Middle Grade Fiction & Non-Fiction

Click on the title to access the full review. Books are listed alphabetically by author.
I Lived on Butterfly HillStarred Review Star logo I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin
Observant, curious 11-year-old dreamer Celeste Marconi wants to be a writer when she grows up. She embraces everything about her peaceful, magical harbor city of Valparaiso, Chile, from the pelicans who greet her every morning to the colors and flowers of the gardens. But when small things start to change—neighbors and classmates begin to disappear, and military ships crowd the harbor—she knows trouble of some kind is on the horizon.
A Month of Mondays by Joelle AnthonyA Month of Mondays by Joëlle Anthony
Suze Tamaki always seems to be getting herself into trouble, a result of feeling bored with school and her life in general. When an English teacher coaxes her into an honors class, Suze learns what it’s like to finally be challenged. However, her life dramatically changes when her mother, Caroline, shows up unannounced after a 10-year absence and wants to pick up where she left off.
My Brothers ShadowMy Brother’s Shadow by Tom Avery
Ever since Kaia found her older brother dead at home, she has been “frozen.” So has her mother, though she’s since found comfort in a bottle. Kaia lost everything—her brother and mother (who she adored), her friends (who now think she’s a freak), her teachers (who think she’s not trying), and her smile (which her mother used to say was lovely). One day, a wild, gray-eyed, raggedy-clothed boy appears at school…
Tastes Like MusicTastes Like Music – 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body by Maria Birmingham
Tetrachromacy is a fancy way of saying you can see millions more colors than the average person. Prosopagnosia is the technical name for not being able to recognize faces, including your own. Developmental Topographical Disorientation simply means you’re always lost, even in your own home. These are 3 of the 17 quirks of the human brain and body that are discussed in this fascinating book.
Pick and RollPick and Roll by Kelsey Blair
There’s a fine line between playing aggressively and playing too hard. The top player on her ninth-grade team, Jazz finds herself facing suspension after setting a move called a “pick and roll” that knocked her opponent to the floor and caused injury. The result impacts Jazz in more ways than she could imagine…
River Runs DeepRiver Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury
In 1842, Dr. John Croghan believed that patients suffering from consumption could be cured by special diets and the cool, damp air found in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. In this book, one of his patients is 12-year-old Elias Harrigan, who befriends slaves working in the cave and is unknowingly drawn into the dubious scheming of Pennyrile, another patient. When Elias begins to feel better, he joins the slaves as they make their rounds delivering food and conducting tours of the cave.
Cabin GirlCabin Girl by Kristin Butcher
Slightly superstitious and somewhat naive, 16-year-old Bailey wants nothing more than to prove she can be responsible on her own. When her godfather offers her a summer job as a cabin girl at Witch Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba, Bailey jumps at the chance. She has a difficult time getting into the rhythm of her job, but her cabin mate April, an older girl who works as a waitress, encourages her. Things eventually fall into place, and Bailey’s confidence is restored. But then an incident occurs…
Basic CMYKDaisy to the Rescue: True Stories of Daring Dogs, Paramedic Parrots and Other Animal Heroes  by Jeff Campbell
Whether they are domestic companions, trained to serve, inspired to heal, or are found in the wild, animals have the ability to enhance our lives and even save us, and this compendium pays homage. Daisy, the title dog, detected breast cancer in her human companion. Molly, the pony with a prosthetic leg, inspired hope in the disabled. A gray seal kept a woman from drowning in the freezing North Sea.
Bollywood BabesBollywood Babes by Narinder Dhami
Dealing with the Dhillons • The best of intentions goes awry, and the Dhillon sisters create more havoc than their long-suffering but stylish Auntie can handle in Narinder Dhami’s Bollywood Babes. When Geena, 14, Amber (Ambajit), 12, and Jazz (Jasvinder), 11, track down a former Hindi-film heroine, invite her to their home, and ask her to be the guest of honor at their school’s Bollywood-themed fundraiser, they have no idea that life as they know it will change forever.
Momotaro: Xander and the Dream Thief by margaret DillowayMomotaro: Xander and the Dream Thief by Margaret Dilloway (Book Two)
This sequel to Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (2016) begins on the heels of Xander Miyamoto learning he’s the new Momotaro, a demon-fighting warrior. He should be thrilled, but his powers have waned, he’s plagued by nightmares, and his long-absent mother has returned without warning. Xander’s grandmother gives him a baku (special charm) to help fight the nightmares, cautioning him not to use it unless absolutely necessary, for misuse causes the theft of dreams.
