It’s part three of our list of the best books of 2021 for mid-grade readers. Librarians, editors, and reviewers compiled the list for the School Library Journal. The list will come in handy when you’re perusing the shelves of your local bookstore or library.
Books are presented in alphabetical order by author’s last name. Descriptions from Amazon. See specific grade recommendations below. View the entire list from School Library Journal here.
Take Back the Block by Chrystal D. Giles. Grades 3-7.
Wes Henderson has the best style in sixth grade. That—and hanging out with the crew (his best friends since little-kid days) and playing video games—is what Wes wants to be thinking about at the start of the school year, not the protests his parents are always dragging him to.
But when a powerful real estate developer makes an offer to buy Kensington Oaks, the neighborhood Wes has lived in his whole life, everything changes. The grown-ups are supposed to have all the answers, but all they’re doing is arguing. Even Wes’s best friends are fighting. And some of them may be moving. Wes isn’t about to give up the only home he’s ever known without a fight. He’s always been good at puzzles, and he knows there must be a missing piece that will solve this puzzle and save the Oaks. But can he find it before it’s too late?
One Jar of Magic by Corey Ann Haydu. Grades 4-7.
Rose Alice Anders is Little Luck. Lucky to be born into the Anders family. Lucky to be just as special and magical as the most revered man in town—her father. The whole town has been waiting for Rose to turn twelve when she can join them in their annual capturing of magic on New Year’s Day and become the person she was born to be.
But when that special day finally comes, Rose barely captures one tiny jar of magic. Now Rose’s dad won’t talk to her anymore, and her friendships have gotten all twisted and wrong. So when Rose hears whispers that there are people who aren’t meant for magic at all, she begins to wonder if that’s who she belongs with.
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. Grades 5 and up.
There lived a girl named Petra Peña, who wanted nothing more than to be a storyteller, like her Abuelita.
But Petra’s world is ending. Earth has been destroyed by a comet, and only a few hundred scientists and their children – among them Petra and her family – have been chosen to journey to a new planet. They are the ones who must carry on the human race.
Hundreds of years later, Petra wakes to this new planet – and the discovery that she is the only person who remembers Earth. A sinister Collective has taken over the ship during its journey, bent on erasing the sins of humanity’s past. They have systematically purged the memories of all aboard – or purged them altogether.
Soul Lanterns by Shaw Kuzki. Grades 4-7.
Twelve-year-old Nozomi lives in the Japanese city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t even born when the bombing of Hiroshima took place. Every year Nozomi joins her family at the lantern-floating ceremony to honor those lost in the bombing. People write the names of their deceased loved ones along with messages of peace on paper lanterns and set them afloat on the river. This year Nozomi realizes that her mother always releases one lantern with no name. She begins to ask questions, and when complicated stories of loss and loneliness unfold, Nozomi and her friends come up with a creative way to share their loved ones’ experiences. By opening people’s eyes to the struggles they all keep hidden, the project teaches the entire community new ways to show compassion.
Red, White, and Whole by Rajani LaRocca. Grades 3-8.
Reha feels torn between two worlds: school, where she’s the only Indian American student, and home, with her family’s traditions and holidays. But Reha’s parents don’t understand why she’s conflicted—they only notice when Reha doesn’t meet their strict expectations. Reha feels disconnected from her mother, or Amma, although their names are linked—Reha means “star” and Punam means “moon”—but they are a universe apart.
Then Reha finds out that her Amma is sick. Really sick.
Reha, who dreams of becoming a doctor even though she can’t stomach the sight of blood, is determined to make her Amma well again. She’ll be the perfect daughter if it means saving her Amma’s life.