Book Reviews: Middle Grade Fiction & Non-Fiction

Click on the title to access the full review.

Books are listed alphabetically by author.

~ A ~

I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosin • Observant, curious 11-year-old dreamer Celeste Marconi wants to be a writer when she grows up. She embraces everything about her peaceful, magical harbor city of Valparaiso, Chile, from the pelicans who greet her every morning to the colors and flowers of the gardens. But when small things start to change—neighbors and classmates begin to disappear, and military ships crowd the harbor—she knows trouble of some kind is on the horizon.

A Month of Mondays by Joëlle Anthony • Suze Tamaki always seems to be getting herself into trouble, a result of feeling bored with school and her life in general. When an English teacher coaxes her into an honors class, Suze learns what it’s like to finally be challenged. However, her life dramatically changes when her mother, Caroline, shows up unannounced after a 10-year absence and wants to pick up where she left off.

My Brother’s Shadow by Tom Avery • Ever since Kaia found her older brother dead at home, she has been “frozen.” So has her mother, though she’s since found comfort in a bottle. Kaia lost everything—her brother and mother (who she adored), her friends (who now think she’s a freak), her teachers (who think she’s not trying), and her smile (which her mother used to say was lovely). One day, a wild, gray-eyed, raggedy-clothed boy appears at school…

~ B ~

Consider the Octopus by Nora Raleigh Baskin and Gae Polisner • Jeremy Barnes is having the worst summer of his life. His parents are divorced. He’s spending the summer with his scientist mom rather than with his friends. He hates that they’re aboard the Oceania II because what’s worse is that they’re going to be in the middle of the ocean. On land in Seattle, science-enthusiast Sidney Miller must spend the summer with her hippie (but cool) grandmother doing something educational every single day in lieu of heading off to (ugh) summer camp. When Jeremy is put in charge of locating and sending invitations to a list of scientists to join the Oceania II crew for the purpose of bringing attention to the urgent need for clean water and the massive amount of plastic clogging the ocean, Sidney is mistaken to be Dr. Sidney Miller, from the Marine Lab at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Tastes Like Music – 17 Quirks of the Brain and Body by Maria Birmingham • Tetrachromacy is a fancy way of saying you can see millions more colors than the average person. Prosopagnosia is the technical name for not being able to recognize faces, including your own. Developmental Topographical Disorientation simply means you’re always lost, even in your own home. These are 3 of the 17 quirks of the human brain and body that are discussed in this fascinating book.

Pick and Roll by Kelsey Blair • There’s a fine line between playing aggressively and playing too hard. The top player on her ninth-grade team, Jazz finds herself facing suspension after setting a move called a “pick and roll” that knocked her opponent to the floor and caused injury. The result impacts Jazz in more ways than she could imagine…

River Runs Deep by Jennifer Bradbury • In 1842, Dr. John Croghan believed that patients suffering from consumption could be cured by special diets and the cool, damp air found in Kentucky’s Mammoth Cave. In this book, one of his patients is 12-year-old Elias Harrigan, who befriends slaves working in the cave and is unknowingly drawn into the dubious scheming of Pennyrile, another patient. When Elias begins to feel better, he joins the slaves as they make their rounds delivering food and conducting tours of the cave.

The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden • Seventh-grader Zoey doesn’t think she’s as good as other kids at school who have nice things. She also doesn’t have the inclination to do homework because she’s too busy taking care of her siblings—Bryce (four), Aurora (three), and baby Hector—all offspring of different fathers. They and their mother live in a trailer with Mom’s fussy bully of a boyfriend, Lenny, and his cantankerous father. When Zoey’s social-studies teacher makes her join the school debate club, she begins to see situations with fresh eyes and from both sides—an ability she courageously applies to the gun debate after a school lockdown occurs.

Felix Yz by Lisa Bunker • Eighth grade, like every other year of Felix Yz’s life, isn’t easy, but right now, it’s increasingly intense. Why? He is inhabited by a fourth-dimensional creature, Zyx, whose presence forces Felix’s body into a hunched stance he calls “the Pose.” One month before undergoing a procedure designed to separate the boy from his alien, Felix starts a detailed blog of his life, challenges, and thoughts. Told as a daily countdown, Felix records when he’s bullied, when he finally talks with Hector (on whom he has a crush), how the Yz family copes with his situation, and when his fears about the procedure bubble up.

