I’m several weeks late, but happy to be presenting this list of middle grade books to read in 2020. I’ve also sprinkled in some delightful chapter books to read in 2020. These are far from all the books expected in 2020 (more like the first half) and I’ve only included books that I’m looking forward to reading.
I don’t read fantasy or books with magical realism, so you won’t be finding those on this list. Instead, you can expect a generous helping of realistic middle-grade novels, mostly by women. I also make the effort to read middle-grade books by Black authors and by Asian authors, so you’ll find those here as well.
Without further ado, these are the 52 middle-grade books (and chapter books) to read in 2020 — one for every week of the year ;).
Chapter Books to Read in 2020 (ages 7-10)
January 01, 2020
Farah Rocks Fifth Grade
Published: January 1, 2020
Farah and her best friend, Allie Liu, are getting excited to turn in their applications to the Magnet Academy, where they both hope to attend sixth grade. But when new girl Dana Denver shows up, Farah’s world is turned upside down.
As Dana starts bullying Farah’s little brother, Samir, Farah begins to second-guess her choice to leave him behind at Harbortown Elementary/Middle School. Determined to handle it on her own, Farah comes up with a plan–a plan that involves lying to those closest to her. Will her lies catch up with her, or can Farah find a way to defeat the bully and rock fifth grade?
The Amazing Life of Azaleah Lane
Published: January 1, 2020
Azaleah can’t wait for her class field trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C., especially when her teacher announces the chance to earn extra credit. But when Azaleah gets home, she quickly realizes extra credit isn’t as easy as she thought. Azaleah’s younger sister Tiana can’t find Greenie, her stuffed animal, and she’s sure he’s been stolen.
With Mama at the restaurant and Daddy at work on a big case, it seems Azaleah is the only one available to track down the stolen stuffie. Can Azaleah get to the bottom of the mystery in time to finish her extra credit?
January 14, 2020
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business
Fresh Off the Boat meets Junie B. Jones in this first novel in an adorable new chapter book series about Mindy Kim, a young Asian American girl who is starting a snack business!
Mindy Kim just wants three things:
1. A puppy!
2. To fit in at her new school
3. For her dad to be happy again
But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. On her first day of school, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed isn’t exactly popular at the lunch table. Luckily, her new friend, Sally, makes the snacks seem totally delicious to Mindy’s new classmates, so they decide to start the Yummy Seaweed Business to try and raise money for that puppy!
When another student decides to try and sabotage their business, Mindy loses more than she bargained for—and wonders if she’ll ever fit in. Will Mindy be able to overcome her uncertainty and find the courage to be herself?
Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade
Published: January 14, 2020
Mindy is excited to celebrate the Lunar New Year! Even though it’s the first one without her mom, Mindy is determined to enjoy the day. She decides to make traditional Korean New Year food, a rice cake soup that’s her favorite. But things aren’t going quite to plan, and the celebration doesn’t feel the same as it did before.
With the help of her family and friends, can Mindy find a way to still enjoy her old holiday traditions, and create new ones along the way?
Middle-Grade Books to Read in 2020
Jan 07, 2020
Published: September 16, 2020
How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
– Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
– Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
– Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most important, the way home.
What Not to Bring:
– A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.
Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with New York Times bestselling Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover that the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Grandparents
Jan 14, 2020
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.
Pixie Pushes On
Published: January 14, 2020
Pixie’s defenses are up, and it’s no wonder. She’s been uprooted, the chickens seem to have it in for her, and now her beloved sister, Charlotte, has been stricken with polio and whisked away into quarantine. So it’s not surprising Pixie lashes out. But her habit of making snap judgements–and giving her classmates nicknames like “Rotten Ricky” and “Big-Mouth Berta”–hasn’t won her any friends.
