Middle Grade Books

Meow or Never – Jazz Taylor

Release date: January 5, 2021

Avery Williams can sing, but that doesn’t mean she can sing in front of people. She likes to stay backstage at her new school, which is where, to her surprise, she finds a cat tucked away into a nook. Avery names the stray Phantom and visits any time she’s feeling stressed (which is a lot these days).

As she sings to Phantom one day, her crush, Nic, overhears her and ropes Avery into auditioning for the school’s musical. Despite her nerves, Avery lands the lead role!

She knows she should be excited, but mostly Avery is terrified. Can Phantom help her through her stage fright? And what will happen if anyone finds out about her secret pet?

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Alone – Megan E. Freeman

Release date: January 12, 2021

Perfect for fans of Hatchet and the I Survived series, this harrowing middle grade debut novel-in-verse from a Pushcart Prize–nominated poet tells the story of a young girl who wakes up one day to find herself utterly alone in her small Colorado town.

When twelve-year-old Maddie hatches a scheme for a secret sleepover with her two best friends, she ends up waking up to a nightmare. She’s alone—left behind in a town that has been mysteriously evacuated and abandoned.

With no one to rely on, no power, and no working phone lines or internet access, Maddie slowly learns to survive on her own. Her only companions are a Rottweiler named George and all the books she can read. After a rough start, Maddie learns to trust her own ingenuity and invents clever ways to survive in a place that has been deserted and forgotten.

As months pass, she escapes natural disasters, looters, and wild animals. But Maddie’s most formidable enemy is the crushing loneliness she faces every day. Can Maddie’s stubborn will to survive carry her through the most frightening experience of her life?

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Many Points of Me – Caroline Gertler

Release date: January 12, 2021

The moment Georgia sees the pencil points on the back of the drawing, she knows what they mean. It’s a feeling, like the spark of inspiration—or the shiver of a secret. She has uncovered a sketch for a painting. The painting her father—a famous artist—never had a chance to make. The one that her mother has always said was supposed to be of Georgia.

Ever since her father died, Georgia hasn’t been sure about anything. Not about herself. Not about her own art. Not even about whether her best friend Theo is still her best friend. But here is something Georgia can prove, something she can discover, something that will make her mark, alongside her father’s. 

And following the path of this mystery just might help Georgia find herself again, too.

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Clues to the Universe – Christina Li

Release date: January 12, 2021

In this MG historical set in 1983, 12 year old Rosalind Ling Geraghty, an aspiring rocket scientist grieving the unexpected death of her scientist father, meets an introverted artist named Benji, and together they set out to build Ro’s model rocket for the science fair and to search for Benji’s long-lost father through a trail of his bestselling space comics. A book about friendships, found family, and missing those you love. 

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The Nightmare Thief – Nicole Lesperance

Release date: January 19, 2021

For fans of A Snicker of Magic and The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl comes a suspenseful dark fantasy duology, perfect for middle school readers that love stories of magic and sisterhood with a dash of danger.

Maren Partridge loves working in her family’s dream shop where she can hand-craft any dream imaginable. The shop has only one rule. Dreams cannot be given to a person without their consent. Maren has no problem with this—until her sister, Hallie, has an accident that leaves her in a coma. Maren’s certain she can cure Hallie with a few well-chosen dreams. And when no one is watching, she slips her a flying dream.

But a strange new customer from the shop has been following Maren and knows what she did. Now she’s laid the perfect trap to blackmail Maren into creating custom nightmares for a dark and terrible purpose. As Maren gets drawn further into the sinister scheme, she must make a choice: to protect her family or to protect the town from her family’s magic.

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Seven Voyages – Sara Fray

Release date: January 19, 2021

1405. The central coast of China.

At nearly seven feet tall, Admiral Zheng He looked out at the sea before him.

For the next three decades, the oceans would be his home, as he would command over 1,500 ships and thousands of sailors in seven journeys that would predate the heart of the European Age of Exploration. Over his seven epic journeys, Zheng He explored the Northern Pacific and Indian Oceans, traveling as far as the east coast of Africa, expanding Chinese power globally, warring with pirates, and capturing enemies along the way in the name of his emperor, Zhu Di. But this giant figure was not always at the helm of a ship.

From author Sara Fray and New York Times bestselling author Laurence Bergreen comes this immaculately researched history for young readers detailing the life of Zheng He, his complex and enduring friendship with his emperor, and the seven epic journeys he led that would establish China as a world power. 

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365 Days to Alaska – Cathy Carr

Release date: January 19, 2021

A thoughtful middle-grade debut about a girl from off-the-grid Alaska adjusting to suburban life
 
Eleven-year-old Rigel Harman loves her life in off-the-grid Alaska. She hunts rabbits, takes correspondence classes through the mail, and plays dominoes with her family in their two-room cabin. She doesn’t mind not having electricity or running water—instead, she’s got tall trees, fresh streams, and endless sky.
But then her parents divorce, and Rigel and her sisters have to move with their mom to the Connecticut suburbs to live with a grandmother they’ve never met. Rigel hates it in Connecticut. It’s noisy, and crowded, and there’s no real nature. Her only hope is a secret pact that she made with her father: If she can stick it out in Connecticut for one year, he’ll bring her back home.
At first, surviving the year feels impossible. Middle school is nothing like the wilderness, and she doesn’t connect with anyone . . . until she befriends a crow living behind her school. And if this wild creature has made a life for itself in the suburbs, then, just maybe, Rigel can too.
365 Days to Alaska is a wise and funny debut novel about finding beauty, hope, and connection in the world no matter where you are—even Connecticut.