Cabin Girl by Kristin Butcher • Slightly superstitious and somewhat naive, 16-year-old Bailey wants nothing more than to prove she can be responsible on her own. When her godfather offers her a summer job as a cabin girl at Witch Lake Lodge in northern Manitoba, Bailey jumps at the chance. She has a difficult time getting into the rhythm of her job, but her cabin mate April, an older girl who works as a waitress, encourages her. Things eventually fall into place, and Bailey’s confidence is restored. But then an incident occurs…

~ D ~

Bollywood Babes by Narinder Dhami • Dealing with the Dhillons • The best of intentions goes awry, and the Dhillon sisters create more havoc than their long-suffering but stylish Auntie can handle in Narinder Dhami’s Bollywood Babes. When Geena, 14, Amber (Ambajit), 12, and Jazz (Jasvinder), 11, track down a former Hindi-film heroine, invite her to their home, and ask her to be the guest of honor at their school’s Bollywood-themed fundraiser, they have no idea that life as they know it will change forever.

Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway (Book One in a Series) • Xander Musashi Miyamoto is a half-Asian sixth-grader whose major interest is playing and coding computer games. When strange things begin to happen, his obāchan (grandmother) reveals that Xander comes from a long line of Momotaro warriors and only he can rid the world of oni (demons). Reluctantly, Xander sets sail on a magical ship with his dog and best friend, and they are taken to unknown worlds and meet the final person for their crew—Jinx, the monkey girl.

Momotaro: Xander and the Dream Thief by Margaret Dilloway (Book Two in a Series) • This sequel to Momotaro: Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters (2016) begins on the heels of Xander Miyamoto learning he’s the new Momotaro, a demon-fighting warrior. He should be thrilled, but his powers have waned, he’s plagued by nightmares, and his long-absent mother has returned without warning. Xander’s grandmother gives him a baku (special charm) to help fight the nightmares, cautioning him not to use it unless absolutely necessary, for misuse causes the theft of dreams.

Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino (Book One in a Series) • Giacomo is a 12-year-old orphan who lives in the sewers of Renaissance-inspired Virenzia. His prized possession is a sketchbook, though drawing is risky as the Supreme Creator, or dictator, has outlawed art. When his personal Genius—a birdlike creature that enhances artistic abilities—finds him, he is dangerously marked as an artist. Shortly thereafter, a trio of other artistic children find him and take him to a safe house where they are allowed to flourish.

Warrior Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino (Book Two in a Series) • Having secured the Compass—one of three powerful objects known as the Sacred Tools of Geometry—Giacomo and his friends set out to find the Straightedge, which amplifies an artistic genius’ power a hundred times over. They must find and capture it to stop Nerezza, the Supreme Creator, from spreading her tyranny. On the run from a merciless emperor, the kids and their teacher find themselves in the enemy territory Rachana.

The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (Book Two in a Trilogy) • Time Passages, Magic Messages • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni is one of those gifted writers who touches readers of all ages. Known primarily for her adult fiction, she solidifies her younger reader base with this latest offering, The Mirror of Fire and Dreaming. The middle entry in “The Brotherhood of the Conch” trilogy, The Mirror combines courage, loyalty, selflessness, and friendship with folklore, magic, mysticism, and fantasy. Magic apprentice Anand, his high-spirited sidekick Nisha, and their revered teacher Abhaydatta take the reader on yet another extraordinary journey, one that propels them into the past.

Anybody Shining by Frances O’Roark Dowell • Letters to a Friend • Frances O’Roark Dowell is an award-winning children’s author whose latest novel, Anybody Shining brings her readers to the mountains of North Carolina and into a world she loves. Twelve-year-old Arie Mae Sparks lives in Stone Gap, N.C., in the early 1920s and knows little about the outside world beyond the National Barn Dance she hears on WLS-AM radio from Chicago. What she does know is that everyone else has something she desperately wants: one true, shining friend.

The Class by Frances O’Roark Dowell • Beloved Mrs. Herrera’s sixth-grade class at Milton Falls Middle School is a lively one of 20 students, but since sixth grade is when strange things happen with friendships and other relationships, everyone seems a little bit dazed and confused. Adding to the weirdness is new girl Ellie, who keeps to herself and constantly writes in a notebook as if she’s psychoanalyzing everyone.

