Mulan in the Underworld, a School Trip Gone Wrong, and 5 More New Middle Grade Novels We’re Excited About

Spring is here and so are new books! This season’s books are full of big adventures and honest voices, perfect to get young readers in the mood for spring. With a mix of fantasy, historical, and contemporary middle school drama, one thing’s for sure: there’s something for every young reader in your life.

Reflection (Twisted Tale #4), by Elizabeth Lim
With a strong female role-model and a wonderful story of bravery, Mulan has long been one of my all time favorite Disney movies, so I’ve been counting down the days for this book. Part of Disney’s imaginative Twisted Tales series (which change Disney movies to make a new story), Reflection imagines what would happen if Mulan had to travel into the Underworld, Diyu, to save Shang. Disguised as the soldier Ping, Mulan must outsmart King Yama, ruler of Diyu, if she has any hope of saving Shang—or herself for that matter.

A World Below, by Wesley King
From the writer of Edgar Award winner OCDaniel, this story about survival and human nature will leave young readers breathless. Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class already wasn’t looking forward to their field trip to Carlsbad Caverns, but when a massive earthquake strikes, plunging the students deep underground, it’s clear this is going to be an especially bad trip. With their teacher missing, the students must figure out how they’ll survive and get along. Told from three different perspectives, this story is full of adventure and heart.

The Science of Breakable Things, by Tae Keller
A beautiful story about family, mental illness, and hope, The Science of Breakable Things will give young readers all the feels and is a perfect jumping off point to thinking about big issues. Natalie’s mom, a botanist, suffers from depression, leaving Natalie and her dad left trying to pick up the pieces. But Natalie has a plan to help her using the scientific method. Natalie’s story is told through journal entries in her “Wonderings Journal,” as part of a year-long science class experiment, where she examines the complexities of mental illness and the nature of hope. The simple illustrations help ground the story.

The Not So Boring Letters of Private Nobody, by Matthew Landis
This story perfectly incapsulates what it feels like to be in middle school, with hilarious moments, awkward romance, and feelings of self-doubt. Oliver isn’t like the other seventh graders. No, really—he spends all his time thinking and learning about the Civil War. So when the Civil War project for history class comes around, he’s excited. That is, until he’s paired up with Ella, who’s basically flunking, and assigned a local soldier as his topic. But as they work together to learn more about this soldier, and the war’s affect on people, Oliver discovers that maybe it’s not so bad after all, including the part about working with Ella. The angst surrounding their friendship turned budding romance is pitch-perfect and so relatable.

Hoops: Elle of the Ball, by Elena Delle Donne
Written by professional women’s basketball player and Olympic gold medalist Elena Delle Donne, Hoops is an inspiring story about being yourself even when yourself doesn’t feel like it’s good enough for some people. When Elle’s growth spurt hits (it’s like she turned 6ft overnight), the middle schooler has trouble adjusting to her new body—a problem many middle schoolers can relate to. Her basketball coach, on the other hand, is over the moon at her newfound height and assigns her to starting center, a position Elle isn’t sure she’s earned with skill. A tale of friendship, self-confidence, and family, this story is a slam-dunk.

The Last Grand Adventure, by Rebecca Behrens
The Last Grand Adventure is the multi-generational, historical road-trip novel that I didn’t know I needed. The 1967 cross-country adventure is the perfect setting, and the wonderful characters are sure to please any young historical fiction readers in your life. Bea, tired of living with her dad and new wife Julie, would rather spend time with her adventurous grandmother, Pidge, in her new retirement community. But Pidge isn’t interested in retiring—she wants to track down her long-lost sister, Amelia Earhart, with Bea’s help. When the two set out together to find “Meelie,” what the really find is themselves.

Cilla Lee-Jenkins: This Book Is a Classic, by Susan Tan, illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte 
Filled with charming black-and-white illustrations, This Book Is a Classic is the follow up to Susan Tan’s heart-warming and hopeful Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire. With Cilla’s (future) memoir finished, she sets out to write a Classic—a story that will be beloved by all with a little something for everyone. Her classic needs romance, adventure, and drama, which is why the story of her Auntie Eva’s wedding is perfect. Cilla’s authentic and truthful examinations of family, “Traditions”, and friendship are perfect for any young reader learning to find their own voice.

What middle grade books are you excited about this spring?

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