Parents, grandparents, aunties, and uncles, we know that feeling of wondering the shelves in the bookstore looking for a great book for your middle-grade reader. That’s why we’ve turned to a great source for book recommendations: school librarians. The School Library Journal has released its list of top books for 2021. Over the final weeks of the year, we’ll introduce you to their top twenty-six books for readers ages eight to twelve. This category suits readers in third through seventh grades. If your young reader is more or less advanced than their peers, talk to your school or public librarian for reading recommendations.
The books are presented in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. Descriptions come from Amazon Listings.
Happy holiday shopping and happy reading!
Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston. Grades 3-7. Book 1 of the Supernatural Investigations Series
Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.
So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.
The Magical Imperfectby Christ Baron. Grades 3-7.
Etan has stopped speaking since his mother left. His father and grandfather don’t know how to help him. His friends have given up on him.
When Etan is asked to deliver a grocery order to the outskirts of town, he realizes he’s at the home of Malia Agbayani, also known as the Creature. Malia stopped going to school when her acute eczema spread to her face, and the bullying became too much.
As the two become friends, other kids tease Etan for knowing the Creature. But he believes he might have a cure for Malia’s condition if only he can convince his family and hers to believe it too. Even if it works, will these two outcasts find where they fit in?
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakira Bourne. Grades 3-7.
Eleven-year-old Josephine knows that no one is good enough for her daddy. That’s why she makes a habit of scaring his new girlfriends away. She’s desperate to make it onto her school’s cricket team because she’ll get to play her favorite sport AND use the cricket matches to distract Daddy from dating.
But when Coach Broomes announces that girls can’t try out for the team, the frustrated Josephine cuts into a powerful silk cotton tree and accidentally summons a bigger problem into her life . . .
Rez Dogs by Joseph Bruchac. Grades 3-8.
Malian loves spending time with her grandparents at their home on a Wabanaki reservation. She’s there for a visit when, suddenly, all travel shuts down. There’s a new virus making people sick, and Malian will have to stay with her grandparents for the duration.
Everyone is worried about the pandemic, but Malian knows how to keep her family and community safe: She protects her grandparents, and they protect her. She doesn’t go outside to play with friends, she helps her grandparents use video chat, and she listens to and learns from their stories. And when Malsum, one of the dogs living on the rez, shows up at their door, Malian’s family knows that he’ll protect them too.
What Lives in the Woods by Lindsay Currie. Grades 4-7.
All Ginny Anderson wants from her summer is to sleep in, attend a mystery writing workshop, and spend time with her best friend. But when Ginny’s father―a respected restoration expert in Chicago―surprises the family with a month-long trip to Michigan, everything changes. They aren’t staying in a hotel like most families would. No, they’re staying in a mansion. A twenty-six-room, century-old building surrounded by dense forest. Woodmoor Manor.
But unfortunately, the mansion has more problems than a little peeling wallpaper. Locals claim the surrounding woods are inhabited by mutated creatures with glowing eyes. And some say campers routinely disappear in the woods, never to be seen again.
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. Grades 3-7.
It’s been a hard year for Maisie Cannon, ever since she hurt her leg and could not keep up with her ballet training and auditions.
Her blended family is loving and supportive, but Maisie knows that they just can’t understand how hopeless she feels. With everything she’s dealing with, Maisie is not excited for their family midwinter road trip along the coast, near the Makah community where her mother grew up.
But soon, Maisie’s anxieties and dark moods start to hurt as much as the pain in her knee. How can she keep pretending to be strong when on the inside, she feels as roiling and cold as the ocean?
More from the list next week. In the meantime, you can see the entire list from School Librarian Journal here.