Additional titles

The Adventures of Nanny Piggins by R. A. Spratt
If you are looking for something that reminds you of an earlier age look no further. This book was recommended by an incoming seventh grader: Mary Poppins, move over— Nanny Piggins has arrived. Most recently employed at the circus as the pig shot out of a cannon, she assumes the title Nanny when she spies a Help Wanted sign on the lawn of the Green family. Mrs. Green is dead, and Mr. Green is so tightfisted he refuses to pay a human nanny. So when a pig applies . . . . But as the three Green children soon realize, Nanny Piggins is a jewel. Extraordinarily clever, she knows when to morph that quality into deviousness, which certainly becomes necessary when dealing with the dull, pompous Mr. Green. The children—Derrick, Samantha, and Michael—promptly fall in love with Nanny Piggins because she lets them eat sweets all day and comes up with the most marvelous ideas, like taking a boat to China to get Chinese takeout. Even when things don’t exactly work out as planned (and they rarely do), the high jinks and hilarity make them excellent adventures. Stuffing adjectives into this review is as easy as watching Nanny Piggins stuff pies into her mouth. This is smart, sly, funny, and marvelously illustrated with drawings that capture Nanny’s sheer pigginess. Readers may worry that this first novel is so full of stories about Nanny Piggins there won’t be enough left for sequels. Never fear. The last line of the book predicts Nanny will be stirring up more adventures, possibly even before breakfast.
Humorous fiction 
Fifth and sixth grade

American as Paneer Pie by Supriya Kelkar
Eleven-year-old Lekha doesn’t think she has a lot going for her, especially not when being Indian in her part of Detroit feels unsafe and when there’s a bindi birthmark on her forehead begging to be used as a marker for ignorant remarks. When Avantika, another Indian girl Lekha’s age, moves into the neighborhood with her family, Lekha feels burdened with having to befriend her. Although she is a new immigrant, Avantika proves to be nothing like Lekha expects. Kelkar (Ahimsa, 2017; The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh, 2019) has written a story that desi outcasts throughout the country can empathize with. Lekha easily succumbs to peer pressure, supporting the ongoing theme that silence is the same as complacency in the face of racism and microaggression. Avantika brings out the best in Lekha, and Lekha’s evolution, though slow, is as sweet as burfi. Author Supriya Kelkar returns to Gordon this Summer for an online workshop during the fifth and sixth grade book club with Mimi Roterman.
Fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor 
Who can’t love a story about a Nigerian-American twelve-year-old with albinism who discovers latent magical abilities and saves the world? Sunny lives in Nigeria after spending the first nine years of her life in New York. She can’t play soccer with the boys because, as she says, “being albino made the sun my enemy,” and she has only enemies at school. When a boy in her class, Orlu, rescues her from a beating, Sunny is drawn into a magical world she’s never known existed. Sunny, it seems, is a Leopard person, one of the magical folk who live in a world mostly populated by ignorant Lambs. Now she spends the day in mundane Lamb school and sneaks out at night to learn magic with her cadre of Leopard friends: a handsome American bad boy, an arrogant girl who is Orlu’s childhood friend and Orlu himself. Though Sunny’s initiative is thin-she is pushed into most of her choices by her friends and by Leopard adults-the worldbuilding for Leopard society is stellar, packed with details that will enthrall readers bored with the same old magical worlds. Meanwhile, those looking for a touch of the familiar will find it in Sunny’s biggest victories, which are entirely non-magical (the detailed dynamism of Sunny’s soccer match is more thrilling than her magical world saving). Ebulliently original. Recommended by Ms. Samuel
Fantasy
Seventh and eighth

Akata Warrior by Nnedi Okorafor
This highly anticipated sequel to Akata Witch (2011) begins a year after Sunny unearthed secrets pertaining to her heritage and joined the secret Leopard Society. Plagued by strange dreams, Sunny endeavors to increase her magical powers by studying with her demanding mentor, and she continues to grapple with secrets that lie within her peculiar and wondrous Nsibidi book. However, the fate of humanity rests on her shoulders and time is not a luxury she has. Soon, she must step into her destiny and fight a looming, apocalyptic battle. If she loses or isn’t up to the task, it will spell catastrophe for all. While the story’s beginning is a bit jarring and doesn’t immediately sweep you away, the feeling is fleeting. A few chapters in, the reader gets tangled up in Sunny’s journey in the most delicious of ways. The lush world and high-stakes plot are fun, imaginative, timely, and authentic. Sunny as a character is beautiful, strong, and resilient, and her host of friends and allies are well-drawn and compelling, adding to the magic of the story. Okorafor’s novel will ensnare readers and keep them turning pages until the very end to see if and how Sunny fulfills the tremendous destiny that awaits her. Recommended by Ms. Samuel
Fantasy
Seventh and eighth

Aru Shah and the End of Time by Roshani Chokshi
Aru Shah is a lover of tales, and was hoping to survive seventh grade through spinning slightly altered tales about her life to classmates. When a group of friends confronts her at the Museum of Ancient Art and Indian Cultures about her lies, Aru Shah would do anything to get them to believe her. Even if that means taking their dare to light a lamp that—wouldn’t you know it?—might bring about the end of the world. Readers will be delighted by this adventurous dive into Hindu mythology and the chance to cheer along a heroic young protagonist. Chokshi makes it easy to connect with Aru by showing her learn from her mistakes (with the help of a sarcastic sorcerer pigeon), and readers will experience wonder as they are met with such surprises as a forest of giant fireflies. This series starter also doesn’t skimp on important lessons about friendship, family, and love. Chokshi is a talented writer who breathes fresh air into her mythological world
Fantasy
Fifth to seventh grade

Augie and Me Three Wonder Stories by R. J. Palacio
As Palacio explains in the introduction to this collection of three previously published e-book stories, calls for a sequel to Wonder (2012) are both frequent and ineffective—it’s not going to happen. Instead, she offers these deeper looks at three minor characters. In the abstract, it makes sense; the point of Wonder, after all, was about looking behind surfaces to find the nuance. “The Julian Chapter” is the strongest story and, most readers will agree, the most necessary, as Julian was the closest thing to a villain to our facially deformed fifth-grade hero, Auggie. Here, his bullydom is revealed to be a cog in a much larger familial machine out of his control. “Pluto” looks at Auggie’s old friend, Chris, showing how his failures as a friend to Auggie inspire him to do better. “Shingaling,” meanwhile, follows classmate Charlotte as she navigates friend-gaining and friend-losing with a bevy of handmade Venn diagrams. Auggie feels shoehorned into the latter stories, making them feel a bit typical. Even so, Palacio’s strength remains her straightforwardness, especially when it comes to children’s instinctive fear of Auggie. Mostly for superfans, of which there are plenty.
Short fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

Ban This Book by Alan Gratz
For biracial fourth-grader Amy Anne Ollinger, the school library is a quiet respite from her boisterous house, with two little siblings who often take center stage. But when her favorite book, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, disappears because a classmate’s mom thought it was inappropriate, she takes action by running a banned-book library out of her locker. As the stakes escalate, so does Amy’s risk-taking, deepening bonds with her classmates as they fight against censorship. She even gets suspended. A school assignment about the Bill of Rights provides additional context for their efforts. While in less capable hands, the story could become didactic, here it is deeply entwined with Amy’s growth, from shy and reserved to speaking up for herself on a large stage. Quick paced and with clear, easy-to-read prose, this is a book poised for wide readership and classroom use. As Amy’s school librarian Mrs. Jones says, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” An inspiring story about “good trouble” that’s worth the consequences.
Realistic fiction
Fifth grade

Belly Up by Stuart Gibbs
Henry the hippo is dead. Yes, the signature denizen of America’s newest and largest zoo has been found belly up in his highly, uh, unsanitary habitat (hippos are extraordinarily regular in their habits, so to speak). But there’s worse to come when 12-year-old Teddy begins to suspect it’s murder most foul and—in the fine tradition of mysteries for youth—sets out to solve the crime by himself. Well, he does have some help from beautiful Summer, the 13-year-old daughter of the zoo’s fantastically wealthy owner. Who could have dunnit? Large Marge, the surly security guard who has a cold spot in her heart for Teddy? Charlie Connor, the clown who’s hated Henry ever since the testy hippo took a bite out of him? Or could it be a guerrilla act perpetrated by the anti-zoo Animal Liberation Front? First-novelist Gibbs offers no shortage of suspects in his fast-paced story, which deftly mixes humor and suspense. Cleverly plotted—aside from one hippo-sized deus ex machina moment—this book is an auspicious debut that will leave readers clamoring for more.
Fifth to seventh grade

Born to Fly: The First Women’s Race Across America Steve Shienkin
Scrappy, determined, and fearless. That’s what the twenty fliers, including Louise Thaden, Pancho Barnes, Ruth Elder, and Amelia Earhart, who entered the Women’s Air Derby in 1929 had in common. Award-winning author Sheinkin (Undefeated, 2017) sets the stage for this first female transcontinental air race, from Santa Monica, California, to Cleveland, Ohio, with brief stories of the fliers’ formative years and profiles of Bessie Coleman and other pioneering aviators. The heart of the book, however, is the tension-filled race. In addition to the sexism surrounding the event, there was extreme risk. Without modern GPS, autopilots, and control towers, fliers navigated with road maps, their own sight, and plenty of nerve and luck. The race was punctuated with a fire aboard a wooden plane, “crack-up” accidents, unbelievable repairs, sabotage, and even death. Sheinkin’s story like narration puts readers right into the action, making them gasp and cheer along with the fliers. Period photographs and illustrated scenes heighten the interest. While rivalry drove the women’s ambition, the author also emphasizes how their determination in a male-dominated society drove their camaraderie. Concluding chapters follow the fliers’ lives after the race, explain why readers often remember Amelia Earhart above others, and impart the impact they had on future women in aviation and in space. This book soars as it details these often overlooked figures from history.
Nonfiction
Sixth to eighth grade

