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Vermont Middle-Grade Children’s Book Award

The VT Middle-Grade Book Award* (formerly the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Book Award) was created to honor excellence in children's literature. Each year since 1957, Vermont students in grades four through eight have selected their favorite book from a list of 30 nominees. It is recommended that students read at least five of the year's nominated titles before voting. Voting takes place in the spring, generally beginning in April.

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      Maybe He Just Likes You

      by Barbara Dee

      Mar 2020

      Advanced Readers

      2020-2021 Nominee
      For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like? But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape. It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it?

      Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

      White Bird: A Wonder Story

      by R.J. Palacio

      Mar 2020

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      In R. J. Palacio’s bestselling collection of stories Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Here, Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s heartrending story: how she, a young Jewish girl, was hidden by a family in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II; how the boy she and her classmates once shunned became her savior and best friend.

      Sara’s harrowing experience movingly demonstrates the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives. As Grandmère tells Julian, “It always takes courage to be kind, but in those days, such kindness could cost you everything.” With poignant symbolism and gorgeous artwork that brings Sara’s story out of the past and cements it firmly in this moment in history, White Bird is sure to captivate anyone who was moved by the book Wonder or the blockbuster movie adaptation and its message.

      Afterword. Author’s note. “A Note About the Dedication.” Glossary. Reading list. Resources. Bibliography. Full-color digital illustrations. Black-and-white photographs.

      The Best at It

      by Maulik Pancholy

      Mar 2020

      Advanced Readers Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at. And become the BEST at it.

      Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Miller will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge… But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

      Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

      by Kwame Mbalia

      Feb 2020

      Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Seventh grader Tristan Strong feels anything but strong ever since he failed to save his best friend when they were in a bus accident together. All he has left of Eddie is the journal his friend wrote stories in. Tristan is dreading the month he's going to spend on his grandparents' farm in Alabama, where he's being sent to heal from the tragedy. But on his first night there, a sticky creature shows up in his bedroom and steals Eddie's notebook. Tristan chases after it—is that a doll—and a tug-of-war ensues between them underneath a Bottle Tree.

      In a last attempt to wrestle the journal out of the creature's hands, Tristan punches the tree, accidentally ripping open a chasm into the MidPass, a volatile place with a burning sea, haunted bone ships, and iron monsters that are hunting the inhabitants of this world. Tristan finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black American folk heroes John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. In order to get back home, Tristan and these new allies will need to entice the god Anansi, the Weaver, to come out of hiding and seal the hole in the sky. But bartering with the trickster Anansi always comes at a price. Can Tristan save this world before he loses more of the things he loves?

      The Story That Cannot Be Told

      by J. Kasper Kramer

      Jan 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Ileana has always collected stories. Some are about the past, before the leader of her country tore down her home to make room for his golden palace; back when families had enough food, and the hot water worked on more than just Saturday nights. Others are folktales, like the one she was named for, which her father used to tell her at bedtime. But some stories can get you in trouble, like the dangerous one criticizing Romania’s Communist government that Uncle Andrei published—right before he went missing.

      Fearing for her safety, Ileana’s parents send her to live with the grandparents she’s never met, far from the prying eyes and ears of the secret police and their spies, who could be any of the neighbors. But danger is never far away. Now, to save her family and the village she’s come to love, Ileana will have to tell the most important story of her life.

      Author’s note.

      Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation

      by Stuart Gibbs

      Nov 2019

      Mystery Middle Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Charlie Thorne is a genius.
      Charlie Thorne is a thief.
      Charlie Thorne isn’t old enough to drive.
      And now it’s up to her to save the world…

      Decades ago, Albert Einstein devised an equation that could benefit all life on earth—or destroy it. Fearing what would happen if the equation fell into the wrong hands, he hid it. But now, a diabolical group known as the Furies are closing in on its location. In desperation, a team of CIA agents drags Charlie into the hunt, needing her brilliance to find it first—even though this means placing her life in grave danger. Charlie must crack a complex code created by Einstein himself, struggle to survive in a world where no one can be trusted, and fight to keep the last equation safe once and for all.

