Top 10 Books of 2018 — The Year of Middle Grade

Hi guys!! It’s been quite a while since you’ve last heard me talk about books here, so Happy New Year!! I’m going to try my best to get some blogging in during my FINAL semester of high school. Man, I’m surprised I’m at this point already! Before I go on, I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful 2019 full of many blessings and joys. 2018 was definitely a crazy year for me, but it was full of so many life-changing and amazing books! Here are my Top 10 Books of 2018! I think it was a great year for kidlit–I have nine Middle Grade novels and one picture book in the list below, and I am very happy to share which 10 they are! Please do check these books out–you will NOT regret it! (This list is excluding rereads, and I will only include one book per series.)

Top 10 Books of 2018.png

10. Kat Greene Comes Clean by Melissa Roske

Kat Greene Comes Clean


I’m starting off this list with a beautiful gem of a book! Kat Greene Comes Clean is one of the funniest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s one of the few books that you just want to give a great big hug. I couldn’t help from smiling all throughout this story! This MG realistic fiction debut offers such a vivid glimpse into some of the struggles that many children, especially those who have to parent themselves, go through. The lessons are heartwarming, the humor is belly-filling, and the story itself is life-changing.

9. Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Fish in a Tree


I loved Fish in a Tree so much that I read it twice this year. The first time I read it, I literally could not put it down–I finished it within a single day. It’s a lot like Wonder (which I’ve yet to read but I’ve watched and loved the movie)–a bright and talented girl with dyslexia has to overcome her disability, her bullies, and even herself as she discovers new friends and her true potential. Fish in a Tree has taught me how to never underestimate people who are neurodivergent, for they may be some of the brightest and smartest people I would ever meet. Certainly, I’ve also connected with Ally’s story as I knew how it feels not to fit in with everybody else, but both she and I found the friends that love us regardless of our quirks.

8. Open If You Dare by Dana Middleton

Open If You Dare


When I can connect with a book, my reading experience is transformed so much because I can see myself in the characters. I share so many of Birdie’s feelings as she has to face an uncertain future regarding her friends moving away–it’s very similar to what I’m facing right now as I’m about to go off to college. I read this back in junior year, I know I probably need to reread it sometime during this semester. Truly this novel made me cherish the few yet true friendships I possess, and it has moved me so much to tears.

7. Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar



Half of my top 10 books are historical fiction (I think I’m biased to this genre), and I’m starting this section off with Ahimsa by Supriya Kelkar. Kelkar’s MG historical fiction debut is very inspiring and enlightening. I’ve learned so much about the Indian Independence Movement and what it truly means to follow ahimsa–how to fight for what is right not just peacefully, but fighting while loving one’s enemies. I truly believe that everyone needs to read this book because it will instill in readers of all ages hope to persevere forward through our trials.

6. The Story Collector by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

The Story Collector


I love books, but what’s better than books? Books about books! The Story Collector is an ode to the stories we all love and enjoy. It is a fun and exciting adventure as we explore the New York Public Library with Viv and her family and friends. It has strengthened my love for reading, making me love the imaginative and inspiring power that stories possess, a power that change lives, console readers, and provide refuges from reality. I was hooked from the beginning, and I just could not put down this MG historical mystery. The Story Collector has convinced me to embrace being a story collector, whether it be history, personal experiences, or fiction.

5. Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop by Alice Faye Duncan

Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop


Who says that picture books are only for children? Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop is hands-down one of the best picture books ever written. Depicting an often overlooked yet critical event in our nation, Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop chronicles the final days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as he and sanitation workers in Memphis fight for proper treatment of workers in the Sanitation Strike of 1968. Alice Faye Duncan’s powerful prose and R. Gregory Christie’s beautiful illustrations is a powerful combination that shows the true meaning of fighting for what you believe in. It will inspire readers of all ages, from the littlest of children to the oldest of adults.

4. The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw

The Last Cherry Blossom


I love World War II historical fiction novels, and to read The Last Cherry Blossom–inspired by the author’s mother’s survival of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima–was breathtaking and life-changing. This book holds such immense power. It teachers readers that the Japanese weren’t very different from us, and even though we were on different sides of the war (and their forces committed many atrocious acts I will never condone), the citizens were ordinary human beings just like us. The Last Cherry Blossom is also an important testimony to urgent cause of anti-nuclear proliferation. We are living in an age where catastrophes a thousand times worse than Hiroshima and Nagasaki could occur. If The Last Cherry Blossom does not haunt you and make you think about this possible reality, I don’t know what will unless imminent danger comes.

3. The Dollmaker of Kraków by R. M. Romero

The Dollmaker of Kraków


The Dollmaker of Kraków was equal parts inspiring and heartbreaking. This historical fantasy broke my heart over and over again, and the ending is one of the best endings I’ve ever read (I cried so hard). The Dollmaker of Kraków is a beautiful MG historical fantasy that has the potential to touch the hearts of all readers regardless of age. Karolina’s quest to bring joy to the Dollmaker’s life and to save her Jewish friends during the tyrannical Nazi occupation of Poland in World War II is inspiring and brimming with hope, love, and perseverance. It truly should become a classic with The Book Thief, Schindler’s List, The Last Cherry Blossom, and The Diary of Anne Frank.

2. The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden

The Benefits of Being an Octopus


The Benefits of Being an Octopus is one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. This MG contemporary novel possesses such tremendous power that can change lives. It has made me more sensitive to the financial struggles that many children and teens go through, and it has made me more grateful for the many blessings that I have in my own life. Quoting my tweet blurb that is featured on Ann’s website (yes, I have a blurb featured on a website, ahh!!!): “Seriously, it is one of the best books ever written. Go read it. You will find your life CHANGED!”

1. Earth Force Rising by Monica Tesler

Earth Force Rising


Now The Benefits of Being an Octopus would have been the BEST book of 2018 if it weren’t for Monica Tesler and her Bounders series. This series has such a special place in my heart because it is one of the rare few novels that I actually saw myself in. I connected so much with Jasper, Cole, Mira, Marco, and Lucy (Cole especially) because I knew how it feels to not fit. I knew how it feels to be alone when you’re different from everybody else. But it reminded me of the few friendships I have that I treasure deeply. These five cadets became some of my closest friends, and I know that I can revisit them and go on some wild adventures with them when I feel down. This book will be my “forever book” (as Mr. Schu dubs it). This series will always hold a special place in my heart.

Honorable Mentions

Everlasting Nora by Marie Miranda Cruz

Everlasting Nora


The Rat Prince by Bridget Hodder

The Rat Prince


Onyx & Ivory by Mindee Arnett

Onyx and Ivory


Fawkes by Nadine Brandes



The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Help


The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan


Cry of the Sea by D. G. Driver

Cry of the Sea


Happy Reading!

+ J.M.J.

~ Kester

“This will be our reply to violence: to make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before.” — Leonard Bernstein

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4 thoughts on “Top 10 Books of 2018 — The Year of Middle Grade

  1. Kester, thank you so much! I’m honored that you list The Last Cherry Blossom on your Top 10 Books of 2018! That just starts my 2019 with a full heart ❤ Wishing you success in all your endeavors and peace in this New Year!Looking forward to working with you in 2019😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thank you, Kathleen! It’s my pleasure! Certainly, TLCB has made a very lasting impression on me. I hope you’ll have a 2019 full of many blessings and endless possibilities, too! I’m very excited to see how our friendship will blossom more this year! 🙂


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