Middle grade sci fi/fantasy debuts of 2023

 I like to support debut authors, and like to read MG sci fi/fantasy, so here's a list of books coming in 2023 that fit both bills (most links go to Goodreads, some go to the 2023 Debuts website). Congratulations to all the authors in this list!  I can't wait to read your books.

Keep these in mind when you are thinking about what to nominate for the Cybils Awards in Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction!  The Destiny of Minou Moonshine isn't eligible this year because of being published in the UK; I think that's the only UK debut on the list, please correct me if I'm wrong!  Finch House has already been nominated, but none of the others yet....the deadline is October 15.

Heroes of Havensong: Dragonboy  by Megan Reyes (January 24)

This timeless fantasy debut follows four unlikely heroes—a boy-turned-dragon, his reluctant dragon rider, a runaway witch, and a young soldier—bound by the Fates to save their world, and magic itself, from being destroyed.

Blue, River, Wren, and Shenli grew up on different sides of a war they didn’t start. Their land has been torn apart over centuries of conflict, with humans taught to fear all things magical, dragons driven to near extinction, and magic under attack. But an ancient prophecy has put the four them on a collision course with destiny—and with each other—in a mission to heal the fractured realm once known as Haven.

All of them must follow the threads of Fate, leaving behind the lives and homes they know to discover the truth about the seemingly endless war—and the truth about themselves. As the barriers between them begin to crumble, can they unravel the lies they’ve been taught to believe in order to restore the balance between humans, dragons, and magic before it’s too late?

Artemis Sparke and the Sound Seekers Brigade

by Kimberly Behre Kenna (February 2)

When Artemis Sparke has had it with humans, she heads to the nearby salt marsh to hang out with the birds, plants, and mollusks who don’t make a big deal of her stutter. The shoreline sanctuary is predictable, unlike her family and friends, and the data in her science journal proves it. But one day that data goes haywire, and her bird friend RT confirms it: the salt marsh is dying. Artemis discovers that the historic hotel where she lives with her mom may be part of the problem, but speaking up would mean confronting the cranky hotel owner who happens to be her mom’s boyfriend and boss. Artemis conjures up help from deceased ecologists, and as she works to untangle their clues, she finds family secrets that could be the key to saving the salt marsh but also may destroy her life as she knows it.

The Alchemy of Letting Go

 by Amber Morrell (March 1)

Twelve-year-old Juniper Edwards can't stop chasing the endangered butterfly her sister died trying to catch. In her grief, Juniper finds comfort in her family's study of insects, because science is based on logic, order, and control. But then Juniper's search for the butterfly nearly kills her, too, and when she wakes up with newfound abilities, she discovers that the line between science and magic--and life and death--is not as solid as she thought. With the help of her mysterious neighbors, Juniper tries an experiment to change things back to the way they were. Its result will force her to face the fact that some things are way beyond her control.

Emma and the Queen of Featherstone

by Lindsay Fryc (March 7)

In the near distant future, Emma's life revolves around the company's Mars terraforming fast track program. Stuck between her parents' never-ending Mars shuttle supply runs and her own coursework in the program, Emma dreams of adventure outside of the company's plan for her. Anything to get away from the constant bullying and boring coursework.

She finds that adventure accidentally when she stumbles into a portal to a new world. On Merah, she finds two species, the secretive Kabiren. who create and run all technological advancement, and the Amethites, the native species of the planet. When the Kabiren inform her that a portal back to her world does not exist, she accepts a place in their society, as a Protector.

Now she must navigate her new assignment of guarding her new planet from portal intruders while also figuring out what the Kabiren are hiding. Her acceptance of her new life without her family and friends is thrown into chaos when she meets a special portal intruder: her best friend from Earth. Now she must decide between accepting her adventure in this new world, or fighting for her old one.

Maggie and the Mountain of Light by Mark Snoad (April 4)

12-year-old Maggie Thatcher longs to be a courageous Wayfinder Girl. But that's not very likely; she is barely coping with life as it is, relying on her asthma inhaler, epi-pen, and the support of her best friend, Anahira Waititi.

