Recommending books I've enjoyed to kids who might like them, too is one of my favorite parts of my job. Here are a few published in 2018 that I'm excited to share with middlegrade readers:
Sparks! by Ian Boothby; Nina Matsumoto (Illustrator)
Sparks!, also a graphic novel, is hilarious fun. August, an indoor cat, is a brilliant inventor. Charlie, an indoor-outdoor cat, isn't afraid of anything. Resigned to the fact that humankind finds dogs more heroic than cats, they team up to become Sparks, a canine superhero (who is really two cats in a mechanical dog suit). Their work is cut out for them when an evil alien disguised as an adorable baby comes to town with the goal of conquering the planet. While the premise may sound lowbrow, sophisticated and wickedly observed details and dialogue run throughout the book.
Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin
12-yr-old Della is no longer able to deny what the creeping sensation in her stomach has been telling her: her mama's sometimes-manageable schizophrenia has gotten bad again. Last time, Mama was taken away and hospitalized for months, and Della is determined this won't happen again. Becoming the chief caregiver for her rambunctious baby sister and hiding the truth from everyone in her town, including her best friend, are small sacrifices if she's able to heal Mama on her own this time. A moving book that will particularly resonate with anyone who has felt isolated because of a secret, and anyone who has never been sure what they'll get when they open the door to their home. The depiction of schizophrenia is informed and non-sensationalizing.