Book List, Holiday, Seasonal Picks

Jólabókaflóð: Middle Grades

The last few holiday seasons at the store, we’ve really embraced the idea of celebrating Jólabókaflóð, an Icelandic tradition of giving your loved ones a book and hot chocolate on Christmas Eve. It just feels like a tradition that fits an indie bookstore so perfectly.

This morning we’re sharing the middle grade novels we have on display! The majority of our booksellers are very enthusiastic middle grade and young adult readers, so you’re sure to find some books on this list for the kids on your list! We’ll be sharing the young adult titles this afternoon, so stay tuned!

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake & Jon Klassen

Badger’s idyllic lifestyle of living alone and doing Very Important Rock Work is disrupted when the quirky and loveable Skunk shows up on Badger’s doorstep. Skunk has many noisy and unruly chicken friends, but he is also a whiz in the kitchen and cooks Badger a delicious breakfast. Badger, torn between wanting peace and calm and having fun with Skunk, will encounter several delightful surprises as he realizes he’s been a fool.


Wallace and Gromit meets Winnie-the-Pooh in a fresh take on a classic odd-couple friendship, from Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake with full-color and black-and-white illustrations throughout by Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen.
No one wants a skunk.
They are unwelcome on front stoops. They should not linger in Important Rock Rooms. Skunks should never, ever be allowed to move in. But Skunk is Badger’s new roommate, and there is nothing Badger can do about it.
When Skunk plows into Badger’s life, everything Badger knows is upended. Tails are flipped. The wrong animal is sprayed. And why-oh-why are there so many chickens?
Newbery Honor author Amy Timberlake spins the first tale in a series about two opposites who need to be friends.
New York Times bestselling author/illustrator and Caldecott Medalist Jon Klassen completes the book with his signature lushly textured art. This beautifully bound edition contains both full-color plates and numerous black-and-white illustrations.
Skunk and Badger is a book you’ll want to read, reread, and read out loud . . . again and again.

A Place at the Table by Saadia Faruqi & Laura Shovan

I loved this big-hearted middle grade novel for so many reasons. It’s told in alternating chapters in the voices of Sara and Elizabeth, who meet at their middle-school cooking club. Sara is forced to attend because her Pakistani mom is teaching the class, and Elizabeth is a willing participant because her British mother has stopped cooking. Both girls’ mothers are studying to be American citizens and the girls forge a friendship to help their moms.


A timely, accessible, and beautifully written story exploring themes of food, friendship, family and what it means to belong, featuring sixth graders Sara, a Pakistani American, and Elizabeth, a white, Jewish girl taking a South Asian cooking class taught by Sara’s mom.
Sixth graders Sara and Elizabeth could not be more different. Sara is at a new school that is completely unlike the small Islamic school she used to attend. Elizabeth has her own problems: her British mum has been struggling with depression. The girls meet in an after-school South Asian cooking class, which Elizabeth takes because her mom has stopped cooking, and which Sara, who hates to cook, is forced to attend because her mother is the teacher. The girls form a shaky alliance that gradually deepens, and they make plans to create the most amazing, mouth-watering cross-cultural dish together and win a spot on a local food show. They make good cooking partners . . . but can they learn to trust each other enough to become true friends? 

The Library of Ever by Zeno Alexander

With a storytelling style reminiscent of Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, THE LIBRARY OF EVER transports you into a beautiful, fantastical world where books and knowledge are tools used to fight against darkness and lies. Lenora is a plucky, brave heroine and her adventures in the library are such a thrill ride your heart will be pounding long after the last page. This is a story all book lovers should read.


The Library of Ever is an instant classic for middle grade readers and booklovers everywhere—an adventure across time and space, as a young girl becomes a warrior for the forces of knowledge.
With her parents off traveling the globe, Lenora is bored, bored, bored—until she discovers a secret doorway into the ultimate library. Mazelike and reality-bending, the library contains all the universe’s wisdom. Every book ever written, and every fact ever known, can be found within its walls. And Lenora becomes its newly appointed Fourth Assistant Apprentice Librarian.
She rockets to the stars, travels to a future filled with robots, and faces down a dark nothingness that wants to destroy all knowledge. To save the library, Lenora will have to test her limits and uncover secrets hidden among its shelves.

