Middle School Readers Rally List 2023-2024
Born Behind Barsby Padma Venkatraman Year Published: 2021
“Venkatraman has never met a heavy theme she did not like....Borrowing elements of fable, it's told with a recurring sense of awe by a boy whom the world, for most of his life, has existed only in stories.”—New York Times Book Review
The author of the award-winning The Bridge Home brings readers another gripping novel set in Chennai, India, featuring a boy who's unexpectedly released into the world after spending his whole life in jail with his mom.
Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn't commit. He's never met his dad, so the only family he's got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost "uncle" who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can--run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard--and fraught with danger--in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of--but he's discovered he's not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he--and his mother--deserve a place in it.
The Shape of Thunderby Jasmine Warga Year Published: 2021
An extraordinary new novel from Jasmine Warga, Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home, about loss and healing—and how friendship can be magical.
Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year.
Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did.
On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.
In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.
The Shape of Thunder is a deeply moving story, told with exceptional grace, about friendship and loss—and how believing in impossible things can help us heal.
Coop Knows The Scoopby Taryn Souders Year Published: 2020
2021 Edgar Award Nominee for Best Juvenile Mystery
From award-winning author Taryn Souders comes a charming, southern middle grade mystery perfect for fans of Stranger Things and the Masterminds series.
The whole town is talking about what's buried beneath the playground...
Windy Bottom, Georgia is usually a peaceful place. Coop helps his mom at her café and bookstore, hangs out with his grandpa, bikes around with his friends Justice and Liberty, and is determined to live up to his dad's legacy. Windy Bottom is full of all kinds of interesting people, but no one has ever caused a problem. Until now.
And somehow, Gramps is taking all the blame! It seems like there are a lot of secrets that were buried in their small town after all...
Will Coop and his friends get to the bottom of the mystery and clear Gramps's name before it's too late?
96 Milesby J.L. Esplin Year Published: 2020
21 days without power. 2 brothers on a desperate trek. 72 hours before time runs out...
The Lockwood brothers are supposed to be able to survive anything. Their dad, a hardcore believer in self-reliance, has stockpiled enough food and water at their isolated Nevada home to last for months. But when they are robbed of all their supplies during a massive blackout while their dad is out of town, John and Stew must walk 96 miles in the stark desert sun to get help. Along the way, they’re forced to question their dad’s insistence on self-reliance and ask just what it is that we owe to our neighbors, to our kin, and to ourselves.
From talented newcomer J. L. Esplin comes this story of survival and determination as two young brothers confront the unpredictability of human nature in the face of desperate circumstances.
“A suspense thriller, survival story, and a story of the love between brothers. You'll turn the pages and be surprised again and again.”—Gary D. Schmidt, Newbery Honor Award-winning author of The Wednesday Wars
“Fast-paced, believable, funny, and poignant. 96 Miles is a great read from the first sentence to the surprising and satisfying ending. I give Esplin’s debut novel 100%. Don't miss it!”—Roland Smith, New York Times bestselling author of Peak
“Readers who enjoy realistic survival stories will not be able to put down Esplin’s debut.... Filled with survival techniques, danger, and overcoming realistic obstacles, this story will have readers turning pages. A great choice for lovers of Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet or Roland Smith’s Peak.”—School Library Journal
Unsettledby Reem Faruqi Year Published: 2021
A Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year · Kid's Indie Next List · Featured in Today Show’s AAPI Heritage Month list · A Kirkus Children's Best Book of 2021 · A National Council of Teachers of English Notable Verse Novel · Jane Addams 2022 Children’s Book Award Finalist · 2021 Nerdy Award Winner · Muslim Bookstagram Award Winner for Best Middle School Book
For fans of Other Words for Home and Front Desk, this powerful, charming immigration story follows a girl who moves from Karachi, Pakistan, to Peachtree City, Georgia, and must find her footing in a new world. Reem Faruqi is the ALA Notable author of award-winning Lailah's Lunchbox.
"A lyrical coming of age story exploring family, immigration, and most of all belonging.” —Aisha Saeed, New York Times bestselling author of Amal Unbound
“This empowering story will resonate with people who have struggled to both fit in and stay true to themselves.” —Veera Hiranandani, Newbery Honor author of The Night Diary
“A gorgeously written story, filled with warmth and depth." —Hena Khan, author of Amina’s Voice
When her family moves from Pakistan to Peachtree City, all Nurah wants is to blend in, yet she stands out for all the wrong reasons. Nurah’s accent, floral-print kurtas, and tea-colored skin make her feel excluded, until she meets Stahr at swimming tryouts.
And in the water Nurah doesn’t want to blend in. She wants to win medals like her star athlete brother, Owais—who is going through struggles of his own in the U.S. Yet when sibling rivalry gets in the way, she makes a split-second decision of betrayal that changes their fates.
Ultimately Nurah slowly gains confidence in the form of strong swimming arms, and also gains the courage to stand up to bullies, fight for what she believes in, and find her place.
