Coming late to the party as always, I finally bring you my most anticipated 2021 middle-grade releases. We’re getting so many wonderful books from hard hitting contemporaries about grief to magical adventures. Last year I realized how much I truly enjoy middle-grade and it’s my new passion to put some of these titles on your radar. You’re welcome.
There’s something about this age group, the way it can make you cry in one page and laugh aloud in the next, that just fills me with absolute joy. These books explore difficult topics with hope and honesty, while still allowing kids to be messy with their feelings and save the world. The duality of middle-grade will never stop astonishing me and I’m so impressed with these authors and their wonderful words.
Anyway, here are 40 books I CAN’T WAIT TO READ. Divided in contemporary books about middle-school, fantasy, magical realism, mischievous adventures, hard-hitting contemporaries and science-fiction. Let me know what are some of yours!
Friendship, crushes and middle-school
Meow or Never: A Wish Novel by Jazz Taylor. 01/05/2021. Pets and secret crushes? AND a saphhic main character? Yes, yes, yes! When Avery’s crush convinces her to sign up for the school musical, Avery finds herself in the middle of some adventures. She loves singing but not in front of people. Luckily, her secret cat, Phantom, helps her when she’s stress. Friendship, romance and a lot of mischief.
Amina’s Song by Hena Khan. 03/09/2021. I read Amina’s Voice and More to the Story last year and I enjoyed very much. I was in tears, for sure, but I also laughed so much. All to say, I’m excited to meet Amina once more in what promises to be equally delightful and heartfelt.
Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz, illustrated by Fahmida Azim. 03/16/2021. This is a novel in verse about Samira finding friendship and strength in a surf club when her family flees Myanmar for Bangladesh. This promises to be hard hitting book while still being about Samira’s new adventures. Exactly the type of books I love.
The Many Mysteries of the Finkel Family by Sarah Kapit. 03/23/2021. I have heard so many good things about Sarah’s debut, Get a grip, Vivy Cohen! and this looks it will be equally fantastic. Two autistic sisters, one mystery agency and a lot of adventures. Although I’m not a mystery fan, in middle-grade I absolutely love it. Probably reminds me to Harriet the Spy and my long childhood dream of being a spy… ANYWAY, super excited about Sara and Caroline’s cases!
The Comeback: A Figure Skating Novel by E.L. Shen. 01/19/2021 Competition, rivalry and learning about love and support
Squad Goals by Erika J. Kendrick. 04/06/2021 Cheerleading + coming of age
The Chance to Fly by Ali Stroker and Stacy Davidowitz. 04/13/2021 (birthday release!!) Love letter to theater featuring a disabled MC.
That Thing About Bollywood by Supriya Kelkar. 05/18/2021 Sonali must figure out what’s happening when her friends and family start unexpectedly breaking out into Bollywood songs.
Generation Misfits by Akemi Dawn Bowman. 6/29/2021. Band + school’s talent show
Magic and Adventures
Root Magic by Eden Royce. 01/05/2021. This sounds perfect for me; ghosts, magic and a story about friendship. Set in 1963, Jez and her twin brother, Jay, start learning about root magic and their family legacy.
Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera. 04/13/2021. This debut novel promises to be tender and delightful story about family and coming to your power. Following Cece Rios, as she embarks in a dangerous adventure to save her older sister. In a world of magical wonders and terrible creatures, Cece must become what everyone despises: a bruja.
Curse of the Forgotten City by Alex Aster. 06/08/2021. Book 1, Curse of the Night Witch, was such a pleasant surprise from last year. This series is doesn’t shy away from darkness, while still being a middle-grade book about friendship, magic and coming of age. Alex really brought Latin American stories to life and I just can’t wait to see what will happen in this next installment.
Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares by Tehlor Kay Mejia. 08/03/2021. Another sequel that I can’t wait for. And also spooky Latinx. Really, we’re getting so many wonderful books this year. Part of the Rick Riordan Presents series, Paola Santiago follows Paola and her terrifying meeting with La Llorona. After everything that happened in book 1, I’m so excited (and scared) to see what awaits Paola and her friends. Hopefully a nice happy ending? Right, Tehlor? No more tears, please?
Amari and the Night Brothers by B.B. Alston. 01/19/2021. Middle grade urban fantasy HELLO?!
The Last Fallen Star by Grace Kim. 05/04/2021. Korean mythology, story about family, magic and belonging.
The Last Shadow Warrior by Sam Subity. 05/04/2021 Perfect for Percy Jackson fans is all I need to know.
The Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young. 05/11/2021. Navajo mythology + family
Rea and the Blood of the Nectar by Payal Doshi. 06/01/2021. Perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Chronicles of Narnia, uh, yes?
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah Bourne. 07/06/2021. A mischievous girl with a big heart and world inspired by Caribbean mythology!!