The Brave by James Bird
Perfect for fans of Rain Reign, this middle-grade novel is about a neurodiverse boy with OCD and his move to a reservation to live with his biological mother. Collin has a counting condition that finds him counting every letter spoken to him. It’s a quirk that makes him a prime target for bullies, and a continual frustration to the adults around him, including his father. When Collin is asked to leave yet another school, his dad decides to send him to live in Minnesota with the mother he’s never met. She is Ojibwe, and lives on a reservation. Collin arrives in Duluth with his loyal dog, Seven, and quickly finds his mom and his new home to be warm, welcoming, and accepting of his condition. Collin’s quirk is matched by that of his neighbor, Orenda, a girl who lives mostly in her treehouse and believes she is turning into a butterfly. With Orenda’s help, Collin works hard to overcome his challenges. His real test comes when he must step up for his new friend and trust his new family.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Braced by Alyson Gerber
Rachel’s life is going really well. She’s twelve and totally crushing it on the soccer field (which means more time with her best-friend teammates), and everyone agrees that the ridiculously cute Tate is within days of asking her to be official BF/GF. All of that comes to a crashing halt when her Boston specialist reveals she has scoliosis. In fact, the curvature of her spine is so extreme that she’ll have to wear a back brace—a heavy hulk of white padded plastic stretching from armpits to tail bone—for 23 hours a day. She tries to keep her spirits up but feels like a freak. Her soccer game plummets, and it seems like everyone—even her friends and Tate—are whispering in the halls. How can everything turn upside down so quickly? And where can she possibly find the strength to power through? Rachel’s first-person narration relays her story in a surprisingly intimate, beautifully earnest voice, likely attributable to Gerber herself suffering from scoliosis and wearing a fitted brace in her formative years. Here she captures the preteen mindset so authentically that it’s simultaneously delightful and painful. Every hallway whisper and direct insult will cut to the reader’s heart, and the details about the process of wearing a brace in all its agonies—and, yes, benefits—are a natural and enlightening thread through the story. A masterfully constructed and highly empathetic debut about a different kind of acceptance. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman
In India, eleven-year-old Viji and her twelve-year-old sister, Rukku, run away to Chennai after their violent father strikes out at them. Unprepared for living on the streets, they befriend two homeless boys: Arul, who lost his family in a tsunami, and Muthu, who escaped from a so-called school where he was confined and forced to work. Together they pick through garbage dumps for glass and metal scraps to sell, sleep on an abandoned bridge, and form their own family. Rukku’s intellectual disability has made her dependent on Viji, who gradually learns that her sister is more capable than she had thought. When Rukku and Muthu fall ill, Viji makes tough decisions in hopes of saving their lives and later must cope with her grief before she can move on. The four children and their tight-knit relationship are portrayed with conviction and finesse. Written in the form of a letter from Viji to her sister, the affecting narrative transports readers to a faraway setting that becomes vivid and real. Although the young characters face unusually difficult challenges, they nevertheless find the courage they need to move forward. The author of A Time to Dance (2014), Venkatraman offers an absorbing novel of love, loss, and resilience. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh

Bud Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
This Coretta Scott King and Newbery medal winning novel tells the story of Bud, a ten-year-old boy searching for “his place” and his family in the 1930s. Curtis, who is the author of The Watsons Go to Birmingham (Delacorte, 1995), has created a story that is adventurous, touching, funny, and heartwarming all in one. Bud has been living in an orphanage since his mother died when he was six. The boy bases all his decisions on his “rules and things to have a funner life and make a better liar out of yourself.” Everywhere he goes, he carries his suitcase full of clues about his family that he got from his mother. His expressions are comical and mature for his ten years. After a disastrous situation in a foster home, Bud decides to find his real father. His journey takes him to what turns out to be his grandfather’s hometown and his band. He comes across danger, fun, sadness, and, eventually, true happiness. At the end of the book, the author explains that the story is based on some of the characters in his own family and includes pictures of them. 
Historical fiction
Fifth grade
eBook

Cape the League of Secret Heroes by Kate Hannigan
In her first series, Hannigan (The Detective’s Assistant, 2015) deposits readers into WWII-era Philadelphia, where they’ll encounter the women mathematicians known as the ENIAC Six, female superheroes from early comic books, and a real Nazi spy ring. Twelve-year-old Irish immigrant Josie O’Malley feels the pinch of wartime living, picking up shifts at a diner and caring for her younger siblings while her mother works and her father fights in the Pacific. She desperately wishes the superheroes from her beloved comics would help her troubled city, but little does she suspect that she’s about to become one herself. After responding to a newspaper ad calling for puzzlers (she’s an ace at math and pattern recognition), Josie is recruited with two other girls—African American Mae and Japanese American Akiko—into a secret organization. Incredibly, the girls manifest superpowers just as a supervillain begins terrorizing the city. Prejudice against girls and women and racism directed at Mae and Akiko provide a more serious side to the action-packed plot. Humorous touches emerge as Josie and her friends hone their new powers, and some cheesy one-liners give a wink to vintage comic books—as do illustrated comics spreads. Readers across genres will be enamored by this blend of history, mystery, and superpowered action. A thorough author’s note supplies historical context for the trio’s first adventure in Cape the League of Secret Heroes by Kate Hannigan
Fantasy adventure
Fifth to seventh grade

Charlie Thorne and the Last Equation by Stuart Gibbs
At first glance, twelve-year-old Charlie Thorne might appear reckless, especially when skiing off of Deadman’s Drop, but Charlie is always running the numbers. Her genius-level IQ lets her precisely calculate her landing, as well as the odds that two of the people on the slopes below are waiting to apprehend her. After an intense chase, CIA agents Dante Garcia and Milana Moon capture Charlie and convince (i.e., blackmail) her to help them find Pandora, a powerful equation believed to have been developed and hidden by Einstein—a terrorist group is also on its trail. Gibbs deftly pens an Alex Rider–level adventure with this series starter, as the trio races to solve clues and find Pandora before it falls into the wrong hands. Issues of racial and gender diversity are nicely folded into the plot, which moves at breakneck speed from start to literal cliff-hanger finish. Charlie is a wildly entertaining protagonist whose intelligence is balanced by normal preteen rebellion. It doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to predict that this series will be popular own right!
Adventure
Fifth to eighth grade

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone
Stone’s (Odd One Out, 2018) heartwarming, character-centered, and humorous middle-grade debut is a sure-fire winner in this timely story about a boy retracing the South’s segregationist past with his grandmother. Black middle-schooler and computer whiz William “Scoob” Lamar is looking forward to being grounded for the entirety of spring break when his grandmother, an octogenarian white woman, whisks him away in a brand-new Winnebago on a trip to retrace her history. The ways in which G’ma’s days of old dovetail with the American civil rights movement do more than teach Scoob about the injustices of Jim Crow and the fight for equality; each stop provides clues to deciphering the mystery surrounding his grandfather’s life in prison and estrangement from Scoob’s father. Adding Scoob’s wry conversational observations about the odyssey to maps and a Green Book, an essential travel guide for African Americans designed to help them find accommodations willing to admit them and avoid towns known for terrorizing Black people, contributes levity and realism at the same time. Instead, The book explores an integral part of America’s past through the lens of one family’s journey to mutual understanding and eventual generational acceptance. An engaging family read aloud.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth 

Circus Mirandus by Cassie Beasley
Micah’s parents died when he was just a toddler, and now he happily lives with Grandpa Ephraim, who tells him fantastic stories, the best of which are about Circus Mirandus, a circus kids can only attend if they believe in magic. When Ephraim was a boy, he came upon the magical circus and met the Man Who Bends Light, who was so impressed by Ephraim’s knot-tying skills that he promised him a miracle. Now, many years later, Ephraim is dying, and Micah is determined to make sure he gets his miracle. Joined by his skeptical, brilliant friend Jenny, Micah seeks out Circus Mirandus to see its wonders for himself and to confront the Lightbender, though in the process, he learns more about himself than he ever expected. Debut author Beasley has built an imaginative world in evocative, painterly prose and she’s filled it with compellingly multifaceted characters. 
Fantasy
eBook

City Spies by James Ponti
Caught hacking into the NYC juvenile justice system’s computers, twelve-year-old Sara Martinez faces years in detention centers, but a British secret agent rescues her and takes her to Scotland. There she joins his small, top-secret team of gifted young spies, each recruited from a different continent. Sara, renamed Brooklyn, trains with Paris, Rio, Kat, and Sydney for a few short weeks before joining the team for a mission in Paris. They are realistically wary of their newest member until she earns their trust. Working undercover as students attending a summit on the environment, they plan to break into a secret research facility and outwit an evil genius. A television writer and producer as well as the author of Framed (2016) and its sequels, Ponti writes a well-paced story laced with suspense, wit, and entertaining dialogue. Events unfold within colorful Parisian settings that include the Eiffel Tower, the Catacombs, and a deceptively shabby-looking hotel run by British Intelligence. Laying the groundwork for a new series, this brisk adventure features mysteries, intrigues, and five clever young heroes.
Mystery
Fifth to eighth grade

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander
This adaptation of Alexander’s Newbery-winning novel in verse brings each character and event to life through Anyabwile’s dynamic line work and portions of Alexander’s beautiful poetry. The artwork, in a palette of black, white, gray, and orange, evokes the imagery of the basketball, ensuring that readers feel Josh Bell’s experiences come to life. Josh and his brother, Jordan, sons of a basketball legend, rule the court, especially when they cooperate. But when the two find themselves growing further apart, as hormones increase and a girl enters the picture, life on and off the court falls into chaos. Although larger portions of the text in this adaptation exist in prose form, the poetry of the novel still exists at various stages to bring readers back to Alexander’s original lively style. An energetic and lively re-envisioning, this transformation of the original text into a combination of visuals, poetry, and changing font styles will be sure to engage young readers who are both familiar and unfamiliar with Alexander’s original work.
Graphic novel
Fifth to eighth grade

