Welcome to a brand new month! If you’re wondering about new middle grade books releasing in October 2023, this is the post for you. October is looking to rival last month’s hefty releases with many great middle grade books to anticipate. I’ve read almost all of the books on this list and love how much variety there is. There are a couple of adventure stories, at least four mystery books, three eagerly awaited sequels, one cute graphic novel, two non-fiction books, one especially brilliant debut novel, and so much more.
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15+ New Middle Grade Books Out in October 2023
Here are 19 middle grade books releasing in October 2023:
Treasure Island: Runaway Gold
Published: October 3, 2023 | Adventure | 336 pp | Age 10+
Zane and his mom are struggling to make ends meet after his father’s death. His mom rents out rooms in their home to boarders, one of whom is an old, eccentric woman, Captain Maddie, who keeps talking about treasure and pirates. Before Maddie dies after an attack by a group of skateboarders, she asks Zane to be her First Mate and find the treasure. Armed with his skateboard, his two best friends, Kiko and Jack, and his dog Hip-hop, Zane goes on an adventure in Manhattan, learning a lot about Black history, slavery, and trust in the process.
I liked many things about this book, from the skateboarding/seafaring parallels to the friendships, the adventure, and the fact that there are illustrations every few chapters. I also learned a lot about Black history in New York. Kids who enjoy any of these elements will love this one. I’d hand it to older middle schoolers because there are several moderately violent scenes.
Tethered to Other Stars
Published: October 3, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 320 pp | Age 9+
I’m halfway through this one right one and it is so beautifully written. Wendy’s family has moved to a new neighborhood after several people in their former Latin-American community disappear, thanks to ICE agents and immigration officers. Now in the new neighborhood, things are only slightly better. She’s in a gifted school, working on her new science project, and making new friends, but there are still ICE agents patroling and a woman seeking sanctuary in a nearby church. Things come to a head when one of Wendy’s loved ones gets detained by ICE.
This is a moving middle grade book tackling serious issues like racism, immigration, and bullying through the eyes of a science-loving protagonist,
Mr. Whiskers and the Shenanigan Sisters
Published: October 3, 2023 | Mystery | 208pp | Age 8+
Mr. Whiskers is a street-wise stray dog with a nose for trouble and a fondness for two girls he calls the Shenanigan Sisters. So when Misty and Zelda’s professor father is kidnapped, Mr. Whiskers follows that car, picking up vital clues.
I’m waiting for my pre-order of this one, but the excerpts look good, and it features black-and-white illustrations on nearly every page. Third and fourth-graders who love a gentle mystery and animal fiction may like this one.
Race for the Ruby Turtle
Published: October 3, 2023 | Adventure | 336pp | Age 9+
Jake is spending time with his great-aunt Hettle in a rainy Oregon town while his parents are off on a retreat. Soon after he arrives, he finds himself caught up in the mystery of a famed ruby-backed turtle first and only written about by Hettle’s great-grandfather. Thanks to a viral article by a nosy reptile fan, several dangerous people — including a tall pair of Scandinavian twins, a maybe-hitman, and that presumptuous reptile fan — are in town for the festival (but mostly to look for the turtle). It’s up to Jake and his friend Mia to help Hettle keep the turtle safe.
This is a fast-paced, engaging adventure, and I couldn’t stop turning the pages — I kept thinking of what would happen next. It also features a protagonist with ADHD and has a strong environmentalist theme that will educate kids about looking out for the planet. Great for kids ages 9+ (mostly because of the length and the shady characters).
Curlfriends: New in Town (A Graphic Novel)
Published: October 10, 2023 | Graphic Novel, Realistic Fiction | 288pp | Age 8+
Charlie is the new kid for the umpteenth time, but this time things will be different. Her dad is no longer in the military, and this is a more permanent home, so she feels more pressure to find and impress some new friends. When she meets a cool group of Black girls with varying interests, she decides to hide her “babyish” style and hobbies to befriend them. But she soon learns that with true friends, you can be your whole self.
