The Most Exciting Middle Grade & Chapter Books Coming Fall 2023

by Naima Jasmine Russell

Those dog days of summer and the first sweet whispers of fall will soon give way to the spooky season. It’s the perfect time for young readers to build a blanket fort and cozy up with a new book — but which one? Maybe a heart-tugging, coming-of-age story that lets the dwindling summer season linger a few moments longer. Or maybe one that conjures up scary chills, magical mysteries, or daring thrills just in time for Halloween.

This fall’s upcoming releases will dazzle young readers with diverse stories, highly anticipated sequels, and action-packed adventures. Mental health, body positivity, racism, grief and loss, changing friendships, and sexuality all get a spotlight in this fresh crop of books.

  • Barely Floating

    by Lilliam Rivera

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    When you think of a synchronized swimmer, you don’t think of a strong-willed, plus-sized Latina. And that’s what 12-year-old Nat’s parents tell her when she wants to join the L.A. Mermaids team, a Black-owned synchronized swim team. Of course, Nat doesn’t listen. She learns the sport in secret, channeling all her rage at the changing world into the pool. It’s a beautiful coming-of-age story about loving the skin you’re in.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Penny Draws a School Play

    by Sara Shepard

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    Everything is going okay for Penny’s 5th-grade year until her parents announce a move to a new house. On top of that, her mom is pregnant with twins, and Penny gets cast in the school play. All these changes send Penny’s emotions into overdrive and her thoughts spiraling. Drawing from the author’s mental health journey as a child, this series is about a young girl managing her anxiety through doodling and talking to her teacher, Mrs. Hines. It’s an excellent social-emotional learning series with a good dose of humor.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Dory Fantasmagory: Can't Live Without You

    by Abby Hanlon

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    This beginning chapter book series about a lovable rascal with an overzealous imagination is perfect for fans of Ivy + Bean and Junie B. Jones. In book six, Dory experiences a bout of separation anxiety. Her solution? To haunt her family forever! But her ghostly prank turns serious when Dory’s nemesis, Mrs. Gobble Gracker, and her mom make surprise announcements.
    (Ages 6 — 8)

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  • The Royal Ranger: Arazan's Wolves

    by John Flanagan

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    Will Treaty is back in this spinoff series to the original bestselling Ranger’s Apprentice series. Will is no longer an apprentice. He is now the mentor, taking Princess Madelyn under his wing as she becomes the first Royal Ranger. When a sorceress sends her oversized beasts called dire wolves on a rampage through the countryside, Will and Maddie must find her hideout and stop her. This action-packed series has captivated audiences since 2006.
    (Ages 10 and up)

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  • Who Was Accused in the Salem Witch Trials?: Tituba

    by Insha Fitzpatrick and Who HQ, illustrated by Rowan MacColl

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    Historical, hysterical, and haunting. The year and a half of American history from 1692 to 1693, known as the Salem Witch Trials, comes to life in this non-fiction graphic novel. An enslaved woman named Tituba, is accused of witchcraft and shares her terrifying experience in this book.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Cowgirls & Dinosaurs: Big Trouble in Little Spittle

    by Lucie Ebrey

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    Graphic novel lovers will go nuts over this Western-themed story where dinosaurs and humans coexist in a small desert town named Little Spittle. Need I say more? Clementine lives with her father, the sheriff, so she knows about fighting crime. She teams up with Abigail, an aspiring detective, and a dinosaur named Rootbeer to tackle the town’s latest threat — the Bandit Queen and her new magical powers. Plenty of humor and adventure will keep kids glued to the page.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Time of the Turtle King

    by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by AG Ford

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    Mary Pope Osborne’s bestselling series continues with Jack and Annie visiting the Galapagos Islands. Their mission: to rescue a giant tortoise from an active volcano. With the help of a bit of magic and determination, Jack and Annie use their knowledge about turtles to save the day.
    (Ages 6 — 9)

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  • Witches of Brooklyn: Spell of a Time

    by Sophie Escabasse

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    Meet Effie, the teenage girl who discovers she is a witch after losing her mother and moving in with her aunts, who also have magical powers. In this fourth book, the witch-in-training travels to Coney Island to clean up trash and learns a mermaid has gone missing. Can she solve the mystery? With bright graphics, diverse characters, and lots of humor, this newest book in the series will charm young readers.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Nell of Gumbling: My Extremely Normal Fairy-Tale Life

    by Emma Steinkellner

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    It’s a diary! It’s a graphic novel! It’s both! 12-year-old Nell Starkeeper may live in the fairy-tale world of Gumbling with her two papas and her younger siblings, but 7th grade is less than magical. From friendship struggles and disappointments to an unlikely adversary who wants to turn Gumbling into a trendy resort for humans, Nell faces one challenge after another. This feel-good graphic fantasy novel is perfect for kids who like realistic fiction with a magical twist.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Wrecker

    by Carl Hiaasen

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    15-year-old Valdez Jones VIII descended from a shipwreck salvager and goes by the nickname Wrecker. During the pandemic, Wrecker’s assortment of odd jobs thrives, thanks to the flexibility of online schooling. One night, while cleaning headstones, he encounters a man who wants to hire someone to watch over a crypt. That job leads to another and another — and Wrecker soon finds himself entangled in a crime ring. This fast-paced thriller explores themes such as racism, environmental issues, and the effects of the pandemic.
    (Ages 10 — 14)