Dragon Hoops by Gene Luen Yang
There’s a line between sports and American comics that is seldom crossed. Leave it to Yang to take the crucial step, capturing not only the excitement of basketball but something deep and universal about it, even as he parallels it with his own journey. Yang teaches at California’s Bishop O’Dowd High School, home to the Dragons, a basketball team with a hallowed and, as it turns out, complicated history. Over and over again, the team almost wins State. Pursuing material for his next graphic novel, Yang surprises himself by latching onto the team and its long-time coach, Lou Richie. Yang traces the team’s high-stakes season through the players but also delves into the history of basketball itself, touching on the sociopolitical forces that shaped it and—to no surprise for Yang’s readers—the way race figures into both. Yang is an extraordinary cartoonist; his clean, clear, deceptively simple figures and compositions transmit emotions both subtle and powerful. Combining visual flair, like speeding backgrounds, with nearly diagrammatic movement, he creates pulse-pounding game sequences. Most important, through recurring visual motifs that connect a champion basketball player to a self-questioning artist to a Russian immigrant with a new idea, he illuminates the risks that every one of us must take and has, once again, produced a work of resounding humanity.
Graphic novel
Seventh and eighth grade

Demigods and Monsters by various authors
Filling in the mythological—and, in some cases, psychological—background of the Percy Jackson novels, 15 writers, most of them fantasy authors, weigh in on such diverse topics as how to recognize monsters (Rosemary Clement-Moore), the ins and outs of being one of Artemis’ virgin huntresses (Carolyn McCullough), parent issues (several contributors), and why hero/monster tales have such resonance in our lives (ditto). This version of a title originally published in 2008 includes original entries revised to encompass the entire series, plus three new essays—most notably Hilari Bell’s comparison of Percy with his far less upright namesake, Perseus: The Greek Hero—New and Improved! Elizabeth Wein and Riordan himself explore the origin and significance of Percy’s dyslexia and ADHD. The role of Dionysus in both the series and in Greek myth receives a searching analysis by Ellen Steiber, and in the last and longest entry, scholar Nigel Rodgers offers an entire alphabetical glossary of ancient Greek gods, heroes, monsters, and tales and lists sites that extend the series. The high-profile authors will get readers to pick this up. Along with reference value, the collection should afford both fans and curious readers some insight into the series’ appeal.
Fantasy/Mythology/critical theory
Fifth to eighth grades
eBook

Emmy in the Key of Code by Amiee Lucido
Twelve-year-old Emmy is the new kid, transplanted from Wisconsin to San Francisco. Despite a musical upbringing (Mom sings opera; Dad is a concert pianist), Emmy doesn’t have any musical talent and even blacked out on stage during her last recital. When it’s time to sign up for electives, all the cool girls take music, so intimidated Emmy winds up in computer science. After a rocky start, Emmy makes friends, becomes immersed in coding, and develops a special bond with her computer teacher, Ms. Delaney. Inevitable middle school drama ensues, including the devastating news that Ms. Delaney is ill. By the book’s end, Emmy has developed a passion for coding music and found new social confidence, despite Ms. Delaney’s worsening prognosis. The book features a free-verse format that perfectly captures Emmy’s seesawing emotions and allows for the seamless incorporation of lines of code that show how composing music and creating code follow similar patterns. Music, coding, strong female techie role models—this engaging first novel should attract a wide audience. Recommended by incoming sixth and seventh graders.
Realistic fiction/STEAM
Fifth to seventh grade
eBook

Explorer Academy The Nebula Secret by Trudi Trueit
The first fiction series from National Geographic’s new Under the Stars imprint features Cruz Coronado, 12, who’s selected to attend the elite Explorer Academy in D.C. in this action-packed illustrated adventure. Cruz and 23 other kids from around the world are training to become explorers aboard the academy’s flagship, which travels around the globe doing research. As if the training—and having an aunt on the faculty—isn’t hard enough, a scarred man in snakeskin boots is stalking Cruz. He warns Cruz to leave or Nebula will kill him like they did Cruz’s mother, who died mysteriously in the academy’s synthesis lab when Cruz was five. Who or what is Nebula? Can the codes that Cruz loves to decipher help him solve his mother’s death? The students’ training includes lessons on cool technologies available now or in the near future, plausibly incorporated into the plot. Not all the characters are fleshed out, but there’s potential to learn more about them in future installments. Sure to appeal to kids who love code cracking and mysteries with cutting-edge technology.
Science fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

The Expeditioners by S.S. Taylor
As the world teeters on the edge of war, Explorer-in-Training Kit West finishes his spy training and is sent on his first secret mission: a dangerous journey across the Simerian Desert to retrieve a secret map that will allow his government to fend off an invasion. But things are not as they seem and Kit must battle deadly sandstorms, ruthless spies, and government agents to find the map and stay on the trail of his father, the famous Explorer Alexander West. Will Kit have what it takes to find the map and a secret desert city known only in legend? And will he have the courage to finally find out where his father is leading him? Recommended by an incoming seventh grader.
Sixth to eighth grade

The First Rule of Punk by Celia Perez
In her story of seventh-grader Malú, debut author Pérez harnesses the spirit of School of Rock and gives it a punk rock spin. Malú isn’t happy about her recent move to Chicago, because it meant leaving her dad (her parents are amicably divorced) and his record store behind. She tries to assume a brave punk attitude, but she can’t help being anxious on her first day of school, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the class mean girl. When Malú learns about the upcoming Fall Fiesta talent show, she decides to form a band, with the hopes of finding “her people” in the process. While this plan hits a few snags, it results in friendships and a Mexican punk mentor. Like any good riot grrrl, Malú finds a creative outlet in making zines, several of which appear in the novel and call attention to Malú’s passions, heritage (she is half Mexican), and private concerns. Pérez delivers an upbeat story of being true to yourself and your beliefs.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science by Jeannine Atkins
From the author of Borrowed Names (2010), this three-part novel in verse vividly imagines the lives of three girls who grew up to become famous for their achievements in science. “Mud, Moths, and Mystery” opens in Germany in 1660 with Maria Merian as a girl, closely observing insect metamorphosis. Pursuing her interest in nature throughout her life, she even traveled to South America to observe wildlife. “Secrets in Stones” tells of young Mary Anning, who in the early 1800s began collecting fossils from cliffs near her home in Lyme Regis, England. Despite poverty and limited education, her significant discoveries and observations contributed to paleontology at a pivotal time. “Mapmaker’s Daughter” begins in 1831 with Maria Mitchell stargazing through her father’s telescope on Nantucket. Later, she discovered a comet and became a college astronomy professor. Atkins has a knack for turning a phrase, such as “Certainty is like a pillow / she learned to live without,” or “Coughs scrape the air, as if Pa breathes through a grater.” Science is woven through the narratives, but within the fabric of the characters’ daily lives and family struggles. While the Mary Anning narrative is the most haunting, each of these three perceptive portrayals is original and memorable.
Verse novel
Fifth to seventh grade

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lipincott 
Stella Grant has control issues. She also has breathing issues because of cystic fibrosis, and she must remain six feet away from anyone who could give her an infection. She has spent years in and out of the hospital, and now, instead of joining her friends on their senior trip, she’s fighting a simple sore throat that could ruin her chances for a lung transplant. Nevertheless, she hosts YouTube videos about CF and works diligently on her medicine-treatment reminder app. When CF patient and rich kid Will Newman arrives as part of a clinical trial for a drug, Stella knows there will be trouble. He doesn’t care about the trial or his regimen, so she forces him to help test her app. Eventually, Stella decides moving one foot closer to Will is worth the risk, and both find their worlds expanding as a result. The characters’ backstories are complex and moving, and the unpredictability of the disease will break readers’ hearts.. recommended by an incoming seventh grader
Realistic fiction 
Seventh and eighth grade 

Forest of Wonders Wing and Claw series Book 1 by Linda Sue Park
Raffa is a gifted apothecary who uses his synesthesia-inflected intuition to make the best poultices and tonics. When an injured bat flies in his window, he’s determined to prove himself to his parents, so he and his cousin, Garith, seek out a legendary healing scarlet vine. When he uses it on the bat, he discovers an unexpected consequence: his bat can talk! Meanwhile, Raffa’s uncle is summoned to work in the fancy city apothecary, and he and Garith move away. Raffa sneaks out to visit them, and once there, he’s wowed by their fancy new digs, though the sheen dulls when he learns about their troubling secret project. Though most of the pivotal events of Park’s series opener occur toward the end, the world building and rich characters, not to mention a bevy of comical talking animals, will lure in middle-grade fantasy fans, and the gentle message of conservation and kindness to all creatures will resonate with young animal lovers. A cliff-hanger ending leaves plenty to cover in the forthcoming follow-up.
Fantasy
Fifth and sixth grade

The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm
It’s a little strange for eleven-year-old Ellie when her mother brings home a boy who looks to be about thirteen but dresses like Ellie’s grandfather. But it’s a shocker when Ellie realizes that the kid is her grandfather, a scientist who has suddenly succeeded in reversing the aging process. Now sleeping in their den and newly enrolled in Ellie’s middle school, Grandpa connives with her to sneak into his old lab and swipe what he needs to continue his research. Meanwhile, Ellie comes to admire the grandfather she has barely known, listens to his stories of famous scientists, and discovers her own passion for science. Written in a clean, crisp style, with lively dialogue and wit, this highly accessible novel will find a ready audience. The idea of an adult in a young teen’s body may not be new, but Ellie’s first-person narrative makes good use of the situation’s comic potential, particularly in the fractious, role-reversed relationship between Mom and Grandpa. Along with the comedy, the story has a reflective side, too, as Ellie thinks through issues such as death and immortality and confronts Grandpa with the social consequences of his research. A three-time Newbery Honor–winning author, whose books have also ranked on the New York Times bestseller lists.
Science fiction
Fifth and sixth grade

