Once Upon a Unicorn by Lou AndersWelcome to: the Whisperwoods of the Glistening Isles, where unlikely friends Curious (a unicorn scientist) and Midnight (a flaming night mare) get into hot water with the Wicked Fairies.
Read it for: a pumpkin-headed villain; a fast-moving plot; an army of monsters; and chapter titles that will make you laugh out loud. (For instance: "Is This the End? But There Are Still So Many Chapters Left.")
Who it's for: anyone who likes funny fantasy or unusual unicorn tales.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero by Kelly J. BaptistWhat it's about: After his father dies and his family moves into a run-down motel, Isaiah Dunn doesn't feel very heroic. Still, he clings to his dad's notebook of amazing superhero stories -- all starring Isaiah -- and through them, he looks for a way forward.
Why you might like it: Isaiah is easy to root for, whether you relate to the tough times he's going through or whether you, too, dream of being a superhero.
Your Place in the Universe by Jason ChinThe question: How big is the universe compared to a kid like you?
The answers: Well, the average 8-year-old kid is taller than a book... but while an ostrich is twice as tall as a kid, a redwood tree is way taller than an ostrich, and Mount Everest is taller still, that's nothing compared to Earth's distance from the edge of the known universe!
Art alert: The eye-popping illustrations zoom in and out, giving you lots of different points of view.
Kodi by Jared CullumFeaturing: two unlikely friends -- shy comics fan Katya and Kodi, a giant Kodiak bear.
What happens: Katya and Kodi bond after the girl helps the injured bear during a storm in the Alaskan woods, but their friendship is tested when Katya goes home to Seattle, prompting Kodi to venture into the city to find her.
Read it for: the heartwarming story and the funny, charming artwork (huge, fuzzy Kodi is especially lovable).
The Silver Arrow by Lev GrossmanWhat it's about: For Kate's 11th birthday, her eccentric uncle gives her a highly unusual steam train. It communicates with playful print-outs, is fully stocked with candy and books, and comes with an important mission: to conduct endangered talking animals to new habitats around the world.
Why you might like: The Silver Arrow combines whimsical adventure with a serious look at Earth's changing environment.
For fans of: classic offbeat fantasy authors such as Roald Dahl and Daniel Pinkwater.
Out of the Wild Night by Blue BalliettWhat it's about: When greedy outsiders begin flipping the ramshackle old houses of Nantucket, the island's ghosts start fighting back with help from a gang of local kids.
Why you might like it: Similar to author Blue Balliett's other mysteries, this twisty tale takes you deep into the past and present of a fascinating real-life place.
The Forgotten Girl by India Hill BrownWhat it's about: Ever since she found the old, abandoned gravestone of a young girl, Iris has been having nightmares and seeing a shadowy figure by her window. As she and her friend Daniel dig into the history of the forgotten Black graveyard, they begin to understand why its spirits might be restless.
Why you might like it: Otherworldly chills add a layer of horror to this story about friendship, honoring Black history, and standing up for yourself.
A Small Zombie Problem by K.G. CampbellStarring: lonely August DuPont, who's never been allowed outside his family’s ramshackle mansion until he goes to visit an aunt he didn’t know he had.
What happens: August gets a crash course in eerie family history, as well as a new companion: Claudette, the undead relative who follows him home.
Series alert: This goofy and ghoulish illustrated book is the 1st in the Zombie Problems series.
The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan ReichsWhat it's about: There are rumors that a Beast lives in Still Cove, Washington, but when middle school friends Nico, Tyler, Emma, and Opal wind up in the cove by accident, what they discover is more amazing than any rumor -- and it could be far deadlier.
Series alert: If you can't get enough of The Darkdeep's eerie, imaginative thrills, you're in luck -- there are two sequels, The Beast and The Torchbearers.
Watch Hollow by Gregory FunaroWhat it’s about: With their father’s clock shop failing, Oliver and Lucy Tinker know that their family has no choice but to accept a very strange offer: move to Blackford House in Watch Hollow so that their dad can fix its gigantic -- and possibly supernatural -- cuckoo clock.
Read it for: page-turning tension, magical clockwork, lurking evil, and an eerie, enchanted forest.
For fans of: Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!