ICYMI: March 2020 middle-grade books

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March was a rough month for everyone. One particular group of people hit hard were the authors of books publishing amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. The following are just some of the middle-grade books that came out in March. Synopses are provided by the publishers.

AGES 5 AND UP

DISNEY BEFORE THE STORY: ANNA FINDS A FRIEND, by Kate Egan, Disney Press, March 3, 2020, Softcover, $6.99 (ages 5-8)

Before Anna saved Arendelle . . . she was a girl looking for a friend!

Anna feels lonelier than ever when her parents go off on a trip without her. She imagines another girl her own age, Astrid, and sends her a letter. To her surprise, Astrid writes back! But as the two become friends, Anna begins to wonder if Astrid is closer than she first thought. . . .

DISNEY BEFORE THE STORY: ELSA’S ICY RESCUE, by Kate Egan and Mario Cortes, Disney Press, March 3, 2020, Softcover, $6.99 (ages 5-8)

Before Elsa was queen . . . she was a girl with magic! Elsa cannot wait to spend time at her family’s summer home and test her icy powers. But after a series of magical mishaps, Elsa begins to wonder if she has what it takes to one day become queen of Arendelle, or if her powers might be a curse after all. . . .


AGES 6 AND UP

IVY AND BEAN ONE BIG HAPPY FAMILY: BOOK 11, by Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall, Chronicle Books; Reprint edition, March 17, 2020, Softcover, $5.99 (ages 6-9)

Ivy’s worried. She’s read a lot of books about only children, so she knows that they are sometimes spoiled rotten. They don’t share their toys. They never do any work. They scream and cry when they don’t get their way. Spoiler alert! Ivy doesn’t have any brothers or sisters. That’s why she’s worried. How can she keep from getting spoiled? She could give away all her clothes, but she’d probably get in trouble. She could give away all her toys, but she likes her toys. There’s really only one solution: she needs a baby sister, on the double! Luckily, Ivy and Bean know just where to get one.

DIDI DODO, FUTURE SPY: DOUBLE-O DODO (DIDI DODO, FUTURE SPY #3), by Tom Angleberger and Jared Chapman, Harry N. Abrams, March 10, 2020, Hardcover, $12.99 (ages 6-9)

Didi Dodo, the heroic spy, and Koko Dodo, the cookie chef, are off to solve another kooky caper! In Double-O Dodo, Koko has a big problem: His trusty assistant, the Queen, has been kidnapped! Over a frantic phone call, she tells Koko that she’s been kidnapped by a human, which is preposterous—everyone knows that humans aren’t real! Luckily, Didi is on the case. Her plan: to go undercover at the Humanland amusement park to find the Queen. But much like a roller coaster, Didi’s plans are not complete without plenty of twists and thrills. Filled with daring escapes and big-belly laughs, this wacky mystery could only come from the mind of the inimitable Tom Angleberger. The book takes place in the same world as Inspector Flytrap but does not require knowledge of the previous series.


AGES 7 AND UP

SABOTAGE (BEATRICE ZINKER, UPSIDE DOWN THINKER (3)), by Shelley Johannes, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, March 10, 2020, Hardcover, $14.99 (ages 7-10)

With several successful Operation Upside missions under their belts, Beatrice, her best friend Lenny, and Sam have made quite a name for themselves–they’re the people who remind you there are infinite upsides to being yourself. But suddenly the unthinkable occurs–an imposter delivers an imitation Upside Award that could only be give by Beatrice, Lenny, or Sam!

As Beatrice hunts for clues to the culprit, Lenny suspects one of their own. Will they solve the mystery before Operation Upside becomes a fraud and is ruined once and for all? Or is the situation much bigger than any of them imagines?


AGES 8 AND UP

MAÑANALAND, by Pam Muñoz Ryan, Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)

Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers on a journey into tomorrow.

If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he’d make Santa Maria’s celebrated fútbol team and whether he’d ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won’t talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides to seek answers on his own.

With a treasured compass, a mysterious stone rubbing, and Buelo’s legend as his only guides, he sets out on a perilous quest to discover if he is true of heart and what the future holds.

This timeless tale of struggle, hope, and the search for tomorrow has much to offer today about compassion and our shared humanity.

SHOW ME A SIGN, by Ann Clare LeZotte, Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)

Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there — including Mary — are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage.

But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment. Her struggle to save herself is at the core of this penetrating and poignant novel that probes our perceptions of ability and disability. It will make you forever question your own ideas about what is normal.

THE CHAOS CURSE (KIRANMALA AND THE KINGDOM BEYOND #3), by Sayantani DasGupta, Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)

Kiranmala must leave the Kingdom Beyond and travel to her hometown of Parsippany to save Prince Lal, who has been spirited to the unlikeliest of places — a tree in the yard of her best-enemy-for-life. She also faces evil serpents (of course!), plus a frightening prophecy about her role in the coming conflict between good and evil. Most troubling of all, though, is the way reality all around her seems to waver and flicker at odd moments. Could it be that the Anti-Chaos Committee’s efforts are causing a dangerous disruption in the multiverse?

Kiran must grapple with the increasingly tangled threads that threaten to ensnare her…and everyone in the world and the Kingdom Beyond.

THE GIRL WHO SPEAKS BEAR, by Sophie Anderson and Kathrin Honesta, Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

Discovered in a bear cave as a baby, 12-year-old Yanka dreams of knowing who she really is. Although Yanka is happy at home with her loving foster mother, she feels out of place in the village where the other children mock her for her unusual size and strength.

