Since the end of 2014 is nearly upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to compile a list of ten noteworthy middle grade novels published this year. I will admit that I’ve read only some of these, but those I haven’t are definitely on my must-read list. I hope you’ll add them to your must-read list, too. Enjoy!
(Book descriptions were copied from Amazon.)
The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing by Sheila Turnage
*New York Times bestseller, recipient of five starred reviews, a Junior Library Guild selection, and a 2015 Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee, Kids’ Indie Next List
The eagerly anticipated followup to the Newbery honor winner and New York Times bestseller, Three Times Lucky.
Small towns have rules. One is, you got to stay who you are — no matter how many murders you solve.
When Miss Lana makes an Accidental Bid at the Tupelo auction and winds up the mortified owner of an old inn, she doesn’t realize there’s a ghost in the fine print. Naturally, Desperado Detective Agency (aka Mo and Dale) opens a paranormal division to solve the mystery of the ghost’s identity. They’ve got to figure out who the ghost is so they can interview it for their history assignment (extra credit). But Mo and Dale start to realize that the Inn isn’t the only haunted place in Tupelo Landing. People can also be haunted by their own past. As Mo and Dale handily track down the truth about the ghost (with some help from the new kid in town), they discover the truth about a great many other people, too.
A laugh out loud, ghostly, Southern mystery that can be enjoyed by readers visiting Tupelo Landing for the first time, as well as those who are old friends of Mo and Dale.
Seven Stories Up by Laurel Snyder
*Kids’ Indie Next List
In this companion to Laurel Snyder’s Bigger than a Bread Box, a leap back in time and an unlikely friendship change the future of one family forever.
Annie wants to meet her grandmother.
Molly wishes she had a friend.
A little magic brings them together in an almost-impossible friendship.
When Annie wakes up on her first morning at the Hotel Calvert, she’s in for a big surprise. There’s a girl named Molly in her bed who insists the year is 1937 and that this is her room! Annie’s not sure what happened, but when she learns that Molly’s never been outside the hotel, she knows it’s time for an adventure. Magic, fortune-telling, some roller skates, a rescued kitten, and the best kind of friendship make up the unforgettable story of two girls destined to change each other’s lives.
“Like Judy Blume before her, Laurel Snyder writes characters that feel like your best friend.” —Anne Ursu, author of The Real Boy
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
*A Junior Library Guild selection, recipient of six starred reviews, Kids’ Indie Next List
*2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER*
Jacqueline Woodson, one of today’s finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.
“Ms. Woodson writes with a sure understanding of the thoughts of young people, offering a poetic, eloquent narrative that is not simply a story . . . but a mature exploration of grown-up issues and self-discovery.”—The New York Times Book Review
Revolution by Deborah Wiles
*Recipient of five starred reviews
*A 2014 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST*
It’s 1964, and Sunny’s town is being invaded. Or at least that’s what the adults of Greenwood, Mississippi, are saying. All Sunny knows is that people from up north are coming to help people register to vote. They’re calling it Freedom Summer.
Meanwhile, Sunny can’t help but feel like her house is being invaded, too. She has a new stepmother, a new brother, and a new sister crowding her life, giving her little room to breathe. And things get even trickier when Sunny and her brother are caught sneaking into the local swimming pool — where they bump into a mystery boy whose life is going to become tangled up in theirs.
As she did in her groundbreaking documentary novel COUNTDOWN, award-winning author Deborah Wiles uses stories and images to tell the riveting story of a certain time and place — and of kids who, in a world where everyone is choosing sides, must figure out how to stand up for themselves and fight for what’s right.
Caminar by Skila Brown
*A Junior Library Guild selection, recipient of two starred reviews
Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis
*A Junior Library Guild selection
Bestselling Newbery Medalist Christopher Paul Curtis delivers a powerful companion to his multiple award-winning ELIJAH OF BUXTON.
Benji and Red couldn’t be more different. They aren’t friends. They don’t even live in the same town. But their fates are entwined. A chance meeting leads the boys to discover that they have more in common than meets the eye. Both of them have encountered a strange presence in the forest, watching them, tracking them. Could the Madman of Piney Woods be real?
In a tale brimming with intrigue and adventure, Christopher Paul Curtis returns to the vibrant world he brought to life in Elijah of Buxton. Here is another novel that will break your heart — and expand it, too.
Nine Open Arms by Benny Lindelauf
*Recipient of three starred reviews
The Boon family story and their indefatigable gallows humor are Benny Lindelauf’s literary memorial to those persecuted by history.
A ghost story, a fantasy, a historical novel, and literary fiction all wrapped into one, this highly awarded novel for young readers begins with the Boon family’s move to an isolated, dilapidated house. Is it the site of a haunting tragedy, as one of the daughters believes, or an end to all their worries, as their father hopes? The novel’s gripping language, enriched by Yiddish, German, and Dutch dialect, plunges the reader into the world of a large, colorful, motherless family.
West of the Moon by Margi Preus
*A Junior Library Guild selection, recipient of 5 starred reviews, Kids’ Indie Next List
In West of the Moon, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author Margi Preus expertly weaves original fiction with myth and folktale to tell the story of Astri, a young Norwegian girl desperate to join her father in America.
After being separated from her sister and sold to a cruel goat farmer, Astri makes a daring escape. She quickly retrieves her little sister, and, armed with a troll treasure, a book of spells and curses, and a possibly magic hairbrush, they set off for America. With a mysterious companion in tow and the malevolent “goatman” in pursuit, the girls head over the Norwegian mountains, through field and forest, and in and out of folktales and dreams as they steadily make their way east of the sun and west of the moon.
The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney
*A Junior Library Guild selection, recipient of three starred reviews, Kids’ Indie Next List
“Amira, look at me,” Muma insists.
She collects both my hands in hers.
“The Janjaweed attack without warning.
If ever they come– run.”
Finally, Amira is twelve. Old enough to wear a toob, old enough for new responsibilities. And maybe old enough to go to school in Nyala– Amira’s one true dream.
But life in her peaceful Sudanese village is shattered when the Janjaweed arrive. The terrifying attackers ravage the town and unleash unspeakable horrors. After she loses nearly everything, Amira needs to dig deep within herself to find the strength to make the long journey– on foot– to safety at a refugee camp. Her days are tough at the camp, until the gift of a simple red pencil opens her mind– and all kinds of possibilities.
New York Times bestselling and Coretta Scott King Award-winning author Andrea Davis Pinkney’s powerful verse and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Shane W. Evans’s breathtaking illustrations combine to tell an inspiring tale of one girl’s triumph against all odds.
The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion & the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming
*A Junior Library Guild Selection, recipient of six starred reviews
Here is the tumultuous, heartrending, true story of the Romanovs—at once an intimate portrait of Russia’s last royal family and a gripping account of its undoing. Using captivating photos and compelling first person accounts, award-winning author Candace Fleming (Amelia Lost; The Lincolns) deftly maneuvers between the imperial family’s extravagant lives and the plight of Russia’s poor masses, making this an utterly mesmerizing read as well as a perfect resource for meeting Common Core standards.
“An exhilarating narrative history of a doomed and clueless family and empire.” —Jim Murphy, author of Newbery Honor Books An American Plague and The Great Fire
Laura Golden is the author of EVERY DAY AFTER, a middle grade novel about a young girl learning to let go and find her own way amidst the trials of the Great Depression and STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL, her second middle grade novel about Klan uprisings and true friendship beyond color lines in segregated 1949 Birmingham, Alabama. Find out more about Laura and her books by visiting her website or chatting with her on Twitter.