Sim, there are six books here. Não, I don’t really care, especially because it makes dropping the covers together in a more aesthetically pleasing way, and look, I couldn’t choose one of these not to feature, so olá, here’s my top six favorite middle grade reads of 2020! They’re in alphabetical order because I’m not a masochist, but NPH’s series is, hands down, my absolute favorite of the year.
Winterhouse by Ben Guterson was a strong contender for my favorite middle grade of the year, and I’ve been avoiding reading the finale of the trilogy for months now because I just don’t want it to end. Elizabeth is such an adorable narrator that I wish I’d had growing up because I feel like I would have felt seen and heard so much. She’s such a complex character, too, because she makes mistakes and gets into arguments with her best friend and things don’t always turn out amazingly for her, and it’s just so realistic that I end up loving her even more for being so familiar. The story, too, is wonderful, so if you’re looking for a wintry tale of magic, friendship, and amateur detectives, this one’s for you.
One of the brightest spots in 2020, for me, was definitely entire The Magic Misfits series by Neil Patrick Harris. I am absolutely heartbroken that the last book was released this autumn, but also so incredibly grateful that that was the last one. This series had very ASOUE vibes to it, and I feel like it could have easily gone down that wrong path of same plot over and over again, but instead, NPH let it come to a natural end, and what a conclusion it was. There is not a single thing that I don’t wholeheartedly love about this series, and it really doesn’t matter what mood you’re in, you’ll love it no matter what.
The second I heard Indian Shakespeare retelling combined with baking, I was sold, and let me tell you, Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRoca absolutely delivered. This is one of the few middle grades I’ve read that actually kept me guessing, and I was practically hollering at the pages by the end. It was so well crafted, and the faery lore was phenomenal. I wanted to make all of the recipes, and I was so damn hungry by the end. Mimi is the cutest little baker in the world, and I so badly wish that there were more books in this universe so I could just watch her grow up through the years.
I feel like I’m going to be shouting about Strange Birds: A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Ceclia C. Pérez much like I’ve shouted for years about The Someday Birds by Sally J. Pla, and not just because both reference birds. This story of unlikely girls banding together is everything my elementary school heart needed. I wish I could time travel back to the fifth grade and drop this into my nervous, uncertain hands and show her that it was possible to be weird and have friends who loved you just as you are. On the surface, this is a story about Girl Scouts and rebellion, but, in truth, it’s really about friendship among girls and how chaotic that can be, but also how strong.
Latina witches and baking magic? A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano checks pretty much all of my boxes, and I am so hyped to read the rest of the trilogy. This was so sweet and so damn relatable. I can totally get in Leo’s mindset of watching the rest of her family be included in something wonderful and bursting with potential, but to consistently get told she’s too young, and watching her secretly plan with her best friend, nearly mess up everything, and finally understand just how powerful she is–it was such a treat, and I am also so hungry just thinking of this.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega is probably the book that made me laugh the most this year. It was delightful, and that’s just the perfect way to describe it. At any given time, I was outright cackling over Lucely, Syd, or Chunk, and I need more books in this universe, por favor e obrigado! It was so much fun, and I loved all the lore behind it, and I just need dozens of books of Lucely and her ghostly family teaming up with witchy Syd and her chaotic cat.