2019 Finalists: Middle-Grade Fiction

Maybe He Just Likes You (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Barbara Dee
Nominated by: Joanna Marple

Starting middle school can be tough and scary for anyone. For Mila especially so, things are tough at home so school should be her safe place. That is not the case. It starts with an unwanted hug by a classmate and continues and escalates. She feels like she has no one to turn to. Her friend Max understands what’s happening to Mila. He urges her to find a trusted adult to help deal with the situation. This book handles sexual harassment in schools and bullying in a realistic manner. Maybe He Just Likes You has a lot going on and handles the topics in a relatable manner for readers.

Shannon Griffin, Picture Books to YA

Operation Frog Effect (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Sarah Scheerger
Random House Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

When an injured frog appears on the first day in a 5th grade classroom, the class votes to keep the frog and name him Kermit. The class learns many lessons about frogs and science, but more importantly, they learn about themselves and making a difference. Later, that lesson is tested, and the students come together and work as a team to speak to the school board. 

Pamela Thompson, Young Adult Books – What We’re Reading Now

Right as Rain (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Lindsey Stoddard
Nominated by: Jean Reidy

Rain’s brother died almost a year ago and no one knows that Rain is holding onto a secret – her brother’s death was her fault. Her mother decides that they need a fresh start, moving the family from Vermont to New York City, where Rain has to adjust to her new home, as well as cope with her brother’s death, while trying to keep her parents together. Her father is still very depressed, and just stays in his bedroom for most of the day.  Rain escapes through running and eventually joins a relay team at her school. Her new friend and teammate, Frankie, introduces her to Ms. Dacie and her home quickly becomes a second home to Rain. Ms. Dacie needs some help to keep her home open to students as an after-school program and Rain rises to help the cause, while helping her family cope with their grief.

Brenda Beikert, Goodreads

Roll with It (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Jamie Sumner
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Rosemary Kiladitis

Ellie might have Cerebral Palsy that will keep her in a wheelchair for life, however she refuses to feel sorry for herself. Concerned about her grandfather’s encroaching Alzheimer’s and budding family financial problems, Ellie has a secret coping skill–baking. If she can win the upcoming prize money in the area baking contest, she can help out her family situation, but not without the help of her friends, Robert, a bullied autistic young man and Coralee who, like Ellie has big dreams. Accomplishing these goals is difficult  but not impossible for Ellie who finds she can accomplish anything she sets her mind to.

Rae Longest, Rae Reads – Power Women Readers

Song for a Whale (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Lynne Kelly
Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Katie B

Twelve-year-old Iris has never felt understood. At school and even at home, being deaf has made it hard to communicate. Her classmates and teachers either try too hard, flapping their arms at her pretending to know sign language, or like her dad, don’t try to learn at all. When Iris learns about a whale who sings at a different frequency and therefore cannot be understood by other whales, she is determined to use what she knows about sound frequencies from fixing up old radios to write a song for the whale. Once it is written, she is even more determined to play the song for the whale herself – even if it means traveling to Alaska. 

Stacy Mozer, It’s All About the Journey

The Bridge Home (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Padma Venkatraman
Nancy Paulsen Books
Nominated by: Aaron

After fleeing their abusive father, Viji and her younger sister Rukku find themselves living on the streets of Chennai, India, where life is harsh and dangerous. They find shelter under a bridge, where they makes friends with two homeless boys, Muthi and Arul, who show them the ropes of street life survival. Loving her independence away from untrustworthy parents, Viji joins Muthi and Arul rummaging through the Chennai’s garbage heaps to earn some money. But when the rainy season arrives with its mosquitos, and Rukku becomes ill, Viji must decide whether or not to ask for help, and risk losing their freedom.

Alex Baugh, Randomly Reading

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise (Amazon, IndieBound)
by Dan Gemeinhart
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Jonemac

Ever since the death of her mother and two sisters Coyote and her dad, Rodeo, have been on the move.  But when Coyote finds out that a park in their old town is being torn down and with it a hidden box of memories she knows she has to get back there.  But how can she travel over 3,000 miles without Rodeo knowing what she is doing? Filled with adventure, friendship, and heart this is a book not to be missed.

Julie Williams, Reading by the Pond