13 Exciting New Titles for Your Classroom Library
By Kasey Short
So far 2023 has been an amazing year for new middle grades books with many more exciting titles to come. As I plan for the new academic year, I’ve created a book list of new reads and I’m working towards including as many of these books in my classroom library as possible.
These new releases resonate with adolescent readers by reflecting diverse perspectives, voices, and themes in relatable stories that authentically capture the experiences and challenges of today’s students.
Starting the year with fresh titles that are new to most if not all students, I hope to foster engagement and curiosity. There’s always something exciting about knowing the books were recently published and discovering them together as a classroom community.
Recently Published Books
Ginny Off the Map by Caroline Hickey
This book is so delightful to read. Each chapter starts off with a fun geography fact that ties into the story line, and the main character, Ginny, is dynamic.
Ginny has a passion for geography, is struggling with her father’s being recently deployed, and trying to find her place after moving to a new town. After her summer geography camp is canceled, she tries to start her own camp in her neighborhood.
Throughout the book Ginny learns more about herself and her family while finding ways to cope with her dad being gone.
Once There Was by Kiyash Monsef
This coming-of-age fantasy novel draws the reader into a world where fantastic creatures are living among us and addresses real world issues that we are facing.
Marjan, an Iranian American teen girl who is essentially living on her own after her father’s death, discovers that she has inherited the power to help heal mythical creatures. As she works to aid these animals, she is also searching for who killed her father, navigating middle school friendships, and discovering other truths about her world.
In the end Marjan must make difficult choices. Marjan is a fantastic example of a hero, and the reader learns so much from her about grief, identity, and bravery.
A Work in Progress by Jarrett Lerner
This story will engage readers with its powerful story and diverse format that combines prose, poetry, and images. Will’s entire self-concept shifts when he is called fat. He struggles with his body image and tries to hide his body in baggy clothes, strives to be unnoticed and begins to struggle with an eating disorder.
Then he finds a true friend who, along with therapy, helps him begin to like himself again. A Work in Progress shows how hurtful words can be and the power of friendship, and tackles body image issues honestly.
Good Different by Meg Eden Kuyatt
This novel in verse tells the story of a neurodivergent girl who is learning about herself and how to navigate school and friendships. She tries to follow the rules that she thinks will make her like everyone else and to blend in but ultimately realizes that isn’t going to work when she risks being expelled from school.
She then finds her voice through poetry and can use words to share herself and her feelings with her school.
Ay, Mija: My Bilingual Summer in Mexico by Christine Suggs
This bilingual debut graphic novel is a coming-of-age story that will draw in readers with its vibrant illustrations and authentic story.
Christine explores a solo trip she took to visit family in Mexico as a child. Throughout the story she discovers her identity, working to find where she belongs and how best to communicate with her family that speaks a different language.
She learns a lot about herself and her history while developing deeper relationships with her family.
School Trip by Jerry Craft
This third book in the New Kid series by Jerry Craft continues the storyline of the kids from Riverdale Academy, and it may be my favorite so far.
Jordan and his friends go on a class trip to Paris where everyone comes with varied experiences and expectations, but they all must navigate it together.
It can be read as a stand-alone graphic novel, but I anticipate students who have read the first two will be thrilled to see the third one.
Nic Blake and the Remarkables: The Manifesto Prophecy by Angie Thomas
This fantasy story is inspired by African American folktales and history and captivates the reader with humor, suspense, and creative magical elements.
Nic Blake is a remarkable girl living in our unremarkable world, and on her birthday she discovers that much of what she knew about her family wasn’t true. She then goes on an adventure with her best friend and recently discovered twin brother to prove her father’s innocence.
The story weaves fantastical elements into the real world, while powerfully connecting to history and current events.
We Still Belong by Christine Day – August 1st
Another fantastic book by Christine Day. The book covers one day of Wesley’s life as she explores her identity and discovers the importance of community.
Wesley is culturally Upper Skagit but not an official tribe member and is looking forward to sharing her poem on Indigenous People’s Day, but things don’t go exactly how she planned.
The book showcases the impact of stereotypes, the value of kindness, the importance of family, and celebration of Native heritage. Wesley is a character that students will connect to and wish they could be her friend.
Top Story: Front Desk #5 by Kelly Yang – September 5th
The fifth book in the Front Desk series is a must read for this school year. Students can’t get enough of Mia’s adventures.
This book will tell her winter break adventure in Chinatown where she is looking for a story to publish during her journalism camp. Like most of Mia’s other adventures, she has many obstacles to overcome.
If anyone can find the words to craft a “top story,” it is Mia Tang!
Mari and the Curse of El Cocodrilo by Adrianna Cuevas – October 3rd
This nontraditional fantasy novel tells the story of Mari, a Cuban American girl who rejects her family traditions and must work to break a curse of bad luck that is impacting everyone around her.
Throughout the story Mari learns about her family history by meeting their ghosts, navigates her own identity, works through conflicts with her friends, and discovers she has what it takes to defeat the curse of El Cocodrilo.
Eli Over Easy by Phil Stamper – October 3rd
This coming-of-age story dives deep into Eli’s grief as he struggles to cope with his mother’s recent death from Covid.
Eli thinks he is going to spend his summer doing online coding courses but then finds videos of his mom cooking. He works with a new friend to learn how to recreate his mother’s recipes while hiding his project from his father.
The book skillfully addresses complex topics in an appropriate and relatable way for middle grades readers.
Tethered to Other Stars by Elisa Stone Leahy – October 3rd
This debut novel is raw, honest, captivating, and shines light on important issues today.
Wendy loves astronomy and wants to build a telescope that will help her win the science fair, but her parents want her to stay out of the spotlight to avoid issues with ICE. Wendy is confronted with school bullies who are making her and friends’ lives difficult while she is discovering family secrets and navigating complex immigration issues.
This story shows the value of speaking up even when it is difficult.
Treasure Island: Runaway Gold by Jewell Parker Rhodes – October 3rd
Jewell Parker Rhodes is always a favorite among students, and her new book will quickly join the stack of her other well-loved books.
She takes the classic story and transforms it into an adventurous modern tale set in New York. Zane, his friends, and his dog set off to find treasure based on an old treasure map.
Through their quest they learn about black history, work to avoid a rival skateboard crew, and discover who they can really trust.
Kasey Short (@shortisweet3) is the Middle School Director of Studies and an 8th Grade English Teacher and Advisor at Charlotte (NC) Country Day School. Kasey loves to share ideas from her classroom and writes frequently for MiddleWeb. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned a bachelor of arts in middle school education with a concentration in English and history. She went on to earn a master’s in curriculum and instruction from Winthrop University.