Pie in the Sky by Remy LaiWhat it’s about: After the loss of his father, 12-year-old Jingwen immigrates to Australia with his family. Though his brother Yanghao has no trouble fitting in, Jingwen feels like an alien. The only thing that makes him feel better is baking the cakes he dreamed up with his dad -- an activity he has to hide from his strict mother.
Read it for: an easy-to-read blend of words and crisp cartoon art (think Raina Telgemeier or Gene Luen Yang).
Just Jaime by Terri LibensonWhat it is: the illustrated story of Jaime and Maya, two best friends who might be former best friends before the day is over.
Why you might like it: Because it’s told from both girls’ points of view, you’ll understand why Jaime feels betrayed when Maya starts freezing her out, as well as why Maya feels pressured by pushy, popular Celia.
For fans of: Shannon Hale’s Real Friends or Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.
Planet Earth Is Blue by Nicole PanteleakosWhat it’s about: It’s 1986, and as 12-year-old Nova counts down the days to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger, she tries to adjust to yet another new foster family and longs for her runaway sister, Bridget, to return.
Why you might like it: Nova is autistic and hardly ever speaks -- she’s “a thinker, not a talker,” and in this hopeful story, you get to experience her thoughts and feelings right along with her.
Odd Gods by David Slavin and Daniel Weitzman; illustrated by Adam J.B. LaneIntroducing: Oddonis, a new student at Mount Olympus Middle School and the underdog twin brother of perfect, popular Adonis.
What happens: Tired of being pushed around by the stronger and more talented young gods, Oddonis -- with help from his friends Gaseous, Puneous, Mathena, and Germes -- decides to run for class president.
Read it for: lots of gross-out jokes (Oddonis’ dog has three butts!) and an outrageously silly spin of Greek mythology.
Other Words for Home by Jasmine WargaWhat it’s about: “Be brave” are the last words Jude’s brother says to her before she and Mama flee from the growing violence in Syria and move in with relatives in the United States. Being brave is hard, though, as Jude worries for the family she left behind and discovers that America is nothing like the movies she loves.
For fans of: Thanhha Lai’s Inside Out & Back Again, and other touching stories told through poetry about family, immigration, and belonging.
The Wild Robot by Peter BrownStarring: Roz, short for ROZZUM unit 7134, a highly advanced robot who washes up on a remote island.
What happens: Roz begins learning everything she can about her new home: how to stay safe, how to communicate with her animal neighbors, and how to care for the abandoned gosling she adopts.
Series alert: Be sure to pick up the sequel, The Wild Robot Escapes, to find out what happens next in this illustrated wilderness survival story.
Pablo and Birdy by Alison McGheeWhat it's about: Ten years ago, the "winds of change" brought baby Pablo and his lavender parrot, Birdy, to the shores of Isla. Now, the winds are returning with the promise of "fortune lost or fortune gained," but Pablo hopes to gain answers: Where did he come from? And why is Birdy suddenly changing?
Is it for you? If you like quiet books with memorable characters and a touch of magic, be sure to pick up Pablo and Birdy.
Oliver and the Seawigs by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyreWhat it’s about: Ten-year-old Oliver’s explorer parents are missing! Determined to find them, Oliver heads for their last known location: a group of wandering, living islands.
Featuring: a shortsighted mermaid, an island named Cliff, some extremely sarcastic seaweed, and waaaay too many sea monkeys.
Why you might like it: oodles of zany cartoon illustrations will keep you laughing throughout this chapter book, the 1st in the Not-So-Impossible Tales series.
Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with Great Whites of California's Farallon Islands by Katherine RoyWelcome to: the Farallon Islands, near San Francisco, where scientists study some of the world's most famous predators: great white sharks.
Who it’s for: shark fans of all kinds, whether you’re more interested in the book’s treasure trove of shark facts (did you know that they have projectile jaws?) or in its dramatic, bloody illustrations of sharks on the hunt.
Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren WolkWhat it’s about: After being rescued as a baby from the water near Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, Crow grows up with her adoptive father Osh and their friend Miss Maggie. When a fire appears on a nearby abandoned island, Crow's curiosity about her birth family is ignited, and she sets out in search of answers.
Why you might like it: Set in the 1920s, this poetic and bittersweet tale of hidden treasure (and other long-buried secrets) might leave you longing for seafaring adventure.