Did you happen to see recent headlines about how independent book stores aren’t just surviving, they’re actually thriving? The Week magazine summarizes findings and offers its own spin on why book stores are vital, including the fact that they “curate and recommend in a human way.” That point is crucial for middle grade readers who depend (often unknowingly) on parents, librarians, teachers, and booksellers to help them find the right book at the right time. We here at the Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors take the privilege of being able to curate and recommend quite seriously — and joyfully. And with that, we happily present you with fifteen choice middle grade books heading to book store and library shelves this month:
House Arrest by K.A. Holt (Oct. 6)
Probation is a strange word, something that happens to other kids, to delinquents, not to kids like Timothy. And yet that’s exactly where he is: under house arrest, checking in weekly with a probation officer and a therapist, forced to keep a journal AND keep out of trouble for an entire year. When he needs to take drastic measures to help his struggling family, staying out of trouble proves more difficult than Timothy ever thought it would be. Touching and funny, this is a novel in verse about a boy navigating his world with a sick brother, a grieving mother, and one tough probation officer.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrations by Jon Klassen (Oct. 6)
For some kids summer is a sun-soaked season of fun. But for Steve, it’s just another season of worries. Worries about his sick newborn baby brother who is fighting to survive, worries about his parents who are struggling to cope, even worries about the wasp’s nest looming ominously from the eaves. So when a mysterious wasp queen invades his dreams, offering to “fix” the baby, Steve thinks his prayers have been answered. This is a haunting gothic tale for fans of Coraline, with illustrations from Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic by Lisa Papademetriou (Oct. 6)
Kai and Leila are both finally having an adventure. For Leila, that means a globe-crossing journey to visit family in Pakistan for the summer; for Kai, it means being stuck with her crazy great-aunt in Texas while her mom looks for a job. In each of their bedrooms, they discover a copy of a blank, old book called The Exquisite Corpse. Kai writes three words on the first page and suddenly, they magically appear in Leila’s copy on the other side of the planet. Kai’s words are soon followed by line after line of the long-ago, romantic tale of Ralph T. Flabbergast and his forever-love, Edwina Pickle. As the two take turns writing, the tale unfolds, connecting both girls to each other, and to the past, in a way they never could have imagined. From the author of Confectionately Yours.
Dream On, Amber by Emma Shevah (Oct. 6)
As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl who thinks her name is ridiculously long, Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto is not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school. But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn’t coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister’s birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own..
The Tournament at Gorlan by John A. Flanagan (Oct. 6)
The first in a prequel to the Ranger’s Apprentice series, this one features one ofour favorite Rangers, Halt. When Halt and Crowley discover that the ambitious Morgarath has been infiltrating the Rangers in order to corrupt the Corps, the young Rangers travel north to find Prince Duncan, seeking a royal warrant to stop Morgarath before it is too late. This origin story brings readers to a time before Will was an apprentice, and lays the groundwork for the epic battles that will culminate with The Ruins of Gorlan and The Burning Bridge, Books 1 and 2 of the Ranger’s Apprentice series.
The Bubble Wrap Boy by Phil Earle (Oct. 13)
Charlie Han’s troubles are much bigger than he is. At school he’s branded an outsider, a loser … the tiny kid from the Chinese takeout. His only ally is Sinus Sedgely, a kid with a lower-level reputation than Charlie himself. Life at home isn’t much better. His dad is more skilled with a wok than he is with words, and his mom is suffocating the life out of Charlie, worried about his every move. But when a new passion leads Charlie to the mother of all confrontations, he finds his real mom has been hiding a massive secret. A secret that might actually lead Charlie to feeling ten feet tall. From a Kirkus review: “In the fast-growing bullying genre, Charlie’s story stands out. This isn’t a kid who will do anything to join the cool clique. This is a story about staying true to yourself and following your passion.”
Big Game by Stuart Gibbs (Oct. 13)
Teddy Fitzroy returns as FunJungle’s resident zoo sleuth when a rhinoceros is at risk in this companion to Belly Up and Poached. When someone takes aim at Rhonda Rhino, FunJungle’s pregnant (and endangered) Asian greater one-horned rhinoceros, the zoo steps up security measures in order to protect this rare animal and her baby. But the extra security isn’t enough–someone is still getting too close for comfort. Teddy and company start to suspect that whoever is after Rhonda is really after her horn, which is worth a lot of money on the black market.
The Red Shoes and Other Tales by Metaphrog (Oct. 13)
A collection of tales in a graphic novel format that also includes The Little Match Girl. In the title story, Karen, the child of peasants, grew up with a pair of red shoes. Then, when her parents died, Karen was adopted by a rich old woman who gave Karen a new pair of red shoes that would make princesses green with envy. This newfound wealth causes Karen to forget her humble origins and grow up to become a cruel and vain adult. Then, one day, the red shoes that sparked her greed come to life and steer Karen down a path she never would have imagined in her wildest dreams.
