Tween

The Most Exciting Middle Grade Reads of Fall 2016

by Laura Lambert

For me, the learning curve of new middle grade books is pretty steep — who are these characters? What are these stories? What ever happened to Harry Potter and Narnia? Here are some promising new titles to fill your middle-grader’s bookshelves this fall — some so good you might just steal them for yourself.

  • Furthermore

    by Tahereh Mafi

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    The book’s title references a strange new world where young Alice, of Ferenwood, travels with her friend Oliver. Alice comes from a world where magic and color take on new meaning. As Tahereh Mafi, an established YA author, told Entertainment Weekly, “Color and magic are thought to be one and the same; where there is color, there is presumed to be magic, and this is precisely why the protagonist, Alice, struggles the most. She was born without any color at all.” The cover alone is worth the purchase price.
    (On Sale: 08/30/2016)

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  • The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes

    by Wade Albert White

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    In this debut fantasy-meets-sci-fi novel, Wade Albert White gives us the adventures of 13-year-old Anvil (a.k.a. Anne) as she escapes the wonderfully named St. Lupin's Institute for Perpetually Wicked and Hideously Unattractive Children. Hilarious and imaginative, The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events. And while the book is the first in a series to be followed by The Adventurer’s Guide to Dragons (And Why They Keep Biting Me) — it’s nevertheless a complete story on its own, and one that gets bonus points for diversity.
    (On Sale: 09/13/2016)

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  • The Littlest Bigfoot

    by Jennifer Weiner

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    Jennifer Weiner is the bestselling author of plenty of adult fiction — most notably, Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, which was made into a movie starring Toni Colette and Cameron Diaz. This time, she veers into the middle grade realm with a story about a lonely 12-year-old girl (another Alice!) who befriends a Bigfoot named Millie. “The Littlest Bigfoot started as a story I told my daughters, and it's the kind of book I wished for when I was a kid,” Weiner told USA Today. The Littlest Bigfoot is the first book in a planned trilogy, with the next installments hitting fall 2017 and fall 2018.
    (On Sale: 09/13/2016)

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  • Nightmares! The Lost Lullaby

    by Jason Segel and Kristen Miller, illustrated by Karl Kwasny

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    Yes, that Jason Segel — a celebrity man-crush if I’ve ever had one. This is the third and final book in the Nightmares! series, hailed by the New York Times. In it, Charlie Laird is dreaming again, and facing off against his foes, ICK and INK. And then there’s his relationship with his best girl friend, Paige. A great return to the enduring theme of learning to face your fears, leavened by charming humor. Up next: Segel and Miller team up again for a YA trilogy, Otherworld, dropping in 2018.
    (On Sale: 09/13/2016)

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  • Two Naomis

    by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick

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    From Brightly contributor Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and coauthor Audrey Vernick comes Two Naomis, the story of two girls — one black, one white — who are thrown together when their parents start dating. They’re both Naomis and they’re both 10 — but the similarities, by and large, stop there. This is a sweet, modern story about friendship, divorce, and blended families, told from alternating POVs by the two different authors. Two Naomis was named a Junior Library Guild selection.
    (On Sale: 09/13/2016)

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  • The Best Man

    by Richard Peck

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    Richard Peck began The Best Man the day same-sex marriage was legalized in Illinois — and by the time he finished, it had been made legal across the country. With an intention to explain this particular moment in time to middle grade readers, Peck wrote a story about what it means to be — and to love — a man, through the eyes of a boy, Archer Magill. As Peck told Nerdy Book Club, “I hope my story doesn’t preach, and I hope it’s not political. I hope it’s a story about love and loss and laughter and family. About how people live today, American people, with their young ones looking up to them. I hope it’s a story about how history happens even if you aren’t learning any in school.”
    (On Sale: 09/20/2016)