The Elephant’s Girl by Celesta Rimington

An enchanting middle grade novel of contemporary fiction with a touch of magical realism combine in this story of a young girl’s telepathic bond with the elephant that saved her life and her search for her lost family. Wonderfully written and full of magic, mystery, and animals, The Elephant’s Girl is a lovely tale of belonging and is perfect for anyone who has always wanted to know what their favorite animal is thinking.


A magical adventure about a girl with a mysterious connection with the elephant who saved her life, for fans of Katherine Applegate and Jennifer Holm.
An elephant never forgets, but Lexington Willow can’t remember what happened before a tornado swept her away when she was a toddler. All she knows is that it landed her near an enclosure in a Nebraska zoo; and there an elephant named Nyah protected her from the storm. With no trace of her birth family, Lex grew up at the zoo with Nyah and her elephant family; her foster father, Roger; her best friend, Fisher; and the wind whispering in her ear.
Now that she’s twelve, Lex is finally old enough to help with the elephants. But during their first training session, Nyah sends her a telepathic image of the woods outside the zoo. Despite the wind’s protests, Lex decides to investigate Nyah’s message and gets wrapped up in an adventure involving ghosts, lost treasure, and a puzzle that might be the key to finding her family. As she hunts for answers, Lex must summon the courage to leave the secure borders of her zoo to discover who she really is–and why the tornado brought her here all those years ago.

Elizabeth Webster and the Court of Uncommon Pleas by William Lashner

Thirteen-year-old Elizabeth Webster fights ghosts and demons in the weirdest court of law ever in this zany middle-grade adventure. From the first line you’ll feel pulled into a noir film, with sarcastic and awkward Elizabet as your hard-boiled but loveable narrator. Part mystery, part courtroom drama, part ghost story, this is the perfect book or anyone who’s ever felt like the odd one out and/or enjoys a ghostly court case.


Welcome to Elizabeth Webster’s world, where the common laws of middle school torment her days . . . and the uncommon laws of an even weirder realm govern her nights.
Elizabeth Webster is happy to stay under the radar (and under her bangs) until middle school is dead and gone. But when star swimmer Henry Harrison asks Elizabeth to tutor him in math, it’s not linear equations Henry really needs help with-it’s a flower-scented, poodle-skirt-wearing, head-tossing ghost who’s calling out Elizabeth’s name.
But why Elizabeth? Could it have something to do with her missing lawyer father? Maybe. Probably. If only she could find him. In her search, Elizabeth discovers more than she is looking for: a grandfather she never knew, a startling legacy, and the secret family law firm, Webster & Son, Attorneys for the Damned.
Elizabeth and her friends soon land in court, where demons and ghosts take the witness stand and a red-eyed judge with a ratty white wig hands out sentences like sandwiches. Will Elizabeth’s father arrive in time to save Henry Harrison-and is Henry the one who really needs saving?
Set in the historic streets of Philadelphia, this riveting middle-grade mystery from New York Times bestselling author William Lashner will have readers banging their gavels and calling for more from the incomparable Elizabeth Webster.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Another gem of a series from Suzanne Collins, Gregor the Overlander follows Gregor as he accidentally uncovers the secret of the Underland after following his sister down an old air duct. Here, he meets rats as big as him and other humans who don’t quite look like him. Gregor gets sucked into the drama and action of prophecies and overdue rescues. Join him as he tries to make his way back to his home in the Overland with his whole family.


Gregor the Overlander joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!
When Gregor falls through a grate in the laundry room of his apartment building, he hurtles into the dark Underland, where spiders, rats, cockroaches coexist uneasily with humans. This world is on the brink of war, and Gregor’s arrival is no accident. A prophecy foretells that Gregor has a role to play in the Underland’s uncertain future. Gregor wants no part of it — until he realizes it’s the only way to solve the mystery of his father’s disappearance. Reluctantly, Gregor embarks on a dangerous adventure that will change both him and the Underland forever.
This unforgettable novel by Suzanne Collins, the international bestselling author of the Hunger Games series, is rich in suspense and brimming with adventure.

