By Michaela O’Callaghan, Annabella Costantino, Lauren Gantt and Aimee Haldron
In children’s literature, there are plenty of buzzwords and age brackets to understand. One of these is middle-grade fiction, books written for readers aged eight to twelve. However, there is a notable difference between the content an eight-year-old might enjoy compared to that of a twelve-year-old. Middle-grade fiction for readers aged ten or over might feature older protagonists or handle more sensitive topics. We have taken a look at a broad selection of titles that we think transition well into teen fiction and are perfect for older middle-grade readers.
The Song that Sings Us by Nicola Davies
Nicola Davies’ The Song that Sings Us is an environmental fantasy adventure novel that packs a punch. Davies builds an immersive world called Rumyc with talking animals, steampunk-esque war ships and a violent reminder that we must reconnect with the natural world. The novel begins with three children, Harlon, Ash and Xeno, being separated from each other as they flee from the Automators who have attacked their home. The novel shifts between each child’s experiences as they navigate Rumyc, journeying through forests and oceans whilst interacting with members of the resistance.
Furthermoor by Darren Simpson
This is an intricately written fantasy adventure exploring topics such as grief and bullying. Twelve-year-old Bren is being stalked by schoolmate Shaun, and his sister has passed away in an accident. Meanwhile, his parents are struggling with his sister’s death, and Bren feels like he is suffering alone. The imagined world of Furthermoor is a place of escape from the struggles in his everyday reality, where his sister is still alive and he has control. Furthermoor is described in such rich and intense detail, with clockwork animals that are a real treat. However, when everything gets too much, Featherley, a hooded crow, arrives with the plan to take Furthermoor for himself.
Show Us Who You Are by Elle McNicoll
The second book from the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize-winning author Elle McNicoll, Show Us Who You Are, is a science-fiction story centring around neurodivergent characters. A heart-wrenching yet beautiful story about friendship, bravery and grief leads to Cora trying to discover the secrets surrounding the AI projects of her brother’s boss. With characters that will steal your heart, this is a truly wondrous introduction to gripping science fiction that will leave middle-grade readers wanting more.
When the Sky Falls by Phil Earle
War is raging. One angry boy has been sent to the city, where bombers rule the skies. There, Joseph will live with Mrs. F, a gruff woman with no fondness for children. Her only loves are the rundown zoo she owns and its mighty silverback gorilla, Adonis. As weeks pass, bonds deepen and secrets are revealed, but if the bombers set Adonis rampaging free, will either of them be able to end the life of the one thing they truly love? A furious evacuee and an angry gorilla form a unique bond in a decrepit wartime zoo, providing a heart-warming story of despair, love, loss, poverty and hardship. Told with real sincerity, this is a gripping and immersive novel.
The Unmorrow Curse by Jasmine Richards
A trapped god, an unending time loop, an incredible adventure. As humanity is forced into a lockdown called the Unmorrow Curse, two friends awaken a world full of myth and magic. This epic new fantasy series by Jasmine Richards is packed with action and Norse mythology. It’s not every day that you find a famous weather woman bound by magic to a tree deep in the woods, or discover that the weather woman is in fact Sunna, the Norse goddess of the Sun, and one of the seven day guardians who keep time in order. But this is just what happens to new friends Buzz and Mari – they must bravely journey to collect the Runes of Valhalla and awaken the other day guardians, all before vengeful god Loki gets to them first…
Nisha’s War by Dan Smith
For those that like thought-provoking ghost stories, Nisha’s War is a book for them. It’s 1942, in Malaya. Nisha’s home has just been destroyed as a result of the war, so she and her mum have to suddenly move to England. However, when her mum falls ill in the cold Northern climate, Nisha is all alone, with only her intimidating grandma to keep her company. A refugee’s tale of grief, adventure and belonging, Nisha's War lets readers follow Nisha on her journey of self-discovery, second chances and bargaining with ghosts.
The Lizzie & Belle Mysteries by J. T. Williams
Eighteenth-century London. Two twelve-year-old girls on a mission. Based on a true story, this thrilling middle-grade mystery is inspired by Black British historical figures from two completely different worlds. The question is, when they suspect a murder is about to be committed, will they be able to solve the mystery in time to stop it? Join Lizzie Sancho and Dido Belle along the streets of London in the first book of this new series with plenty of drama and danger. Previously featured in The Very Merry Murder Club, it is just the beginning for Lizzie and Belle!