My Top 5 Most Anticipated Middle Grade Books of 2018

I don’t know about you, but I’m super excited to read a bunch of new books in 2018. This year I’ve signed up to do a goodreads reading challenge of 100 books. Now, that might not sound like a lot for a book enthusiast like me, but I love books so much I’ve literally made it my job and I spend all day reading books that I hope (with my help) will make it to bookshelves nationwide for all to enjoy. But, in the meantime, there are a bunch of exciting new novels coming out this year, and I have big (reading) dreams for 2018.

This year I’m selecting my Top 5 Most Anticipated Books of 2018 for all of the best kid’s book genres: Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade, YA, and Poetry. And I’m starting with my most favorite genre of all: Middle Grade. (PS – I’m taking clients for 2018 and I just LOVE editing middle grade, so…well, let’s chat if you’ve got one in the works.)

Let’s get started.

#5 The Button War

I mean, come on, it’s Avi. Who doesn’t love Avi? I would argue that Avi is one of the most talented and prolific children’s authors of our time, having published over 70 books from picture books to young adult. With such a huge body of work, there is something for even the most reluctant of readers and if you haven’t read anything by Avi yet, two of my favorites are Poppy and The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. I’m particularly excited, however, to try out his upcoming book The Button War: A Tale of the Great War.

The story follows twelve-year-old Patryk, who knows little beyond his tiny Polish village, as the Great War unfurls around him. While the world Patryk knew is coming to an end, his friend Jurek challenges the villages kids in a game: whichever boy steals the finest military button will be king. But as the challenge progresses, so does the means by which the children steal the buttons, including from the bodies of dead soldiers. Eventually the lines between the button war and the Great War cross, especially for Jurek, Patryk, and the boys who must prove themselves while their game spirals rapidly out of control. Avi is a master of historical fiction and delivers edge-of-your-seat, history-based books for children time and again. I think it’s safe to assume The Button War will do no less.

#4 Shadow Weaver

I have been itching for a new book with magic in a big way, and Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate Connolly fits the bill. I LOVE a good story that explores mythologies in new ways, this one featuring the shadow mythology really gets me excited. Probably my favorite depiction of the shadow is found in Ursula K LeGuin’s first book in her Earthsea series, A Wizard of Earthsea, where Ged faces the shadow, and then of course I cannot mention the shadow without mentioning Star Wars. I could go on and on…but I just can’t wait to see how this mythology unfolds in this new book.

Our heroine, Emmeline, is gifted with the ability to control shadows, and her only friend is her own shadow, named Dar. But, when Emmeline’s gift is threatened, she makes a deal with Dar: if Dar helps to protect Emmeline, Emmeline will help Dar become flesh. But as their plan is thwarted, more obstacles arise, and Emmeline begins to lose trust in her closest friend…but it’s hard to keep secrets from your shadow.

#3 Hurricane Child

Ever partial to a little bit of regional lore and reluctant heroines, I felt obliged to add Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender to the list. Living in Florida, and previously along the North Carolina coast, I have endured more than a few hurricanes, so a story about twelve-year-old Caroline––born during a storm and called a Hurricane Child––who rises above her own bad luck in big ways through friendship and love, inspires me.

Life has been hard for Caroline from the moment she was born, and worst of all, her mother is never coming home. Filled with grief, Caroline is determined to find her mom, but when a new student arrives, Kalinda, things begin to change for Caroline. As the two girls search for Caroline’s mother together, they discover they share the same gift, and they heal together through friendship. With a touch of magic realism, Hurricane Child is not to be missed.

#2 Where the Watermelons Grow

Okay, let me be honest. With this book I am ALL IN because : LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION. As all’a’y’all know, I’ve got a sweet spot for NC and any book that takes place in my home state of North Carolina really gets me excited. Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin highlights all the regional things I know so well: butter beans (they are like little limas), the bees (NC has the BEST honey), and of course the watermelons.

When Della’s mom becomes sick, Della knows just what to do––she’ll get a jar of magic honey from the Bee Lady, and then Mama will stop hearing the people who aren’t really there once and for all. But with Daddy struggling on the farm, and Della picking up the slack at home, she struggles to hear the truth about her jar of magic honey. It takes a whole summer, but eventually Della is able to listen to what the Bee Lady is trying to say, and Della thinks maybe the key to helping Mama lies in her own acceptance, rather than a jar of watermelon honey.

#1 Willa of the Wood

Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m partial. Not only does this beauty take place in the breathtaking Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina, not only is this book authored by the same talent––Robert Beatty––who penned the Serafina Series, but I also served as an editor on the project (twice!), and so I hold it near and dear to my heart. Years ago I read the first three chapters of Willa, long before any of the Serafina books were signed, and boy oh boy did I hope beyond hope Willa’s story would come alive. Well, I’ve read a copy of Willa of the Wood (though not the copy) and I can not WAIT until summer 2018 when you can pick up this gem too.

Willa is a a nightspirit of the mountains…and a thief. She spends her nights rummaging through the objects of the day-folk and her days escaping the harsh life of her clan. But, when her curiosity leads her to a dangerously close encounter with her enemy, she’s surprised to discover that perhaps her biggest threats lay a little closer to home. Soon enough, everything she understood about her people––and their biggest enemy––is changed forever.

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