In As If on Cue, sworn frenemies Natalie and Reid are forced to work together on a musical to save their school’s art programs after a prank by Natalie goes wrong. Reid is a band kid while Natalie is a scriptwriter, who used to play the clarinet (even before Reid). Natalie prefers to do the arts as a “fun hobby” — or so she tells herself — whereas Reid is serious about his music and wants to become a composer. The two are close family friends, their tween sisters are best friends, and Natalie’s dad teaches Reid how to play the clarinet. But as they work as co-directors, Natalie’s years-long resentment of Reid and his bond with her dad continues to rear it’s ugly head. Will their musical see the light of day?
Birdie Loggerman’s life becomes complicated when she finds half a million dollars — cash — in an abandoned house. Her mom is a cleaner currently out of work because Birdie’s damaged property in her last client’s house. And Birdie’s best friend’s mother views her with disdain because she’s one of the poorer kids living in their highbrow area. So when Birdie finds all this money (she’s been praying for, no less), should she keep it? Or does finders, keepers not apply in this case?
Keeping It Real is Paula Chase’s latest upper middle grade offering. It follows Marigold Johnson, daughter of the media moguls who own Flexx Unlimited. Marigold’s friend and crush, Justice hates their private school where both kids are part of the token number of Black kids. Marigold on the other hand tries to conform to white expectations and fit in with the kids and both she and Justice quarrel about this regularly.
When Nimra joins public school after years in Islamic school, she’s not expecting to become 1/4th of Barakah Beats, a popular boy band in her school. But that’s what happens. When her BFF (at least to Nimra) stops acting so BFF-y after Nimra decides to wear her hijab to public school, Nimra is desperate to keep their friendship. Even if it means joining a boy band when it conflicts with her Islamic beliefs. Can Nimra find a way to use her voice without going against her values or hurting her new friends and bandmates?
12-year-old Wren lives with her mom after her parents’ divorce. Her dad has moved to New York City and married his lover (with whom he was unfaithful to her mother) who is now expecting twins. Wren is also a special effects makeup aficionado. Caught up in a new school, navigating new friendships, and balancing her relationships with her parents — whose relationship with each other is strained — Wren notices her mom has begun behaving strangely.
In How to Win a Slime War, young Alex Manalo and his father have moved from Silicon Valley to Sacramento where his dad is taking over his Lolo and Lola’s grocery store. His grandparents have retired and his dad is tired of Silicon Valley living and wants to revamp the family’s Filipino Market. Alex is struggling to adjust a new place and also feeling burdened by his father’s expectations of him — that he cut his hair short, play more sports, and make less slime.
Joy Taylor and her family have moved into an apartment complex because her dad lost his job and their mortgage is too expensive to keep on one income. Now Joy has to share a room with her little sister and hear her parents fight every day about the work her dad chooses (or chooses not to do). Her only respite is the nice kids in the building and the hideout they introduce Joy to. One of the kids befriends Joy and they even start a dog-walking business together. But when Joy finds a sad message on the hideout wall, she’s determined to find out the person in need, but her good intentions cause more harm than good.
Charlotte Andrews stutters and prefers to lay low to avoid being picked on. Thankfully, she has a best friend, Maggie who sticks with her. But middle school is a whole other ball game and soon after she and Maggie start attending, Maggie defends a boy who is being bullied on the school bus, effectively putting a bully target on her own back. When the bullying starts, Charlotte ditches Maggie and suddenly she can’t figure out how to fix the friendship.
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.
Jubilee and her Nan are always moving, on the search for their perfect place, and this time Jubilee has her heart set on Hope Springs, Texas. The small town is where her crafting heroine Arletta Paisely is from, and Jubilee is sure that if it’s good enough for Arletta, Hope Springs will immediately feel like home for them, too — because she’s honestly tired of moving and saying (or not saying) goodbyes.
Mystery on Magnolia Circle begins with what seems to be the worst summer ever. Ivy’s summer plans are disrupted when she breaks her leg at the start of summer. Her best friend Teddy is having it any easier as his dog is diagnosed with a terminal illness and has to be put down. But while Ivy is standing at her window, trying to make the best of the summer, she witnesses a possible burglary and that both kids off on a summer of solving a mystery — or is it?
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.