New Middle Grade Books in the Trove

Middle grade is a term that refers to books written for readers between the ages of eight and twelve. Up in the Trove, we’ve just received a lot of great new middle grade books and Ashley is showcasing a few in this column!

Almost Flying by Jake Maia Arlow
Grades 5 & Up
Libby / Library Catalog

“A 13-year-old Long Island girl thinks she has her summer plans figured out—until her life turns upside down. With the end of summer looming, Dalia has one goal: to finally ride an actual roller coaster instead of living vicariously through point-of-view videos. Then she learns about Vanessa, her father’s secret girlfriend. And that they are engaged and his fiancee has a college-aged daughter named Alexa. Anxious about this news that comes only a year after her mother left them, Dalia turns to her new swim-team friend, Rani, whom she’s eager to get to know better. As the adults want the soon-to-be stepsisters to bond, Dalia, with Rani for company, is allowed to go off with Alexa and her college friend Dhruv on their weeklong amusement park road trip. Along the way, Dalia keeps some of her own secrets—including growing and confusing feelings for Rani that have her brain spinning. This first-person present narration quickens and slows just like the roller coasters Dalia obsesses over. Many readers will identify with the feelings of uncertainty around changing family dynamics and budding first crushes. While this book contains many elements that are widely relatable, the storyline around exploring sexuality is especially resonant. Dalia and her father are Polish American Jews; Vanessa is Colombian American, Rani is Persian American and Muslim, Dhruv is Indian American, and other characters default to White. A heartwarming, queer-affirming story.” –Kirkus Reviews

Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall
Grades 3-7
Libby / Library Catalog

“Twelve-year-old Domincana Pilar “Purp” Ramirez is going to be an award-winning director some day. So when her older sister lines up the perfect interview for the documentary Pilar’s working on—a documentary on Trujillo’s dictatorship and the disappearance of her mom’s cousin Natasha—she jumps at the opportunity. But when a file with Natasha’s name on it sucks Pilar into the mythical world of Zafa, she’s faced with a terrifying answer to the mystery she’s been investigating. Set partially in a modern, rapidly gentrifying Chicago and partially in a world of Dominican legend, this first title in a new fantasy duology seamlessly intertwines the magic of Spirited Away and the danger of Jumanji with Dominican history and myth. Pilar is fierce, honest, and funny, a heroine readers are sure to love.” –School Library Journal

Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva
Grades 3-7
Libby / Library Catalog

“Moving to Isla Pag-Ibig from Marikina City in Metro Manila wasn’t how Filipina Jolina Beatrice Bagayan, 12, imagined she would start her apprenticeship with her Lolo Sebyo as an arbularyo, or faith healer. On top of trying to fit in, she must contend with bully Claudine Dimasalang, who’s ‘brown but lighter than [Jolina].' Frustrated at faking cordiality to protect her mother’s probationary job at Claudine’s family resort, Jolina brews a gayuma—love potion—for Claudine. But it comes with a warning: ‘Two powerful forces combined in a potion can result in even greater consequences.' Soon, Claudine wants to be BFFs and invites Jolina to her birthday party. When Jolina begins to view Claudine as a legitimate friend, the line between magic and real emotions blurs. Villanueva (My Fate According to the Butterfly) seamlessly blends Filipino mysticism and culture with themes of internalized racism, classism, and homophobia. Pinoy readers will especially appreciate smoothly interwoven Tagalog and references to Filipino pop culture, but this accessible speculative read will appeal to many. Back matter includes a recipe for yema balls and an author’s note discussing various cultural elements mentioned throughout the book.” –Publishers Weekly

Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros
Grades 4-7
Libby / Library Catalog

“Marco Honeyman and Isaac Castillo are next-door neighbors and best friends, despite their apparent differences: Jewish-Mexican Marco is small and book-smart, while Isaac, who is also Latinx, is a gifted and hard-working basketball player who struggles to manage his homework. Part of Marco and Isaac’s bond is their desire for approval from their divorced parents. Isaac hopes his mom won’t give up on him the way she gave up on his dad because of his drinking, and Marco wishes his dad would come back and be proud of him. When they enter middle school, Marco and Isaac stand by each other, despite different classes and friend groups. When Marco decides to try out for the basketball team to impress his father (despite never playing before), Isaac coaches him. The boys’ bond of friendship is the core of the story; they have honest conversations, admire each other’s good qualities, and support each other through anxiety attacks and family problems. After a tough tournament game, Isaac concludes, ‘Life is like a game of basketball…it pretty much comes down to the hustle we put in.'” –School Library Journal

Dream, Annie, Dream by Waka T. Brown
Grades 3-7
Libby / Library Catalog

“In 1987, Japanese American Aoi Inoue (better known as Annie Enoway, ‘which people seemed more comfortable with'), dreams of being on stage. And after catching the basketball bug from her father, despite not even reaching 5’3”, Annie is also excited to try out for a team. Though the girl is a dreamer like her optimistic dad—who’s a big believer in the American dream—her down-to-earth mother never fails to remind Annie that her aspirations may not be realistic, instead encouraging a career in math and science. Nevertheless, Annie makes the basketball team and continues to pursue theater at every opportunity. The 12-year-old’s chance onstage comes when she stars in her school production of The King and I, but a story spreads that she was only cast as the lead in the Siam-set show because she’s Asian. Not only that, the rumor comes from an unexpected source, forcing Annie to grapple with whom she can trust as well as with the microaggressions happening all around her Kansas hometown. With encouragement from the school’s theater director, Annie channels her hurt and confusion into the next production, determined to prove the naysayers wrong. Brown (While I Was Away) paints a realistic picture of one Japanese American child’s experiences growing up in a mostly white town. Annie’s arc is an uplifting one as she traverses the highs and lows of friendship, middle school, and family expectations to fulfill her dreams, despite the bigoted thinking of people around her. An author’s note details inspiration for the work.” –Publishers Weekly

Sofía Acosta Makes a Scene by Emma Otheguy
Grades 3-6
Libby / Library Catalog

“A fifth grader begins to question where she belongs in her family of Cuban American ballet dancers and in her suburb with its small Latino population. Sofía Acosta’s home is warm and loving. Her mom stocks the kitchen with snacks for all the neighborhood kids, and relatives and friends often stay over. But unlike her parents and siblings, Sofía far prefers designing ballet costumes to dancing. The Acostas don’t belong to a country club like Sofía’s best friend, Tricia Rivera, however it isn’t until Sofía is assigned to work on a project with a socially conscious friend that she really begins to wonder about the world and notice discriminatory attitudes around her. Like, why is Tricia on board with throwing a party for their Irish teacher upon his becoming a U.S. citizen but opposed to the Acostas’ family friend emigrating from Cuba to join an American ballet company? Extensive character development and masterful scene setting in the first half of the book pay off in a faster-paced second half that sees Sofía grow to understand issues surrounding immigration, race, class, and privilege more deeply. Readers will root for Sofía as she learns to use her voice to advocate for both herself and others. Bighearted, nuanced, and insightful.” –Kirkus Reviews

Categories: Authors & Books, Featured, Homepage Kids, Kids, and Library News.

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