Nowhere Boy by Katherine Marsh

This book will open your eyes to a different world than that which most of us know. In it, we meet Ahmed, a Syrian refugee who moved to Brussels Belgium with his family. Or tried to. Not everyone made it over successfully, so on top of assimilating to a new home where everything is unfamiliar – the people, the language, the culture – Ahmed is now all alone. Until he meets Max, an American boy who is also struggling to cope with the change that moving to Belgium brought. Their friendship blossoms beautifully, and inspires each of them to be brave.


Fourteen-year-old Ahmed is stuck in a city that wants nothing to do with him. Newly arrived in Brussels, Belgium, Ahmed fled a life of uncertainty and suffering in Aleppo, Syria, only to lose his father on the perilous journey to the shores of Europe. Now Ahmed’s struggling to get by on his own, but with no one left to trust and nowhere to go, he’s starting to lose hope.
Then he meets Max, a thirteen-year-old American boy from Washington, D.C. Lonely and homesick, Max is struggling at his new school and just can’t seem to do anything right. But with one startling discovery, Max and Ahmed’s lives collide and a friendship begins to grow. Together, Max and Ahmed will defy the odds, learning from each other what it means to be brave and how hope can change your destiny.
Set against the backdrop of the Syrian refugee crisis, award-winning author of Jepp, Who Defied the Stars Katherine Marsh delivers a gripping, heartwarming story of resilience, friendship and everyday heroes. Barbara O’Connor, author of Wish and Wonderland, says “Move Nowhere Boy to the top of your to-be-read pile immediately.”

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

This story is inspired by the real events of the Yellow Fever outbreak in Philadelphia in 1793. Laurie Halse Anderson writes about young Mattie Cook, who helps her family run their coffeeshop, and how she faced the outbreak. I personally loved Mattie, who was strong, level-headed, and a free-thinker. She was absolutely devoted to her family, the coffeeshop, and her town, no matter how much she grumbled about it. It’s amazing to see her growth as she hurdles loss over loss and still manages to stand tall at the end of it all. Even if you aren’t into historical fiction, this book is worth the read for Mattie alone.


An epidemic of fever sweeps through the streets of 1793 Philadelphia in this novel from Laurie Halse Anderson where “the plot rages like the epidemic itself” (The New York Times Book Review).
During the summer of 1793, Mattie Cook lives above the family coffee shop with her widowed mother and grandfather. Mattie spends her days avoiding chores and making plans to turn the family business into the finest Philadelphia has ever seen. But then the fever breaks out.
Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.

Cryptid Hunters by Roland Smith

Twins Grace and Marty are uprooted from their life when they lose their parents in a work related accident. They move in with their Uncle Wolfe who happens to be in the same line of work of hunting cryptids – creatures whose existence was previously questioned. I remember especially loving the characters, and was inspired to be like them: brave, intelligent, and adventurous. This book is fast-paced and action packed, making it a hard one to put down.


After their parents are lost in an accident, thirteen-year old twins Grace and Marty are whisked away to live with their Uncle Wolfe-an uncle that they didn’t even know they had! The intimidating Uncle Wolfe is an anthropologist who has dedicated his life to finding cryptids, mysterious creatures believed to be long extinct.

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson & Chole Bristol

This is a middle grade novel with a story inside that’s as enchanting and whimsical as the cover on the front. It takes place in a hotel with a huge library filled with magical puzzles and mysteries to solve. This suspenseful and riddle-filled book is entertaining for any age!