At least life on the farm is getting better with the delivery of its newest resident–a runt baby lamb. Raising Buster takes patience and understanding–and this slowing down helps Pixie put things in better perspective. So too does paying attention to her neighbors, and finding that with the war on she’s not the only one missing someone. As Pixie pushes past her own pain to become a bigger person, she’s finally able to make friends; and to laugh about the fact that it is in places where she least expected it.
Stella Diaz Never Gives Up
Stella gets a big surprise when her mom plans a trip to visit their family in Mexico! Stella loves marine animals, and she can’t wait to see the ocean for the first time . . . until she arrives and learns that the sea and its life forms are in danger due to pollution.
Stella wants to save the ocean, but she knows she can’t do it alone. It’s going to take a lot of work and help from old and new friends to make a difference, but Stella Díaz never gives up!
February 1, 2020
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?
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Summer Camp
February 4, 2020
Published: February 4, 2020
Twelve-year-old Jeanne Ann has doubts when her mom spends their savings on an old orange van and bundles them off to San Francisco to chase Mom’s dream of working as a chef. There, they camp on the street while her mother looks for a job she never gets. Before long, Jeanne Ann realizes that this van is the closest thing she has to a home.
Across the road, twelve-year-old Cal watches the homeless community parked just beyond his big house. Cal’s mom is busy with the upscale restaurant she owns, but they’ve always been close–until Cal does something his mom just doesn’t understand.
Then Cal and Jeanne Ann meet. Cal is too tall and too
weird and too rich and wears all his emotions on the outside of his
skin, and he just wants to help. Jeanne Ann is smart, she is funny, she
is stubborn–hers is a royal-looking chin, in
Cal’s opinion–and she does not want his help. But a quirky, meaningful friendship develops between them, and as it does, the pair is buoyed by a remarkable cast of nuanced, oddball characters, who let them down and lift them up. When Jeanne Annn’s situation worsens, though, and Cal’s desire to help gets the better of him, will their friendship survive? And without it, can either of them find their way through this mess?
Pippa Park Raises Her Game
Published: February 4, 2020
Life is full of great expectations for Korean American Pippa Park. It seems like everyone, from her family to the other kids at school, has a plan for how her life should look. So when Pippa gets a mysterious basketball scholarship to Lakeview Private, she jumps at the chance to reinvent herself by following the “Rules of Cool.”
At Lakeview, Pippa juggles old and new friends, an unrequited crush, and the pressure to perform academically and athletically while keeping her past and her 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 begin to spiral out of control, Pippa discovers the real reason she was admitted to Lakeview and wonders if she can keep her old and new lives separate, or if she should even try.
When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.
Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding–and find the courage she never knew she had?
In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.
Related: Best Middle-Grade Mysteries
A Galaxy of Sea Stars
Published: February 4, 2020
At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends – Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) – to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.
Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family – including eleven-year-old Sitara — to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.
When hate messages start showing up at the girls school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns, will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right – even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.
February 25, 2020
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen
Published: February 25, 2020
Vivy Cohen wants to play baseball. Ever since her hero, Major League star pitcher VJ Capello, taught her how to throw a knuckleball at a family fun day for kids with autism, she’s been perfecting her pitch. And now she knows she’s ready to play on a real team.
When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone she knows, she writes to VJ and tells him everything about how much she wants to pitch, and how her mom says she can’t because she’s a girl and because she has autism. And then two amazing things happen: Vivy meets a Little League coach who invites her to join his team, the Flying Squirrels. And VJ starts writing back.
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Sports
March 01, 2020
A Many Feathered Thing
Published: March 1, 2020
Eleven-year-old Clara is known as the girl who draws, but she’s not tortured enough to become a real artist. Her only suffering, besides embarrassment over her real name Clarity Kartoffel, German for Clarity Potato is a crippling inability to speak in public. When Clara and her oldest friend, Orion break their neighbor’s glass gazing ball, Clara decides that in order to suffer like a true artist, she will do every hard thing in her path . . . starting with knocking on scary old Mr. Vogelman’s door. That’s when she meets Birdman. That’s when she sees his swirling painting. And that’s when everything changes.
