Looking for the perfect middle-grade fiction book for…well, you? Big people can enjoy middle-grade fiction, too! Check out these new releases and share them with your friends (young and old).
I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.
Who Says Only Middle Schoolers Can Enjoy Middle-Grade Fiction?
I guess I need to confess. Middle-Grade fiction can capture my attention and suck me into the story quicker than you can say ‘middle-grade fiction.’ I’ve discovered a love for own-voices fiction written for middle-grade readers, too. Books like Missing Okalee, The Case of the Missing Auntie, and A Thousand Questions all drew me in a taught me something new while entertaining me.
If you’ve left those middle-school years and all their angst behind, you can still take the incredible fiction with you. No one’s watching. I dare you. Pick up a middle-grade fiction book today!
Cuba in My Pocket
By Adrianna Cuevas, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 2021, 288 pages, 6th grade +
When Fidel Castro liberates Cuba, 12-year-old Cumba Fernandez doesn’t feel liberated. He feels scared. Soldiers with guns on every street corner, neighbors whispering against neighbors, and his comfortable life in Santa Clara no longer feels comfortable. His parents, a lawyer and a dentist, come under scrutiny from the new regime.
In fact, one soldier, a boyhood friend of his father’s, seems to take particular interest in the Fernandez family and their loyalty to Castro’s cause. When he demands Cumba join Castro’s Young Rebel movement, the Fernandez family bands together to get Cumba out of Cuba before the deadline.
In 1961, leaving Cuba means giving up all connection with home—except for infrequent letters. Will Cumba’s family ever make it out alive? And how will he ever fit in at a new school where he doesn’t understand the teachers or the students?
Why I Loved this Book
My husband and his family escaped from Cuba in 1969. I’ve heard stories from his family about their time in Cuba (he was three when they left, so doesn’t remember much), and Cuevas’s book helps me understand the political and social upheaval my husband and his family experienced.
Readers will appreciate Cumba’s sense of humor and adaptability in the face of peril. Although Cumba sees and hears things he wishes he could unsee and unhear, he finds ways to cling to the positive. When he lands in a foreign country with no close family members, he forages friendships and builds relationships that will help sustain him while he awaits word from Cuba.
Cuevas paints beautifully poignant pictures of Cuba, family, and friendships. Readers will appreciate this own-voices book for the lyrical beauty of the words and the understanding it brings to the complexities of history, immigration, and childhood. Fans of Laura Ojeda Melchor and Angeline Boulley will enjoy Cuba in My Pocket.
Under the Iron Bridge
By Kathy Kacer, Second Story Press, October 2021, 216 pages, 9+.
In Dusseldorf, Germany, young Paul Ritter has an important decision to make. His best friend, his teachers, and the neighbor boy all want him to join the city’s Hitler Youth group. Paul doesn’t want to. It’s 1938, and for the past few years, fifteen-year-old Paul and his parents have felt unsettled about Hitler and his political party.
Paul doesn’t want any part in a world where neighbors inform on neighbors, and teachers encourage children to inform on their parents. But he can’t avoid deciding much longer. He struggles to understand how Hitler can call the Jews less than human. After all, his family has had Jewish friends his entire life.
After Paul’s parents counsel him to join the Hitler Youth, but not pay any attention to the hate speeches, Paul reluctantly joins. His first outing involves supervising Jews—including his friend Analia—as they scrub the streets of Dusseldorf with small brushes. Paul immediately regrets his decision to join up—but he sees no way to quitting.
When he discovers a small band of resistance fighters, Paul wholeheartedly joins the Edelweiss Pirates and starts his double life as an obedient member of the Hitler Youth by day, and a defiant Edelweiss Pirate by night.
Will Paul survive the dangers he encounters, and does he have the courage to stand up for what he knows is right in a world gone mad?
What I Loved About This Book
Although the protagonist is 15, I would share this book with my younger students. The author hints at the violence against Jews and non-compliant Germans rather than describing it in detail. I love reading books that bring out facets of history I never knew about, and this book does just that. The history of WWII often leaves us wondering why no one stood up to Hitler—Under the Iron Bridge answers the question. People did stand up, although it was often too little, too late. Another cautionary tale from Second Story Press on political bullies and what happens when no one calls them out.
And Finally, a Book for Bird Lovers
I did not receive an advanced copy of this book from NetGalley, but when I saw a book that combined three things I love–bird watching, mystery, and middle-grade fiction–I couldn’t resist!
By M.G. Leonard, Walker Books, June 2021, pages, 8+
“Can a birdwatcher outwit an escaped convict?
“Twitch has three pet chickens, four pigeons, swallows nesting in his bedroom and a passion for birdwatching. On the first day of the summer holidays, he arrives at his secret hide to find police everywhere: a convicted robber has broken out of prison and is hiding in Aves Wood. Can Twitch use his talents for birdwatching to hunt for the dangerous prisoner and find the missing loot?” (from Amazon)
Why I Loved this Book
I didn’t just love it because the main character has a passion for watching birds. Written by a British author, the vocabulary words made me smile (and sometimes scratch my head). The twisty-turny plot kept me guessing, and Twitch’s approach to dealing with bullies kept me thinking. Ultimately, Twitch isn’t just about birding, or solving a mystery. It’s about friendship, dealing with disaster, and the power of thinking about others over self.Middle-Grade Fiction You Will Want to Read Even if You're Not in Middle School #amreading #ownvoices #birding Click To Tweet