Momotaro - Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway (Book One)
Xander Musashi Miyamoto is a half-Asian sixth-grader whose major interest is playing and coding computer games. When strange things begin to happen, his obāchan (grandmother) reveals that Xander comes from a long line of Momotaro warriors and only he can rid the world of oni (demons). Reluctantly, Xander sets sail on a magical ship with his dog and best friend, and they are taken to unknown worlds and meet the final person for their crew—Jinx, the monkey girl.
Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartinoRebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino
Giacomo is a 12-year-old orphan who lives in the sewers of Renaissance-inspired Virenzia. His prized possession is a sketchbook, though drawing is risky as the Supreme Creator, or dictator, has outlawed art. When his personal Genius—a birdlike creature that enhances artistic abilities—finds him, he is dangerously marked as an artist. Shortly thereafter, a trio of other artistic children find him and take him to a safe house where they are allowed to flourish.
mirror of fireThe Mirror of Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Time Passages, Magic Messages • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of those gifted writers who touches readers of all ages. Known primarily for her adult fiction, she solidifies her younger reader base with this latest offering, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming. The middle entry in “The Brotherhood of the Conch” trilogy, The Mirror combines courage, loyalty, selflessness, and friendship with folklore, magic, mysticism, and fantasy. Magic apprentice Anand, his high-spirited sidekick Nisha, and their revered teacher Abhaydatta take the reader on yet another extraordinary journey, one that propels them into the past.
Bubble by Stewart FosterStarred Review Star logo Bubble by Stewart Foster
Eleven-year-old Joe Grant has no recollection of being outside of his specially monitored hospital room. A rare genetic disorder, severe combined immunodeficiency, keeps him within the same four walls because the smallest thing can kill him. Joe’s world revolves around monitor beeps and daily bruise checks in the shower, and the only people he sees are doctors, nurses, his Skype pal Henry, and Beth, his sister and only living family member.
when-my-sister-started-kissingWhen My Sister Started Kissing by Helen Frost
Eleven-year-old Claire and thirteen-year-old Abigail have lived alone with their father since their mother died when Claire was a baby. The three have spent a month at the lake every summer, but things are different this year. Their new (pregnant) stepmom is coming, while their mom’s belongings have been packed away as if she’d never been there. Abigail declares she wants to be called Abi, and all she can think of is boys—and kissing them.
Anybody ShiningAnybody Shining by Frances O’Roark Dowell
Letters to a Friend • Frances O’Roark Dowell is an award-winning children’s author whose latest novel, “Anybody Shining” brings her readers to the mountains of North Carolina and into a world she loves. Twelve-year-old Arie Mae Sparks lives in Stone Gap, N.C., in the early 1920s and knows little about the outside world beyond the National Barn Dance she hears on WLS-AM radio from Chicago. What she does know is that everyone else has something she desperately wants: one true, shining friend.
in todd we trustIn Todd We Trust by Louise Galveston
Todd and the Toddlians have returned, and this time around, he falls hard for Charity, the beautiful new girl at school. This means the Toddlians come second, leading them to believe Great Todd is angry with them. The Toddlians decide to find a new god, a process that almost destroys them.
Theodore Boone: The FugitiveTheodore Boone by John Grisham (Book Five)
Book five in this continuing story of a murder trial gone awry finds Theo Boone in a predicament that involves the escaped murderer, the FBI, and an undocumented immigrant. On his eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., Theo recognizes a man on the Metro to be Pete Duffy, the man accused of murdering his wife back home. Theo calls Ike—his uncle who served prison time—who helps confirm the man’s identity.
princess academy 3 forgotten sistersStarred Review Star logo Princess Academy 3: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale
On the day that Miri is to return to her beloved Mount Eskel, she is summoned by King Bjorn of Danland, requesting her to travel to outer territorial Lesser Alva, where she is to tutor three royal sisters. If the King of Stora chooses one to marry, war will be prevented, and it’s up to Miri to succeed. Unhappy but duty-bound, Miri accepts the task, only to meet three wild girls who spend their days wrestling on the floor and hunting and fishing in the swamp. They are dirty, unkempt, and uneducated.
Beastkeeper by Cat HellisenBeastkeeper by Cat Hellisen
Because her mother craved the warmth of the sun, Sarah and her parents frequently packed up and moved. Lonely and friendless, Sarah always desired some magic in her life. On the day her mother leaves, never to return, odd things begin to happen. Her father’s hair grows dark and thick as he becomes beastlike, and Sarah meets an improbable boy named Alan, who disappears as quickly as he appears in the Not-a-Forest near her home.
Full Cicada MoonStarred Review Star logo Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton
Mimi Yoshiko Oliver and her family just moved from Berkeley, California, to Hillsborough, Vermont, where she immediately encounters barrier after barrier to overcome. Mimi’s goal is to become an astronaut; however, it’s 1969, a time when young girls are encouraged to become mothers, secretaries, teachers, or nurses. She also wants to fit in at school. That was easy at her school in Berkeley, where there were kids from every background, but in white-populated Vermont, she stands out as the only half black, half Japanese student.