      Scary Stories for Young Foxes

      by Christian McKay Heidicker

      Nov 2019

      Mystery/Adventure Elementary Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      When fox kits Mia and Uly are separated from their litters, they quickly learn that the world is a dangerous place filled with monsters. As the young foxes travel across field and forest in search of a home, they’ll face a zombie who hungers for their tender flesh, a witch who wants to wear their skins, a ghost who haunts and hunts them, and so much more.

      Featuring eight interconnected stories and sixteen shockingly cool illustrations, Scary Stories for Young Foxes has the chills of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and the heart of Pax.

      Black-and-white illustrations.

      The World Ends in April

      by Stacy McAnulty

      Nov 2019

      Upper Elementary & Junior High Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Every day in middle school can feel like the end of the world.

      Eleanor Dross knows a thing or two about the end of the world, thanks to a survivalist grandfather who stockpiles freeze-dried food and supplies—just in case. So when she reads about a Harvard scientist’s prediction that an asteroid will strike Earth in April, Eleanor knows her family will be prepared. Her classmates? They’re on their own!

      Eleanor has just one friend she wants to keep safe: Mack. They’ve been best friends since kindergarten, even though he’s more of a smiley emoji and she’s more of an eye-roll emoji. They’ll survive the end of the world together…if Mack doesn’t go away to a special school for the blind. But it’s hard to keep quiet about a life-destroying asteroid—especially at a crowded lunch table—and soon Eleanor is the president of the (secret) End of the World Club. It turns out that prepping for TEOTWAWKI (the End of the World as We Know It) is actually kind of fun. But you can’t really prepare for everything life drops on you. And one way or another, Eleanor’s world is about to change.

      Author’s note. Historical information. Definitions. Asteroid facts from NASA. Information on disaster readiness kits and supplies. Note about identifying legitimate online sources. List of acronyms. Sources.

      Other Words for Home

      by Jasmine Warga

      Oct 2019

      Realistic Fiction Middle Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      I am learning how to be
      sad
      and happy
      at the same time.


      Jude never thought she’d be leaving her beloved older brother and father behind, all the way across the ocean in Syria. But when things in her hometown start becoming volatile, Jude and her mother are sent to live in Cincinnati with relatives.

      At first, everything in America seems too fast and too loud. The American movies that Jude has always loved haven’t quite prepared her for starting school in the US—and her new label of “Middle Eastern,” an identity she’s never known before. But this life also brings unexpected surprises—there are new friends, a whole new family, and a school musical that Jude might just try out for. Maybe America, too, is a place where Jude can be seen as she really is.

      Glossary of Arabic words. Author’s note.

      Changeling: The Oddmire, Book One

      by William Ritter

      Sep 2019

      Fantasy/Science Fiction Elementary Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.

      Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

      In The Oddmire 1: Changeling, the New York Times bestselling author of the Jackaby series brings to life a bold new adventure, the first in a series about monsters, magic, and mayhem.

      The Next Great Paulie Fink

      by Ali Benjamin

      Jul 2019

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      2020-2021 Nominee
      When Caitlyn Breen enters the tiny Mitchell School in rural Mitchell, Vermont, she is a complete outsider: the seventh grade has just ten other kids, and they've known each other since kindergarten. Her classmates are in for a shock of their own: Paulie Fink--the class clown, oddball, troublemaker, and evil genius--is gone this year. As stories of Paulie's hijinks unfold, his legend builds, until they realize there's only one way to fill the Paulie-sized hole in their class. They'll find their next great Paulie Fink through a reality-show style competition, to be judged by the only objective person around: Caitlyn, who never even met Paulie Fink. Who was this kid, anyway—prankster, performance artist, philosopher, or fool? Caitlyn's quest to understand Paulie is about to teach her more about herself than she ever imagined.

      Zenobia July

      by Lisa Bunker

      Jul 2019

      Advanced Readers Plus

      2020-2021 Nominee
      Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she’s in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was. When someone anonymously posts hateful memes on her school’s website, Zenobia knows she’s the one with the abilities to solve the mystery, all while wrestling with the challenges of a new school, a new family, and coming to grips with presenting her true gender for the first time.
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