To pay for the broken glass ball, Clara begins working for Birdman in his atelier. He challenges her to throw away her eraser and draw what she sees, not what she wants to see. But as Clara discovers, seeing, really seeing is hard. Almost as difficult as befriending the new girl at school, or navigating awkward feelings for Orion or finding the courage to speak in front of the entire class. But little does Clara know, the biggest challenges are yet to come. To cope with tragedy, she will have to do more than be brave. As Birdman teaches her, she will have to bring the hope.
March 03, 2020
The Queen Bee and Me
Published: March 3, 2020
Meg has been friends with confident, self-assured Beatrix since kindergarten. She’s always found comfort in Beatrix’s shadow—even their families call them Beatrix-and-Meg. But middle school has brought some changes in Beatrix, especially when Meg tries to step outside her role as sidekick. Upsetting Beatrix means risking The Freeze—or worse.
Meg gets into a special science elective and wants to take the class, no matter what Beatrix thinks. But when quirky new girl Hazel becomes Meg’s science partner, Beatrix sets her sights on Hazel. At first, Meg is taken aback at how mean Beatrix can be—and how difficult it is to stand up to her friend. But as Meg gets to know Hazel while working on their backyard beehive project, she starts to wonder: What’s it really like to be the Queen Bee? And more importantly: Is being Beatrix’s friend worth turning down the possibility of finding her own voice?
That’s What Friends Do
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.
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Friendships
Summer in the City
Published: March 31, 2020
Where Mango goes, drama is sure to follow! It’s summer break, and Mango is content to spend her time babysitting her brother, hanging with her friend Izzy, and binge-watching movies late into the night. Then she runs into her drama teacher, who has some big news: their middle school play Yo, Romeo! is headed to the stage in New York City . . . and he wants Mango for the lead role! After overcoming her mom’s initial reluctance—and with some firm rules established—Mango goes off to Brooklyn to stay with her Aunt Zendaya in a teeny apartment and prepare for her theatrical debut.
It’s the opportunity of a lifetime, but soon Mango must confront homesickness, insecurity, and the all-important question of what it means to be a good friend—especially when you’re far away from the people you love.
Things You Can’t Say
Nothing is going right this summer for Drew. And after losing his dad unexpectedly three years ago, Drew knows a lot about things not going right. First, it’s the new girl Audrey taking over everything at the library, Drew’s sacred space. Then it’s his best friend, Filipe, pulling away from him. But most upsetting has to be the mysterious man who is suddenly staying with Drew’s family. An old friend of Mom’s? Drew isn’t buying that.
With an unlikely ally in Audrey, he’s determined to get to the bottom of who this man really is. The thing is, there are some fears—like what if the person you thought was your dad actually wasn’t—that you can’t speak out loud, not to anyone. At least that’s what Drew thinks.
But then again, first impressions can be deceiving.
Related: Best Middle-Grade Boy Books
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 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 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 that the human world is infinitely more complex—and cruel—than she could have imagined
Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Animals
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 too. And the journey will bond them into the best kind of family–the kind you choose for yourself.
March 10, 2020
The Only Black Girls in Town
Published: March 10, 2020
Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta’s best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can’t understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.
Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.
When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.
Related: Best Black Middle-Grade Books
The Newspaper Club
Published: March 10, 2020
Shortly after Nellie Murrow, named for one of the fiercest journalists who ever lived and daughter of two (former) newspaper reporters, move to sleepy Bear Creek, Maine, rumors of vandalism and attacks at the only park in town are keeping Nellie saddled to the house.
Some townspeople say the attacks are gang recruitments. Others blame a vagrant spotted on the hiking trails around town. But when Nellie thinks like a reporter, none of those explanations make sense. Something is happening at the park, but what? All of the fake online news and rumors are clouding the real news.
