12 middle grade books from 2020 for all kinds of readers (Debut Edition)

This week, I’m sharing 12 books by 2020 debut authors that I read, enjoyed, and would recommend for middle grade readers in a wide variety of genres. I’ll also give you a heads up on the authors that have new books coming in 2021.

If you like funny books, try...

My Life As A Potato by Arianne Costner. It’s hard to tickle my funny bone, but this story about Ben’s secret life as the school’s basketball team potato mascot (after he caused the accident that sidelined its former occupant) was hilarious. Ben reluctantly took on the role, but keeping it a secret was harder than he expected. This is a great book for sports fans, but there’s a lot of middle school stuff going on like popularity and changing friendships that will appeal to young readers. The author’s next book, Confessions of a Class Clown, is scheduled for release on March 2, 2021.

If you like mysteries, try

The Stitchers by Lorien Lawrence. This is the first book in a series that’s a delightfully creepy mystery. No one knows how long The Oldies have lived on Goodie Lane but their strange behaviors (such frequently bandaged body parts) and the fact that they never seem to get any older seem very strange. When Quinn’s dad dies, their shared interest in The Oldies fades away…until one of The Oldies starts running extremely fast and has a very familiar marking on his leg. As Quinn and her neighbor, Mike, begin to investigate, they find a link to an old pond and a tragedy from many years ago. But The Oldies are on to them, and they have no desire to give up their secrets

If you like books about sports, try…

Kenzie Kickstarts a Team by Kit Rosewater, illustrated by Sophie Escabasse. This highly illustrated story with a competitive roller derby theme will appeal to sports lovers, but is also a book about friendship, teamwork, compromise, finding your people, and resilience. Kenzie and her friend Shelly have dreamed of being old enough to join a roller derby team, but the junior league requires them to have a five person team. As they try to convince three other girls to join them and prepare for their first bout, the friendship dynamics become complicated, and Kenzie realizes she might have feelings for one of her teammates. The second book in the series, Shelly Struggles to Shine, came out in September and Tomoko Takes The Lead is scheduled for release in June 2021.

If you like books about contemporary social issues, try…

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. This powerful story highlights what it’s like for a young boy to live his undocumented Mexican parents in the United States. Efrén’s family life is turned upside down when his mother is deported. His father is working incredibly long hours to find the money to help get her back, and Efrén is left in charge of his younger siblings and managing the household. He’s overwhelmed, worried, doesn’t know who he can trust, and experiences an emotional roller coaster as different attempts are made to get Ama back to them. There is so much to learn about American politics and how it affect individuals that live there. Stay tune for more information about the author’s upcoming 2021 release.

If you like realistic stories with a touch of magic, try…

The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas. I loved the mix of real life and magic in this story. Nestor struggles with being the new kid; his dad is in the military and their family has moved several times. His dad is currently deployed in Afghanistan and they are living with his abuela in Texas. He feels disconnected from his dad, and wishes that he could be more involved in his life. But there’s another side to life in this small town, and it has to do with the woods and what’s happening to all the animals that have disappeared. Nestor can’t help but wonder if his rumors about his abuela being involved are true, or if there’s a witch whose power is growing stronger. The author’s next book, Cuba In My Pocket, is scheduled for release on September 21, 2021.

If you like books about siblings, try

What Stars Are Made Of by Sarah Allen. Libby’s sister, Nonny, announces that she’s pregnant, but she and her husband are having financial trouble. Nonny moves back home while her husband is working out of state, and Libby is so excited to have her around. But Libby has Turner’s Syndrome, which affects her body and mind, and she often worries about the whether or not the baby will be healthy. She makes a deal with the universe to try and keep the baby safe, and in the process starts to experience more of the world around her. The author’s next middle grade novel, Breathing Underwater, comes out on March 30, 2021.