Game Changer by Tom Greenwald
Freshman football player Teddy Youngblood, 13, is seriously injured during a practice session before the upcoming football season. Teddy’s family, friends, and neighbors are distraught about it—it may be Teddy’s favorite sport, but it just put him into a coma. Soon, rumors begin circulating around town that Teddy’s accident was not an accident; rather, there is something suspicious afoot. Worried, Teddy’s family and friends clamor to find the truth behind the accident. Greenwald’s latest takes a fresh approach, telling the story through multiple characters and an almost free-verse style that combines inner thoughts, texts, social media feeds, newspaper articles, interview transcripts, and dialogue. Example: “Can you squeeze my hand? / Oh man / Oh man that’s perfect / Great job, Ted / Look at that.” The format presents no barrier for readers, who will rapidly adapt. Reminiscent of Mike Lupica’s Lone Stars (2017), Greenwald’s novel entertains while exposing readers to the potential risks and consequences inherent in the sport of football.
Realistic fiction
Mixed verse, text and narrative
Fifth to eighth grade

Goodbye Mr. Spalding by Jennifer Robin Barr
His whole life, twelve-year-old Jimmy Frank has been able to see into Philadelphia’s beloved Shibe Park from his bedroom window. But when the owner of the Philadelphia Athletics fears sales on the rooftop bleachers atop homes like Jimmy’s are cutting into profits, they plan to erect a wall. The Great Depression has already tightened Jimmy’s family’s finances and the so-called “spite wall” is sure to further jeopardize their well-being. Jimmy is willing to do just about anything to stop the Athletics from building the wall, but is his partner in crime, his neighbor and BFF Lola, just as willing? Or is the spite wall also erecting a wall in their friendship? This appealing historical middle-grade novel is perfect for fans of beloved baseball-centered novels like Linda Sue Park’s Keeping Score (2008). Barr knows her baseball history and brings rich detail to mid-1930s Philadelphia. While the plot may follow a predictable arc, sports fanatics will eat up the appended material. A sweet debut about friendship and the love of the game.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

Great Basketball Debates by Andres Ybarra
Team USA: Pro or College Players?; Should High School Players Be Able to Turn Pro? Should the Draft Lottery Be Eliminated-these chapter headings and more offer intriguing debate and critical thinking possibilities for students and families alike. A book especially selected by fifth graders for a possible Book Circle as it is available for reading and viewing on the Gordon Library ebook platform.
Nonfiction sports
Fifth to eighth grade
eBook

Greenglass House by Kate Milford
It’s Christmas break and adopted Milo and his parents are looking forward to a vacation all to themselves at Greenglass House, the inn where they live and routinely host benevolent passing smugglers. When five unusual guests unexpectedly arrive, and their belongings—which all have something to do with the house—start disappearing, Milo finds himself at the heart of a real mystery. With the help of Meddy, the oddball girl who arrives with the cook, and a role-playing game that gives him the courage to poke around where he knows he is not supposed to, Milo uses his knowledge of the house and his skills of observation to find the missing objects, piece together the mystery of the house, and discover a secret about the legendary folk hero who used to live there. The puzzling mystery is perfectly matched by the offbeat world of Nagspeake, a fictional harbor town enhanced by folklore and history rich enough to sound convincingly real, and the dreamy Greenglass House, with its enviable attic, snug corners, and thrilling past. Milford (The Boneshaker, 2010) weaves together compelling clues, crackerjack detective work from Milo and Meddy, and well-rounded characters to reveal heartwarming truths about Greenglass House and its residents. An enchanting, empowering, and cozy read. Recommended by incoming sixth and severnth graders.
Mystery / fantasy / time travel
Fifth to eighth grade 
eBook

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
Ivy Aberdeen is not in a good place. She’s lost her house to a massive tornado, her mother seems to barely notice she exists (because of the new twins), and her sister is being really mean. In the aftermath of the storm, Ivy and her family must decide what to do, and one solution means leaving Ivy with a new family until their house can be rebuilt. But when she begins to develop romantic feelings for a girl in her class, and her private notebook of sketches goes missing, everything starts to unravel. Blake (How to Make a Wish, 2017) brings Ivy and her family to life in her examination of familial connections, friendships, art, and first-time crushes, which is poignantly set against a background of destruction and displacement. This necessary and emotionally complex addition to the body of middle-grade literature offers readers a positive, complex, and courageous portrayal of burgeoning relationships within the world of junior high. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth and sixth grade

Jade Hameister Polar Explorer by Jade Hameister
At 17, Australian teenager Jade Hameister became the youngest person to complete three grueling skiing expeditions called the Polar Hat-Trick. She skied to the North Pole, across Greenland, and from Antarctica’s coast to the South Pole. In this exciting and inspiring story, Hameister recounts how she accomplished these amazing feats at such a young age. She survived a mysterious illness when she was just months old and was inspired by her father, who’d successfully climbed the Seven Summits. Unbelievably, she said she hadn’t really skied before her first expedition, but she trained hard to make up for it. This photo-illustrated account examines Hameister’s teammates in addition to her father, her supplies, and the challenges she faced (frigid temperatures, dangerous ice rubble and crevasses, polar bears, rain blizzards, heat, sunburn, dehydration, even peeing in frigid temperatures). Hameister saw the effects of climate change firsthand and advocates for ways to help save the planet. She thrillingly creates a “you are there” experience and inspires other young women to follow their own dreams.
Memoir
Seventh and eighth grade

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson
It’s the last day of seventh grade, and Jaime just wants everything to go well. Her best friend since kindergarten, Maya, has been hot and cold lately, spending more and more time with charismatic Celia and gossipy Grace, but all they seem to want to do is put on makeup and talk about, ugh, boys. Meanwhile, Maya is frustrated that Jaime can’t see that they’ve all changed and matured, while Jamie’s still kinda, well, babyish. I mean, she’s still in a training bra and not even into kissing boys! She’s basically stuck in fifth grade. Told skillfully in alternating dual narratives from both girls’ points of view—Jaime in handwriting font and funny illustrations, Maya in traditional graphic-novel format—this story is simultaneously incredibly original and utterly universal. The emotional roller-coaster of navigating friendships as they change shape, particularly in middle school, is portrayed with admirable sincerity, gentle humor, heartbreaking pain, and of course plenty of texts and emojis. Libenson weaves a beautiful, accessible, layered story yet again.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

The Last Day of Summer by Lamar Giles 
The last Monday in August may not be the last official day of summer, but Otto and Sheed know it’s the last day that counts: on Tuesday, they go back to school, and their days of freedom are over. The two African American cousins, known to all in Logan County as the Legendary Alston Boys, have spent their summer solving mysteries and competing with their rivals, the Epic Ellison Girls, to win keys to the city. But their wish for more summer comes startlingly true when a man appears out of nowhere with a strange, not-quite-right camera, and with one press of a button, he mysteriously freezes time. Except for Otto and Sheed, it seems everyone in town is trapped in a single moment. But the boys are on the case, and as they investigate, they get to know some very interesting concepts, meet people from out of time, and begin to understand how deeply a single missed opportunity can alter a life. Not all YA authors transition seamlessly to middle grade, but Giles (Spin, 2019) manages it with aplomb, spinning a zany, clever adventure filled with surreal humor that never feels forced. Anchored by its genuine characters and buoyed by its true fun, this is an adventure with staying power.
Science fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Line Tender by Kate Allen
Novels dealing in loss and grief often result in potent stories, not because they’re “serious” or “sad,” but because—if done right—they dig into a character’s complexities. Death alters characters’ landscapes in unfathomable ways, plunging them into uncertain waters and challenging them, first to stay afloat, and then to swim with new purpose. At the start of Allen’s probing debut, Lucy and her father have carved out an imperfect but happy life together after the death of Lucy’s mother, Helen, five years earlier. Lucy spends most of her time with her best friend and neighbor, Fred, and their summer has been largely devoted to a school project: creating a field guide to Cape Ann, their coastal New England town. Together, they make up the perfect team: science-minded Fred supplies the guide’s facts and data, and Lucy uses her artistic talents to illustrate each specimen. When Sookie, a family friend and fisherman, catches a great white, the two kids race to the harbor to get a close look at the shark in order to add it to their guide. Its presence stirs up reporters, as well as Lucy’s interest in her mom’s work, which was devoted to studying sharks. An unpublished proposal by Helen to study great-white populations in New England captures Fred and Lucy’s attention and takes on a greater significance for Lucy after a tragic swimming accident claims Fred’s life. In her efforts to cope, Lucy begins writing Fred postcards since they can no longer talk. She also immerses herself in understanding Helen’s proposal and perfecting her shark drawings, wanting to figure out what had utterly captivated her mom and Fred about the great whites—the spike in sightings that summer only spurring her on. Because, to Lucy, making sense of this thing will mean making sense of her world and two people she loves who are no longer in it. While Allen packs a lot into this story, it never feels overstuffed. Its pieces have purpose, and just as many speak to the average tween experience—getting your period, the confusion of first crushes—as they do to navigating grief and the panic absence can bring. The latter two points put an interesting number of responses on display outside of Lucy’s experiences, underscoring how the deaths of Helen and Fred impact many characters, including Lucy’s dad, who she comes to understand is still struggling with both. Lucy’s efforts to get to the bottom of the study inadvertently help several others reconnect with important parts of their lives and take steps toward healing. Likewise, something in Lucy clicks when her teacher looks at hers and Fred’s field guide and observes, “But artists and scientists aren’t really that different, you know. They both want to figure out how things work.” This idea helps Lucy trace lines between herself and those she lost, like the observant line tender on a search-and-rescue team, and see the parts of them in herself. Lucy’s shark sketches swim throughout the book, just as they do in her field guide and her mind, and it’s only when she internalizes her mother’s reminder that, as frightening as sharks can be, their threat is diminished when they’re treated with respect, that Lucy begins to tame the fearful.
Eco-Fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan 
The escapades of the Greek gods and heroes get a fresh spin in the first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, about a contemporary 12-year-old New Yorker who learns he’s a demigod. Perseus, aka Percy Jackson, thinks he has big problems. His father left before he was born, he’s been kicked out of six schools in six years, he’s dyslexic, and he has ADHD. What a surprise when he finds out that that’s only the tip of the iceberg: he vaporizes his pre-algebra teacher, learns his best friend is a satyr, and is almost killed by a minotaur before his mother manages to get him to the safety of Camp Half-Blood--where he discovers that Poseidon is his father. But that’s a problem, too. Poseidon has been accused of stealing Zeus’lightning bolt, and unless Percy can return the bolt, humankind is doomed. Riordan’s fast-paced adventure is fresh, dangerous, and funny. Percy is an appealing, but reluctant hero, the modernized gods are hilarious, and the parallels to Harry Potter are frequent and obvious. 
Fantasy fiction mythology

