Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Upcoming Middlegrade Book Releases

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, I’m telling you about the intriguing middlegrade books coming out in the first half of 2020. These children’s books all sound like my kind of bizarre and beautiful. This is going to be a big post, so let’s get into it.

Update: Due to Coronavirus, some of the release dates may have changed.

*This post contains affiliate links. I earn a commission from qualifying purchases.

Upcoming Middlegrade Book Releases


When You Trap A Tiger by Tae Keller

When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her Halmoni's Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now, the tigers want it back. And when one of those tigers offers Lily a deal—return what Halmoni stole in exchange for Halmoni's health—Lily is tempted to accept. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice and the courage to face a tiger.

Catherine’s War by Julia Billet & Claire Fauvel

The story follows Catherine, born Rachel, a Jewish child in World War II, who journeys from occupied France to the free zone armed with a camera and her artistic vision. It was inspired by the childhood of the author's mother.


A Galaxy Of Sea Stars by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo

At a time when everything in her small town of Seaside, Rhode Island, seems like it’s changing, eleven-year-old Izzy Vitale wants things to stay the same. She wants her dad to start acting like he did before he was deployed to Afghanistan, she wants her mom to move back to the marina where they live, but most of all, she wants best friends Piper and Zelda (dubbed the Sea Star Posse by their kindergarten teacher) to stay best friends as they begin sixth grade at the regional middle school.

Then, Izzy’s father invites his former Army interpreter from Afghanistan and his whole family—including eleven-year-old Sitara—to move into the upstairs apartment at the marina. Izzy doesn’t know what to make of Sitara with her hijab and refusal to eat cafeteria food. She does know that her constant presence has become like a rogue wave disrupting the normally easy flow of the Sea Star Posse. But as Izzy gets to know Sitara, she can’t help but admire her self-confidence and pride in her Muslim faith. Little by little, Izzy begins to realize there exists a world much larger than her safe but insulated harbor in Seaside.

When hate messages start showing up at the girls’ school and at the marina, Izzy and Sitara team up to discover the source of the vandalism. But what Izzy ultimately learns will force her to make a choice: remain silent and betray Sitara or speak up for what she knows is right—even if it means losing the Sea Star Posse forever.


The Lonely Heart Of Maybelle Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy

Eleven-year-old Maybelle Lane collects sounds. She records the Louisiana crickets chirping, Momma strumming her guitar, their broken trailer door squeaking. But the crown jewel of her collection is a sound she didn't collect herself: an old recording of her daddy's warm-sunshine laugh, saved on an old phone's voicemail. It's the only thing she has of his, and the only thing she knows about him.

Until the day she hears that laugh—his laugh—pouring out of the car radio. Going against Momma's wishes, Maybelle starts listening to her radio DJ daddy's new show, drinking in every word like a plant leaning toward the sun. When he announces he'll be the judge of a singing contest in Nashville, she signs up. What better way to meet than to stand before him and sing with all her heart?

But the road to Nashville is bumpy. Her starch-stiff neighbor Mrs. Boggs offers to drive her in her RV. And a bully of a boy from the trailer park hitches a ride too. These are not the people May would have chosen to help her, but it turns out they're searching for things too. And the journey will bond them into the best kind of family—the kind you choose for yourself.

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work—Chernobyl—has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who've always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina's estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother's secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they've wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend's life? Would you risk your own?

Things You Can’t Say by Jenn Bishop

Nothing is going right this summer for Drew. And after losing his dad unexpectedly three years ago, Drew knows a lot about things not going right. First, it’s the new girl Audrey taking over everything at the library, Drew’s sacred space. Then it’s his best friend, Filipe, pulling away from him. But most upsetting has to be the mysterious man who is suddenly staying with Drew’s family. An old friend of Mom’s? Drew isn’t buying that.

With an unlikely ally in Audrey, he’s determined to get to the bottom of who this man really is. The thing is, there are some fears—like what if the person you thought was your dad actually wasn’t—that you can’t speak out loud, not to anyone. At least that’s what Drew thinks.

But then again, first impressions can be deceiving.

