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.
In The Code for Love and Heartbreak, Emma Woodhouse, math genius and co-president of her school’s coding club creates dating app for her classmates. Emma has poor social skills and doesn’t read social cues as well as her peers, although it’s never specifically mentioned whether she is on the autism spectrum. She genuinely believes that math and compatibility based on interests will help people find romantic partners. At first, the app is working well, and the entire coding club is on board to present their work at a competition later in the year. But then things start to go downhill.
Twelve-year old Sara Martinez is a hacker bouncing from foster home to foster home in Brooklyn, New York. After getting arrested for hacking into the NYC foster care system to expose her foster parents as criminals, she meets a man named Mother who is not a lawyer but convinces her to take on her case. Mother somehow wins and Sara gets released only to join a team of kid spies operating out of a base in Scotland.
I’ve had Solving for M on my TBR for a long time now! Mika and her mom are used to things just being the both of them because her parents divorced when she was a baby. Her dad remarried soon after, and her mom hasn’t yet. She’s a new middle schooler and is enjoying her math class, although the new pod system in their school means she isn’t in the same group as her best friend. Their math teacher is very engaging and asks the kids to keep a semi-private math journal for the math problems they will do during the school year. All is well until Mika’s mom discovers a spot on the back of her leg, which turns out to be a melanoma.
The Amelia Six is the story of six clever girls who are invited to spend a night in Amelia Earhart’s home because of their achievements in STEM (specifically flying and aeronautics). Although all big-time Earhart fans, each of the girls are different. There’s shy, anxious Amelia (Millie) whose mom left her to go be a pilot. Then there are twins Robin and Wren who run a YouTube channel, Thea who builds things, like the side car she arrives in with her aunt’s motorcycle, Nathalie and her pet rat and Cassie whose parents work at NASA.
The World Ends in April is author Stacy McAnulty’s sophomore middle-grade novel. Her strong-willed protagonist Eleanor Dross’s grandfather is a survivalist. When a renowned scientist begins to spread news of an impending asteroid hit, Eleanor gets caught up in end-of-the-world propaganda. Along with Mack she starts a survivalist club at school. The club attracts some unexpected members, including Eleanor’s nemesis, Londyn. But as the kids prepare for TEOTWAWKI (the End of the World as We Know It), they learn more about each other and life than they expect.