9781338740226 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 04/05/2022, Ages 8-12)
A hilarious new middle-grade from Justin A. Reynolds that asks: What happens when five unsupervised kids face the apocalypse under outrageously silly circumstances?
Twelve-year-old Eddie Gordon Holloway has concocted his most genius plan ever to avoid chores… especially the dreaded L-A-U-N-D-R-Y. If he can wear all the clothes he owns, he’ll only have to do the laundry once during his school break.
On the day of the highly anticipated Beach Bash, Eddie’s monstrous pile of dirty laundry is found by his mom. And Eddie’s day has just taken a turn for the worst. Now he’s stuck at home by himself, missing the bash, and doing his whole pile of laundry. But mid-cycle, the power goes out!
With his first load of laundry wet and the rest of his stuff still filthy, he sets out to explore the seemingly empty neighborhood in his glow-in-the-dark swim trunks, flip-flops, and a beach towel. He soon meets up with other neighborhood kids: newcomer Xavier (who was mid-haircut and has half his head shaved), Eddie’s former friend Sonia (who has spent her entire break trying to beat a video game and was mid-battle with the final boss), and siblings Trey and Sage (who are dealing with major sibling drama).
As they group up to cover more ground and find out what happened, they realize that their families aren’t coming back anytime soon. And as night falls, the crew realizes that they aren’t just the only people left in the neighborhood, they might be the only people left… anywhere.
Alice Austen Lived Here by Alex Gino (ISBN-13: 9781338733891 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 04/05/2022, Ages 9-12)
From the award-winning author of George, a phenomenal novel about queerness past, present, and future.
Sam is very in touch with their own queer identity. They’re nonbinary, and their best friend, TJ, is nonbinary as well. Sam’s family is very cool with it… as long as Sam remembers that nonbinary kids are also required to clean their rooms, do their homework, and try not to antagonize their teachers too much.
The teacher-respect thing is hard when it comes to Sam’s history class, because their teacher seems to believe that only Dead Straight Cis White Men are responsible for history. When Sam’s home borough of Staten Island opens up a contest for a new statue, Sam finds the perfect non-DSCWM subject: photographer Alice Austen, whose house has been turned into a museum, and who lived with a female partner for decades.
Soon, Sam’s project isn’t just about winning the contest. It’s about discovering a rich queer history that Sam’s a part of — a queer history that no longer needs to be quiet, as long as there are kids like Sam and TJ to stand up for it.
Fibbed by Elizabeth Agyemang (ISBN-13: 9780593204900 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 04/05/2022, Ages 8-12)
For kids with big imaginations, a magical debut middle-grade graphic novel about a girl who doesn’t lie but no one believes, and who winds up tangled in the web of trickster spider of Ghanaian lore, Ananse.
Everyone says that the wild stories Nana tells are big fibs. But she always tells the truth, as ridiculous as it sounds to hear about the troupe of circus squirrels stealing her teacher’s toupee. When another outlandish explanation lands her in hot water again, her parents announce that Nana will be spending the summer with her grandmother in Ghana.
She isn’t happy to be missing the summer camp she’s looked forward to all year, or to be living with family that she barely knows, in a country where she can’t really speak the native language. But all her worries get a whole lot bigger—literally—when she comes face-to-face with Ananse, the trickster spider of legend.
Nana soon discovers that the forest around the village is a place of magic watched over by Ananse. But a group of greedy contractors are draining the magic from the land, intent on selling the wishes for their own gain. Nana must join forces with her cousin Tiwaa, new friend Akwesi, and Ananse himself to save the magic from those who are out to steal it before the magic—and the forest—are gone for good.
The Lucky Ones by Linda Williams Jackson (ISBN-13: 9781536222555 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 04/12/2022, Ages 8-12)
Award-winning author Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell the story of Ellis Earl, who dreams of a real house, food enough for the whole family—and to be someone.
