J Fantasy

DEAD WEDNESDAY by Jerry Spinelli

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Perfect Day.

Worm murmurs it on the bus–not loudly; he’s shy, after all–but soon it’s picked up by the rest of the eighth graders as their mantra and their cheer. It’s the second Wednesday in June, “Dead Wed” in Worm’s small Pennsylvania town, a day that school administrators designed to scare the eighth graders out of future reckless behavior but that every eighth grader knows as the day they can get away with anything. In homeroom, they will each receive a black shirt and a card with the name and picture of a teenager who died in PA last year as a result of preventable car accidents or dangerous stunts–and from that moment, every eighth grader will be “dead.” No teacher can acknowledge their presence, not even to stop them from walking out of school if they feel like it. Perfect Day.

But Worm’s perfect day veers off course almost immediately when the dead girl from his card, Rebecca Finch, starts showing up in real life. He’s the only one who seems to be able to see her or speak to her, although she’s 100% real and tangible. Becca doesn’t know how she ended up back on Earth, but she’s positive it has something to do with Worm. She’s here to save him–because let’s face it, Worm hasn’t really been living. As Mean Monica once announced, he needs to get a life. As Becca drags Worm on an impulsive jaunt around his hometown, Worm starts to realize that there is more than one way to “be bold” and that maybe Becca needs some saving of her own.

This novel is exquisite. It exists somewhere between middle grade and YA, between fantasy and realistic fiction, but the book is full of betweens. Becca is caught between life and death, Worm between middle school and high school, childhood and adulthood, responsibility to his parents and individuality, a desire to be noticed and a desire to fade into the background. The narrative is masterfully woven, sending readers on an undulating emotional journey that builds to its climax so subtly that it is both unexpected and grounded. There is humor, realistically cringe-worthy teen interactions, and true heartache (warning to parents: this may upset you more than it will your kids), and Worm’s personal journey is authentic and meaningful. This book is a must-read for middle schoolers and an excellent pick for M.S. book clubs.

Dead Wednesday: Spinelli, Jerry: 9780593306673: Amazon.com: Books

KINGDOM OF SECRETS by Christyne Morrell

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Until she met Abi, Prismena was a rule-follower. Mostly. Sure, she collected junk to make her little inventions, and that was technically illegal, but it wasn’t hurting anybody! She certainly wasn’t involved in a rebellion against King Michael, the self-proclaimed savior of her kingdom.

But when resourceful street urchin Abi blackmails Prismena to smuggle a package onto her father’s hot air balloon, leading to her father’s arrest, Prismena suddenly has to choose between abandoning her father in prison or joining the rebellious orphans her father expressly forbade her from associating with. Though she tries to tell herself that it isn’t her fight and isn’t her problem, as her involvement with the rebels deepens, Prismena starts to realize that the safety of the children and the fate of two kingdoms might come to rest squarely on her shoulders.

A delightful middle grade debut featuring young engineers! Prismena and Abi have distinct and wonderful voices that make you cheer for them throughout their struggles (at one point I literally cheered aloud when Prismena did something particularly awesome). The social commentary is light-handed and thoroughly integrated into the plot, and as in all good MG fiction, the children are the moral compass and the agents of change. The world felt grounded in our own, while the hot air balloons added a whimsical quality to this magic-free fantasy. Highly recommend to middle grade readers, teachers, and book clubs!

I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from the publisher in order to write this review.

Kingdom of Secrets by Christyne Morrell: 9780593304785 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

NIGHTINGALE by Deva Fagan

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There’s a reason Lark is about to break into the Royal Museum. It’s not that she wants to be a thief. But if she doesn’t steal something big–something more than the coin she gets picking pockets–then the governess of the boarding house will force her to work in one of the aether factories. She’ll slowly fade away, becoming as insubstantial as a ghost, just like the other orphans.

Just like her mother.

But Lark’s museum heist is thwarted by the young prince of the realm, who she catches doing some magic with aether and an ancient sword that once belonged to the Nightingale, the mythical superhero who’s been dead for centuries. To the prince’s frustration, the sword chooses Lark as the next incarnation of the Nightingale, and he must include her in his plans to save the kingdom. But saving the kingdom proves more difficult than either Lark or the prince imagined, and Lark will be forced to choose: will she keep trying to scrape by or pick up where her mother left off and fight to change her unjust society?

