2023 Middle Grade Books to Have on Your Radar
Here’s what middle grade I’m really looking forward to reading in 2023. These books all fall in the first half of the year, so look for another list in the coming months that will look at books coming out in fall and winter 2023!
All descriptions from the publishers.
The Many Fortunes of Maya by Nicole D. Collier (ISBN-13: 9780358434641 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 01/24/2023, Ages 8-12)
In this lyrical novel that will appeal to fans of Meg Medina, Maya turns to her trusty “wheel of fortunes” for guidance on the toughest questions—like why her best friend suddenly feels far away, or when her Daddy will move back home. But can Maya find the courage to write her own fortune?
Maya J. Jenkins is bursting with questions:
- Will she get the MVP award at this year’s soccer banquet?
- Who will win the big grill off between Daddy and Uncle J?
- When will she pass the swim test and get a green bracelet?
For answers and a dose of good luck, 12-year-old Maya turns to her Wheel of Fortunes, a cardboard circle covered with the small slips of wisdom she’s collected from fortune cookies.
But can the fortunes answer her deep-down questions? The ones she’s too scared to ask out loud? Like, where did Mama’s smile go, the real one that lit up everything around her? When will Daddy move back home? And most of all, does she have enough courage to truly listen to the voice in her heart?
It’s Boba Time for Pearl Li! by Nicole Chen (ISBN-13: 9780063228610 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 02/28/2023, Ages 8-12)
Perfect for fans of Kelly Yang and Jessica Kim, this joyful, moving middle grade contemporary follows a big-hearted Taiwanese American girl as she aims to gain her family’s acceptance and save her favorite boba tea shop by selling her handcrafted amigurumi dolls.
Pearl Li is ready to spend the summer before seventh grade hanging out with her two best friends, crocheting the cutest amigurumi dolls, and visiting her favorite tea shop, Boba Time. Its quirky owner, Auntie Cha, is the only adult Pearl can confide in about her art—if only her tech-obsessed family would understand her love of crafts!
After Pearl learns of Boba Time’s financial troubles, she decides to sell her amigurumi to raise money for the shop. But as she navigates the ups and downs of running a business, Pearl realizes that monetizing her passion is more complicated than she could’ve ever imagined. Can Pearl save Boba Time before it’s too late?
Featuring fun backmatter—including a delicious boba tea recipe—this is a heartfelt story about advocating for your passions and uncovering big truths about friendship, family, and entrepreneurship along the way.
Finally Seen by Kelly Yang (ISBN-13: 9781534488335 Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers Publication date: 02/28/2023, Ages 8-12)
From the New York Times bestselling author of Front Desk comes a gripping middle grade novel about a young girl who leaves China to live with her parents and sister, after five years apart, and learns about family, friendship, and the power of being finally seen.
My sister got to grow up with my parents. Me? I grew up with postcards from my parents.
When ten-year-old Lina Gao steps off the plane in Los Angeles, it’s her first time in America and the first time seeing her parents and her little sister in five years! She’s been waiting for this moment every day while she lived with her grandmother in Beijing, getting teased by kids at school who called her “left behind girl.” Finally, her parents are ready for her to join their fabulous life in America! Except, it’s not exactly like in the postcards:
1. School’s a lot harder than she thought. When she mispronounces some words in English on the first day, she decides she simply won’t talk. Ever again.
2. Her chatty little sister has no problem with English. And seems to do everything better than Lina, including knowing exactly the way to her parents’ hearts.
3. They live in an apartment, not a house like in Mom’s letters, and they owe a lot of back rent from the pandemic. And Mom’s plan to pay it back sounds more like a hobby than a moneymaker.
As she reckons with her hurt, Lina tries to keep a lid on her feelings, both at home and at school. When her teacher starts facing challenges for her latest book selection, a book that deeply resonates with Lina, it will take all of Lina’s courage and resilience to get over her fear in order to choose a future where she’s finally seen.
Squished: A Graphic Novel by Megan Wagner Lloyd, Michelle Mee Nutter (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338568936 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 03/07/2023, Ages 8-12)
From the powerhouse duo behind the instant bestseller Allergic comes a spirited new graphic novel about finding your own space… especially when you’re in a family of nine!