~ F ~

Bubble by Stewart Foster • Eleven-year-old Joe Grant has no recollection of being outside of his specially monitored hospital room. A rare genetic disorder, severe combined immunodeficiency, keeps him within the same four walls because the smallest thing can kill him. Joe’s world revolves around monitor beeps and daily bruise checks in the shower, and the only people he sees are doctors, nurses, his Skype pal Henry, and Beth, his sister and only living family member.

When My Sister Started Kissing by Helen Frost • Eleven-year-old Claire and thirteen-year-old Abigail have lived alone with their father since their mother died when Claire was a baby. The three have spent a month at the lake every summer, but things are different this year. Their new (pregnant) stepmom is coming, while their mom’s belongings have been packed away as if she’d never been there. Abigail declares she wants to be called Abi, and all she can think of is boys—and kissing them.

~ G ~

In Todd We Trust by Louise Galveston • Todd and the Toddlians have returned, and this time around, he falls hard for Charity, the beautiful new girl at school. This means the Toddlians come second, leading them to believe Great Todd is angry with them. The Toddlians decide to find a new god, a process that almost destroys them.

The Blood Stone by Jamila Gavin • Twelve-year-old Filippo of Venice has never known his father, Geronimo, a master jeweler who left for far-off Hindustan in search of wealth and gems. Struggling during his 12-year absence, yet rich in many ways, the Veroneo family possesses a dazzling, expertly-cut diamond. It is this secret diamond, called the Ocean of the Moon, that will ultimately destroy or reunite them. Filippo’s greedy brother-in-law, Bernardo, hungers for the diamond. Thieves and spies attempt to make it their own. It is the only possession worthy of guaranteeing success in an unexpected task ahead.

Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart • Brodie is a good dog, and not even death deters him from making sure his boy is safe from the Monster, Aiden’s abusive father. Against the advice of other dogs waiting to go to the Forever place, Brodie takes the risk and, with his affable new friend Tuck, returns to earth as a spirit. As words and memories begin to filter through his mind, Brodie gains an understanding of what happened to him and why Aiden meant so much to him.

Grenade by Alan Gratz • Okinawa native Hideki is 13 when American forces storm his Pacific island during WWII, and he and his classmates are pressed into service by the Japanese army. They are given two grenades and told one is to kill the American “monsters” and the other is to kill oneself afterward. Ray, 18, is a Marine enlistee fresh from a farm in Nebraska and about to enter his first battle. Both boys share the fear of the unknown, the primal need to survive, and a wish that the unnecessary death and destruction were done with.

Theodore Boone: The Fugitive by John Grisham (Book Five in a Series) • Book five in this continuing story of a murder trial gone awry finds Theo Boone in a predicament that involves the escaped murderer, the FBI, and an undocumented immigrant. On his eighth-grade trip to Washington, D.C., Theo recognizes a man on the Metro to be Pete Duffy, the man accused of murdering his wife back home. Theo calls Ike—his uncle who served prison time—who helps confirm the man’s identity.

~ H ~

Princess Academy 3: The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale • On the day that Miri is to return to her beloved Mount Eskel, she is summoned by King Bjorn of Danland, requesting her to travel to outer territorial Lesser Alva, where she is to tutor three royal sisters. If the King of Stora chooses one to marry, war will be prevented, and it’s up to Miri to succeed. Unhappy but duty-bound, Miri accepts the task, only to meet three wild girls who spend their days wrestling on the floor and hunting and fishing in the swamp. They are dirty, unkempt, and uneducated.

The Sky at Our Feet by Nadia Hashimi • Jason D. Riazi gets the shock of his life when his mother reveals the story of how she came to America from Afghanistan, and how she once was legal but now is undocumented. Soon after, Jason witnesses what he fears most: men with badges taking his mother away. Not knowing what will happen next, he takes the train to New York City to find his mother’s friend, “Auntie” Seema.

Beastkeeper by Cat Hellisen • Because her mother craved the warmth of the sun, Sarah and her parents frequently packed up and moved. Lonely and friendless, Sarah always desired some magic in her life. On the day her mother leaves, never to return, odd things begin to happen. Her father’s hair grows dark and thick as he becomes beastlike, and Sarah meets an improbable boy named Alan, who disappears as quickly as he appears in the Not-a-Forest near her home.

