Backlist Love: 14 Backlist Middle-Grade Books on My TBR

Ever feel like backlist middle-grade books (and backlist books in general) don’t get nearly enough love? I feel the same way too. That’s why I enjoy following kidlit blogs which show love to backlist titles. It’s also why every month (or ever other month), I’ll be highlighting some backlist titles I’m looking forward to reading. Since I focus on middle-grade, picture books, and a sprinkling of YA and adult books, my lists will be along those lines.

But what do I mean by “backlist books”?

Backlist (noun)

back·list | \ ˈbak-ˌlist

: a publisher’s list of books published before the current season and still in print.

For my lists, I’ll be focusing on books published at least one full year prior.

All of these backlist middle-grade books are on my TBR (typically on Scribd, which is where I read/listen to most backlist titles, although I buy a few on Amazon. If you want to try out Scribd free for two months, you can use my link here).

The great thing about backlist books is that they’re often easier to find at your local library. They also typically cost less than new releases and are more likely to be found in charity shops and book sales. So, get stacking with this 14 backlist middle-grade books. I’ll include why I’m especially looking forward to each one, but all blurbs are from Goodreads. Click on the image/link to go to their Amazon page.

I can't wait to read these 14 backlist middle-grade books! List includes books by @ellyswartz, @alysongerber, @Melissaroske, @harringtonpoet, @carterhiggins and more! Click To Tweet

Disclaimer: I use affiliate links for Amazon and will make a cent or two if you buy using these links. It’s a great way to support a blog(ger) you love.


backlist middle grade books graphic

Braced

Alyson Gerber’s Focused, so I can’t wait to read this one. Main character plays soccer and has scoliosis.

Rachel Brooks is excited for the new school year. She’s finally earned a place as a forward on her soccer team. Her best friends make everything fun. And she really likes Tate, and she’s pretty sure he likes her back. After one last appointment with her scoliosis doctor, this will be her best year yet.

Then the doctor delivers some terrible news: The sideways curve in Rachel’s spine has gotten worse, and she needs to wear a back brace twenty-three hours a day. The brace wraps her in hard plastic from shoulder blades to hips. It changes how her clothes fit, how she kicks a ball, and how everyone sees her — even her friends and Tate. But as Rachel confronts all the challenges the brace presents, the biggest change of all may lie in how she sees herself.



Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

John David Anderson is a prolific writer, but everyone I follow on Goodreads who’s read this book LOVED it. Plus, it’s an ode to teachers.

Everyone knows there are different kinds of teachers. The good ones. The not-so-good ones. The boring ones, the mean ones, the ones who try too hard. The ones you’ll never remember, and the ones you want to forget. But Ms. Bixby is none of these. She’s the sort of teacher who makes you feel like the indignity of school is worthwhile. Who makes the idea of growing up less terrifying. Who you never want to disappoint. What Ms. Bixby is, is one of a kind.

Topher, Brand, and Steve know this better than anyone. And so when Ms. Bixby unexpectedly announces that she is very sick and won’t be able to finish the school year, they come up with a plan. Through the three very different stories they tell, we begin to understand just what Ms. Bixby means to Topher, Brand, and Steve—and what they are willing to go to such great lengths to tell her.

read my review

Murder at Twilight

I’m on the hunt for middle-grade mysteries, and this one looks so good! Thankfully, it’s on Scribd!

When Viv has a fight with Noah, she doesn’t think it’ll be the last time she sees him. But when she gets back from school, he’s nowhere to be found and there are police cars everywhere, lights flashing and sirens blaring.

Viv is sure Noah’s run away to get attention. But it’s really cold, and getting dark, and the rain just won’t stop falling. So she sets off to look for him, furious at his selfishness, as the floodwaters rise. And then she finds him, and realises that a much more dangerous story is unfolding around them…


Catching a Storyfish


This novel-in-verse was a Kirkus Book of the Year. I love and (mostly) trust Kirkus Reviews, so I’m all over this.

Keet knows the only good thing about moving away from her Alabama home is that she’ll live near her beloved grandfather. When Keet starts school, it’s even worse than she expected, as the kids tease her about her southern accent. Now Keet, who can “talk the whiskers off a catfish,” doesn’t want to open her mouth. Slowly, though, while fishing with her grandfather, she learns the art of listening. Gradually, she makes her first new friend. But just as she’s beginning to settle in, her grandfather has a stroke, and even though he’s still nearby, he suddenly feels ever-so-far-away. Keet is determined to reel him back to her by telling him stories.


