2020 was a hard year to publish a book, especially for debut authors. I’m happy to have read (and loved) several of these 2020 middle grade debut novels. Most of them are contemporary middle grade books, but I will also link to a couple of posts from other bloggers who have shared their fantasy choices by 2020 middle grade debut authors. I hope that this post moves you to check out one — or seven — of these brilliant debuts — some of which are already getting well-deserved buzz. And one last note: some of these books are middle grade debuts from authors who have already released books for adults or young adults, or picture book readers.
2020 Middle Grade Debut Novels You May Have Missed
Here are 40 wonderful 2020 middle grade debut novels you may have missed:
Published: October 27, 2020
Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together.
Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket! There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food.
And after her pickled cucumber debacle at lunch, she’s determined to channel her inner Julia Child. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?
We Could Be Heroes
Published: February 25, 2020
Hank Hudson is in a bit of trouble. After an incident involving the boy’s bathroom and a terribly sad book his teacher is forcing them to read, Hank is left with a week’s suspension and a slightly charred hardcover—and, it turns out, the attention of new girl Maisie Huang.
Maisie has been on the lookout for a kid with the meatballs to help her with a very important mission: Saving her neighbor’s dog, Booler. Booler has seizures, and his owner, Mr. Jorgensen, keeps him tied to a tree all day and night because of them. It’s enough to make Hank even sadder than that book does—he has autism, and he knows what it’s like to be treated poorly because of something that makes you different.
But different is not less. And Hank is willing to get into even more trouble to prove it. Soon he and Maisie are lying, brown-nosing, baking, and cow milking all in the name of saving Booler—but not everything is as it seems. Booler might not be the only one who needs saving. And being a hero can look a lot like being a friend.
When Life Gives You Mangoes
Published: October 20, 2020
A small village on a Jamaican island.
A girl who doesn’t remember the previous summer.
A best friend who is no longer acting like one; a new girl who fills that hole in her heart.
A summer of finding fallen mangos, creating made up games and dancing in the rain.
Secrets she keeps from others…and herself.
The courage to face the truth even in the toughest of storms.
Published: September 1, 2020
Buying and moving into the run-down Jewel Motor Inn in upstate New York wasn’t eleven-year-old Miriam Brockman’s dream, but at least it’s an adventure. Miriam befriends Kate, whose grandmother owns the diner next door, and finds comfort in the company of Maria, the motel’s housekeeper, and her Uncle Mordy, who comes to help out for the summer. She spends her free time helping Kate’s grandmother make her famous grape pies and begins to face her fears by taking swimming lessons in the motel’s pool.
But when it becomes clear that only a miracle is going to save the Jewel from bankruptcy, Jewish Miriam and Catholic Kate decide to create their own. Otherwise, the No Vacancy sign will come down for good, and Miriam will lose the life she’s worked so hard to build.
Published: May 5, 2020
Seventh grade is not going well for Will Levine. Kids at school bully him because of his funny-looking chin. And for his bar mitzvah community service project, he’s forced to go to the hospital to visit RJ, an older boy struggling with an incurable disease.
At first, the boys don’t get along, but then RJ shares his bucket list with Will. Among the things he wants to do: ride a roller coaster; go to a school dance; swim in the ocean. To Will, happiness is hanging out in his room, alone, preferably with the turtles he collects. But as RJ’s disease worsens, Will realizes he needs to tackle the bucket list on his new friend’s behalf before it’s too late. It seems like an impossible mission, way outside Will’s comfort zone. But as he completes each task with RJ’s guidance, Will learns that life is too short to live in a shell.
Finally, Something Mysterious
Published: April 14, 2020
Paul Marconi has always thought that Bellwood was a strange town, but also a boring one. Not much for an eleven-year-old to do. Fires are burning nearby, Paul’s parents are obsessed with winning a bratwurst contest, and his best friend, one of the founding members of their only-child detective club, the One and Onlys, is about to acquire a younger sister, sort of undoing their whole reason for existing. But then! Hundreds of rubber duckies have appeared on the lawn of poor Mr. Babbage without any explanation. Finally! There is something that Paul and his friends can actually investigate.