The Inside Battle by Melanie Sumrow

Thirteen-year-old Rebel Mercer lives in west Texas with his dad, Nathan, and his aunt Birdie. His dad is finally home after serving in the military, and Rebel longs for his approval. But something isn't right. His dad has PTSD, and lately he has been spending his time communicating with a racist, anti-government militia group called the Flag Bearers. Rebel doesn't agree with his dad's newfound ideas, but he turns a blind eye to them. So when his best friend Ajeet beats Rebel at a robotics tournament by using one of Rebel's pieces, Rebel begins to wonder if there's some truth to what his dad has been saying, and he lashes out at Ajeet.

Expelled from school, Rebel's dad takes him to the mountains of Oklahoma, where they meet up with the Flag Bearers. Soon his dad is engulfed in the group and its activities, and they're becoming more and more dangerous. When Rebel gets wind of a planned attack on an African American church, he knows that this group has gone too far and innocent people could get hurt. Can Rebel find his voice and stop the Flag Bearers from carrying out their plans before it's too late?

Coo by Kaela Noel

Ten years ago, an impossible thing happened: a flock of pigeons picked up a human baby who had been abandoned in an empty lot and carried her, bundled in blankets, to their roof. Coo has lived her entire life on the rooftop with the pigeons who saved her. It's the only home she's ever known.

But then a hawk nearly kills Burr, the pigeon she loves most, and leaves him gravely hurt. Coo must make a perilous trip to the ground for the first time to find Tully, a retired postal worker who occasionally feeds Coo's flock and can heal injured birds.

Tully mends Burr's broken wing and coaxes Coo from her isolated life. Living with Tully, Coo experiences warmth, safety, and human relationships for the first time. But just as Coo is beginning to blossom, she learns that the human world is infinitely more complex—and cruel—than she could have imagined.

Show Me A Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte

Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha's Vineyard. Her great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there—including Mary—are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage.

But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary's brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island's prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a "live specimen" in a cruel experiment.


When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Omar and his little brother, Hassan, arrived in Dadaab, a refugee camp in Kenya, seven years ago. Their father was killed the day they left home, and they haven't seen their mother since they joined their neighbors who were fleeing to Dadaab. Now Omar is eleven and Hassan is nine, and Omar has quit school to look after his brother, who has an intellectual disability.

When Omar is given the opportunity to return to school and carve out a future for himself and Hassan, he feels torn. He loves school and could have the opportunity to earn a coveted scholarship to a North American university—and with it a visa for himself and Hassan. But is it worth the risk and heartache of leaving his vulnerable brother for hours each day?

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

After the financial crash, Ellie and her family have lost nearly everything—including their home in town. They have started over, carving out a new life in the unforgiving terrain of Echo Mountain. Though her sister Esther, especially, resents everything about the mountain, Ellie has found more freedom, a new strength, and a love of the natural world that now surrounds them. But there is little joy, even for Ellie, as they all struggle with the sorrow and aftermath of an accident that left her father in a coma. An accident for which Ellie has accepted the unearned weight of blame.

Urgent for a cure to bring her father back, Ellie is determined to try anything. Following her heart, and the lead of a scruffy mutt, Ellie will make her way to the top of the mountain, in search of the healing secrets of a woman known only as "the hag." But the mountain still has many untold stories left to reveal to Ellie, as she finds her way forward among a complex constellation of strong women spanning generations.

Mary Underwater by Shannon Doleski

Mary Murphy feels like she’s drowning. Her violent father is home from prison, and the social worker is suspicious of her new bruises. An aunt she’s never met keeps calling. And if she can’t get a good grade on her science project, she’ll fail her favorite class.

But Mary doesn’t want to be a victim anymore. She has a plan: build a real submarine, like the model she’s been making with Kip Dwyer, the secretly sweet class clown.

Gaining courage from her heroine, Joan of Arc, Mary vows to pilot a sub across the Chesapeake Bay, risking her life in a modern crusade to save herself.

Rick by Alex Gino

Rick's never questioned much. He's gone along with his best friend Jeff even when Jeff's acted like a bully and a jerk. He's let his father joke with him about which hot girls he might want to date even though that kind of talk always makes him uncomfortable. And he hasn't given his own identity much thought, because everyone else around him seemed to have figured it out.

