ICYMI: 2017 middle-grade books worth taking a look at

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There comes a time when you have to throw in the towel and admit you may just not get to everything you planned. That’s the case with these books from 2017. As I look at my ever-expanding pile of 2018 novels, I’ve come to the realization that I’m just not going to get to these anytime soon.

The following are middle-grade books (listed in no particular order) I think deserve recognition, even though I haven’t read them yet:

THE EXACT LOCATION OF HOME, by Kate Messner, Bloomsbury USA Childrens, Sept. 12, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

Kirby “Zig” Zigonski lives for the world of simple circuits, light bulbs, buzzers, and motors. Electronics are, after all, much more predictable than most people — especially his father, who he hasn’t seen in over a year. When his dad’s latest visit is canceled with no explanation and his mom seems to be hiding something, Zig turns to his best friend Gianna and a new gizmo — a garage sale GPS unit — for help. Convinced that his dad is leaving clues around town to explain his absence, Zig sets out to find him. Following one clue after another, logging mile after mile, Zig soon discovers that people aren’t always what they seem … and sometimes, there’s more than one set of coordinates for home. — Synopsis provided by Bloomsbury

“Middle school worries and social issues skillfully woven into a moving, hopeful, STEM-related tale.” — Kirkus starred review 


THE MAGIC MISFITS, by Neil Patrick Harris and Lissy Marlin, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, Nov. 21, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on. After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded illusionists. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they’ll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso’s villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series. —Synopsis provided by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

“With an emphasis on friendship and individuality, this fast-paced and clever series opener should have readers eager to check out future installments.” — Publisher’s Weekly 


RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, by Lindsay Eagar, Candlewick, Oct. 10, 2017, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)

When her parents, the great marine scientists Dr. and Dr. Quail, are killed in a tragic accident, eleven-year-old Fidelia Quail is racked by grief — and guilt. It was a submarine of Fidelia’s invention that her parents were in when they died, and it was she who pressed them to stay out longer when the raging Undertow was looming. But Fidelia is forced out of her mourning when she’s kidnapped by Merrick the Monstrous, a pirate whose list of treasons stretches longer than a ribbon eel. Her task? Use her marine know-how to retrieve his treasure, lost on the ocean floor. But as Fidelia and the pirates close in on the prize, with the navy hot on their heels, she realizes that Merrick doesn’t expect to live long enough to enjoy his loot. Could something other than black-hearted greed be driving him? Will Fidelia be able to master the perils of the ocean without her parents — and piece together the mystery of Merrick the Monstrous before it’s too late? — Synopsis provided by Candlewick

“Set in a world that combines futuristic and historical elements to intriguing effect (Fidelia wears a pinafore, but knows her way around “Hydro-Scanners” and other tech), this is an exciting maritime adventure with a strong, layered heroine.” — Publisher’s Weekly starred review 


THE SECRET OF NIGHTINGALE WOOD, by Lucy Strange, Chicken House, Oct. 31, 2017, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

Mama is ill. Father has taken a job abroad. Nanny Jane is too busy to pay any attention to Henrietta and the things she sees — or thinks she sees — in the shadows of their new home, Hope House. All alone, with only stories for company, Henry discovers that Hope House is full of strange secrets: a forgotten attic, ghostly figures, mysterious firelight that flickers in the trees beyond the garden. One night she ventures into the darkness of Nightingale Wood. What she finds there will change her whole world… — Synopsis provided by Chicken House

“An evocative, beautifully written, mesmerizing debut tale with lush fairy-tale themes and a poignant exploration of mental illness—enthralling.” — Kirkus starred review


MY BRIGADISTA YEAR, by Katherine Paterson, Candlewick, Oct. 16, 2017, Hardcover, $15.99 (ages 10-14)

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Nora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Nora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Nora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Nora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Nora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history. — Synopsis provided by Candlewick

“An author’s note and timeline fill in additional details about Cuba’s past, but Paterson’s story is without political agenda, focusing instead on an improbable (and successful) literacy campaign and how it dramatically expands the world of one sheltered but determined girl.” — Publisher’s Weekly

© 2018, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved.

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About Author

Jessica Harrison is the main reviewer behind Cracking the Cover. Prior to creating Cracking the Cover, Jessica worked as the in-house book critic for the Deseret News, a daily newspaper in Salt Lake City. Jessica also worked as a copy editor and general features writer for the paper. Following that, Jessica spent two years with an international company as a social media specialist. She is currently a freelance writer/editor. She is passionate about reading and giving people the tools to make informed decisions in their own book choices.

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