Nearly everyone’s kid goes through a phase of pretending to be an animal 24/7. If you haven’t gotten to that point with your own children yet and you see a mom at the grocery store with a child following behind speaking only in meows and barks, now you know why—and have it to look forward to. But for a lot of children, the love of animals never goes away (though, the all-cat or all-dog or all-duck language dissipates eventually). And for those animal-loving kiddos, we’ve rounded up a new batch of middle-grade books for them to sink their little claws into.
Bad Bella, by Ali Standish
From the author of The Ethan I Was Before and August Isle comes a book about a sweet dog who tries so hard to be good but whose current owners, who have a new baby on the way, see her as a nuisance. When Bella finds herself unwanted and left at the pound, she can’t help but wonder what it is that she did wrong, and as each day passes, she wishes with all her might to meet her new family and find her new home. Finally, a nice couple rescues her, and life couldn’t be better for Bella. But when the Roses start acting strangely, Bella fears she may once again be unwanted and will find herself at the pound once again. Can she trust the Roses or is history bound to repeat itself? Animal-loving readers will love this endearing and funny tale.
Bernard Pepperlin, by Cara Hoffman and Olga Demidova
You may not realize this, but you’ve already met little Bernard Pepperlin, the main character in Cara Hoffman’s new illustrated middle-grade read. He’s the sleepy little Dormouse from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and now he’s the star of his own tale. When a curious young girl crashes the Mad Hatter’s endless tea party, Bernard finds himself wishing to be part of an adventure. And he inadvertently gets his wish when the Mad Hatter shoves the Dormouse into a teapot with the New York skyline painted on it. Bernard lands in modern-day Manhattan, where he and a new crew of animal friends—an alley cat, some escaped pets, and a bunch of cockroach musicians—must work together to put a stop to an evil weasel gang’s plans.
AstroNuts Mission One: The Plant Planet (AstroNuts Series #1), by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg
Eco-minded animal lovers will get a kick out of the first book in a new full-color illustrated series by Jon Scieszka and Steven Weinberg. In it, AstroWolf, LaserShark, SmartHawk, and StinkBug—members of NNASA (that’s Not NASA)—are hybridized animals on a two-week mission to find a new home planet for humans once they’ve destroyed Earth. They blast off from their Mt. Rushmore headquarters in the Thomas Jefferson Nose Rocket only to end up crash-landing on the Plant Planet, a possible Earth replacement. This place seems to have what it takes to support human life, but something seems to be missing … We think this crew can figure it out, though, in this whimsical and funny new read.
Spirit Riding Free: Apple Adventure!, by G.M. Berrow
Fans of the DreamWorks Netflix series Spirit Riding Free will go buck wild for this first installment in a new series of original books based on the show. The PALs—Pru, Abigail, and Lucky—are super-excited about the prospect of winning a trophy for raising the most money for the first-ever Frontier Fillies Winter Jamboree. And with their love of baking and the discovery of an orchard of delicious apples to use as ingredients, these PALs are sure they’ll take home that trophy. They even make a new friend, Vida, who agrees to let Lucky and her friends use the apples from her family’s orchard in exchange for riding lessons. But it turns out that Vida might not be who the PALs thought she was in this page-turning story.
Scary Stories for Young Foxes, by Christian McKay Heidicker and Junyi Wu
With spooky season upon us, it’s the perfect time to check out Christian McKay Heidicker’s debut middle-grade novel. In the book, an old fox storyteller weaves together eight tales for a bunch of young fox kits, with each story taking a slightly darker turn than the last. The kits hang on every word of the tales, following the frightening journeys of of two young foxes who encounter a zombie who wants to eat their flesh, a witch who tries to steal their skins, a ghost hunting them, and more. An inventive and thrilling story of survival and friendship, Scary Stories for Young Foxes is sure to be a favorite for animal lovers who like to be a little scared.
What new middle-grade books would you recommend for animal lovers?