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Take Back the Block – Chrystal D. Giles

Release date: January 26, 2021

Brand-new kicks, ripped denim shorts, royal-blue Supreme tee—Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That–and hanging out with the crew (his best friends since little kid days) and playing video games—is what Wes wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.

But when a real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks—he neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grown-ups are supposed to have all the answers. But all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known without a fight. He’s always been good at puzzles and he knows there must be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it…before it’s too late?

Exploring community, justice, family and friendship with a irresistibly deft and relatable touch, Take Back the Blockintroduces Wes, a 6th grader readers will fall in love with and asks what it means to belong, to a place and a movement, and to fight for a cause you believe in.

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While I Was Away – Waka T. Brown

A middle grade memoir from debut author Waka T. Brown, who takes readers on a journey to Japan, where she was sent as a child in the 1980s to reconnect to her family’s roots.

When twelve-year-old Waka’s parents suspect she can’t understand basic Japanese, they make the drastic decision to send her to Tokyo to live for several months with her strict grandmother. Forced to say goodbye to her friends and what would have been her summer vacation, Waka is plucked from her straight-A-student life in rural Kansas and flown across the globe, where she faces the culture shock of a lifetime.

In Japan, Waka struggles with reading and writing in kanji, doesn’t quite mesh with her complicated and distant Obaasama, and gets made fun of by the students in her Japanese public-school classes. Even though this is the country her parents came from, Waka has never felt more like an outsider.

If she’s always been the “smart Japanese girl” in America but is now the “dumb foreigner” in Japan, where is home? And who will Waka be when she finds it?

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A Place to Hang the Moon – Kate Albus

Release date: February 2, 2021

Anna, Edmund, and William aren’t terribly upset by the death of their not-so-grandmotherly grandmother. But the children do need a guardian, and in the dark days of WWII London, those are in rather short supply. Could the mass wartime evacuation be the answer? It’s a preposterous plan, but off they go, keeping their predicament a secret, hoping to be placed in a temporary home that ends up being more… forever-ish. Moving from billet to billet, the children suffer cruel foster brothers, outdoor toilets, and empty tummies. They seek comfort in the village library, whose kind librarian, Nora Muller, would make an excellent guardian, except that the whereabouts of her German husband are currently unknown. But Nora’s cottage is a place of bedtime stories, fireplaces, and tea. Most important, it’s a place where someone thinks they all three hung the moon. Which is really all that matters.

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My Ex-Imaginary Friend
Jimmy Matejek-Morris

Release date: February 2, 2021

Eleven-year-old Jack thought he had outgrown his imaginary friend, George–until his dad also disappears from his life. His mom’s bipolar disorder isn’t being properly treated, so while in the throes of a manic episode, she ditches Jack with his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Jack decides that only George can help him figure out where people go when others stop believing in them–and how Jack can put his family back together.

Meanwhile, the imaginary George–half-walrus, half-human, all magic–has a problem of his own: with nobody to believe in him, he is slowly disappearing. Rejoining Jack is his only hope for survival. Or is it?

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Definitely Dominguita: Knight of the Cape – Terry Catasús Jennings

Release date: March 2, 2021

All Dominguita wants to do is read. Especially the books in Spanish that Abuela and Dominguita read together, classics her abuela brought with her all the way from Cuba when she was a young girl. Since Abuela had to move away, it helps Dominguita feel like Abuela’s still with her.

But one day, the class bully makes an accusation—Dominguita reads because she has no friends. Not so, says our heroine, although it’s true. She is reading Don Quijote because she is studying to be a knight. The bully ridicules her. “Girls can’t be knights!” he says. “I’ll show you!” is the answer.

Trying to have adventures worthy of being a knight is not easy. But Dom does find Pancho Sanchez, a stalwart squire. And together they rescue Steph from a bully. The adventure climaxes with Dom and her crew tilting with a giant—the windmill at the Holland House Restaurant and forming a lasting friendship.

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Just Like Me – Louise Gooding

Release date: March 4, 2021

You can’t judge someone on something you can not see or even the things you can see.

We are all special. We are all Unique. We are all ‘different: not less’.

A collection of true stories about inspiring people and famous figures from around the world, all with something that makes them physically or neurologically diverse.

Reflective of our diverse society, this anthology features figures including Simone Biles, Selena Gomez, Temple Grandin, Warwick Davies, Daniel Radcliffe, Stephen Hawking and Greta Thunberg.

