As a youth services staff member, I have a soft spot for middle grade books. After the creation of We Need Diverse Books a few years ago, I’ve started paying closer attention to what stories and perspectives are being told in children’s books. While the numbers are still overwhelmingly white (as reported by Lee & Low’s annual 2019 Diversity in Publishing survey), I think the past few years have given more awareness to great books that feature all children. This reading list contains just a few recent publications that you may not have heard of but you definitely should add to your to-be-read pile, as they’re perfect for adults and children alike!
These books are all realistic fiction to help narrow down your selection and I don’t think my list covers every book, which just speaks to how many great books there are. As usual, the links below go to the VPL catalogue where you can request these titles and read more about them!
The Best At It by Maulik Pancholy. This wonderful book is about twelve year old Rahul Kapoor, a seventh grader who wants to stand up to his bullies by proving that he is the best at something. Now all that’s left for him to do is to figure out what that special something is. This heartwarming story has wonderful gay representation and great discussions about mental health. I’m not the only one that thinks so, as this book is a Stonewall Honor Book and generated 3 starred reviews from trade reviews like Publishers Weekly and Kirkus Reviews.
Manga can seem intimidating for new readers because of long series, such as One Piece that has over 100 volumes. It’s hard for readers to get into the form if you don’t know where to start. As an avid manga reader, I decided it would be great to recommend some series that are really short or even stand-alone volumes so any reader can pick them up! Despite some (untrue) preconceptions about how most series typically focus on high school drama or are way too sports-focused, there are so many great mangas that have hidden depth.
For the first recommendation, I have to recommend Yoko Nogiri’s Love in Focus series. It is one of my all-time favourites and only has 3 lovely volumes. It features Mako, an aspiring photographer who takes after her grandfather. Mako travels to the countryside and finds herself in a new dorm where she makes new friends who share her passion for photography. While there is a bit of a love triange in this one, I adored the art style and Mako’s thoughts and experiences with photography especially as it relates to her connection with her grandfather. It’s a series that’s ideal for binge-reading, so I recommend requesting all 3 volumes at once.
This year has felt both like the longest AND the shortest year ever, but luckily we had books to pull us through! On that note, here is a list of all the books we read this year and recommend!
All blurbs include links to the VPL catalogue where you can request and borrow these books for yourself! Happy reading!
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
“Never pray to the gods that answer after dark” is the refrain of Schwab’s latest novel. I would have every page of this book tattooed on the inside of my eyelids if I could, so I would never have to stop reading it. In this ambitious novel—ten whole years in the making—Addie Larue sells her soul to a dark god in a bid for freedom from her tiny 18th century French village. Of course, like all deals with the devil, this one comes with a price: as soon as she leaves the room, no one will remember her. Freedom, indeed. Addie is damned to a life of immortality in the shadows, unable to form lasting connections or leave her mark. She travels through the rough streets of pre-revolution Paris, to refined Parisian salons, to artist’s studios in Florence. In 2014 New York, however, Addie meets the only person in 300 years who remembers her—why is he able to break the curse? And why does the world seem to bend to his will? Schwab’s novel about loneliness and memory is sumptuous, as is the dynamic between the iron-willed Addie and the seductive Darkness to whom she owes her soul. I’m admittedly a big fan of Schwab’s work, but Addie Larue is easily her best work to date. Would I sell my soul to this devil? Yes, yes I would.