Here again with another list of 15 backlist middle-grade books to dive into! I like making these lists because they help me find middle-grade books I didn’t even know existed. Many of these books are either under the radar because they did not get publicity when they were published or simply because it’s been while since they were published. However, they tackle several important vital topics, and make for excellent reading (going by reviews from trusted sources).
Many of these are sitting on my Kindle, and I’ve read one book from last month’s list which I loved and reviewed 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
The Last Grand Adventure
Published: March 20, 2018
I found this one while making my list of historical fiction for middle graders. It’s set in 1967 and features a grandma and granddaughter off on an adventure. Bea’s father has remarried and she’s stuck with a new stepsister, so she’s eager to leave with her grandmother who claims to be searching for her long-lost sister Amelia Earhart(!) I loved the last Amelia Earhart related story I read, so I’m eager to read this one. I have it saved on Scribd.
It All Comes Down to This
Published: July 11, 2017
First off, I adore this cover. I haven’t read anything by Karen English and I desperately want to change that (I’m always looking for books by Black authors). This is another work of historical fiction set in 1965 about a girl whose parents’ marriage is on the rocks. Her big sister is off to college, but a brush with racism exposes her to the world of injustice in their mostly white neighborhood. I feel like Black historical fiction is rare, so this is perfect for fans of Rita Williams Garcia’s Gaither sisters series.
The Stupendously Spectacular Spelling Bee
Published: April 3, 2018
I’ve had my eye on this book since I first started reading middle-grade books two years ago. It follows a girl who enters a televised spelling bee contest, and it’s perfect for kids who like words and spelling. India’s family is also super lovable, and there’s a mean rich girl whom India has to deal with to reach her goals. Good news: this book is available on Kindle Unlimited (which I’m currently trying out). It’s also the first in a series which is excellent for kids who enjoy middle-grade series. It’s definitely on the younger side — recommended for advanced reading third graders and fourth graders as well.
Published: August 5, 2014
I’ll admit: I squealed when I found this book! A parent had requested more book recommendations written in list format. Her daughter loved Annie’s Life in Lists, which is written entirely in lists. Well, so is (most of) this book! Abigail is in a pickle when she doesn’t make the cheerleading squad and is instead assigned to a letter writing project with the school outcast. Who doesn’t love books about unlikely friendships?
Let Me Fix That for You
Published: July 23, 2019
In this quirky upper middle-grade book, Glad is her school’s resident problem-solver. However, she realizes that maybe she’s fixing other people’s problems because she can’t fix the one in her home: her parents’ issues. It’s been on my radar for a while and I hope this is the year I get to it.
The Thing About Twinkie Pie
Published: January 27, 2015
Ahh, a sister story with food, a cooking contest, and a move to a posh new neighborhood? Count me in! I truly love Asian middle-grade literature (and Asian lit in general) so this one has been sitting on my Kindle for a while. It was on my list of middle-grade books about food and it has so many rave reviews, I have a good feeling about it.
The Forget-Me-Not Summer
Published: May 5, 2015
Three LA sisters visit their aunt in Cape Cod for the summer and must adjust to sharing a room, life in sunny Cape Cod, and a summer they did not plan. This sweet, feel-good summer story is perfect for those who enjoy books about sisters.
Waiting for Normal
Published: February 5, 2008
I’ve been wanting to read this 2008 release for a long time now, but it just seemed so heavy and there never appeared to be a right time to read it. Waiting for Normal is about a 12-year-old girl, Addie, whose mother has bipolar disorder. As a result, she is neglectful, and leaves Addie and her stepsisters at the mercy of Addie’s stepfather. Leslie Connor is an acclaimed author and I would love to finally read one of her books.
The Season of Styx Malone
Published: October 16, 2018
As you may have noticed, I don’t read many middle-grade “boy books.” Very few appeal to me, and many of those are written by women. But it’s something I’m actively working to improve. This book is about two boys who form a friendship with an older kid and it turns out not to be a good choice for them. The premise sounds intriguing and the author is also one I’ve never read before.
The Great Greene Heist
Published: May 27, 2014
Varian Johnson is a brilliant storyteller, and his books are always captivating. Bonus points because this one is a mystery! Jackson Greene and his band of friends try to put the school bully in his place while ensuring a fair school election.
Published: January 8, 2019
A reader recommended this book after I shared a list of middle-grade books with inspiring teachers (in my newsletter). I was sold when I read the synopsis. The story is about a band of misfits who get stuck with a teacher with “worse attitude than them.” Of course, the year promises to be full of mayhem, but maybe also heartwarming surprises?
Let’s Pretend We Never Met
Published: June 13, 2017
A friendship story (my favorite kind of story) about two girls whose new bond formed over school vacation is tested by a return to school and the discovery that one is a bully’s target — and the other one just wants to fit in with the cool girls.
My Secret Guide to Paris
Published: February 24, 2015
A super-duper feel-good story set in Paris, complete with croissants, stories from a fun grandma, and maybe even a love story?
Published: April 4, 2019
Another mystery following a detective duo as they solve a murder mystery in their high-rise building. This book is set in the United Kingdom, for all you lovers of British middle-grade books. Reviewers have called it “vivid” and humorous.
Far from Fair
Published: April 4, 2019
I love road trip stories! This one is about a girl, Odette, whose parents take her and her brother on a road trip to visit their grandmother. But Odette is not happy about what they find when they reach grandma. If you’re interested in books about illness in the family, you’ll love 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 illness in the family, sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you a PRINTABLE list of 10 favorites featuring sick (physically) siblings and parents.
Stephanie Greene says
Afoma, you do readers and authors a great service by compiling this list. New books are published at such a frenetic pace now that great titles often sink under the weight and disappear. The books on your list have great merit. They are funny and/or thought-provoking, address contemporary issues and concerns children feel, and deserve readers. Thank you.
Afoma Umesi says
Thank you so much Stephanie! For reading, and for such a kind comment. I appreciate it 🙂
[email protected] says
I have a few of these, but have not read them yet. I see many that have been raved about too. You can’t go wrong with any of these.
Never too late to read a good book! 🙌😍
I’ve only read a couple of these. I can highly recommend The Unteachables. I loved it. Thanks for the post.
Miriam Falk says
I have read a few of these — The Unteachables, Waiting for Normal, & Styx Malone — they are all very good. Start with Styx.