The Class by Frances O'Roark DowellWhat it is: the story of a single sixth grade class, told by all 20 students.
What happens: Enemies become friends, a former classmate mysteriously reappears, the teacher gets in trouble, and the shy new girl writes it all down in her notebook.
Try this next: Ali Benjamin’s The Next Great Paulie Fink or Gordon Korman’s The Unteachables, two other books that let you in on the thoughts, feelings, and quirks of an entire class.
The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean HorwitzWhat it’s about: After her father is cursed by the Whittle Witch, 12-year-old Clementine Morcerous has to step into his role as Dark Lord, even though her newfound magic is powered by sunlight, not darkness.
What’s inside: a unicorn huntress, a paper chicken, a sheep who used to be a boy, and some questionable Dastardly Deeds.
You might also like: Ursula Vernon’s Castle Hangnail, another witty and whimsical fantasy starring a not-so-evil heroine.
The Best At It by Maulik PancholyWhat it’s about: Nervous about fitting in as he starts seventh grade, Rahul takes his grandfather’s advice and sets out to find one thing he’s good at and become the best at it.
What happens: While fending off bullies and fostering a crush on classmate Justin, Rahul throws himself into football, acting, Mathletes...he’s got to be good at something, right?
About the author: This funny, honest, and hopeful book is the first by actor Maulik Pancholy -- you might know him as the voice of Sanjay from TV's Sanjay and Craig.
Anya and the Dragon by Sofiya PasternackWelcome to: Zmeyreka, a tiny village in 10th-century Kievan Rus where the people still use magic even though it’s illegal.
What happens: In order to save her family’s farm, Anya, the only Jewish girl in the village, joins up with Ivan, the youngest in a family of Fools, to hunt down a legendary dragon and collect the reward.
Who it’s for: Inspired by Russian history and folktales, Anya and the Dragon will grab fans of both fantasy and historical fiction.
2019 books you might have missed!
This Was Our Pact by Ryan AndrewsWhat it’s about: Every year, during the Autumn Equinox Festival, the whole town gathers to send paper lanterns down the river. This year, a group of boys pledge to follow the lanterns and find out where they go.
What happens: The boys encounter odd sights (a telephone in the middle of a stream?) and meet even odder characters (a stylish talking fisherbear).
Art alert: Eerie blue and red illustrations highlight the dreamy, unreal feeling of this graphic novel.
The Breakaways by Cathy G. JohnsonFeaturing: rookie soccer player Faith and her teammates on the Bloodhounds, the middle school C team.
What's inside: an up-close look at the lives, friendships, and romances of the misfit Bloodhounds.
For fans of: the realistic characters and cartoony artwork in graphic novels by Svetlana Chmakova and Victoria Jamieson.
To Night Owl from Dogfish by Holly Goldberg Sloan & Meg WolitzerWhat it is: a collection of emails from Bett and Avery, two girls who’ve just learned that their single dads have been secretly dating each other.
What happens: The girls are sent off to summer camp, and despite their annoyance at being thrown together, they start to become friends.
Why you might like it: Bett and Avery’s clever, funny messages help to balance out the serious moments in this offbeat read about the importance of family.
The Bridge Home by Padma VenkatramanFeaturing: Viji and Rukku, two sisters who run away from their abusive father; Mathu and Arul, two homeless boys who sell recycled trash on the streets of Chennai, India; Kutti, a lovable stray dog; and the abandoned bridge that provides shelter for them all.
Is it for you? These characters’ lives aren’t easy, but if you enjoy sad, realistic stories that are deeply felt, The Bridge Home might be your kind of book.
Spy Runner by Eugene YelchinWhat it’s about: It’s 1953 in the U.S., and 12-year-old Jack’s suspicion that his mom’s new tenant might be a Russian spy kicks off an adventure just as dangerous as those of Spy Runner, Jack’s favorite comic book hero.
Why you might like it: Fascinating photos and tons of twists will keep you guessing throughout this historical thriller.
Try this next: Avi’s Catch You Later, Traitor, another suspenseful story set during the height of the anti-Communist “Red Scare.”
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 10-13!