Happy 2018, y’all! I started off the New Year making a list of all the books I desperately cannot wait to read this year, and even though I’ve gotten a good start, the list keeps growing.
Part 1 was my preview of young adult books I can’t wait to read, and this part 2 is a list of many (but of course, not all) of the middle grade books (books aimed for ages 10 and up) coming out this year that I’m excited to read and share with other readers. There’s stories of magic, family ties, first love, first grief, growing up, or in some tragic stories, not being able to grow up because life was taken away. I’m especially drawn to authentic coming-of-age stories told by #OwnVoices authors about children and lives we don’t see too often in books and media. Add some magic, mystery, and maybe a witch or two, and I’m not leaving my couch until the book is done. Happy reading!
Books I’ve read and loved (and will re-read and re-read):
Anna Meriano; January 2
I have been holding my breath waiting for this book for almost a year, ever since Houston author Anna Meriano told me about her story of the youngest sister in a family of Mexican-American pastry brujas, and all the anticipation only made it that much sweeter (sorry, I had to).
Set in small-town Texas, youngest sister Leo finds out more than she ever expected when she sneaks into her family’s pastry shop the day before Día de los Muertos (when she’s supposed to be at school) and witnesses a magical coming-of-age ceremony for her older twin sisters. The following adventure mixes all my favorite ingredients of family love (and rivalry), friendship, good intentions gone awry, and even features real recipes you can try yourself (the magic is optional). I’m already waiting for the next in the series.
March 27: Angela Cervantes
Have you always wished you could run away and secretly live in a museum, bathing in a fountain and uncovering the secret of an ancient statue, just like in The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler? Did you love Under the Egg and Chasing Vermeer as much as me? Well good news: 2018 is THE YEAR of the Art History Mystery (yes, that’s a genre, I just made it up), and we’re off to a great start with this gem by Angela Cervantes.
Paloma wanted to spend the summer reading Lulu Pennywhistle mystery books by the pool, but instead she’s visiting Mexico with her mother. She isn’t looking forward to being away from her friends and taking summer Spanish-language classes, though she is hoping to find out more about her late father, who grew up in Mexico. Immediately after arriving, however, Paloma makes new friends and is drawn into the mystery of Frida Kahlo’s missing peacock ring. she sets off to solve a few mysteries of her own.
Jewell Parker Rhodes; April 17
This new book by the award-winning author of Towers Falling, Ninth Ward, and many other celebrated books broke my heart—as it should. The titular ghost boys are spirits of the many, many young black American boys murdered in racial violence. One of these is the main character, Jerome, a timid twelve-year old boy gunned down by a racist police officer while playing in the lot next to his house, and readers follow his confused, frightened ghost as he wanders the city, stuck, wishing he could either go back to his life or move on to what comes next. He’s joined and comforted by the ghost of Emmett Till, who helps him understand why he was murdered, why the police officer is claiming he did the correct thing, and why there are so many ghost boys like him and Emmett. Jerome ends up becoming friends with the only living person who can see him: Sarah, the daughter of the police officer who murdered him, a white girl his own age, and she joins him on his search for understanding and change.
This story hurts. Rhodes doesn’t offer any easy answers, and while her prose is beautiful and there are moments of sweetness and even triumph, it is not an easy read. However, I recommend it as one of the most important books coming out this year.
Lisa Jenn Bigelow; June 26
Growing up is hard, and even harder when several big changes come at the same time. Quiet Melly dreads her summer music camp, even though her best friend is going with her, because she’s already homesick: not just for her house, but the home she has with both her parents, who have just decided to split up. It’s even harder when her best friend ditches her at camp, she starts to worry she’s not good at playing the drums, even though she loves it, and she starts to develop a crush on another girl, Adeline.
Anyone who’s ever felt overlooked, “like a mouse,” and felt too scared to even talk to the person they like will love cheering Melly on as she finds her inner rockstar and drums up the courage (pun lovingly intended) to share her feelings with the girl she likes. I’m recommending this sweet, authentic story to everyone this year.
J.A. White; July 3
Neil Gaiman famously misquoted G.K. Chesterton in his epigraph for one of my all-time favorite novels, Coraline. The original Chesterton quote went something like: “Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey.” I whip that quote out whenever I hear someone say a piece of media might be “too dark” or “too scary” for the age group it was intended for—usually for books like Coraline, and, I expect, Nightbooks.
Yes, this book is scary, but it’s clever and fresh and stars the sort of tentative, anxious underdog I love to root for. The idea of a vicious witch luring children into her Brooklyn apartment and imprisoning them in the library is not an impossible stretch of the imagination for a kid (nor is her booming side business of selling magic-infused essential oils to hipsters), and the frightening here is balanced with Alex’s creativity, bravery, and refusal to give up.
Books I haven’t read yet, but CANNOT WAIT to get my hands on:
Cynthia Kadohata; February 6
Kim Tomsic; February 13
Shannon Hitchcock; February 27
Tiffany Parks; March 6
Veera Hiranandani; March 6
Will Taylor; March 14
Kheryn Callender; March 27 – Recommended to me by the fantastic Kelly Starling Lyons!
Roshani Chokshi; March 27
Blue Balliett; March 27
Varian Johnson; March 27 – Johnson is a local Texas author!
Diana McCauley; April 3
Erin Entrada Kelly; April 10
Vera Brosgol; April 24
Hope Larson; May 1
Aisha Saeed; May 8
Kate Beasley; June 5
Jennifer Torres; June 12
Lauren DeStefano; July 3
Cindy Baldwin; July 3
Kali Wallace; July 3
Abby Cooper; July 17
Barbara Binns; July 31