ICYMI: April 2020 MG books


It’s time for another round of In Case You Missed It, Middle Grade Edition. The following are books I received for review consideration but was unable to review because of time constraints. While this is just a small sample of the many books published in April — based on others’ reviews and my own wishes to read them — I think these are still worth your time.

Books are listed in order of publication date. Synopses are provided by the publishers.


FOX & RABBIT, by Beth Ferry and Gergely Dudás, Harry N. Abrams, April 21, 2020, Hardcover, $12.99 (ages 6-9)

Easygoing Fox and anxious Rabbit seem like total opposites. But, somehow, they make the perfect pair! Whether searching for hidden treasure or planting a garden in their own backyard, Fox and Rabbit find everyday magic at every turn. On this first adventure, the pair will discover some new favorite things like sunsets, dandelions, and cotton candy. And they’ll face new fears like heights, swimming, and (poisonous!) frogs. Thankfully, there’s nothing Fox and Rabbit can’t do together!

“Picture-book author Ferry’s first foray into comics is an infectiously chipper series opener. Though the panels never exceed nine per page, some complex layouts require familiarity with the medium. Dialogue appears both inside and outside of speech bubbles, mostly in short sentences voiced by separate speakers. Hungarian illustrator Dudás’ full-color graphite and ink illustrations add a pitch-perfect warm and joyful spirit.” —Kirkus Reviews


WAYS TO MAKE SUNSHINE, by Renée Watson and Nina Mata, Bloomsbury Children’s Books, April 28, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 7-10)

Ryan Hart has a lot on her mind — school, self-image, and especially family. Her dad finally has a new job, but money is tight. That means some changes, like selling their second car and moving into a new (old) house. But Ryan is a girl who knows how to make sunshine out of setbacks. As her brother says when he raps about her, she’s got the talent that matters most: it’s a talent that can’t be seen, she’s nice, not mean!

Ryan is all about trying to see the best in people, to be a good daughter, a good sister, a good friend. But even if her life isn’t everything she would wish for, when her big brother is infuriating, her parents don’t quite understand, and the unexpected happens, she always finds a way forward, with grace and wit. And plenty of sunshine.


“In vignette-style chapters, Watson warmly weaves together slice-of-life moments that capture youthful doubt alongside moments of loss and joy, showing a tight-knit family navigating difficulties with plenty of courage and plenty of love. Occasional illustrations by Mata (She’s Got This) emphasize the story’s joyful realism.” —Publisher’s Weekly, starred review


GHOST SQUAD, by Claribel A. Ortega, Scholastic Press, April 7, 2020, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

“While it’s undeniably a ghost story, Lucely’s love for her family, both corporeal and spirit, carries the narrative, giving it warmth and depth. Readers will root for Lucely and Syd as they try to save St. Augustine and Lucely’s cucuyos. … A warmly spooky middle-grade debut.” —Kirkus Reviews

DARING DARLEEN, QUEEN OF THE SCREEN, by Anne Nesbet, Candlewick, April 14, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (ages 8-12)

It’s 1914, and Darleen Darling’s film adventures collide with reality when a fake kidnapping set up by her studio becomes all too real. Suddenly Darleen finds herself in the hands of dastardly criminals who have just nabbed Miss Victorine Berryman, the poor-little-rich-girl heiress of one of America’s largest fortunes. Soon real life starts to seem like a bona fide adventure serial, complete with dramatic escapes, murderous plots, and a runaway air balloon. Will Darleen and Victorine be able to engineer their own happily-ever-after, or will the villains be victorious?

“True to Darleen’s work, the story leaves an open ending for a sequel. The concluding author’s note offers even more facts about the silent-film age. Just like Darleen—a spunky blend of darling and daring.” —Kirkus Reviews 

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter, By Aaron Reynolds, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, April 28, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)

Rex Dexter is itching to have a dog. He was practically born to have one. His name is Rex, for crying out loud. It’s a dog’s name. Any pooch is preferable, but a chocolate Labrador is the pinnacle. The best of the best. The dream of all dreams.

When Rex’s B-Day for Me-Day finally arrives, his parents surprise him with a box. A box with holes. A box with holes and adorable scratchy noises coming from inside. Could it be? Yes! It has to be! A… a…

Chicken? Pet poultry? How clucky.

One hour and fourteen minutes later, the chicken is dead (by a steamroller), Rex is cursed (by the Grim Reaper), and wild animals are haunting Rex’s room (hounding him for answers). Even his best friend Darvish is not going to believe this, and that kid believes everything.

Rex’s uninvited ghostly guests are a chatty, messy bunch. And they need Rex to solve their mysterious deadly departures from the Middling Falls Zoo before it happens again. But how?

“In this entertainingly spooky romp, Reynolds (Dude!) tempers his morbid premise with the absurdity of Rex’s situation, the ghostly entourage’s distinct personalities, and a hilarious, simultaneously formal and sarcastic, narrative voice.” —Publisher’s Weekly, starred review

AGES 10 & UP

WE ARE POWER: HOW NONVIOLENT ACTIVISM CHANGES THE WORLD, by Todd Hasak-Lowy, Harry N. Abrams, April 7, 2020, Hardcover, $18.99 (10 and up)

We Are Power brings to light the incredible individuals who have used nonviolent activism to change the world. The book explores questions such as what is nonviolent resistance and how does it work? In an age when armies are stronger than ever before, when guns seem to be everywhere, how can people confront their adversaries without resorting to violence themselves? Through key international movements as well as people such as Gandhi, Alice Paul, Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez, and Václav Havel, this book discusses the components of nonviolent resistance. It answers the question “Why nonviolence?” by showing how nonviolent movements have succeeded again and again in a variety of ways, in all sorts of places, and always in the face of overwhelming odds. The book includes endnotes, a bibliography, and an index.

“The author describes the suffering inherent in the work of these brave men and women and captures the joy of victory. Readers will learn about others equally important and worthy of mention: Bayard Rustin, James Bevel, and Dolores Huerta. The source notes and bibliography are excellent. … Highly recommended for its outstanding treatment of the history of social justice. A good resource for student activists.” —School Library Journal, starred review

THURGOOD MARSHALL: THE MAKING OF AMERICA No. 6, by Teri Kanefield , Harry N. Abrams, (April 21, 2020, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 10 and up)

When Thurgood Marshall—the great grandson of a slave—was born, African Americans were denied equal rights in America. Segregation was legal. Lynching was common. In some places, African Americans were entirely excluded from public life; they were forbidden to enter public parks and museums or use public swimming pools and restrooms.

After being denied admission to the University of Maryland Law School because of his race, Marshall enrolled at Howard University. He graduated first in his class and set out as a young lawyer determined to achieve equality for all Americans. Here is the story of how he did it—how he devised his legal strategy for expanding “we the people,” to include all people.

“As in others in Kanefield’s series, readers see how her subject’s early life and career influenced his outlook on how the U.S. Constitution should be interpreted and applied. Kanefield’s narrative is lively, and she provides important context where needed, such as how even though Marshall and Dr. King agreed on the need for change, Marshall did not agree on King’s strategy of civil disobedience. An important addition to a highly useful series.” —Kirkus Reviews


© 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.


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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