The Devouring Wolf by Natalie C. Parker. Werewolves, queer rep and a dark secret that could change everything.
The Magic Paintbrush by Kat Zhang. Intergenerational fantasy adventure, doesn’t it sound wonderful?
Speculation by Nisi Shawl. Ghosts, family curse and historical fantasy.
Loteria by Karla Arenas Valenti. 09/07/2021. This book sounds absolutely fantastic and maybe you should add it just because that cover illustrated by Dana Sanmar is breathtaking. A story about fate, legends and life-and-death.
The Insiders by Mark Oshiro. 09/21/2021. Mark’s middle-grade debut about friendship and identity. This sounds like a hard-hitting book, like you know, only Mark can give us. But also an incredible novel about queerness, found family and love.
Mischievous Kids With Big Hearts
Shaking Up the House by Yamile Saied Mendez. 01/05/2021. I’ve loved everything that I have read by Yamile so far and I’m so excited for her newest middle-grade release. This promises to be mischievous, fun and sweet and that’s all I want.
Goldie Vance: Hocus Pocus Hoax by Lilliam Rivera. 01/05/2021. Detective adventures, sapphic dates, and a little bit of magic. Already read this one and it was a delighted. Check out my January wrap up for more thoughts.
Merci Suarez Can’t Dance by Meg Medina. 04/06/2021. I still can’t quite believe we’re getting a sequel to one of my all time favorite books. Merci Suarez is such a powerful, honest and bittersweet story about family, friendship and growing up. Merci gets a lot of trouble usually, with her mischievous nature and big heart, and I’m sure this one will bring a lot of laugher and tears. I AM READY FOR THE PAIN.
Sugar and Spite by Gail D. Villanueva. 04/20/2021. I have heard the greatest things about Gail’s books and this one sounds so good, I can’t even. Fighting bullies with magic potions may sound like a good idea at first, but it quickly turns a lot more complicated for Jolina.
Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRocca. 06/01/2021. I adored Midsummer’s Mayheam last year, which it’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling. I don’t really know much about Shakespeare but if it’s a Rajani’s retelling I must read. Much Ado About Baseball is about rivals to friends (best trope in the planet!), magic , food and baseball. Can’t get any better, honestly.
Hard Hitting Contemporaries
The Sea in Winter by Christine Day. 01/05/2021. A story about mental health, community and family. I have heard so many good things about the author’s debut, I Can Make This Promise, I’m sure this one will be equally good.
Finding Junie Kim by Ellen Oh. 05/04/2021. I love reading stories about family, grandparents and family’s history. Reading the synopsis I was already in tears, to be honest. Ellen Oh promises a story about hope, survival and finding your voice. And I just can’t wait for it.
The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga. 05/11/2021. Friendship, time-travel, grief and trauma, this book is the definition of hard-hitting contemporary. I don’t usually cry while reading synopsis, but this is the second book in this list that made me openly sob. So, now I need this in my life. I have not read Jasmine Warga’s books, so while I wait, I’ll finally get to Other Words For Home.
Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea by Ashley Herring Blake. 05/25/2021. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World was a book I loved with all my heart, talked about it in my last post. So I knew after reading that one that I must get every single middle-grade book by Ashley Herring Blake. And Hazel Bly? Sounds just perfect for me; a story about grief, friendship, family and mermaids.
Clues to the Universe by Christina Li. 01/12/2021. A story about loss, grief and unlikely friendships.
The Year I Flew Away by Marie Arnold. 02/02/2021. Magical realism, immigration and belonging.
Unsettled by Reem Faruqi. 05/11/2021. Immigration, belonging, written in verse. Front Desk meets Other Words for Home.
Science Fiction hijinks
Thirty Talks Weird Love by Alessandra Narváez Varela. 01/01/2021. Contemporary meets science-fiction. Anamaria is a 13 years old girl living in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in the 90s, one day finding this weird lady that tells her she’s Anamaria from the future, here to help her out. Written in verse, the novel tackles depression and mental health. I’ve been loving these novels that mash different genres coming together in a new and thought-provoking way so this sounds like a new favorite.
The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera. 09/07/2021. Listen to this book, I beg you; relocating to a new planet, all the adults mysteriously disappear, making Petra the new cuentista of the forbidden stories. Mexican folklore, space hijinks, a mystery to solve and a celebration for storytelling. I talked about Donna’s debut, Lupe Wong Won’t Dance in my last post, so of course I cannot wait for my new favorite middle-grade author.
Last Gamer Standing by Katie Zhao. 09/21/2021. Katie’s The Dragon Warrior was incredibly fun, I adored the two books already out in the series (will we ever get a third one? hopefully). I’m so excited to meet this sports anime meets gaming culture, as described by Katie. Seriously? It can’t get better than a Chinese-American girl fighting racism and sexism on a VR battle.