Eleven-year-old Avery Lee loves living in Hickory Valley, Maryland. She loves her neighborhood, school, and the end-of-summer fair she always goes to with her two best friends. But she’s tired of feeling squished by her six siblings! They’re noisy and chaotic and the younger kids love her a little too much. All Avery wants is her own room — her own space to be alone and make art. So she’s furious when Theo, her grumpy older brother, gets his own room instead, and her wild baby brother, Max, moves into the room she already shares with her clinging sister Pearl! Avery hatches a plan to finally get her own room, all while trying to get Max to sleep at night, navigating changes in her friendships, and working on an art entry for the fair. And when Avery finds out that her family might move across the country, things get even more complicated.
Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter have once again teamed up to tell a funny, heartfelt, and charming story of family, friendship, and growing up.
A Bit of Earth by Karuna Riazi (ISBN-13: 9780063098664 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/14/2023, Ages 8-12)
Maria Latif is used to not having a space of her own. But what happens when she feels the sudden urge to put down roots in the most unexpected of places? Karuna Riazi crafts a tender coming-of-age story about friendship, family, and new beginnings. A Bit of Earth is a reimagining of the classic The Secret Garden, perfect for fans of Other Words for Home and The Bridge Home.
Growing up in Pakistan, Maria Latif has been bounced between reluctant relatives for as long as she can remember—first because of her parents’ constant travel, and then because of their deaths. Maria has always been a difficult child, and it never takes long for her guardians to tire of her. So when old friends of her parents offer to “give her a better life” in the United States, Maria is shipped to a host family across the world.
When Maria arrives on Long Island, things are not quite what she was expecting. Mr. Clayborne has left on an extended business trip, Mrs. Clayborne seems emotionally fraught, and inexplicable things keep happening in the Claybornes’ sprawling house. And then Maria finds a locked gate to an off-limits garden. Since she’s never been good at following rules, Maria decides to investigate and discovers something she never thought she’d find: a place where she feels at home.
With a prickly main character, a sullen boy, two friendly allies, and a locked garden, A Bit of Earth has everything a reader could want from a retelling of The Secret Garden. Karuna Riazi’s evocative prose is interspersed with poetic verses, illuminating each character’s search for a place they can truly call home. This tender yet incisive reimagining of a classic work will captivate fans of the original—and widen the appeal for a modern audience.
Eb & Flow by Kelly J. Baptist (ISBN-13: 9780593429136 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 03/14/2023 (Ages 8-12)
A ten-day suspension has tweens De’Kari and Ebony seeing the world with a fresh perspective. Don’t miss this poignant novel in verse from the award-winning author of Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero.
Two kids. One fight. No one thinks they’re wrong.
I don’t even hit girls . . . is what I’m thinking.
I roll my eyes, turn them to my shoes.
Shoes I’ma wear every day till they fall off my feet.
It was all just an accident!
Nobody was trying to mess up
his Stupid Ugly Shoes.
Now I’ve got my third suspension of seventh grade.
Ebony and De’Kari (aka Flow) do not get along. How could they when their cafeteria scuffle ended with De’Kari’s ruined shoes, Ebony on the ground, and both of them with ten days of at-home suspension? Now Eb and Flow have two weeks to think about and explain their behavior—to their families, to each other, and ultimately to themselves.
Award-winning author Kelly J. Baptist delivers a novel in verse that follows Eb and Flow as they navigate their parallel lives. Single-parent homes, tight funds, and sibling dynamics provide a balancing act for the growing tweens. And whether they realize it or not, these two have a lot more in common than they think.
Mirror to Mirror by Rajani LaRocca (ISBN-13: 9780063047471 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 03/21/2023, Ages 8-12)
Rajani LaRocca, recipient of a Newbery Honor and Walter Award for Red, White, and Whole, is back with an evocative novel in verse about identical twin sisters who do everything together—until external pressures threaten to break them apart.
Maya is the pragmatic twin, but her secret anxiety threatens to overwhelm her.
Chaya is the outgoing twin. When she sees her beloved sister suffering, she wants to tell their parents—which makes Maya feel completely betrayed. With Maya shutting her out, Chaya makes a dramatic change to give her twin the space she seems to need. But that’s the last thing Maya wants, and the girls just drift further apart.