Lark’s spirited, snarky voice pulls a consistent thread of humor through this layered narrative that tackles social issues like wealth inequality and unionized labor. An almost Victorian historical vibe grounds the secondary world fantasy while a cast of racially diverse characters ensures that kids will see themselves reflected in the story. The blend of fun and probing thematic content make this an ideal pick for middle grade book clubs!

SUGAR AND SPITE by Gail D. Villanueva

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Magic is part of Jolina’s heritage. Ever since she and her parents moved from the big city of Manila to the much smaller Philippine Island where her lolo lives, he has been teaching her how to brew his famous potions As part of their lessons, Lolo warns Jolina never to use magic improperly, never to use magic against a person’s will, and especially to be very careful with love potions.

But Jolina knows someone who is desperately in need of a love potion. Or at least a “be nicer” potion. Claudine has been bullying her ever since Jolina moved to the island. Just because Claudine is rich, she thinks she’s so much better than everyone else. So after Claudine embarrasses her in Sunday School (again), Jolina sneaks into her lolo’s workshop and makes a love potion.

It works perfectly! Not only does Claudine stop being mean, but she wants to be Jolina’s BFF! But Jolina begins to regret her plan when she realizes that Claudine is actually a great BFF–a BFF Jolina desperately wants to keep. And if Claudine ever finds out about the love potion, their fake friendship will be over for good.

There’s a lot to love in this MG magical realism. Villanueva gives readers an accessible window into the complexity of ethics and the limits of one’s own point of view. Both Jolina and Claudine have flaws and blindspots, and in the end, they will both need to forgive in order for their friendship to survive. The novel also explores the effects of class divisions and racism/”light skin” bias on self-esteem. A sweet and thought-provoking read for fans of magical realism and realistic fiction.

THE STOLEN PRINCE OF CLOUDBURST by Jaclyn Moriarty

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It is easy to overlook a middle child, especially when she’s as overwhelming ordinary as Esther. But being overlooked can have its benefits. Eavesdropping, for example, is much easier when people don’t know you’re there. And though it’s probably just an oversight, there is technically no rule against eavesdropping at her magical boarding school.

When her year gets off to a rocky start, Esther’s eavesdropping leads her to some startling discoveries, and she soon realizes she’ll need to hone more of her espionage skills. Because Esther is the only one who knows that the Spellbinder has been compromised, that the new teacher is more sinister than she appears, and that their entire school–maybe their entire world–is in terrible danger from the Shadow Mages.

And though she has no idea how, she suspects that the whole crisis connects back to her cousin the adventurer and the poor little prince who was stolen away by the sea.

This latest installment in the Kingdoms & Empires world will not disappoint, either as a standalone novel or a companion to …BRONTE METTLESTONE and/or THE WHISPERING WARS. Esther’s deliciously quirky voice and indomitable personality are an excellent hook at the start and later, an accessible lens through which to view the complex social issues Moriarty explores throughout the novel. Fun, original, accessible–highly recommend!

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN S. (AS TOLD TO HIS BROTHER) by David Levithan

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When they first discovered that Aidan was missing, they thought he was playing hide and seek.

By the end of the first day, they were in a panic.

By the end of the week, they were looking for a body.

So the last thing Lucas expected when he went up to the attic was to find his big brother lying on the floor in front of the old dresser–alive, disheveled, and muttering about visiting another world.

Aidan’s story is so absurd that no one believes him. His parents are frustrated that he won’t tell them where he really was. The town is furious that their search efforts were wasted on a liar and a runaway. His classmates mock him, calling him Unicorn Boy. Only Lucas seems to wonder if Aidan might be telling the truth–and if knowing might be less important than believing.

THE MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF AIDAN… sits near the intersection of thriller, mystery, and magical realism, but it might find most of its readership among fans of contemporary fiction. Though the suspense brought by questions of “what really happened” and “what is true” drives the plot, thriller fans might be disappointed by the slow-boil plot–and mystery fans by the lack of clues and investigation. But contemporary fiction readers will relish the deep exploration of themes of acceptance, trust, bullying and community. By drawing these themes out of a fantastical event (Aidan’s story of visiting another world), Levithan gives readers an opportunity to connect these themes into their own lives without pigeonholing any specific real-life scenario. (Though one of the most beautiful moments in the book is the casual, matter-of-fact introduction of Aidan’s boyfriend near the end; that way, the world of the story is thoroughly inclusive–Aidan never judged or bullied for his sexuality–but the parallel between the need to accept Aidan’s truth (about the fantasy world) and the need to accept people in general for their true selves (e.g., sexual identity) is difficult to miss.) It’s a highly literary and masterful way of exploring these complex themes. A great book for book clubs and classrooms (but possibly not for your mystery/thriller fan).

THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ by Cory Leonardo

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Marcel the hedgehog has spent six months living in the Emerald City Movie Theater. He passes the time by nibbling popcorn off the floor, chatting with the two hens in the balcony, and of course watching the Wizard of Oz matinee every afternoon. But really he’s waiting for Dorothy. His Dorothy, who adopted him from the animal shelter, who he lost one afternoon at the park, and who he is sure will come find him someday. But instead of Dorothy, it’s an animal control officer who comes for Marcel. And when he’s released into the wild, he finds himself in Mousekinland and further from Dorothy and home than he’s ever been before. With the help of a reckless mouseling, a grumpy elderly squirrel, a terrified baby raccoon, and a cocoon named Toto, Marcel begins the journey back to the Emerald City Theater where he’s sure his Dorothy must be waiting.

THE HEDGEHOG OF OZ begins with slapstick humor but develops into a heartwarming–and occasionally heartbreaking–tale. In a twist on the classic, Marcel learns to trust his own ingenuity, compassion, and courage as he leads his new friends through the wilderness. And in the end, he realizes he must stop waiting for Dorothy to come to him and find his own way home. It will resonate most with readers who are familiar with the Wizard of Oz story, either from the movie or the books. (Honestly, though Marcel focuses on the movie, the extended denouement of this novel where each character finds their way back home reminded me more of the book.)

A note: I would have said this book skewed young until I got to the ending…. I don’t want to spoil, but if you’re going to recommend or read aloud to a young reader, read chapter 25 in advance so that you know whether it may upset your young reader and/or so that you can prepare for the conversations that will need to surround the reading of that particular chapter. Think CHARLOTTE’S WEB. Again, this is just a heads up if you’re reading it aloud to your kindergartener or handing it to your precocious second grader. If you’re recommending it to your typical MG reader, I don’t think it’s an issue. All of the content is developmentally appropriate and similar to content in other MG books.

THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi

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Elin’s mother has always cared for the water serpents, the Toda. She is the best Toda doctor in all of Aluhan. But when the most powerful Toda mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is blamed and sentenced to death. After failing to rescue her mother, Elin flees and takes refuge with a beekeeper in a neighboring territory. There she learns of her own gift of communication with the Toda, of her mother’s connection with the mystical Ahlyo people, and of her own place in the civil war between the country of her birth and the country where she found refuge.

An award-winning novel with masterful world-building, THE BEAST PLAYER will appeal to YA fantasy fans despite the protagonist’s youth (age 10 at the novel’s start). For graphic novel fans, there are manga and an anime TV series!

THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K. S. Ansari

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Charlie’s little brother, Liam, disappeared almost exactly a year ago, and Charlie is the only one who remembers him.  When he disappeared, every trace of him vanished with him–his clothes, his photographs, even the top bunk of Charlie’s bed.  Charlie’s mother also changed when Liam disappeared.  Even though she can’t remember him, she almost never gets out of bed these days.  Charlie is determined to find Liam and bring him back, because he knows it’s his fault Liam is gone.  After all, the night before Liam disappeared, Charlie fell asleep wishing he didn’t have a brother.  As Charlie and his best friend Ana search for Liam, they stumble upon a secret asylum full of disappeared children and realize that Charlie’s unusual dreams about an Irish family from the past may hold the key to freeing the trapped children–but only if they want to be released.

No mistake is too big to be forgiven in this novel about how family makes us whole.  As Charlie discovers what happened to Liam, the mystery of his disappearance gives way to a race to escape from a magical prison.  Interwoven with this suspenseful story is the theme of self-forgiveness as the characters must learn to accept themselves and their past mistakes.  Character development and plot work together beautifully to drive the story forward.  I highly recommend this book to middle grade readers who enjoy realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy and character-driven suspense.

Coming Soon: Middle Grade Fiction in 2019

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Lots of new books are set to be released this year!  Here’s a peak at some of the new books announced by publishers for kids ages 8-14.  Summaries and release dates are based on the information publishers have made available thus far and may or may not be completely accurate.  But it looks like some great new books are coming this way!

