Middle Grade March 2023: All You Need to Know!By: Cheryl Long
Middle Grade March Round-Up
Obviously we love middle grade stories around here and are so excited to be participating in Middle Grade March this year!
What exactly is Middle Grade March? Really, it’s just a challenge to read as much middle grade as you can throughout the month of March. It was created by fellow middle grade enthusiasts Katie (Life Between Words) and Krista (Book and Jams) six years ago.
To help guide your TBR stack Katie and Krista have created 5 reading prompts:
(fun tip, if you join in on their group read, you can cross off 4 in 1)
- Read a book that has won an award other than the Newbery Award.
- Read a book published within the last year.
- Read a book with a neurodivergent character.
- Read a book with the sky or the sea on the cover.
- Read a Sci-Fi or Dystopian book.
Make sure to check out their respective channels for more details, live events, information about the monthly group read (A Rover's Story by Jasmine Warga), and giveaways… which will include some OwlCrate Jr boxes!!
Looking for some recommendations to fulfill those prompts? We’ve got you covered!
A book that has won an award other than the Newbery:
Bob by Wendy Mass & Rebecca Stead: (Booklist Youth Editors' Choice Award) Bob holds a special place in my middle grade loving heart as it was one of the first middle grade stories I read as an adult that launched my love for the genre. Such a uniquely special magical realism story about a young girl who travels back to Australia to visit her grandmother and realizes she has left something behind since her last trip — Bob, a greenish, ET like creature in a chicken suit! Amid environmental catastrophe as Australia’s severe drought worsens, young Livy helps Bob find his home once again. —Cheryl
Greenglass House by Kate Milford (National Book Award Winner): A super fun mystery for lovers of stories (especially ghost stories). This book follows Milo, who lives in an inn known as the preferred spot for traveling smugglers. Milo wants to spend his holidays relaxing, but what he thought would be a quiet winter break turned into the mystery of a lifetime, when strange guests with secret agendas start arriving and setting his quiet world upside down. If you like stories within stories, this book is perfect for you! And it has just enough spookiness for all you paranormal lovers out there. I loved this one and I hope you will too! —Babs
A book published within the last year:
Twelfth by Janet Key: I couldn’t make a list of recommendations and not include a past OwlCrate Jr pick. This little gem was one of my favorite picks from last year — I love a good camp setting! All these characters are so likeable and you can tell Janet has real knowledge of and passion for the theatre and performing arts. Join Maren as she (at first quite unwillingly) goes to summer theatre camp, meets some great new friends, and becomes embroiled in the hunt for a lost priceless ring. Maybe even saving the camp before it is closed down for good? You’ll have to read to find out! — Cheryl
A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow: A dual perspective fantasy inspired by Caribbean Folklore. This is Kela’s story, a young girl who’s grieving the loss of her mother, and one day happens to come across a mermaid’s comb at the beach. In exchange for returning the comb, a mermaid promises to grant her a wish, and Kela knows exactly what she wants to wish for. But soon she learns that wishes can have very dangerous consequences. This story is wonderfully atmospheric and the narrative style is super dynamic and fun. Kela is such a great character to follow, you can’t help but root for her. If you want a fairy-tale-esque story that doesn’t follow the usual format, I highly recommend you pick this one up! —Babs
What Happened to Rachel Riley by Claire Swinarski: 8th grader Anna Hunt is the new kid starting eighth grade in the suburbs. A self proclaimed booknerd and diehard podcast fan, she decides to investigate why Rachel Riley, a classmate who seems perfectly nice and “normal” and used to be in with the the in-crowd, is now a social pariah. Using first person POV interspersed with interviews, transcripts and other documentation, this story sheds much needed light on the issue of sexual harassment and bullying and the ways they become socially engrained at a young age. While it handles really tough subject matter, Swinarski’s new novel is age appropriate and unputdownable. —Sally
A book with a Neurodivergent character:
Tune It Out by Jamie Sumner: I simply adore this story - so much so I encouraged my daughter to write her grade seven book report on it! Lou Montgomery’s beautiful singing voice is both a blessing and her greatest curse. Her mom wants to capitalize on her talent and land a recording contract, but Lou suffers from an undiagnosed sensory processing disorder that makes singing in front of crowds a nightmare. Living gig to gig (and out of their van) is further exacerbating her struggles. But after an accident one snowy night, Lou’s life is radically changed as child services take her away from her mom. Now living with her kind, stable aunt and uncle, Lou begins to get the help she needs to grow and thrive. —Cheryl
