This summer has been an outstanding season for middle grades titles. Before your 8 to 12 year old reader heads back to school, make sure these books are on their radar!
1. The Selkie of San Francisco by Todd Calgi Gallicano
Sam London didn't mean to uncover an ancient secret, but when he found out that mythical creatures are real and living in our national parks, he became the newest recruit to the Department of Mythical Wildlife. Ever since, the middle schooler has been anxiously awaiting the call for his next case . . . and it finally arrives with the brazen appearance of a selkie in San Francisco Bay. In the thrilling sequel to Guardians of the Gryphon's Claw, an epic adventure novel that "is sure to keep lovers of Rick Riordan running to the shelves" (School Library Journal), Sam London dives headlong into his second case involving a selkie, a mysterious girl, and an ominous new threat to the mythical and human worlds.
2. Smack Dab in the Middle of Maybe by Jo Watson Hackl
All her life, Cricket's mama has told her stories about a secret room painted by a mysterious artist. Now Mama's run off, and Cricket thinks the room might be the answer to getting her to come back. If it exists. And if she can find it. Cricket's only clue is a coin from a grown-over ghost town in the woods. So with her daddy's old guidebook and a coat full of snacks stolen from the Cash 'n' Carry, Cricket runs away to find the room. Surviving in the woods isn't easy. While Cricket camps out in an old tree house and looks for clues, she meets the last resident of the ghost town, encounters a poetry-loving dog (who just might hold a key to part of the puzzle), and discovers that sometimes you have to get a little lost . . . to really find your way.
3. Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson's first middle-grade novel since National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories. It all starts when six kids have to meet for a weekly chat—by themselves, with no adults to listen in. They talk about everything from Esteban's father's deportation and Haley's father's incarceration to Amari's fears of racial profiling and Ashton's adjustment to his changing family fortunes. When the six are together, they can express the feelings and fears they have to hide from the rest of the world. And together, they can grow braver and more ready for the rest of their lives.
4. The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani
It's 1947, and India, newly independent of British rule, has been separated into two countries: Pakistan and India. Half-Muslim, half-Hindu twelve-year-old Nisha doesn't know where she belongs, or what her country is anymore. When Papa decides it's too dangerous to stay in what is now Pakistan, Nisha and her family become refugees and embark first by train but later on foot to reach her new home. The journey is long, difficult, and dangerous, and after losing her mother as a baby, Nisha can't imagine losing her homeland, too. But even if her country has been ripped apart, Nisha still believes in the possibility of putting herself back together.
5. The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller
How do you grow a miracle?
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific method. But Natalie's botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that's important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope, because she has a secret plan for the prize money. She's going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids--flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. Because when parents are breakable, it's up to kids to save them, right?