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  • Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom

    by Booki Vivat

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    Frazzled is a familiar tale of one girl trying to untangle middle-school awkwardness and find her true self. In this tale, the first in an illustrated series, the protagonist is the ever-neurotic Abbie Wu, a Chinese-American preteen who is about to enter Poindexter Middle School. Newcomer Vivat — a self-proclaimed professional doodler — brings the story to life with, yes, you guessed it, doodles. Fans of Smile and Diary of a Wimpy Kid will appreciate this debut.
    (On Sale: 09/27/2016)

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  • The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

    by Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly

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    The three magical children are William, Jacob, and Jeanne. The holy dog? Gwenforte. The tale? A medieval adventure across France, filled with knights, kings, dragons and the like, which culminates at Mont Saint-Michel. New York Times bestselling author Adam Gidwitz, of the Grimm trilogy, spent six years researching this book, which is illustrated by Egyptian-born Hatem Aly. Deemed “rambunctiously entertaining” by Publishers Weekly, The Inquisitor’s Tale is an ambitious pick for middle grade kids.
    (On Sale: 09/27/2016)

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  • Unbound: A Novel in Verse

    by Ann E. Burg

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    Tweens may not fully understand headlines about Black Lives Matter or discussions of systemic racism, but they instinctively understand injustice — and they’ll respond to the evocative poetry of Ann E. Burg’s book. Unbound is the story of American slavery, centered on 9-year-old Grace, who has been called up to work in the Big House and who cannot stay silent about the abysmal conditions of slavery in the pre-Civil War South. Burg based Unbound on the true story of slaves who fled slavery in the Great Dismal Swamp of Virginia and North Carolina. “A combination of historical precision, honesty, and adventure… Beautifully done,” says Kirkus Reviews.
    (On Sale: 09/27/2016)

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  • Gertie’s Leap to Greatness

    by Kate Beasley, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki

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    Hailed as Ramona Quimby for the 21st century by Entertainment Weekly, Gertie Reece Foy is the spunky, sassy heroine we all need — whether you’re a parent who grew up on Beverly Cleary or a kid who’s all too familiar with schoolhouse rivalries and the longing for a parent’s love. Gertie’s Leap to Greatness is about one girl’s quest to be the best fifth grader in town. Like the Ramona series, Beasley’s endearing debut novel skews young for middle grade readers. Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki, a Caldecott Honor artist.
    (On Sale: 10/04/2016)

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  • Welcome to Wonderland: Home Sweet Motel

    by Chris Grabenstein

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    From the author of the New York Times bestselling Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Welcome to Wonderland: Home Sweet Motel is the story of 11-year-old P. T. Wilkie, who is trying to save his parent’s Florida motel, the Wonderland, from foreclosure. In this comedic mystery, he and his pal Gloria invent schemes to get $100,000 before the end of the month. Another selection for the younger range of middle grade readers, and the first in a promising new illustrated series.
    (On Sale: 10/04/2016)

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  • Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas

    by Jonathan W. Stokes

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    Screenwriter Jonathan Stokes and I share some key pop culture touchstones: “The Goonies,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”.  Those iconic movies inform his first novel, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas, about sixth-grader Addison Cooke and his quest across South America to save his aunt and uncle, both famous archeologists. History, archaeology, and adventure all play a part, presented with a screenwriter’s sensibility. Cue the Indiana Jones references.
    (On Sale: 10/11/2016)

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  • The Lost Property Office (Book #1 of Section 13)

    by James R. Hannibal

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    Another middle grade debut, The Lost Property Office is the story of 13-year-old Jack Buckles, who discovers that his now-missing father was a member of a secret society of detectives: The Lost Property Office, which has served the royal crown for hundreds of years. Now it’s Jack’s turn to join. Set in London, with nods to Sherlock Holmes, it’s an adventure-mystery penned by James R. Hannibal, a former stealth bomber pilot. For what it’s worth, the book has already been optioned by Sony Pictures Entertainment.
    (On Sale: 11/08/2016)

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What other middle grade titles are you excited to read this fall?