The Dog, Ray by Linda CogginFantasy. Life after death is a lot more furry than Daisy expected. Following her untimely end in a car crash, the 12-year-old girl is reborn into the body of a puppy named Misty -- but with all of her memories from her human life. When she runs away in search of her human parents, Daisy finds homeless 14-year-old Pip instead, who adopts her and renames her Ray as he searches for his own lost family. Even as Daisy's memories start to fade, you'll be charmed by her doggy narration and moved by this thought-provoking tale of second chances.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana FraillonFiction. Though his family remembers a time before they were forced out of their home in Myanmar, Subhi only knows life in the Australian refugee detention center where he was born. It's a hungry, filthy, and violent place (thanks to the brutally abusive guards), and Subhi's only escape is his imagination, where he visits the Night Sea from his mother's stories. When Jimmie, a local girl who can't read, finds her way into the center with a notebook written by her mother, Subhi agrees to read to her, kicking off a secret friendship. For another realistic, heart-twisting reads about young refugees, try Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water.
The Lost Property Office by James R. HannibalAdventure. The trip to London is supposed to help 13-year-old American Jack and his family track down Jack's missing father. Instead, it leads Jack to his own hidden heritage as a member of the Ministry of Trackers, a secret society of detectives who share Jack's superhuman ability for finding things. Before he can absorb this shock, Jack is targeted by the villainous Clockmaker, who claims that Jack can save his father by completing a dangerous quest throughout the city. Fans of both action and fantasy will be drawn in by the breathless pace, steampunk gadgets, and bookish in-jokes in this debut adventure.
The Friendship Experiment by Erin TeaganFiction. Writing out standard operating procedures in her lab notebook helps sixth-grader Maddie organize her approach to her confusing life. Without SOPs, she's not really sure how she'd cope with her grandfather's recent death, her best friend's transfer to another school, and her sister's health problems (due to a blood disorder that Maddie shares). Her "How to Be Friendly" SOP, however, is challenged by irritating new girl Riley, forcing Maddie to question whether science really has all the answers. Similar to Ali Benjamin's The Thing About Jellyfish, this touching tale stars a smart, awkward girl who applies scientific strategies to her personal problems, leading to unexpected results.
Focus on: Magical Realism
Nightbird by Alice HoffmanFantasy. It's rumored that there's a monster living in Sidwell, Massachusetts. But 12-year-old Twig Fowler knows better than to believe rumors -- especially since the "monster" is actually her older brother James, who was born with wings due to an old family curse. Their mom says that they have to keep James a secret, but when sisters Julia and Agate move in next door, Twig and James make friends with them anyway -- and in so doing, discover the chance to change their family's fate. For another quirky, quiet book that mixes magic with everyday life, check out Jane Yolen's Centaur Rising.
Wish Girl by Nikki LoftinMagical Realism. Peter and Annie each have their own reasons for wanting to run away to the magical valley near their rural Texas community. Quiet, sensitive, and deeply misunderstood by his slowly fracturing family, Peter isn't sure he can keep going. Odd, artistic Annie calls herself a "wish girl" – as in Make-A-Wish, the program for kids with cancer. When family drama and the looming shadow of a risky cancer treatment overwhelm the two friends, they turn to the valley for safety, protection, and hope. If you're enchanted by author Nikki Loftin's poetic writing style, you might also enjoy her previous book, Nightingale's Nest.
The Lightning Queen by Laura ResauMagical Realism. For Teo and Esma, destiny strikes during their childhood in the 1950s, when Esma and her Romani family visit Teo's Mixteco community in the dusty Mexican mountains. Teo is grieving the loss of his twin sister, but spirited Esma (who calls herself the "Queen of Lightning") puts "the spark of life" back in him. Though Esma's fortune-teller grandmother predicts that their friendship will be lifelong, even lasting into the lives of their grandchildren, readers are fast-forwarded to the present day, where Teo and Esma have lost touch over the years. Can their grandchildren figure out how to reunite them so they can fulfill their destiny? Find out in this magical and deeply moving read.
The Disappearance of Emily H. by Barrie SummyMystery. You'd think that the ability to see memories attached to objects would be useful when starting a new school, but it's not much help to eighth-grader Raine. She still has to put up with the school's mean-girl clique, whose bullying seems more sinister when memories reveal that they know more than they're telling about the recent disappearance of fellow student Emily. Though following Emily's memories becomes increasingly risky, Raine feels compelled to find the missing girl. Combining authentic middle school social drama with supernatural mystery, Raine's dogged search for the truth is bound to keep you turning pages.
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