Curator: Mia Tsai
Blogger: Susan Azim Boyer
Looking for Black debut authors in 2022? The first of four lists in our series highlights ten debut middle grade authors for the year.
CAMERON BATTLE AND THE HIDDEN KINGDOMS
by Dr. Jamar Perry
February 1, 2022, Bloomsbury Children's Books
As the true Descendant, I command to open
The door to Chidani; it shall be broken/
Magic awaits those who seek the queen's peace
And all the suffering you feel will cease/
Those who open the histories will hear a sound
What was lost has finally been found.
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron's only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago.
Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen's sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?
Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventurous middle-grade fantasy debut, perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Tristan Strong, celebrates the triumphs and challenges of a boy finding his truth path to greatness.
A COMB OF WISHES by Lisa Stringfellow
February 8, 2022, Quill Tree Books
Sure enough, the sea woman will come for what’s hers. Ever since her mother’s death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as “mermaid’s tears,” that sparkle on the beaches of St. Rita. But when she discovers a different kind of treasure, she accidentally summons an actual mermaid—the wrathful Ophidia. Ophidia makes Kela a bargain: her ancient comb, in exchange for a wish. And though Kela knows that what she wants most is her mother back, a wish that big will exact a dangerous price… Set against the backdrop of Caribbean culture and folklore, Lisa Stringfellow’s mesmerizing middle grade debut tells a story of impossible wishes and magic based in the deepest love.
JUST RIGHT JILLIAN by Nicole D. Collier
February 15, 2022, Clarion Books / Versify
Fifth grader Jillian longs to wear bright colors in a school of neutral tones. To run and flip upside down while everyone else whispers and gossips. But no matter how hard she tries to be herself, shyness keeps her true brilliance hidden away. Even if it means getting the wrong glasses or losing an easy contest, Jillian keeps her mouth shut. After a bully tells her she can never be a winner, Jillian gets fed up. She determines to prove, not only that she’s smart, but brave, too. But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done. Jillian has less than a month to overcome a lifetime of shyness and summon the courage to fight for herself.
SIR FIG NEWTON AND THE SCIENCE OF PERSISTENCE
by Sonja Thomas
March 22, 2022, Simon and Schuster / Aladdin
From the Desk of Zoe Washington meets Ways to Make Sunshine in this heartfelt middle grade novel about a determined young girl who must rely on her ingenuity and scientific know-how to save her beloved cat. Twelve-year-old Mira’s summer is looking pretty bleak. Her best friend Thomas just moved a billion and one miles away from Florida to Washington, DC. Her dad is job searching and he’s been super down lately. And her know-it-all nemesis who’s kept Mira in second place at the school science fair four years running keeps showing up too many times to count. Things go from bleak to disastrous, when the vet confirms her diagnosis that her cat, Sir Fig Newton, has the “silent cat killer” diabetes. When Mira’s parents tell her they can’t afford his treatment, Mira insists she can earn the money needed within a month. Armed with ingenuity, determination, and one surprising ally, can Mira save her best four-legged friend before it’s too late? https://www.22debuts.com/sonja-thomas.html
FIBBED by Elizabeth Agyemang
June 7, 2022, Razorbill
Everyone says that the wild stories Nana tells are big fibs. But she always tells the truth, as ridiculous as it sounds to hear about the troupe of circus squirrels stealing her teacher’s toupee. When another outlandish explanation lands her in hot water again, her parents announce that Nana will be spending the summer with her grandmother in Ghana. She isn’t happy to be missing the summer camp she’s looked forward to all year, or to be living with family that she barely knows, in a country where she can’t really speak the native language. But all her worries get a whole lot bigger—literally—when she comes face-to-face with Ananse, the trickster spider of legend. Nana soon discovers that the forest around the village is a place of magic watched over by Ananse. But a group of greedy contractors are draining the magic from the land, intent on selling the wishes for their own gain. Nana must join forces with her cousin Tiwaa, new friend Akwesi, and Ananse himself to save the magic from those who are out to steal it before the magic—and the forest—are gone for good. https://www.22debuts.com/elizabeth-Agyemang.html
ONYEKA AND THE ACADEMY OF THE SUN by Tọlá Okogwu
June 9, 2022, Simon and Schuster Children's UK
Black Panther meets Percy Jackson in this action-packed and empowering middle-grade superhero series about a British-Nigerian girl who learns that her Afro hair has psychokinetic powers. I close my eyes, trying to push the power bubbling in me back down . . . Hairbands snap as my hair shoots out like superfine arrows, tearing through everything in its path. Onyeka has a lot of hair – the kind that makes strangers stop in the street. She’s always felt insecure about her vibrant curls, until she makes an important discovery: she can control her hair with her mind! Her mother quickly whisks her off to the Academy of the Sun, a school in Nigeria where Solari – children with superpowers – are trained. But Onyeka and her new friends at the Academy soon have to put their powers to the test as they find themselves caught up in an epic battle . . . one that puts the future of all Solari at risk.
SADÉ AND HER SHADOW BEASTS by Rachel Faturoti
July 7, 2022, Hodder Children's Books UK
Twelve-year-old Sadé has been escaping to an imaginary world ever since her mum passed away - with its candy-floss lilac sky, she goes on endless adventures atop her purple-winged bird, Nix. But soon she discovers that frightening shadow beasts live here too and they are seeping into the real world. Luckily, when her sister signs her up to an anonymous grief counselling group, Sadé finds her anxiety gets better. But then she's asked to perform spoken word in the talent show. The beasts won't let her get on stage: Tiger appears with her long sharp claws, Lion with his piercing blue eyes, and Fox stands on his giant hind legs. Will Sadé find the courage to say what she needs to - can she banish the shadow beasts for good?
MIA AND THE LIGHTCASTERS by Janelle McCurdy
August 4, 2022, Faber & Faber
Twelve-year old Mia has always dreamed of being an umbra tamer. Like many other cities, Nubis has been plunged into Darkness by the shadowy Reaper King - a figure the children of Nubis only know in their nightmares, and through horrible rhymes warning them to stay safely inside the city walls. When the Reaper King's minions capture her parents and take over the city, Mia, her friends and her little brother must travel across the Nightmare Plains to reach Stella, the City of Light. But getting there isn't going to be easy. Mia must learn to harness her umbra taming abilities if she stands any chance of confronting the king and rescuing her parents. If she can't, she'll lose her soul, and her family, to the Darkness forever.
RUBY FINLEY VS. THE INTERSTELLAR INVASION
by K. Tempest Bradford
September 27, 2022, Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Eleven-year-old Ruby is a Black girl who loves studying insects and would do just about anything to be an entomologist, much to the grossed-out dismay of her Gramma. Ruby knows everything there is to know about insects so when she finds the weirdest bug she’s ever seen in her front yard, she makes sure no one is looking and captures it for further study. But then Ruby realizes that the creature isn't just a regular bug. And it has promptly burned a hole through her window and disappeared. Soon, random things around the neighborhood go missing, and no one's heard from the old lady down the street for a week. Ruby and her friends will have to recover the strange bug before the feds do. Ruby is the science hero we’ve all been waiting for!
FUTURELAND by HD Hunter
Release date 2022 TBA, Random House
In the story, pitched as Black Panther meets Westworld by way of Artemis Fowl, the 12-year-old son of the famous creators of the traveling theme park phenomenon Futureland must stop an unknown enemy from stealing their cutting-edge technology and using it for sinister purposes, all while attending public school for the first time.
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