 

Continuing Series

FLIGHT OF THE BLUEBIRD by Kara LaReau and Jen Hill (1/8)
The Unintentional Adventures of the Bland Sisters, Book 3

PRANK WARS by Matt Stanton (1/8)
Funny Kid, Book 3

TBH, TOO MUCH DRAMA by Lisa Greenwald (1/8)
TBH, Book 3

HOW TO PROPERLY DISPOSE OF PLANET EARTH by Paul Noth (1/15)
Sequel to HOW TO SELL YOUR FAMILY TO THE ALIENS

A PREDATOR’S RIGHTS by Anna Starobinets, Marie Murovski, and Jane Bugaeva (1/16)
Beastly Crimes, Book 2

A CIRCLE OF ELEPHANTS: A COMPANION NOVEL by Eric Dinerstein (1/22)
Sequel to WHAT ELEPHANTS KNOW

ESCAPE FROM THE PALACE by Santa Montefiore and Simon Sebag Montefiore (1/22)
The Royal Rabbits of London, Book 4

MIXED EMOTIONS by Heather Nuhfer (1/22)
My So-Called Superpowers, Book 2

SPIRITS, SPELLS, AND SNARK by Kelly McCullough (1/22)
Sequel to MAGIC, MADNESS, AND MISCHIEF

THE UNSPEAKABLE UNKNOWN by Eliot Sappingfield (1/22)
Sequel to A PROBLEMATIC PARADOX

THE END OF THE WORLD AND BEYOND by Avi (1/29)
Sequel to THE UNEXPECTED LIFE OF OLIVER CROMWELL PITTS

THE PHANTOM HOUR by Kat Shepherd (1/29)
A Babysitting Nightmares book

THE LAST LIFE OF PRINCE ALASTOR by Alexandra Bracken (2/5)
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding, Book 2

A SPRINKLE OF SPIRITS by Anna Meriano (2/5)
Love Sugar Magic, Book 2

PRESIDENT OF POPLAR LANE by Margaret Mincks (2/12)
Poplar Kids, Book 2

MIDDLE SCHOOL: BORN TO ROCK by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts (2/18)
Middle School, Book 11

THE LOST HEIR by Tui T. Sutherland (2/26)
Wings of Fire Graphic Novels, Book 2

THE HUNT FOR MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER by Diane Magras (3/5)
Sequel to THE MAD WOLF’S DAUGHTER

ARU SHAH AND THE SONG OF DEATH by Roshani Chokshi (4/30)
Pandava, Book 2

BIGGER, BADDER, NERDIER by Obert Skye (4/30)
Geeked Out, Book 2

FREEDOM FIRE by Daniel Jose Older (5/14)
Dactyl Hill Squad, Book 2

SERAFINA AND THE SEVEN STARS by Robert Beatty (7/9)
Serafina, Book 4

QUEST FOR THE GRAIL by Audrey Mackaman (8/20)
Cavall in Camelot, Book 2

THE BATTLE by Karuna Riazi (8/27)
Sequel to THE GAUNTLET

 

Fantasy & Science Fiction

MAX AND THE MIDKNIGHTS by Lincoln Peirce (1/8)
A young aspiring knight embarks on a quest to rescue his uncle from an evil king.

DRAGON PEARL by Yoon Ha Lee (1/15)
A girl descended from fox spirits must embrace her powers and embark on a quest to find her older brother, who has disappeared.

ULTRABALL: LUNAR BLITZ by Jeff Chen (1/15)
A group of kids engaged in a competitive sport in their Moon Colony home find themselves involved in Lunar politics when an outsider joins their team.

THE WHISPERS by Greg Howard (1/15)
After his mother disappears, a boy travels into the forest in search of wish-granting fairies.

A TEAR IN THE OCEAN by H.M. Bouwman (1/22)
When their sea suddenly begins to become salty, two kids must figure out why before an ancient magical infection destroys their world.

FREYA AND ZOOSE by Emily Butler (1/29)
A penguin and a stowaway mouse undertake a harrowing journey to the North Pole.

THE LOST GIRL by Anne Ursu (2/12)
When things begin mysteriously disappearing around her town, a girl worries that her twin sister might be next.

THE BEAST PLAYER by Nahoko Uehashi (2/21)
After her mother is executed for a crime she didn’t commit, a girl discovers that she can communicate with the sea serpents in the king’s army and gets swept up into a political plot that she wants no part of.

