Maple’s dreams of going to middle school with her best friends come crashing down when she’s held back in the fifth grade because she can’t read. Maple is Indian and Jewish (Hin-Jew as she calls herself) and constantly feels caught in between — never fully belonging on one side. On top of that, Maple gets caught in a web of lies when she tells a new fifth grader that she’s only in the class to support the new kids — and not because she’s a repeater. It doesn’t help that her friends Marigold and Aislin totally dump her because she didn’t move on to a new class with them. Can Maple find her place in the world?
Hugo’s family has moved from Denver to a smaller skiing town in Colorado after his father quit his job as a computer engineer to become a ski instructor. For Hugo, this is a terrible development as he’s only just found his people in his former city and now has to start from scratch. Thankfully, his cousin Vijay is somewhat popular and brings Hugo into his friend group — the kids who run the school newsletter. But when the kids in his school realize that Hugo can tell a lot about a person from their trash, Hugo finds new popularity that threatens to upturn his new friendships.
Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year chronicles Ahmed’s experiences in the school year after he and his family move from Hawaii to Minnesota. Ahmed’s dad has hereditary chronic hepatitis (a liver disease) that has led to cirrhosis (permanent liver damage) and has come to Minnesota where a clinical trial may be able to keep him from dying. There, Ahmed runs into a school bully who happens to live in his neighborhood and is in Ahmed’s class where their zealous English teacher makes them read and discuss three classic middle grade books, including Holes and The Bridge to Terabithia. During the course of the year, Ahmed finds parallels between his life and the stories and finds out that sometimes, change isn’t the worst thing.
Meg and Riley’s lives change when the two girls meet at the nurse’s office and bond over jelly beans. But the road to friendship isn’t without bumps. Meg’s mom has not been herself since Meg’s father died. She hardly gets out of bed and can’t hold a job or do food shopping. Meg wears slippers to school and a ratty t-shirt. Riley on the other hand has Type 1 Diabetes and has an insulin pump. She also has to check her sugar and track how much sugar she’s consuming so that her pump can supply enough insulin for her needs.
Not All Heroes follows 11-year-old Zinnia Helinski whose family has recently moved to Maine after the death of her little brother, Wally, from brain cancer. Although, they seem to have moved for a fresh start, Zinnia’s parents aren’t doing much to create new experiences. They haven’t made new friends and they didn’t even say hi to their new neighbors.
In The Kate in Between, Kate McAllister’s life is in need of a refresh. Her mother has left town chasing the highest tier in an MLM scheme and Kate is living with her cop dad and getting driven to school in his police car. When a bunch of popular kids seems to welcome Kate into their clique, she is torn about ditching her longtime best friend, Haddie. Haddie marches to the beat of her own drum and could care less about being accepted. Things get complicated, however, when Kate is a passive participant in a bullying incident that leads to Haddie sinking on thin ice. Then, Kate is captured on camera saving Haddie, and the video goes viral
Starfish features Ellie, a fat girl who has been bullied for her weight since she wore a whale swimsuit and made a big splash in the pool. Even her older brother and sister make fun of her weight. Her mom controls her diet, monitoring her portions and choosing lackluster “healthy” alternatives. Ellie is feeling more disheartened because her friend Viv who is also plus-sized is moving away.
Summary: Peter Lee’s Notes From the Field Peter Lee’s Notes from the Field is Angela Ahn’s second middle grade novel. Her debut, Krista Kim-Bap is one of my favorites, and this did not disappoint either. Peter, or Petey, as he’s…
Simon B Rhymin’ is the story of 11-year-old Simon Barnes (aka Notorious D.O.G.), a shy kid who loves to rap. His best friend Maria (aka Ri-Ri) is a talkative Latina who often has to stand up to Simon’s bullies. His other best friend, C.J. is mostly chill, but also supportive of Simon. Simon’s parents also support his rapping, but he still doesn’t feel confident about rapping in front of strangers.
E.L. Shen’s The Comeback follows 12-year-old figure skater, Maxine Chen. Maxine loves figure skating and is pretty good at it too. Her parents are extra supportive and make financial sacrifices so that Maxine can pursue her passion. Still, they’re balanced and never pressure her to do anything she doesn’t. They also always ensure that she prioritizes school work and is not too hard on herself.
Maxine is a confident skater and feels sure that she’s got at least third place in the bag during her contest, but things start to get complicated when a new skater named Holly shows up. Holly is better trained and more experienced on the ice and Maxine begins to feel jealousy and other negative emotions. Maxine is also struggling with a bully at school who makes racial jokes about Maxine, such as about her monolid.
Cyrus Olson does not think he’s “brave like that.” He’s not brave like his adoptive firefighter father who was also a star football player in his day. Although he plays football for his school team, he does not enjoy it, and would much rather be doing something else, but he’s afraid to let his dad (and the town that knows him to be an Olson) down. But Cyrus gets some motivation to stand up for himself and his desires when a dog is abandoned at the fire station (just like Cyrus was).
In her graphic memoir Smile, Raina is just trying to enjoy being a sixth grader when an accident severely injures her two front teeth. Thus begins an unending series of visits to dentists and different treatment options. Throughout this process, Raina still has middle school to tackle. Her friends are sometimes insensitive toward the things that matter to her and she’s finding herself newly developing crushes on boys, even as she’s too embarrassed to smile, thanks to the braces, head gear, retainer, and other contraptions she has to wear throughout the course of this book.
Smile follows Telgemeier from sixth grade until high school as each attempt to rectify the situation with her teeth is stumped and doctors are forced to try a different route.