As a school librarian, I’m always trying to put new middle grade books into the hands of students, and because I’m in the UK, they’re mostly UK middle grade. I’m very lucky that I see hundreds of kids and teens a day and have a lot of opportunity to promote great books. In the past few weeks, as we launched into a new school year, I’ve made it my mission to put as many new books into the students’ radar as possible. This can be tricky with so many distractions out there but the evidence is there that kids still want to read and they want to read about many different things.
The UK middle grade books I have chosen for this list reflect many different voices and experiences from around the world. This is because the faces I see in the library every day also reflect these voices. These students need to have as many different kinds of books available to them as possible, and this includes comics and manga. There are a ton of “celebrity” written books for middle grade audiences out there that you can find stuffed into the shelves of supermarkets, but there are so many other great books by authors that could actually use the attention.
This is something I’m very passionate about because I see how students interact with great books when they are promoted heavily in a school library. Month after month, UK middle grade books like the ones below are consistently in the top 10 most borrowed books, and we issue over 1,000 books a month in our school library. This is because students see themselves reflected in the stories below, and then they tell their friends and then they come into the library in large numbers and borrow the books to discover these new characters.
The Bird Singers by Eve Wersocki Morris
Set in the UK’s beautiful Lake District, the story follows two sisters as they investigate strange happenings after they visit a cozy yet rainy vacation spot. They can’t shake the feeling that they are being watched, and what is that bizarre noise they keep hearing? In addition, who is the mysterious lady they keep seeing in the forest, and why is their mother acting so strangely? This is a great mystery with ties to Polish folklore!
The Book of Secrets by Alex Dunne
Fairies have arrived in the small town of Clonbridge, and with them they’ve brought other fey creatures, some of them nice, some of them terrifying. They are all there to cause mischief, but some are there to wreak complete havoc. After their siblings are kidnapped by the creatures, Cat & Shane must work together and outwit some truly scary creatures in a surreal and unsettling land. If they’re going to save their family and their town, they will have to defeat these unruly characters. This is a wonderful adventure story filled with Irish folklore and mythology.
Mia and the Lightcasters by Janelle McCurdy
A fast paced and dark fantasy for ages 10+, this just came out, but it’s going to be a huge hit. When Mia meets a wild umbra creature in a place appropriately called the Nightmare Plains, she decides the adventuring life might not be for her — even though her life-long dream is to be an umbra tamer, someone who can tap into the magical realm where they reside and harness their energy. Then, her parents are kidnapped, and she must take her little brother on a quest to get them back. It’s a very fun, thrilling, and action-packed story!
Keep Dancing, Lizzie Chu by Maisie Chan
Lizzie’s grandad has been acting very strange lately. He’s forgetting things more and more and speaking to small statues in his house. Then, Lizzie decides she’s got a great plan: she’s going to take her grandad to Blackpool so he can dance in the famous Tower Ballroom, something he’s always wanted to do. She can’t do it alone, though, so she’s going to have to have a lot of help! Filled with a lot of laughs and a lot of heart, this is a truly wonderful story of family and determination.
Rules for Vampires by Alex Foulkes
This is a truly funny and dark story about a vampire named Leo who is bound by ancient vampiric laws. These laws keep the world between the living and the dead in harmony. The trouble is, Leo breaks one of the more important rules for vampires and accidentally rekindles a long-forgotten war. Even worse, Leo actually likes some parts of being a vampire: they can summon super strength and hypnotise people. Now it’s up to Leo and her oddball family to save the day! Any fan of Skullduggery Pleasant will absolutely love this story!
When I See Blue by Lily Bailey
Ben is 12-years-old, and his special number is four. He feels that his own brain is a bully sometimes; it makes him act around the number four in ways that other people feel are strange. Ben has OCD, and sometimes it consumes his life. When he meets April, things start to change, she helps him see things a little differently and realise that his situation might need some extra help. Ben starts to think he might just be able to stand up the bully in his mind. This is another powerful #OwnVoices story for ages 9-12.
The Good Turn by Sharna Jackson
I love all of Sharna Jackson’s books. They are extremely popular in our school library and having her visit virtually in the past years has been a major thrill for our students. This is a thrilling, sharp, and funny mystery by one of the best! When 11-year-old Josephine finds out about the first Black girl scout troupe, she decides to start her own. She decides to put together a group that sets out to achieve a special Scout badge. Then, she and her friends end up in an abandoned factory where things get stranger and stranger. This is a hugely fun mystery!
Hazel Hill is Gonna Win This One by Maggie Horne
Someone in Hazel’s school is harassing girls. This person appears to be fully aware of their aspirations and the things they are insecure about. People try to act like it doesn’t bother them, that it doesn’t matter, but Hazel Hill can’t stop thinking about it. Nobody knows what to do, but Hazel has a plan to expose the bully and stand up for what is right. This is a powerful, relevant, and important story filled with humour, heart, and righteous anger that focuses on speaking up for what’s right. It’s not to be missed. (For ages 10+.)
There you have it, eight great UK middle grade books to have in your school library or home shelves. I hope you enjoy reading them!
You might also be interested in 20 of the Best Middle Grade Fantasy Books and 30 of the Most Influential Children’s Books of All Time.