Nellie wants to break the story–and break free from the front yard-but she can’t do it alone. She needs a whole club if she’s going to start the town’s first independent newspaper–The Cub Report. Creating a newspaper from scratch is going to be tough; but for Nellie, making friends is even harder.
Worse Than Weird
Published: March 10, 2020
SUMMER CODING CAMP
INCOMING 7th GRADERS ONLY
EIGHT-WEEK SESSION BEGINS JUNE 28
THIS IS IT, MY SUMMER PLAN.
Hoping to ditch two months of chicken coops, Kale, and her parents’ anti-screen rules, Mac MacLeod sets out to win a citywide food cart scavenger hunt and the money she needs for the summer coding camp of her dreams.
But Mac discovers more than just clues during her cross-city sprint – like how her weird parents might not be the worst thing compared to the circumstances of those around her.
March 17, 2020
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.
Related: An Interview with Jessica Kim, Author of Stand Up, Yumi Chung
March 24, 2020
Center of Gravity
Published: March 24, 2020
Tessa is an anxious person, but it’s become worse since her mother died a few months ago. To calm herself down she cuts out photos of missing kids—from milk cartons—and keeps them in a file. It helps her feel like she’s not alone.
When her dad announces suddenly that he’s getting married—and that they’re moving, Tessa must navigate new friendships and a new stepmother. She knows she should let go of old habits, but that’s easier said than done. Her struggle is one that many readers will understand.
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
March 31, 2020
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.
Related: 30 Best Middle-Grade Books About Mental Illness
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 Cecelia 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?
Related: 33 Best Middle-Grade Books Under 250 Pages
The Great Upending
Published: March 31, 2020
Twelve-year-old Sara and her brother Hawk are told that they are not to bother the man—The Mister—who just moved into the silo apartment on their farm. It doesn’t matter that they know nothing about him and they think they ought to know something. It doesn’t matter that he’s always riding that unicycle around. Mama told them no way, no how are they to bother The Mister unless they want to be in a mess of trouble.
Trouble is the last thing Sara and her brother need. Sara’s got a condition, you see. Marfan syndrome. And that Marfan syndrome is causing her heart to have problems, the kind of problems that require surgery. But the family already has problems: The drought has dried up their crops and their funds, which means they can’t afford any more problems, let alone a surgery to fix those problems. Sara can feel the weight of her family’s worry, and the weight of her time running out, but what can a pair of kids do?
Well, it all starts with…bothering The Mister.
April 07, 2020
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.
April 14, 2020
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?
Published: April 14, 2020
In the blink of a summer, Bea goes from having a best friend and a place she belongs to being dropped and invisible, eating lunch alone and only talking to teachers. The end of sixth grade and the start of Camp Amelia can’t come soon enough.
But then the worst part of school, ex-best friend Maisy, shows up in Bea’s safe place and ruins it all. Maisy lands in the same bunk as Bea and summer suddenly seems dire. Never having camped a day in her life, Maisy agrees: it’s hopeless.
She should be at home, spending time with her little sister and hanging out with her super popular crew of friends–not at this stupid adventure camp failing everything and being hated by everyone. In a desperate bid to belong, Maisy offers Bea a deal: if Bea helps her fit in at the camp, she will get Bea into the M & M’s, their town’s popular clique, when they enter seventh grade in the fall. The Popularity Pact is born.
THE PRETTIEST: It’s the last thing Eve Hoffmann expected to be, the only thing Sophie Kane wants to be, and something Nessa Flores-Brady knows she’ll never be . . . until a list appears online, ranking the top fifty prettiest girls in the eighth grade.
Eve is disgusted by the way her body is suddenly being objectified by everyone around her.
Sophie is sick of the bullying she’s endured after being relegated to number two.
And Nessa is tired of everyone else trying to tell her who she is.
It’s time for a takedown. As the three girls band together, they begin to stand up not just for themselves, but for one another, too.