In the face of all these bizarre occurrences, Paul is convinced that uncovering who deposited the duckies will finally bring some sense to what has become an upside-down world. Soon the three friends have a long list of suspects, all with their own motives, but no clear culprit. When everything comes to a head at the town’s annual Bellwood Bratwurst Bonanza, Paul discovers that some things don’t have an easy explanation and not every mystery can be solved.
A perfect summer story about friends, amateur sleuthing, and a whole lot of rubber duckies.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance
Published: September 8, 2020
My gym shorts burrow into my butt crack like a frightened groundhog.
Don’t you want to read a book that starts like that??
Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues.
She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons.
Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Published: April 14, 2020
Sutton is having robot problems. Her mini-bot is supposed to be able to get through a maze in under a minute, but she must have gotten something wrong in the coding. Which is frustrating for a science-minded girl like Sutton—almost as frustrating as the fact that her mother probably won’t be home in time for Sutton’s tenth birthday.
Luis spends his days writing thrilling stories about brave kids, but there’s only so much inspiration you can find when you’re stuck inside all day. He’s allergic to bees, afraid of dogs, and has an overprotective mom to boot. So Luis can only dream of daring adventures in the wild.
Sutton and Luis couldn’t be more different from each other. Except now that their parents are dating, these two have to find some common ground. Will they be able to navigate their way down a path they never planned on exploring?
The Places We Sleep
Published: August 25, 2020
It’s early September 2001, and twelve-year-old Abbey is the new kid at school. Again.
I worry about people speaking to me / and worry just the same / when they don’t.
Tennessee is her family’s latest stop in a series of moves due to her dad’s work in the Army, but this one might be different. Her school is far from Base, and for the first time, Abbey has found a real friend: loyal, courageous, athletic Camille.
And then it’s September 11. The country is under attack, and Abbey’s “home” looks like it might fall apart. America has changed overnight.
How are we supposed / to keep this up / with the world / crumbling / around us?
Abbey’s body changes, too, while her classmates argue and her family falters. Like everyone around her, she tries to make sense of her own experience as a part of the country’s collective pain. With her mother grieving and her father prepping for active duty, Abbey must learn to cope on her own.
Written in gorgeous narrative verse, Abbey’s coming-of-age story accessibly portrays the military family experience during a tumultuous period in our history. At once personal and universal, it’s a perfect read for fans of sensitive, tender-hearted books like The Thing About Jellyfish.
Jayla Jumps In
Published: September 1, 2020
When eleven-year-old Jayla finds out that her mother used to be a Double Dutch champion, she’s stunned. Her mom, who’s on doctor’s orders to lower her blood pressure, could move like that?!? Jayla decides to follow in her mom’s footsteps, thinking that maybe double Dutch can make her stand out in her big, quirky family. As she puts together a team at school and prepares to compete, Jayla finds that Double Dutch is about a lot more than jumping rope—and it just might change her life in ways she never imagined. Full of hilarious family dynamics and plenty of jump rope action, Jayla Jumps In follows one girl’s quest to get her mom healthy and find her place in her community.
Published: March 31, 2020
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman – or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.
But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.
Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family
My Life as a Potato
Published: March 24, 2020
Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good.
After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit . . . right?
Life as a potato is all about not getting mashed! With laugh-out-loud illustrations throughout, hand to fans of James Patterson, Gordan Korman, Jeff Kinney, and Chris Grabenstein!
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Published: August 18, 2020
Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it’s a lot harder than his dad made it look. His little sister, Charlie, asks too many questions, and Mama’s gone totally silent.
Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own–once she stops hassling Isaiah.
And when things get really tough, there’s Daddy’s journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad’s tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!
Kelly J. Baptist’s debut novel explores the indomitable spirit of a ten-year-old boy and the superhero strength it takes to grow up.
How to Make Friends with the Sea
Published: March 31, 2020
Pablo is homesick.
He’s only twelve years old, but he’s lived in more countries than he can count. After his parents divorced, he and his mother have moved from place to place for years, never settling anywhere long enough to call it home. And along the way, Pablo has collected more and more fears: of dirt, of germs, and most of all, of the ocean.
