A poignant middle-grade novel about friends-turned-rivals training for a half-marathon—and rethinking what it means to win and what they mean to each other
Grace Eller has spent most of middle school working toward one goal: beating her former friend Jonah Perkins’s GPA so she can be the best student in her class. But when Jonah beats her for eighth grade top scholar and then announces he’s switching schools for ninth grade, it feels like none of Grace’s academic accomplishments have really mattered. They weren’t enough to win—or to impress her dad. And the summer looms over her head. With nothing planned and no more goals or checklists, she doesn’t know what she’s supposed to be working toward.
Eager for a chance to even the score with Jonah, she signs up for the Labor Day half-marathon that she and Jonah used to talk about running together someday. Maybe if she can beat Jonah on race day, she’ll feel OK again. But as she begins training with Jonah and checking off a new list of summer goals, she starts to expand her ideas of what—and who—really matters.
Engaging and heartfelt, Keeping Pace is about wanting to win at all costs—and having to learn how to fail.
Praise for Keeping Pace
“I loved this authentic, emotionally rich story of an ambitious, intense honor student and runner who learns to embrace all her feelings, even the messy ones. Laurie Morrison gets young teens—their triumphs, their heartbreaks, and everything in the middle—like no one else writing today.” —Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You and Unstuck
“Oh, how I wish I could travel back in time and hand my academic-overachieving eighth grade self this book! With her trademark empathy and wisdom, Laurie Morrison proves yet again how well she understands middle schoolers and the many real-world issues they juggle.” –Jenn Bishop, author of Free Throws, Friendship, and Other Things We Fouled Up
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Coming Up Short
A heartfelt novel about a softball-loving girl coming to terms with her parents’ humanity after a scandal sends shock waves through her town
Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything—and she’s determined to prove them right. But at the end of seventh grade, on the same day she makes a gutsy play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad made a big mistake, taking money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that other lawyer is Xander’s dad.
Bea doesn’t want to be angry with her dad, especially since he feels terrible and is trying to make things right. But she can’t face the looks of pity from all her friends, and then she starts missing throws in softball because she’s stuck in her own head. The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She’s not sure what’s going to be harder—learning to throw again, or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?
Praise for Coming Up Short
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A 2023-2024 Michigan Great Lakes Great Books Award Nominee
“A pitch-perfect middle school sports story that captures all the joy, love, and messiness of growing up, Coming Up Short hits an absolute home run.” —Kate Messner, author of Breakout and Chirp
“For every strong, brave kid who has ever felt like they’re coming up short, this is a book about showing up for your team, but showing up for yourself first.” —Lindsey Stoddard, author of Just Like Jackie
“Coming Up Short has the perfect lineup of friendships, first crushes, and family drama for a page-turning book. I loved everything about it!” —Debbi Michiko Florence, author of Keep It Together, Keiko Carter and Just Be Cool, Jenna Sakai
“Coming Up Short is a gripping and relatable story with a big heart that will have readers thinking deeply about team, family, and responsibility, especially when it comes to the people we love.” —Alyson Gerber, author of Taking Up Space, Focused, and Braced
“There are lots of sports scenes for softball fans, but this is also a novel that realistically explores deeper psychological truths around friendship and family relationships. There’s even a bit of sweet budding romance…A tween girl explores changing relationships in this sincere, character-driven story.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Morrison’s tale hits the ground running, and Bea’s emotional journey is as deftly chronicled as her time at a softball camp, which backgrounds the summer of her recovery. There are no villains here, just people of all ages who’ve made decisions they regret but are learning to dust themselves off and do better.” —The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
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- Read Laurie’s essay “All the Ways to Be Strong and Brave” on Teen Librarian Toolbox
- Read Laurie’s essay “The Yips–and those Storm-Cloud Worries” on A Novel Mind
- Check out Laurie’s list of great sporty middle grade novels
Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs
A thoughtful middle-grade novel about caring for others and for yourself—and what it truly means to be kind and vulnerable
Thirteen-year-old Ivy Campbell has always been a good kid: She supports her soccer-star brother, bakes with her nana, and puts her friends’ needs before her own. So of course, Ivy is 100 percent supportive when her mom decides to be a gestational surrogate. But when Ivy finds out the surrogacy treatment worked and her mom is pregnant—and has been for weeks—she’s shocked that she’s jealous and worried about what others will think. And most of all, she’s ashamed that she isn’t reacting to this news in the right way. The Ivy way. Ivy is determined to prove to herself that she’s just as unselfish as she’s always believed, and she gets the chance to do that when she receives an anonymous email from someone who needs her help. But the more Ivy dives into helping this anonymous person, the further she gets from the people she loves—and from the person who she wants to be.