Trouble with a Tiny t
Merriam Sarcia Saunders

Release date: March 1, 2021

ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD WESTIN HOPPER GETS IN TROUBLE— a lot. His ADHD always seems to mess with his brain, making him do impulsive things. So when Westin finds a magic bag that makes his thoughts come alive, he thinks it’s the ticket to fixing his life. Instead, his wandering brain strikes again, conjuring up a mini T. rex, an army of headless plastic men, and a six-inch Thor. Now they all live in his bedroom—eating lunchmeat, wreaking havoc, and growing. Westin’s talent for drawing could be the key to controlling the magic—if he can focus. But he’d better learn quickly. Tiny T is growing—and fast.

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Starfish – Lisa Fipps

Release date: March 9, 2021

Ellie is tired of being fat-shamed and does something about it in this poignant debut novel-in-verse.

Ever since Ellie wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash at her fifth birthday party, she’s been bullied about her weight. To cope, she tries to live by the Fat Girl Rules–like “no making waves,” “avoid eating in public,” and “don’t move so fast that your body jiggles.” And she’s found her safe space–her swimming pool–where she feels weightless in a fat-obsessed world. In the water, she can stretch herself out like a starfish and take up all the room she wants. It’s also where she can get away from her pushy mom, who thinks criticizing Ellie’s weight will motivate her to diet. Fortunately, Ellie has allies in her dad, her therapist, and her new neighbor, Catalina, who loves Ellie for who she is. With this support buoying her, Ellie might finally be able to cast aside the Fat Girl Rules and starfish in real life–by unapologetically being her own fabulous self.

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The Gilded Girl – Alyssa Colman

Release date: April 6, 2021

Any child can spark magic, but only the elite are allowed to kindle it. Those denied access to the secrets of the kindling ritual will see their magic snuffed out before their thirteenth birthday.

Miss Posterity’s Academy for Practical Magic is the best kindling school in New York City—and wealthy twelve-year-old Emma Harris is accustomed to the best. But when her father dies, leaving her penniless, Emma is reduced to working off her debts to Miss Posterity alongside Izzy, a daring servant girl who refuses to let her magic be snuffed out, even if society dictates she must. Emma and Izzy reluctantly form a pact: If Izzy teaches Emma how to survive as a servant, Emma will reveal to Izzy what she knows about magic.

Along the way, they encounter quizzes that literally pop, shy libraries, and talking cats (that is, house dragons). But when another student’s kindling goes horribly wrong, revealing the fiery dangers of magic, Emma and Izzy must set aside their differences or risk their magic being snuffed out forever.

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Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth – Rachel Sarah

Release date: April 6, 2021

Girl Warriors: How 25 Young Activists Are Saving the Earth is forthcoming April 6, 2021 (Chicago Review Press). Girl Warriors tells the stories of climate activists from around the world who are tackling the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced. 

These 25 activists — all under age 25 — are on the frontlines to create a new future on earth. They are speaking up, rising up, and showing up. The voices of the girls and young women in this book will inspire readers to rise up with them.

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Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls
Kaela Rivera

Release date: April 13, 2021

Living in the remote town of Tierra del Sol is dangerous—especially in the criatura months, when powerful spirits break free from their home in Devil’s Alley to threaten humankind. But Cecelia Rios has always believed there was more to the criaturas who roamed the desert, much to her family’s disapproval. After all, it’s common knowledge that only brujas—humans who capture and control criaturas—consort with the spirits, and brujeria is a terrible crime.

When her older sister, Juana, is kidnapped by El Sombrerón, a powerful dark criatura, everyone in town believes she’s lost forever. But Cece is determined to bring Juana back. To get into Devil’s Alley, though, she’ll have to become a bruja herself—while hiding her quest from her parents, her town, and the other brujas. Thankfully, the legendary criatura Coyote has a soft spot for humans, and agrees to help her on her journey. With him at her side, Cece sets out to reunite her family—and maybe even change what it means to be a bruja along the way.

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The Last Windwitch – Jennifer Adam

Release date: April 13, 2021

Brida may be a terrible hedgewitch’s apprentice – she can’t identify herbs and her charms are all mistakes – but when she sees a herd of mythical stormhorses captured by the Huntsman she knows she must free them. Pursued by a pack of massive Hounds and spied on by a flock of mysterious Crows, Brida meets unexpected allies and discovers a power she never guessed. While Mother Magdi, the hedgewitch who took her in as a baby, hides secrets about her past, Moira, the Queen of Crows, holds the keys to her future. To survive, Brida must navigate currents of political and magical intrigue in a world where even the seasons seem to spin out of control.

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Bone Tree – Jenna Lehne

Release date: April 20, 2021

Elsie battles a terrifying ghost to keep her best friend around, forever. But does forever have too much of a cost?

Elsie’s best friend, Roman, is dying. But Roman has a plan to escape death. He wants to be resurrected through the powers of the Bone Tree and the curse of the Woman in White, Mary Simon, whose body lies beneath the tree. Terrified, yet determined not to lose him, Elsie promises Roman to summon Mary’s ghost and the powers of the Bone Tree to bring him back when he dies. When the Bone Tree’s magic works and Roman resurrects, Elise vows to do anything to keep him around, even if that means battling an angry, screeching banshee, with talons for fingers. But what Elsie doesn’t realize is that the cost of keeping Roman around may be too high. When the Woman in White kidnaps Roman’s brother, Jake, and threatens to take his life as revenge, Elsie must choose between saving the lives of many from the deadly grasp of Mary Simon, the Woman in White, or keeping her best friend.