April 21, 2020
Wrong Way Summer
Published: April 21, 2020
Claire used to love her dad’s fantastical stories, especially tales about her absent mom—who could be off with the circus or stolen by the troll king, depending on the day. But now that she’s 12, Claire thinks she’s old enough to know the truth.
When her dad sells the house and moves her and her brother into a converted van, she’s tired of the tall tales and refuses to pretend it’s all some grand adventure, despite how enthusiastically her little brother embraces this newest fantasy. Claire is faced with a choice: Will she play along with the stories her dad is spinning for her little brother, or will she force her family to face reality once and for all?
May 05, 2020
Keep It Together, Keiko Carter
Published: May 5, 2020
Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she’s got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. Her trio is ready to tackle life as they always have…together.
But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Jenna is sick of caving in to Audrey’s demands, and soon Keiko’s besties are barely talking, leaving her caught in the middle. While she’s been dreaming about triple-dates, first kisses, and a boy she really shouldn’t have a crush on, the friendship she’s always thought was rock-solid is beginning to crumble.
Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends-even if it means losing one of them-or follow her heart? When it comes to flirting, friendships, and fallouts, how is Keiko supposed to keep it all together?
We Dream of Space
Cash loves basketball, Dr. J, and a girl named Penny; he’s also in danger of failing seventh grade for a second time. Fitch spends every afternoon playing Major Havoc at the arcade and wrestles with an explosive temper that he doesn’t understand. And Bird, his twelve-year-old twin, dreams of being NASA’s first female shuttle commander, but feels like she’s disappearing.
The Nelson Thomas siblings exist in their own orbits, circling a tense, crowded, and unpredictable household, dreaming of escape, dreaming of the future, dreaming of space. They have little in common except an enthusiastic science teacher named Ms. Salonga—a failed applicant to the Teacher in Space program—who encourages her students to live vicariously through the launch. Cash and Fitch take a passive interest, but Bird builds her dreams around it.
When the fated day arrives, it changes everything.
Any Day with You
Published: May 5, 2020
Kaia and her family live near the beach in California, where the fun of moviemaking is all around them. Kaia loves playing with makeup and creating special effects, turning her friends into merfolk and other magical creatures.
This summer, Kaia and her friends are part of a creative arts camp, where they’re working on a short movie to enter in a contest. The movie is inspired by the Filipino folktales that her beloved Tatang, her great-grandfather, tells. Tatang lives with her family and is like the sparkle of her special-effects makeup. When Tatang decides that it is time to return to his homeland in the Philippines, Kaia will do anything to convince him not to go.
Related: 63 Best Asian Middle-Grade Books
When I Hit the Road
Published: May 5, 2020
Samantha is not exactly excited to spend what was supposed to be an awesome summer vacation with her grandma all the way in Florida. Or to be testing out her mom’s “Dear Me” Journals–writing to her future self just feels weird. But it turns out Gram has some not-so-boring plans up her sleeve…
Gram and her friend Mimi are going to audition for the Seniors Have Got Talent Karaoke Contest!
A road trip in Gram’s new Mustang turns into a series of hilarious mishaps that flip Samantha’s summer on its head. And to make things more awkward, Brandon, Mimi’s totally handsome grandson, is also along for the ride.
It looks like those journals just might be worth keeping after all. Because this summer will be one Samantha will never want to forget.
May 12, 2020
A Place at the Table
A timely, accessible, and beautifully written story exploring themes of food, friendship, family and what it means to belong, featuring sixth-graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl taking a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom.
Sixth-graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is huge and completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher.
The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners … but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends?
Related: Middle-Grade Books About Food
Fly on the Wall (Graphic Novel)
Published: September 15, 2020
Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!
But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.
Related: The Best Middle-Grade Graphic Novels
May 19, 2020
Every Missing Piece
Maddy Gaines can’t help but see danger everywhere she looks. When a new kid shows up in her small town, Maddy suspects he isn’t just any boy-he’s Billy Holcomb, the missing person the police have been searching for the last six months. Except, who will believe her? Definitely not her mom or her stepdad. Or the chief of police.
