Living in Maryland, Nova and Sparkle Moore are sisters who both love dancing, modeling, and acting. Thanks to their mother’s backdrops, props, and posing techniques, the duo has social media followers and are on their way to being influencers despite being only fifth and sixth graders. Along with her best friends, Taryn Wood—an advanced level ballet and tap dancer—and Rae Ferrell—a true, creative artist, Sparkle attends the Arts Academy whose motto is “dream big; anything is possible.” As the three friends vow to steer clear of bad energy and to explore their true gifts, they also have to navigate peer politics and bullies. Sparkle livesRead More →

Sixth grader Frances Bishop is prone to worry. She wonders how thoughts can be compartmentalized or put into a box when “worry is like water. It leaks” (41). Furthermore, “no one chooses to worry. Worry just is” (99), and it causes Franny to get herself into a tangle. Because her mother is a former drug addict, Franny has had to be the responsible one, making worry a constant for her. As an escape, Franny has math where the problems have clear steps and a solution. Math is her happy place. Franny also has an ally in her mother’s Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Mimi, whoRead More →

Set in Maine, Sparrow Being Sparrow by Gail Donovan and illustrated by Elysia Case is a novel for middle grade readers. It features Sarah Robinson, aka Sparrow, who is a fourth grader at Eastbrook Elementary School. High-spirited and imaginative, Sparrow loves to dance and leap. In one of Sparrow’s rambunctious moments, her neighbor Mrs. LaRose leaps with Sparrow and ends up breaking a hip. As a way to make amends for what she sees as her fault, Sparrow takes care of Mrs. LaRose’s seven cats. Besides being a story about developing responsibility, Sparrow Being Sparrow also addresses other middle grade issues. Along with Sparrow, readersRead More →

Readers will likely relate to the popularity food chain and power plays that transpire in junior high school. This social dynamic is the focus of Tae Keller’s middle grade novel Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone. With this book, Keller takes readers to the seventh grade classroom of Gibbons Academy in Florida and explores themes like identity, anxiety, friendship, bullying, and redemption. She also invites us to wonder whether we are truly alone in the universe and whether other life might exist beyond Earth. Mallory Moss is struggling to define herself—is she a fun, brave, and trustworthy friend or a timid, insecure, and fearful follower? BelievingRead More →

Brian Selznick’s book Big Tree tells a tale of the interconnectedness of the natural world and how even the smallest can have a big impact. This true-to science, richly illustrated tome features Louise, a Sycamore seed who wishes to know the language of stars. While she is curious and adventuresome, her brother Merwin is more of a protective worrier. Together, the two have been charged by their mother to be brave and strong as they fly through the air to find a safe place to put down roots: “A good parent always gives their children roots and wings. Roots to settle down, and wings toRead More →

Prickly, unhappy, and bruised by the tragic deaths of her parents, Maria Latif is bustled off from Pakistan to Long Island, New York. After being bounced from relative to unfortunate relative, she is now going to stay with family friends. Still, the orphaned Maria knows this is just another temporary landing place. When she arrives, Maria is prepared to hate New York, but there is a secret about the Clayborne House on Long Island that she doesn’t understand. Something about the way an unloved, untouched, and unclaimed garden hums and thrums makes Maria think that this bit of earth can be hers. With a gardenRead More →

Just in time for National Poetry Month, Good Different is a novel in verse by Meg Eden Kuyatt. In lyrical prose, Kuyatt tells the story of Selah Godfrey who feels like a dragon in a world built for people. Because others perceive Selah as “dangerous, unpredictable, and damaged,” she draws to distract herself from the rough noises and loud textures that poke at her. A seventh grader at Pebblecreek Academy, a private school that prides itself on its family atmosphere, Selah wishes to be somewhere that allows her to be fully herself, a place where she can relax “and not feel like a freak” (9).Read More →

When Torrey Maldonado conceived of the idea to write Hands, he wished to produce a much needed book for readers—especially those living in rough neighborhoods—who might be wondering whether fighting is an essential component for survival. He knew the book would have to be a fast-paced, thin one so that readers wouldn’t get “weighed down” by heavy content. He hoped not only to inspire readers to feel more positive but to empower them to respond to challenges in productive ways. He succeeds with Hands, a 136-page book thick with complexity and targeted for tweens. At age ten, Trevor follows in his stepdad’s footsteps, thinking he’sRead More →

An unwieldy topic, climate change has been creeping up on us in slow motion for more than 200 years. To humanize this topic and to motivate activism, Alan Gratz writes his middle grade novel Two Degrees. Written in seven parts, his book features four tweens from different locales in North America, all linked by an invisible web. These seventh graders are connected through the adversity they individually face with wild fires, melting ice caps, rising sea levels, and storm surges. Living near the Sierra Nevadas in California, Akira Kristiansen seeks to escape the chaos of school and family by riding Dodger, her chestnut gelding quarterRead More →