SandRider by Angie Sage (Oct. 13)
Book Two in the TodHunter Moon trilogy, a spinoff of the popular Septimus Heap series. Taking place seven years after the events of the original Septimus Heap series, TodHunter Moon tells the story of Alice TodHunter Moon, a young PathFinder who comes to the Castle with a Magyk all her own. In this second book, Tod sets out for the Desert of the Singing Sands to retrieve the Egg of the Orm—a journey that will test not only her Magykal and PathFinding skills but her friendships, too.
A Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel (Oct. 13)
Before Stinkville, Alice didn’t think albinism—or the blindness that goes with it—was a big deal. Sure, she uses a magnifier to read books. And a cane keeps her from bruising her hips on tables. Putting on sunscreen and always wearing a hat are just part of life. But life has always been like this for Alice. Until Stinkville. Now she finds herself floundering—she can’t even get to the library on her own. But when her parents start looking into schools for the blind, Alice takes a stand. She’s going to show them—and herself—that blindness is just a part of who she is, not all that she can be. To prove it, Alice enters the Stinkville Success Stories essay contest. No one, not even her new friend Kerica, believes she can scout out her new town’s stories and write the essay by herself. The funny thing is, as Alice confronts her own blindness, everyone else seems to see her for the first time.
A Sliver of Stardust by Marissa Burt (Oct. 20)
Wren Matthews thought she’d outgrown nursery rhymes a long time ago. But that was before she knew that songs of twinkling little stars and four-and-twenty blackbirds were the key to an ancient, hidden magic. Wren’s discovery catapults her into a world of buried secrets, strange dreams, and a mountain fortress under an aurora-filled sky. But just as she starts to master her unique abilities, her new world begins to crumble around her . . . and only she can save it.
The Secrets of the Pied Piper 1: The Peddler’s Road by Matthew Cody (Oct. 27)
It is said that in the thirteenth century, in a village called Hamelin, a piper lured all of the children away with his magical flute, and none of them were ever seen again. Today, pink-haired Max and her little brother, Carter, are stuck in modern-day Hamelin with their father . . . until they are also led away by the Piper to a place called the Summer Isle. There they meet the original stolen children, who haven’t aged a day and who have formed their own village, vigilantly guarded from the many nightmarish beings that roam the land. No one knows why the Piper stole them, but Max and Carter’s appearance may be the key to returning the lost children of Hamelin and to going home themselves. But to discover the secrets of the Piper, Max and Carter will have to set out on a mysterious quest down the dangerous Peddler’s Road.
The League of Unexceptional Children by Gitty Daneshvari (Oct. 20)
Just what is The League of Unexceptional Children? You may not have heard of the actual organization (it’s undercover) but this is a series you’ll remember. This covert network uses the nation’s most average, normal, and utterly unexceptional children as spies. Why the average kids? Why not the brainiacs? Or over achievers? Or the jocks? It’s simple: People remember them. But not the unexceptionals. They are the forgotten ones. Until now. A humorous start to a new mystery series.
The Odds of Getting Even by Sheila Turnage (Oct. 6)
The trial of the century has come to Tupelo Landing, North Carolina. Mo and Dale, aka Desperado Detectives, head to court as star witnesses against Dale’s daddy–confessed kidnapper Macon Johnson. Dale’s nerves are jangled, but Mo, who doesn’t mind getting even with Mr. Macon for hurting her loved ones, looks forward to a slam dunk conviction–if everything goes as expected. Of course nothing goes as expected. Macon Johnson sees to that. In no time flat, Macon’s on the run, Tupelo Landing’s in lockdown, and Dale’s brother’s life hangs in the balance. With Harm Crenshaw, newly appointed intern, Desperado Detectives are on the case. But it means they have to take on a tough client–one they’d never want in a million years. This is the second follow up to the Newbery honor book Three Times Lucky.
The Lightning Queen by Laura Resau (Oct 27)
Nothing exciting happens on the Hill of Dust, in the remote mountains of Mexico in the 1950s. There’s no electricity, no plumbing, no cars — just day after day of pasturing goats. And now, without his sister and mother, eleven-year-old Teo’s life feels even more barren. And then one day, the mysterious young Esma, who calls herself the Gypsy Queen of Lightning, rolls into town like a fresh burst of color. Against all odds, her caravan’s Mistress of Destiny predicts that Teo and Esma will be longtime friends. Suddenly, life brims with possibility. With the help of a rescued duck, a three-legged skunk, a blind goat, and other allies, Teo and Esma must overcome obstacles to fulfill their impossible destiny. Inspired by true stories derived from rural Mexico, The Lightning Queen offers a glimpse of the encounter between two fascinating but marginalized cultures–the Rom and the Mixtec Indians.
Class Dismissed by Allan Woodrow (Oc.t 27)
What could possibly go wrong in a teacher-free classroom? Class 507 is the worst class Ms. Bryce has ever taught. And she would know — she’s been teaching forever. They are so terrible that when a science experiment goes disastrously wrong (again), Ms. Bryce has had it and quits in the middle of the lesson. But through a mix-up, the school office never finds out. Which means … Class 507 is teacher-free! The students figure that if they don’t tell anyone, it’ll be one big holiday. Will it?
(Note: Book descriptions here are modified from summaries provided by publishers.)