Adults reading books for young adults has become more and more acceptable, partially due to the glut of amazing young adult literature available now. If you stop in the young adult section, though, you’re missing out. This is a great time to be a middle grade reader, no matter what your age. The bookstores are brimming with wonderful selections featuring both boys and girls and from a wide range of genres. There are so many choices, it was difficult to narrow down our recommendations to just 10. Here, in a nutshell, are some of the best new books for you and your young readers – or just for you. Although all of these are chapter books, many include fabulous illustrations.
Fantasy with a contemporary setting: Laurence Yep and Joanne Ryder’s A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans takes a delightful twist by allowing Miss Drake, a thoroughly modern dragon, to tell the story of how she attempts to tame headstrong 10-year-old Winnie, who insists on thinking she’s the one in charge. In Ratscalibur, by Josh Lieb, young Joey is bitten by his pet rat and is magically transformed into a New York City rodent. This action/adventure story is full of funny take-offs on King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, and other popular classics.
Modern-day stories: Kelly Jones’s Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer follows the adventures of Sophie Brown after her family moves from Los Angeles to the country. Told entirely through letters, this heartfelt novel focuses on family and issues faced by Hispanics in the American Southwest. Lost in the Sun, by Lisa Graff, is the story of Trent, who is struggling to come to terms with the accidental death of a friend during a hockey game. Told from Trent’s point-of-view, this is a moving tale of family, friendship, and redemption. In Will Walton’s Anything Could Happen, a teenage boy must find a way to tell his family and friends he’s gay. While the story is emotionally strong, it remains upbeat.
A girl and her dog: Cynthia Lord’s A Handful of Stars takes readers to Maine’s blueberry fields, where Lily, a local girl, meets Salma, the daughter of Hispanic migrant workers, and the two bond over Lily’s blind dog. This is a coming-of-age story that explores friendship and prejudice. Spencer Quinn’s Woof, set in Louisiana, opens when 11-year-old Birdie adopts pound mutt Bowser. Told from Bowser’s point of view, this first in a new mystery series is full of fun escapades and quirky characters.
Fantasy with a make-believe setting: The Whisperer, by Fiona McIntosh, is an action-packed fantasy (with roots in The Prince and the Pauper) about a mind-reading carnival worker and a high-born prince caught up in a family power struggle. When their paths cross, the two boys—both on the run—discover their futures are surprisingly linked. In Megan Morrison’s Tyme #1: Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel, the familiar long-haired heroine leaves her sheltered tower with Jack, the first boy who manages to slip through her window undetected. This funny, smart fairytale retelling recounts Rapunzel and Jack’s adventures in the wide world beyond the tower. The Fog Diver, by Joel Ross, is a clever and very different dystopian story in which the only inhabitable places of the world are on the tops of mountains and in airships. When 13-year-old Chess and his crew cross the wrong people, they find themselves in a dangerous fight for survival.—CANDACE B. LEVY