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  • PAWS: Priya Puts Herself First

    by Nathan Fairbairn, illustrated by Michele Assarasakorn

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    This graphic novel series is a favorite in our house. It follows best friends Priya, Gabby, and Mindy as they run a pet-sitting club. In this third installment, the holidays bring many changes to the friend group. Priya’s family has been evicted and moves across town, Gabby obsesses over her new cell phone and the trappings of social media, and a big winter storm delivers a doggie dilemma. How will the girls cope with conflicting priorities? Will this be the end of the PAWS team? This series is the perfect mash-up for lovers of The Baby-Sitters Club and all things pets.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Remember Us

    by Jacqueline Woodson

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    Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson delivers a coming-of-age story about life’s burning questions. Sage, a rising seventh-grader from New York’s Bushwick neighborhood, has a hotter-than-usual summer. The newspapers call her neighborhood “The Matchbox” because so many houses burn down. Also, Sage isn’t sure where she fits in anymore. Playing hoops with the guys or hanging with the girls she’s known since childhood — neither one feels right. Only a new friend named Freddy can help her make sense of the past, present, and future.
    (Ages 10 and up)

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  • Rosie Frost and the Falcon Queen

    by Geri Halliwell-Horner

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    Ginger-haired Rosie Frost is only 13 when she finds herself orphaned. Her mother’s last wish was for Rosie to live on Bloodstone Island, home to rare flora, fauna, and a special school for teens. When Rosie uncovers a secret plot to harm the island, she relies on her friends and courage to compete in the Falcon Queen Games and save the island. This is the first book in a new series by Geri Halliwell-Horner, also known as “Ginger Spice” of the iconic girl-power group, The Spice Girls.
    (Ages 10 and up)

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  • Forever Twelve

    by Stacy McAnulty

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    If you could be twelve forever, would you? At West Archer Academy, an Elite boarding school, a group of kids known as the Evers claim to have been alive for hundreds of years. The Evers blend in with the other students, but they secretly search for the meaning behind their immortality. This story is told from the triple perspectives of a shy new student named Ivy, her immortal roommate Abigail, and Ronan, whose psychic powers help him sense danger. This mystery adventure novel is perfect for the start of the spooky season!
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Project F

    by Jeanne DuPrau

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    Climate change destroyed the earth and all modern technology in this post-apocalyptic story. 13-year-old Keith lives a simple life, but his fascination with technology leads him to uncover a secret mission called Project F. Will Keith risk the safety of his family, community, and the entire world for a little adventure?
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Futureland: The Nightmare Hour

    by H.D. Hunter, illustrated by Khadijah Khatib

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    Cam Walker has always lived in the flying amusement park his parents built called Futureland. With its cutting-edge technology, dreams can come to life. Now, trouble looms on the horizon as Futureland heads to the Big Apple. From creepy carnivals to tech glitches and a mysterious stalker, Cam Walker must act fast before Futureland becomes Nightmare-land.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • The Last Kids on Earth and the Monster Dimension

    by Max Brallier, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

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    Described as Diary of a Wimpy Kid meets The Walking Dead, the ninth installment in the mega-bestselling, highly illustrated series is here! 13-year-old Jack Sullivan and his friends might be the only people left on earth after the monster apocalypse, and they have survived a series of adventures on foraged snack foods and teamwork. This time, they will travel deep into the monster dimension to stop Rezzoch from destroying the world.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library: The Graphic Novel

    by Chris Grabenstein, illustrated by Douglas Holgate

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    The bestselling book is now a bold and colorful graphic novel! Kyle desperately wants to meet the internationally famous game maker Luigi Lemoncello. When Kyle gets chosen to join a diverse group of kids to attend lock-in at the library with the eccentric gamer, he is ecstatic. However, the library doors don’t unlock when morning arrives, and the kids are trapped inside. Can Kyle lead his newfound friends through a series of cleverly crafted challenges to escape? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory meets Night at the Museum in the ultimate escape room adventure!
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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  • The Cardboard Kingdom #3: Snow and Sorcery

    by Chad Sell

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    The boundaries of pretend play disappear in the Cardboard Kingdom — a neighborhood where 16 diverse kids turn ordinary boxes into costumes, characters, and their wildest dreams. In the third installment in the series, the kids want to spend winter break playing with the kids from the neighboring town but run into a roadblock in the form of an evil Sorceress. When fighting breaks out between the two groups, only one thing can save the day — friendship. This book is a collaborative effort from Chad Sells and seven other authors.
    (Ages 8 — 12)

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