Sea of Kings – Melissa Hope

Release date: April 27, 2021

When their island kingdom falls under siege, royal brothers Noa and Dagan must follow a magical map and confront the legendary one-eyed pirate before evil takes over their world.

Thirteen-year-old Prince Noa has hated the ocean since the day it caused his mother’s death. But staying away from the sea isn’t easy on his tropical island home, where he’s stuck trying to keep up with his dim-witted and overconfident younger brother Dagan—the brawn to Noa’s brains.

When a vengeful pirate lays siege to their home, Noa and Dagan narrowly escape with their lives. Armed with a stolen ship, a haphazardly assembled crew, and a magical map that makes as much sense as slugs in a salt bath, the brothers set sail for the realm’s other kingdoms in search of help.

But navigating the sea proves deadlier than Noa’s worst fears. To free his home, Noa must solve the map’s confusing charts and confront the legendary one-eyed pirate before an evil force spreads across the realm and destroys the very people Noa means to protect.

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Glitter Gets Everywhere – Yvette Clark

Release date: May 4, 2021

Ten-year-old Kitty Wentworth’s mother died on an inappropriately sunny Tuesday. So much has changed in Kitty’s life over the last few months, she needs the world to stop spinning around her. She needs things to return to normal—or as normal as they’ll ever be.

Normal definitely does not include her family moving from their home in London all the way to New York City. Moving means leaving behind her friends and neighbors, her grandmother, and all the places and people that help Kitty keep her mother’s memory alive.

New York City is bright and bustling and completely different from everything Kitty has known. As she adjusts to her new school, explores her new city, and befriends a blue-haired boy, Kitty wonders if her memories of her mother don’t need to stay in one place—if there’s a way for them to be with Kitty every day, everywhere.

With her wry, poignant wit, Kitty tells a universal story about the grief of losing a beloved family member, the fears of starting over, and the challenges of how to remake a family.

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The Last Shadow Warrior – Sam Subity

Release date: May 4th, 2021

Twelve-year-old Abby Beckett is proud to come from a long line of elite Viking warriors known as the Aesir. Her greatest desire is to hunt the monsters known as Grendels, just like her mother did before she died. There’s just one small problem: No Grendel has been seen in centuries, and the Viking elders want to disband the Aesir . . . forever. 

After a mysterious attack on her home, Abby is forced to take refuge at Vale Hall, a secret-filled school in Minnesota where nothing is quite as it seems. When she tries to alert the elders that a Grendel is after her, they accuse her of making up stories for attention . . . and claim her mother did the same. 

Desperate to protect her family and clear her mother’s name, Abby goes on a dangerous quest to discover the truth. But as the clock ticks down, she quickly realizes that someone at the school is trying to thwart her progress—and stop her and the Aesir for good.

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The Strangeworlds Travel Agency
L. D. Lapinski

Release date: May 4, 2021

When twelve-year-old Flick Hudson accidentally ends up in the Strangeworlds Travel Agency, she uncovers a fantastic secret: there are hundreds of other worlds just steps away from hers. All you have to do to visit them is just jump into the right suitcase. Then Flick gets the invitation of a lifetime: join Strangeworlds’ magical travel society and explore other worlds.

But, unbeknownst to Flick, the world at the very center of it all, a city called Five Lights, is in danger. Buildings and even streets are mysteriously disappearing. Once Flick realizes what’s happening she must race against time, travelling through unchartered worlds, seeking a way to fix Five Lights before it collapses into nothingness—and takes her world with it.

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We Got Game! 35 Female Athletes Who Changed the World – Aileen Weintraub

Release date: May 4, 2021

Inspire kids to be their best selves and get involved in social change with this stunning anthology about thirty-five amazing women in sports around the world and throughout history.  In We Got Game! you’ll meet thirty-five female athletes who played hard, broke records, and inspired girls around the world. Some of these athletes have retired. Others are still competing. But they have one thing in common: they all got game! You’ll read about the first woman horse jockey to compete in the Kentucky Derby, the number one tennis player in the world, a surfer who lost her arm in a shark attack, and a snow boarder who landed a death-defying jump, along with many others. These female athletes prove that girls can do anything!

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The Last Fallen Star – Graci Kim

Release date: May 4, 2021

The Last Fallen Star is a Korean mythology-inspired MG fantasy adventure set in LA about Korean-American witches, forbidden magic, enchanted boba teas, and one girl’s search for belonging. Twelve-year-old adoptee Riley Oh desperately wants to have healing powers like everyone else in her witch clan family. With the help of her sister, Riley attempts to summon Mago Halmi — the mother of all creation — but instead her sister is banished to another realm and Riley is given an ultimatum. If she wants to get her magic and save her sister’s life, she must find the Godrealm’s last fallen star.