Lizzy Legend by Matthew Ross Smith
Eighth-grader Lizzy Trudeaux falls asleep beneath a poster of LeBron James every night, and she never dreamed in a million years that she’d ever be able to actually play against him. But when a strange phone call prompts her to make a wish, she’s suddenly trading the blacktop near her home for the bright lights of a real basketball arena. She can’t miss a single shot—not even if she tries. Debut author Smith firmly roots this story of wish fulfillment in the contemporary basketball world, with all of the fast-paced excitement and chance for individual glory. Though tales of fame and fortune all too often pit BFFs against each other, Lizzy’s best bud Toby is instead along for the ride, nearly stealing every scene he’s in with his comic banter. Documentary-style cutaways to interviews with key players, along with short chapters and a balance of well-paced action and heart, give this sports story wide appeal. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood
Living in a blended family is not easy, especially for a girl whose parents have both remarried and moved on to build new families. G-Baby’s world centers around her little sister, Peaches; however, since their mother remarried, G-Baby has become obsessed with having a relationship with her new teenage stepsister, Tangie. When Peaches’ health takes a turn and she is hospitalized, G-Baby feels guilty and desperately tries to visit her, learning some hard lessons about doing the right thing and listening to adults in the process. Using beautiful prose, Youngblood’s debut explores the expansive love only siblings can have for one another, while capturing the heart and soul of what it means to be a blended family. The multilayered characters and compelling story will resonate with readers, many of whom will find parallels to their own families, whether in terms of dealing with bullies, first crushes, friendships, or blended families. Young readers will fall in love with these characters and gain a new favorite author.
Realistic fiction

Lu by Jason Reynolds
Lu is the man, the kid, the guy. The one and only. Not only was he a miracle baby but he is albino. He’s special down to his gold chains and diamond earrings, but he feels a little less once-in-a-lifetime when his parents tell him they’re pregnant again. On top of this sobering news, he’s leading the Defenders alongside a co-captain who isn’t pleased about sharing the title; and he’s training for the 110-meter hurdles, choking at every leap. As the championship approaches, can he prove his uniqueness one final time? As with the prior titles, the final installment in the four-book Track series is uplifting and moving, full of athletic energy and eye-level insight into the inner-city middle-school track-team experience. Reynolds wraps up his powerful series with a surprising ending, all while scattering rewarding details about Ghost, Patina, and Sunny to let the reader truly revel in this multidimensional world as it comes to a close. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Machines That Think! by Don Brown
How rows of rocks evolved into the intricate circuitry that runs our homes, drives our cars, and orders our pizza. Brown lets al-Khwārizmī, the Muslim mathematician who popularized Arabic/Hindu numbers (most notably, for Brown’s purposes here, “0” and “1”), take the role of tour guide. He squires readers through centuries of watershed developments from the abacus and mechanical Pascaline calculator to the punch cards of Joseph-Marie Jacquard, ENIAC, IBM, the transistor, and robots. Closing with an explanation of the Turing test, he offers a mildly cautionary view of the increasingly pervasive roles computers play in our daily lives (“will they be doing all the thinking for us?”) and an appended disquisition on binary numbers. Along the way he chronicles both major and incremental advances as well as offering nods to significant thinkers and doers familiar (Ada Lovelace, Steve Jobs) or otherwise—notably Jean Jennings and six other women charged with figuring out how to program ENIAC but not invited to its unveiling. Though he acknowledges in an afterword that his cast is largely white, European, and male he does what he can throughout to diversify it…and cogently observes at the end that the “domination of the West in the sciences has ended.” Panels are drawn in a loose style that lightens the substantial informational load. Another terrific case study on the power of a big idea to work profound changes in our lives. 
Graphic nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Merci Suarez Changes Gear by Meg Medina
Merci Suárez loves painting with her Papi, playing on his soccer team, telling her Abuelo Lolo about her days at school, and taking pictures of her family when they are together. But lately Lolo has been acting different—he wanders off, forgets things easily, and has even gotten angry. To add to Merci’s worries, sixth grade at Seaward Pines Academy has gotten off to a rocky start. To make up her school tuition, Merci has been assigned community service as a Sunshine Buddy to new student Michael Clark, and, as the weeks go by, popular Edna Santos only gets meaner as Merci and Michael become friends. Merci isn’t sure what to make of this new world where “maybe like” is not the same as “like like,” and where “popular” is not the same as having friends. As she navigates her way through the year, she discovers that, even though change is scary and even though it may mean things will never be the same, sometimes it is unavoidable. Medina’s breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters who reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle-school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must-read. 

The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnulty
When Lucy, 12, was struck by lightning, she gained extraordinary math skills, and her grandmother, Nana, who raised Lucy after her parents’ death, has homeschooled her ever since. Lucy is content to fill her hours with online college classes and chats on math forums where no one knows her real age, but Nana decides that Lucy needs to experience a world outside of a computer screen. If Lucy goes to middle school for one year, Nana promises, she’ll be allowed to apply to college, and reluctantly, Lucy agrees. At first, her germophobia and mild obsessive behavior make a difficult situation more difficult, but eventually, she acquires two friends, finds useful work to do at an animal shelter, and has her life changed by a little dog she calls Pi. McAnulty captures the drama and trauma of middle school with well-rounded and believable characters and a convincing and appealing story. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade
Digital audiobook

Monstrous, The Lore, Gore, and Science Behind Your Favorite Monsters by Carlyn Beccia
Extraordinarily clever and phenomenally entertaining, this graphics-forward resource intrepidly investigates the science behind eight monsters and cryptids, digging into the possibilities of their existence, exploring ways to react in case of a hypothetical encounter, and drawing real-world parallels. Each scenario is loaded with data: chapters describe why King Kong’s size makes him a mathematical impossibility (the square-cube law!), note that the mechanics of bodily decomposition might have made people a few centuries ago inclined to believe in vampires, and map the places in the world where Godzilla might like to stop and take in some radioactivity. Beccia’s tone is as accessibly irreverent as it was in They Lost Their Heads! (2018), and she plays no games here, cheerfully admitting that, while Bigfoot is almost surely a hoax, it’s best to be prepared to know how to make a cast of his footprint should you happen upon one (instructions included). The saucy cartoon illustrations are packed with hilarious dialogue asides, comparative size charts, and diagrams with helpful tips galore (need to know what to pack for the zombie apocalypse? Even the sillier segments have practical applications—the advice on what to do when a werewolf attacks can also be used for dogs—and the secondary resources are extensive. A fantastically researched, absolutely delectable approach to science education.
Non-fiction science miscellanea
Fifth to seventh grade

Noisemakers twenty-five Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World by “Kazoo”
From the creators of Kazoo magazine, a quarterly magazine for girls ages 5-12, which Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls called “required reading,” comes a graphic novel anthology of women who are not afraid to make some noise!
Did anyone ever get anywhere by being quiet? To change anything, you have to make some noise! A look at the lives of twenty-five extraordinary women through the eyes of twenty-five extraordinary comic artists. In chapters titled Grow, Tinker, Play, Create, Rally, and Explore, you’ll meet Eugenie Clark, who swam with sharks, Raye Montague, who revolutionized the design process for ships, Hedy Lamarr, a beautiful actress and brilliant inventor, Julia Child, a chef who wasn’t afraid to make mistakes, Kate Warne, the first female detective, who saved the life of President-Elect Abraham Lincoln, and many more.
Graphic novel
Fifth to eighth grade 

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate
This companion to Newbery-winning The One and Only Ivan (2012) takes the same form—short sections of sparse, first-person narration—this time centered on Bob, Ivan the silverback’s scrappy little dog friend. While Bob supplies a sharp, lively voice that young readers will enjoy, he can’t quite live up to the charm and gentle otherness of the soft-spoken gorilla. The story picks up with Bob enjoying domestic life and Ivan comfortable in a zoo, along with Ruby the elephant. The plot drags in the first half, heavy with digressions as it catches readers up and fleshes out Bob’s origins. A traumatic event as a pup (safe for young readers), it turns out, largely informs Bob’s attitude. After a hurricane rolls in, wreaking havoc on the zoo and surrounding town, Bob is pushed to confront his guilt and become the big-hearted hero we know he can be. Fans of the first book will love catching up with cherished friends, and newcomers, too, will enjoy this heartfelt story of survival.
Fiction
Fifth and sixth grade
eBook