Maggie and Anahira attend a Wayfinder 'apocalypse training' camp in London. Despite it being just for fun, the sight of a green-skinned person with other-worldly eyes sends Maggie into a panic, especially as it’s a person that only Maggie can see.

And then Maggie learns of a dangerous secret that the Wayfinder Girls have kept hidden from the world. Anahira wants in on the secret. Maggie must decide whether to join her friend, even if she has no idea what that decision will ultimately cost.

Will Maggie face her fears and journey into the unknown?

Escape from Grimstone Manor (Monsterious, #1)

 by Matt McMann (May 9)

In a mansion on a hill,
lived a man no one could kill.
Raised the dead with magic dark
to rule the world and make his mark.

Zari has always been fascinated by creepy stories about Hezekiah Crawly, the real-life inspiration behind her local amusement park's haunted house attraction, so she's thrilled when her friends Mateo and Taylor agree to go on the last ride of the day before the park closes.

But when the ride breaks down, the three get trapped inside the haunted house for the night! As if that weren't scary enough, the kids stumble onto a hidden staircase leading to a dark, cobwebbed crypt that doesn't seem like part of the ride--and by the looks of it, they aren't alone down there. Is it possible the stories about Hezekiah Crawly and his monstrous experiments are true? And if so, can Zari, Mateo and Taylor make it through the night in one piece?

The Hunt for the Hollower by Callie C. Miller (June 13)

The great wizard Merlyn prophesized that his seventh descendant would do wonderful, miraculous things—baffling everyone when his great-great-many-times-great grandchild turns out to be twins. Soon enough, however, it becomes clear which sibling is the Septimum Genus: Percy is a natural with magic. Merlynda (to put it simply) is not.

But Merlynda doesn’t mind. Percy has always been by her side to cheer her up (and clean up) after her magical bungles—until the twins attempt a forbidden spell to help her control her magic, and Percy vanishes through a portal and straight into the clutches of the magic-stealing, mythical Hollower.

Aided by her best friend (who longs to be a knight), a wandering musician (who is fleeing from his past), and her brand-new, fierce familiar (who yearns for a taste of funnel cake), Merlynda sets off on a quest to rescue her brother. But to defeat this ancient evil, she must discover and embrace her true powers—or else lose her brother for good.

Lei and the Fire Goddess

 by Malia Maunakea (June 6)

12-year-old Lei is forced to spend summers in Hawaiʻi with her grandma who is determined to make sure she knows all her family's moʻolelo—stories the kids back home donʻt care about or believe. But after insulting Pele, the Goddess of Fire, she learns just how real these legends are when the goddess takes her best friend and places a curse on her family—one that only Lei can lift. 

Maybe There are Witches, by Jude Atwood (June 13)

After moving to the tiny village of Biskopskulla, middle school student Clara Hutchins discovers that her family has a history in the region: one hundred forty years ago, one of her ancestors was hanged as a witch from the white oak tree on the edge of town. When Clara finds a mildewed diary in the basement, she’ s even able to read the rambling thoughts of her long-dead relative.

But when the book’ s predictions about Clara’ s own life start coming true, she wonders if those 19th-century villagers had a point: maybe her great-great-great grandmother really did have unearthly abilities. Now, a break-in at the tomb of the town’ s founder means a great evil has returned to Biskopskulla. Clara and her newest friends— two of the weirdest boys in school— must join forces to decipher the messages of a murdered witch and stop an unnatural catastrophe. But as they quest through historic cemeteries, backcountry libraries, and high-octane scholastic bowl tournaments, something sinister is lurking, watching, and waiting…

The Horrible Bag of Terrible Things #1 by Rob Renzetti (July 25)

When Zenith finds a strange, unsettling bag at his front door, he's not sure where it came from or who sent it to him. He knows better than to expect his annoying older sister Apogee to help him figure it out, because ever since she turned thirteen, she's been acting more like a parent to him than a sibling. But he certainly did not expect for a horrifying spiderlike creature to emerge from the bag, kidnap Apogee, and drag her inside to the equally horrifying and unsettling world of GrahBhag.