A Rambler Steals Home

This backlist middle-grade book is another one with rave reviews from trusted Goodreads friends. I couldn’t find it on Scribd, but will definitely be purchasing on Kindle at some point.

Eleven-year-old Derby Christmas Clark is a rambler of the road. She travels year-round in an RV with her father and younger brother, selling Christmas trees during the cold months and burgers and fries during baseball season. Derby always did prefer grease splatters to hauling trees, so she’s excited that summer will take her back to small town Ridge Creek, the Rockskippers, her best friend, and her surrogate mom, June. But this summer, a tragedy has changed Ridge Creek—and as Derby tries to help those she loves, long-held secrets are revealed.


Kat Greene Comes Clean

You know how much I love my books about mental health issues. This book has also been loved and reviewed by my Goodreads tribe, so bonus points!

Eleven-year-old Kat Greene has a lot on her pre-rinsed plate, thanks to her divorced mom’s obsession with cleaning. When Mom isn’t scrubbing every inch of their Greenwich Village apartment, she’s boiling the silverware or checking Kat’s sheets for bedbugs. It’s enough to drive any middle schooler crazy! Add friendship troubles to the mix, a crummy role in the class production of Harriet the Spy, and Mom’s decision to try out for “Clean Sweep,” a competitive-cleaning TV game show, and what have you got? More trouble than Kat can handle. At least, without a little help from her friends.


Things That Surprise You

Everyone I know who’s read this one rated it five stars. So when I saw it was less than five dollars on Amazon, I bought it. Sounds like a good equation to me.

Emily Murphy is about to enter middle school. She’s sort of excited… though not nearly as much as her best friend Hazel, who is ready for everything to be new. Emily wishes she and Hazel could just continue on as they always have, being the biggest fans ever of the Unicorn Chronicles, making up dance moves, and getting their regular order at The Slice.

But things are changing. At home, Emily and her mom are learning to move on after her parents’ divorce. Hardest of all, her beloved sister Mina has been in a treatment facility to deal with her anorexia. Emily is eager to have her back, but anxious about her sister getting sick again.

Hazel is changing too. She has new friends from the field hockey team, is starting to wear makeup, and have crushes on boys. Emily is trying to keep up, but she keeps doing and saying the wrong thing. She want to be the perfect new Emily. But who is that really?

Related: Middle-Grade Books About Divorce


As Brave As You

Jason Reynolds. That’s all.

When two brothers decide to prove how brave they are, everything backfires—literally.

Genie’s summer is full of surprises. The first is that he and his big brother, Ernie, are leaving Brooklyn for the very first time to spend the summer with their grandparents all the way in Virginia—in the COUNTRY! The second surprise comes when Genie figures out that their grandfather is blind. Thunderstruck and—being a curious kid—Genie peppers Grandpop with questions about how he covers it so well (besides wearing way cool Ray-Bans).

How does he match his clothes? Know where to walk? Cook with a gas stove? Pour a glass of sweet tea without spilling it? Genie thinks Grandpop must be the bravest guy he’s ever known, but he starts to notice that his grandfather never leaves the house—as in NEVER. And when he finds the secret room that Grandpop is always disappearing into—a room so full of songbirds and plants that it’s almost as if it’s been pulled inside-out—he begins to wonder if his grandfather is really so brave after all.

Then Ernie lets him down in the bravery department. It’s his fourteenth birthday, and, Grandpop says to become a man, you have to learn how to shoot a gun. Genie thinks that is AWESOME until he realizes Ernie has no interest in learning how to shoot. None. Nada. Dumbfounded by Ernie’s reluctance, Genie is left to wonder—is bravery and becoming a man only about proving something, or is it just as important to own up to what you won’t do?


Slider

This book features competitive eating(!!). I snagged it for $1.99 while I was writing this post yesterday (YAY).

David can eat an entire sixteen-inch pepperoni pizza in four minutes and thirty-six seconds. Not bad. But he knows he can do better. In fact, he’ll have to do better: he’s going to compete in the Super Pigorino Bowl, the world’s greatest pizza-eating contest, and he has to win it, because he borrowed his mom’s credit card and accidentally put $2,000 on it. So he really needs that prize money. Like, yesterday. As if training to be a competitive eater weren’t enough, he’s also got to keep an eye on his little brother, Mal (who, if the family believed in labels, would be labeled autistic, but they don’t, so they just label him Mal). And don’t even get started on the new weirdness going on between his two best friends, Cyn and HeyMan.