I AM HERMES by Mordecai Gerstein (2/26)
A graphic novel detailing the antics of the young Greek god Hermes.

OUTWALKERS by Fiona Shaw (2/26)
After escaping a prison-like orphanage, a boy and his comrades must hide off the grid as they struggle to escape the oppressive Coalition that has taken over the government.

THE POTTER’S BOY by Tony Mitton (2/26)
After a wandering warrior saves his village, a boy from humble origins embarks on a quest to find the hermit who can train him in martial arts.

THE MISSING PIECE OF CHARLIE O’REILLY by Rebecca K.S. Ansari (3/5)
When a boy’s brother disappears, everyone else instantly forgets that he existed, leading the boy to embark on a quest to discover what really happened to him.

THE REVENGE OF MAGIC by James Riley (3/5)
After his father is lost in a monster-attack, a boy is invited to attend a government school to learn how to harness the power of magical books discovered near the bones of dragons.

SAL AND GABI BREAK THE UNIVERSE by Carlos Hernandez (3/5)
Two unlikely young allies discover that together they can manipulate space-time, with potentially disastrous consequences.

SEVENTH GRADE VS THE GALAXY by Joshua S. Levy (3/5)
When his spaceship-school comes under attack, a boy accidentally launches it across the galaxy and must find a way to navigate home.

WE’RE NOT FROM HERE by Geoff Rodkey (3/5)
As the new immigrants on Planet Choom, Earthlings struggle to fit in.

WINGS OF OLYMPUS by Kallie George (3/5)
An orphan girl is chosen by the gods to ride a winged horse in a dangerous, high stakes race through the mortal world.

OVER THE MOON by Natalie Lloyd (3/26)
A girl gets a chance to escape servitude when she enters a competition to train magical flying horses.

THE TRAGICAL TALE OF BIRDIE BLOOM by Temre Beltz (3/26)
A tragic orphan and a wicked witch form an unlikely friendship.

KATT VS. DOGG by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein (4/1)
When a katt and dogg are lost in the woods together, can they overcome their innate sense of rivalry to make it home together?

YE by Guilherme Petreca (4/2)
A mute boy embarks on a quest to defeat the Colorless King and restore hope to the world.

JACLYN HYDE by Annabeth Bonder-Stone and Connor White (5/7)
A middle-schooler invents a potion that is supposed to help her achieve perfection, but instead transforms her into a ruthless, moral-free monster.

LALANI OF THE DISTANT SEA by Erin Entrada Kelly (5/7)
When a Filipino girl makes a foolish wish that endangers her island, she must undertake a dangerous voyage across the ocean.

ORDER OF THE MAJESTIC by Matt Myklusch (5/7)
In an attempt to save the last bit of magic left in the world, a boy gets caught in a war between two groups of rival magicians.

SPARK by Sarah Beth Durst (5/14)
After bonding with a dragon-like lightning beast, a girl must study to become an effective guardian, but instead learns disturbing secrets about her homeland.

BAD ORDER by B.B. Ullman (6/4)
A girl and her telepathic brother are called upon to heal a tear in the universe that threatens to overrun the world with bad thoughts.

THIS WAS OUR PACT by Ryan Andrews (6/11)
When two boys chase paper lanterns on their bicycles they wind up going further than anyone has ever gone into a magical world.

THE STORM KEEPER’S ISLAND by Catherine Doyle (7/12)
A boy finds himself at the center of an ancient war when a magical island needs a new storm keeper.

CHANGELING by William Ritter (7/16)
Two boys raised as twins discover that one of them is a goblin changeling and embark on a journey to discover their true identities.

CAPE by Kate Hannigan (8/6)
With her father off fighting Nazis, a girl dreams of doing more to save the world and finds herself transformed into a real superhero.

A SWIRL OF OCEAN by Melissa Sarno (8/6)
After swallowing a gulp of sea water, a girl begins having visions of a girl from the past who is eerily familiar.

 

Historical Fiction

THE UNSUNG HERO OF BIRDSONG, USA by Brenda Woods (1/8)
A Black WWII veteran saves a young boy’s life in the Jim Crow South and an unlikely friendship begins.

EMMI IN THE CITY: A GREAT CHICAGO FIRE SURVIVAL STORY by Salima Alikhan (2/1)
A German immigrant and the kids who bully her are caught together in the Great Chicago Fire.

