April 2020 Middle-Grade Books to Wake Your Brain Cells

Here are a bunch of new middle-grade books coming out in April that have gotten praise and starred reviews:

Daring Darleen, Queen of the Screen by Anne Nesbet

Echo Mountain by Lauren Wolk

A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese

In the Role of Brie Hutchens by Nicole Melleby

The Incredibly Dead Pets of Rex Dexter by Aaron Reynolds

Into the Tall, Tall Grass by Loriel Ryon

The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead

On the Horizon by Lois Lowry, illustrated by Kenard Pak

Rick by Alex Gino

The Water Bears by Kimberly Baker

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson






Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt

Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt

Almost Time by Gary D. Schmidt and Elizabeth Stickney, illustrated by G. Brian Karas (9780544785816)

Ethan finds it really hard to wait for the maple sap to start running in the late winter. He knows the signs of the time approaching. It’s when he doesn’t have maple syrup for pancakes or oatmeal. His father explains that the days have to get warmer for the syrup to run as well as the nights getting shorter. Ethan thinks he notices it changing, but sometimes gets too eager like not wearing his winter coat anymore. When Ethan’s tooth gets loose, his father tells him that it should fall out around the same time as the sap starts running. Now Ethan has two things to wait for, but one that he can perhaps make happen a bit faster by wiggling it. Still, it takes some time for his tooth to loosen and for the weather to change. Then one day, it’s finally time both for maple syrup and for his tooth to fall out.

Schmidt and Stickney have created a classic tale about patience and waiting for things to happen. Ethan is wonderfully impatient and yet also able to wait, though not really without asking again and again about it. As the darkness refuses to lessen and the days refuse to warm, readers will understand his anticipation. The use of breakfasts to mark a lack of syrup is clever and homey, just to add even more warmth and love to the book. It’s great to see a book with a caretaker father which is not about the lack of a mother or being in a unique family. It’s particularly wonderful to see such a skillful and loving dad.

Karas’ illustrations capture the dark days of winter, the snow that refuses to disappear, and the slow process of the arrival of early spring. The darkness lurks against the warm yellow of the interior of the home, offering real contrast as the pages turn.

A sweet but not syrupy picture book about fathers, patience and food. Appropriate for ages 3-5.

Reviewed from library copy.