Orphan Island by Laurel Synder
Nine orphans live by themselves on an idyllic island, which provides them with everything they need as long as they follow a few rules: learn to swim, learn to read, and there can never be more than nine children on the island. Each “year” (time is only measured in “sleeps”), an unpiloted green boat arrives from across the ocean with a new youngest child and departs with the oldest. When Jinny rebels and refuses to leave and the balance is skewed, the island responds in kind, and when disaster strikes, Jinny has only one choice if the rest are to survive. Snyder’s well-realized and distinct characters are a distinguishing feature. Even the island, with its magical elements, becomes a sort of character, as it responds to events. With the book’s lovely, absorbing narrative and an enigmatic plot, readers willing to suspend their disbelief will enjoy this deceptively simple story.
Fantasy fiction
Fifth to sixth
eBook

Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Fifth-grader Melody has cerebral palsy, a condition that affects her body but not her mind. Although she is unable to walk, talk, or feed or care for herself, she can read, think, and feel. A brilliant person is trapped inside her body, determined to make her mark in the world in spite of her physical limitations. Draper knows of what she writes; her daughter, Wendy, has cerebral palsy, too. And although Melody is not Wendy, the authenticity of the story is obvious. Told in Melody’s voice, this highly readable, compelling novel quickly establishes her determination and intelligence and the almost insurmountable challenges she faces. It also reveals her parents’ and caretakers’ courage in insisting that Melody be treated as the smart, perceptive child she is, and their perceptiveness in understanding how to help her, encourage her, and discourage self-pity from others. Thoughtless teachers, cruel classmates, Melody’s unattractive clothes (“Mom seemed to be choosing them by how easy they’d be to get on me”), and bathroom issues threaten her spirit, yet the brave Melody shines through. Uplifting and upsetting, this is a book that defies age categorization, an easy enough read for upper-elementary students yet also a story that will enlighten and resonate with teens and adults. Similar to yet the antithesis of Terry Trueman’s Stuck in Neutral (2000), this moving novel will make activists of us all.
Fifth to sixth grade
eBook

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
From the author of The Great Greene Heist (2014) comes the exciting adventure of two kids searching for a hidden treasure. Candice’s summer has been the worst, until she finds a letter in her grandma’s attic that leads to her grandma being driven out of their town of Lambert, South Carolina. The letter offers clues about the untold history of a young African American woman named Siobhan Washington and about a secret game of tennis. Candice teams up with Brandon, the boy next door, and dives into the hidden history of Lambert to finish what her grandma started. Following each new discovery, Johnson reveals a key moment in the past that uncovers a secret love and a great injustice. While Candice works through her parents’ divorce and moving, Brandon deals with being bullied by a boy from school. The mystery offers them a way to seek justice for Candice’s grandma, but it also helps them deal with their own struggles. A dazzling and emotional read that deals with serious topics such as bullying, racism, and divorce.
Detective mystery fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Perfect Horse: The Daring Rescue of Horses Kidnapped by Hitler, adapted for young people by Elizabeth Letts
In this young-readers’ edition of her New York Times best-seller, Letts captivates readers from beginning to end. Even before WWII, Hitler’s Nazi agenda to make everything German “the best” involved confiscating champion horses from countries in Eastern Europe. Thoroughbred Arabians and Lipizzaners were especially prized. Under the leadership of Gustav Rau, Hitler’s choice for leading a eugenics horse-breeding program, the horses were held in Hostau, Czechoslovakia. As the war’s end approached, the Germans in charge of the horses realized that in order to protect them they must surrender the horses to the Americans. The glitch in this arrangement was that the Americans couldn’t cross into Czechoslovakia, but, under the command of Colonel Hank Reed (with General George Patton’s tacit approval), they did. Letts traces the dangerous mission of rescuing the horses, transporting them to the U.S., and transferring the horses to the Department of Agriculture, after which they were sold to private owners. This account of the heroism and cooperation of unlikely people to protect these horses is spellbinding. The author’s impeccable attention to detail and exhaustive sources make this a must-read.
Narrative nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
Frances, a seamstress living in Paris at the turn of the century, causes quite a stir when she designs a daring, avant-garde ballgown for a count’s daughter, who blithely asks to be dressed “like the devil’s wench.” Though the countess is displeased, her daughter is enchanted, and so is the crown prince, Sebastian, who immediately hires Frances with an unusual request: he wants her to make him a wardrobe of bold, glamorous gowns. Secrecy, of course, is paramount, but Frances loves having the freedom to design the dresses of her dreams, which are making quite a name for the prince’s au courant alter ego, Lady Crystallia. Wang’s buoyant, richly colored artwork beautifully envisions Frances’ designs against an already captivating background. It’s not that the de rigueur fashions are ugly or boring—rather, everything is beautiful—but Frances’ ensembles stand out stunningly. As Lady Crystallia gains notoriety, and Frances gets closer to meeting her idol, a designer of ballet costumes, elements of Frances’ designs trickle subtly into the wider fashion world. But fame brings attention, and Seb’s worries about being exposed surpass his loyalty to his friend. Though the conclusion is perhaps too rosy given the suggested time period, that’s an easy quibble to forgive, thanks to the gorgeously dense artwork, lively sense of movement, effervescent fashions, sweet romance, and heartwarming denouement
Graphic novel
Sixth to eighth grade

The Prodigy by John Feinstein
From award-winning sportswriter John Feinstein, a YA novel about a teen golfer poised to blaze his way into Masters Tournament history—and he’ll face secrecy, sacrifice, and the decision of a lifetime to get there. Seventeen-year-old Frank Baker is a golfing sensation. He’s set to earn a full-ride scholarship to play at the university of his choice, but his single dad wants him to skip college and turn pro; golf has taken its toll on the family bank account, and his dad is eager to start cashing in on his son’s prowess. Frank knows he isn’t ready for life on the pro tour—regardless of the potential riches—so his swing coach enlists a professional golfer turned journalist to be Frank’s secret adviser. Pressure mounts when, after reaching the final of the U.S. Amateur tournament, Frank wins an automatic invite to the Masters. And when the prodigy, against all odds, starts tearing up the course at Augusta National, sponsors are lined up to throw money at him—and his father. But Frank’s entry in the Masters hinges on maintaining his standing as an amateur. Can he and his secret adviser—who has his own conflicts—keep Frank’s dad at bay long enough to bring home the legendary green jacket?
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Rebel Seoul by Axie Oh
In her brilliantly crafted debut, Oh brings us to the year 2199. The planet’s East and West have been consumed by war for the past 50 years, and the newly formed Neo Alliance (Korea, Japan, and China) are ruthless in their ambition to control the world. Enter Lee Jaewon, fresh off his military placement exam from one of Neo Seoul’s elite military academies and assigned to the Tower—home of the government’s most top-secret project. Here Jaewon meets Tera, a teenage girl who has undergone years of military testing to turn her into a supersoldier with the ability to pilot one of Korea’s advanced God Machines, a weapon capable of leveling a city block in one blow. Abandoned by those who were meant to love him the most, Jaewon is committed to doing his part to contribute to the war effort. But as he and Tera grow closer, and the mystery of his father’s death comes to light, Jaewon begins to question his loyalties. Will love for another open his eyes to the true nature of war? Equal parts K-drama (Korean drama) and sci-fi blockbuster, Oh blends futuristic tech, authentic Korean culture, and romance in this complex, utterly engrossing, and wholly fresh story that is sure to entice a wide array of readers. 
Science fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Rebound by Kwame Alexander
It’s the end of the school year in 1988, and Charlie Bell is flattened by the death of his father. Charlie tries to hide in the pages of his comic book collection, much to his mother’s despair. Finally she ships him off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. At first it’s just a fresh form of misery, as Charlie’s acidic grandfather goads him into physical activity in the stifling heat. Then his cousin Roxie coaxes him onto the basketball court. It’s the combination of family, friends, and mad new skills that finally help Charlie begin to rebound from his father’s death. Charlie Bell is the father of twins Jordan and Josh Bell, stars of Alexander’s Newbery Medal–winning novel Crossover (2014). Fans of Crossover will remember that Chuck “Da Man” Bell played professional basketball, and they’ll be intrigued by his initial resistance to learning the game. But this is an Alexander production, so the plot, as rich and satisfying as it is, is outdazzled by the brilliance of wordplay and syntax. There is a rhythm to each page, whether it’s the snappy give-and-take of dialogue, the throbbing of Charlie’s bottomless melancholy, or the rushing excitement of a basketball game. In addition, comics-style illustrations by Emmy--winning artist Anyabwile bring Charlie’s fantasies of basketball glory to life. One of many award titles by award winning poet and novelist, Kwame Alexander, 2018 Karla Harry Visiting Author.
Novel in verse
Fifth to eighth grade
ebook

Robots and Drones: Past, Present and Future by Scott Mairghread 
Taking a broad definition of robot—“a machine that senses something in its environment, makes a choice about what it senses, and performs an action in response”—Scott and Chabot’s lively, humorous panels offer up a surprising range of robots. Robots that walk, assemble cars, and perform surgery are all a given; but what about a coffee maker, thermostat, or touch lamp? They all fit the definition and are easy illustrations for concepts such as sensors, input, and output. In precise, colorful artwork, the pair cover the history of robots and automatons, programming languages, and some components of robot construction, among other topics. A section addressing robot ethics, concerns about advancements in artificial intelligence, and controversy over military drones will get readers thinking critically, too. It’s a dizzying array of thought-provoking facts, and the enthusiastic tone and obvious excitement about the field is infectious—luckily, there’s a section about building robots from kits and joining robotics clubs at school for readers who want to get more involved. 
Graphic novel nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Right as Rain by Lindsey Stoddard
It has been almost a year since that night, and Rain’s family needs a new start in a totally new town. Rain’s new neighbor and classmate, Frankie, is chilly at first, until Rain realizes she’s taken the place of Frankie’s best friend, Reggie, in her home, her classroom desk, and even her place on the track team. However, Frankie respects Rain as a runner and introduces her to Ms. Dacie, who runs a makeshift teen center. When she learns Ms. Dacie’s funding has been cut, she puts all her efforts into a fund-raising project in hopes of ignoring the challenges of her homelife: her mother pretends everything is OK, while her father can barely get out of bed, and Rain is weighed down by the fact that she’s been keeping a secret since that night—the night her brother died. Stoddard has written a beautiful story about a resilient girl many readers will be able to relate to, and she gently hits on tough topics, such as death and divorce, in a tender and truthful manner.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