SPY RUNNER by Eugene Yelchin (2/12)
When his family takes in a Russian lodger, a boy gets caught up in the Red Scare and wonders if he has stumbled upon a Russian spy.

GOODBYE, MR. SPAULDING by Jennifer Robin Barr (3/26)
Two kids in the Great Depression scheme to stop their town from building a wall that would prevent them from watching the Philadelphia Athletics baseball games.

THE TRUE HISTORY OF LYNDIE B. HAWKINS by Gail Shepherd (3/26)
Although her grandmother is obsessed with “keeping up appearances,” a girl just wants to get her Vietnam Veteran father the help he needs—even if it means reaching out for help outside of the family.

VOICES: THE FINAL HOURS OF JOAN OF ARC by David Elliott (3/26)
Through medieval poetry, people, animals, and objects close to Joan of Arc reflect on her life and legacy.

LAST OF THE NAME by Roseanne Perry (4/2)
When an Irish boy immigrates to America, his mother convinces him to pretend to be a girl in order to avoid being drafted as a drummer boy in the Civil War.

SINCERELY, HARRIET by Sarah Winifred Searle (5/7)
A chronically ill girl with a penchant for telling lies begins expressing herself through writing.

A PLACE TO BELONG by Cynthia Kadohata (5/14)
After being freed from an internment camp, a Japanese-American family returns to Hiroshima hoping to start a new life with their relatives, only to discover the carnage that took place there.

IT RAINED WARM BREAD by Gloria Moskowitz-Sweet and Hope Anita Smith (8/13)
A boy survives the holocaust with the hope that came from an act of kindness.

 

Mystery/Thriller

THE MYSTERY OF BLACK HOLLOW LANE by Julia Nobel (3/5)
Three students at a boarding school uncover a secret society that may hold the answers to find one student’s missing father.

THE NORTH STAR by Kat Shepherd (3/5)
Three young detectives follow the clues to find a stolen diamond necklace.

THE STRANGERS by Margaret Peterson Haddix (4/2)
After reading a story about a very similar family that vanished, three siblings begin an investigation.

THE BOOK CASE by Dave Shelton (4/5)
A boarding school student and the Librarian’s Assistant work together to solve crimes.

SCOUTS by Shannon Greenland (7/23)
A group of scouts searching for a meteor in the woods wind up being chased by a violent group of Masons.

DOC AND THE DETECTIVE IN: THE GRAVEYARD TREASURE by Tim Tingle (10/15)
A boy and an elderly doctor team up to solve mysteries in their small town, despite the doc’s struggle with dementia.

 

Realistic Fiction

CLICK by Kayla Miller (1/8)
A girl questions the strength of her friendships when she can’t find a friend to perform with in the talent show.

THE FRIENDSHIP WAR by Andrew Clements (1/8)
An unexpected button fad has damaging results on the friendship of two sixth grade girls.

LIZZY LEGEND by Matthew Ross Smith (1/8)
After being allowed to join the boys’ basketball team at school, a girl makes a wish on a magical phone line that she will never miss another shot and finds herself skyrocketing toward the NBA.

THE REMARKABLE JOURNEY OF COYOTE SUNRISE by Dan Gemeinhart (1/8)
After five years of living on the road following the death of her mother and sisters, a girl and her father finally head back home.

THE UNTEACHABLES by Gordon Korman (1/8)
Chaos ensues when the worst students in school are gathered into one classroom and assigned the worst teacher in school.

GENESIS BEGINS AGAIN by Alicia D. Williams (1/15)
A girl with low self-esteem and a verbally abusive family that criticizes the darkness of her skin finds new hope when she starts at a new school with a supportive teacher.

ONE THIRD NERD by Gennifer Choldenko (1/29)
A boy and his siblings must raise money to get their dog to the vet before the landlord finds out she’s been peeing on the carpet of their apartment.

PINK HAIR AND OTHER TERRIBLE IDEAS by Andrea Pyros (2/1)
In the wake of her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis, a girl struggles with her priorities and relationships with her twin brother and friends at school.

EVENTOWN by Corey Ann Haydu (2/12)
After moving to a seemingly perfect town, a girl discovers that perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

TO NIGHT OWL FROM DOGFISH by Holly Goldberg Sloan and Meg Wolitzer (2/12)
Two daughters of single gay dads find friendship when their dads start dating and hatch a plan to keep them together.