The illustrations in this book are so cute! Charlie is an interesting and relatable protagonist. Kids looking for feel-good stories in the vein of The Babysitter’s Club and Miller’s Click series will love this book about identity, being true to yourself, and finding friends who make you feel like you belong.
Published: October 10, 2023 | Novel-in-verse, Realistic Fiction | Age 10+
The year before Sage is in the seventh grade, her neighborhood experiences so many wildfires that the media calls it The Matchbox. She’s also experiencing social changes. Because she spends most of her time with her guy friends playing basketball, she gets bullied by other kids who expect her to stick to gender norms. When she and her mother finally move to a new neighborhood, she finds new friends but also contends with missing and losing some of her old friends.
Woodson’s writing is poetic and this book is a gorgeous snapshot of a time in her life, an ode to a neighborhood and its people, and an exploration into the mind of a young girl. However, as much as I enjoyed it, I doubt that many kids will feel the same connection. Still, it could be a great classroom readaloud and the beautiful cover might draw some readers in. Heads up for the death of a friend and a dog.
Shira and Esther’s Double Dream Debut
Published: October 10, 2023 | Fiction, Humor | 332 pp | Age 8+
Shira and Esther were born on the same day to different parents but are doppelgangers! But that’s where their similarities end. Shira dreams of singing and dancing onstage, but her father, a stern and pious rabbi, thinks Shira should be reading prayers, not plays. Esther dreams of studying Torah, but her mother, a glamorous stage performer, wishes Esther would spend more time rehearsing and less time sneaking off to read books. So the girls decide to switch places!
This is a sweet, fun book with old-timey vibes. It also reads very young and I think it will appeal to elementary schoolers and younger middle schoolers the most. The cadence of the text also lends itself to readalouds.
Published: October 10, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 240 pp | Age 8+
Here’s another still on my TBR! It’s an illustrated middle grade book about a girl living alone with her mother in a poorer part of town and the quiet boy who lives across the street from her. Both of them band together to save their hometown from gentrification.
The Plot to Kill a Queen
Published: October 17, 2023 | Historical Fiction, Mystery | 272pp | Age 8+
Emilia Bassano loves words, and although she plays several musical instruments, what she really wants to do is act on the stage. This is a book with a fascinating premise — it features real-life historical characters in a fictionalized setting. In fact, one of Emilia’s friends is THE William Shakespeare. Most interestingly, though, is what happens when Emilia uncovers a plot to kill the queen and is sent to save the queen.
The voice in this story is delightfully dramatic and old-timey and Emilia is an utterly charming protagonist. This one is perfect for theater kids who love a good historical mystery.
Ways to Build Dreams
Published: October 17, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 208 pp | Age 7+
Our girl Ryan is back! She’s thinking about Black History Month, how to prank her brother, and whether or not her best friend Kiki will be changing schools. I enjoyed this one and Ryan is growing up. I’m interested in seeing where this series goes as she ages.
The Bedtime Book of Incredible Questions
Published: October 17, 2023 | Non-Fiction | 96pp | Age 7+
Ever wondered what the WORST smell ever is? Or why the rain has a smell? Enter this delightful new fact book for curious kids ages 7 and up. This is a highly engaging new non-fiction title that can be used for circle time at school or as a regular bedtime read. You can also just buy it for your fact-loving kid to dip in and out of as they please.
Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up
Published: October 24, 2023 | Realistic Fiction, Sports Fiction | 304 pp | Age 10+
When Rory moves to Cincinnati, Ohio, with her dad after her parents’ separation, she meets Abby, a tall fellow basketball lover, and the two become fast friends. Imagine their shock when they find out that their dads can’t stand each other — and not because they coach the city’s rival basketball teams but because of something that happened years ago when THEY were middle schoolers. Bishop takes us through the girls’ lives as they dig into what happened between their dads, telling the story from multiple perspectives: the girls’, their dads’, and a ball-playing nun in their lives.
