Fifty-Four Things Wrong with Gwendolyn Rogers by Caela CarterWhat it's about: Fifth-grader Gwendolyn doesn't get why she's always in trouble for being stubborn, forgetful, impulsive, or anything else her school's report says is "wrong" with her -- after all, her teachers let boys act out all the time. Unfair or not, Gwendolyn knows she'll have to act more "appropriate" if she wants to go to horse camp this summer.
Read it for: an honest, hopeful take on growing up with learning differences, written by an author who's been there.
¡¡Manu!! by Kelly FernándezWelcome to: La Academia de Santa Dominga, a magical girls' school where orphan Manu (not Manuela) is the most powerful witchling in class -- and the most unruly.
What happens: After her best friend Josefina gets mad and wishes Manu's magic away, Manu has to decide just how much danger she'll risk to get it back.
Why you might like it: Manu's friendships are realistically messy; and fun, cartoony artwork brings the Caribbean-inspired world of this graphic novel to life.
A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicollWhat it's about: When 11-year-old Addie discovers that, centuries ago, her Scottish village burned unusual-seeming women as witches, she starts a petition to make them a memorial. As an autistic kid, Addie knows what it's like to be bullied and misunderstood, and she wants to make sure that these long-ago "witches" are remembered and respected.
Who it's for: readers who like deep dives into a character's mind, as well as anyone looking for books by and about people on the spectrum.
Stuntboy, in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds; illustrated by Raúl the ThirdIntroducing: Portico Reeves, aka Stuntboy, “the greatest superhero you’ve never heard of.”
What it's about: Portico lives at Skylight Gardens, an apartment complex that's home to his BFF Zola, his nemesis Herbert Singletary the Worst, and lots of neighbors for Stuntboy to protect. But none of them worry him as much as his own parents, who fight all the time.
Book buzz: This funny and authentic series starter is the first team-up for super-popular author Jason Reynolds and artist Raúl the Third.
One Smart Sheep by Gary D. Schmidt & Elizabeth Stickney; illustrated by Jane ManningWhat it's about: Out of the 27 sheep on Abigail's farm, Wilson is special. He's the smartest and the friendliest. When a mishap with a delivery truck results in Wilson getting lost in the big city, both Wilson and Abigail will need all their smarts to find each other again.
Why you might like it: Humor, sweetness, and charming watercolor artwork make this easy-to-read chapter book a winner.
The Last Bear by Hannah GoldStarring: 11-year-old April, who's facing a long, lonely six months on an uninhabited island in the Arctic where her too-busy dad has a temporary job.
What happens: April makes friends with an injured polar bear who's trapped on the island due to melting ice caps, leading to a daring plan to help Bear find his way back home.
You might also like: Jared Cullum's Kodi, another touching tale about the bond between a girl and bear.
Waiting for Unicorns by Beth HautalaThe set-up: Still grieving her mother's death, Massachusetts kid Talia goes with her dad to icy Manitoba so that he can study beluga whales.
What happens: Though she tries to find hope in her jar full of wishes, Talia feels nothing but cold. Can new friends and the wild beauty of nature help her warm up to new possibilities?
Who it's for: thoughtful readers who like memorable characters and poetic writing.
Voyage of the Frostheart by Jamie LittlerWhat it’s about: After being banished from his home for revealing his dangerous song-weaving powers, young Ash joins up with the misfit crew of the Frostheart for a journey of discovery across the snowy, monster-riddled tundra.
Read it for: a fascinating cast of characters, such as grouchy yeti Nobu, peg-legged walrus Captain Nuk, and archeomek scholar Shaard.
Art alert: Detailed graphic novel-style artwork gives you a glimpse of Ash’s frozen fantasy world.
The Popper Penguin Rescue by Eliot SchreferWhat it's about: After an unusual situation leaves them in charge of two baby penguins, the Popper family -- siblings Joel and Nina, plus their mom -- set out on a storm-tossed journey to return the penguins to the wild.
Why you might like it: Exciting adventure pairs with animal facts in this quirky, eco-friendly read.
Did you know? This book is inspired by the 1938 classic Mr. Popper's Penguins, by Richard and Florence Atwater.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!