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Looking for top middle school books for next school year? Start here!
What Makes a Book Worthy of a Place in the Top Middle School Books of 2023?
I’m just one teacher (who has read thousands of books), but I do know what makes top middle school books. First of all, a relatable, quirky main character. Kids these days don’t look for a white, middle-class MC, either. They want someone who looks, acts, and speaks as they do. I’ve never had a classroom of just white kids, so it makes sense that top middle school books come from various BIPOC authors.
Kids have realized the emotions and situations they go through are often universal to someone their age and not bound by skin color or language. At our school, we curate a large selection of books by own voices or BIPOC authors. I already have plans to use this one next year in my classroom.
By Christina Li, Quill Tree Books, May 16, 2023, 304 pages, 8-12 years.
Everything has gone from bad to worse for Ruby Chu—starting with the day Ye-Ye passed away. Her best friend ghosts her, her older sister ignores her, and even her nai-nai doesn’t have much to say to her.
At 13, Ruby knows the city of San Francisco, thanks to her beloved ye-ye and his scavenger hunts. When she gets in trouble at the end of the school year, her parents overreact and decide Ruby needs a babysitter because they need to work. Rudy doesn’t want to spend weekdays with Nai-Nai and endure long hours at the senior center with elderly strangers. This will be the worst summer ever.
When Liam, a boy from school, shows up at the senior center with his grandma, Ruby feels even worse. But when the owner of Ye-Ye’s favorite Chinese bakery announces they’ll have to close their business, Rudy finds an ally in Liam. With each passing day, Ruby realizes things aren’t as bad as expected. Mostly. Nai-nai seems forgetful and scattered, and Rudy doesn’t know what to do about it.
Back at home, nothing seems to improve. In a family full of go-getters, Ruby feels lost. Will life ever feel normal again?
What I Loved About This Book
Li paints a tender, beautiful coming-of-age story in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Young (and old) readers will identify with Ruby’s angst as she transitions from 7th to 8th grade, loses old friends and makes new ones, copes with losing a loved one, and tries to live up to family expectations.
Without fanfare, Li dispels the myth that all Asians are the same. The interactions between Ruby, her nai-nai, and the other regulars at the senior center highlight how different generations can form meaningful relationships. Librarians and teachers will want to make this own voices novel a part of their libraries and curriculum.You'll love this tender novel by @CLiwrites and @QuillTreeBooks. #amreading #kidlit #MG #memoryloss Click To Tweet