But when Maddie convinces her best friend Cress to keep investigating Billy Holcomb, they find out more than they bargained for. As they try to put the pieces together, Maddie faces her own demons that she’s been running away from all this time. Written in a seamless middle-grade voice by rising author Melanie Conklin, this coming-of-age novel proves that even the most flawed of characters contain multitudes.
Related: Melanie Conklin Interview
What Happens Next
Published: May 19, 2020
Astronomy-obsessed Abby McCourt should be thrilled about the solar eclipse her small town of Moose Junction is about to witness, but she’s not. After her older sister Blair was sent away for an eating disorder, Abby has been in a funk.
Desperate to dull the pain her sister’s absence has left, she teams up with a visiting astronomer to help track down his long-lost telescope. Though this is supposed to take Abby’s mind off the distance between her and Blair, what she finds may bring her closer to her sister than she ever thought possible.
May 26, 2020
The Year the Maps Changed
Published: October 18, 2022
Sorrento, Victoria – 1999
Fred’s family is a mess. Fred’s mother died when she was six and she’s been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca’s girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred’s just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.
But even as the world feels like it’s spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia’s ‘safe havens’ on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.
June 2, 2020
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.
Brave Like That
Published: June 2, 2020
Cyrus Olson’s dad is a hero—Northfield’s former football star and now one of their finest firefighters. Everyone expects Cyrus to follow in his dad’s record-breaking footsteps, and he wishes they were right—except he’s never been brave like that. But this year, with the help of a stray dog, a few new friends, a little bit of rhythm, and a lot of nerve, he may just discover that actually…he is.
Lauded as “remarkable” by the New York Times Book Review, Lindsey Stoddard’s heartfelt stories continue to garner critical acclaim, and her latest novel will have fans new and old rooting for Cyrus and Parker’s special bond and the courage it helps them both to find.
The Amelia Six
Published: June 30, 2020
Eleven-year-old Amelia Ashford—Millie to her friends (if she had any, that is)—doesn’t realize just how much adventure awaits her when she’s given the opportunity of a lifetime: to spend the night in Amelia Earhart’s childhood home with five other girls. Make that five strangers. But Millie’s mom is a pilot like the famous Amelia, and Millie would love to have something to write to her about…if only she had her address.
Once at Amelia’s house in Atchison, Kansas, Millie stumbles upon a display of Amelia’s famous flight goggles. She can’t believe her good luck, since they’re about to be relocated to a fancy museum in Washington, DC. But her luck changes quickly when the goggles disappear, and Millie was the last to see them. Soon, fingers are pointing in all directions, and someone falls strangely ill. Suddenly, a fun night of scavenger hunts and sweets takes a nosedive and the girls aren’t sure who to trust. With a blizzard raging outside and a house full of suspects, the girls have no choice but to band together. It’s up to the Amelia Six to find the culprit and return the goggles to their rightful place. Or the next body to collapse could be one of theirs.
June 9, 2020
Five Things About Ava Andrews
Eleven-year-old Ava Andrews has a Technicolor interior with a gray shell. On the inside, she bubbles with ideas and plans. On the outside, everyone except her best friend, Zelia, thinks she doesn’t talk or, worse, is stuck-up. What nobody knows is that Ava has invisible disabilities: anxiety and a heart condition.
Ava hopes middle school will be a fresh start, but when Zelia moves across the country and Ava’s Nana Linda pushes her to speak up about social issues, she withdraws further. So Ava is shocked when her writing abilities impress her classmates and they invite her to join their improv group, making up stories onstage. Determined to prove she can control her anxiety, she joins—and discovers a whole new side of herself, and what it means to be on a team.
But as Ava’s self-confidence blossoms, her relationship with Zelia strains, and she learns that it isn’t enough just to raise your voice—it’s how and why you use it that matters.
