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.
As someone who has a younger brother, I love middle grade books about siblings, especially when they feature a brother and sister relationship. I’ve already made a list of middle grade books about sisters in the past, but I thought books about brothers and sisters deserved their own list too.
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.
When Madrigal’s (Maddie) older brother, Strum, goes missing from his college campus, her musical family loses its harmony. Her French mother is distraught — broken for the first time as Maddie has never seen her. Her piano playing father doesn’t even touch his instrument, and her fiery sister retreats into a rebellious funk, drinking and partying, even though she’s only 16. Maddie tries to keep everything together: focus on her oboe lessons and compulsive counting that calms her mind. But when her parents leave to look for Strum and Maddie is left with Aria, things seem hopeless.
Pawcasso is what 11-year-old Jo names the basket-toting dog in town when a group of kids at the library mistake her for the dog’s owner. Jo is a lonely kid bored at home during the summer holidays and missing her father who works in a different city and visits the family periodically. She’s seen the dog walking through her neighborhood several times. The dog goes grocery shopping and can find its way home through pedestrian traffic and everything in town. As the kids fall more in love with “Pawcasso,” and by extension, Jo, she begins to enjoy having friends in her life. But what happens when the lie is exposed?
Made in Korea is Sarah Suk’s debut YA novel. Valerie Kwon is a business-savvy Korean-American teen who runs V&C K-Beauty with her cousin, Charlie, out of her high school locker. She’s saving up so that she can take her halmeoni to Paris on a memorable vacation. Valerie is also misunderstood by her mother because she’s not as dutiful, math/science smart or organized as her older sister. Valerie’s dreams face a huge obstacle when a new, good looking Korean-American student Wes Jung unwittingly starts his own competing K-beauty business in their school.
Bea Is for Blended is Lindsay Stoddard’s fourth middle grade novel. Bea’s mother has married her school arch-nemesis’s father. Bryce (her arch-nemesis) is friends with bullies in Bea’s class and they always make fun of her best friend Maximillian who’s on the autism spectrum. Now, as if it wasn’t bad enough that Bea and Bryce share the exact same birth date, now they’ll also share a house and blended family. In the past, it was always just Bea, her mother, and her grandmother — the Embers girls — and her mother’s friend, Aunt Tam. Now Bea has three step-brothers, two dogs, and a cat, and oh a new sibling on the way!
Ways to Grow Love is the second book in the Ryan Hart series. I loved the first book in the series and this book picks up soon after! It’s summer and Ryan’s mom is now heavily pregnant. It seems to Ryan that her unborn baby sister only stops her mom from doing all the fun stuff they used to do together. No more market for Ryan because her mom has to be on bed rest. Her mom can’t even come to the library with her to pick up books for the summer reading challenge and her grandma just rushes her and won’t let her pick as many books as she wants.
The Peach family is embarking on The Great Peach Experiment, their first one: making and selling pies out of a food truck! Oh, and they’ll be road tripping the whole summer too. Lucy, Freddie, and Herb have spent more time with each other than with their father since their mom died. But now one of their mom’s inventions has sold for a lot of money and their dad has bought a food truck and wants them to spend the summer traveling through the country as a family.
Clues to the Universe follows Ro and a boy in her school Benji. In this debut middle grade book told from two points of view, Ro and Benji become lab partners and form a pact to help each other achieve their goals. For Ro, that’s building the rocket she and her dad always meant to build before he died a year ago. And for Benji, it’s not getting a failing grade in science by tacking on to Ro’s science project. But when Benji discovers that a popular comic artist is his estranged father, Ro insists on helping Benji reunite with his father.
In this story, we meet Emma whose ordinary life is upended when her beloved older brother Austin develops an addiction to opioids. In the midst of her brother’s health issue, Emma is also dealing with a strained friendship with her BFF, Becca from whom she seems to be growing apart. So she is half-relieved when her parents send her off to Wyoming to be with family friends while they get Austin to a rehab facility.
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.