Now they’re living in the Philippines, and his mother, a zoologist who works at a local wildlife refuge, is too busy saving animals to notice that Pablo might need saving, too. Then his mother takes in Chiqui, an orphaned girl with a cleft lip–and Pablo finds that through being strong for Chiqui, his own fears don’t seem so scary.
He might even find the courage to face his biggest fear of all…and learn how to make friends with the sea.
Double the Danger and Zero Zucchini
Published: September 22, 2020
Books aren’t supposed to be dangerous. Are they?
Alex Harmon prefers running over sitting still reading. But when his aunt offers to pay him to point out the boring parts in her children’s book, he figures it’s an easy way to make ten bucks. The problem is that her book is about a grumpy frog and a prize-winning zucchini. It doesn’t have only a few boring pages…the whole thing is a lost cause.
Alex gives his aunt some ideas to help her out—like adding danger and suspense. But books can’t just be interesting. They also have to be believable. Soon Alex recruits his friends to help him act out scenes so he can describe all the important details. He’s even getting plot twists from a mysterious stranger (who might also be a ghost). Too late, Alex discovers that being a real-life stunt double for a fictional character can land you in terrible trouble—even if your friends are laughing their heads off!
From the Desk of Zoe Washington
Published: January 14, 2020
Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime?
A crime he says he never committed.
Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge.
But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.
That’s What Friends Do
Published: January 28, 2020
Samantha Goldstein and David Fisher have been friends ever since they met on their town’s Little League baseball team. But when a new kid named Luke starts hanging out with them, what was a comfortable pair becomes an awkward trio.
Luke’s comments make Sammie feel uncomfortable—but all David sees is how easily Luke flirts with Sammie, and so David decides to finally make a move on the friend he’s always had a crush on.
Soon things go all wrong and too far, and Sammie and David are both left feeling hurt, confused, and unsure of themselves, without anyone to talk to about what happened.
As rumors start flying around the school, David must try to make things right (if he can) and Sammie must learn to speak up about what’s been done to her.
Published: July 21, 2020
North Korea. December, 1950.
Twelve-year-old Sora and her family live under an iron set of rules: No travel without a permit. No criticism of the government. No absences from Communist meetings. Wear red. Hang pictures of the Great Leader. Don’t trust your neighbors. Don’t speak your mind. You are being watched.
But war is coming, war between North and South Korea, between the Soviets and the Americans. War causes chaos–and war is the perfect time to escape. The plan is simple: Sora and her family will walk hundreds of miles to the South Korean city of Busan from their tiny mountain village. They just need to avoid napalm, frostbite, border guards, and enemy soldiers.
But they can’t. And when an incendiary bombing changes everything, Sora and her little brother Young will have to get to Busan on their own. Can a twelve-year-old girl and her eight-year-old brother survive three hundred miles of warzone in winter?
Haunting, timely, and beautiful, this harrowing novel from a searing new talent offers readers a glimpse into a vanished time and a closed nation.
Taylor Before and After
Published: February 18, 2020
Before, Taylor Harper is finally popular, sitting with the cool kids at lunch, and maybe, just maybe, getting invited to the biggest, most exclusive party of the year.
After, no one talks to her.
Before, she’s friends with Brielle Branson, the coolest girl in school.
After, Brielle has become a bully, and Taylor’s her favorite target.
Before, home isn’t perfect, but at least her family is together.
After, Mom won’t get out of bed, Dad won’t stop yelling, and Eli…
Through everything, Taylor has her notebook, a diary of the year that one fatal accident tears her life apart. In entries alternating between the first and second semester of her eighth-grade year, she navigates joy and grief, gain and loss, hope and depression.
How can Taylor pick up the pieces of what used to be her social life? How can her house ever feel like home again after everything that’s happened? And how can she move forward if she can’t stop looking back?
Me vs. the Multiverse: Pleased to Meet Me
Published: August 4, 2020
It all starts with a note folded into the shape of an origami octopus: “Hi, Me. Yes, you. You’re me, and I’m you.” If you believe this and the other origami notes that follow–which middle schooler Meade Macon absolutely, positively does NOT–the concept of parallel dimensions is true, and there is a convention full of alternate versions of Meade waiting for his RSVP. It’s got to be a joke.
