Talk Chisme to Me: All About Middle Grade

I actually had a draft of this post in the works before I took a blogging hiatus, then too much time passed, so I decided to save it for Latinx Heritage Month. Middle grade books have been my go-to comfort reads for years now. I don’t read a lot of middle grade books these days, but whenever I pick one up, I am reminded of how special these books written for this particular age group are. I feel like we are seeing so much more middle grade by Latinx authors right now and it has me excited for all the young Latinx readers who won’t have to wait until high school or beyond to see themselves in books. For this post, I will be highlighting my five favorite middle grade books by Latinx authors as well as listing five future releases I have my eye on. Covers/Titles are linked to Goodreads.

Check out my previous posts in this series for LHM:

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Talk Chisme to Me: Latinx Heritage Month 2021 TBR

Talk Chisme to Me: New Favorites from the Past Year

FAVORITE MIDDLE GRADE BOOKS BY LATINX AUTHORS:

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1. The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

Probably my all-time favorite middle grade read, Aida Salazar’s The Moon Within is uplifting and powerful. It’s inclusive and sensitive, treating its young characters with respect and honesty.

      “Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.
      But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?
  A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.”

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2. Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon

Loriel Ryon’s Into the Tall, Tall Grass is such a gem and has not been given the attention it deserves. I loved the complexity of the grandparent-grandchild relationships as well as how it addresses grief. Yolanda is a moody protagonist who I just adore because of how prickly she is.

    “A girl journeys across her family’s land to save her grandmother’s life.
    Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?
    When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right?”

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3. A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series is one of the most delightful middle grade series I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. It has so many great elements from the magic-infused baking to the complicated sister relationships. I have loved seeing Leo grow into her own magic and find her way in the world.

    “Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.
    Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.
    Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.
And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?”

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4. Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Spooky middle grade is something really special as it often takes something that would otherwise be scary and turns it into something charming. It’s the best way I would describe Claribel A. Ortega’s Ghost Squad. With earnest and endearing characters, this middle grade is utterly bewitching.

    “Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy..
    For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.
    Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.
With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.”

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5. Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

One of my favorite things about middle grade is its humor and no other book is as funny as Carlos Hernandez’s Sal & Gabi Breaks the Universe. It’s one of the few books that had me laughing out loud. It’s a great read for those who love found family, adult characters who respect young characters, and leads with a knack for getting into trouble.

      “What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?
      When a troll exposes the blog as fiction, Noah’s world unravels. The only way to save the Diary is to convince everyone that the stories are true, but he doesn’t have any proof. Then Drew walks into Noah’s life, and the pieces fall into place: Drew is willing to fake-date Noah to save the Diary. But when Noah’s feelings grow beyond their staged romance, he realizes that dating in real life isn’t quite the same as finding love on the page.
      When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.
      Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken–including his dead mother–and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.
      A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.”

FUTURE MIDDLE GRADE RELEASES BY LATINX AUTHORS ON MY TBR:

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 1. Manu: A Graphic Novel by Kelly Fernández

“Set at a magical school for girls, a funny and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel adventure about friendship, defying expectations, and finding your place.”
      Manu and her best friend, Josefina, live at a magical school for girls, and Manu is always getting into trouble. The headmistress believes that Manu has the potential to help people with her magic, but Manu would rather have fun than fall in line. One day, a prank goes seriously wrong, and Josefina gets angry and wishes for Manu’s magic to disappear… and it does. Manu uses a dangerous spell to restore it, but it makes her magic too powerful and nearly impossible to control. Great power comes at a cost, and it may be a price that Manu isn’t able to pay!”

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2. Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian Randall

    “The Land of Stories series meets Dominican history + folklore in this debut middle grade contemporary fantasy novel.
    Everything in twelve-year-old Pilar Violeta “Purp” Ramirez’s world is changing, and Pilar doesn’t care for it, not one bit. Her Logan Square neighborhood is gentrifying, her responsibilities at home seem to have doubled since her sister Lorena moved down to the University of Chicago, and to top it all off? Her best friend Celeste just moved to Milwaukee, right before they were going to make “Purp” catch on as a nickname at school. In fact, it seems like the only thing that isn’t changing is Abuela and Mami’s code of silence around her cousin Natasha—who disappeared in the Dominican Republic fifty years before Pilar was born—and their lives under the Trujillo regime.
      So, when Pilar, a budding filmmaker, gets word that there’s a new professor at U. Chicago who studies disappearances under the Trujillato, she’s off on the train immediately. Only when she arrives, the professor is nowhere to be found. While looking around the papers stacked in his office, Pilar finds a folder with her cousin’s name on it. When she opens it, all that’s inside is a single blank sheet of paper. Then, she literally falls into it.
      Pilar finds herself on Zafa—an island of Dominican myths and magic; where a girl matching Natasha’s description is imprisoned, alongside many others. Aided by Carmen—a mysterious girl—and four magical sisters, Pilar will have to face the Dominican boogeyman and his many minions if she has any hope of freeing Natasha and getting back home.”

3. Saving Chupie by Amparo Ortiz and Ronnie Garcia

    “Carolina Ortiz at HarperCollins has bought world rights to Eisner-nominated author and illustrator Amparo Ortiz and Ronnie Garcia’s ‘Saving Chupie,’ a middle grade graphic novel about Violeta Rubio and her friends’ mission to protect their local Chupacabra, set in a recovering town in Puerto Rico.”

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4. Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

    “Twelve year old Witchling Seven Salazar wants to be anything but a Spare witch. But during The Black Moon Ceremony when every Witchling in the magical town of Ravenskill is placed in their coven, that’s exactly what happens. Joining Seven in this coven of unwanted witches is Valley Pepperhorn, self-styled monster hunter and giant bully, and new witch in town, Thorn La Roux, a master with a magical needle and thread who has a terrible secret. Unfortunately, it gets worse.
      When their coven does not seal, and their magic is in danger of being stripped away, Seven invokes the dangerous Impossible Task, a magical contract with a high price. Now, it’s up to the Witchlings to fell the elusive Nightbeast, or risk being toadafied.”

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5. Valentina Salazar Is Not a Monster Hunter by Zoraida Córdova

    “Sal and Gabi Break the Universe meets Supernatural in a heartfelt, hilarious adventure about a trio of tight-knit, monster-loving siblings from acclaimed author Zoraida Crdova.
    It takes a special person to end up in detention on the last day of school.
      It takes a REALLY special person to accidentally burn down the the school yard while chasing a fire-breathing chipmunk.
      But nothing about Valentina Salazar has ever been “normal.” The Salazars are protectors, tasked with rescuing the magical creatures who sometimes wander into our world, from grumpy unicorns to chupacabras . . . to the occasional fire-breathing chipmunk.
      When Val’s father is killed during a rescue mission gone wrong, her mother decides it’s time to retire from their life on the road. She moves the family to a boring little town in upstate New York and enrolls Val and her siblings in real school for the first time.
      But Val is a protector at heart and she can’t give up her calling. So when a mythical egg surfaces in a viral video, Val convinces her reluctant siblings to help her find the egg before it hatches and wreaks havoc. But she has some competition: the dreaded monster hunters who’ll stop at nothing to destroy the creature . . . and the Salazar family.”

Do you have a favorite middle grade novel written by a Latinx author? Are you looking forward to any of these? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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