5th through 8th grade
This is a wonderful timeless tale of two families mixing and melding, and the struggles that children in blended families often face. When Jen’s mother separates from her father Jen finds herself in a whirlwind that takes her from her father and the city she loves to a country home with a brand new way of life. Jen struggles to find her place in her new home, doesn’t like her mother’s new boyfriend Walter and is convinced she will never make friends with Walter’s children. But as the summer ambles along Jen discovers a love for the animals that surround her, an appreciation for the farm her mother starts, and maybe, just maybe, forms a bond with her new sisters that will help her discover her voice, her place and a new sense of self.
A Newbery Honor Book • BookPage Best Books • Chicago Public Library Best Fiction • Goodreads Choice Awards Nominee • Horn Book Fanfare • New York Times Notable Children’s Book • School Library Journal Best Book • Today Show Pick • An ALA Notable Book
On Wolf Days Jack and her brother Birdie go on adventures with their mother to find new and exciting things in the world. When their mother dies in a car accident, Jack and Birdie find themselves living with an uncle they barely know. Uncle Carl takes care of them as best he can with Honey Buns and frozen pizza and quesadillas from Rosie’s food truck. After they miss too many days of school, the administration decides it's best they live with their Uncle Patrick. Uncle Patrick is solemn and quiet and doesn’t appreciate Birdie’s penchant for purple and sparkles or striped leggings. Jack struggles to make friends, struggles to protect Birdie from the kids at school, and struggles to make sense of her Uncle Patrick. It will take time and mistakes, a little bit of heartbreak and a healthy dose of hope but together Carl and Rosie, Patrick, Birdie and Jack learn to create a new definition of family.
A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!
Jacqueline Woodson's first middle-grade novel since National Book Award winner Brown Girl Dreaming celebrates the healing that can occur when a group of students share their stories.
Revisiting once again the world of Raymie Nightingale, two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo turns her focus to the tough-talking, inescapably tenderhearted Beverly.
Beverly put her foot down on the gas. They went faster still.
This was what Beverly wanted — what she always wanted. To get away. To get away as fast as she could. To stay away.
A #1 New York Times bestseller!
Return to the unforgettable world of the Newbery Medal-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling novel The One and Only Ivan (soon to be a major motion picture!) in this incredible sequel, starring Ivan’s friend Bob!
The #1 New York Times bestselling and Newbery Award-winning novel The One and Only Ivan is now a major motion picture streaming on Disney+
From award-winning and bestselling author, Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.
Framed. Bullied. Disliked. But I know I can still be the best.
Park yourself, pun intended, on the couch and read this book! It follows the lives of twelve-year olds, Cal and Jeanne Ann, who become friends at just the right time in their lives. Jeanne Ann and her mom have left Chicago and gone to San Francisco in search of a big break. But soon the adventure of living in their van wears off and real life comes knocking. Cal, the wealthy boy down the block, just wants to help her, but maybe they are really helping each other. Parked examines real issues while also highlighting the miraculous power of books, art, food, and friendship with a bright and funny cast of characters. Danielle Svetcov shines in her debut novel and has won me over as a reader for life!
13-year old Zane Obispo of New Mexico has always had a fairly bizarre life. From being drawn to the mysterious dormant volcano in his backyard to only having one good leg, he is no stranger to the word abnormal. But Zane learns a whole new definition of bizarre when he is forced into a millennia-old prophecy with the new girl at school, Brooks. He would much rather spend time with his dog Rosie, but in order to save his family (and the world) from an evil Mayan god, he is thrust into an adventure that will change his life forever. Unexpected heroes, wicked demons, feisty gods, and new friends give him the power to overcome his fears and become the Storm Runner.
(This book cannot be returned.)
When Clover, a 10-year-old science geek, learns about symbiosis, she thinks it perfectly describes her and Danny, who lives next door. They’ve known each other from birth and what they are goes beyond friendship. But when Danny becomes ill and doctors can’t figure out why, the dynamic changes. Clover’s sure she can use science to help him, but something magical is going on, too: whenever she’s with him, Danny gets better, but when they’re apart he declines. This deeply moving story of friendship, science, and growing up demands our attention . . . and plenty of Kleenex.
Based on a real, little-known piece of history, Hesse’s book tells the story of the Ku Klux Klan trying to establish a foothold in a small Vermont town in 1924. Eleven people tell their truths in a series of free-verse poems. Two of those voices belong to newcomers to the town: Leonora, a 12-year-old African American girl, and Esther, a 6-year-old German Jewish immigrant. Accompanying voices belong to people of various ages and circumstances, those who welcome the Klan, some who distrust it, some who are outright opposed. The stories are nuanced and moving; readers are left with insight and hope.