One Shadow on the Wall by Leah Henderson • Orphaned after the death of his baay (father), 11-year-old Mor of Lat Mata, Senegal, finds himself responsible for his younger sisters. Mor is committed to keeping the family together, but his aunt only gives him until the end of summer to prove that he can—or she’ll take the girls away. Juggling bad luck against worse odds, Mor persists in his efforts to make a living and slowly brings in an income. But soon he has to make a decision: stick up for himself, his family, and friends, or take the seemingly easy route by joining the Danka Boys, a gang that has been harassing him.

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton • Mimi Yoshiko Oliver and her family just moved from Berkeley, California, to Hillsborough, Vermont, where she immediately encounters barrier after barrier to overcome. Mimi’s goal is to become an astronaut; however, it’s 1969, a time when young girls are encouraged to become mothers, secretaries, teachers, or nurses. She also wants to fit in at school. That was easy at her school in Berkeley, where there were kids from every background, but in white-populated Vermont, she stands out as the only half black, half Japanese student.

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera HiranandaniIn 1967, twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s life is full of turmoil like the world around her. The release of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album may be a highlight but protests, hippies, and war fill the news. Personally, her life is inundated with massive changes she doesn’t know how to fix. In How to Find What You’re Not Looking For, inspired by her own family story, Newbery Honor winner Veera Hiranandani paints a complex picture of a pre-teen girl navigating her life as it falls apart one issue at a time.

~ L ~

It’s the End of the World as I Know It by Matthew Landis • It’s been nearly a year since Derrick “Dee” Waters lost his mom, a Major in the Air Force deployed in Iraq. Since then, he’s been convinced that the apocalypse is scheduled to happen this September 21, which is 19 days away. He’s consumed by a doomsday blog and outfitting a shed to keep him safe when the fated day rolls around. Dee’s family and friends have learned to deal with his fixation, but when his next-door neighbor, Misty, reappears after a long-term bout with a rare kidney disease, confusion settles in like a low-grade fever.

Jahanara-Princess of Princesses: India 1627 (The Royal Diaries) by Kathryn Lasky • A Royal Treat • In this most secret and personal method of writing, 14-year-old Princess Jahanara shares her deepest thoughts and feelings about her exciting yet closed world, a world in which history was lived and made. The great-granddaughter of Akbar, the greatest of the Moghul rulers, she is also the daughter of Shah Jahan (Khurram) and Empress Mumtaz Mahal, the wife for whom he built the Taj Mahal.

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy • Having to go to school over break stinks, but circumstantial evidence surrounding vandalism brings six unhappy seventh-graders together for a justice circle facilitated by a favorite teacher. Like The Breakfast Club, each student carries a label by which they are automatically judged (the nerd, the princess, the jock, the weirdo, the screw-up), and this experimental gathering seeks to discover not only who destroyed Theo’s photographs but why. Despite a slow start, the story becomes as much a whodunit as an examination of judging others based on assumptions.

The Road to After by Rebekah Lowell • Eleven-year-old Lacey and four-year-old Jenna have never known what it’s like to live without an abusive father hovering over them. He has lots of rules that make them and their mother fearful—so fearful that Jenna has never spoken a word. Everything changes one day when Daddy takes his terrorizing too far, finally prompting Mama to seek assistance from family and the police, who help the three get a fresh start on life. In this illustrated novel in verse, Lacey authentically tells of her and Jenna’s reluctance to let go of their father’s rules and their fears of what might happen if he finds them, despite his now being incarcerated.

Emperor of the Universe (Book One) by David Lubar • Seventh grader Nicholas V. Landrew of Yelm, Washington, is no ordinary kid, but it’s not his fault (if it were, he’d take responsibility – he’s that kind of kid, thanks to author David Lubar). His parents – one half of a Beatles parody group called the Beegles who, of course, wear beagle masks and sing Beatles songs involving dogs – are on tour in Australia, and having been bounced between Aunt Lucy and Uncle Bruce, neither of whom really want to deal a twelve-year old, Nicholas finds himself in a life-changing situation.