I loved this book so much that I made a whole Reel about it. It’s so wholesome, with compelling elements like a mystery, heartwarming female friendship, betrayal, forgiveness, and a deep love for the sport of basketball. There’s also a sweet crush/romance subplot that older kids will love. Great for kids ages 10+
Published: October 24, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 272pp | Age 11+
I loved Rain Rising, but I was not expecting a sequel. Still, this one was so good! Rain is entering high school and her brother Xander is officially at Howard University. She has to adjust to many other new changes — no Circle Group, no step team.
Although everyone else seems okay with change, Rain struggles to open up to her new counselor, her mom, Umi, Alyssa, and even Xander, who seems to have forgotten all about her while away at college. But when an older boy starts giving Rain more attention than she asked for—will she be able to open up again before things go too far? This feels like perfect young YA, great for kids ages 11+
Published: October 24, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 320pp | Age 9+
I LOVED this book (I’m writing my full review soon!) and found it impressive especially for a debut novel. Wyman’s writing feels so genuine, which is probably because it’s based on her experience with jaw malocclusion in childhood. I read all 300+ pages in one sitting and was breathless at the end.
Max is getting bullied by kids at school for her jaw problems and her kid sister is one of the bullies. Her parents’ relationship is strained. Her dad works nights and is an alcoholic, and her mom is a chain smoker. Yet, they do their best for the kids, and it’s the kids’ normal. Eventually, Max finds her voice and stands up to her bullies in the best way.
Published: October 24, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 288pp | Age 8+
This is another highly anticipated sequel. I loved Stroker and Davidowitz’s debut The Chance to Fly and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with Nat and her friends again as she enters 8th grade and gets cast in the school’s production of Footloose!
Published: October 24, 2023 | Realistic Fiction | 304 pp | Age 8+
Sparkle Moore’s hair is one of her prized possessions. She’s a fledgling social media influencer and her mom is trying to get her and Nova her little sister some acting and advertising gigs, especially now that her dad isn’t getting plenty of acting work. Suddenly, Sparkle starts losing her hair and her self-image becomes shaky.
I’m halfway through this and enjoying the way this author explores self-image, external perception, and finding an identity outside your personal appearance. Wilson’s debut, Be Real, Macy Weaver was also well done.
Published: October 31, 2023 | Historical Fiction | 272 pp | Age 9+
Dani and Eric have been best friends since Dani moved next door in second grade. They bond over donuts, comic books, and camping on the Cape. But one summer, Eric saves Dani from a fire in his family’s camper. Unfortunately, the accident prevents Dani from doing what she loves the most: playing baseball. It also drives a wedge between the friends as they discover the real reason behind the fire. Can Dani forgive her best friend? This is a moving middle grade book about passion, honesty, forgiveness, and living with ADHD.
The Winterton Deception 1: Final Word
Published: October 31, 2023 | Fiction, Mystery | 384pp | Age 9+
Meet 13-year-old twins Hope and Gordon. They’ve just found out that their dad was Brandon Winterton (of the wealthy dictionary magnate family). Unfortunately, Hope can’t stand rich people, especially since the twins and their mom are barely making ends meet and living in a motel. But their fortune is about to change.
When Gordon enters the family into the Winterton Bee, they’re thrust into the midst of the family’s secrets, with a deadly enemy and a scavenger hunt set up by the family’s dead matriarch.
This is a fast-paced mystery with plenty to gnaw on between the twin relationship, family drama, character development, and flashbacks that help readers learn more about the Winterton family. I’m so happy that more and more mysteries are coming out for readers in the 6th-8th grades. This one does touch a bit on addiction, and there’s a scene where the kids’ lives are in danger, but all ends well!
Published: October 31, 2023 | Chapter Book, Non-Fiction | 176pp | Age 8+
I’m always interested in children’s non-fiction about money, and this is a fun one. It features illustrations set in highly readable text about the history of money (from trade by barter to coins) to how money works (even cryptocurrency!), how to spend wisely, and how the unequal possession of wealth leads to disparities in social status. Donnelly writes incredibly accessible non-fiction and this is a good example. Hand to tweens figuring out how money works.
There they are: 19 of the best middle grade books releasing in October 2023. Which of these books have you read and loved? Which ones are you looking forward to reading?
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