Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero has been on my TBR for a while, so it was a pleasure to finally read it! Isaiah’s father has died, leaving behind Isaiah, his mom, and his younger sister, Charlie. Isaiah’s mom is so depressed she’s lost her job — and started drinking too many bottles of wine. Isaiah realizes that they need money if they’ll ever move out of the motel where they’ve had to live since being unable to pay for their home. Thankfully, Isaiah has his father’s books of poems, his best friend Sneaky who sells candy at school (and lets Isaiah be his business partner), and the kind people who look out for him once they realize he’s in need. In the end, will Isaiah be the hero of his story?
Maya and the Robot is Eve L. Ewing’s debut middle grade book. It centers a young Black girl, Maya who’s entering the fifth grade. She’s disappointed when she’s placed in a different class than her two best friends, Jada and MJ. Quickly, it seems like they’re forming a new friend group and barely spending time with her, especially since they don’t even have the same lunch period. But things begin to look up when Maya finds a broken down robot in the neighborhood store where she helps out. After setting the robot up to work, Maya suddenly has a new best friend, but how long will this last? And what happens when the robot, Ralph malfunctions?
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 Road to Wherever, 11-year-old June (Henry Junior) Ball’s mother sends him off on the road with his adult second cousins after his father disappears without a word. Cousins Thomas and Cornell are “Ford Men” traveling throughout the US to fix people’s old Ford trucks for free. The Ford owners only have to buy spare parts.
As the road trip progresses, the the men teach June about Ford trucks, fixing cars, and being kind. June also processes his father’s absence while expanding his heart by meeting just as many broken humans as Ford trucks.
All You Knead Is Love follows 12-year-old Alba whose mother forces her to move from NYC to Barcelona, Spain where her grandmother lives. Alba is gender non-conforming, which means that she doesn’t like the typical “girly” dresses or frilly tops her parents often want her to wear. She’s happiest in her jeans and t-shirts. Alba’s father is physically abusive, especially towards her mother, and generally treats Alba with disregard.
Calliope (Callie), her brother Jax, and her parents have moved across the pond to Scotland after they inherited a castle from an older woman whose small cottage they lived in as university students. Callie is hoping for a fresh start after a falling out with her friends back in the States. However, she quickly realizes that fresh starts aren’t automatic, even when you move countries.
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.
In this list of middle-grade books about community, the community plays a major role. You’ll either see the protagonist give back to community, learn about community, advocate for their community, receive help from the community, or solves a big mystery in the community.
Wes is your average sixth grader, except his style is fly. He may not win awards for being the best at math, but he will win the Best Dressed award. He also has a great crew of friends with whom he has lived in Kensington Oaks all his life. His parents believe in getting involved with social activism and are always dragging Wes to one protest after another.
Wes is forced to dive in when developers threaten to tear down his neighborhood. The attempt at gentrification begins to divide the community as some members elect to sell their properties while others flat out refuse. Up close and personal with the effects of gentrification, Wes and his friends are moved to use their voices.