A DROP OF HOPE by Keith Calabrese (2/26)
Three sixth graders begin secretly making the wishes that townspeople make in the wishing well come true.

THE MOON WITHIN by Aida Salazar (2/26)
A girl struggles to find her true identity, while her mother insists on a traditional Mexican ceremony when she gets her first period.

STAND ON THE SKY by Erin Bow (3/5)
When her parents must take her brother to a hospital, a nomadic girl befriends an eagle and defies traditional gender roles to train it.

A STORM OF STRAWBERRIES by Jo Cotterill (3/5)
A girl with Down syndrome tries to help her family prepare for a big storm and to help calm family tensions, but it seems no one will pay attention to her.

A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE by Lisa Moore Ramee (3/12)
A rule-following girl decides to take a risk and show her support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

MOSTLY THE HONEST TRUTH by Jody J. Little (3/12)
With her dad in rehab, a girl tries to toe the line in her new foster home so she can be reunited with her real dad as soon as possible.

THE SPACE BETWEEN BEFORE AND AFTER by Sue Stauffacher (3/19)
When his mother disappears, a boy copes with his grief by imagining her as the hero of a fantasy story.

SWEEPING UP THE HEART by Kevin Henkes (3/19)
Stuck at home with a babysitter over Spring Break, a girl makes an unusual new friend who revives the memory of her late mother.

THE SIZE OF THE TRUTH by Andrew Smith (3/26)
A boy tries to overcome PTSD from a childhood trauma in order to regain some control over his own life and pursue his dream of becoming a chef.

THE BECKET LIST: A BLACKBERRY FARM STORY (4/2)
Everything changes for a city girl moving to her grandmother’s farm in the country.

CATERPILLAR SUMMER by Gillian McDunn (4/2)
On an unexpected summer trip to her grandmother’s house, a girl has a chance to take a break from her role holding her family together and spend some time being a kid.

OPERATIC by Kyo Maclear (4/2)
A quiet girl tries to let the lessons she learns in her opera class impact other areas of her middle school life.

BIRDIE by Eileen Spinelli (4/9)
Still grieving the death of her father, a girl’s struggles deepen when both her older sister and her mother find boyfriends.

THE LINE TENDER by Kate Allen (4/16)
After her mother’s sudden death, a girl tries to find a way to finish her mother’s research on sharks.

THE NEXT GREAT PAULIE FINK by Ali Benjamin (4/16)
Although she is the new kid in school, a girl becomes enthralled with her new classmate’s stories about the class clown who moved away over the summer and their attempts to find someone to fill his role.

EXTRAORDINARY BIRDS by Sandy Stark-McGinnis (4/30)
A girl who believes she is destined to someday transform into a bird finds new hope in a new foster home with a taxidermist who works at a wildlife rescue.

THE LOST BOY’S GIFT by Kimberly Willis Holt (4/30)
After his parents divorce, a boy has to move across the country and struggles to find his place in his new neighborhood.

MYA’S STRATEGY TO SAVE THE WORLD by Tanya Lloyd Kyi (4/30)
When her parents refuse to let her get a phone, a socially conscious middle-schooler tries to prove to them how responsible she is.

FINDING ORION by John David Anderson (5/7)
An unusual family’s unusual grandfather’s funeral turns out to be the start of an unusual adventure.

HURRICANE SEASON by Nicole Melleby (5/7)
A girl struggles with her father’s mental illness and her first crush on another girl.

NIXIE NESS: COOKING STAR by Claudia Mills (6/4)
When her mother gets a new job, a girl is sent to the afterschool program where she starts a cooking club.

FOR BLACK GIRLS LIKE ME by Mariama J. Lockington (7/30)
An adopted Black girl growing up in a white family struggles to find her identity and her place in her school community.

HOAX FOR HIRE by Laura Martin (8/27)
Despite his disdain for monsters a boy gets roped into the family business: spreading the myth of the Loch Ness Monster.

STARGAZING by Jen Wang (9/10)
When an unusual girl moves in next door, a Chinese-American girl finds an unlikely best friend.

THE BIG ONE by J.C. Geiger (10/1)
A boy whose older brother was lost to the ocean becomes obsessed with a prophesied tsunami and discovers a secret music festival.

DEAR SWEET PEA by Julie Murphy (10/1)
Overwhelmed by her parents’ divorce, a girl accidentally ends up writing an advice column in her town paper.