The following are just some of the middle-grade books that came out in March that I was unable to review, but are worth checking out. Books are listed in order of publication date. Synopses are provided by the publishers and links to entire reviews are at the end of each section.
SECRET OF THE STORM (1), by Beth McMullen, Aladdin, March 1, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Cassie King’s father always told her the universe was on her side. All she had to do was work hard and things would go her way. But then Cassie’s father died, her mom retreated into herself, and her best friend traded her in for the popular crowd at school. The only thing Cassie still has is the volunteer work she does at the local library, a place where she can leave her troubles behind. Unfortunately, classmate and school outcast Joe Robinson is always there doing the same thing.
One day, while Cassie and Joe are leaving the library, a bizarre storm hits, trapping them in a narrow alley. In the storm’s aftermath, Cassie discovers a bedraggled little kitten abandoned in a smelly dumpster. Cassie feels an immediate connection to the kitten and takes him home.
But the kitten — who Cassie names Albert — is a little odd, with impossible strength and agility for a creature his size. At one point, Cassie swears she sees plumes of smoke rising from his water bowl, and one afternoon, while Albert is alone in her room, a strange symbol appears on the closet door. With new friend Joe’s help, Cassie figures out the symbol is a map. But a map to what?
The friends soon discover that Albert is much more than he appears and is in grave danger. He needs Cassie’s help in ways she never could have imagined. Keeping him safe is the first thing Cassie has believed in for a long time. But is she strong enough to face down a sinister enemy moving ever closer and protect everything she loves? —Synopsis provided by Aladdin
“Balancing the serious notes are the feel-good elements in this story of a girl who finds courage and true friendship after great loss. The first book in a new series, it ends with a twist that will have readers eagerly awaiting the sequel. … Fans of fantasy adventures will find a lot to love.” (Kirkus Reviews)
DREW LECLAIR GETS A CLUE, by Katryn Bury, Clarion Books, March 1, 2022, Hardcover, $16.99 (ages 8-12)
Drew Leclair knows what it takes to be a great detective. She’s pored over the cases solved by her hero, criminal profiler Lita Miyamoto. She tracked down the graffiti artist at school, and even solved the mystery of her neighbor’s missing rabbit. But when her mother runs off to Hawaii with the school guidance counselor, Drew is shocked. How did she miss all of the clues?
Drew is determined to keep her family life a secret, even from her best friend. But when a cyberbully starts posting embarrassing rumors about other students at school, it’s only a matter of time before Drew’s secret is out.
Armed with her notebooks full of observations about her classmates, Drew knows what she has to do: profile all of the bullies in her grade to find the culprit. But being a detective is more complicated when the suspects can be your friends. Will Drew crack the case if it means losing the people she cares about most? —Synopsis provided by Clarion Books
“The perfect story for a kid who wants a little more than just a mystery about a school cyberbully. Readers who are ready to progress from Nancy Drew (who the main character was named after) but are not quite ready for One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus will enjoy this book.” — School Library Journal (starred review)
SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE, by Sonja Thomas, Aladdin, March 22, 2022, Hardcover, $17.99 (ages 8-12)
Twelve-year-old Mira’s summer is looking pretty bleak. Her best friend Thomas just moved a billion and one miles away from Florida to Washington, DC. Her dad is job searching and he’s been super down lately. Her phone screen cracked after a home science experiment gone wrong. And of all people who could have moved into Thomas’s old house down the street, Mira gets stuck with Tamika Smith, her know-it-all nemesis who’s kept Mira in second place at the school science fair four years running.
Mira’s beloved cat, Sir Fig Newton, has been the most stable thing in her life lately, but now he seems off, too. With her phone gone and no internet over the weekend at her strict Gran’s house, Mira must research Fig’s symptoms the old-fashioned way: at the library. She determines that he has “the silent cat killer” diabetes. A visit to the vet confirms her diagnosis, but that one appointment stretched family funds to the limit — they’ll never be able to afford cat insulin shots.
When Mira’s parents tell her they may have to give Fig up to people who can afford his treatment, Mira insists she can earn the $2,000 needed within a month. Armed with ingenuity, determination, and one surprising ally, can Mira save her best (four-legged) friend before it’s too late? —Synopsis provided by Aladdin
“As well as being heartwarming, this well-paced novel also contains numerous interesting facts about famous scientists that will make readers just as excited about science as Mira. … A noteworthy debut.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
BOOK BUDDIES: MARCO POLO BRAVE EXPLORER, by Cynthia Lord and Stephanie Graegin, Candlewick, March 29, 2022, Hardcover, $12.99 (ages 6-9)
Marco Polo is a retired Christmas ornament, but in his mind he is a great mouse explorer. Because he’s tiny and likely to be lost, he is the least-borrowed of the Book Buddies — toys that children can check out of the library just like a book — and he almost never leaves the library. But the little mouse finally meets the right match in Seth, a boy who is about to attend his first sleepover. If Seth were to bring the stuffed bunny he usually sleeps with, he’d risk being teased, but Marco Polo is the perfect size to hide away in his sleeping bag. Are both boy and mouse in for an unexpected adventure? —Synopsis provided by Candlewick
“The story is told in a compassionate voice which is reassuring and very honest. Graegin’s illustrations make for a perfect complement as they depict the three boys, a family cat and the lost toys.” —MSL Book Review
DOG & HAT AND THE LOST POLKA DOTS: BOOK NO. 1, by Darin Shuler, Chronicle Books, March 29, 2022, Hardcover, $14.99 (ages 6-9)
Dog and Hat are two of the best friends you could ever hope to meet — they are practically inseparable. When the dots on Dog’s favorite shirt get lost down a storm drain, it’s up to him and Hat to wander through the twisting underbelly of the city to find them. As they navigate a labyrinth of sewers, they encounter a dark but exciting new world, unforeseen dangers, and help in unexpected places. —Synopsis provided by Chronicle Books
“Busy, color-saturated panels explode with urban patterns, and scenes burst with humorous details and hidden objects, including an ad-addled sewer map and Sewer Cat’s ‘neat sewer supplies.’ Though the visually appealing, action-packed adventure is wildly absurdist, there’s nothing outlandish about the friendship at this graphic novel’s center.” —Publisher’s Weekly
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