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Etta Invincible – Reese Eschmann

Release date: May 11, 2021

Two new friends race onto a malfunctioning magical train to save a dog and, in the process, encounter a mechanical dragon, fight nefarious gummy worms, and learn to love themselves exactly as they are. 

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Thanks a Lot, Universe – Chad Lucas

Release date: May 11, 2021

Brian has always been anxious, whether at home, in class, or on the basketball court. His dad tries to get him to stand up for himself and his mom helps as much as she can, but after he and his brother are placed in foster care, Brian starts having panic attacks. And he doesn’t know if things will ever be “normal” again . . . Ezra’s always been popular. He’s friends with most of the kids on his basketball team—even Brian, who usually keeps to himself. But now, some of his friends are acting differently, and Brian seems to be pulling away. Ezra wants to help, but he worries if he’s too nice to Brian, his friends will realize he has a crush on him . . .

But when Brian and his brother run away, Ezra has no choice but to take the leap and reach out. Both boys have to decide if they’re willing to risk sharing parts of themselves they’d rather hide. If they can be brave, they might just find the best in themselves—and each other.

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Unsettled – Reem Faruqi

Release date: May 11, 2021

A stirring, hopeful immigration story of Nurah and her family, who move from Karachi, Pakistan, to Peachtree City, Georgia, from Reem Faruqi, ALA Notable author of the award-winning picture book Lailah’s Lunchbox. Powerful and charming, Other Words for Home meets Front Desk in this debut middle grade novel in verse about finding your footing in a new world.

From Pakistan to Peachtree City—Nurah’s stirring story of finding your place.

When Nurah’s family moves from Karachi, Pakistan, to Peachtree City, Georgia, all she really wants is to blend in, but she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, and she’s left to eat lunch alone under the stairwell, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts. Stahr covers her body when in the water, just like Nurah, but for very different reasons.

But in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in: She wants to stand out. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in America—yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.

As Nurah slowly begins to sprout wings in the form of strong swimming arms, she gradually gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.

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An Occasionally Happy Family – Cliff Burke

Release date: May 18, 2021

There are zero reasons for Theo Ripley to look forward to his family vacation. Not only are he, sister Laura, and nature-obsessed Dad going to Big Bend, the least popular National Park, but once there, the family will be camping. And Theo is an indoor animal. It doesn’t help that this will be the first vacation they’re taking since Mom passed away.

Once there, the family contends with 110 degree days, wild bears, and an annoying amateur ornithologist and his awful teenage vlogger son. Then, Theo’s dad hits him with a whopper of a surprise: the whole trip is just a trick to introduce his secret new girlfriend.

Theo tries to squash down the pain in his chest. But when it becomes clear that this is an auditioning-to-be-his-stepmom girlfriend, Theo must find a way to face his grief and talk to his dad before his family is forever changed.

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Jaz Santos vs. the World – Priscilla Mante

Release date: May 27, 2021

A relatable, inclusive story about families, unlikely friendships and girl power. Perfect for fans of Ella on the Outside and Jacqueline Wilson.

Olá! I’m Jasmina Santos-Campbell (but you can call me Jaz). You’ve probably heard of me and my football team the Bramrock Stars before. No? Well, you will soon because we’re almost famous!

Forming the Stars was my genius idea – you see I need to prove to Mãe (that’s my mum!) that I’m a football star so she’ll want to come back home.

The idea was the easy part, though. Now I’ve got a team of seven very different girls and we need to work together, to be taken seriously as footballers.

We are the DREAM TEAM and we’re going to show the world that girls CAN play football!

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Everywhere Blue – Joanne Rossmassler Fritz

Release date: June 1, 2021

EVERYWHERE BLUE is a middle-grade novel in verse about a 12-year-old girl with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder. Maddie loves music, math, and everything in its place. All she wants is to earn an oboe solo in her school orchestra’s Winter Concert, which is three months away. Then Maddie’s older brother disappears from his college campus, throwing her well-ordered world into chaos.  One by one, her family begins slipping away from her.

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Almost Flying – Jake Maia Arlow

Release date: June 8, 2021

Would-be amusement park aficionado Dalia only has two items on her summer bucket list: (1) finally ride a roller coaster and (2) figure out how to make a new best friend. But when her dad suddenly announces that he’s engaged, Dalia’s schemes come to a screeching halt. With Dalia’s future stepsister Alexa heading back to college soon, the grown-ups want the girls to spend the last weeks of summer bonding—meaning Alexa has to cancel the amusement park road trip she’s been planning for month. Luckily Dalia comes up with a new plan: If she joins Alexa on her trip and brings Rani, the new girl from her swim team, along maybe she can have the perfect summer after all. But what starts out as a week of funnel cakes and Lazy River rides goes off the rails when Dalia discovers that Alexa’s girlfriend is joining the trip. And keeping Alexa’s secret makes Dalia realize one of her own: She might have more-than-friend feelings for Rani.

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Rea and the Blood of the Nectar
Payal Doshi

Release date: June 15, 2021

It all begins on the night Rea turns twelve. After a big fight with her twin brother Rohan on their birthday, Rea’s life in the small village of Darjeeling, India, gets turned on its head. It’s four in the morning and Rohan is nowhere to be found.