It’s 1967, and eleven-year-old Ellis Earl Brown has big dreams. He’s going to grow up to be a teacher or a lawyer—or maybe both—and live in a big brick house in town. There’ll always be enough food in the icebox, and his mama won’t have to run herself ragged looking for work as a maid in order to support Ellis Earl and his eight siblings and niece, Vera. So Ellis Earl applies himself at school, soaking up the lessons that Mr. Foster teaches his class—particularly those about famous colored people like Mr. Thurgood Marshall and Miss Marian Wright—and borrowing books from his teacher’s bookshelf. When Mr. Foster presents him with a copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Ellis Earl is amazed to encounter a family that’s even worse off than his own—and is delighted by the Buckets’ very happy ending. But when Mama tells Ellis Earl that he might need to quit school to help support the family, he wonders if happy endings are only possible in storybooks. Around the historical touchstone of Robert Kennedy’s southern “poverty tour,” Linda Williams Jackson pulls from her own childhood in the Mississippi Delta to tell a detail-rich and poignant story with memorable characters, sure to resonate with readers who have ever felt constricted by their circumstances.
Apple Crush by Lucy Knisley (ISBN-13: 9781984896872 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/03/2022 Series: Peapod Farm Series #2, Ages 8-12)
After finally adjusting to life on a family farm with two brand new step-sisters, a young girl faces an even bigger challenge – figuring out where she fits in at her first year in middle school. This middle grade graphic novel explores family, friendship, and change!
Jen is just getting used to her life on Peapod Farm with her new stepsisters, Andy and Reese. But when the school year starts, there are even more changes in store for her. Jen has to navigate new friends and new challenges—but at least she’ll have Andy with her, right? As she starts the sixth grade, she finds that her stepsister seems way more interested in crushes and boys than hanging out with her, while Jen wants to know when the world decided boys and girls couldn’t be “just friends” anymore.
Jen’s story continues in the standout sequel to Stepping Stones that captures everything awesome (and scary) about growing up.
Growing Pangs by Kathryn Ormsbee, Molly Brooks (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593301319 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/03/2022, Ages 8-12)
New grade. New friends. New worries? Introducing an irresistibly honest, relatable graphic novel about friendship, anxiety, and growing up–just right for fans of Real Friends and Guts!
Katie knows there’s stuff that makes her different. She’s homeschooled, she has freckles, and her teeth are really crooked. But none of these things matter to Kacey. They’re best friends forever—just like their necklaces say. But when they go to summer camp, Kacey starts acting weird. What happened to the “forever”? And when Katie gets home, she can’t stop worrying. About getting braces. About 6th grade. About friends. She knows tapping three times or opening and closing a drawer won’t make everything better . . . but sometimes it helps stop the worrying. Is something wrong with her? And will anyone want to be friends with her if they find out?
The Civil War of Amos Abernathy by Michael Leali (ISBN-13: 9780063119864 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/24/2022, Ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Amos Abernathy, an openly gay historical reenactor, sets out to prove to himself and his closeted crush that queer people always have and always will exist in American history. The contemporary middle grade novel is told partly in letters to Albert D.J. Cashier, the Union soldier uncovered by Amos’s research, who becomes his confidant and historical queer icon.
Small Town Pride by Phil Stamper (ISBN-13: 9780063118782 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/31/2022, Ages 8-12)
Jake is just starting to enjoy life as his school’s first openly gay kid. While his family and friends are accepting and supportive, the same can’t be said about everyone in their small town of Barton Springs, Ohio. When Jake’s dad hangs a comically large pride flag in their front yard in an overblown show of love, the mayor begins to receive complaints. A few people are even concerned the flag will lead to something truly outlandish: a pride parade.
Except Jake doesn’t think that’s a ridiculous idea. Why can’t they hold a pride festival in Barton Springs? The problem is, Jake knows he’ll have to get approval from the town council, and the mayor won’t be on his side. And as Jake and his friends try to find a way to bring Pride to Barton Springs, it seems suspicious that the mayor’s son, Brett, suddenly wants to spend time with Jake. But someone that cute couldn’t possibly be in league with his mayoral mother, could he?
From acclaimed author Phil Stamper comes a poignant coming of age story about finding your place, using your voice, and the true meaning of pride.
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About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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