Welcome to 2023! Usually, middle grade books make up the large bulk of my reading, but last year I read more non-fiction and adult fiction than usual. What my list lacked in quantity, however, it made up in quality. Some incredible middle grade literature is being published these days. Even though I re-read a lot of old favorites of classic children's literature, I'm deliberately only including new books on this list; the first three were published in 2022 and the final two are slated for 2023, so you can add them to your TBR list!
1. Miraculous, by Caroline Starr Rose. This one stood out for its incredible character development and old-fashioned style. I could have imagined writing L. M. Montgomery writing a story like this.
2. The Star that Always Stays, by Anna Rose Johnson. I'm happy to see that books with old-fashioned feel are making a comeback! This debut novel by Anna Rose Johnson is everything I love in historical fiction: funny, atmospheric, and unhurried. It reminded me so much of Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy-Tacy series.
3. My Own Lightning, by Lauren Wolk. I have learned so much about writing from reading Lauren Wolk's middle grade books. This is the sequel to her Newbery-acclaimed Wolf Hollow, but I loved this about a hundred times more; Wolf Hollow impressed and moved me, but I found it very tense and stressful. This lacked none of the drama, but was a gentler, more enjoyable read for me.
4. What Happened to Rachel Riley? by Claire Swinarski. As I mentioned in my review of this book, I normally don't read a lot of books with modern, technology-driven vibes. This was the exception to the rule—it's told via podcast transcripts and texts and emails—and I loved it. It releases next week, so you still have time to pre-order!
5. The Labors of Hercules Beal, by Gary D. Schmidt. This doesn't come out until May, and the ARC is freshly closed for me. I wish you could read it now, because it's brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I rarely do this, but I'm re-reading it again right now—actually I'm reading it aloud to my husband. We're both writers, and Gary D. Schmidt's writing is worth studying. The stand-out element here is the way Schmidt's prose seems so simple and straightforward, yet you catch your breath once at the beginning and never let it go all the rest of the novel.
(Also, it's set on Cape Cod, which is one of my favorite places in the world.)
Finally, a shout out to two early readers—not quite fair to count them in the same category as MG novels, but I loved them just the same: The Pursuit of the Pilfered Cheese, and The Curious Christmas Trail, both by Haley Stewart. Good, sweet, and very fun mysteries for the earliest readers.
What were your favorite MG reads in 2022? What are you looking forward to in the new year?
Hi! I'm Faith. I blog about books and creativity, family and faith. Welcome!