But now Rick's gotten to middle school, and new doors are opening. One of them leads to the school's Rainbow Spectrum club, where kids of many genders and identities congregate, including Melissa, the girl who sits in front of Rick in class and seems to have her life together. Rick wants his own life to be that understood. Even if it means breaking some old friendships and making some new ones.

Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened by Emily Blejwas

Justin doesn't know anything these days. Like how to walk down the halls without getting stared at. Or what to say to Jenni. Or how Phuc is already a physics genius in seventh grade. Or why Benny H. wanders around Wicapi talking to old ghosts. He doesn't know why his mom suddenly loves church or if his older brother, Murphy, will ever play baseball again. Or if the North Stars have a shot at the playoffs. Justin doesn't know how people can act like everything's fine when it's so obviously not. And most of all, he doesn't know what really happened the night his dad died on the train tracks.

And that sucks.

But life goes on. And as it does, Justin discovers that some things are just unknowable. He learns that time and space and memory are grander and weirder than he ever thought, and that small moments can hold big things, if you're paying attention. Just like his math teacher said, even when you think you have all the information, there will be more. There is always more.

On The Horizon by Lois Lowry & Kenard Pak

Lois Lowry looks back at history through a personal lens as she draws from her own memories as a child in Hawaii and Japan, as well as from historical research, in this work in verse for young readers.

On the Horizon
 tells the story of people whose lives were lost or forever altered by the twin tragedies of Pearl Harbor and Hiroshima. Composed of poems about individual sailors who lost their lives on the Arizona and about the citizens of Hiroshima who experienced unfathomable horror.

A Game Of Fox & Squirrels by Jenn Reese

After an incident shatters their family, eleven-year old Samantha and her older sister Caitlin are sent to live in rural Oregon with an aunt they've never met. Sam wants nothing more than to go back to the way things were before she spoke up about their father's anger.

When Aunt Vicky gives Sam a mysterious card game called "A Game of Fox & Squirrels," Sam falls in love with the animal characters, especially the charming trickster fox, Ashander. Then one day Ashander shows up in Sam’s room and offers her an adventure and a promise: find the Golden Acorn, and Sam can have anything she desires.

But the fox is hiding rules that Sam isn't prepared for, and her new home feels more tempting than she'd ever expected. As Sam is swept up in the dangerous quest, the line between magic and reality grows thin. If she makes the wrong move, she'll lose far more than just a game.

The Year The Maps Changed by Danielle Binks

Sorrento, Victoria—1999

Fred's family is a mess. Fred's mother died when she was six and she's been raised by her Pop and adoptive father, Luca, ever since. But now Pop is at the Rye Rehabilitation Centre recovering from a fall; Luca's girlfriend, Anika, has moved in; and Fred's just found out that Anika and Luca are having a baby of their own. More and more it feels like a land-grab for family and Fred is the one being left off the map.

But even as the world feels like it's spinning out of control, a crisis from the other side of it comes crashing in. When 400 Kosovar-Albanian refugees arrive in the middle of the night to be housed at one of Australia's 'safe havens' on an isolated headland not far from Sorrento, their fate becomes intertwined with the lives of Fred and her family, as she navigates one extraordinary year that will change them all.


The Truth According To Blue by Eve Yohalem

Thirteen-year-old Blue Broen is on the hunt for a legendary ship of gold, lost centuries ago when her ancestors sailed to New York. Blue knows her overprotective parents won't approve of her mission to find their family's long-lost fortune, so she keeps it a secret from everyone except her constant companion, Otis, an 80-pound diabetic alert dog. But it's hard to keep things quiet with rival treasure hunters on the loose, and with Blue's reputation as the local poster child for a type 1 diabetes fundraiser.

Blue's quest gets even harder when she's forced to befriend Jules, the brainy but bratty daughter of a vacationing movie star who arrives on the scene and won't leave Blue alone. While Blue initially resents getting stuck with this spoiled seventh grade stranger, Jules soon proves Blue's not the only one who knows about secrets—and adventure.

