In Turning Point, we reunite with the Pirates Cove gang (minus a few) -- mostly Mila, Mo, Sheeda, and Tai. This book focuses on Monique (Mo) and Rasheeda (Sheeda)'s friendship and how it changes over a summer when both girls are drawn into different pursuits. Mo is off at a ballet intensive with Mila, while Sheeda is stuck at church (with her church "friends") feeling like she has no life.
It's My Party and I Don't Want to Go is quite the mouthful, but the quirky title encapsulates this book's nature. Ellie is a young Jewish girl with undiagnosed social anxiety. She gets physically sick -- sweaty, lightheaded, shaky, fainting at times -- at the thought of being the center of attention, and even worse when her worst fear actually happens. Her latest anxiety trigger is the thought of her fast-approaching bat mitzvah.
Lupe Wong Won't Dance is Donna Barba Higuera's debut middle-grade novel. Her protagonist Lupe is a Mexican-Chinese girl who loves baseball. Her Chinese father died several years ago, so she lives with her Mexican mom and her brother Paolo. However, both her abuela and her Chinese grandparents are very present in their lives. Lupe is excited to get all A's this year because her uncle has promised her a meeting with baseball star Fu Li Hernandez, who's Chinacan/Mexinese like her if she does. But all of a sudden, there's a new development in her gym class: Coach wants them to do square dancing instead of like, actual sports. And guess what? Lupe does not dance.
This middle-grade book follows Lucy, a short Chinese-American girl caught between two cultures. Lucy plays basketball (very well) and would choose mac and cheese over most Chinese dishes. Her older siblings seem to fit the "perfect Chinese child" stereotype more than she does. Regina, her older sister started a Chinese club in high school and speaks flawless Chinese, while her brother Kenny, although a bookworm loves and eats all Chinese food and is a Math whiz. Still Lucy perseveres with interests, eagerly anticipating her sister's move to college so she can have their room all to herself, but that is not to be.
In Tune It Out, Lou and her mother live in their truck. Her mom believes Lou has a gift (her voice) and is determined to make it big with her. So she makes Lou sing everywhere from cafes to karaoke bars to street corners. This is extra challenging for Lou because she hates the bright lights and the sound of applause is physically painful. She also hates physical contact and is bothered by the texture of certain clothes on her skin. Lou gets some respite from the malnutrition and homelessness when an accident leads to her being taken in by Child Protective Services. Fortunately, she is sent off to live with her aunt and her husband in Nashville, Tennessee where she begins a new life until her mother can get her back.
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.
Although I have zero professional dance experience, I love middle-grade books about dance! Sadly, though, new middle-grade books about dance are far and few in between. However, in this list of best middle-grade books about dance, I hunted down a few other excellent recommendations. Not all the books here are about ballet -- some feature hip-hop, square dancing, and even one about a Mexican dance. The books all feature dancing as a central theme, and protagonists who either love dancing or at least come to appreciate it by the end.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother's death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle -- new school, new friends, new routines -- with their mother's parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity's point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.
I've been planning this list of best Latino middle-grade and chapter books for a while now. I enjoy Latin American culture and literature, especially where middle-grade is concerned. In this list, I've tried to include chapter books and middle-grade books by Latino authors. I've read several books on this list and many of these authors have other books which I may not have mentioned on this list, but hopefully you can follow the breadcrumbs.
Upper middle-grade books are middle-grade books for older tweens and younger teens, aged 11-13. Often, upper middle-grade books are those loved by adults who do not typically read middle-grade. They're also perfect for kids in their early teens who do not feel quite ready for the content in most young adult novels.
Books about sports were tricky at first for me. You see, I never enjoyed sports as a child. But the wonderful thing about books is that they open your eyes to a world you haven't necessarily been a part of. The picks I've read on this list of middle-grade books about sports were all massively entertaining for me, despite being heavy on the sport. I've also taken care to choose books centered around the specific sport and not just with side characters playing the sport.
The Distance to Home is Jenn Bishop's debut middle-grade novel. I read and loved her most recent release, Things We Can't Say about a boy dealing with parental suicide. The Distance to Home focuses on an equally sensitive subject: the death of a sibling. This summer, Quinnen isn't playing baseball with her team -- she decided to quit after her sister, Haley died the summer before. But when her family decides to host a player from a Minor League Baseball team, Quinnen starts to bond with the a couple of the players.
Middle-grade books about anxiety are becoming more and more important, thanks to the anxious times we're living in. More people (parents, teachers, and children) struggle with clinical anxiety. While many manage their symptoms with therapy and medication, it doesn't hurt to see their stories reflected in the books they read. In the past, I made a list of middle-grade books about mental illness which included some of the books on this list. For today's list though, I'm focusing on the best middle-grade books about anxiety disorders.
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.
In Raina Telgemeier's Sisters, Raina and her little sister's relationship is under the microscope. Despite having always prayed for a little sister, Raina realizes as soon as her sister comes home with her parents that things may not exactly have worked out as she planned. Her sister is a fussy baby and often moody toddler who likes to play by herself. Plus, Raina herself has to learn to share space and time -- and of course, she struggles in the beginning. The sisters squabble over the years until a three-week family road trip from California to Colorado changes everything.