215251_SCH_RDJahanara_0.tifJahanara-Princess of Princesses: India 1627 (The Royal Diaries) by Kathryn Lasky
A Royal Treat • In this most secret and personal method of writing, 14-year-old Princess Jahanara shares her deepest thoughts and feelings about her exciting yet closed world, a world in which history was lived and made. The great-granddaughter of Akbar, the greatest of the Moghul rulers, she is also the daughter of Shah Jahan (Khurram) and Empress Mumtaz Mahal, the wife for whom he built the Taj Mahal.
Valiant by Sarah McGuireValiant by Sarah McGuire
Seventeen-year-old Saville is trapped. Arriving in the city of Reggen, Saville’s father, a tailor, falls ill. Despite her father’s disdain for her, she resourcefully dons boy’s clothing, chops her hair, and assumes the name Avi. Then she has to be smarter than ever when she must rescue a friend—and the city—from two giants. The town cheers Avi as their champion, and stories of his victory turn into impossible feats of human ability.
WhispererThe Whisperer by Fiona McIntosh
Like Tom and Prince Edward in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, 13-year-olds Griff and Lute are worlds apart but share a common bond. Griff works as a hired hand for Tyren, the greedy owner of a traveling circus. Lute is the crown prince, although rumors swirl in certain circles that his origin holds secrets. Both boys are in trouble. Tyren wants to exploit Griff’s ability to hear people’s private thoughts, but when Griff hears cries for help from one clear voice, he sneaks away to rescue whomever is calling him. Meanwhile, Lute is on the run from his uncle Duke Janko, who tries to kill Lute in a riding “accident.”
The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIsaacBoys of F‏ire and Ash, The by Meaghan McIsaac
The Ikkuma Pit, sheltered from the outside world, is hot and filled with lava pots. It’s where Mothers leave their baby sons and where Brothers grow up hating the Mothers who abandoned them. When a Brother turns 16, he takes his Leaving. That’s the first time a boy ventures out of the Pit and into the unknown world. Urgle, nearing his Leaving time, isn’t ready. Being ill-equipped in hunting and tracking, his nickname, “Useless,” is one he’s heard for so long that he believes it.
A Night DividedA Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Four years after the Berlin Wall went up, in 1961, 12-year-old Gerta Lowe is eager for freedom and to reunite her family. Separated from her father on Germany’s west side, Gerta, her brother Fritz, and her mother live in East Germany under Communist rule and near-relentless scrutiny. One day, she sees her father on a platform overlooking the wall, and she realizes he’s trying to send her a message: dig a tunnel! With the help of Fritz, the two siblings plan carefully, overcome dangerous obstacles, and then face the toughest task of all: convincing their mother to escape with them.
Shrunken HeadStarred Review Star logo Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H. C. Chester
In 1930s New York City, murder and mayhem obsess the children who reside—and are performers—at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. Orphans Pippa (the mentalist), Sam (the overly strong boy), Thomas (the contortionist), and Max (the knife-throwing “sharpshooter”) get some firsthand experience with chaos when Mr. Dumfrey purchases a cursed shrunken head for the museum. When a smarmy reporter from the Daily Screamer starts writing sensational articles about the shrunken head and the children, the four decide to unravel the mystery behind the curse.
Nickel Bay Nick by Dean PitchfordNickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford
“This has got to be the Worst. Christmas. EVER!” declares 11-year-old Sam Brattle. He has a swelling police record and no respect for anyone or anything. His mother left before his heart transplant at age 3 1/2. His friends are older delinquents. His father’s business is failing. On top of that, Nickel Bay Nick—the secret benefactor who leaves 45 $100 bills around his deteriorating town before Christmas—has disappeared. When Sam damages part of Herbert Wells’ house, he is blackmailed into service to help cover the repairs.
Gracefully GraysonGracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Sixth-grader Grayson Sender quietly doodles princesses and castles with glitter pens during class and dreams of wearing twirly skirts and long, shiny gowns instead of his limp, lifeless track pants. Those aren’t problems, but the fact that he has to repress himself is a problem—a big one. Despite knowing that he is a girl deep down inside, Grayson has learned to look and act like the boy he is not; his family would be furious and his classmates would bully him if they found out.
Dead City Book 2: Blue Moon by James PontiBlue Moon by James Ponti
Finding, fighting, and even protecting zombies is serious extracurricular work for Molly Bigelow and her three Omega team pals from Dead City (2012). In this butt-kicking sequel, they join the Baker’s Dozen project. Their assignment? Monitor the Unlucky 13, the Blackwell family men killed in an 1896 subway tunnel digging explosion. The Blackwells roam freely as undead with constantly changing names.