Seafurrers: The Ships’ Cats Who Lapped and Mapped the World by Philippa Sandall
A cat’s-eye view of maritime history We remember the bold seafarers of yore-from Magellan to Shackleton-for their extraordinary exploits: new lands discovered, storms weathered, and battles won. But somehow history has neglected the stalwart, hardworking species who made it all possible...’es, the noble cat! In Seafurrers, able sea cat Bart sets the record straight at last. “Fear of water” aside, cats were indispensable at sea-both as pest controllers and as beloved mascots. Thirty-eight tales recount the adventures of Trim (who circumnavigated Australia), Tom (the sole feline survivor of the sinking of the USS Maine), celebrity cat Simon (a veteran of the Yangtze Incident), and other furry heroes. Filled with nautical trivia, rare photographs, and whimsical illustrations, this deft genealogy of human-feline friendship will stir your regard for the incomparable cat-whether on the couch or in the crow’s nest! Recommended by an incoming seventh grader.
Nonfiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Slacker by Gordon Korman
Though Cam’s parents have put up with his gamer “lifestyle” for years, things change after his inattention to a simple request leads to burnt pasta, billowing smoke, and firemen axing their way through the front door. Responding to his parents’ ultimatum that he take up a new interest, 13-year-old Cam starts the Positive Action Group, a fake middle-school club for good-deed doers. There’s just one problem: when the club takes off despite his efforts to sabotage it, this champion slacker becomes the reluctant president of a wildly successful organization. After the funny opening chapter, in which Cam relates the oven-fire fiasco, the narration rotates among many characters. The technique works well, showing varied points of view without giving away secrets that will keep readers guessing for quite a while: Who is the mastermind continually undermining Cam’s plans, and who is Cam’s online nemesis? Korman makes comedy look deceptively easy in this page-turner of a chapter book, which features a strangely sympathetic character in a memorable predicament.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

Side Tracked by Diana Harmon Asher
It’s an all-too-familiar scenario for Joseph: Charlie, the maniacal class bully, thundering down the soccer field toward him. But just before impact, Heather hip checks Charlie, sends him sprawling, steals the ball, and scores. The new girl in town, she doesn’t seem to mind that Joseph has learning issues (attention deficit disorder) or that he’s no athlete. Her strength and her outsider perspective are valuable to him as they navigate seventh grade as friends, both in school and on the newly formed track team, where he unexpectedly finds that he belongs. An entertaining mix of events, conversations, anxieties, and reflections, Joseph’s first--person narrative engages readers on page one and never lets up. The combination of acute observation and wry humor is disarming, and Joseph isn’t one to shy away from mulling over his own shortcomings. In the end, his big heart outweighs any number of supposed defects and enables him to help others in his family, on his team, and in his wider circle of friends. Justice is sweet when bullies get their comeuppance in this rewarding first novel. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade
ebook

The Sixth Man by John Feinstein
Alex Myers returns in the second installment of the Triple Threat trilogy, and this time he is aiming for the hoop. After a heart-wrenching defeat in postseason play with the football team, Alex has missed the first few weeks of basketball practice and must start as a JV player. He quickly proves his worth and moves up to varsity, where he and superstar newbie Max Bellotti turn heads. But things aren’t as simple off the court, as the team grumbles about older players being displaced by these young upstarts, the coach draws criticism by dating a player’s mom, and the school community explodes over the news that Max is gay. In true Feinstein fashion, the game provides a reason for Alex and his teammates to put differences aside in favor of pulling together. The realistic social situations are interspersed with sports strategy, practices, and plenty of action. Alex’s romance with reporter Christine provides an interesting assist to Max as he draws strength from other out athletes and publishes his story in the school newspaper. Fans will cheer for more of Alex’s story as he inches closer to spring and the dugout.
Sports fiction
Sixth to eighth grade

Renegades by Marissa Meyer
Nova Artino believed the “good guy” superheroes, known as the Renegades, would save her family from an unknown assassin; but at the end of the day, her parents and younger sister are dead, and she’s no longer a fan. Her uncle, a villain in this futuristic society with a good number of supernaturally talented people, takes her in, and Nova discovers her own talent, becoming Nightmare. Her goal: to infiltrate the Renegades and bring them down. She just doesn’t count on a surprising reluctance to kill people. This series opener establishes the central question of what makes someone good or bad, and whether the distinction is just a matter of perspective. The Renegades represent the rule of law, but their methods are sometimes suspect, while the anarchists see a society weakened by dependence on superheroes. It is a timely, thought-provoking, discussion-worthy premise wrapped in a narrative bogged down in too much description and explanation—though the author’s skills are apparent. For another reflective hero and action story, try Michael Carroll’s Quantum Prophecy series.
Dystopian fantasy
Eighth grade

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh
Lumberjanes comic books collaborator Leyh expertly blends fantasy and realism in her energetic debut solo middle-grade graphic novel. “Our town has a witch. She fed her eye to the devil. She eats roadkill and casts spells with the bones.”
Snapdragon knows the rumors, but after the “roadkill witch” rescues Snap’s beloved dog and agrees to foster abandoned possum babies, Snap starts to think all may not be as it seems. And it’s true: The town’s “witch” is actually Crocs-wearing, white-haired, one-eyed Jacks. Gruff but nurturing, Jacks takes Snap under her wing, teaching Snap her work of using bones from roadkill to build and sell anatomically correct skeletal systems. But it also turns out that Jacks is a witch, using magic to release the souls of roadkill back into nature, and Snap is desperate to find out if she can also channel magic. Leyh’s characters are fully realized, from Snap’s simultaneously overflowing skepticism and enthusiasm to her dynamic with her single working-while-in-school mom, from Jacks’ quiet history with Snap’s grandma to Snap’s new best friend’s transition to wearing skirts, loving nail polish, and being called Lulu. Their world isn’t perfect: Snap and Lulu are bullied at school, economic struggles are apparent, and Snap’s mom’s abusive ex-boyfriend shows up more than once (including in a finale that has a twinge of deus ex machina). Jacks is white while Snap, her family, Lulu, and most secondary characters are coded as black—all, refreshingly, presenting with a realistic variety of skin tones and hair colors and textures. Sweet and fierce, this is a must-have. 
Fantasy graphic novel
Fifth to eighth grade

Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Martin’s illustrated rendition of Snow White and Rose Red brings this lesser-known Grimm fairy tale out of obscurity. Taking a few creative liberties—there’s no prince, nor any mention of marriage—Martin ventures into an enchanted wood where bandits and monsters prowl, people go missing, and a widow resides with her two daughters: Snow, who is wild and fair, and Rose, who is gentle, with dark hair and rose-petal cheeks. Still grieving their father, the girls find comfort in nature and spend their time exploring the woods, which holds an unimaginable secret. Like most of the Grimm brothers’ tales, this peculiar story carries sinister overtones, but Martin does a nice job of keeping the dark atmosphere from overwhelming younger readers, largely through her whimsical touches. A quirky librarian who offers objects rather than books; a boy with an encyclopedic knowledge of mushrooms; a protective bear companion (though that is in the original); fairies; and lovely full-color illustrations—all these elements lend charm and balance to this tale, where avarice and cruelty fall to kindness and love.
Fairytale
Fifth and sixth grade
eBook

Shuri A Black Panther (Marvel) novel by Nic Stone
Shuri, 13, may be the baby sister to T’Challa, king of Wakanda, but her knowledge of all things science and technology deem her a force in her own right. The queen thinks Shuri should spend less time in her lab and more time socializing, but Shuri’s convinced that she’s better off tinkering with new gadgets and Vibranium experiments. With the challenge ritual coming up, Shuri has been busy with just that—designing a new Black Panther habit for her brother, infused with the Heart-Shaped Herb. She soon finds, however, that she must stop an invasion of her beloved Wakanda or else the nation and their supply of Heart-Shaped Herb (which gives the Black Panther their powers) is doomed. Together, Shuri and her Dora Milaje–in-training, K’Marah, set out on a quest that begins what readers will hope to be an ongoing series. Seasoned Marvel fans will delight in Ororo Monroe’s big-sister role to a young Shuri, while all will appreciate getting into the head of Wakanda’s resident genius and (hopefully) soon-to-be Black Panthress. While we do hear directly from Shuri in her mission-log notes, the action of the story feels muted at times by third-person narration. Nevertheless, the science, comedy, and unapologetic Black girl magic will make this title a surefire hit.
Fantasy
Fifth to eighth grade

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson
Amara, almost 12, leads a comfortable life in Beaverton, Oregon. Her dad works for Nike, and that brings perks. Her mom owns a boutique and is pregnant with Amara’s soon-to-be sister. But when her teacher assigns a family history project, she realizes there’s a lot she doesn’t know: Why is her father estranged from Grandpa Earl? Does it have something to do with her birthday being so close to her grandmother’s death? After much pleading, Amara is allowed to accompany her father on a business trip to New York, where she visits with relatives, tries to mend old feuds, starts a new one, and unravels family secrets. Though there are few surprises here, Watson creates characters that pop, especially Amara, who, through her first-person narration, demonstrates how past events affect the present. The Harlem setting makes a good background for Amara’s growing awareness of Black history and how her privileged existence (a source of irritation to her cousin Ava) has been built on the shoulders of those who came before—some historical figures, others closer to home. Books from Watson, a Newbery Honor winner and Coretta Scott King–award winning author, always generate a buzz.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

