Before this year, I never read middle grade books. Being in my mid-20’s, I knew I was well beyond the target audience for YA; I felt way too old for middle grade books, felt like it would be too juvenile, felt like it wouldn’t be something I’d like. I was a massive skeptic. And then I read Flying Lessons and Other Stories.
And oh boy, I may be too old for middle grade, but it wasn’t too juvenile and it was definitely something I liked! I loved how the authors captured innocence and youth, loved how it explored themes and ideas that young kids would eventually begin to think about, loved how the authors articulated themes in such a subtle and sensitive way, and loved the lightheartedness of it all. I felt like I had missed out on something huge and had discovered it way too late. I felt like I was rediscovering my childhood.
Thus my love for middle grade stories grew, and though I haven’t read as many as I would like, I’ve read some truly fantastic ones. So today, in line with #AsianLitBingo, I’ll be recommending four phenomenal middle grade books by Asian authors.
LAND OF FORGOTTEN GIRLS BY ERIN ENTRADA KELLY
I picked up this book because Glaiza kindly recommended Kelly’s work to me, and it was such a powerful story for such a small book. I encourage all of you to read Glaiza’s review of this book; it’s such an important review and she delves into so much detail about the story’s nuances.
- Features two Fillipino-American girls, Soledad and Dominga, who are utterly adorable and lovely protagonists. I also loved the sisterhood between them!
- About the power of stories and storytelling, and how love, history, and memory are interwoven into the stories passed down to us.
- Subtly explores themes of grief, dysfunctional families, prejudice, colorism, and communication but in a very gentle and sensitive way.
WHEN THE SEA TURNED TO SILVER BY GRACE LIN
This book is so special to me. I felt like I was reliving or given a second chance of having a childhood with Chinese stories while reading this book.
- The story is about Pinmei, a Chinese protagonist, who goes on a grand and magical adventure to rescue her grandmother.
- Explores the power of storytelling whilst interweaving Chinese mythology, folktales, and parables into the narrative. I especially loved the mentions of the butterfly dream and the Emperor and the Seed.
- There is also a lovely mystery element, with pieces of the puzzle scattered across the story to bring together a satisfying end.
Find When The Sea Turned to Silver in Goodreads
AMINA’S VOICE BY HENA KHAN
This is one of my favourite books of this year! It’s a wonderful book with a protagonist that is just as lovely. I enjoyed reading this so much and was engaged from the very beginning to the very end. Ahhhhh, this book was just so pure.
- About Amina, a practicing Muslim and Pakistan-American, and the small but significant changes and struggles in her life.
- Explores her relationship with Islam, with Urdu, her wonderful family, and her friends – old and new – and wonderfully portrays what it might be like for a young girl to navigate the changes in her life.
- Wonderful storytelling, parents present and involved in Amina’s life, and just so sincere. A treasure of a book.
THE GAUNTLET BY KARUNA RIAZI
Truth be told: I haven’t got around to finishing this book yet, but I have read enough to know that it’ll be a book that I will love and can wholeheartedly recommend to everyone!
- It is thrilling and exciting from start to finish. It took turns I didn’t expect too; the perfect book to read if you want something fun.
- It’s almost a nostalgic experience if you watched the movie, Jumanji, when you were younger. I love Riazi’s fresh spin on the story.
- The characters were wonderful, ranging from the protagonist, Farah, to her lovely friends, and the characters you meet within The Gauntlet.
Find The Gauntlet in Goodreads
I hope to read more and more diverse middle grade stories in the future. Not only do I genuinely enjoy the stories, but I hope to find some wonderful stories and characters, with the hope that I can recommend some books to parents of young children. I’ve also gravitated towards stories with Chinese protagonists or with Chinese folklore – I feel like it will, in a way, fill a void in my childhood. One day, I hope to find books like When The Sea Turned To Silver and give them to my children to read one day.
The other middle grade books that I’m really looking forward to reading are:
- Nightlights by Lorena Alvarez Gomez
- Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor
- The Emperor’s Riddle by Kat Zhang
- Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh
I hope you enjoyed this post! 😊 So, my friends:
- Do you read middle-grade books? Why or why not?
- What are some of your favourite middle grade books, or ones that you’d be interested to read?
- Are you looking forward to any unreleased middle grade books?