After she and her dad move from Brooklyn to Florida, Bree is excited for her first day in middle school. But also, she’s super anxious about whether she’ll make friends and fit in. Thankfully, she makes a new friend in the housing complex where they live. Unfortunately, when Bree goes to choose her math club elective, it’s fully booked. As a math lover who can’t swim, she’s crushed to hear that the only elective left is swim 101.
Tae Keller’s newest middle grade book, Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone, opens with new girl Jennifer Chan declared missing at her middle school. As whispers begin, her next-door neighbor Mallory Moss worries that Jennifer may have been abducted by aliens (which Jennifer believed existed). Mallory reunites with two former friends begging them to help her find Jennifer following clues from her time with Jennifer and the diary Jennifer left behind. The story alternates between past and present as readers discover that Mallory’s search is also motivated by an ulterior motive: the need to prove that she and her popular friends didn’t run Jennifer Chan out of town with their bullying.
In A Galaxy of Sea Stars, we meet Izzy whose dad recently returned from a deployment in Afghanistan and is dealing with PTSD while trying to build a new business since he won’t be returning to the war front. Izzy’s mother is away on a neighboring island, taking time away from her marriage under the guise of helping out an extended family member. Izzy herself is feeling a bit lost as her friend group “the sea stars” seems to be changing and Zelda, the queen bee of the group is trying to keep them together by making all three of them join the school’s broadcasting club. As if things aren’t hard enough, Izzy’s dad introduces her to a friend who’s just moved from Afghanistan with his family and Izzy seems to be saddled with befriending their daughter Sitara who will be attending the same school. Sitara wears a hijab and seems so different from anyone Izzy knows. As Izzy’s friendship issues and Sitara’s being bullied at school collide, Izzy will learn what it means to be brave.
The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid follows new sixth grader, Max. Max is fat and on his first day of school becomes a target for school bully and eighth-grader Johnny “Pro.” Max’s mom is a single mother and his only friend Luca is poor and wears worn hand-me-downs. When Max gets fed up with being bullied, he decides to write to imprisoned supervillain, Master Plan for advice and help. Master Plan comes up with a step-by-step guide to stop Max from being bullied and elevate his social status — maybe even helping him get closer to the girl he likes. But when Max’s fortune starts to change, it threatens his friendship with Luca. Worse still, he realizes that supervillains rarely offer help without needing something in exchange.
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…