Special Forces Book One: Unconventional Warfare by Chris Lynch • Danny Manion is a fighter. Whether he’s beating up his brothers or challenging the system, Danny is always a hair’s breadth from being in real trouble. When he pulls a stunt that lands him in front of a judge, he’s given the choice of jail or a tour of duty in Vietnam. On the recommendation of his personal counselor, Danny opts for the army, where he becomes an integral part of a select team of misfit soldiers that engages in secret, off-the-radar operations. Under the circumstances, he flourishes, finds new purpose toward life, and learns from his previous mistakes.

~ M ~

Valiant by Sarah McGuire • Seventeen-year-old Saville is trapped. Arriving in the city of Reggen, Saville’s father, a tailor, falls ill. Despite her father’s disdain for her, she resourcefully dons boy’s clothing, chops her hair, and assumes the name Avi. Then she has to be smarter than ever when she must rescue a friend—and the city—from two giants. The town cheers Avi as their champion, and stories of his victory turn into impossible feats of human ability.

The Whisperer by Fiona McIntosh • Like Tom and Prince Edward in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, 13-year-olds Griff and Lute are worlds apart but share a common bond. Griff works as a hired hand for Tyren, the greedy owner of a traveling circus. Lute is the crown prince, although rumors swirl in certain circles that his origin holds secrets. Both boys are in trouble. Tyren wants to exploit Griff’s ability to hear people’s private thoughts, but when Griff hears cries for help from one clear voice, he sneaks away to rescue whomever is calling him. Meanwhile, Lute is on the run from his uncle Duke Janko, who tries to kill Lute in a riding “accident.”

The Boys of Fire and Ash by Meaghan McIsaac • The Ikkuma Pit, sheltered from the outside world, is hot and filled with lava pots. It’s where Mothers leave their baby sons and where Brothers grow up hating the Mothers who abandoned them. When a Brother turns 16, he takes his Leaving. That’s the first time a boy ventures out of the Pit and into the unknown world. Urgle, nearing his Leaving time, isn’t ready. Being ill-equipped in hunting and tracking, his nickname, “Useless,” is one he’s heard for so long that he believes it.

~ N ~

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen • Four years after the Berlin Wall went up, in 1961, 12-year-old Gerta Lowe is eager for freedom and to reunite her family. Separated from her father on Germany’s west side, Gerta, her brother Fritz, and her mother live in East Germany under Communist rule and near-relentless scrutiny. One day, she sees her father on a platform overlooking the wall, and she realizes he’s trying to send her a message: dig a tunnel! With the help of Fritz, the two siblings plan carefully, overcome dangerous obstacles, and then face the toughest task of all: convincing their mother to escape with them.

~ O ~

Playing a Dangerous Game • In the 1970s, 10-year-old Lumush lives with his family in railway Estates in Kenya. A recent transfer to the snobbish English-language-only Hill School, Lumush much prefers spending time with his old friends from the local school. When the boys venture into a nearby “haunted house” on a dare, they overhear known locals talking about murder and a coffee-smuggling operation. The next time the boys return, they find more danger than they bargained for.

Curiosity House: The Shrunken Head by Lauren Oliver and H. C. Chester • In 1930s New York City, murder and mayhem obsess the children who reside—and are performers—at Dumfrey’s Dime Museum of Freaks, Oddities, and Wonders. Orphans Pippa (the mentalist), Sam (the overly strong boy), Thomas (the contortionist), and Max (the knife-throwing “sharpshooter”) get some firsthand experience with chaos when Mr. Dumfrey purchases a cursed shrunken head for the museum. When a smarmy reporter from the Daily Screamer starts writing sensational articles about the shrunken head and the children, the four decide to unravel the mystery behind the curse.

~ P ~

Nickel Bay Nick by Dean Pitchford • “This has got to be the Worst. Christmas. EVER!” declares 11-year-old Sam Brattle. He has a swelling police record and no respect for anyone or anything. His mother left before his heart transplant at age 3 1/2. His friends are older delinquents. His father’s business is failing. On top of that, Nickel Bay Nick—the secret benefactor who leaves 45 $100 bills around his deteriorating town before Christmas—has disappeared. When Sam damages part of Herbert Wells’ house, he is blackmailed into service to help cover the repairs.

A Whale in Paris by Claire Polders and Daniel Presley • Twelve-year-old Chantal and her father fish the River Seine at night in German-occupied Paris to provide much-needed food for their city and themselves. After several puzzlingly unsuccessful nights, Chantal discovers the incredible reason why the fish have disappeared: a young whale! Secretly, she befriends the whale and names him Franklin, after the American president whose troops are about to liberate her country; but eventually the whole city learns about Franklin.

