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Middle Grade Highlights from BEA

2013 June 6
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middle grade pileAttending Book Expo America is a massive spectacle that never fails to inspire. Of my pile of free books and advance reading copies this year, obtained based on my entirely unscientific wanderings about the exhibit hall, about half of them are middle grade. This age group has been on my mind this year, as I look at youth services as a department and think about continuous services to youth from elementary, through middle, to high school. Middle grade has some great titles for younger teens, reluctant readers, and those who are looking for books with a little less romance and violence. These upcoming offerings are largely on the high-action, wacky humor end of the spectrum, with just a few that promise quieter character-driven stories.

be11P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
Release date: available now
Excerpt from jacket copy: I saw pictures of my Temptations — whistling, dimpled, smiling father sitting in the RKO movie theater, munching on popcorn with his arm around Miss Marva Hendrix’s shoulders. This wasn’t the kind of picture you’re supposed to have of your father while your sisters made kissing smacks. My papa was thirty-two and acting like a teenager. The hippies were right. You can’t trust anyone over thirty.
First line: You’d think that after flying six-odd hours from New York to Oakland, then flying six-odd hours back, Vonetta, Fern, and I would be world-class travelers, and those bumps and dips would be nothing.
Buzz: Sequel to the Newbery Honor Book One Crazy Summer

7sCounting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Release date: August
Excerpt from jacket copy: Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life … until now. Suddenly Willow’s world is tragically changed when her parents both die in a car crash, leaving her alone in a baffling world. The triumph of this book is that it is not a tragedy. This extraordinarily odd, but extraordinarily endearing girl manages to push through her grief. Her journey to find a fascinatingly diverse and fully believable family is a joy and a revelation to read.
First line: We sit together outside Foster’s Freeze at a sea-green, metal picnic table.
Buzz: This book, from the author of I’ll Be There, stands out for its serious tone among the other titles on this list.

fantasticfamilyThe Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward
Release date: August
Excerpt from jacket copy: For every child who’s ever dreamed about being in the Guinness Book of World Records comes the story of eleven-year-old Arthur Whipple and his fantastic family of world record breakers…
* Most Creme Brulee eaten in One Minute
* Highest Number of Matching Outfits Worn by a Stuffed Toy and Its Owner
* Youngest Person to Summit the Third-Highest Mountain in the World
These are just three of the 49,521 records won by Arthur’s twelve brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, unlike his siblings, Arthur hasn’t broken a single, solitary, world record!
First line: All members of the Whipple family had managed to be born in the same month on the same day: March the first. All, of course, but one.
Buzz: Ever want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records for some obscure talent? Ever feel out of place among siblings? This sounds like the book for you.

Herrick_TF_hcjkt.inddThe Time Fetch by Amy Herrick
Release date: August
Excerpt from jacket copy: Under normal circumstances, a Time Fetch sends out its foragers to collect only those moments that will never be missed or regretted. The Fetch then rests, waiting to be called back by the Keeper, who distributes the gathered time where it is needed in our world and others across the Great Web. When eighth-grader Edward innocently mistakes a sleeping Fetch for an ordinary rock, he wakes its foragers too early, and they begin to multiply and gobble up too much time. Soon the bell rings to end class just as it has begun. Buses race down streets, too far schedule to stop for passengers. Buildings and sidewalks begin to disappear, as the whole fabric of the universe starts to unravel.
First line: First there was a doorway.
Buzz: The book’s editor found this manuscript particularly captivating. Sounds like the perfect fantasy to curl up with on a rainy end-of-summer day.

jediacademyStar Wars: Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
Release date: September
Excerpt from jacket copy: My whole life I planned on going to pilot school like the rest of my friends — then I got rejected! Along came a little green guy named Yoda who invited me to Jedi Academy. Now I’m at a school with aliens, robots, and lightsaber-wielding bullies who can lift things with their minds! How am I supposed to compete with that? As if starting middle school wasn’t hard enough…
First line: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away … There was a boy named Roan Novachez (that’s me) who was destined to attend Pilot Academy Middle School and become the GREATEST Star pilot in the GALAXY. Until  everything went TOTALLY and COMPLETELY WRONG…
Buzz: This cross between Star Wars and Diary of a Wimpy Kid is sure to be a hit and draw reluctant readers as well as Star Wars fans. Make sure you have copies ready for Star Wars Reads Day on October 5.

zombiebaseballZombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi
Release date: September
Excerpt from jacket copy: It might be kind of funny, if the cows weren’t trying to eat you … The apocalypse begins on a day when Rabi, Miguel, and Joe are having batting practice near their town’s local meatpacking plant and nearly get knocked out by a really big stink. Little do they know that the plant’s toxic cattle feed is turning cows into flesh-craving monsters … ZOMBIES!!! The boys launch into a stealth investigation into the plant’s dangerous practices and discover an evil corporation’s plot that would unleash tainted meat all over the country! Rabi and his friends will have to grab their bats to protect themselves (and a few enemies) if they want to stay alive — and maybe even save the world.
First line: Losing sucks.
Buzz: A very different sort of apocalypse from the author of dark YA books Ship Breaker and Drowned Cities.

honorableleagueA Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
Release date: September
Excerpt from jacket copy: There are three qualities a treasure map must possess: it must be suitably ancient, have an atmospheric title, and include a dotted line leading to an X. When Hilary Westfield escapes from finishing school to pursue her dream of being a pirate, she finds herself in possession of such a map. But the map is missing an X, and everyone is almost certain that the magical treasure she’s hunting doesn’t even exist. Hilary soon becomes caught up in a madcap quest involving a rogue governess who insists on propriety, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous villain on the high seas.
First line: Ever since the letter had arrived from Miss Pimm’s, Hilary had spent more and more time talking to the gargoyle.
Buzz: Pirates and girl heroes are always in, special points awarded to finishing school runaways.

milkFortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Skottie Young
Release date: September
Excerpt from jacket copy: When a father runs out to buy milk for his children’s breakfast cereal, the last thing he expects is to be abducted by aliens. He soon finds himself transported through time and space on an extraordinary adventure where the fate of the universe depends on him, a time-traveling Stegosaurus (in a balloon), and, fortunately, the milk.
First line: There was only orange juice in the fridge.
Buzz: This book is a cross between a picture book and a heavily illustrated early chapter book, but Gaiman fans of all ages will enjoy the wordy humor and an illustrated dad with strangely familiar hair.

nickandteslaNick and Tesla’s High-Voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Release date: November
Excerpt from jacket copy: Nick and Tesla are bright 11-year-old siblings with a knack for science, electronics, and getting into trouble. When they’re sent to California to live with their eccentric Uncle Newt, they discover their neighborhood is full of surprises: an abandoned house at the end of the block, a mysterious girl in an upstairs window, and an ominous black SUV that tails their every move.
First line: Someone climbed into Joe Devlin’s cab, and he put down his newspaper and looked in the rearview mirror and started to say “Where to?”
Buzz: Co-written by elementary school teacher “Science Bob,” this book promises MacGuyver-like experimentation and quick problem solving, as well as experiments you may or may not want to try at home.

— Erin Daly, currently reading an advance copy of The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

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2 Responses
  1. June 6, 2013

    Thanks for the run down, Erin! I love how you include the first sentence of each title. Thank you also for being so supportive of us middle grade authors!

  2. June 6, 2013

    I hadn’t heard of The Time Fetch before–I’ll look out for it!

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