Will Blue unravel a three hundred year-old family mystery, learn to stand up for herself, and find the missing treasure? Or is she destined to be nothing more than "diabetes girl" forever?

Every Missing Piece by Melanie Conklin

Maddy Gaines can't help but see danger everywhere she looks. When a new kid shows up in her small town, Maddy suspects he isn't just any boy—he's Billy Holcomb, the missing person the police have been searching for the last six months. Except, who will believe her? Definitely not her mom or her stepdad. Or the chief of police.

But when Maddie convinces her best friend Cress to keep investigating Billy Holcomb, they find out more than they bargained for. As they try to put the pieces together, Maddie faces her own demons that she's been running away from all this time.


The Invisible Boy by Alyssa Hollingsworth

Nadia finds adventure in the pages of her Superman comic books, until a mysterious boy saves her dog from drowning during a storm and then disappears. Now she finds herself in the role of Lois Lane, hunting down the scoop of the Invisible Boy, and suddenly she’s in a real-life adventure that’s far more dangerous than anything in her comic books.

The Invisible Boy is a mystery and an adventure story, as well as a story about child labor trafficking.

Are you looking forward to any 2020 children’s books?


  1. Great list! So many of these look so lovely - I love the sound of When You Trap a Tiger and The Blackbird Girls.

  2. Oooh, I hadn't heard of many of these, and my goal this year is to read more mid-grade! I'm really looking forward to When You Trap A Tiger, though, and The Invisible Boy. A Game of Fox and Squirrels sounds really interesting, too!

    Here's my TTT post.

  3. I've heard of some of these, but most are new to me - so thanks for sharing! I love MG novels. I really want to read THE BLACKBIRD GIRLS BY ANNE BLANKMAN, among many others.


  4. Looks like a lot of nice MG books coming out. I love how much good stuff there is now for younger readers.

    Love that cover of The Truth According to Blue.

  5. I need to read Coo and Echo Mountain. MG has some of the best covers.

  6. Echo Mountain looks and sounds like a good one! Gonna keep my eye out for it :)

    Anika | chaptersofmay.com

  7. 'The blackbird girls' sounds like something I would read except I kind of want to know more about what happens after the explosion, what happened there and not the girls being at the grandmother's place but I do like the idea of friendship.

    I'm guessing 'Coo' is not a fantasy book and she doesn't turn into a bird or something. I often find these awkward, cute books but they always ends so seriously.

    Awfully serious books here. Why do kids seems to suffer the most depressing things in books? But damm cute covers though.

    Have a lovely day.

  8. I don't really read a lot of middle grade, but Echo Mountain looks very interesting!

  9. I have a bunch of these on my TBR, and am especially interested in THE LONELY HEART OF MAYBELLE LANE. I read a review, and it sounds like something I would love.

  10. Not heard of a one of those though I don't go for the more contemporary Middle Grade as I like the more adventure fantasy. :) Hope you enjoy them!

  11. SO many of these look great! I'm excited for 2020 middle grade!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  12. Looks like middle grade readers have a lot of great books to look forward to in 2020 and I love all of the gorgeous covers too.

  13. Okay, some of these look incredible! I might even have to pick up the one about Chernobyl! Thank you so much for sharing!

  14. Argh, I just added about a dozen of these to my to-read list. I only had a few marked already! Show Me a Sign, A Game of Fox ad Squirrles, and Blackbird Girls sound right up my alley. I'm looking forward to Clean Getaway and Yes, No, Maybe So, two MG novels by authors who's YA works I've enjoyed.

  15. There are some great books on this list. Thanks for sharing! I'm especially interested in WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER for the Korean folktale element.

  16. So many pretty covers!!
    I think my favourites are: A Galaxy of Sea Stars, When You Trap A Tiger, Echo Mountain and The Lonely Heart Of Maybelle Lane.

  17. I"m looking forward to many of these too.

  18. These all look great! I had no clue about the Lowry book. I'll have to skip over to Goodreads and add it. 👍✨

  19. This was great for me! I have only recently started to read middle grade as of last year, but I really enjoy the genre and have been trying to read more and more diverse middle grade! I don't ever really see upcoming release lists like this one, so I am very excited.