2023 Staff Picks: Middle Grade Books

The Eyes and the Impossible

The Eyes and the Impossible By Dave Eggers; illustrated by Shawn Harris

NEWBERY MEDAL WINNER #1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An enthralling middle-grade novel by award-winning author Dave Eggers, told from the perspective of one uniquely endearing dog— featuring beautiful color artwork with illustrations by Caldecott honoree Shawn Harris.
 
“Johannes is a highly engaging narrator whose exuberance and good nature run like a bright thread through the novel’s pages.” —The New York Times

Johannes, a free dog, lives in an urban park by the sea. His job is to be the Eyes—to see everything that happens within the park and report back to the park’s elders, three ancient Bison. His friends—a seagull, a raccoon, a squirrel, and a pelican—work with him as the Assistant Eyes, observing the humans and other animals who share the park and making sure the Equilibrium is in balance. 

But changes are afoot. More humans, including Trouble Travelers, arrive in the park. A new building, containing mysterious and hypnotic rectangles, goes up. And then there are the goats—an actual boatload of goats—who appear, along with a shocking revelation that changes Johannes’s view of the world.

A story about friendship, beauty, liberation, and running very, very fast, The Eyes & the Impossible will make readers of all ages see the world around them in a wholly new way.

Not an Easy Win

Not an Easy Win By Chrystal D. Giles

FOUR STARRED REVIEWS! Twelve-year old Lawrence is new to chess--can he find a way to get on the board, even though the odds are stacked against him?

Find out in this powerful novel about family, forgiveness, and figuring out who you are when you don’t make the rules—just right for middle-grade fans of Nic Stone and Jason Reynolds.

*“Essential middle grade and tween realistic reading.”—School Library Journal, starred Review


Lawrence is ready for a win. . . .

Nothing’s gone right for Lawrence since he had to move from Charlotte to Larenville, North Carolina, to live with his granny. When Lawrence ends up in one too many fights at his new school, he gets expelled. The fight wasn’t his fault, but since his pop’s been gone, it feels like no one listens to what Lawrence has to say.

Instead of going to school, Lawrence starts spending his days at the rec center, helping out a neighbor who runs a chess program. Some of the kids in the program will be picked to compete in the Charlotte Classic chess tournament. Could this be Lawrence's chance to go home?

Lawrence doesn’t know anything about chess, but something about the center—and the kids there—feels right. Lawrence thought the game was over . . . but does he have more moves left than he thought?

Wrecker

Wrecker By Carl Hiaasen

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • Wrecker needs to deal with smugglers, grave robbers, and pooping iguanas—just as soon as he finishes Zoom school. Welcome to another wild adventure in Carl Hiaasen's Florida!

Valdez Jones VIII calls himself Wrecker because his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather salvaged shipwrecks for a living. 

So is it destiny, irony, or just bad luck when Wrecker comes across a speedboat that has run hard aground on a sand flat? The men in the boat don't want Wrecker to call for help—in fact, they'll pay him to forget he ever saw them. 

Wrecker would be happy to forget, but he keeps seeing these men all over Key West—at the marina, in the cemetery, even right outside his own door. And now they want more than his silence—they want a lookout.

He'll have to dive deep into their shady dealings to figure out a way to escape this tangled net. . . .

Something Like Home

Something Like Home By Andrea Beatriz Arango

The Pura Belpré Honor winning novel in verse, in which a lost dog helps a lonely girl find a way home to her family . . . only for them to find family in each other along the way. From the Newbery Honor winning author of Iveliz Explains It All.

“Trust me: this book will touch your heart." —Barbara O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of Wish


Titi Silvia leaves me by myself to unpack,
but it’s not like I brought a bunch of stuff.
How do you prepare for the unpreparable?
How do you fit your whole life in one bag?
And how am I supposed to trust social services
when they won’t trust me back?

Laura Rodríguez Colón has a plan: no matter what the grown-ups say, she will live with her parents again. Can you blame her? It’s tough to make friends as the new kid at school. And while staying at her aunt’s house is okay, it just isn’t the same as being in her own space.

So when Laura finds a puppy, it seems like fate. If she can train the puppy to become a therapy dog, then maybe she’ll be allowed to visit her parents. Maybe the dog will help them get better and things will finally go back to the way they should be.

After all, how do you explain to others that you’re technically a foster kid, even though you live with your aunt? And most importantly . . . how do you explain that you’re not where you belong, and you just want to go home?

Random House Teachers and Librarians