Monday, November 19, 2012

MEANWHILE…MIDDLE GRADE: Giving Thanks for Recent Middle Grade Novels

Welcome to Meanwhile…Middle Grade! November is a time for reflection and thanksgiving. To celebrate we are sharing some of our favorite recently released middle grade novels. Other than being MG novels, our criteria was simple: Books that were published in 2011 or 2012, and that weren’t debut novels. (Don’t get us wrong, we love the 2012 MG Apocs books and their authors. Check back in late December to see just how much!)

Middle Grade Books Lucky 13 MG Authors Are Thankful They Read:

DUMPLING DAYS by Grace Lin is a great fish-out-of-water story, a tale of a girl named Pacy Lin's first trip to Taiwan. The writing is wonderful, as are Lin's line drawings, which let readers see what Pacy is seeing during her month-long family adventure. – Elisabeth Dahl lives with her husband and son in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes for both children and adults. All her life, people have asked whether she’s related to Roald Dahl. Sadly, she’s not, but she’s looking forward to being his shelf neighbor, at least. Elisabeth Dahl, Genie Wishes (Amulet Books, April 1, 2013)

I loved and am thankful for Rebecca Stead’s LIAR & SPY (Wendy Lamb Books, 2012). She created an unforgettable character in Georges, who seeks solace from his confusing life with Safer and his warm, loving family. The book highlights the importance of friends and family when life is uncertain. Nothing turns out to be quite what it seems at the beginning, and Stead’s writing always shines. A perfect, funny, endearing MG read! – Claire M. Caterer’s debut novel is The Key & the Flame, a fantasy for middle-grade readers coming from Margaret K. McElderry Books on April 2, 2013. Connect with Claire at, Facebook, and on Twitter.

My absolute favorite debut MG book this year is THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann. The faery-steampunk version of my native England is true to voice and humor as the story veers between laugh-out-loud delightful and gasp-out-loud alarming, with adorable characters. I love books that remind me of "home", and the sheer genius of Bachmann's writing (at 16! 17! I'm gobsmacked) is a joy to read. Kit Grindstaff, Brit song writer living in PA, USA. Her debut, The Flame in the Mist, coming April 9th from Delacorte, is available for preorder. Find her on her website, Facebook, Goodreads, and Twitter.

My favorite middle grade of 2012 is definitely ONE DOG AND HIS BOY by Eva Ibbotson. It’s the charming story of a kid who desperately wants a pet and his clueless parents give him a rental dog. This book is funny and touching and has an almost Roald Dahl sense of whimsy. Sadly this is Ibbotson’s final book. She’ll be missed. – Hi I’m Barbara Brauner and my writing partner James Iver Mattson and I have the middle grade book The Glitter Trap (Book 1 of the Oh My Godmother series) coming out in May 2013.

My favorite [non-apoc] middle grade book of 2012 was THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN by Katherine Applegate. This is one of those books that breaks your heart right open, and then, when it puts the pieces back together, you find that your heart is bigger, more courageous, and more hopeful than it was to begin with. – Melanie Crowder teaches and writes in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Her debut middle grade novel, PARCHED (Harcourt Children's Books, June 2013) is available for preorder now!

This year I am grateful for the book WONDER by R.J. Palacio. This is a beautiful, powerful story about 11-year-old August Pullman, who was born with severe facial deformities and has been kept from public school until the 5th grade. The writing style is simple and straightforward, rotating between August, his sister, and a couple of each of their friends. August pulled me right in and though his story was incredibly sad at times, it was overall a triumphant story that made me want to be a better, kinder person. If everyone read this book, the world would be a better place. Aren't we all hoping for world peace? Go read it! – Liesl Shurtliff is the author of RUMP:THE TRUE STORY OF RUMPELSTILTSKIN coming April 9, 2013 from Knopf. You can find her at her blog or Facebook or Twitter

LIAR & SPY is the 2012 middle grade book I'm most grateful for -- and I came to it by way of the Luckies. Alison Cherry (RED) and Lindsay Ribar (THE ART OF WISHING) and I were standing around B.E.A. like dateless prom attendees, and we unexpectedly got swept into a line of folks meeting Rebecca Stead. She was so lovely, and when I later read LIAR & SPY in one teary sitting, I felt thankful to have met the author of such a true-talking tale of friendship, deception, and children named Candy. – Tim Federle, BETTER NATE THAN EVER (Simon & Schuster BFYR, February 5, 2013).

This year I liked SPY SCHOOL by Stuart Gibbs. Though it has its goofy side (ninjas!), this book about a 12-year-old who gets recruited by the CIA Spy Academy has real menace and excitement. We all know that middle school can kill you – and that’s exactly what main character Ben Ripley finds out as he tries uncover the identity of the Academy’s double agent. Good stuff! – James Mattson co-wrote "Oh My Godmother: The Glitter Trap" with writing partner Barbara Brauner; it will be published by Disney-Hyperion in May, 2013. A Stanford graduate, he now lives in the Los Angeles area with his wacky polydactyl cat, Fred.

What recent Middle Grade Novel are you grateful for this thanksgiving season?


Tamera Will Wissinger started reading middle-grade novels when she was in grade school. She fell in love and never stopped reading them. Her middle grade novel: GONE FISHING: A Novel In Verse arrives March 5, 2013 from Houghton Mifflin Books for Children. Online you can find her on her  Website, Goodreads, Twitter, or Facebook.


  1. Great list! There are a couple I'd never heard of and must now pursue...

  2. Great list! I loved the A WRINKLE IN TIME graphic novel recently.

    So many great MG novels are being published... I wish I had more time to read them all :-)

  3. Great list! Kit, you had already mentioned THE PECULIAR to me and I'm so intrigued to read it as well as some of these others.

  4. Great list! Kit, you had already mentioned THE PECULIAR to me and I'm so intrigued to read it as well as some of these others.

  5. And I'm thankful for you sharing your list! There is a couple I have not read yet and one I missed (the Eva Ibbotson one!). Enjoy your week of thanks. Enjoy your family, friends...feel free to eat extra for us Canadians (no calories because you are doing it for us).

  6. I just finished The Peculiar last night and I loved it. I definitely feel like it's a book that isn't getting the attention it deserves

  7. Thanks for chiming in here, everybody. THE PECULIAR is on deck on my own reading list! And, Deb, I appreciate the gift of extra no-calorie food consumption you have bestowed upon us this Thanksgiving! I'll happily eat an extra piece of pumpkin pie in your honor!

  8. Coming VERY late to the party, I'm going to break the rules a little. I have 2 favorite MG books, which are fairly recent - not exactly sure of their pub date, but I want to share them because they are quirky books that not too many people know about.
    THE QUWICKPICK ADVENTURE SOCIETY by Sam Riddleburger and P.S. BROTHERS by Maribeth Boelts. Both are great stories with underdog-type characters. I love when the underdogs win or even when they just end up having more fun than the cool kids. :)