Caleb, this splendid story’s narrator, wants only to be outstanding in some way; his parents and younger brother seem devoted to being ordinary and inconspicuous. Then one summer the brothers meet Styx Malone, a teenage foster child, who’s anything but ordinary and seems to have all the answers – and all the schemes. The three boys get into mischief, sometimes borderline illegal, and readers become willing co-conspirators. All the main characters are black, and how refreshing it is that race is just one aspect of their very realistic and complicated lives.
This magnificent book, set in Victorian London, will take your breath away. Orphaned, Nan was taken under the wing of a chimney sweep. But he disappeared when she was 6, leaving behind only a strange, warm piece of charcoal. Now 11, Nan works for a brutish boss with a group of other child sweeps. After surviving a hideous chimney fire thanks to her magical “char,” who morphs into a protective golem, Nan’s grit and the compassion of a teacher who nurtures her love of reading help her find her way. This magical blend of history, social consciousness, fantasy, and splendid writing must be read.
When her sister is born Deaf, Jilly reaches out to a Deaf chat room friend for counsel; she’s surprised that he resents being reduced to just one characteristic. He’s a whole person. He’s also Black. So is her aunt’s wife, an issue with some family members. This book will heighten kids’ awareness of microaggressions, good intentions gone awry through cluelessness, and social justice. A wonderful read, and the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. (Why did I capitalize Deaf? Read the book!)
A splotch of ink separates itself from a cartoonist’s sketchbook. Hmm. And then the splotch and the book take off: Inkling can move, and boy, does he – absorbing ink from books, posters, newspapers, and comics, learning how to draw and communicate with the cartoonist’s son, Ethan, in the process. This comes at a good time. The family is grieving the death of Ethan’s mother; his father has writer’s block and has shut down emotionally; his sister, who has Down syndrome, has fallen almost completely under Ethan’s care. And Ethan’s been lying to his classmates about his ability to complete his part of a group project. A warm and resonant look at a family in crisis, and a wildly suspenseful ride!
In second grade, Lucy was struck by lightning. She survived, but experienced acquired savant syndrome; she’s now a math genius, as well as having OCD and synesthesia, a condition that leads her to see numbers as colors. (Though Lucy is fictional, this rare condition is a real thing.) Now that Lucy’s 12, her grandmother, who’s raising her, insists she spend a year in middle school, make one friend, and join one activity – a real challenge for this solitary home- and self-schooled girl. Lucy is a wonderfully candid and observant narrator, and a terrific guide through this extraordinary book. Great choice for fans of Wonder and Counting by Sevens!
With exceptional candor and compassion Rhodes addresses the events surrounding the shooting of Jerome, an unarmed, 12-year-old black boy, by a white police officer. Among the things make this book a stunning and essential read: the back stories that provide a visceral understanding of the characters and events, and Rhodes’s decision to let the ghost of Emmett Till accompany Jerome’s ghost as he observes the aftermath of the shooting among his family and friends. Jerome is visible only to the police officer’s anguished daughter as she struggles to understand her father’s action. Emmett Till’s story provides both a necessary history lesson and a context for current events. This is truly a must-read for every student, teacher, and parent.
A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of Smile, Sisters, Drama, and Ghosts!Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it's probably just a bug.
Wow. Just wow. Embracing anxiety, a move to a new community, life-threatening illness, and more, Telgemeier uses magical realism to give us an absorbing, moving, and thrilling graphic novel for middle graders. Sixth-grader Cat’s family has moved from Southern California to a gloomy town up the coast for the sake of her younger sister, whose cystic fibrosis made it hard for her to breathe in the drier climate. Cat’s anxious and resentful, but also guilt-ridden – she knows that her sister’s life hangs in the balance. Their new community is deeply into ghosts and the Day of the Dead; Cat and her sister are drawn into the celebration and their own Mexican heritage. You’ll want to devour the book at one sitting, but go slowly enough to savor the artwork and process the subject matter.
From Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York Times bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of Smile and Sisters!Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school's production of Moon over Mississippi, she can't really sing.
Can a 12-year-old comprehend war? Or process devastating loss? Peter faces both and embarks on a journey, literal and figurative, to find answers. Shortly after his mother’s death he took in Pax, an orphaned fox kit. Five years later his father, before going off to war, takes Peter to live with his grandfather and forces him to abandon Pax. Parallel stories follow Peter’s determination to find his way back to Pax and the fox’s steadfast belief that Peter will return. War complicates everything, but wise elders enable boy and fox to find their way to each other, and to understanding. Nuanced, brilliant book.
Crow’s life is a good one. She lives on an island off Massachusetts with Osh, a painter, who adores her, and is tutored by their neighbor, Miss Maggie. Their lives are pleasant, predictable, and self-sufficient. But there’s a missing piece: Crow has no idea where she came from. Osh found her, just hours old, in a boat that washed ashore twelve years ago. The mainlanders she comes in contact with seem especially wary of her. Is it because she’s black, or something more? Bit by bit she pulls together fragments of her history in a fascinating, suspenseful, and hugely satisfying story.