Zenith sets off into the bag to bring her back but soon finds a bizarre realm where malicious forests, a trio of blood-drinking mouths, and a sentient sawdust-stuffed giant are lurking within the seams. And from every corner of the world come whispers of the Great Wurm, an eldritch horror with a godlike hold over the creatures of GrahBhag, who seems to have a dark, insidious purpose for Apogee. With the help of a greedy, earwax-nibbling gargoyle, Zenith will have to save Apogee from the Great Wurm and help them both escape the horrible bag before it's too late.

The Destiny of Minou Moonshine

by Gita Ralleigh (July 6)

The Destiny of Minou Moonshine is a historical fantasy set in an alternate colonial India. Minou is a foundling who lives with her adopted grandmother by the river gates of the General's Palace. When her grandmother is killed, she joins a band of rebels bent on overthrowing the General and restoring the rightful Queen, and along the way, discovers the truth of her own origins.

Don't Want To Be Your Monster

by Deke Moulton (August 1)

Adam and Victor are brothers who have the usual fights over the remote, which movie to watch and whether or not it’s morally acceptable to eat people. Well, not so much eat . . . just drink a little blood. They’re vampires, hiding in plain sight with their eclectic yet loving family.

Ten-year-old Adam knows he has a better purpose in life (well, death) than just drinking blood, but fourteen-year-old Victor wants to accept his own self-image of vampirism. Everything changes when bodies start to appear all over town, and it becomes clear that a vampire hunter may be on the lookout for the family. Can Adam and Victor reconcile their differences and work together to stop the killer before it’s too late?

Field of Screams by Wendy Parris  (August 1)

Paranormal enthusiast Rebecca Graff isn't happy about being dragged to Iowa to spend the summer with family she barely knows. But when she tracks a ghostly presence to an abandoned farmhouse, she starts to think the summer won't be a total lost cause!

The trouble is no one believes her. Then Rebecca finds a note stashed in a comic belonging to her late father--a note that proves the same spirit haunted him when he was twelve. Suddenly she feels a connection to the dad she pretends not to miss, and she is determined to uncover the story behind the haunting.

But the more Rebecca discovers, the scarier the ghost becomes. Soon she is in a race to piece together the puzzle and recover a family legacy before it is lost forever and a horrible tragedy repeats itself.

The Great Texas Dragon Race,  by Kacy Ritter (August 1)

Thirteen-year-old Cassidy Drake wants nothing more than to race with her best dragon, Ranga, in the annual Great Texas Dragon Race. Her mother was a racing legacy, and growing up on her family's dragon sanctuary ranch, Cassidy lives and breathes dragons. She knows she could win against the exploitative FireCorp team that cares more about corporate greed than caring for the dragons.

Cassidy is so determined to race that she sneaks out of her house against her father's wishes and enters the competition. Soon, Cassidy takes to the skies with Ranga across her glorious Lone Star State. But with five grueling tasks ahead of her, dangerous dragon challenges waiting at each one, and more enemies than allies on the course, Cassidy will need to know more than just dragons to survive.

Peril at Price Manor 

by Laura Parnum (August 8) 

Halle Thompson is determined to someday play the Damsel in Distress in a horror movie. She takes acting lessons, practices fainting, and has the most perfect of all perfect horror movie screams—something her mom and classmates could do without. When she seizes the opportunity to deliver flowers to Price Manor, home of the famous horror movie maker who lives just outside of town, she is sure she will get her big break. Meanwhile, at Price Manor, a strange creature is attacking the household staff. The movie maker’s 12-year-old twins are sure it’s just another one of their father’s elaborate pranks. But when Halle shows up and discovers the very real horror scene, she must stop thinking like a Damsel in Distress and start thinking like a Heroine.

Hangabout: Far From Home by Ree Augustine (August 29) 

Hangabout, a puppy whose body has just grown into his long teardrop ears, searches for his Keeper, who unbeknownst to Hangabout has abandoned him in the countryside.