Stand Up Yumi Chung by Jessica Kim
Yumi, 11, has plenty on her plate. She helps out at her parents’ restaurant in L.A.’s Korea town, she’s taking prep classes to win a scholarship her private school offers, and almost every moment involves living up to her parents’ high expectations. Yumi’s passion, however, is comedy, and when she accidentally finds herself in a kids’ comedy class—taught by her YouTube idol, no less—she decides to take full advantage. This, of course, leads to a web of lies from which Yumi tries to untangle herself with varying degrees of effort. Author Kim is juggling a lot here, but she does so with aplomb. Along with Yumi’s comedy joys and woes (one of her jokes is that she’s a zoo animal now because she’s a “lion cheetah”), she’s dealing with the family restaurant’s slow demise, her older sister’s anxieties, and her desire to leave prep school for a new public school centered on the arts. Kim has taught school, and it shows, both with the spot-on dialogue and the up-to-date social media references. She also offers readers solid suggestions on building self-esteem. This will certainly remind readers of Kelly Yang’s Front Desk (2018), but instead of a deus ex machina solving the family’s problem, Yumi does it herself.
Realistic fiction
Fifth to seventh grade

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
On a summer morning in New York City, Daniel and Natasha wake up as strangers. This is a day that could catapult their lives into entirely new directions that neither of them wants to take. Natasha has only hours left to prevent her family’s deportation to Jamaica, after a minor legal infraction jeopardizes their stay in the U.S. Daniel dreads sealing his fate with an alumni interview that will pave his way to a career in medicine, as his Korean family expects. Despite a day packed with Natasha’s desperate race against time and a tangled system, and Daniel’s difficult tug-of-war between familial pressures and autonomy, love finds a way in, takes hold, and changes them both forever. Yoon’s sophomore effort (Everything, Everything, 2015) is carefully plotted and distinctly narrated in Natasha’s and Daniel’s voices; yet it also allows space for the lives that are swirling around them, from security guards to waitresses to close relatives. It’s lyrical and sweeping, full of hope, heartbreak, fate, and free will. It encompasses the cultural specifics of diverse New York City communities and the universal beating of the human heart. Every day—like every book—begins full of possibility, but this one holds more than others.
Realistic fiction
Eighth grade and up 

Sundown Rule by Wendy Townsend
This spare, lovely novel concerns that moment in childhood, at once universal and utterly lonely, when one is forced to recognize that all life is mortal. Living in rural Michigan with her naturalist father and her beloved cat, Cash, Louise has developed a deep affinity for the natural world and its creatures, rescuing baby animals and injured wildlife, like the heron bitten by a snapping turtle. But she abides (sometimes reluctantly) by Dad’s Sundown Rule: At day’s end, she must return the animals where she found them. When Dad lands a National Geographic assignment in Brazil, he leaves Louise with his sister and her husband in the suburbs. Both are kind, but Aunt Kay is allergic to animals, so Cash must stay behind and Louise can’t bring the baby rabbit and raccoon she rescues into their house. Louise finds a sympathetic friend in Sarah but resists the teaching of Sarah’s church that animals have no souls, which Louise finds especially cruel after she experiences a devastating loss. Her efforts to understand and make peace with what has happened will give new meaning to the Sundown Rule. Unfolding with the implacable clarity of the natural world Louise reveres, the novel proves that a quiet story can be as gripping as the busiest action-packed narrative-and with more staying power. 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux
Delia knows the kiwi bird she’s following doesn’t belong in New England, but when it leads her to a mysterious gate in the wilderness, suddenly the bird isn’t the most unusual thing in her afternoon. Behind the gate is a miraculous museum that connects researchers to every place and every time. Not only is Delia’s beloved uncle its director, but she’s been picked to try out for their intern program. Loux’s loopy, swooping full-color artwork adds a bold, cartoonish flair to the time-travel tale, and as the group of six kids, all aspiring interns, learn how to work together on various missions to several time periods, he throws in plenty of comical visual references to bygone eras, such as the gym teacher who’s always dressed in a suit of armor. Charming Delia is a relatable protagonist with believable triumphs and falters, and her ultimate transformation into an able leader is cheer worthy. Comical antics, cinematic pacing, heartwarming friendship, and a fast-moving, wacky plot for middle-grade fans of adventure comics.
Fantasy
Fifth to seventh grade

Thorhill by Pam Smy
Dual stories set decades apart unfold together in this hybrid novel told in diary entries and eerie grayscale illustrations. More than 30 years ago, Mary Baines kept a diary about her life at Thornhill, an orphanage, and the cruel torment she experienced at the hands of another girl there. Meanwhile, in the present, Smy’s cinematic artwork shows lonesome Ella curious about the dilapidated former orphanage outside her window and the newspaper clippings she finds about a girl who went missing there, named Mary Baines. As Mary becomes more and more tormented for her love of books and the strange puppets she makes in her room, Ella sneaks onto Thornhill’s grounds and finds remnants of Mary’s dolls, which she takes home and lovingly repairs before returning them. The interplay between Mary’s diary entries and the images of Ella’s investigation builds depth in both girls’ narratives, though Ella’s can be a bit harder to decipher. Still, the enigmatic narrative, believable horrors, and haunting conclusion will be riveting for fans of ghost stories.
Fantasy and horror graphic novel hybrid
Sixth to eighth grade

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed
Omar Mohamed was a child when soldiers attacked his village in Somalia. Separated from his parents, he and his younger brother, Hassan, eventually made their way to Dadaab, a crowded refugee camp in Kenya where he now spends his days scrambling for food and taking care of Hassan, who is nonverbal and suffers from debilitating seizures. A chance to attend school is a dream come true, but the opportunity weighs heavily on Omar; school is a selfish choice when you have no parents and a brother who needs constant looking after. Debut author Mohamed shares his absorbing story with absolute honesty, laying bare every aspect of his life’s many challenges; even after surviving unimaginable circumstances, he remains compassionate—to others as well as himself. While Mohamed’s story is riveting in its own right, the illustrations bring warmth and depth to the tale. Drawing with evident empathy and deep respect, Jamieson captures the many significant moments in Mohamed’s life with charming detail. Wonderfully expressive figures convey complex and conflicted emotions, and the rich colors imbue the story with life. Mohamed’s experience is unfortunately not unique, but it is told with grace, humility, and forgiveness. This beautiful memoir is not to be missed
Graphic novel
Memoir
Sixth to eighth grade

Winterhouse by Ben Guterson
Eleven-year-old Elizabeth isn’t surprised to learn that her aunt and uncle are going on Christmas vacation without her, but she’s shocked that they’re sending her to a fancy resort while they’re away. Solitary and bookish, Elizabeth sets off for Winterhouse for what turns out to be a holiday filled with intrigue, magic, surprise, and—perhaps best of all—friendship. She is quickly made to feel at home in the grand old hotel by the warm welcome of Norbridge Falls (Winterhouse’s eccentric proprietor), Miss Leona (resident librarian), and her new friend Freddy. A creepy couple and a legend of a hidden book attract Elizabeth’s attention, fueling her desire to solve the Winterhouse’s long-standing mystery. Guterson’s debut is a natural fit for readers with a penchant for puzzles and wordplay in the vein of the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series and Pseudonymous Bosch.
Mystery
Fifth and sixth grade 
Digital audiobook

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
The Witch Boy explores what it means to go against expectations and overcome gendered prejudice, in this case related to magic and witchcraft. In her middle-grade graphic-novel debut, Ostertag uses bold colors and diverse skin tones to beautifully illustrate a brief time in the life of Aster, a young man who is supposed to be a shape-shifter but is instead more inclined toward witchcraft. Unfortunately, witchcraft is seen as feminine in his community, and therefore not something boys are meant to dabble in. When several other boys go missing over the next few days, Aster and his community become alarmed, unsure of who or what is to blame. In an effort to help his family and friends and prove himself to his mother and father, Aster begins testing his magical abilities, much to their chagrin. Aster’s journey of self-discovery, particularly as he learns to take a stand against assumed gender roles, will resonate with many young readers working to assert themselves within their own communities.
Graphic novel
Fifth to eighth grade

Wolf Hollow: A Novel by Lauren Wolk 
Eleven-year-old Annabelle is living a relatively idyllic life on her family’s Pennsylvania farm, until its normalcy is interrupted by Betty Glengarry, who has been sent to live with her grandparents because she is “incorrigible.” Betty’s sullen presence quickly upsets the one-room school’s traditional pecking order, and Annabelle and her younger brothers are Betty’s favorite targets—until Annabelle stands up to her. Not to be outdone, Betty shifts her attention to Toby, a strange WWI veteran already saddled with a dubious reputation within the community. Wolk conjures an aura of unease and dread from the first chapter, even as her pastoral setting and Annabelle’s sunny family life seem to suggest that a happy ending is possible. The spare but hauntingly beautiful language paints every early morning walk to school, household chore, emotion, and rational and irrational thought in exquisite detail, while remaining true to Annabelle’s early-adolescent voice. Her craft notwithstanding, Wolk is relentless in her message: lies and secrets, even for the most noble of reasons, have unintended consequences, as Annabelle’s poignant dilemma reminds us long after the last page is turned. Newbery Honor Winner and a first novel of a former Gordon student!
Historical fiction
Fifth and sixth grade

Zenobia July by Lisa Bunker
The critically acclaimed author of Felix Yz crafts a bold, heartfelt story about a trans girl solving a cyber mystery and coming into her own. Zenobia July is starting a new life. She used to live in Arizona with her father; now she’s in Maine with her aunts. She used to spend most of her time behind a computer screen, improving her impressive coding and hacking skills; now she’s coming out of her shell and discovering a community of friends at Monarch Middle School. People used to tell her she was a boy; now she’s able to live openly as the girl she always knew she was. (from the publisher) 
Realistic fiction
Fifth to eighth grade