Related: Best Middle-Grade Books About Food


Short

I loved Holly Goldberg Sloan’s Counting By 7’s, but I’ve heard Short is a classic.

Julia is very short for her age, but by the end of the summer run of The Wizard of Oz, she’ll realize how big she is inside, where it counts. She hasn’t ever thought of herself as a performer, but when the wonderful director of Oz casts her as a Munchkin, she begins to see herself in a new way. As Julia becomes friendly with the poised and wise Olive—one of the adults with dwarfism who’ve joined the production’s motley crew of Munchkins—and with her deeply artistic neighbor, Mrs. Chang, Julia’s own sense of self as an artist grows. Soon, she doesn’t want to fade into the background—and it’s a good thing, because her director has more big plans for Julia!


What Momma Left Me

You know how I feel about Renée Watson. I’m pretty stoked to have found this on Scribd.

Serenity is good at keeping secrets, and she’s got a whole lifetime’s worth of them. Her mother is dead, her father is gone, and starting life over at her grandparents’ house is strange. Luckily, certain things seem to hold promise: a new friend who makes her feel connected, and a boy who makes her feel seen. But when her brother starts making poor choices, her friend is keeping her own dangerous secret, and her grandparents put all of their trust in a faith that Serenity isn’t sure she understands, it is the power of love that will repair her heart and keep her sure of just who she is.


Blooming at the Texas Sunrise Motel

Also found on Scribd, but it’s on Amazon for $5.67. I thought the cover of this one was so cute.

Stevie’s life seems safe and full of love until the day tragedy strikes. Stevie is sent to live with her estranged grandfather Winston at his rundown motel. Though the colorful tenants who inhabit the motel are quickly charmed by Stevie, she struggles to connect with her grandfather. What dark secret is he keeping from her? It will take another difficult departure before Winston realizes just how strongly Stevie has taken root at the motel–and in his heart.


Smart Cookie

I love me some Elly Swartz, and once I’ve read Give and Take, this one’s next!

Sometimes you need to keep a few secrets.

Frankie knows she’ll be in big trouble if Dad discovers she secretly posted a dating profile for him online. But she’s determined to find him a wife, even if she ends up grounded for life. Frankie wants what she had before Mom died. A family of three. Two is a pair of socks or the wheels on a bicycle or a busy weekend at the B&B where Frankie and Dad live. Three is a family. And Frankie’s is missing a piece.

But Operation Mom is harder to pull off than Frankie expects. None of the Possibles are very momish, the B&B’s guests keep canceling, Frankie’s getting the silent treatment from her once best friend, and there’s a maybe-ghost hanging around. Worst of all, Gram and Dad are definitely hiding secrets of their own.

If a smart cookie like Frankie wants to save the B&B and find her missing piece, she’s going to have to figure out what secrets are worth keeping and when it’s time to let go.


Truth or Dare

Barbara Dee is a prolific author who’s new to me. Hoping to try her work with this backlist title. On Scribd and $6.99 on Amazon.

When Lia returns after a summer with her eccentric aunt, it feels like everything has changed within her group of five friends. Everyone just seems more…dramatic. And after playing a game of Truth or Dare, Lia discovers how those divides are growing wider, and tells a few white lies about what really happened over the summer in order to “keep up.” But is “keeping up” with her BFFs really worth it?


Want to skip the library queues this summer? Check out these 14 backlist middle-grade books! Click To Tweet

There they are! 14 backlist middle-grade books currently on my TBR — so many books, so little time. Which backlist middle-grade books are on your list? I’m also constantly working through the entire Babysitters Club series. I’d love to know what your list looks like, even if it’s not all middle-grade. If you’ve read and loved any of the books on this list, let me know — I’ll bump it up!

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2 thoughts on “Backlist Love: 14 Backlist Middle-Grade Books on My TBR

  1. Ahh thank you SO much for putting this wonderful post together. I don’t read middle grade books usually, but I feel like there are so many hidden gems there, I need to get to it eventually – especially Jason Reynolds’ book, I’ve heard great things about this author 🙂
    Thank you for sharing!! 🙂

    1. Hey, Marie! It’s my pleasure! Jason Reynold’s writing is so immersive. He also has some great YA novels if you want to start there 🙂

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