Thinking his Keeper has come under harm, Hangabout prepares to find his way back home. Bean, a know-it-all street cat, tries to talk him out of it. Hangabout loves his new friend, Bean, but is determined to return to his Keeper. In the end, Bean joins Hangabout, under the pretense
that she is returning to her Keeper too, when in fact Bean is homeless and has no one. Hangabout naively presses on, even though he is traveling to a lie and traveling with a lie.

After being attacked by rats, and a fox, and a farmer with a BB gun, Hangabout, along with Bean, finally makes his way back home, only to find the house is empty. Hangabout now realizes his Keeper has abandoned him. Hangabout still believes there is good in the world, and he sets out to find a Keeper for himself and Bean. But when Bean seems to have died, Hangabout lowers his standards and decides to live with a Scavenger who wants nothing to do with him.

If Hangabout does not stick to his belief that there is good in the world, he will never find the Keeper who is waiting for him.

Bee Bakshi and the Gingerbread Sisters, by Emi Pinto (September 12) 

Inspired by Hansel and Gretel, this spooky ghost story and touching debut investigates the gingerbread houses that we trap ourselves in when we don’t learn to love ourselves as we are, perfect for fans of Ghost Squad and The Girl and the Ghost . Bee wanted to spend the summer reading Betsy Chillers books and exploring the new spooky theme park with her best friend. Instead, she’s spending the summer trapped at Storm Lake with her too loud, too thrifty, and too Indian family. Luckily, Bee finds a place to escape her embarrassment—a magical house across the lake that transforms her into the cool girl she always wanted to be. Maybe cottage life isn’t so bad after all! But strange dreams are haunting Bee, and there’s a chill in her bones she just can’t shake. Bee follows her hunch—and the scent of gingerbread—to Lucas, the dorky boy next door. He thinks there are ghosts in the forest, but new friend Alina tells her what Bee has feared all There’s a witch at Storm Lake. And she’s coming for Bee.

Adia Kelbara and the Circle of Shamans, by Isi Hendrix (September 19)

Life is tough for twelve-year-old orphan Adia. Her aunt and uncle believe she’s an ogbanje, a demon-possessed child that brings misfortune wherever they go, and Adia can’t disagree—especially when she suddenly manifests mysterious powers that she can’t control, causing an earthquake in her village.

So when Adia is offered a kitchen apprenticeship at the faraway Academy of Shamans, she flees with nothing but a pouch of change, her cat Bubbles, and the hope that someone there can figure out what's wrong with her—and fix it. But just as she's settling in, Adia stumbles upon a shocking secret: Unlike her, the kingdom's emperor really is possessed—by a demon more wicked than any other. And he’s on his way to the Academy for a visit.

Joining forces with a snarky goddess, a 500-year-old warrior girl, and an annoying soldier-in-training, Adia must travel through hidden realms to exorcise the emperor and save her kingdom. But to succeed, she first must come to understand the powers inside her….

The fate of the world hangs in the balance.

Finch House, by Ciera Burch (September 5) 

Eleven-year-old Micah has no interest in moving out of her grandfather’s house. She loves living with Poppop and their shared hobby of driving around rich neighborhoods to find treasures in others’ trash. To avoid packing, Micah goes for a bike ride and ends up at Finch House, the decrepit Victorian that Poppop says is Off Limits. Except when she gets there, it’s all fixed up and there’s a boy named Theo in the front yard. Surely that means Finch House isn’t Off Limits anymore? But when Poppop finds her there, Micah is only met with his disappointment.
By the next day, Poppop is nowhere to be found. After searching everywhere, Micah’s instincts lead her back to Finch House. But once Theo invites her inside, Micah realizes she can’t leave. And that, with its strange whispers and deep-dark shadows, Finch House isn’t just a house…it’s alive.

Can Micah find a way to convince the house to let her go? Or will she be forced to stay in Finch House forever?

Alex Wise vs. the End of the World , by Terry J. Benton-Walker (September 26)

Alex Wise feels like his world is ending. His best friend Loren is leaving town for the summer, his former friend and maybe sort of crush Sky hasn't spoken to him since he ditched Alex on first day of sixth grade, and now his mom is sending him and his annoying younger sister, Mags, on a cruise with the dad who abandoned them. And, as if things couldn't get worse, a creepy shadow monster may or may not be stalking him.

