New Middle Grade Books, March 2023

With all the middle grade novels I get sent every month, here are the ones for March 2023 that I want to tell you about. BUT, there are two that are marketed as middle grade but librarians and teachers ordering for the classroom need to know that they aren’t middle grade. More on that when you scroll down.

Something else besides inappropriate book labeling is on my mind right now…

Where are the middle grade books with male protagonists? We have gone so far to the side of female main characters that I rarely see books published with male main characters.

Yes, boys can read books with girl main characters.

AND, sometimes boys are more motivated to read books about boys. (I know that I prefer reading adult books about women.)
Let’s give our boys, who are often reading less than girls, MORE good book choices with boy main characters.

What are your thoughts? Comment below!

Scroll down to see the two books incorrectly labeled middle grade. Books that are good, but just need a different age recommendation.

New Middle Grade Books, March 2023

Children of the Black Glass by Anthony Peckham
If you like exciting adventures with surprising twists and cool world-building, read this middle grade fantasy book next! Abandoned by their mom, Tell and Wren live with their dad on the mountain but their dad gets blinded in an accident. The mountain rule is that if you can’t work, you can’t drain the resources and must be killed. So the children go down the mountain to trade their dad’s black glass and find a cure. They’ve never been to the big city since it is forbidden for children. In the city, they immediately lose everything and discover an unfamiliar world with different rules, lies, treachery, and feuding families and sorcerers. Wren and Tell make tentative friendships but must use their cleverness and new and old knowledge to survive the secrets revealed and the chaos of war.

Legends of Lotus Island: The Guardian Test by Christina Soontornvat, illustrated by Kevin Hong
(ages 7 – 10)
Plum loves the garden worms and plants where she lives with her grandparents. Even so, she’s thrilled with the opportunity to go to a Guardian school where she hopes she’ll turn into a Guardian to protect the natural world. At the Guardian Academy, Plum struggles to focus; she worries that she’ll never get her animal bond like the other students. But she learns how to fight, talk to animals, and hopes she can prove herself. Readers will love the cool world-building, the captivating illustrations, and the engaging story! I can’t wait for book 2!

Squished by Megan Wagner Lloyd, illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter
Avery has six siblings — and she’s responsible for watching the littles a lot. She really wants her own room but instead of getting her own room, she and her sister Pearl also share a room with her baby brother Max. Max has trouble with sleeping, and starts escaping his crib, even climbing up to her top bunk. Despite the challenges of a large family and a move to a new town, Avery learns to value her close-knit family.

Parachute Kids by Betty C. Tang
Feng-Li’s parents take her and her two siblings from Taiwain to the United States for a vacation…but not really. Her parents get the three kids settled and then return home on their visitor visas. The kids live in the U.S. where they go to school and live independently with the teenage sister in charge. But it’s difficult learning a new language, living without adults, changing your name, siblings bickering, budgeting money, and missing their parents. Even their auntie and uncle move to a different state. Talk about stressful, even to the reader!

Kie is a courier for the kingdom, riding on her skyrider, a small but fast winged horse. Her Uncle taught her the old ways of fighting the chimerae. Fearing a full chimarae invasion, her uncle sends Kie to the capital to convince the leaders to use the old ways of fighting. But she’s dismissed by the leaders who insist on their new ways — which will eventually get them killed. Meanwhile, Kie learns she can mindspeak to all skyrider steeds which helps when she and her friends (including the prince and princess) must save the city themselves. Readers will love this exciting story with an interesting plot and a brave but reluctant heroine. (I couldn’t put it down!)

What Happens Next? Talent Show Troubles by Jess Smart Smiley
This is a choose your own adventure graphic novel with fun illustrations about a school talent show. Megan is in charge of the show, but it’s not going well. The stories were short, and I didn’t like how often the choices and page turns occured. It’s not a prose book, so it means you’re constantly turning back and forth through the book. I’m including it in this round-up because the graphic novel illustrations and interactive elements will appeal to many readers.

Guardians of Horsa: Legend of the Yearling by Roan Black, illustrated by Glass House Graphics
(ages 7 – 10)
This book feels like ONE chapter of a longer story. Which was super disappointing. So, I’d call this a comic, not a graphic novel, because only the characters, setting, and premise are introduced, and then it abruptly ends. The gist is that four young horses from each of the four enemy tribes must work together to search for the prophesied yearling. That’s all we get until the next book. I would suggest waiting until the next few books come out before you give this a read. Teh best thing bout this book is the artwork.


Readers, I’m sharing two books being marketed at middle grade, which I think you need to know ARE NOT meant for the majority of middle grade readers which are ages 8 to 12. Maybe you could say they’re for upper middle grade, but it would be a personal preference. So if you’re a teacher or librarian trying to order books, I’m sharing this to let you know that while both books are good, they are meant for older readers.

Dreamer by Alim Aliu and Greg Anderson Elysee, illustrated by Karen De La Vega
This is the graphic novel memoir of Akim Aliu, a pro hockey player who faced terrible racism as a young hockey player all the way up to the pro levels. It’s well-written and sadly, completely believable. It’s marketed as a middle grade book but it’s NOT because there’s so much bad language. Some of the swear words are crossed out but you can tell what the words are whether it’s the n-word or the f-word. I do think the words belong in the story because they’re essential to the plot’s point about how harrassed and bullied he was. And yet, most parents do not want this much (any?) bad language in their 8-year-old’s book choices. So, upper middle grade maybe?

The Librarian of Auschwitz adapted by Salva Rubio, translated by Lilit Zekuli Thwaites, illustrated by Loreto Aroca
I genuinely liked this book, and so did my husband. BUT. There are images of naked people (boobs and pubic hair) and the use of the word tits (and touching breasts.) While this is an exceptionally written based on a true story book with good pacing, it is NOT, in my opinion, appropriate for middle grade readers who are 8 to 12-year-olds. The story follows 14-year-old Dita and her family when they are sent to Auschwitz. Dita gets a job as a librarian caring for a handful of books in different languages and from different authors. She is a survivor but confused when she sees the Jewish leader kissing a German soldier and when he commits suicide. She survives the camps, but her family doesn’t. Later, she reunites with a boy she knew before, and they get married. I wish the editors had used better judgment so this story would be appropriate for 8 year olds and taken out some of the images (and words) that weren’t totally necessary to the plot so that young readers could read it without parent concerns.
new middle grade books, March 2023


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