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Find more Top 10 Middle-Grade Debuts
These 10 beautiful novels, all debuts reviewed between April 15, 2020, and April 1, 2021, showcase the ever-expanding scope of middle-grade fiction, with many representing various global perspectives and offering a range of genres, including historical, contemporary, and fantasy fiction.
Amari and the Night Brothers. By B. B. Alston. 2021. HarperCollins/Balzer+Bray, $17.99 (9780062975164). Gr. 3–7.
In this series starter, Amari is swept up into a world of magic, technology, and mysticism as she searches for her missing brother by competing for a summer internship at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.
Boy, Everywhere. By A. M. Dassu. 2021. Lee & Low/Tu, $19.95 (9781643791968). Gr. 6–8.
As Syria plunges into civil war and the danger draws closer, eighth-grader Sami and his family flee their comfortable life in Damascus to seek refuge in the UK—if the journey doesn’t break them first.
The Brave. By James Bird. 2020. Feiwel and Friends, $16.99 (9781250247759). Gr. 5–8.
After his OCD gets him into trouble at school, Collin is sent to live on a reservation with his estranged mother, where he finds unexpected acceptance—and love—from the Ojibwe community.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance. By Donna Barba Higuera. 2020. Levine Querido/Arthur A. Levine, $17.99 (9781646140039). Gr. 4–7.
The only thing standing between Lupe and a chance to meet her baseball hero is an A in square dancing, a PE unit she attempts to have removed from the curriculum—only to have her efforts humorously backfire.
Root Magic. By Eden Royce. 2021. HarperCollins/Walden Pond, $16.99 (9780062899576). Gr. 4–8.
In the summer of 1963, Gran dies, leaving 11-year-old Jezebel and her twin brother, Jay, to learn the family’s trade—working roots, a Gullah Geechee practice of healing, protecting, and conjuring magic.
Spindlefish and Stars. By Christiane M. Andrews. 2020. Little, Brown, $16.99 (9780316496018). Gr. 5–8.
After her father fails to come home, Clo embarks on a journey to find him, searching a strange island with enchanted tapestries that hold clues to her clouded past and her father’s whereabouts.
Starfish. By Lisa Fipps. 2021. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen, $17.99 (9781984814500). Gr. 5–8.
In this novel in verse, Ellie—under threat of bariatric surgery—must find the courage to stand up to cruel bullying from her peers and her mother, who insist that her weight is something to be fixed.
Twelve Nights. By Andrew Zurcher. 2021. Philomel, $17.99 (9781524741617). Gr. 5–8.
After crash-landing in an alternate world where her father and little sister are imprisoned, Kay has 12 days to rescue her family from Ghast, the land’s tyrannical ruler.
While I Was Away. By Waka T. Brown. 2021. Harper/Quill Tree, $16.99 (9780063017115). Gr. 4–7.
In 1983, after being sent to live with her grandmother and attend school in Japan for five months, 12-year-old Waka strengthens her cultural understanding, family ties, and sense of self.
The Year I Flew Away. By Marie Arnold. 2021. HMH/Versify, $16.99 (9780358272755). Gr. 3–6.
After the violent Macoute raid Gabrielle’s Haitian village, her parents send her to live with family in New York City, where she soon finds herself wishing she could just fit in.
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