Except . . . the octopus is an origami fold Meade thought he invented. And the note writer has a lot of intel on him that nobody else should know. I mean, he’s told his best friend Twig a lot about himself, but he’s definitely kept mum about that time he sleepwalk-peed into his Lego container when he was six. Could Me Con be a real thing? And why does the origami stalker want him to go so badly anyway?
Published: April 7, 2020
Mary Murphy feels like she’s drowning. Her violent father is home from prison, and the social worker is suspicious of her new bruises. An aunt she’s never met keeps calling. And if she can’t get a good grade on her science project, she’ll fail her favorite class.
But Mary doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. She has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she’s been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown. Gaining courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary vows to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay, risking her life in a modern crusade to save herself.
Mary Underwater is an empowering tale of persistence, heroism, and hope from a luminous new voice in middle-grade fiction.
The Eye of Ra
Published: February 1, 2020
Now they must work together to find a way back home from an ancient civilization of golden desert sand and a towering new pyramid, without parents to save them. The adventures abound—cobras, scorpions, a tomb robber, and more! The two kids have to trust each other, make friends who can help, and survive the challenges thrown at them . . . or be stuck in ancient Egypt forever
Stand Up, Yumi Chung
Published: March 17, 2020
On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.
Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura–and Yumi doesn’t correct them.
As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen
Published: February 25, 2020
Vivy Cohen is determined. She’s had enough of playing catch in the park. She’s ready to pitch for a real baseball team.
But Vivy’s mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won’t give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy’s amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back!
Now Vivy is a full-fledged pitcher, with a catcher as a new best friend and a steady stream of advice from VJ. But when a big accident puts her back on the bench, Vivy has to fight to stay on the team.
The Dream Weaver
Published: June 23, 2020
Zoey comes from a family of dreamers. From start-up companies to selling motorcycles, her dad is constantly chasing jobs that never seem to work out. As for Zoey, she’s willing to go along with whatever grand plans her dad dreams up—even if it means never staying in one place long enough to make real friends. Her family being together is all that matters to her.
So Zoey’s world is turned upside down when Dad announces that he’s heading to a new job in New York City without her. Instead, Zoey and her older brother, José, will stay with their Poppy at the Jersey Shore. At first, Zoey feels as lost and alone as she did after her mami died. But soon she’s distracted by an even bigger problem: the bowling alley that Poppy has owned for decades is in danger of closing!
After befriending a group of kids practicing for a summer bowling tournament, Zoey hatches a grand plan of her own to save the bowling alley. It seems like she’s found the perfect way to weave everyone’s dreams together…until unexpected events turn Zoey’s plan into one giant nightmare. Now, with her new friends counting on her and her family’s happiness hanging in the balance, Zoey will have to decide what her dream is—and how hard she’s willing to fight for it.
Rating Your Bunkmates and Other Camp Crimes
Published: February 1, 2020
Twelve-year-old Abigail Hensley is a socially awkward aspiring anthropologist who has always had trouble connecting with her peers. Abigail is hopeful that a week at sleepaway camp is the answer to finally making a friend. After all, her extensive research shows that summer camp is the best place to make lifelong connections. Using her tried-and-true research methods, Abigail begins to study her cabinmates for friendship potential. But just when it seems that she is off to a good start, her bunkmate’s phone gets stolen, and Abigail is the main suspect. Can she clear her name, find the real culprit, and make a friend before the week is done?
The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane
Published: March 3, 2020
Eleven-year-old Maybelle Lane collects sounds. She records the Louisiana crickets chirping, Momma strumming her guitar, their broken trailer door squeaking. But the crown jewel of her collection is a sound she didn’t collect herself: an old recording of her daddy’s warm-sunshine laugh, saved on an old phone’s voicemail. It’s the only thing she has of his, and the only thing she knows about him.
Until the day she hears that laugh–his laugh–pouring out of the car radio. Going against Momma’s wishes, Maybelle starts listening to her radio DJ daddy’s new show, drinking in every word like a plant leaning toward the sun. When he announces he’ll be the judge of a singing contest in Nashville, she signs up. What better way to meet than to stand before him and sing with all her heart?