In different eras and places, three children face death and seek refuge. Josef and his family are Jews in 1938 Germany, trying to escape the looming Holocaust. In 1994, Isabel, her parents, and two neighbors are desperate to flee Cuba’s destitution and political oppression. In the third story, set in 2015, Mahmoud and his family frantically try to get from Syria to Germany. There are similarities (each family initially leaves by boat, each grapples with conspicuousness and invisibility) and differences. Each of the dramatically crafted, interwoven stories gives the others context. An extraordinary, and extraordinarily timely, book.
What a quartet: Jeanne, a peasant girl whose seizures let her see the future; William, a supernaturally strong, biracial monk-in-training; Jacob, a Jewish boy with a gift for healing; and Gwenforte, a saintly greyhound resurrected from the dead. It’s France in 1242, and they meet by chance at an inn, all of them running for their lives from the persecution of King Louis. This episodic tale, told by multiple narrators, will bear you breathless on their journey. Along the way you’ll grapple with faith, truth, loyalty, and bigotry. And fierce knights. And a dragon with fiery flatulence. The book is visually stunning; adventure, humor, and mystery abound. Leap on this one!
Fifth-grader Noah Keller has a challenge: a speech impediment he calls the Astonishing Stutter. Suddenly that’s the least of his problems. His parents pick him up at school one day and announce that they’re all off to the airport for a six month stay in East Berlin. Oh, and they all have new names: he’s now Jonah Brown. And there’s a whole series of rules, starting with No Serious Things Can Be Discussed Indoors. In this Cold War adventure, set in 1989, nothing is as it seems and everything is dangerous. A friendship with Claudia, a downstairs neighbor his age, and his loving parents help Noah/Jonah navigate this strange new world; historical notes will help kids grasp this amazing story and the bizarre world in which it’s set.
About to turn 12, Annabelle is jolted out of her predictable, peaceful life in rural Pennsylvania – peaceful despite World War II raging in the distance – by a vicious bully and a new-found awareness of the naïveté and bigotry of some of the adults around her. She faces a series of difficult choices that endanger herself, her family, and a solitary, homeless, and virtually speechless World War I veteran who arouses the suspicion of many in the community. Annabelle will remind you of Harper Lee’s Scout in her intelligence, compassion, and dogged determination to confront issues of agonizing moral complexity.
Benny’s mom has always told him that when bad things happen you should try to help someone else who’s having problems. He’s trying to do just that, but he has plenty of issues of his own to deal with. His best friend has moved away, and he has difficulty making new friends. Schoolwork is a real challenge. One of his brothers is autistic. And Benny feels responsible for the accident that sent his father to the hospital. Whew. But this totally engaging, utterly believable fourth grader, with the help of his family and others, blossoms and grows in many directions. I’m generally wary of books called “heartwarming.” Trust me: this book is truly soul-warming.
Gino has created a remarkable character and a remarkable book. Everyone sees George, a fourth grader, as a boy. George knows she’s a girl. Not only that, she’s determined to play Charlotte in a school production of Charlotte’s Web, her favorite book, despite the fact that her teacher won’t even let her audition. By using the female pronoun throughout the book, Gino lets us feel the disconnect between George’s interior and exterior. An excellent, accessible story about acceptance and unconditional friendship.
Can a book be both heartbreaking and uplifting? This one sure can. Ada was born with a clubfoot that her mother chose not to have surgically corrected; this was only the start of her abuse and neglect. As World War II looms, Ada gets herself and her younger brother on a train from London to the English countryside with other evacuees. When no one wants to take them in, they’re dumped with a middle-aged woman who’s been paralyzed by grief since the death of her partner. How she and Ada restore each other to life is a beautiful, deeply moving tale, and the background of the war is fascinating.- Banna
This terrific middle-grade novel addresses intense environmental and social justice issues: hydrofracking in 2014 and a coal miners’ strike in 1938. When Margaret’s father is unjustly convicted and sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit, she feels compelled to use the O’Malley family gift of time-travel to go back to 1938 and change events in the life of the judge who sentenced him. Readers of this absorbing story will be treated to heart-stopping adventure and beautiful writing, as well as important lessons in risk-taking and doing the right thing.Banna
In this fictionalized graphic memoir (whew!) for middle graders, Bell shares the challenges she faced as a hearing-impaired child. She wore a “phonic ear”; her teacher wore a lanyard microphone. Despite her embarrassment, it enabled her to hear in the classroom. It also enabled her to hear what her teacher was saying and doing outside the classroom – kind of like having super powers! She creates an alter ego, El Deafo, to celebrate what might otherwise be seen as a disability. This wonderful book will enable hearing readers to grasp what it’s like to live without a sense that most of us take for granted.- Banna