Linked is Gordon Korman’s latest middle grade offering, set in Chokecherry, Colorado, a small town where everyone knows everyone and all the kids have been together since kindergarten. There are a few new kids — one of whom is Jewish — whose parents work as paleontologists digging for dinosaur fossils in town. The small town is thrown into an uproar when a swastika is painted in the school building — and multiple swastikas continue to pop up throughout the school.
Golden Macaroni is having a tough year. First, he really wants to get bigger and become the captain of his middle school soccer team. As a dedicated Messi fan, he’s working on putting in ten thousand hours of soccer practice so that he can become as good as Messi. His former-soccer-star father has been diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). His best friend, Lucy Littlehouse is also moving away from her home next door to Golden’s. Despite his dad’s obvious deterioration, Golden stubbornly believes that his dad will get better. How will he cope with everything on his plate — and the heartbreaking challenges ahead of his family?
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?
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.
Maddy Gaines is an anxious girl still coping with the grief of her father’s death — and also adjusting to her new stepfather. Home conditions are good: her mother is patient and reassuring, and she and her stepdad go on regular outings together by themselves. One day, Maddy sees on the news that a boy named Billy Holcomb has gone missing. Then several weeks after, she runs into another boy who looks a lot like Billy, except his hair is different and he’s taller than Billy was, and oh — his name is Eric.
Kind of Sort of Fine is written from two perspectives, that of — overachiever-who-just-had-a-nervous-breakdown — Hayley Mills and Lewis Holbrook. Lewis is a fat teen who has decided that this will be his year. He will take charge of his life and perhaps even lose weight and ask the girl he likes to go out on a date with him. Hayley’s parents and guidance counselor insist that she let go of tasking electives and switch to something more fun, and less emotionally draining, like TV Production! Hayley is less than thrilled to be hanging with the less ambitious crew, but when she and Lewis start making mini-documentaries about their classmates, Hayley starts to question the path she originally planned for herself. And maybe Lewis will finally get out of his own way?
The Magical Imperfect is a middle grade verse novel about a boy named Etan. Etan develops selective mutism after his mom has to go to a treatment facility for a mental disorder in 1980’s San Francisco. Around that time, mini-earthquakes are frequent and Etan tries to keep up his daily schedule, which is basically school and then time with his grandfather. Sometimes, he helps an older shopkeeper in the neighborhood walk her dog and run errands. It is while he is on one of those errands that he meets Malia, a Filipina-American girl with severe eczema.
Fourth-grader Trixy’s gran died in a car accident (Trixy was in the back seat and survived) and since then things at home have not been the same. Her parents don’t want to talk about Gran and her mom isn’t eating well and is exercising a bit too much. Trixy’s only solace is her gran’s stories. However, only Trixy seems to believe Gran’s stories about her childhood and she promised Gran that she would keep some of the stories to herself. But when Trixy NEEDS to write stories to pass fourth grade, the only stories she can think to write are Gran’s.
In her new graphic memoir, Just Pretend, Tori Sharp shares stories from her life just before the seventh grade. Her parents are divorced, but not quite amicably. They bicker a lot still and because they share custody of Tori and her siblings, Tori is constantly between houses and sometimes wakes up unsure which house she’s in. The strained relationship is understandably hard on her, so she seeks solace in her relationship with her best friend and in storytelling.
Rule of Threes is Marcy Campbell’s debut middle grade novel. Maggie and her two BFFs share a love for design and decorating. They’ve entered a school contest to redecorate a section of the school. Maggie’s life at home is also fairly stable — until one visit changes everything. All of a sudden, there’s a new stepbrother named Tony who is moving in with Maggie and her parents. On top of that, one of her best friends is withdrawing because Maggie refuses to call her by her preferred name, Rakell (not Rachel as she’s previously gone by).
The Best Worst Summer follows two sets of kids three decades apart. In the present, Peyton and her family have just moved from Minneapolis to a small town named Lake Springs, leaving her best friend and their summer soccer camp tradition behind. She’s having the worst summer! Her brother is always playing video games. Plus, her mom’s new job has her pretty occupied, just as her dad’s graphic design job. But her summer gains new life when she discovers a box of secrets: a cryptic note to a friend, half of a “best friends” necklace, a playlist and several other items.
Kitty Wentworth is grappling with the grief of losing her mother to lung cancer (even though she never smoked). Her older sister Imogen seems to be coping better and her dad just seems a bit lost. Thankfully, they have their grandmother and a baking enthusiast neighbor Ms. Allison to keep their moods up and care for them. Ms. Allison is also gearing up to start filming The Great British Bake-Off as a contestant. But Kitty’s world shifts when her father gets a work opportunity in New York and wants her and Imogen to move.