The Year I Didn’t Eat by Samuel Pollen • For 14-year-old bird enthusiast Max Howarth, life is a challenge not only because he has family issues but also because he’s anorexic. He thinks about food 16 hours a day, and despite all the knowledge he has about his illness, its grip grows increasingly tighter. His journal—addressed to “Ana,” whose voice taunts him at every turn—is filled with his most intimate feelings about himself and the people and events in his life. Max’s journal entries alternate with the narrative and teem with questions and emotions he can’t otherwise express.

Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky • Sixth-grader Grayson Sender quietly doodles princesses and castles with glitter pens during class and dreams of wearing twirly skirts and long, shiny gowns instead of his limp, lifeless track pants. Those aren’t problems, but the fact that he has to repress himself is a problem—a big one. Despite knowing that he is a girl deep down inside, Grayson has learned to look and act like the boy he is not; his family would be furious and his classmates would bully him if they found out.

Dead City Book 2: Blue Moon by James Ponti • Finding, fighting, and even protecting zombies is serious extracurricular work for Molly Bigelow and her three Omega team pals from Dead City (2012). In this butt-kicking sequel, they join the Baker’s Dozen project. Their assignment? Monitor the Unlucky 13, the Blackwell family men killed in an 1896 subway tunnel digging explosion. The Blackwells roam freely as undead with constantly changing names.

My Year of Epic Rock by Andrea Pyros • It’s the beginning of seventh grade, and Nina’s BFF Brianna is giving her the cold shoulder in favor of a new friend. Nina also has another problem: she can’t eat peanuts or eggs. Without friends at lunch, Nina plops herself down at the “allergy table.” There she makes new pals and ends up being the drummer in a band they’re forming for the talent show.

~ R ~

Bayou Magic by Jewell Rhodes • It’s 10-year-old Maddy’s turn to spend a summer with her maternal grandmother on the bayou in Bon Temps, Louisiana. She has heard stories from her sisters about the strange woman they call “Grandmére,” but Maddy can’t wait to go. During her stay, she meets the locals and makes friends with Bear, whose father works on a deepwater oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico and who is looked after by the bayou people. Under Grandmére’s tutelage, Maddy learns her family’s history, important life lessons taught through wise, simple dictums, and becomes adept at watching and listening.

Look Both Ways in the Barrio Blanco by Judith Robbin Rose • After a news reporter broadcasts a story from her neighborhood youth center, 12-year-old Jacinta asks the reporter to be her amiga (mentor). “Miss,” as Jacinta respectfully calls her, agrees, but Jacinta is taken off guard when Miss introduces her to the bewildering world outside her barrio. At first, it’s more frightening than hiding the fact that her father is an undocumented immigrant. All the while, Miss speaks with a vocabulary and confidence that confounds Jacinta until she realizes these are tools to help her achieve things she never dared dream of before.

~ S ~

The Truth About Martians by Melissa Savage • Best friends Mylo Affinito and Dibs Butte, 11, live in dusty Corona, New Mexico, and are obsessed with Superman and Martian comic books. When a flying saucer crash lands on a nearby farm in Roswell on July 4, 1947, Mylo claims he hears someone asking for help. Armed with a Buck Rogers atomic disintegrator pistol, a Kix cereal atomic bomb ring, a Cracker Jack superhero membership card, and an American flag, Mylo, Dibs, and their friends (including Mylo’s secret crush, Gracie) set out to investigate.

Poison for Breakfast by Lemony Snicket • Introspective and instructive, the inimitable Snicket returns with a philosophical and nearly stream-of-consciousness tale about learning he had poison for breakfast. Mr. Snicket takes the reader on a tour of his mental wanderings, tangential correlations, and physical investigations into the possible source of the poison. What the reader gets in return for tagging along is a charismatic voyage into the topic of bewilderment, with detours reflecting on death; books, songs, and movies he doesn’t always name (although he thoughtfully includes notes for each reference at the end of the book); things, places, and people that have wretchedly or fortunately impacted him throughout his life; and the process by which he writes his many books.

