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Staff Picks-Middle School Readers

Try one of these books on for size!

Read more about the author of the Vanderbeekers' below!

Karina Yan Glaser is the author of the Vanderbeeker series and the standalone middle-grade novel A Duet for Home. She is a contributing editor for Book Riot and lives in Harlem in New York City with her husband, two kids, and an assortment of rescue animals and houseplants. One of her proudest achievements is raising kids who can't go anywhere without a book. The seventh and final book in the Vanderbeeker series is The Vanderbeekers Ever After (Clarion Books).

Handsell readers your book in 25 words or less:

The Vanderbeekers are a family of seven living in Harlem along with many pets, weathering life's ups and downs together with joy, heart, and humor.

On your nightstand now:

I am currently reading Ducks: Two Years on the Oil Sands, a graphic memoir by Kate Beaton. It's geared for readers 16-up, and I love how beautiful Kate's art is, and how she brings us into her life as a young college graduate looking to pay off her student debt by working in Canada's rich oil sands. While the pay is good, life there is harsh and unforgiving, and it doesn't help that Kate is one of very few women working there.

Favorite book when you were a child:

The Baby-Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin! I was like Mary Anne, but I wanted to be like Stacey or Claudia. My favorite book in the series was New York, New York! (Super Special Edition #6). I also loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith and From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg. You might sense a theme in my favorite books--they were all set in New York City.

Your top five authors:

Only five?

First off, I love everything Jacqueline Woodson writes. My favorite is Brown Girl Dreaming. It's brilliant in audiobook form--Jackie reads it herself and it is perfect. Rebecca Stead captures the middle-grade voice in such a brilliant way; my favorite of her books is A List of Things that Will Not Change. Gary D. Schmidt made me fall in love with middle-grade books, and I reread The Wednesday Wars every year and cry over that story.

I love each and every graphic novel that Victoria Jamieson has written and illustrated. She captures middle school in such an authentic and funny way. Rita Williams-Garcia can write like no one else. After reading A Sitting in St. James, I bought a bunch more copies to share with my friends and family.

Book you've faked reading:

Probably J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye? I had to read that in high school English class, and I could not get into it.

Book you're an evangelist for:

All Thirteen by Christina Soontornvat. I read that book in one afternoon and instantly recommended it to everyone I knew. Even though I knew the ending, I was utterly enthralled with each page!

Book you've bought for the cover:

Hello NY: An Illustrated Love Letter to the Five Boroughs by Julia Rothman. I will pretty much buy any book about New York City, and this one is a favorite. I love books that capture the essence of New York City and the people who live here. I also love Every Person in New York by Jason Polan.

Book you hid from your parents:

I was lucky that my mom didn't really keep track of what I was reading. I don't really think I had to hide any books from her!

Book that changed your life:

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read this book so many times as a middle schooler. There is a part in the beginning where Francie is stepping into the public library and promising herself that one day, she will have a desk just like the one in the library, and a row of freshly sharpened pencils for writing, and a bowl with flowers, and so many books. And I held that passage in the book like a prayer when I was growing up, because that was what I wanted for myself. As I went through middle school and high school, I had that concrete goal for myself that helped me through a lot of difficult times.

Favorite line from a book:

"Someday we will become something we haven't even yet imagined." --Yuyi Morales, from her picture book Dreamers.

Five books you'll never part with:

How about 500 books? Okay, fine, five. But this is really tough!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The Power Broker by Robert A. Caro
Ashley Bryan's Puppets by Ashley Bryan
Devotions by Mary Oliver

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill. I remember reading this on a (very) rare weekend away when my kids were young. My husband and I rented an Airbnb room in Lancaster, Pa., and it was snowy and cold. I remember picking up The Girl Who Drank the Moon and already knowing that I would love it. I spent the day reading in bed and it was all very cozy and happy and restful. Whenever I see the book, I think about that peaceful afternoon.