But the road to Nashville is bumpy. Her starch-stiff neighbor Mrs. Boggs offers to drive her in her RV. And a bully of a boy from the trailer park hitches a ride, too. These are not the people May would have chosen to help her, but it turns out they’re searching for things as well. And the journey will mold them into the best kind of family–the kind you choose for yourself.
The Dare Sisters
Published: September 8, 2020
Savannah Dare has taken up the mantle of treasure hunter, passed down by her grandfather—and she’s recruited her two sisters to join the crew!
But it turns out there’s a reason Blackbeard’s treasure has been missing for centuries. Most of Savannah’s neighbors think it doesn’t even exist. But the sisters have a key—a literal, golden, jewel-encrusted key—and they’re determined to find what it unlocks with the help of clues and puzzles their grandfather left behind.
Their voyage of discovery leads them to a trove of family secrets and betrayals, and soon Savannah has to ask herself what price she’s willing to pay in return for the ultimate prize.
In the Red
Published: March 24, 2020
Michael Prasad knows he shouldn’t go out on the Mars surface alone. It’s dangerous. His parents have forbidden it. And the anxiety he feels almost every time he puts on a spacesuit makes it nearly impossible for him to leave the safety of the colony.
But when his best friend, Lilith, suggests they sneak out one night, he can’t resist the chance to prove everyone—including himself—wrong.
As the two ride along the Mars surface in a stolen rover, miles from the colony, a massive solar flare hits the planet, knocking out power, communication, and navigation systems, and the magnetic field that protects the planet from the sun’s deadly radiation.
Stranded hours from home with an already limited supply of food, water, and air, Michael and Lilith must risk everything if they’re to get back to the colony alive.
The Elephant’s Girl
Published: May 19, 2020
An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember what happened before a tornado swept her away when she was a toddler. All she knows is that it landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo; and there an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her birth family, Lex grew up at the zoo with Nyah and her elephant family; her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.
Now that she’s twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind’s protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah’s message and gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. As she hunts for answers, Lex must summon the courage to leave the secure borders of her zoo to discover who she really is–and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago.
When You Know What I Know
Published: March 24, 2020
One day after school, on the couch in the basement, Tori’s uncle did something bad. Afterward, Tori tells her mom. Even though telling was a brave thing to do, her mom still doesn’t believe her at first. Her grandma still takes his side. And Tori doesn’t want anyone else—even her best friend—to know what happened.
Now Tori finds herself battling mixed emotions—anger, shame, and sadness—as she deals with the trauma. But with the help of her mom, her little sister, her best friend, and others, can Tori find a way to have the last word?
Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Published: February 4, 2020
Life is full of great expectations for Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look.
When Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself. At school, Pippa juggles old and new friends, a crush, and the pressure to get As and score points while keeping her past and family’s laundromat a secret from her elite new classmates.
But when Pippa begins to receive a string of hateful, anonymous messages via social media, her carefully built persona is threatened. As things spiral out of control, Pippa wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.
What Stars Are Made Of
Published: March 31, 2020
Twelve-year-old Libby Monroe is great at science, being optimistic, and talking to her famous, accomplished friends (okay, maybe that last one is only in her head). She’s not great at playing piano, sitting still, or figuring out how to say the right thing at the right time in real life. Libby was born with Turner Syndrome, and that makes some things hard. But she has lots of people who love her, and that makes her pretty lucky.
When her big sister Nonny tells her she’s pregnant, Libby is thrilled—but worried. Nonny and her husband are in a financial black hole, and Libby knows that babies aren’t always born healthy. So she strikes a deal with the universe: She’ll enter a contest with a project about Cecilia Payne, the first person to discover what stars are made of. If she wins the grand prize and gives all that money to Nonny’s family, then the baby will be perfect. Does she have what it takes to care for the sister that has always cared for her? And what will it take for the universe to notice?
Published: March 3, 2020
Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in blankets, to their roof. Coo has lived her entire life on the rooftop with the pigeons who saved her. It’s the only home she’s ever known. But then a hungry hawk nearly kills Burr, the pigeon she loves most, and leaves him gravely hurt.
