10 Middle Grade Novels Set in Upstate New York

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10 Middle Grade Novels Set in Upstate New York on LibraryAdventure.comThe books in today’s list are all middle grade novels set in upstate New York. Use these titles to broaden your middle grade reader’s knowledge of New York State, and/or give your young upstate natives a chance to see their neck of the woods represented in print.

10 Middle Grade Novels Set in Upstate New York

  • As Simple As It Seems by Sarah Weeks is set in Sullivan County, which is in the Hudson Valley region. Verbena, a young girl with some developmental delays, learns that she is adopted and that there were sad circumstances surrounding her early childhood. As she comes to terms with this new information, she begins to see herself differently, and to claim a bit more independence from her adoptive mother.
  • The Summer Before Boys by Nora Raleigh Baskin has a very specific setting: The Mohonk Mountain House (called Mohawk Mountain House in the book.) I worked at this mountain resort one summer, and Baskin’s details make it very easy to imagine the real place, and to conjure the surrounding community of New Hope (which in real life is New Paltz.) The story itself is about two girls, Eliza and Julia, who are best friends, but whose friendship is changing as Julia abandons games of make-believe in favor of a boy who has caught her eye.
  • Sunny Holiday by Coleen Murtagh Paratore is set in a poor urban community in Troy, NY, which is part of the Capital District surrounding the capital city of Albany. Despite unfortunate circumstances (Sunny’s dad is in jail, her mom works long, hard hours, and her school is about to shut down), Sunny remains upbeat and positive as she and a friend try to launch the first-ever holiday celebrating kids. (Sunny’s story continues in a second volume, Sweet and Sunny.)

10 Middle Grade Novels Set in Upstate New York on LibraryAdventure.com

  • Leslie Connor’s Waiting for Normal is set in Schenectady, NY, also in the Capital District. Addie’s irresponsible mother makes it difficult for her to feel safe and secure in her own home, but Addie never gives up hope that she might one day be allowed to live with her stepfather and half-siblings in a normal family.
  • Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff  stars a boy named Sam, who lives in Herkimer County. As he approaches his eleventh birthday, he makes the startling discovery that he may have been kidnapped by his grandfather, Mack. As he tries to unravel the truth, he also struggles with a series of nightmares about escaping from grave danger by boat.
  • In Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt, Doug Swieteck and his family have recently moved to Marysville, NY, near Skaneateles Lake in the Finger Lakes district. Taking refuge from a stormy family situation, Doug spends a lot of time in the public library, where John Audubon’s drawings of birds are on display, and the librarian, Mr. Powell helps him slowly learn to draw each of the birds. (Okay for Now is the sequel to The Wednesday Wars.)
  • Grace Lin’s semi-autobiographical novel The Year of the Dog never explicitly mentions its setting, but we can assume based on Lin’s own childhood that the story takes place in her hometown of New Hartford. Pacy and her sisters are Taiwanese Americans and the first generation in their family to be born in the United States. This book and its sequels, The Year of the Rat and Dumpling Days document their daily trials and adventures.

10 Middle Grade Novels Set in Upstate New York

  • James Howe, himself a native of Oneida, NY  set The Misfits and its three sequels – Totally Joe, Addie on the Inside, and Also Known As Elvis – in a fictional upstate town called Paintbrush Falls. Bobby, Joe, Addie, and Skeezie are tired of being called names, so they band together to form the No Name Party, whose sole purpose is to eradicate name-calling in their school.
  • Here Today by Ann M. Martin is set in 1963 in another fictional upstate town, Spectacle, NY. Ellie and her siblings love their glamorous mother, Doris, but after JFK is assassinated, Doris decides to leave the family to pursue fame, leaving Ellie to take charge of her family.
  • Home Sweet Horror is written by James Preller, who grew up in Wantagh, NY, and now lives in Delmar, NY and the story is set in the fictional town of Hopesville. When Liam, his dad, and his sister, move into their new house, they are unprepared for the ways they will be haunted, or by the very special way their deceased mother will protect them.

To see my reviews of several of these books and a map plotting their settings, check out this Pinterest board.

About Katie Fitzgerald

Katie Fitzgerald holds degrees in English and library science, and has worked in small town and big city libraries, serving both children and teens. You can read her book reviews and posts about story time, picture books, and early literacy at Story Time Secrets. Also follow her blog on Facebook for kidlit quotations, story time suggestions, and interesting links.

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