Are you looking for exciting summer 2020 book recommendations for your middle grade reader? My middle grade bookworms devour books faster than I can say abibliophobia.
I’m always on the prowl for books that readers aged 9-12 might like, and 2020 looks lit 🔥! My young bibliophiles are getting a little bit of everything this summer – realistic fiction, historical fiction, psychological fiction, sports fiction, humor, LBGT, fantasy, and #ownvoices.
#OwnVoices is a term coined by the writer Corinne Duyvis and refers to an author from a marginalized or underrepresented group writing about their own experiences/from their own perspective, rather than someone from an outside perspective writing as a character from an underrepresented group.
Below you’ll find just some of the books on my middle grade readers’ TBR bookshelves. Hop in the comments or reach me on Twitter @jenjburt and tell me what you’re excited to read this summer! All descriptions are from Goodreads. Images are clickable for information from publishers via Amazon.
Parked by Danielle Svetcov
For fans of Rebecca Stead and Joan Bauer comes a scrappy, poignant, uplifting debut about family, friendship, and the importance of learning both how to offer help and how to accept it.
Jeanne Ann is smart, stubborn, living in an orange van, and determined to find a permanent address before the start of seventh grade.
Cal is tall, sensitive, living in a humongous house across the street, and determined to save her.
Jeanne Ann is roughly as enthusiastic about his help as she is about living in a van.
As the two form a tentative friendship that grows deeper over alternating chapters, they’re buoyed by a cast of complex, oddball characters, who let them down, lift them up, and leave you cheering. Debut novelist Danielle Svetcov shines a light on a big problem without a ready answer, nailing heartbreak and hope, and pulling it off with humor and warmth that make the funny parts of Jeanne Ann and Cal’s story cathartic and the difficult parts all the more moving.
Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
From New York Times bestselling author Nic Stone comes a middle grade road-trip story through American race relations past and present perfect for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Jason Reynolds.
How to Go on an Unplanned Road Trip with Your Grandma:
* Grab a Suitcase: Prepacked from the big spring break trip that got CANCELLED.
* Fasten Your Seatbelt: G’ma’s never conventional, so this trip won’t be either.
* Use the Green Book: G’ma’s most treasured possession. It holds history, memories, and most importantly, the way home.
What Not to Bring:
* A Cell Phone: Avoid contact with Dad at all costs. Even when G’ma starts acting stranger than usual.
Set against the backdrop of the segregation history of the American South, take a trip with New York Times bestselling Nic Stone and an eleven-year-old boy who is about to discover the world hasn’t always been a welcoming place for kids like him, and things aren’t always what they seem–his G’ma included.
Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LaZotte
Deaf author and librarian Ann Clare LeZotte weaves an Own Voices story inspired by the true history of a thriving deaf community on Martha’s Vineyard in the early 19th century.
Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there – including Mary – are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage.
But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment. Her struggle to save herself is at the core of this novel.
Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith
When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human—and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows. Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?
Rick by Alex Gino
From the award-winning author of George, the story of a boy named Rick who needs to explore his own identity apart from his jerk of a best friend.
Rick’s never questioned much. He’s gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff’s acted like a bully and a jerk. He’s let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn’t given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.
But now Rick’s gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school’s Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that … understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.
As they did in their groundbreaking novel George, in Rick, award-winning author Alex Gino explores what it means to search for your own place in the world … and all the steps you and the people around you need to take in order to get where you need to be.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
From award-winning and bestselling author, Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.
Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, he feels as if he is constantly swimming in whiteness. Most of the students don’t look like him. They don’t like him either. Dubbed the “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey. Quiet, obedient.
When an incident with “King” Alan leads to Donte’s arrest and suspension, he knows the only way to get even is to beat the king of the school at his own game: fencing. With the help of a former Olympic fencer, Donte embarks on a journey to carve out a spot on Middlefield Prep’s fencing team and maybe learn something about himself along the way.
My Life as a Potato by Ariane Costner
For anyone who has ever felt like a potato in middle school, this hilarious story about a boy forced to become the dorkiest school mascot ever will have readers cheering!
“A grade A, spudtastic (not to mention FUNNY) debut. Arianne Costner sure knows middle school and middle schoolers!” –Chris Grabenstein, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library.
Ben Hardy believes he’s cursed by potatoes. And now he’s moved to Idaho, where the school’s mascot is Steve the Spud! Yeah, this cannot be good.
After accidentally causing the mascot to sprain an ankle, Ben is sentenced to Spud duty for the final basketball games of the year. But if the other kids know he’s the Spud, his plans for popularity are likely to be a big dud! Ben doesn’t want to let the team down, so he lies to his friends to keep it a secret. No one will know it’s him under the potato suit . . . right?
Life as a potato is all about not getting mashed! With laugh-out-loud illustrations throughout, hand to fans of James Patterson, Gordan Korman, Jeff Kinney, and Chris Grabenstein!
The List of Things that Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead
After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.
When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted–a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”
As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy.
The Witches of Willow Cove by Josh Roberts
It’s not easy being a teenage witch. Seventh grader Abby Shepherd is just getting the hang of it when weird stuff starts happening all around her hometown of Willow Cove. Green slime bubbling to life in science class. Giant snakes slithering around the middle school gym. Her best friend suddenly keeping secrets and telling lies.
Things only begin to make sense when a stranger named Miss Winters reveals that Abby isn’t the only young witch in town—and that Willow Cove is home to a secret past that connects them all. Miss Winters, herself a witch, even offers to teach Abby and the others everything she knows about witchcraft.
But as Abby learns more about Miss Winters’ past, she begins to suspect her new mentor is keeping secrets of her own. Can Abby trust her, or does Miss Winters have something wicked planned for the young witches of Willow Cove?
The Boys in the Back Row by Mike Jung
Best friends Matt and Eric are hatching a plan for one big final adventure together before Eric moves away: during the marching band competition at a Giant Amusement Park, they will sneak away to a nearby comics convention and meet their idol – a famous comic creator. Without cell phones. Or transportation. Or permission. Of course, their final adventure together is more than just that – really, it’s a way for the boys to celebrate their friendship, and their honest love and support for one another.