It hasn’t even been a day and Amma acts like Rohan’s gone forever. Her grandmother, too, is behaving strangely. Unwilling to give up on her brother, Rea and her friend Leela meet Mishti Daadi, a wrinkly old fortune-teller whose powers of divination set them off on a thrilling and secret quest. In the shade of night, they portal into an otherworldly realm and travel to Astranthia, a land full of magic and whimsy. There with the help of Xeranther, an Astranthian barrow boy, and Flula, a pari, Rea battles serpent-lilies and blood-sucking banshees, encounters a butterfly-faced woman and blue lizard-men, and learns that Rohan has been captured. Rea also discovers that she is a princess with magic. Only she has no idea how to use it.

Struggling with the truth her Amma has kept hidden from her, Rea must solve clues that lead to Rohan, find a way to rescue him and save Astranthia from a potentially deadly fate. But the clock is ticking. Can she rescue Rohan, save Astranthia, and live to see it all?

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BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)? A Girl’s Guide to Happy Friendships – Jessica Speer

Release date: July 6, 2021

Packed with fun quizzes, colorful illustrations, and stories about girls just like you, BFF or NRF (Not Really Friends)A Girls Guide to Happy Friendships is the ultimate interactive guidebook to help readers learn the ins and outs of friendship. Explore topics such as gossip, drama, and feeling left out, along with ways to strengthen the friendships that mean the most to you.  

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Josephine Against the Sea – Shakirah Bourne

Release date: July 6, 2021

Meet Josephine, the most loveable mischief-maker in Barbados, in a magical, heartfelt adventure inspired by Caribbean mythology.

Eleven-year-old Josephine knows that no one is good enough for her daddy. That’s why she makes a habit of scaring his new girlfriends away. She’s desperate to make it onto her school’s cricket team because she’ll get to play her favorite sport AND use the cricket matches to distract Daddy from dating. 

But when Coach Broomes announces that girls can’t try out for the team, the frustrated Josephine cuts into a powerful silk cotton tree and accidentally summons a bigger problem into her life . . . 

The next day, Daddy brings home a new catch, a beautiful woman named Mariss. And unlike the other girlfriends, this one doesn’t scare easily. Josephine knows there’s something fishy about Mariss but she never expected her to be a vengeful sea creature eager to take her place as her father’s first love! Can Josephine convince her friends to help her and use her cricket skills to save Daddy from Mariss’s clutches before it’s too late?

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Time Villains – Victor Piñeiro

Release date: July 6, 2021

If you could invite any three people to dinner, who would they be? It seems like a simple enough homework assignment…right?

Javi Santiago is trying desperately not to fail sixth grade. So, when the annual “invite any three people to dinner” homework assignment rolls around, Javi enlists his best friend, Wiki, and his sister, Brady, to help him knock it out of the park.

But the dinner party is a lot more than they bargained for. The family’s mysterious antique table actually summons the historical guests to the meal. And while kid Mozart and the Earl of Sandwich aren’t too bad…Blackbeard the Pirate is the worst guest of all time.

Before they can shout “Avast ye!” Blackbeard escapes, determined to summon his bloodthirsty pirate crew. And as Javi, Wiki, and Brady try to figure out how to send the dread pirate back into his own time, they might have to invite other legendary figures to set things right again…

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Journey Beyond the Burrow – Rina Heisel

Release date: July 13, 2021

As a young mouse, Tobin knows following the Rules of Rodentia keeps the Great Burrow safe. In fact, Tobin is so adept at the rules he’s at the top of his junior scout class. But there is no rule outlining what to do if a monstrous arachnid invades the burrow and snatches your newborn sibling. When the unthinkable happens, Tobin must make his own choice: remain safe at home with his remaining family, or venture into the woods, embarking on the most unexpected rescue mission in Great Burrow history. Accompanied by little sister Talia and best friend Wiley, Tobin pursues the eight-legged predator, using the Rules as a guide. Dodging hunters, navigating dangerous terrain, and meeting unlikely allies, Tobin must know when to follow the Rules—and when to break them.  

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The Verdigris Pawn – Alysa Wishingrad

Release date: July 13, 2021

The heir to the Land should be strong. Fierce. Ruthless. Everything Beau is not, according to his father. Beau has spent his whole life locked away, useless, just another pawn in his father’s quest for ultimate power.

Until Beau meets a girl who shows him the secrets his father has kept hidden and reveals just how brutal and merciless his reign has been. For the first time ever, Beau begins to question  everything he’s been told and sets off in search of a rebel who might hold the answer to making things right.

All the while, sinister forces are lurking in the shadows, and the future of the Land and its people hangs perilously in the balance. Beau soon realizes that the key may be within himself—but only if he can find the power to go from pawn to player and save the Land before it’s torn apart.

Debut author Alysa Wishingrad weaves a poignant tale about how appearances aren’t always what they seem and how real power can come from the most unlikely places.

