2018 Middle Grade Fiction Finalists

Front Desk
by Kelly Yang
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Brenda

Based on the author’s own childhood experiences, Front Desk is the story of ten-year-old Chinese immigrant Mia Tang. Mia lives in the California hotel that her parents manage, and she often staffs the front desk all by herself. Although her family seems to be stuck on the roller coaster of poverty, Mia never gives up. Front Desk tackles tough topics, but it does so in the context of a story that’s engaging and accessible to kids. Mia’s adventures are at times funny, at times poignant, and ultimately inspiring.

Beth Mitchell, Imaginary Friends

Harbor Me
by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Patricia Nozell

Six special needs teens find a safe harbor, thanks to their teacher who gives them space to connect. The prose is spare, evocative and accessible. Readers will soon become invested in these diverse characters. Their issues are timely. This short read is bound to make an impact, foster empathy and would be a great discussion starter.

Brenda Kahn, Prose and Kahn

Skylark and Wallcreeper
by Anne O’Brien Carelli
Yellow Jacket
Nominated by: Lyn Miller-Lachmann

Partly set in Queens, NY during Superstorm Sandy, and partly in France during WWII, it’s the story of Lily, 12, and her grandmother, who is suffering from dementia. When Lily, 12, loses a pen that was special to her Granny, Lily embarks on a journey that will reveal the mystery of her Granny’s past. This survival story is fast paced and compelling, and the two time periods are thoughtfully constructed.

Debbie Tanner, The Book Search

The Doughnut Fix
by Jessie Janowitz
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Nominated by: jen

Tristan and his family have moved to Upstate New York to what might as well be the middle of nowhere. What he misses most are the doughnuts. When he finds out the town used to be famous for their chocolate cream doughnuts, Tristan sets out to buy the recipe and restart the local doughnut scene. It’s about a young teen taking on an adult task and succeeding through trial and error as well as the scientific method and a little bit of adult guidance.The book also includes a very interesting look at friendship and family dynamics that is very funny at times.

Sarah Sammis, Puss Reboots

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl
by Stacy McAnulty
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Heidi G.

Struck by lightning at a young age, Lucy is left with genius level math skills that have caused her grandmother to homeschool her since the age of 8. Now, her grandmother insists she must attend a year of middle school. Middle school is hard enough without having Pi threatening to take over your thoughts, using rituals to calm it and hiding your a math genius.This book is a mirror for all students who struggle to fit in and accept themselves and a window to all who know nothing about OCD, showing that friendship comes when we don’t expect it, and even when we think we know where we’re going in our life, the unexpected can be a wonderful thing.

Jill Lurie, The O.W.L.

The Orphan Band of Springdale
by Anne Nesbet
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Mel

This book explores what life was like in the small town of Springdale, Maine town in 1941 on the eve of America’s entry into World War II. Sent to live with her strict grandmother, Gusta, 11, is a strong character who has real struggles with the town’s prejudices and her desire to belong.The author’s attention to detail allows the reader to visualize the setting and makes it come alive. The amount of research is evident in the description of school events, Gusta’s new glasses, and the turmoil with unions, alien registration, and family secrets.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond

The Parker Inheritance
by Varian Johnson
Arthur A Levine
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

Candace and Brandon are about the have the summer of their lives but not in the way they expected. The Parker Inheritance is part mystery part social activism. It weaves together a story of family dynamics, friendship, and the Civil Rights movement, showing the reader what it was like for African Americans living in the south at that time. The Parker Inheritance is told through alternating time lines of the present day and the 1950’s

Shannon Griffin, Picture Books to YA