Middle Grade New Releases, Week of March 3, 2020

HAPPY BOOK BIRTHDAY to these middle grade books making their rounds through our reviewers!


Thank you to @kidlitexchange for providing the review copy of this book. All opinions are our own.


THINGS YOU CAN’T SAY – by Jenn Bishopimg_9786
March 3rd 2020 ~ Aladdin

Photo and Review by Abbie ~ originally on Instagram @ms_d_reads

I love talking about character-driven novels with my students. I am currently planning a unit on character driven picture books for second graders, and there is so much to talk about. Things You Can’t Say would be perfect for a character driven book study in middle school! I would recommend this book to 4th-5th grade and up because of some of the subject matter (suicide, crushes). In Things You Can’t Say, we get to spend time with Drew during a summer of transformation. He is still dealing with the suicide of his father (which happened 3 years ago), changing friendships, family dynamics, and a mysterious house guest who he suspects might be his real father. Bishop kept me reading by creating a mystery around Drew’s mom’s ‘friend’, but I would have continued even without it. She captures the emotional ups and downs of what I would imagine a 12-year-old boy would go through if he was faced with all of this trauma. I empathized with Drew so much; his ability to process his father’s death in some mature and not-so-mature ways, and his relationship with his mother who clearly is trying to do her best are both examples of how Bishop carries us through Drew’s journey. There is some humor throughout, which helps to keep things light. We talk a lot about empathy at work and how we can get kids thinking in this way. Reading and discussing books like this a great way to start!


img_9787THE QUEEN BEE AND ME – by Gillian McDunn onthesamepagept
March 3rd 2020 ~ Bloomsbury Children’s Books

Photo and Review by Carrie ~ originally on Instagram @onthesamepagetpt

This middle grade novel is delightful!
Meg is a quiet, anxious preteen who has been swept along in her best-friend-since-kindergarten’s wake. She found comfort and safety in their friendship throughout elementary school, but as they entered the angst-ridden middle school years, Meg finds herself becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the mean Queen Bee tendencies that Beatrix is exhibiting.

When Hazel moves to their small town of Willow Pond, Meg reluctantly realizes that her friendship with Beatrix is no longer what she believes it to be.
McDunn helps the reader see the parallels between a beehive and the social systems of a typical middle school. As Meg and Hazel’s science project about honey bees unfolds, Meg begins to recognize those connections. She struggles to figure out what role she wants to play in the middle school hive, and in life.

Watching Meg’s evolution is reason enough to read this book, but the other primary characters are also well-developed, and any girl who has lived through middle school will recognize the character types, perhaps recognize themself, and thank heaven that those days are gone 😂

Add this to your must-read list or gift it to your favorite middle-schooler. I’m looking forward to reading more from this author!


BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER – by Jewell Parker Rhodesimg_9789
March 3rd 2020 ~ Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Photo and Review by Laura ~ originally on Instagram @librarianmsg

Nothing makes me happier than a really good ARC from an author I trust to make me think and feel and reflect. Put Black Brother, Black Brother on your pre-order lists; this amazing #mglit book by @jewellparkerrhodes comes out in March of 2020.

This powerful book addresses prejudice, colorism, and bullying for a middle grade audience and also manages to weave in a theme of tenacity in a sports narrative. As Donte’s fencing coach says, “…it’s not just about the bout. It’s about leadership, giving respect. Patience and control.” As with many sports, the lessons Donte learns in fencing will help him overcome other obstacles in his life. . .

Donte and his brother Trey are biracial; their mom is Black and their dad is white. While Trey presents as light-skinned and can pass as white, Donte is Black and is dubbed “Black Brother.” Both boys attend a prestigious private school in Massachusetts where Donte is relentlessly bullied by a white, privileged boy named Alan. When Alan gets Donte in trouble and the incident leads to an arrest and suspension, Donte decides to get revenge by beating Alan at his sport: fencing. Donte learns to fence thanks to the help of a former Olympian at the Boys and Girls Club. He falls in love with the sport, both the physicality of it and the mental game it entails. By the time he does get his bout with Alan, he’s a different person, inside and out. Winning is no longer the most important thing.

Black Brother, Black Brother is a must-buy book of 2020 for grades 4+. It would be a wonderful book for book clubs or a read aloud, particularly for classes that enjoyed reading aloud Ghost Boys. There’s so much to talk about with this book — how bullying doesn’t really end with middle school (yes, there are adult bullies, too), how sports help us grow and change, and the effects of institutional racism. Students will also learn a lot about the sport of fencing. Occasional short chapters like “Parry,” “The Strip” and “Riposte” help familiarize readers with the terminology.


THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR – by Sophie Anderson44575116
March 3rd 2020 ~ Scholastic Press

Good Reads Summary: The newest heart-expanding, magical adventure from Sophie Anderson, author of the critically acclaimed House with Chicken Legs./b
“They call me Yanka the Bear. Not because of where I was found. Only a few people know about that. They call me Yanka the Bear because I am so big and strong.”

Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength.

So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past.

But deep in the forest there are many dangers and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest . . . forever. 

Watch for a Review Soon!


img_9790TO FLY AMONG THE STARS – by Rebecca Siegel
March 3rd 2020 ~ Scholastic Focus

Photo and Review by Melissa ~ originally on Instagram @mllittleauthor

This book is many things in one. It is a history of the space race. It is a tale of the first animals in space. But more than anything, it is about the thirteen women, the “Mercury 13,” who wanted nothing more on earth than to leave it—for a moment in space.
The book is a fascinating look at an unheard of part in history. It develops the women (and the male astronauts, too) into real people we can see and hear and feel for. The intense research poured from every page as it taught ME so many things I never learned about in school.

The ending left me genuinely so sad. It was hard to shake. If these women had lived in a different era, they could have fulfilled their dreams. But instead, their years of hard work ended up being for nothing, just because NASA did not want women. It was emotional and because of that, as well as mentions of a few other things, I would recommend it for 11/12 and up. Though every kid is different.
If you want to learn about and appreciate thirteen brilliant and hardworking woman hidden in history, get To Fly Among the Stars on March 3!


THE LONELY HEART OF MAYBELLE LANE – by Kate O’Shaughnessyimg_9364
March 3rd 2020 ~ Knopf Books for Young Readers

Photo and Review by Susan ~ originally on Instagram @redcanoereader

💙First of all, let’s talk about the cover. Isn’t it gorgeous?! It offers a small peek into Maybelle’s story and gently asks you to step into her life. When you do, you’ll find your heart breaking a bit time and time again, but you’ll also find yourself cheering for every character as each one searches for the courage to face their fears and follow their dreams. 💙Next, let’s talk about the characters. I loved every one! 💙Gemma, Maybelle’s mom who works two jobs to keep a rickety roof over their head, and loves Maybelle with all her heart, while all along dreaming of a singing career.🔹Maybelle, who has an amazing voice of her own, spends her lonely hours recording the everyday sounds we shouldn’t ever forget and dreaming of meeting the daddy she’s never laid eyes on. She’s a girl who shares her mama’s kindness, patience and understanding of others.
🔹Mrs. Boggs, Maybelle’s neighbor who lives in a Winnebago, is a teacher with a strict and gray exterior, but a heart of gold. She desperately misses her young husband, who died recently, and thoughtfully steps up to help when she is needed by her young neighbors.🔹Tommy, Maybelle’s neighbor and classmate, hangs out with the mean kids and tries to hide the bruises that mysteriously appear whenever his dad is out of town and he stays with his stepmom. But he’s also the boy who can secretly fix anything, reads engineering textbooks for fun and is kind to Maybelle when she really needs a friend. 💙When Maybelle, Mrs. Boggs and Tommy take off in her Winnebago on a road trip to Nashville to find Maybelle’s dad, the fun really begins. Not only was it an adventure for two kids who had never left their state, but it gave them all an opportunity to thoughtfully help one another gather their courage to face their obstacles and dream their dreams. They all learned some important lessons during their long trip, but none more important than the understanding that taking care of someone else not only helps the recipient, but also yourself.

This is a book you’ll both race through to see what happens next, but also read slowly knowing it’s going to end before you’re ready to say goodbye. It’s a book you’ll remember for a long time. This book, out 3.3.20, is a must buy for every elementary and middle school library. Please pre-order it now! You’ll be so happy you did!


img_9788MANANALAND – by Pam Munoz Ryan librarianmsg
March 3rd 2020 ~ Scholastic Press

Photo and Review by Laura ~ originally on Instagram @librarianmsg

Max has big questions about his past and future, but his Papa isn’t comfortable with the questions and wants him to live in the present. In particular, Max has questions about his mother who left when he was little, but no one in his family will give him answers. When Max’s eligibility for the village soccer team comes into question, his father must travel to the city of his birth to get documentation. While his father is gone, Max is called upon to act with great courage to help a young girl in trouble. He discovers that his grandfather’s stories are rooted in reality and uncovers a family tradition of helping refugees that makes him question everything he knows. In doing so, he begins a journey toward Mananaland and answers to his questions about his mother. ..
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This book is GORGEOUS. I read it in one sitting. Ryan’s story is set in a fictional country of Santa Maria somewhere in the Americas and in elementary and middle school libraries. Putting it on our 2021 summer rdg brainstorm list!