But none of this could prepare Alex for the actual end of the world. Too bad that is exactly what's coming, after the definitely-real Shadow Man kidnaps Mags and she is possessed by the ancient spirit of Death--one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Luckily (depending on who you ask), Alex is possessed as well by a powerful god who imbues Alex with their powers in an effort to stop the Horsemen...if he can figure out how to use them. So begins an epic battle between good and evil: Alex, Loren, a grumpy demi-god and Alex's fourth grade teacher vs. Death, Pestilence, Famine, War, and the waves of chaos and destruction they bring to LA and soon the rest of the globe. Just your average summer vacation.

Alex is more used to being left behind than leading the way, but now he's the only one who can save his sister--and the world. That is, if he can unlock his new powers and see himself as the hero he is.

Salsa Magic, by Letisha Marrero (September 26)

Thirteen-year-old Maya Beatriz Montenegro Calderon has vivid recurring dreams where she hears the ocean calling her. Mami’s side of the family is known as “Los Locos,” so maybe she actually is going crazy. But no time for that; the family business is where it’s at. Whenever Maya, her sister Salma, and her three cousins, Ini, Mini, and Mo, aren’t at school, you can usually find three generations of Calderones at Café Taza, serving up sandwiches de pernil, mofongo, and the best cafés con leche in all of Brooklyn.

One day, an unexpected visit from the estranged Titi Yaya from Puerto Rico changes everything. Because Yaya practices santería, Abuela tells Maya and the other Calderon children to stay away from her. But If la viejita is indeed estranged from the family, why does Maya feel so connected to this woman she has never met before? And who is this orisha named Yemaya? On top of figuring all this out, Maya has a budding soccer career to consider, while fending off the local bully, and dealing with nascent feelings toward her teammate. But through it all, there’s that alluring connection to a forbidden ancient practice—filled with a pantheon of Yoruban gods and goddesses—that keeps tugging at her, offering her a new perspective in life, tying her past to her present and future. Which path will Maya choose to fulfill her destiny?

The Otherwoods, by Justine Pucella Winans (September 12)

Some would call River Rydell a 'chosen one': born with the ability to see monsters and travel to a terrifying spirit world called The Otherwoods, they have all the makings of a hero. But River just calls themself unlucky. After all, it's not like anyone actually believes River can see these things-or that anyone even believes monsters exist in the first place. So the way River sees it, it's better to keep their head down and ignore anything Otherwoods related.

But The Otherwoods won't be ignored any longer.

When River's only friend (and crush) Avery is kidnapped and dragged into The Otherwoods by monsters, River has no choice but to confront the world they've seen only in their nightmares-but reality turns out be more horrifying than they could have ever imagined. With only their cat for protection and a wayward teen spirit as their guide, River must face the monsters of The Otherwoods and their own fears to save Avery and become the hero they were (unfortunately) destined to be.


  1. Thanks so much for compiling this list. I'm saving it so I can offer some of these books in my giveaway hops. I'm looking forward to reading The Great Texas Dragon Race.

  2. Lots of new to me titles! PERIL AT PRICE MANOR sounds like a fun read.

  3. As a longtime follower of your blog (I used to run a children's book group back when my kids were at elementary school!) can I just say how thrilled I am to see my forthcoming 'The Destiny Of Minou Moonshine' on here among all these gorgeous debuts! A dream come true...🙏🏽

  4. Hi, Charlotte! Thank you so much for including me. You can now find the updated info on my book, The Great Texas Dragon Race, on Goodreads here: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/63247358-the-great-texas-dragon-race?ac=1&from_search=true&qid=Vcz3FgYm2H&rank=1

  5. Thank you so much for including me in your list. I've read several of these titles and enjoyed each one. My book, Hangabout: Far from Home, releases Aug 29th! www.reeaugustine.com

    1. thanks for the update! Have added date and picture!

    2. Thank you so much. I really appreciate that.


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