Isaiah Dunn is My Heroby K.J. Baptist Year Published: 2020
Since ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn's father passed away, his grieving mother has started drinking and lost her job. They've lost their apartment too. Isaiah, his mom and four-year-old sister, Charlie, are living in a motel room, a fact Isaiah is hiding from his best friend. African American Isaiah finds comfort in his father's old notebooks, full of poetry and short stories about Isaiah as a superhero. Writing is important to poet Isaiah, too. Credibly naïve, he's hoping to earn enough selling poems to get his family into an apartment again; he also enters one of his father's short stories into a contest at the library, hoping for the cash prize. It takes second place, winning an amount far from enough to change their lives. But their lives are improving for other reasons, from his friendship with Angel, a classmate who bullied him until they discover through a conflict resolution program how much they have in common, to the help of a former neighbor who takes them in. Isaiah's mom, who's overwhelmed but trying, goes into rehab, and a public librarian whose been mentoring Isaiah helps him spearhead a library project to honor his late dad. Isaiah is a vibrant, likable character caught in the midst of family struggles that are very real. If the story's upbeat outcome on every front is a little too good to be true, it feels welcome, and a testament to the importance of kindness, community, and compassion.
The Lion of Marsby Jennifer L. Holm Year Published: 2021
NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Life on Mars is pretty standard…. until a mysterious virus hits. Don’t miss this timely and unputdownable novel from the bestselling author of The Fourteenth Goldfish.
Bell has spent his whole life--all eleven years of it--on Mars. But he's still just a regular kid--he loves cats and any kind of cake, and is curious about the secrets the adults in the US colony are keeping. Like, why don't they have contact with anyone on the other Mars colonies? Why are they so isolated? When a virus breaks out and the grown-ups all fall ill, Bell and the other children are the only ones who can help. It's up to Bell--a regular kid in a very different world--to uncover the truth and save his family...and possibly unite an entire planet.
Mars may be a world far, far away, but in the hands of Jennifer L. Holm, beloved and bestselling author of The Fourteenth Goldfish, it can't help but feel like home.
Measuring Upby Lily LaMotte Year Published: 2020
An ALA Top 10 Graphic Novel of 2021 · A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection · Fall 2020 Kids Indie Next List · Featured in Today Show’s AAPI Heritage Month List · Amazon Best Books November Selection · Cybils Awards Finalist · An NBC AAPI Selection · Featured in Parents Magazine Book Nook October issue · A CBC Hot off the Press October Selection · WA State Book Awards Finalist · Texas Library Association Little Maverick Selection
For fans of American Born Chinese and Roller Girl, Measuring Up is a don't-miss graphic novel debut from Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu!
“A beautiful story about food, family, and finding your place in the world.” —Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese and Dragon Hoops
“A delicious and heartwarming exploration of identity by a young immigrant trying to find her place in multiple cultures.” —Remy Lai, author of Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall
Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together.
Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket! There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food.
And after her pickled cucumber debacle at lunch, she’s determined to channel her inner Julia Child. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?
Millionaires for the Monthby Stacy McAnulty Year Published: 2020
How would you spend five million dollars in 30 days? A billionaire's wallet, a bizarre challenge, and an unlikely friendship send two kids on a wild adventure. From the author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl.
Felix Rannells and Benji Porter were never supposed to be field-trip partners. Felix is a rule follower. Benji is a rule bender. They're not friends. And they don't have anything to talk about. Until . . .
They find a wallet. A wallet that belongs to tech billionaire Laura Friendly. They're totally going to return it-but not before Benji "borrows" twenty dollars to buy hot dogs. Because twenty dollars is like a penny to a billionaire, right?
But a penny has value. A penny doubled every day for thirty days is $5,368,709.12! So that's exactly how much money Laura Friendly challenges Felix and Benji to spend. They have thirty days. They can't tell anyone. And there are LOTS of other rules. But if they succeed, they each get ten million dollars to spend however they want.
Challenge accepted! They rent cool cars, go to Disney World, buy pizza for the whole school-and that's just the beginning! But money can't buy everything or fix every problem. And spending it isn't always as easy and fun as they thought it would be. . . .As smart as it is entertaining, Millionaires for the Month is a thought-provoking story about friendship, privilege, and the value of a penny.
Root Magicby Eden Royce Year Published: 2021
On Wadmalaw, an island 20 miles from Charleston, South Carolina, many in the Gullah Geechee community rely on rootworkers for healing. Others are suspicious, believing rootwork to be witchcraft. When Jezebel and Jay’s grandmother, the island’s best rootworker, passes away, their uncle, Doc, begins to teach the 11-year-old twins rootwork as a form of protection against malevolent spirits and flesh-and-blood threats like racist police officer Deputy Collins. Jez isn’t sure she believes in magic or haints and boo-hags, but she eagerly attends her lessons; making her first root bag, she hopes to use it to attract a friend. At school, Jez faces bullying by Black classmates who believe rootwork is “old-fashioned” and “only for uneducated people,” even as many of their families on rely on Jez’s family’s healing skills. New classmate Susie is different, however, curious about rootwork and defending Jez. As the twins’ lessons progress, spooky things begin to occur: Invisible hands grab Jez in the marsh, and the doll that Gran made for her begins to speak. Not only does Jez discover the magic is real, she learns it runs particularly strong in her and someone—or something—may be trying to steal it. Facing both human and supernatural threats, Jez embraces her heritage and harnesses her power in this unique and affirming coming-of-age story set in 1963.