Seven Clues to Home
Published: June 9, 2020
WHEN YOU’VE LOST WHAT MATTERS MOST,
HOW DO YOU FIND YOUR WAY BACK HOME?
Joy Fonseca is dreading her 13th birthday, dreading being reminded again about her best friend Lukas’s senseless death on this day, one year ago — and dreading the fact he may have heard what she accidentally blurted to him the night before. Or maybe she’s more worried he didn’t hear.
Eitherway, she’s decided: she’s going to finally open the first clue to their annual birthday scavenger hunt Lukas left for her the morning he died, hoping the rest of the clues are still out there. If they are, they might lead Joy to whatever last words Lukas wrote, and toward understanding how to grab onto the future that is meant to be hers.
August 4, 2020
Forever This Summer
Published: July 6, 2021
Georgie has no idea what to expect when she, Mama, and Peaches are plopped down in the middle of small town USA–AKA Bogalusa, Louisiana. G-baby wants to help out at the once famous family diner that once served celebrities like the Jackson 5 and the Supremes, but with restaurateur Great Aunt Elvie needing help remembering day-to-day things, everyone is too busy to show G-baby the ropes.G-baby makes friends with Markie, a foster kid under Aunt Elvie’s care, who has a limb difference and a huge singing voice.
When G-baby’s best friend, Nikki, comes to visit they realize that the kids in town don’t have a place to hang out like their Boys & Girls club in Atlanta. G-baby, Nikki, and Markie embark on a mission to start a club of their own: the Bogalusa Summer Club. Since clubs aren’t exactly free, they decide to put on a talent show to raise money. Along the way, G-baby will discover an unexpected talent of her own: fighting for what’s fair and right even when everything is stacked against you.
September 15, 2020
Three Keys (Front Desk #2)
Published: September 15, 2020
Mia Tang thinks she’s going to have the best year ever.
She and her parents are the proud owners of the Calivista Motel, Mia gets to run the front desk with her best friend, Lupe, and she’s finally getting somewhere with her writing! But as it turns out, sixth grade is no picnic…
1. Mia’s new teacher doesn’t think her writing is all that great.
2. The motel is struggling, and Mia has to answer to the Calivista’s many, many worried investors.
3. A new immigration law is looming and if it passes, it will threaten everything—and everyone—in Mia’s life.
It’s a roller coaster of challenges, and Mia needs all of her determination to hang on tight. But if anyone can find the key to getting through turbulent times, it’s Mia Tang!
October 6, 2020
Published: October 6, 2020
Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!
Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?
There they are: 52 of the best middle-grade books to read in 2020 + a few special chapter books to read in 2020! If you missed it, check out my favorite middle-grade books read in 2019.
Which of these books have you read (I’ve read a few already!) and which ones are on your 2020 TBR. What did I miss? Please share your 2020 TBR picks with me!
I get all my best MG recs from you! Thanks for sharing!
Afoma Umesi says
Aww! It’s my pleasure, Carol!! ❤️
Jenna @ Falling Letters says
Wonderful list! Thanks for compiling this. I am the opposite of you. For personal enjoyment, I primarily read fantasy and magical realism. But as a children’s librarian I want to be able to recommend contemporary reads for the kids who enjoy them, so I appreciate resources like this that make me aware of books that might not otherwise have caught my attention. Any Day With You is one in particular I will keep my eye on. I read a couple contemporary books about Filipino characters last year. Both were set in the Philippines (great!) but I’d also like to have some recommendation for books with Filipino-American/Canadian characters.
Afoma Umesi says
Yes, Mae Respicio’s ANY DAY WITH YOU is high on my list! Can’t wait! Thanks for reading!
Augusta Scattergood says
Afoma, I discovered your blog and your booklists by pure serendipity. And now I’m hooked! I’ve already read several on this list as well as many on your “historical fiction” list, and now I have even more excellent books just reserved at my library. Keep up the great work!