While I’ve traditionally covered young adult fiction in this space, this year, I’ve been finding myself reading—and covering—more and more middle-grade titles. See, for instance, my columns on Two Naomis, by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich and Audrey Vernick, The Seventh Wish, by Kate Messner, and It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel, by Firoozeh Dumas—all three of which I loved!
And I’ve not only been reading them and covering them, I’ve also actively been seeking them out. Here are some of the October titles I’m looking forward to:
When the Sea Turned to Silver, by Grace Lin
This is a companion novel to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. All three are quest stories set in China that incorporate elements from Chinese folklore, all three include gorgeous full-color illustrations by Lin, all three have received stars from Kirkus—which I think must be a rarity? The accolades go beyond Kirkus—When the Sea Turned to Silver is also on the longlist for the 2016 National Book Award! Just talking about them is making me itch to call in sick to work and curl up with all three of them—I think I’ve got a serious binge in my near future.
A Tail of Camelot, by Julie Leung
I am not usually into animal books, but I can always make an exception for MOUSE KNIGHTS. And this one has a human storyline—featuring a young Galahad—that parallels the mouse-versus-weasels storyline, too! Even though the book opens with the main mouse character’s grandfather being MURDERED—I generally have a much harder time with animal deaths than people deaths in books—I am IN.
Ratpunzel, by Ursula Vernon
Speaking of animal books, I LOVE THIS SERIES. These books are so funny, so smart, so adorable. Vernon does a lovely job of playing with fairy tale tropes, with fantasy tropes, and of commenting on gender and gender roles, and she does it all in a way that never feels like the commentary overpowers the story or the characterization. I have such love for Harriet Hamsterbone that if this platform supported emojis I would plaster this entry with hearts.
Garvey's Choice, by Nikki Grimes
Verse novel about Garvey—a young black boy who might be gay— and his relationship with his parents, his classmate Joe, with food, and with science fiction. I love Grimes’ poetry, so even without the glowing starred review from Kirkus, this would have been an automatic buy for me.
Gertie's Leap to Greatness, by Kate Beasley, illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
This one is getting pushed pretty hard—I feel like I’ve seen ads for it EVERYWHERE—which often ends up making me more skittish than excited. But I love Tamaki’s art, so I’m going to pick it up. Even without the Tamaki draw, the Kirkus review includes the line “a cast of homespun characters that come alive in a tasty blend of twitches, aphorisms, and good, old-fashioned meanness,” a description that I find entirely irresistible.
Rebellion of Thieves, by Kekla Magoon
Book two in the Robyn Hoodlum series, a futuristic retelling that recasts Robin Loxley as a twelve-year-old black girl. Kirkus notes that it “honors its legendary origins and is very much its own adventure,” which is one of my own personal criteria for What Makes A Great Retelling. Magoon’s YA is fantastic, so I’m entirely here for her middle grade. Hand it over, please!
The Loch Ness Punster, by Kate Klise, illustrated by M. Sarah Klise
This is the seventh—and final—installment in the 43 Old Cemetery Road series. It hasn’t been covered at Kirkus, though most of the others were. I adore the Klise sisters’ work—their books are smart and funny and inventive; they integrate text and illustrations so cohesively that it’s hard to even comprehend the books having two creators rather than one. If you’ve never read one of their collaborations, grab one the next time you’re at the library—they’re an absolute joy.
Recommendations always appreciated, especially now that I’m in less-familiar waters!
In addition to running a library in rural Maine, Leila Roy blogs at Bookshelves of Doom and The Backlist, is currently serving on the Amelia Bloomer Project committee, is a contributor at Book Riot, hangs out on Twitter a lot—possibly too much—and watches a shocking amount of television. Her cat is a murderer.