If you like books with a focus on food, try…

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks. Yes, this is a story about Zoe, who wants to be on the Food Network Kids Bake Challenge, makes delicious-sounding cupcakes, and has a chance to intern at a bakery that leaves her disappointed. But it’s also the story of a girl who accidentally discovers a letter that her biological dad, Marcus, wrote to her from prison (where he’s incarcerated for murder). She starts a secret relationship with him, and desperately needs to figure out if he really committed the crime of which he’s accused, which leads to a mystery that made this book hard to put down. The author’s next book, A Soft Place to Land is scheduled for release in September 2021.

If you like books inspired by classic stories, try…

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch by Julie Abe. This heartwarming story was inspired by Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadano. Eva was late to get her magical gift, and when it showed up, she got just a touch of magic. Despite doubts from many around her that she is worthy of being called a witch, she’s determined to fight to keep what magic she does have, and gain her status as a Novice witch. When she arrives in the coastal town of Auteri, the townspeople are disappointed that she’s not an experienced witch that’s come to help them prepare for an enormous magical storm scheduled to arrive in approximately 6 months. But Eva believes there must be something she can do to be useful to the town, sets up a shop for semi-magical fixes, and hopes the magic she does have will be enough. The sequel to this book, Eva Evergreen And The Cursed Witch is scheduled for release in 2021.

If you like scary books, try…

Hide and Seeker by Daka Hermon. Here’s a story whose cover creeped me out so much I almost didn’t pick it up, but the story is even creepier! A game of hide-and-seek takes a terrifying turn when Justin and his friends break the rules while playing at Zee’s homecoming party. Soon after, they disappear into a world of nightmares where they face their greatest fears, and from which there is no return. There is no place to hide from The Seeker, but Justin and his friends have some tricks up their sleeves and some valuable information that might save them from an eternity of losing the game.

If you like books with mental health representation, try…

How To Make Friends With The Sea by Tanya Guerrero. This was one of my favorite reads of 2020 because of the great anxiety representation. Pablo has moved many times; he and his mom currently live in the Philippines but he doesn’t feel like he belongs anywhere. Not only does he have trouble making friends, but he has a number of fears (such as germs, dirt, the ocean), some of which he keeps hidden from his mother because she is so busy with her work. Against Pablo’s wishes, she decides to foster an orphan girl named Chiqui. Pablo quickly becomes very attached to Chiqui and also befriends Happy, the girl next door, when she offers to help him with Chiqui (who only understand Tagalog and won’t speak). As the story progresses, Pablo realizes that what he thought was his biggest fear, the ocean, might be easier to face than the possibility of losing Chiqui. The author’s upcoming release, All You Knead is Love, comes out in March 2021.

If you like fantasy books, try…

The Circus of Stolen Dreams by Lorelei Savaryn. This beautiful fantasy grabbed hold of my heart and hung out throughout the story. Andrea’s younger brother, Francis, disappeared from his bedroom in the middle of the night three years ago, and her family has no idea what happened to him. When her parents decide it’s time to donate his things to charity, Andrea takes off distressed, and find a magical circus called Reverie in an abandoned field. The price is admission is to give up one memory, which Andrea readily does, as she blames herself for Francis’ disappearance and wants to forget the night he disappeared. But losing this memory has many repercussions, and though the allure of the wondrous tents full of magic and adventure are fun at first, Andrea quickly realizes there is a dark side to the circus and its creator, The Sandman. Andrea soon realizes she is trapped and unable to leave Reverie, and has no idea if she’ll ever be able to find her way home.

If you like outdoor adventure stories, try…

96 Miles by J.L. Esplin. Here’s a fast paced story that has adventure, mystery, high stakes, and unexpected surprises. John and Stew are at home alone when a power outage affects their area. Days pass, and their father still doesn’t return. Although they are well-prepared for disasters, they are robbed of their supplies and realize they need to get help…and fast. Their only option seems to be a trek of 96 miles to the home of friends who might be able to help them. Along the way, they meet both friends and enemies who are also trying to survive, and come face to face with the desperate things people will do in times of crisis.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s