Marvelous Middle Grade Series (in Progress)

Middle grade readers LOVE series books. Eight- to twelve-year olds love the familiarity of well-known characters plus the excitement of multiple books worth of mystery and adventure. 

If you really want to build anticipation, introduce your readers to new books or series-in-progress. This list of diverse must-reads for middle grade are all hugely popular in my fifth grade classroom. We’ve even started waiting lists for the books that are yet-to-be published.

Get ready to get hooked and get pre-ordering!

Finally Seen (2023) by Kelly Yang 

From Kelly Yang, author of the hugely-popular (and now finished) Front Desk series, comes Finally Seen. 10-year old Lina has been living with her grandmother in Beijing for five years while her parents and younger sister establish themselves in the US. Now Lina’s moving “home” to a place she’s never been and one that doesn’t match the stories she’d been telling herself. This highly engaging story touches a number of hot-button issues including bullying, jealousy, sibling rivalry, and book bannings. 

The sequel, Finally Heard, is coming in February 2024. Promos tease that this time, Lina is granted her heart’s desire—her own phone. But she quickly discovers that social media might be more than she bargained for. I am really looking forward to this one for my fifth graders. Kelly Yang really wants to reach kids before they get their own phones, and middle grade is the perfect demographic.

Lei and the Fire Goodness (2023) by Malia Maunakea

Author Malia Maunakea brings her part-Hawaiian heritage out in full force in Lei and the Fire Goddess. Twelve-year old Anna (also part-Hawaiian) is frustrated by her grandmother’s fanciful folktales. She’s ready for a Hawaiian tourist vacation! However, she is not ready for what happens when you insult Pele the fire goddess and unleash all the elements of folktales she thought were fiction! This action-packed adventure is perfect for readers of The Serpent’s Secret series by Sayantani DasGupta or the Rick Riordan presents books. 

Book two has not been officially announced yet, but it’s always a good sign when a book already has “book one” on the spine label!

These next three books are perfect for readers looking for diverse magical schools. Want unusual variations of magic? Look no further than Alexandria Academy or Arcanum Training Institute. In both these series, the protagonists discover that “their” kind of magic is appreciated or approved by the overseeing magical institutions – a great metaphor for racism and discrimination. Want more ghosts or ghouls with your school? Try the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs.

Shad Hadid and the Alchemists of Alexandria (2022) and  Shad Hadid and the Forbidden Alchemies (2023) by George Jreije

Shad would rather be baking Arabic sweets with his teta, but he’s left with few choices after a surprise monster attack in an alley and learning he is actually an alchemist like his Lebanese father. He is hoping for answers at Alexandria Academy but finds only more questions. Why doesn’t anyone here seem to know about alchemy? What are necromancers doing at this supposedly safe school? Shad Hadid is an action-packed adventure romp with plenty of drama, friendship, and bullying thrown in. Add a dash of tasty sweets, and you’re all set! 

Bonus: you don’t have to wait for book two. Shad Hadid and the Forbidden Alchemies came out in October of 2023! 

The Marvellers (2022) by Dhonielle Clayton

Arcanum Training Institute is a literal school in the sky (and there’s a great illustration of it in the endpapers). Marvellers from around the world come to practice their cultural arts, but there has never been a conjuror before… until Ella. Ella faces mistrust from her own community and especially from the kids and teachers at school. And when a Conjuror is accused of helping a notorious criminal escape, Ella finds herself at the center of a growing mystery that reaches back into the deep past of Arcanum and that threatens its future.

Bonus: book two, The Memory Thieves (A Conjuror Novel) came out in September of 2023!

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Amari and the Night Brothers is the first book in the Supernatural Investigations trilogy by B. B. Alston. Amari has been struggling since her older brother Quinton disappeared, especially since she’s the only one who believes he’s still alive. So she is determined to make the most of her discovery of a ticking briefcase in his closet and a personalized invitation to try out for the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs. Amari discovers there is far more to her “regular” world than first meets the eye, and she is determined to find out how Quinton is wrapped up in this and what has happened to him.

Amari takes a few chapters to get started, but once it does, the action and adventure does not stop! Alston balances incredible world building with engrossing storytelling, making this one especially hard to put down.

Book two, Amari and the Great Game, is already out, and book three is underway, although the title and cover have yet to be announced.

What are your favorite diverse series for middle grade readers?

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Katie McEnaney writes books that celebrate the power of words, language, and history. She is an upper-elementary school teacher who loves introducing readers and her students to the wider world and fostering their excitement about history.

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