The Best Middle Grade of 2023

Middle grade titles in 2023 astonished with their thematic and emotional depth while taking us all over space and time: Want to partake in a basketball game in 1970s Bushwick, or learn magic off the coast of South Carolina? Savor the tastes of ancient China, or watch five wondrous puppets come to life? Ultimately, these top 10 titles all offer excitement and wisdom in equal measure.

Big Tree is an awe-inspiring odyssey, a survival story and an invitation to think both philosophically and scientifically about the planet we call home.

Chinese Menu is a treat in every way: an exceptional compilation that can be read all at once or taken out from time to time as a reference while eating certain dishes—a family ritual that all ages will enjoy.

Conjure Island takes readers on an exciting getaway and offers a sense of reassurance to anyone feeling lost, left out, lonely or simply in search of some magical fun.

As it honors all parts of the queer experience, this book will make readers feel seen and leave their hearts full.

Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson gives readers an engrossing, exciting look into Iñupiaq culture while offering invaluable lessons about the power of community, kinship and celebrations.

Many books advocate for listening carefully to people of opposing views while following one’s own beliefs, but few do it better than Mitali Perkins’ exceptional Hope in the Valley.

Jacqueline Woodson flawlessly intersperses explosive moments—and games of basketball—among quiet, reflective scenes while responding to her protagonist’s weighty fears with reassurance about the permeance of loving memories.

By Kate DiCamillo, Illustrated by Julie Morstad

With all the makings of a classic fairy tale, The Puppets of Spelhorst skillfully salutes the power of storytelling through a tale of five puppets.

In this strikingly realistic and partially epistolary novel, Anna must navigate the minefield of middle school while trying to figure out what she stands for—and what she’s willing to stand up for.

Edited by Ellen Oh

You Are Here vividly illustrates the talents of a diverse group of creators as well as the rich and varied range of Asian American experiences and identities.