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Kingdom of Secrets – Christyne Morrell

Release date: August 3, 2021

Prismena’s father is the hot air balloonist in the peaceful kingdom of Oren. She assists him by mending torn balloons, but she yearns to build and fly the complicated machines herself. One day, a waif named Abi steals Prissy’s only remaining memento of her deceased mother – a silk scarf – and promises to return it only if Prissy smuggles a mysterious box onto one of her father’s flights. Since balloon travel is strictly regulated in Oren, that single act of rebellion results in her father’s arrest and kicks off a spiraling series of events that will yank Prissy out of her predictable life. Along the way to free her father from jail, she’ll get caught up in a bar fight, nabbed by a sadistic schoolmistress, tossed into a home for unwanted children, schooled in the art of stealing, and thrust into the center of a brewing rebellion. On her journey through Oren – with its glitzy neighborhoods and its seedy underbelly – Prismena will uncover secrets that change the way she views her family, her kingdom, herself, and even her beloved hot air balloons. She’ll have to break a few rules – and even forge metal – to save the people she loves, but she may also get a chance to soar.

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Hope Springs – Jaime Berry

Release date: August 10, 2021

Eleven-year-old Jubilee Johnson is an expert at three things: crafting, moving, and avoiding goodbyes. She and her Nan live by their Number One Relocation Rule—just the two of them is all they need. But Jubilee’s starting to feel like just two is a little too close to alone.

Jubilee plans their next move to Hope Springs, Texas—home of her TV crafting idol, Arletta Paisley. Soon, she wonders if Hope Springs might be the place they call home. But when the town is threatened by a mega-chain superstore fronted by Arletta Paisley, Jubilee is faced with her toughest decision yet, skip town again or stand up to her one-time hero. With the help of new friends and the one person she never thought she’d need—her Momma—will Jubilee find a way to save the town she’s come to love and convince Nan that it’s finally time to settle down?

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Ghost Girl – Ally Malinenko

Release date: August 10th, 2021

Zee Puckett loves ghost stories. She just never expected to be living one.

It all starts with a dark and stormy night. When the skies clear, everything is different. People are missing. There’s a creepy new principal who seems to know everyone’s darkest dreams. And Zee is seeing frightening things: large, scary dogs that talk and maybe even . . . a ghost.

When she tells her classmates, no one, other than her best friend Elijah, believes her. Worse, mean girl Nellie gives Zee a cruel nickname: Ghost Girl.

But whatever the storm washed up isn’t going away. Everyone’s most selfish wishes start coming true in creepy ways.

To fight for what’s right, Zee will have to embrace what makes her different and what makes her Ghost Girl. And all three of them—Zee, Elijah, and Nellie—will have to work together if they want to give their ghost story a happy ending.

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The Many Meanings of Meilan
Andrea Wang

Release Date: August 17th, 2021

Meilan Hua’s world is made up of a few key ingredients: her family’s matriarch, Nǎinai; the bakery her extended family owns and runs in Boston’s Chinatown; and her favorite Chinese fairy tales. After Nǎinai passes, the family has a falling-out that sends Meilan, her parents, and her grieving grandfather in search of a new home. They eventually land in Redbud, Ohio, where everything is the opposite of Chinatown. Meilan’s not quite sure who she is—being renamed at school only makes it worse. She becomes many Meilans, each inspired by a different Chinese character with the same pronunciation as her name. Sometimes she is Mist, cool and invisible; or Basket, carrying her parents’ expectations; or bright Blue, especially around her new friend Logan. Meilan keeps her selves separate until an injustice shows her the power of bringing them together. This contemporary middle grade is an exploration of all the things it’s possible to grieve, the injustices large and small that make us rage, and the peace that’s unlocked when you learn to find home within yourself.

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Elvis and the World As It Stands
Lisa Frenkel Riddiough

Release date: August 24, 2021

Most shelter animals dream of going home with a forever family. But for Elvis, being chosen by Mrs. Pemberton is not part of his plan. He’s determined to find his way back to the City Shelter of Care and Comfort, where he last saw his sister Etta before the two kittens were separated.

In spite of himself, Elvis becomes curious about 10-year old Georgina Pemberton, who builds LEGO skyscrapers in her bedroom while navigating emotions still raw from her parents’ separation.  Humans are a puzzle to Elvis, but even as he strategizes about reuniting with Etta, he begins to recognize new feelings.  As Georgina sets out to build her most important skyscrapers yet—the Twin Towers, followed by the World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower—thoughts about disaster and rebirth begin to guide Elvis as he gradually comes to terms with his new reality.  

This animal-POV adventure begins on the 4th of July and concludes on the anniversary of 9/11, touching upon this catastrophic moment in U.S. history to inform rather than overwhelm themes of family, home, and new beginnings.

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Hush-A-Bye – Jody Lee Mott

Release date: August 24, 2021

Lucy Bloom dreads eighth grade. She’s too shy to confront the bully who trash-talks her every day or stand up for her younger sister when her unfiltered motor-mouth spins out of control. Lucy would rather close her eyes and pretend to disappear. Then she stumbles across a doll’s head along the riverbank, and weird things start happening. The doll somehow has the power to make sure whoever smacks Lucy and her sister down think twice about doing it again. 