The once-close sisters can’t seem to find their rhythm, so they make a bet: they’ll switch places at their summer camp, and whoever can keep the ruse going longer will get to decide where they both attend high school—the source of frequent arguments. But stepping into each other’s shoes comes with its own difficulties, and the girls don’t know how they’re going to make it.
This emotional, lyrical story will speak to fans of Ali Benjamin, Padma Venkatraman, and Jasmine Warga.
Calling the Moon: 16 Period Stories from BIPOC Authors by Aida Salazar (Editor), Yamile Saied Mendez (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9781536216349 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 03/28/2023, Ages 10-13)
An essential, highly relatable collection of short fiction and poems around the topic of menstruation, written exclusively by authors who are Black, Indigenous, and/or people of color
For Angela, it came on the basketball court—while playing on the boys’ team. For Penny, it came on a lakeside field trip, inspiring some cringeworthy moments of humor. And to Layla’s disappointment, it came at the start of her first fasting Ramadan, mandating that she take a “holiday.” Whether their period’s coming spurs silence or celebration, whether they are well prepared for it or totally in the dark, the young people in these sixteen stories find that getting a period brings not only changes to their bodies, but also joy, sorrow, and self-discovery. Featuring BIPOC contributors who are some of today’s most talented authors in middle-grade fiction, Calling the Moon offers coming-of-age stories and poetry as varied as the phases of the moon, from funny to heartbreaking to powerful, all of them reassuring readers that they are not alone in their period journey.
With contributions by:
Hilda Eunice Burgos * Veeda Bybee * Susan Muaddi Darraj * Saadia Faruqi * Nikki Grimes * Leah Henderson * Mason J. * Erin Entrada Kelly * Guadalupe Garcia McCall * Elise McMullen-Ciotti * Yamile Saied Méndez * Emma Otheguy * Aida Salazar * Christina Soontornvat * Padma Venkatraman * Ibi Zoboi
Parachute Kids: A Graphic Novel by Betty C. Tang, Betty C. Tang (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338832686 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 04/04/2023, Ages 9-12)
From New York Times bestselling comic artist Betty C. Tang comes an extraordinary story filled with humor and heart about three kids living on their own as undocumented new immigrants, inspired by the author’s childhood experiences as a parachute kid.
A DREAM TRIP TO AMERICA TURNS INTO A NIGHTMARE!
Feng-Li can’t wait to discover America with her family! But after an action-packed vacation, her parents deliver shocking news: They are returning to Taiwan and leaving Feng-Li and her older siblings in California on their own.
Suddenly, the three kids must fend for themselves in a strange new world—and get along. Starting a new school, learning a new language, and trying to make new friends while managing a household is hard enough, but Bro and Sis’s constant bickering makes everything worse. Thankfully, there are some hilarious moments to balance the stress and loneliness. But as tensions escalate—and all three kids get tangled in a web of bad choices—can Feng-Li keep her family together?
Katie the Catsitter #3: Secrets and Sidekicks by Colleen AF Venable, Stephanie Yue (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593379721 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/02/2023 Series: Katie the Catsitter #3, Ages 9-12)
Calling all graphic novel fans! Get ready for sidekick training (and friendship drama!) with Katie the Catsitter in book 3 of the purr-fectly irresistible, bestselling middle-grade graphic novel series about growing up, friendship, heroes, and cats (lots of cats)!
“Readers will revel in the heroic antics.” —The New York Times
What’s better than BFFs? Super sidekick BFFs! Katie can’t wait to have Beth join her for sidekick training! Until . . . it turns out Beth might be a way better sidekick than Katie! And now Beth and Marie are hanging out all the time, Jess is acting super weird, and Katie still needs to tell her mom about being a sidekick. Oh yeah, and giant robots are attacking the city. So. That’s not great.
Can Katie and 217 super-unusual cats work together to save the city (and seventh grade)? Or is Katie about to be in super trouble? Bonus: includes instructions to make your own friendship bracelet!
Looking for more cats and more fun?! Don’t miss Katie the Catsitter and Katie the Catsitter: Best Friends for Never!
Filed under: new books
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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