Middle grade readers will find themselves in for a fantastic and magical “backyard” adventure when they read Elf Dog and Owl Head by M.T. Anderson (illustrated by Junyi Wu; Candlewick 2023). This novel’s summary threw me off, because it sounded like it would be about a boy dealing with the annoyance of remaining home during

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Middle grade novel Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga (HarperCollins, 2019) captures one teen girl’s perspective as a Syrian refugee to America. Even without using dates within the text, Other Words for Home feels sadly applicable today since the Syrian conflict still rages and refugees flee to America from many different countries. Jude’s life

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Everyone except Maddie, and I mean everyone, has been inexplicably evacuated from her town in the middle of the night in the beginning chapters of the free verse novel Alone by Morgan E. Freeman (Aladdin, 2021). Now Maddie has no access to anyone (phones have been abandoned). She is without electricity and running water and

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In The First State of Being by Erin Entrada Kelly (Greenwillow Books, March 2024), Michael is a lonely celebrating his 12th birthday in the summer of 1999 when his life is changed by the appearance of strange kid in his apartment complex. Michael is an awkward kid obsessed with Y2K (yes, that moment when computers

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Tales from Silver Lands by Charles Finger (originally published 1924) weaves together tales the author collected during travels to Central and South America throughout his life. As with many volumes of stories, they range in interest, plot, and theme. Some stories are directly connected to the previous ones in the volume. Others are separate tales

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Lost Kites and Other Treasures by Cathy Carr (Amulet Books, February 2024) addresses anxiety and other mental illness with a middle-school story featuring Franny, who escapes to making creative “found” art when things start to feel overwhelming. Although Franny tries not to think about her absent mother and the traumas of her early life (after

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Matthew is a seventh-grader now required to finish his school year online, isolated from his friends, due to the COVID pandemic. Nothing could be worse than having to help his 100-year-old great-grandmother (GG) sort her belongings. But it is through his isolation with GG that Matthew learns the secrets of her life and just how

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Just like the other middle grade novels by Gary Schmidt, The Labors of Hercules Beal (Harper Collins, May 2023) follows the pattern of lonely or troubled kid learning from a loving and helpful teacher over the course of a school year. Once again, the protagonist is a seventh grader, this time a boy named Hercules

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With alternating stories, Just Like That by Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion Books, 2021) tells the story of two 14-year-olds in 1968 who are coming to terms with something big that happened, which changed their lives completely “just like that.” Meryl Lee Kowalski (a name familiar to those who have read The Wednesday Wars) has been

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