But when Lucy uses the doll’s head to get payback for a bully’s prank, Lucy discovers the doll’s motives are far more sinister than she realized.  As missing parts of the doll’s body return piece by piece, and its power and ruthlessness grow, Lucy must find the voice she’s never raised and the courage she’s never felt to stop the doll. If Lucy closes her eyes and pretends nothing’s wrong this time, everything may disappear for real.

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Barefoot Dreams of Petra Luna
Alda P. Dobbs

Release date: September 14th, 2021

Petra Luna doesn’t believe in signs like the rest of her mestizo people. She refuses to believe eclipses or burnt tamales bring bad luck. A comet in 1910, when Petra is nine, is viewed as the worst omen possible. Petra doesn’t see it as such but three years later, when she is twelve, war and famine abound. It’s 1913, Petra’s mama has died and the Mexican Revolution rages. Her papa is given the choice to join the Federales or be shot. Before he’s dragged away, Petra promises to care for the family, and he vows to return. Waiting for Papa is dangerous. The Federales are back, not to return Papa, but to burn Petra’s home and snatch away what little she has left. Every night, when Petra closes her eyes, she hangs tight to her dreams. In one of them, she can read, and she reads everything – books, newspapers, EVERYTHING. But all of her dreams will have to wait as long as she stays true to her promise. This novel was inspired by experiences my great-grandmother endured during the Mexican Revolution.

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The Wolf’s Curse – Jessica Vitalis

Release date: September 21, 2021

Twelve-year-old Gauge’s life has been cursed since the day he witnessed an invisible Great White Wolf steal his grandpapá’s soul, preventing it from reaching the Sea-in-the-Sky and sailing into eternity. When the superstitious residents of Bouge-by-the-Sea accuse the boy of crying wolf, he joins forces with another orphan to prove his innocence while navigating their shared grief in a journey that ultimately reveals life-changing truths about the wolf––and death. Perfect for fans of The Book Thief and The Book of Boy.

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The Circus at the End of the Sea
Lori R. Snyder

Release date: October 19, 2021

A vibrant and enchanting debut novel about an orphan girl who discovers a magical circus, perfect for fans of Kelly Barnhill and Rebecca Stead!

Maddy Adriana knows that magic is real. All her life, her heart has pulled her towards things too perfect to be ordinary. One day, that tug leads her to a magical street circus, hidden in plain sight among the canals and boardwalks of Venice Beach.

For the first time in Maddy’s life, she finally feels like she belongs. But the circus is in grave danger. Maddy will need to confront the frightening side of magic, as well as her own deepest fears, if she’s to have any hope of saving the place she dreams of calling home.

This unforgettable debut shows readers the magic of following your heart and finding where you belong.

Pighearted – Alex Perry

Release date: October 26th, 2021

Jeremiah has a heart attack just before his 12th birthday. He wants his life back and he needs a new heart; instead, his birthday present is a pig named J6. The pig bites Jeremiah’s crush, tackles his mom, and smashes his birthday cake. 

J6 is the only one of his brothers that survived the medical lab. He’ll do anything to protect his adopted family, but he doesn’t always know how to do that. Neither he nor Jeremiah know how he’s actually meant to save Jeremiah’s life.

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The Art of Running Away – Sabrina Kleckner

Release Date: November 16th, 2021

Twelve-year-old Maisie is an artist. When she’s in front of her sketchbook or apprenticing at Glenna’s Portraits, the family-run art shop her grandmother started, the world makes sense. She doesn’t think about Calum, her brother who mysteriously left home and cut ties with her family six years ago, or her parents’ insistence that she “broaden her horizons” and try something new—something that isn’t art.

But when Glenna’s Portraits falls on hard times, Maisie’s plan to take over the shop when she’s older and become a lifelong artist starts to crumble. In desperation to make things right, Maisie runs away to London to reconnect with her adult brother, hoping he might be the key to saving the shop. But as Maisie learns about her family’s past from Calum, she starts to rethink everything she’s ever known. Maisie must decide not only if saving her family’s art shop is worth it, but if she can forgive her parents for the mistakes they’ve made.

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Lost Between Worlds – Soumya Gudiyella

Release date: To be announced

You’re lost and you have to find clues to get back home. Who doesn’t love an adventure like that?   

Varun is a ten-year-old boy, who wakes up in The Jungle Book (by Rudyard Kipling). Varun has lost his memory, but he knows that he has to find four ‘clues’ in The Jungle Book to go home. Varun’s companions are his faithful beagle, Spot, the pod that travels into the ‘book’ worlds, and the virtual assistant of the pod, Avani. Will he be able to locate the ‘clues’ and find his way back home? Or is the jungle too dangerous for Varun and Spot?

Samara Rubin and the Utility Belt
Sharon Giltrow

Release Date: To be announced

Samara Rubin receives a mysterious gift from her uncle: a utility belt, which holds all the tools she could ever need to bravely face any challenge. But it comes with a catch. Samara must use all of the tools within seven days, or the challenges will return tenfold. Can Samara overcome her biggest fear, Toby the school bully, and be the courageous girl she needs to be? Samara Rubin and the Utility Belt is a speculative fiction early middle grade book for 8-12 year olds.