Coo must make a perilous trip to the ground for the first time to find Tully, a retired postal worker who occasionally feeds Coo’s flock, and who can heal injured birds. Tully mends Burr’s broken wing and coaxes Coo from her isolated life. Living with Tully, Coo experiences warmth, safety, and human relationships for the first time. But just as Coo is beginning to blossom, she learns the human world is infinitely more complex?and cruel?than she could have imagined.
This remarkable debut novel will captivate readers from the very first line. Coo examines the bonds that make us family, the possibilities of love, and the importance of being true to yourself. Fans of Katherine Applegate, Kate DiCamillo, and Barbara O’Connor will devour this extraordinary story.
Published: February 11, 2020
Dad always said if things get desperate, it’s okay to drink the water in the toilet. I never thought it would come to that. I thought I’d sooner die than let one drop of toilet water touch my lips. Yet here I am, kneeling before a porcelain throne, holding a tin mug for scooping in one hand, and my half-gallon canteen in the other.
The Lockwood brothers are supposed to be able to survive anything. Their dad, a hardcore believer in self-reliance, has stockpiled enough food and water at their isolated Nevada home to last for months. But when they are robbed of all their supplies during a massive blackout while their dad is out of town, John and Stew must walk 96 miles in the stark desert sun to get help. Along the way, they’re forced to question their dad’s insistence on self-reliance and ask just what it is that we owe to our neighbors, our kin, and to ourselves.
The Year the Maps Changed
Published: April 28th 2020
One extraordinary year will change them all…
Sorrento, Victoria, 1999. Fred’s family is a mess. Her mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop’s had to go away, and Luca’s girlfriend Anika and her son have moved in. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
Even as things feel like they’re spinning out of control for Fred, a crisis from the other side of the world comes crashing in. When a group of Kosovar-Albanian refugees are brought to a government ‘safe haven’ not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family in ways that no one could have expected.
Published: July 7, 2020
Molly Frost is FED UP…
Because Olivia was yelled at for wearing a tank top.
Because Liza got dress coded and Molly didn’t, even though they were wearing the exact same outfit.
Because when Jessica was pulled over by the principal and missed a math quiz, her teacher gave her an F.
Because it’s impossible to find shorts that are longer than her fingertips.
Because girls’ bodies are not a distraction.
Because middle school is hard enough.
And so Molly starts a podcast where girls can tell their stories, and before long, her small rebellion swells into a revolution. Because now the girls are standing up for what’s right, and they’re not backing down.
The Messy Life of Blue
Published: June 16, 2020
Eleven-year-old Beulah “Blue” Warren spends every waking moment surrounded by boys: her three brothers, her father, her best friend, even the family dog, but that’s never stopped her from being her usual rambunctious self. Grappling with the loss of her mother, Blue is determined to do what she wants without fear of consequences. When she is sent to the principal’s office, she gets out of it like a pro. When the witchy neighbor next door trashes her yard, Blue doesn’t just get even, she gets ahead. No clean underwear because she hasn’t done the laundry? No worries. That’s what her little brother’s Superman underwear is for, isn’t it? But everything changes on the day she explores the attic and finds her mother’s death certificate. Blue will need to muster all the strength she has to deal with the truth, find forgiveness, trust in her father, and grieve for her mother once and for all.
Published: February 4, 2020
Jeanne Ann is smart, stubborn, living in an orange van, and determined to find a permanent address before the start of seventh grade. Cal is awkward, sensitive, living in a humongous house across the street, and determined to save her. Jeanne Ann wants Cal’s help just about as much as she wants to live in a van.
As the two form a tentative friendship that grows deeper over alternating chapters, they’re buoyed by a cast of complex, oddball characters, who let them down, lift them up, and leave you cheering. Debut novelist Danielle Svetcov shines a light on a big problem without a ready answer, pulling it off with the perfect balance of humor, heartbreak, and hope.
There they are: 40 awesome 2020 middle grade debut novels you may have missed! I’m sure I missed a TON on this list, so I would like to know some of your favorite 2020 middle grade debuts. Please share in the comments, especially if you have fantasy recs! I liked this list and this one.
Many, many thanks to our sponsor (who specifically suggested this book list) Melanie Conklin, and her 2020 release Every Missing Piece for sponsoring this post. Thank you for reading and supporting the authors and brand who make Reading Middle Grade free for all.
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- 50 middle grade books with strong female protagonists