SC Junior Book (Middle Grade) Award Nominees I’m Excited to Read


Each spring the South Carolina Association of School Librarians announces lists of the best books for grades K-12. There are four lists total, each consisting of 20 books that are recommended for picture books, children’s books, junior books, and young adult books.

Today, I’ll be sharing the five junior book award nominees I’m most excited to read. These books are great for 6th through 8th grades or anyone who loves reading books about kids in middle school.

The Blackbird Girls

by Anne Blankman

This historical fiction title seems like one that will be right up my alley. It tells two stories, one from 1941 and one from 1986, of hope despite tragic, horrific events. I’m especially intrigued by this book because I haven’t seen much written about Chernobyl for kids. It’ll be interesting to see how the author tells the story alongside a World War II tale. 

Free Lunch

by Rex Ogle

This middle school memoir is about a kid navigating sixth grade at a wealthy school while being a not so wealthy student. On the free lunch program with second hand clothes and a tumultuous home life, Rex just wants to make it through each school day without any trouble. I feel like this one is going to be important for adults to read as well because it is our job to instill empathy and remind students everywhere that kindness is key when we meet new people. We never know what their story is.


by J.A. White
I am a huge J.A. White fan. The Thickety series is still one of my all time favorite fantasy series. So naturally, White’s newest book would be on this list. This middle grade retelling of Arabian Nights has all of the spookiness and suspense of a fantastic, magical story.   

Summer of a Thousand Pies

by Margaret Dilloway

I know I’m not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but this looks like one I’ll want to devour during a beach trip in the dead of summer. This is the story of a girl who finally finds her place in this world and will do anything to save it. Drama mixed with hope and a pie shop. I can’t wait to get my hands on this one! It might even inspire me to do some baking as well. 

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

by Kwame Mbalia

This book has been on my list to read for a while. I usually wait until an entire series is finished before I start it, but this one might be an exception. This action packed story, in the same vein as Percy Jackson, seems like one that will have all of the things I love about a middle grade series. Seriously, I can’t recommend books like these enough! It’s everything a kid loves in a book, plus a little history. 

If you’ve seen the Junior Book Award Nominee List, what titles are you most excited to read? There are so many good ones to choose from!


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Kelsey Arender is a Lexington native who fell in love with her work in libraries in 2012. Prior to her recent career change, you could find her at the public library's children department. Now, she happily works in a middle school library. On the weekends, Kelsey and her husband, William, enjoy watching reruns of their favorite TV shows, attending church, and reading with their one-year-old daughter. Kelsey's favorite things include endless mugs of coffee, cozy sweaters, rainy days, and laughing with friends. She may be an introvert but if you start a conversation about personality types, toddlers, or hygge, you'll make a fast friend. You can find her hanging on Instagram at @we_all_get_sleepy.


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