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NEWBERY HONOR AWARD • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • SCHNEIDER FAMILY BOOK AWARD HONOR “Funny, poignant and—most important—hopeful.” —New York Times Simon O’Keeffe’s biggest claim to fame should be the time his dad accidentally gave a squirrel a holy sacrament. Or maybe the alpaca disast ... Read More about
Dan Santat
Current price: $14.99
*Winner of the 2023 National Book Award for Young People's Literature* A middle grade graphic memoir based on bestselling author and Caldecott Medalist Dan Santat's awkward middle school years and the trip to Europe that changed his life. Dan's always been a good kid. The kind of kid who listens t ... Read More about
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Morgan Matson
Current price: $18.99
Three starred reviews!“Heartfelt and hilarious, witty and wise, with indelible characters and laugh-out-loud humor. A fantastic read for any season of the year.” —Stuart Gibbs, New York Times bestselling author In New York Times bestselling author Morgan Matson’s middle grade debut “brimming with he ... Read More about
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Alexandra Alessandri
Current price: $17.99
Encanto meets The Chronicles of Narnia by way of Colombian folklore in this middle grade fantasy adventure. To save their father’s life, a brother and sister must journey across a land full of mythical creatures and find the most powerful and dangerous of them all: the madremonte. Twelve-year-old Va ... Read More about
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Newbery Medalist and New York Times bestselling author Lois Lowry transports readers to an Iron Age world through the suspenseful dual narrative of a boy and girl both battling to survive. In an utterly one-of-a-kind blend of fiction and history, a master storyteller explores the mystery and life of ... Read More about
Usually Ships in 1 to 5 Days
Kate O'Shaughnessy
Current price: $17.99
What are the essential ingredients that make a family? Eleven-year-old Mo is making up her own recipe in this unforgettable story that's a little sweet, a little sour, and totally delicious. Nan was all the family Mo ever needed. But suddenly she’s gone, and Mo finds herself in foster care after her ... Read More about
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Gordon Korman
Current price: $19.99
From Gordon Korman, the bestselling author of Restart and The Unteachables, comes a hilarious new story about a mysterious new teacher who turns out to be an AI robot from a secret experimental program. Oliver Zahn, spitball champion and self-declared rule-wrecker of Brightling Middle School, is not ... Read More about
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Cassandra Rose Clarke
Current price: $6.99
Star Trek: Prodigy is a brand-new animated series streaming on Paramount+ and airing on Nickelodeon! Don’t miss this thrilling, all-new original middle grade novel starring Dal, Gwyn, and the rest of the Protostar crew. While traveling through the Delta Quadrant, the Protostar crew discovers a worn ... Read More about
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Claire Swinarski
Previous price: $19.99 Current price: $16.99
ALA Notable Children's Book Regional Indie Bestseller Edgar Award Nominee Cybils Award Nominee YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults New York Public Library Best Book of the Year Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Amazon Best Book of the Year SLJ Best Book of the Year Texas Lone Star Reading List ... Read More about
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Jasmine Warga
Current price: $19.99
New York Times bestseller * Best Book of the Year from The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library The One and Only Ivan meets The Wild Robot in this unique and deeply moving middle grade novel about the journey of a fictional Mars rover, from the Newbery ... Read More about
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Karina Yan Glaser
Current price: $9.99
Return to Harlem's "wildly entertaining" family in this funny, heartwarming sequel. When catastrophe strikes their beloved upstairs neighbors, the Vanderbeeker children set out to build the best, most magical healing garden in Harlem—in spite of a locked fence, thistles and trash, and the conflictin ... Read More about
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Betty Smith
Previous price: $28.99 Current price: $26.99
A PBS Great American Read Top 100 Pick The beloved American classic about a young girl's coming-of-age at the turn of the twentieth century. From the moment she entered the world, Francie needed to be made of stern stuff, for the often harsh life of Williamsburg demanded fortitude, precocity, and s ... Read More about
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Rebecca Stead
Current price: $16.99
EIGHT STARRED REVIEWS! The reassuring book kids and families need right now. "An absolute original . . . a story that kids will love." --R. J. Palacio, bestselling author of Wonder At a time when everything is changing for Bea and her family, the important things will always stay the same. A soon-to ... Read More about
Mildred D. Taylor
Current price: $9.99
The stunning repackage of a timeless Newbery Award Winner, with cover art by two-time Caldecott Honor Award winner Kadir Nelson! With the land to hold them together, nothing can tear the Logans apart. Why is the land so important to Cassie's family? It takes the events of one turbulent year—the yea ... Read More about
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Gary D. Schmidt
Previous price: $9.99 Current price: $8.99
In this Newbery Honor–winning novel, Gary D. Schmidt tells the witty and compelling story of a teenage boy who feels that fate has it in for him. Seventh grader Holling Hoodhood isn't happy. He is sure his new teacher, Mrs. Baker, hates his guts. Throughout the school year, Holling strives to get a ... Read More about
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Beloved Coretta Scott King Award–winning storyteller and creator Ashley Bryan reveals the vibrant spirit of found objects in this magnificent treasury of poetry and puppets. Little Cranberry Island. It’s a small island, with fewer than a hundred inhabitants, but it’s got more than its share of treas ... Read More about
Usually Ships in 1 to 5 Days
A Time Best YA Book of All Time (2021) Run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art with E. L. Konigsburg’s beloved classic and Newbery Medal­–winning novel From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler! When Claudia decided to run away, she planned very carefully. She would be gone just long e ... Read More about
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Jacqueline Woodson
Current price: $10.99
Jacqueline Woodson's National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner is a powerful memoir that tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse. A President Obama "O" Book Club pick Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she sh ... Read More about
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