The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla: A beautiful and uplifting story about a bird-loving boy named Charlie who reluctantly goes on a road trip with his family. Charlie would prefer life to be predictable, organized, and stick to routines, but ever since his father was injured at his job, things start to feel more out of sorts than ever. On his way across the country to meet up with him, Charlie decides that he’s going to try and spot all of the birds he and his dad have left on their Someday Birds list, as a way to cope with his anxiety about his dad and all of the changes around him. This book is a great story about personal growth, empathy, and hope (and birds!) --Babs
The Elephant in the Room by Holly Goldberg Sloan: In addition to being one of my all time favorite animal stories, this book weaves together plot elements about family, immigration, loneliness, acceptance, biodiversity, and more. One of the many wonderful characters in this multi-POV contemporary story is Mateo, an autistic boy who our main character, Sila, is paired up with through a program that tries to encourage kids to expand their social skills. I absolutely love the way Sila accepts Mateo, becoming more comfortable in her own skin and learning from him the more time they spend together. And did I mention they befriend an elephant?? —Sally
A book with the sky or the sea on the cover:
Swallowtail Legacy: Wreck at Ada’s Reef by Michael D. Beil: One of my favorite middle grade reads from last year I highly recommend this one to my fellow middle grade mystery lovers. And hey - it just got nominated for an Edgar Award! Follow Lark as she and her blended family — sister, Stepdad and stepbrothers — venture to her mother’s summer home on Swallowtail Island. Her mom left Lark and her sister the home in her will and honestly, Lark doesn’t want to be here. But an old, unsolved island murder mystery soon captures her attention … This is a heartwarming, coming-of-age story wrapped up in a really good mystery. You’ll definitely cheer for Lark all the way. --Cheryl
Malamander by Thomas Taylor: A story set in a small town by the sea that’s equal parts mystery, adventure and fantasy. Herbert Lemon is a Lost-and-Founderer at the Grand Nautilus Hotel, and there’s not much he enjoys more than returning lost items to their rightful owners. But one day Herbert runs into a lost girl named Violet who asks him to help her find her missing parents. They find out that Violet’s story is closely linked to the local legend of a sea-monster, and together they set off to solve the mystery and finally put things to right (as every Lost-and-Founderer should do!) This is one of my favorite series to recommend to pretty much everyone! So, please read it? (Did I mention there’s a talking cat and a book-dispensing mechanical mermonkey?) --Babs
Arlo Finch in the Valley Of Fire by John August: If you haven’t discovered this fantasy mystery trilogy yet, you are in for such a treat!! Arlo Finch has just moved to the tiny town of Pine Mountain, Colorado and is cautiously optimistic about embracing the outdoorsy life by joining the Rangers scouting troop. But this is no ordinary place —there are wild and magical things living in the woods of Pine Mountain, and they are calling out for Arlo… It will probably come as no surprise to readers to learn that John August is a well known screenplay writer. I can’t get enough of this cinematic series! — Sally
A Sci-Fi or Dystopian Book:
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera: An emotionally hard hitting and heart pounding story that launches into the action page one, sentence one. A world ending comet is set to hit Earth imminently and a select group of people — scientists, scholars, and their families, have been chosen to board spaceships to launch to another planet to carry on the human race. Petra and her family are one of the few chosen, but when she awakens hundreds of years later, something has gone terribly terribly wrong … a new Collective has taken over determined to erase the sins (and all memory of) humans. Petra is the last story teller to carry on the memory of human-kind. —Cheryl
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown: A cozy sci-fi that takes place in the most un-sci-fi setting imaginable. This is the story of Roz, a robot who wakes up on a remote island teeming with wild life. After a few dangerous encounters, she realizes that she needs to learn from and adapt to her surroundings in order to survive. This book has something for readers of every age and reading level (the super short chapters are especially good for those of us who have minds that tend to wander off while reading). Roz is the robot I never knew I needed to meet. I hope you’re as charmed by her story as I was! —Babs
The School For Whatnots by Margaret Peterson Haddix: At the end of 5th grade, Max learns that his best friend, Josie, won’t be going to the same school as him the next year. After their last hangout he finds a mysterious note from her: No matter what anyone tells you, I’m real. What unravels from there is a thrilling multi-POV sci-fi mystery, full of twists and turns, unreliable narrators, and an action packed look at identity, privilege, and friendship. —Sally