HUNGER WINTER – by Rob Currieimg_9806
March 3rd 2020 ~ Tyndale House Publishers

Photo and Review by Jessica ~ originally on Instagram @librarian_fitz

Thank you @tyndalehouse for sharing this fantastic novel with @kidlitexchange . WWII in Europe and their father (the leader of the Resistance) disappears, his older sister is arrested, his mother has passed away and now 13 year old Dirk is taking care of his sister Anna. The Nazi’s are coming after them and the two siblings must escape in order to survive. The Nazi’s are destroying everything Dirk holds near and dear. Dirk and Anna run away to relatives trying to escape the Nazi’s hold that is slowly engulfing them.

This novel has everything a WWII #middlegrade novel should have. Soldiers, fighting, describing life as someone who is trying to escape the Nazis , action, heartache and suspense. This is a novel that hooks you and it doesn’t unhook you until you finish the last page. The cover art is BEAUTIFUL and I just LOVE how it captives you! This is a book that will for sure be ordered!


44575084THE MIDNIGHT HOUR – by Benjamin Read and Laura Trinder
March 3rd 2020 ~ Chicken House

Good Reads Summary: For fans of portal fantasies like Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor, Colin Meloy’s Wildwood, and The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, and unlike so many other fantasies that introduce readers to a world of enchantment and wonder, The Midnight Hour is one filled with beasts and monsters for readers looking to shine their flashlights under the covers.
When strange late-night letters start arriving at home, Emily’s parents set off to investigate. But when her parents disappear completely and Emily is left home alone to face the weird strangers that begin to appear at her door, she takes all of the clues at her disposal and makes for the place where the letters came from — the mysterious Night Post. What she’ll discover is the secret world of the Midnight Hour — a Victorian London frozen in time, full of magic and monsters.

Kept safe by an age-old agreement, the Night Folk have been exiled to a parallel world that can only be accessed by a selected few, including the mail carriers of the infamous Night Post that operate between the two worlds. Emily’s parents are key players in keeping the Night Folk safe, but when the division of the two worlds is threatened, Emily must search for her parents while navigating this dark and unknown version of London.

Armed only with a packed lunch, her very sleepy pocket hedgehog, and her infamously big argumentative mouth, she must escape bloodthirsty creatures of the night, figure out her own family secrets, and maybe just save the world. This is a frightening and enchanting story, a world built out of creatures from our worst fears who become relatable, fully formed characters unlike any we’ve seen as these strangers of parallel worlds band together to save the day.

Watch for a Review Soon!


SHOW ME A SIGN – by Clare LeZotteimg_9791
March 3rd 2020 ~ Scholastic Press

Photo and Review by Laura ~ originally on Instagram @librarianmsg

It’s rare that I read a book that transports me so completely and immerses me in an experience wholly different from my own. I sped through this book in only a few hours and then slowed down to read the significant historical material that the author includes at the end. LeZotte (a Deaf librarian) has managed to write an adventure story that deftly explores prejudice and race while giving readers insight into Deaf culture. I loved it!
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Show Me a Sign depicts Martha’s Vineyard in the early 1800s from the perspective of Mary Lambert, a young Deaf girl whose community (Chilmark) is unique — almost all residents use sign language whether they are Deaf or not. When a stranger comes to the island to investigate their Deaf community, Mary is introduced to prejudice for the first time in her life and learns that not all people in the world are as accepting of her different abilities. The stranger, a “scientist” named Andrew, has come to explore the reasons for the large number of deaf residents in Chilmark. Mary and her best friend Sally spy on Andrew trying to determine his real intentions, which end up being far worse than any of them could have imagined. I couldn’t put this one down.
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Show Me a Sign is a MUST-BUY for grades 3+ and would make an excellent read aloud. I can’t wait to share it with my students.


img_9807CAN YOU SEE ME? – by Libby Scott and Rebecca Westcott
March 3rd 2020 ~ Scholastic Press

Photo and Review by Melissa ~ originally on Instagram @mllittleauthor

I actually loved this book.
Tally is an Autistic 11-year-old who loves real animals, stuffed animals, Taylor Swift, and Peppa Pig. Right away I liked her because I also love all of those things. Especially my homie Peppa Pig. Tally is adjusting to a new school. She displays symptoms of OCD as well as Autism, and feels braver in social situations when she wears her tiger mask. I like wearing a mask/hat for the same reasons. Basically I really understood Tally. The book does a good job getting us into her head. It also delivers a realistic family, with a teenage sister I felt for as well as parents who have flaws and frustrations.
I did a little sleuthing, and apparently this book released in the UK last year with a different cover. This is the American version. To my disappointment, all the British English has been replaced with American English, and we lost all sense of place as well as the wonderful British quirks. I think kids could have appreciated and learned from the British English, if it was left alone. Also, there were a few instances of random head-hopping. Those were really the only flaws. It’s a quick contemporary read that I found very enjoyable.


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