Shiva’s Fire by Suzanne Fisher Staples • Dance Is Her Destiny • “Such a beautiful child,” Priya said softly … “Born on such a day … her life will be either extraordinary or terrible,” the old woman muttered, thrusting the infant back into her mother’s arms. Blessed, cursed, mystical, and innocent, Parvati was born to dance. This young girl from a village called Nandipuram began life in a whirlwind, one that propels her throughout the book. Born on the day of her father’s death—the same day that a cyclone destroyed her village—Parvati is regarded as the cause of all grief, and the villagers shun her out of fear and superstition. Their fear, however, is not entirely without basis.

~ T ~

Charlie and the Grandmothers by Katy Towell • Twelve-year-old Charlie is highly observant but a worrier—finding something to fear in every detail. When he notices that local children are disappearing on visits to their grandmothers, Charlie worries that he and his sister Georgie will be next, despite the fact that they don’t have any grandmothers. Soon his mother begins acting strangely and introduces them to Pearl and Opal, two grandmothers who Charlie knows aren’t part of the family.

~ V ~

Well, That Was Awkward by Rachel Vail • Eighth-grader Gracie is certain that she likes A. J., but when she learns he likes her best friend, Sienna, she goes all out to help the two get together. She texts him on Sienna’s phone for her as if she were Sienna, and she consults with Emmett, A.J.’s best friend and her neighbor.

Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman • Kabir Khan, our bright young narrator, was born in prison in Chennai and is a child of dualities. His mother is a low-caste Hindu trapped in a system that imprisoned her for a theft she didn’t commit, and his father, whom he has never met, is a Muslim who wed his mother secretly because of their religions. Kabir also is bilingual, speaking Kannada (his parents’ language) and Tamil. And having grown up in confinement, he dreams of the freedom of the outside world based on what he sees on TV and hears in his mother’s stories. At age nine, he suddenly is discharged to a man who claims to be his uncle. Kabir has two resolute goals despite having little bits of information. He must find his father—whose letters stopped soon after he wrote from Dubai—and his grandparents who never knew their son married a Hindu. Then, he was sure he would be able to secure his mother’s release.

~ W ~

Loot by Jude Watson • When master jewel thief Alfie McQuinn dies, his stashed set of clues and cryptic last words to March, his 12-year-old son and apprentice, mark the beginning of a race against time. The first clue leads March to discover his twin sister, Jules, a traveling circus acrobat. Tossed into a group home, they meet Darius, a juvenile delinquent with a soft spot for Izzy, a code-cracking hacker. The four join forces, busting out of the home and into a series of high-stakes heists to reclaim seven cursed moonstone gems once stolen by Alfie.

Speed of Life by Carol Weston • Fourteen-year-old Sofia Wolfe moves through life smiling with friends and hiding the sorrow of having lost her Spanish mother almost a year earlier. The only people she has to talk to are her abuelo in Spain, and—regarding girl things—“Dear Kate,” a teen-advice columnist with whom she can anonymously discuss personal matters. When Sofia’s father reveals he’s dating Kate, Sofia initially feels betrayed that he’s moving on with his life when she can’t.

Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan • Take Flight in a Tale Well Told • Thirteen-year old Koly, the daughter of a letter-writer and an embroiderer, is another mouth to feed. While her parents love her, they feel it is time to arrange a marriage that they hope will bring her a better life. It is learned too late that the young groom is terminally ill; it was not Koly who was wanted by the groom’s family but rather her dowry to pay for his medical expenses. The young girl, handed over to her new family, becomes more than another mouth to feed; she becomes a non-returnable burden.

~ Y ~

Cast Off by Eve Yohalem • Becoming a stowaway isn’t Petra DeWinter’s first choice for escaping her father’s abuse, but hiding on a ship bound for the Dutch East Indies seems to be her only option. The problem is that it’s 1663, she is 12, and she is a girl. If discovered, she could be thrown overboard to either drown or be shark food, or she could be sent home as soon as the ship makes land.

~ Z ~

The Memory of Forgotten Things by Kat Zhang • Near the end of seventh grade, Sophia is assigned to a group project about solar eclipses with DJ (a quiet artist) and Luke (a known delinquent). When Sophia and DJ discover they were born on the same day as the last solar eclipse, they also realize they’ve both been experiencing inexplicable memories. For Sophia, these are vivid recollections of her mother, whose death precludes them from being possible.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s