Some backlist middle-grade books don’t get as much love as they deserve. Typically, once the pub day frenzy is past, these titles get forgotten, almost like their worth depends on their publication date! None of that around here.
But what do I mean by “backlist books”?
back·list | \ ˈbak-ˌlist
: a publisher’s list of books published before the current season and still in print.
For my lists, I’ll be focusing on books published at least one full year prior. Pstt, many backlist titles are often less expensive than new releases (which you should definitely still purchase if you can) and readily available at your libraries.
I try to read and review past titles once in a while and often, many of them are SO GOOD. Some older titles I’ve read and reviewed include:
- The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
- What Momma Left Me by Renee Watson
- Guts by Raina Telgemeier
- Solving for M by Jennifer Swender
- Braced by Alyson Gerber
- Finding Perfect by Elly Swartz
15 Backlist Middle-Grade Books to Read
Here are 15 older middle-grade titles I’m hoping to read soon:
Nikki on the Line
This upper middle grade book about a girl trying to balance her love for basketball with family issues, babysitting, school, and friend drama sounds right up my alley. I’ve featured this one in my list of sports books for tweens and it’s sitting pretty in my Kindle.
The Stars of Summer
I enjoyed the first book in this middle-grade series about a child food critic. Food books are some of my favorites. This time Gladys Gatsby is at a summer camp (not by choice) and can’t seem to fit in. Plus, she’s struggling with swimming and planning lunches for her camp mates — and she still has to find the best hot dog in the city! I’m looking forward to the humor and mouthwatering food descriptions characteristic of the series.
All the Greys on Greene Street
I’ve been meaning to read this one for like ever. A middle-grade historical fiction book that’s also a mystery and features a parent with depression? Sign me up. Olympia’s father restores antique paintings in 80’s Soho, but when he goes missing, leaving a cryptic note behind, it up to her to find him before time runs out.
The True History of Lyndie B. Hawkins
Another historical fiction by the late Gail Shepherd, this one is about a girl whose father fought in the Vietnam war and hasn’t been the same since. But when her daddy goes missing, Lyndie has to decide whether to keep his secrets, like her Grandma says she must, or whether there’s more she can do. Many readers have described this book as having “a lot of heart.” I’ve had it for over a year now, so I think it’s time.
The Battle of Junk Mountain
Set on the idyllic Maine coast, this quintessential summer story follows twelve-year-old Shayne Whittaker, whose grandmother’s thrifting has turned into hoarding. Her BFF, Poppy, seems to have gone boy crazy, and summer is turning out differently than she imagined. With a new friend — a boy named Linc — can she save her grandma and make new memories this summer?
No Fixed Address
This Canadian middle-grade book is about Felix whose mom can’t seem to keep a job. They both end up homeless — living in their van — and Felix’s mom says he can’t tell anyone their living conditions. But then, he gets a chance to be on his favorite trivia show and he wants to win the cash prize to make their lives a bit easier. However, things do not quite go as planned. Even though they’re not always easy reads, I’m constantly trying to read more middle-grade books about poverty and homelessness and this one sounds good.
The Thing About Leftovers
The protagonist in this book sounds so sweet and she’s trying to be the perfect Southern good girl. Both her parents have remarried after their divorce, but Fizzy can’t seem to find her place in either home. She finds comfort in a Southern cook-off show and in her friendships with two other kids who have parent issues of their own. This sounds very much like a slice-of-life book about food, friendships, and family — what’s not to love?
Right As Rain
Nearly a year after her brother’s death, Rain and her family have moved from Vermont to New York City where Rain is trying to cope with her grief and the bustle of a big city. This book has so many things going for it, from being set in NYC to death and grief, and also the struggles of moving to a new city. I can’t wait to get to it. It will also be my first book by Lindsay Stoddard!
Violinia Beebe Takes Charge
Spunky fourth-grade Vilonia desperately wants a pet dog, especially since her Nana’s death. But she has to prove first that she’s responsible, and this makes for an entertaining read. I loved Kristin L. Gray’s The Amelia Six, but I know this one is for a younger middle-grade audience, like Watson’s Ways to Make Sunshine. Still, I’m eager to meet Vilonia and her sweet love for animals.
The Grand Plan to Fix Everything
Although she loves Bollywood, Dini is not pleased to be moving to India — especially to a tiny town that’s not even Bombay! But she’s in for many surprises and a lot of adventure. This book is on my list of middle-grade books about moving (whether to a new house, city, or country) and I’m looking forward to reading it. If you’d like to find more books by Asian writers, you can check out this list.
Each Tiny Spark
Emilia Torres seems to have ADHD, like Clea does in Gerber’s Focused. But she’s grappling with even more as her father returns from deployment an unraveled version of himself. There are also friend and community changes to cope with in addition with her many struggles. This one has been on my list for a while, as I am trying to read more books by Latin-American authors.
Sage Carrington, Eighth-Grade Science Sleuth
Another summer story, but this time about two friends who find an antique treasure map and try to outsmart a bully to score the treasure. This is part of a series, but I’ve never read anything by the author. Although there are several excellent middle-grade books by Black authors now, I can’t seem to find many backlist titles by them.
The Length of a String
This Jewish middle-grade book follows young Imani, a Black girl adopted into a Jewish family. Imani’s desire to find her birth parents changes when she finds her Jewish great-grand mother’s diary from when she trying to escape during the Holocaust era. This seems like a sweet book about Jewish history and adoption, similar to Broken Strings which I really liked.
One Hundred Spaghetti Strings
This book seems to a food-centered story with lots of big issues, like a sick parent and an absentee parent who comes back into the picture, as well as a change of living situation. However, it also features a sweet sister relationship, as well one sister who is a talented dancer. I’m looking forward to reading this one soon.
Emmy in the Key of Code
This verse novel follows a young girl who falls in love with coding and learns to combine that STEM skill with her love for music. There’s also some friendship drama and warm family dynamics in this one.
Which of these backlist middle-grade books have you read and loved? I’d love to know where to begin! Want more backlist goodness? Check out this list I made last June. If you’re on the hunt for new/forthcoming middle-grade books, check out this list of 33 middle-grade books to read this fall!
If you’d like to find more middle-grade books with STEM connections, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you a PRINTABLE list of 20 favorites, including picks about bees, math, science, and aeronautics.
I haven’t read one of these ….so I have a lot to choose from! Thanks!
Afoma Umesi says
Oooh we’re in the same boat! 😂 You’re welcome 😉
[email protected] says
I have quite a few of these on my backlist too, but I did read one – No Fixed Address. My goodness! I loved that book so much. Felix will always have a place in my heart.
Afoma Umesi says
I REALLY want to read that one — gotta bump it up!
I haven’t heard of any of these books. They all look like fun reads.