Gr 4-6–When Topher, Steve, and Brand learn that Ms. Bixby is terminally ill, they decide to cut class and give their beloved teacher a truly special tribute, but nothing goes as planned. Simultaneously heartrending, uproariously funny, and affirming, this is that rare story that centers on loss yet isn’t overwhelmed by grief or pain; at its heart, this tale celebrates life, friendship, and the importance of finding one’s own voice.
Gr 4-6–In a vividly created fantastical realm, a baby is left in the forest, according to an annual tradition of sacrifice. Discovered by a kind witch, who mistakenly feeds the child moonlight, the girl grows up with a potent power she must learn to control. This swiftly paced and highly imaginative title expertly weaves myriad threads into a memorable story that will easily enchant readers.
Gr 3-7–Though Roz, a robot, is initially viewed with suspicion when she finds herself on an isolated island, she soon becomes part of the natural order, parenting an orphaned gosling and providing shelter for the animals. But is there really a place for her within this ecosystem? Interspersed with charming black-and-white illustrations, this sweetly quirky fish-out-of-water tale will have readers contemplating questions about life, death, consciousness, and artificial intelligence.
Gr 4-7–Hoping to attract the attention of her father, who has left home, and her mother, a young girl takes up twirling. While the baton lessons go south immediately, Raymie befriends two similarly vulnerable, lonely kids confronting their own family issues and who, like her, are trying to make sense of a sometimes bewildering world. Filled with heart and hope, DiCamillo’s latest masterpiece is populated with characters whom readers won’t soon forget.
Gr 4-6–The multilayered and episodic fifth book in this Ojibwe family saga follows the eight-year-old twin brothers Makoons (Bearchild) and Chickadee, now living on the Great Plains in 1866, as they awkwardly learn to become buffalo hunters and the caretakers of an orphaned calf. Enhanced by her own pencil illustrations, Erdrich’s tale effortlessly weaves playful romps, adventures, and comic relief while marking the melancholic passing of time. This beautifully lyrical tale will satisfy fans of the series and entice newcomers.
Gr 4-8–A hodgepodge of different narrators in 1242 France introduce readers to three unusual children and one remarkable dog. As their individual stories unfold and their paths collide, tension reaches a fever pitch as an agent of the Inquisition nips at their heels. Gidwitz’s epic medieval adventure packs in boisterous action, richly depicted history, and lovable underdog characters, all illuminated by Aly’s stunning artwork. The Middle Ages have never been as exciting or as funny.
Gr 4-8–Garvey can’t quite live up to his father’s traditional expectations of masculinity. He would rather sing and ponder space travel than undertake any athletic endeavor. But a chance chorus recital presents a turning point for their relationship: “I stand before the mirror,/smiling at a boy/whose frame is familiar/but changed, unfinished—all me.” Using tanka, Grimes expertly crafts a family life that is deeply intimate yet inviting—a story of small but powerful transformations.
Gr 3-6–After their mother dies, Soledad and Ming’s father brings his daughters and his new wife from the Philippines to the United States—and soon abandons them. Their stepmother, Vea, is angry and abusive, and Soledad spins stories for her younger sister to help them both survive. Themes of resilience, sisterhood, and the power of the imagination are interwoven in this tender, ultimately hopeful tale.
Gr 3-6–This luminous companion to Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky complements—and may even outshine—its predecessors. When the Tiger Emperor kidnaps Pinmei’s grandmother, she sets out, along with her mysterious friend Yishan, to find the legendary stone that lights the night sky. Chinese folklore is incorporated throughout, as are Lin’s jewel-like full-color illustrations. Fantasy, mystery, and adventure combine through elegant storytelling. This is Lin at the top of her game.
Gr 4-6–Bookmarked between two weddings, this is a story of love, family, and friendship. Beginning with wedding number one, Archer Magill recounts his elementary school days leading up to middle school and wedding number two (the present). The boy’s search for and appreciation of nuanced male role models is inspiring and timely, as is his teacher’s treatment of antigay bullying. A light, refreshing read, wonderfully written by the always winning Peck.
Gr 4-7–With moving prose, Pennypacker tells an unusual, viscerally affecting story of war, loss, and the power of friendship. Alternating perspectives between a boy and his pet fox, the novel tracks each character’s quest to reunite after their forced separation in a conflict-ridden landscape. Klassen’s black-and-white drawings add to the haunting atmosphere of this startling title that children and adults will want to discuss together.
Gr 5-8–When 11-year-old worrywart Genie and his big brother, Ernie, leave Brooklyn and go to their grandparents’ home in rural Virginia, it seems as though they have been dropped on another planet. The city boys are introduced to another way of life and to their blind grandfather, who goes to extreme lengths to conceal his disability. A rich and rewarding coming-of-age story about family and courage, told with laugh-out-loud humor and a great deal of heart.
Gr 5-9–At school, Castle “Ghost” Crenshaw is taunted about where he lives and what he wears. He also has an anger management problem, but the kid can run, really run. Supported by a loving mother and a tough but caring track-and-field coach, Ghost learns a few lessons about life and teamwork while reminding readers of the potential in everyone. Nuanced characters facing real-life problems delivered with the author’s irresistible warmth and humor.
Gr 5-8–In 1943 rural Pennsylvania, Annabelle is plagued by intense and violent bullying by new girl Betty—until Betty goes missing. The prime suspect is a local World War I vet and resident oddball, Toby. Annabelle knows Toby is innocent and sets out to prove it. Prejudice is not sugarcoated; Wolk displays deep respect for readers and trusts them to grapple with complex moral themes. A middle grade novel distinguished for its stark honesty and unflinching exploration of injustice.
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