Epic RockMy Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros
It’s the beginning of seventh grade, and Nina’s BFF Brianna is giving her the cold shoulder in favor of a new friend. Nina also has another problem: she can’t eat peanuts or eggs. Without friends at lunch, Nina plops herself down at the “allergy table.” There she makes new pals and ends up being the drummer in a band they’re forming for the talent show.
Bayou MagicStarred Review Star logo Bayou Magic by Jewell Rhodes
It’s 10-year-old Maddy’s turn to spend a summer with her maternal grandmother on the bayou in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has heard stories from her sisters about the strange woman they call “Grandmére,” but Maddy can’t wait to go. During her stay, she meets the locals and makes friends with Bear, whose father works on a deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and who is looked after by the bayou people. Under Grandmére’s tutelage, Maddy learns her family’s history, important life lessons taught through wise, simple dictums, and becomes adept at watching and listening.
Look Both WaysLook Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco by Judith Robbin Rose
After a news reporter broadcasts a story from her neighborhood youth center, 12-year-old Jacinta asks the reporter to be her amiga (mentor). “Miss,” as Jacinta respectfully calls her, agrees, but Jacinta is taken off guard when Miss introduces her to the bewildering world outside her barrio. At first, it’s more frightening than hiding the fact that her father is an undocumented immigrant. All the while, Miss speaks with a vocabulary and confidence that confounds Jacinta until she realizes these are tools to help her achieve things she never dared dream of before.
Shivas FireShiva’s Fire by Suzanne Fisher Staples
Dance Is Her Destiny • “Such a beautiful child,” Priya said softly … “Born on such a day … her life will be either extraordinary or terrible,” the old woman muttered, thrusting the infant back into her mother’s arms. Blessed, cursed, mystical, and innocent, Parvati was born to dance. This young girl from a village called Nandipuram began life in a whirlwind, one that propels her throughout the book. Born on the day of her father’s death—the same day that a cyclone destroyed her village—Parvati is regarded as the cause of all grief, and the villagers shun her out of fear and superstition. Their fear, however, is not entirely without basis.
Charlie-grandmothers Charlie and the Grandmothers by Katy Towell
Twelve-year-old Charlie is highly observant but a worrier—finding something to fear in every detail. When he notices that local children are disappearing on visits to their grandmothers, Charlie worries that he and his sister Georgie will be next, despite the fact that they don’t have any grandmothers. Soon his mother begins acting strangely and introduces them to Pearl and Opal, two grandmothers who Charlie knows aren’t part of the family.
well-that-was-awkwardWell, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail
Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A. J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor.
LootLoot by Jude Watson
When master jewel thief Alfie McQuinn dies, his stashed set of clues and cryptic last words to March, his 12-year-old son and apprentice, mark the beginning of a race against time. The first clue leads March to discover his twin sister, Jules, a traveling circus acrobat. Tossed into a group home, they meet Darius, a juvenile delinquent with a soft spot for Izzy, a code-cracking hacker. The four join forces, busting out of the home and into a series of high-stakes heists to reclaim seven cursed moonstone gems once stolen by Alfie.
Speed of Life by Carol WestonStarred Review Star logo Speed of Life by Carol Weston
Fourteen-year-old Sofia Wolfe moves through life smiling with friends and hiding the sorrow of having lost her Spanish mother almost a year earlier. The only people she has to talk to are her abuelo in Spain, and—regarding girl things—“Dear Kate,” a teen-advice columnist with whom she can anonymously discuss personal matters. When Sofia’s father reveals he’s dating Kate, Sofia initially feels betrayed that he’s moving on with his life when she can’t.
Homesless BirdHomeless Bird by Gloria Whelan
Take Flight in a Tale Well Told • Thirteen-year old Koly, the daughter of a letter-writer and an embroiderer, is another mouth to feed. While her parents love her, they feel it is time to arrange a marriage that they hope will bring her a better life. It is learned too late that the young groom is terminally ill; it was not Koly who was wanted by the groom’s family but rather her dowry to pay for his medical expenses. The young girl, handed over to her new family, becomes more than another mouth to feed; she becomes a non-returnable burden.
Cast OffCast Off by Eve Yohalem
Becoming a stowaway isn’t Petra DeWinter’s first choice for escaping her father’s abuse, but hiding on a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies seems to be her only option. The problem is that it’s 1663, she is 12, and she is a girl. If discovered, she could be thrown overboard to either drown or be shark food, or she could be sent home as soon as the ship makes land.

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