An enchanting urban fantasy middle-grade debut—the first book in a trilogy—set in a magical hotel full of secrets.
Orphan Elizabeth Somers’s malevolent aunt and uncle ship her off to the ominous Winterhouse Hotel, owned by the peculiar Norbridge Falls. Upon arrival, Elizabeth quickly discovers that Winterhouse has many charms—most notably its massive library. It’s not long before she locates a magical book of puzzles that will unlock a mystery involving Norbridge and his sinister family. But the deeper she delves into the hotel’s secrets, the more Elizabeth starts to realize that she is somehow connected to Winterhouse. As fate would have it, Elizabeth is the only person who can break the hotel’s curse and solve the mystery. But will it be at the cost of losing the people she has come to care for, and even Winterhouse itself?
Mystery, adventure, and beautiful writing combine in this exciting debut richly set in a hotel full of secrets.

No Ordinary Thing by G. Z. Schmidt

Adam is one of my new favorite middle-grade protagonists. He’s awkward, loves books, lives in a bakery, and has a time traveling snow globe. What’s not to love I ask you? The story itself is told in a very literary, almost oral storytelling tradition, and gives you a very Narnia-esque vibe. Reading it truly transports you on a magical adventure!


Twelve-year-old Adam is whisked away from his imperfect but quiet life with the arrival of a stranger and a magical promise in this time travel mystery.
It’s 1999 and Adam doesn’t mind living at his uncle’s bakery, the Biscuit Basket, on the Lower East Side in New York City. The warm, delicious smells of freshly baked breads and chocolate croissants make every day feel cozy, even if Adam doesn’t have many friends and he misses his long dead parents very much.
When a mysterious but cheerful customer shows Adam a snow globe and says that adventures await him, it’s too strange to be true. But days later, an unbelievable, incredible thing happens. Adam finds a similar looking snow globe and immediately travels back in time, first to Times Square in 1935, then a candle factory fire in 1967.
But how are these moments related? What do they have to do with his parents’ death? And why is a tall man with long eyebrows and a thin mustache following Adam’s every move?
In her debut novel G. Z. Schmidt has crafted a world filled with serendipity, mystery, and adventure for readers of Roald Dahl and Lemony Snicket.

Wishes and Wellingtons by Julie Berry

WISHES AND WELLINGTONS is such a delightful and charming story with sassy and smart kickass heroine that makes me laugh and cheer. The story itself is a well-told adventure full of magic, friendship, one snarky djinni, and three amazing oddballs, and really is there any better story than that? This book made me smile and feel like the odd one in instead of the odd one out. Books that make you smile are always wonderous, and this book is that amazing of a read!


From New York Times bestselling and award-winning author Julie Berry comes a brand new middle-grade fantasy adventure full of humor and heart.
Be careful what you wish for …
Maeve Merritt chafes at the rigid rules at her London boarding school for “Upright Young Ladies.” When punishment forces her to sort through the trash, she finds a sardine tin that houses a foul-tempered djinni with no intention of submitting to a schoolgirl as his master.
Soon an orphan boy from the charitable home next door, a mysterious tall man in ginger whiskers, a disgruntled school worker, and a take-no-prisoners business tycoon are in hot pursuit of Maeve and her magical discovery. It’ll take all of her quick thinking and sass to set matters right. Maeve Merritt is one feisty heroine you won’t soon forget.

Midnight at the Barclay Hotel by Fleur Bradley & Xavier Bonet

Agatha Christie meets ghost busters meets Scooby-Doo in this hilarious, haunted, mystery. JJ and his crew are wonderfully fleshed out and relatable to all kids no matter what their personalities. The spooky feel of a haunted hotel combined with a murder mystery the solving of which includes kids battling ghosts creates a truly enjoyable experience for readers of all ages!


Hunting ghosts and solving the case before checkout? All in a weekend’s work.
When JJ Jacobson convinced his mom to accept a surprise invitation to an all-expenses-paid weekend getaway at the illustrious Barclay Hotel, he never imagined that he’d find himself in the midst of a murder mystery. He thought he was in for a run-of-the-mill weekend ghost hunting at the most haunted spot in town, but when he arrives at the Barclay Hotel and his mother is blamed for the hotel owner’s death, he realizes his weekend is going to be anything but ordinary.
Now, with the help of his new friends, Penny and Emma, JJ has to track down a killer, clear his mother’s name, and maybe even meet a ghost or two along the way.

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