So when Yanka wakes up one morning to find her legs have become bear legs, she knows she has no choice but to leave her village. She has to find somewhere she truly belongs, so she ventures into the Snow Forest with her pet weasel, Mousetrap, in search of the truth about her past.

But deep in the forest there are many dangers and Yanka discovers that even the most fantastic stories she grew up hearing are true. And just as she draws close to discovering who she really is, something terrifying happens that could trap her in the forest . . . forever.

IF WE WERE GIANTS, by Dave Matthews, Clete Barrett Smith , Disney-Hyperion, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

Kirra, a curious, agile, and outgoing girl, lives in an idyllic community hidden inside a dormant volcano. She and her father are the only two people allowed to venture beyond its walls. Kirra is in training to become a Storyteller like him, and together they travel from village to village spreading fearsome tales designed to keep outsiders away from their secret nest.

One day, after hearing rumors of strangers called the “Takers,” Kirra leaves the volcano by herself, hoping to discover her own story. But she unknowingly leads the Takers back to her doorstep, and they rob her of everything she has ever held dear.

A devastated Kirra is found by a boy named Luwan and adopted into his family, which lives among others high in the trees of a dense forest. Now quiet and withdrawn, Kirra hides her dark past from everyone and never wants to leave the safety of her tree dwelling. Luwan, on the other hand, loves to explore. One day it leads to trouble: He is captured while spying on a group of strangers. The Takers have returned.

To save the Tree Folk, Kirra must face her inner demons and summon all her storytelling to weave the most important tale of her life.

AWESOME DOG 5000 VS. MAYOR BOSSYPANTS, by Justin Dean, Random House Books for Young Readers, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $8.99 (ages 8-12)

Ever since discovering Awesome Dog 5000, life for gamers Marty, Ralph, and Skyler has been one epic adventure! But Awesome Dog’s spectacular hero work has made front page news — and Mayor Bossypants is not happy about it. The mayor makes a plan to take down that robot dog. . . and anyone else who stands in his way. Which means Marty, Ralph, and Skyler are about to have a real-life Bossypants battle!

A GUARD DOG NAMED HONEY, by Denise Gosliner Orenstein, Scholastic Press, March 3, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

When Bean’s brother gets arrested for joyriding in a stolen car, Bean is devastated. She’s determined to get him out of jail by raising the bail their mom can’t afford. She tries everything, from applying for summer jobs, to offering to paint summer mansions. It’s at one of those old mansions that she meets a young girl named Phoebe and her giant (and very valuable) guard dog, Honey.

Bean quickly hatches her plan: She’ll convince Phoebe to sell Honey and let her use some of the cash for bail.

But when Honey’s sale takes a dangerous turn, Bean is torn between her desire for her brother’s freedom and her loyalty to Phoebe and sweet, drooly, affectionate Honey. Can Bean fight for her family without betraying her new friends?

WHO GOT GAME?: BASEBALL: AMAZING BUT TRUE STORIES! by Derrick D. Barnes and John John Bajet, Workman Publishing Company, March 17, 2020, softcover, $12.95 (ages 8-12)

Meet unsung pioneers, like John “Bud” Fowler, William Edward White, and brothers Moses Fleetwood Walker and Weld Walker, four African Americans who integrated white teams decades before Jackie Robinson.

Discover unforgettable moments, like the time a 17-year old girl named Jackie Mtchell struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

Marvel at records. Did you know that Japanese superstar Sadaharu Oh has a whopping 113 more career homers than Hank Aaron?

And that’s just for starters! This lively illustrated collection of shiny nuggets of baseball lore will transform you into a superfan who knows the game better than anyone else. Someone who’s got game.

MALALA YOUSAFZAI (THE FIRST NAMES SERIES), by Lisa Williamson and Mike Smith, Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 31, 2020, Hardcover, $9.99 (ages 8-12)

Before Malala Yousafzai (b. 1997) became the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, she was a girl fighting for her education in Pakistan. Growing up, Malala’s father encouraged her to be politically active and speak out about her educational rights. When she did, she was shot by a member of the Taliban and the story received worldwide media coverage. Protests and petitions from around the world helped to pass an educational-rights bill in Pakistan, and Malala used this platform to continue her activism and fight for women’s rights. Inspiring and moving, Malala Yousafzai tells the story of one girl’s bravery in her fight for equal rights. It includes a timeline, bibliography, glossary, and index.

ADA LOVELACE (THE FIRST NAMES SERIES), by Ben Jeapes and Nick Ward, Abrams Books for Young Readers, March 31, 2020, Hardcover, $9.99 (ages 8-12)

Before she was a famous mathematician and the first computer programmer, Ada Lovelace (1815–1852) was the daughter of well-known poet Lord Byron. Byron died when Ada was very young, and Ada’s mother encouraged her interest in mathematics in an attempt to prevent Ada from turning into a melancholy poet like her father. Ada grew up and married a count, and as a countess, she was given access to some of England’s greatest scientists and authors, including Charles Babbage, who was working to develop an analytical engine. Seeing the potential in computers, Ada partnered with Charles and used her mathematical skills to create an algorithm that could make such a machine possible. Fascinating and lively, Ada Lovelace tells the story of the woman who helped pioneer computing! It includes a timeline, bibliography, glossary, and index.


 

© 2020, Cracking the Cover. All rights reserved. Unless otherwise noted, all books — digital and physical — have been provided for free by publishers in exchange for honest and unbiased reviews. All thoughts and opinions are those of the reviewer.

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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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