2019 was sadly the year I fell out of love with middle grade fiction. For most of the year I struggled to get into anything that wasn’t adult or YA, neglecting the age age group (which made my recommending of new books at work a bit more difficult than previous years). The books on this list (a few which just didn’t quite make it) however reminded me just how great middle grade can actually be so thank you for that. Here are my Top 5.
5. The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson
Sophie Anderson is the author of The House With Chicken Legs which was one of my standout middle grade novels of last year and I wasn’t sure if The Girl Who Speaks Bear would be able to top it but boy, was I wrong? This frosty ursine tale is all about the importance of your past but also the importance of forging your own path and destiny in life. Inspired by the author’s Prussian grandmother’s stories this one reads just like a good old fashioned fairy tale. Sophie Anderson is quickly becoming one of the brightest stars in the children’s author sky.
4. The High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson
This book is without a doubt the most refreshing middle grade to surface in ages and I expect many more amazing things from Sharna Jackson. When a neighbour is found murdered and thrown into the rubbish chute in their high-rise apartment building, budding sleuths Nik and Norva set out to work out whodunit. I’ve read plenty of MG murder mysteries in the last few years and I have to say this is one of the best out there.
3. The Whispers by Greg Howard
Reading this book was a bit of a weird experience for me as I had not long finished reading the author’s other book Social Intercourse which focused on growing up gay in the Bible Belt of America and was also really quite funny and awkward. This one however was much more hard hitting and really bloody sad. It follows eleven year old Riley who believes in the Whispers, wish-granting fairies that live in the wood behind his house. He hopes they can bring back him mum who disappeared a few months before but as he sets out on his quest to find them he discovers some really shocking truths. This book has amazing LGBTQ+ representation and is simply beautiful in every way.
2. The Deepest Breath by Meg Greehan
If you told me I’d be reading a middle grade about a pre-teen girl working out if it is okay to like (like like-like) other girls told completely through poetry at the start of the year I would not have believed you. But it is real and it is amazing. This is the kind of book I needed growing up and I’m so glad that it exists now. It is super powerful and heartfelt and one hundred percent a necessary read.
1. The Boy With The Butterfly Mind by Victoria Williamson
My favourite middle grade book of 2019 is The Boy With The Butterfly Mind by Victoria Williamson which follows two kids, Jamie and Elin who are thrust together when it is decided that Jamie would live with his dad and his new family (who happen to be Elin and her mum). The problem is however that Jamie has severe ADHD which puts strain on not only his relationship wit his dad but on his dad’s relationship with his new family. This book creates such a raw and real narrative of a sufferer of ADHD and it broke my heart so many times. I recommend you pick this up, even if you aren’t a lover of middle grade because you will get so much out of it (and it will get a lot of tears out of you).