Praise for Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2021 for Ages 9-12
“Feelings, life, and people are allowed to be complicated in beautiful ways in this page-turner.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A keenly observed portrait of a girl who goes way overboard on a good thing.” —Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“The lively narrative projects an authentic middle school voice and the Philadelphia setting is vivid, populated by nuanced characters and situations… Relatable realistic fiction for upper elementary and middle school readers navigating friendships, boundaries, and identity, with appeal for fans of similarly themed stories such as Varian Johnson’s Twins, Shannon Hale’s Real Friends, and Celia C. Pérez’s Strange Birds.” —School Library Journal
“I loved this wise, warm and utterly relatable story about kindness—a topic that feels especially timely. Once again, Laurie Morrison has created a complex, authentic character readers will eagerly embrace.” —Barbara Dee, author of Maybe He Just Likes You and My Life in the Fish Tank
“A truly memorable novel that makes the sometimes quiet and unasked questions of growing up and figuring yourself out feel big and bold and heart-shifting and profound. Part page-turning mystery, part emotional character study, I loved every poignant, intimate, and wise page. And I loved Ivy and her deeply relatable journey most of all.” –Corey Ann Haydu, author of Eventown and One Jar of Magic
“In this fast-paced, engaging book, a series of mysterious letters leave Ivy searching for answers and finding them in the most unexpected places. Morrison has crafted a beautifully triumphant story. It is layered, warm, and sweet, just like the perfectly imperfect Ivy herself.” —Carrie Firestone, author of Dress Coded
Up for Air
Dive into this middle-grade novel about competitive swimming, changing friendships, and finding your place
Thirteen-year-old Annabelle struggles in school, no matter how hard she tries. But as soon as she dives into the pool, she’s unstoppable. She’s the fastest girl on the middle school swim team, and when she’s asked to join the high school team over the summer, everything changes. Suddenly, she’s got new friends, and a high school boy starts treating her like she’s somebody special—and Annabelle thinks she’ll finally stand out in a good way. She’ll do anything to fit in and help the team make it to the Labor Day Invitational, even if it means blowing off her old friends. But after a prank goes wrong, Annabelle is abandoned by the older boy and can’t swim. Who is she without the one thing she’s good at? Heartwarming and relatable, Up for Air is a story about where we find our self-worth.
Praise for Up for Air
A Junior Library Guild Selection
A Publishers Weekly Best Summer Read, 2019
An Amazon Prime Book Box Selection
A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2019
“An awesome swimmer with a frustrating learning disability struggles in the roiling waters of adolescence . . . Readers will root for [Annabelle] as she ricochets between ebullience and despair, empathy and hurt, confidence and doubt, pride and self-loathing—we’ve been there, too, or soon will be. Captures the turmoil of adolescence with wisdom and humor in near-pointillist detail.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“Morrison, a former teacher, realistically captures the challenges of middle school—complicated family dynamics, volatile friendships, and first love—in this story about a girl struggling to find where she belongs.” —Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“A sweet and entertaining novel with deeper themes to ponder.” —School Library Journal
“Laurie Morrison authentically captures the lovelorn daydreams as well as the awkwardness and anxiety of a middle school girl with one foot in her childhood friendships and the other venturing into the world of young adulthood . . . the feelings and struggles Annabelle experiences are universal and will strike a chord with middle school students.” —School Library Connection
“Readers will relate to Annabelle—if not with the specifics of her life, then with the feelings of an almost teen as she navigates growing up. The well-crafted characters extend to the adults in the story, who are multilayered and have lives beyond their relationship with their daughter. Best of all, Annabelle’s realizations about her life are hard won and wholly believable.” — Booklist
“If I could take one book back to 13-year-old me in a time machine, it’d be this one.”—Kate Messner, author of Chirp and Breakout
“This novel is just like Annabelle herself: powerful and extraordinary.” —Lisa Greenwald, author of My Life in Pink and Green and 11 Before 12
“A heartwarming and oh-so-relatable middle-grade read.” —Melanie Crowder, author of Walden Award finalist An Uninterrupted View of the Sky
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Every Shiny Thing
In this beautifully constructed middle-grade novel, told half in prose and half in verse, Lauren prides herself on being a good sister, and Sierra is used to taking care of her mom. When Lauren’s parents send her brother to a therapeutic boarding school for teens on the autism spectrum and Sierra moves to a foster home in Lauren’s wealthy neighborhood, both girls are lost until they find a deep bond with each other. But when Lauren recruits Sierra to help with a Robin Hood scheme to raise money for autistic kids who don’t have her family’s resources, Sierra has a lot to lose if the plan goes wrong. Lauren must learn that having good intentions isn’t all that matters when you battle injustice, and Sierra needs to realize that sometimes, the person you need to take care of is yourself.
Praise for Every Shiny Thing
A Georgia Book Award Finalist
A South Carolina Junior Book Award Nominee
A Mighty Girl Best Book of 2018
“Thoughtful readers will find a lot to like here—sadness, suspense, even humor. They may even pause to consider their own privilege.” –School Library Journal
“Sierra’s narrative, in poetry, captures her spare, cautious, and Lauren’s prose is rich and descriptive, much like her own experiences. Together, the contrasting narratives tell a touching story about friendship, loyalty, and resilience that will have lots of appeal.” –Booklist
“Each character is well defined . . . Readers will hope for a better life for both girls. This middle grade novel will find a ready audience in most libraries.” –VOYA Magazine
“Like a kaleidoscope, Lauren and Sierra’s shifting perspectives will make you look at the world from different angles, transforming in unique and beautiful ways. This story shines.” –Lisa Graff, author of Lost in the Sun
“An inventive and emotional story about family and friendship.” –Erin Entrada Kelly, Newbery Medal winning author of Hello, Universe
“An emotional story of thievery, the trials of middle school, and above all, home and heart. This should hit the mark for middle grade readers who enjoy life’s complexities paired with the intrigue of secrecy.” –Erin E. Moulton, author of Flutter