Middle Grade Recommendations 2.0

If you are still looking for something to read for Middle Grade May, I just want to throw some of my favorite suggestions in the ring. I really enjoy reading middle grade because it tends to be very thematic, whimsical, and makes me feel better about humanity. If none of the following suggestions strike your fancy, you can check out my recommendation list from last year here.

If you like cults, found family, and DRAGONS, you may like…

Wings of Fire

If you like fairy tales, independence, and making the wrong choices, you may like…

Furthermore/Whichwood

If you like tea, kindness, and graphic novels, you make like

The Tea Dragons

If you like misconceptions, dismantling systems, and monsters, you may like…

The Girl Who Drank the Moon

If you like fairy tales, self-discovery, and a good quest, you may like…

Lalani of the Distant Sea

Series Review: The Twelve by Cindy Lin

The Twelve duology is an own-voices middle-grade fantasy series by Cindy Lin. In this world those born with Zodiac powers need to stay hidden in fear of death or being taken by the Dragonlord, a dictator that has torn apart the land. Personally, I think this is an older middle grade as there is significant brutality mentioned as well as both books are around 400 pages. We follow Usagi, born a wood rabbit, who after losing those closest to her must recognize her own power and realities of the her world. It is an adventurous story of community and rebellion.

The World: The magic that one is born with depends on the coinciding for the timing of ones birth in an element or a sign of the zodiac. We did get significantly more world building in terms of geography, species, and variation of powers in book two which I wish we could have seen more of in book one. Overall there was a lot of variety and it felt like a real country with history, economy, and culture. There are a magic bullet catch-alls called the “Treasures of the Twelve”; while these can magically save the day most are missing and our heroes don’t have access to them.

The Characters: There was a pretty large cast of characters, but we only followed one point of view, Usagi’s. Each character is traumatized from their world and still growing up. Our heroes all have reasonable character flaws and conflicts. While redemption arcs do happen they are not offered to every character that was ever liked during any point during the series. I found that nice to see especially in a middle grade series.

The Verdict: This is a darker middle-grade (TW: mass death, betrayal, neglect, indoctrination). I do think that it is worth it to read. The culture and characters are well developed and unique to a lot of other middle grade fantasies. In my opinion, there is a good split between nuance and good versus evil. It was a solid 4 star series and if there are ever any spin-offs in the world I will be first in line to read them.

Middle Grade Recommendations

So Middle Grade May is coming! I personally have been leaning a little bit more towards middle grade during this hectic time in the world. Not only because I work a lot with kids who are readers and I like to have something to talk about but because the world is insane. I am feeling overwhelmed by work and life and all the pandemics. Middle Grade tends to be a lighter feeling while reading. They are easy to fly through, have familiar feelings, and often an element of whimsy.

If you like folklore/mythology and growing as a person, you may like…

  • Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia
    • This is the story of Tristan Strong who is feeling weak and stuck after the death of his best friend, Eddie. He accidentally creates a portal into the world of Midpass while trying to keep the book he created with Eddie from being stolen. It is a wonderful story about myth, grief, and the power of storytelling. Fair warning: you will likely cry. Tristan Strong

If you like girl power and fighting smarter not harder, you may like…

  • Princess Academy by Shannon Hale
    • As with every heir to the kingdom, when the prince comes of age to wed the priests select a realm of the land to find his bride. For the first time in history a small quarry town on-top of the highest peak of Mount Eskel is chosen. Miri and the other eligible young girls in town are taken to a princess academy to learn about life beyond the quarry for the first time. It is a wonderful story of female friendship and the power of education. Truly one of my favorites.

Princess_Academy

If you like animals and meeting new people, you make like…

  • Circles in the Stream by Rachel Roberts
    • Three very different girls, Emily, Adriane, and Kara, are all drawn to the same animal preserve. There they find magical creatures  seeking refuge from their homes. The girls must find a way to harness magic, keep the animals secret, and find a place where the animals can be safe from the evil that follows. This is the start to a 12 book series and every book is worth it. I’m sorry the covers aren’t great. Circles in the Stream

If you like mysteries and have dreamed of running away, you may like…

  • From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg
    • This one is a little bit more of a classic and one of my Mom’s favorites from her own childhood. Where a brother and a sister tired of their siblings and school decide to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. While hiding in the museum they end of in the middle of a huge art mystery. mixed up files

If you like comics and are afraid of starting over, you may like…

  • Amelia Rules! by Jimmy Gownley
    • This graphic novel series follows Amelia as she moves from Manhattan with her mom after her parents divorce. She makes weird friends and handles basically, real life from school to bullies to friends that get sick. Amelia doesn’t always handle things well but she always handles them. It is a wonderfully drawn as well, just looking at it will make you smile. 51REKK68GFL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_

If you like fairy tales and coloring outside the lines, you may like…

  • School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
    • I don’t know that there will be a recommendations that I can’t slide this into. I LOVE this series. Every four years 2 children or  “readers” are brought into The Endless Woods to the School for Good and Evil to train to be the heroes and villains of the fairy tales we all know. Two best friends, Sophie and Agatha, are taken away to the schools and are horrified when they are both dropped into the “wrong” one. It is a wonderful story about binaries, fate, and friendship.the school for good and evil