Jillian is a shy fifth grader put to the test when her teacher suggests she join the Mind Bender quiz competition in her school. Her class is also learning about chick development and incubating a few too! As Jillian works to improve her mindset and use her voice, she also has to deal with the grief of losing her grandmother, her mom’s lupus flares, and helping out a friend dealing with his own family challenges. Will Jillian get it right?
When Jeremy “JB” Barnes is tasked by his research scientist mom and her teammates aboard a research ship to invite a group of scientists aboard their ship for publicity, he makes a huge mistake. Instead of inviting THE Dr. Sidney Miller, he ends up sending an invite to 12-year-old Sidney Miller who’s looking for an engaging, STEM-related science activity for the summer. When he realizes his mistake, he has to conceal Sidney aboard the ship even as they collaborate to help find more publicity for the research work on the Pacific Garbage Patch.
Flor’s parents’ mattress store is struggling this summer, and her parents are fighting more than ever. The summer seems to get brighter when she gets a chance to be in their town’s local honey pageant with her frenemy (former friend turned bitter enemy) Candice. The girls’ friendship was ruined when Flor won the pageant in third grade, and Candice (the runner-up) suggested that she only won because she was half-Indian. Can the girls make it work now? And with Flor make it through the summer with her family intact?
When Luz has to stop playing soccer after tearing her ACL, she feels a bit lost. No longer a soccer superstar, who is she? Worse still, her dad, who used to share her love for the sport, seems on eggshells around her. Soon though, Luz stumbles upon a new passion: coding, assisted by Mr. Mac, their elderly neighbor next door. But just as she’s finding her feet, a new family member, Solana, comes to stay with them. Solana’s visit upends Liz’s identity even more. But it may just bring more light into her life than she’s ever expected.
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.
Wishing on the Same Stars in a debut middle grade novel by Arab-American author Jacquetta Nammar Feldman. It follows young Palestinian-American Yasmeen Khoury whose parents move from Detroit (which has a thriving Arab-American community) to San Antonio, Texas where there are few to no other Arab-American families. But just before Yasmeen despairs, she discovers that their next door neighbors are Arab-Americans too — only, they’re Israeli-American, not Palestinian-American. She befriends their daughter Ayelet, but her father is not pleased, especially with the current Palestinian-Israeli tensions. On top of adjusting to a new school and finding her place in the world, can Yasmeen help her dad see beyond the differences?
Often I find that people looking for STEM middle grade books receive a ton of non-fiction recommendations, but not nearly enough STEM middle grade fiction. This list is here to change that! If your kids are fascinated by science, technology, engineering or mathematics — and enjoy a side of those topics in their fiction, these are picks you should check out. This list features kids who code, science fans, tweens who love robotics, and kids who see the world through a math lens.
Yusuf Azeem is not a hero like his dad who talked down a gun man in their small-town A-Z Dollar Store. But his dad’s heroism doesn’t prevent him from getting worsening hateful notes in his locker telling him to “Go Home.” Yusuf and his friend Danial had expected that this would be their year — their entry into middle school and a chance to compete in a robotics contest. However, when some of the townspeople, including a group called the Patriot Sons try to stop the construction of their town’s mosque and begin to target Yusuf and other Muslims in the community, they are forced to take a stand.
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?
When Bina’s mom suggests buying bracelets for Bina’s brothers in celebration of Raksha Bandhan, Bina decides that she’s now old enough to make the bracelets for them instead. Each brother has a different favorite color, and one color they dislike. Bina’s challenge is to make bracelets with two alternating colors: one, their one favorite color and another color they like, while excluding the one color they absolutely do not like. Can she do it?
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.
The Unteachables are a group of misfits deemed so hopeless (academically and in terms of behavior) that the school has isolated them in a class of their own. New student Kiana accidentally becomes the newest member of the class and stays — joining Parker, who still can’t read; Aldo, who has anger issues; Elaine (rhymes with pain), and sleepy Rahim whose dad’s band practices all night in their garage.