Shadow Weaver by MarcyKate ConnollyWhat it's about: Born with the power to weave shadows into her own creations, Emmeline is feared by everyone except for her shadow-companion, Dar. After the Lady Aisling claims she can "cure" Emmeline's abilities, Dar suggests a risky survival ploy that makes Emmeline question the devotion of her only friend.
For fans of: the creepy, magical feel in Robert Beatty's Serafina series.
Series alert: Shadow Weaver is the 1st in a planned two-book series.
TBH, This Is SO Awkward by Lisa GreenwaldWhat it's about: Sometimes, emojis speak louder than words. Sixth-grade BFFs Cecily, Prianka, and Gabrielle can't agree about making friends with new girl Victoria...until an accidental message to their group chat kicks up drama that none of them expected.
Why you might like it: Told through texts, notes, diary entries, and emails, this funny yet heartfelt series-starter will be relatable for anyone dealing with the ups and downs of middle school friendship.
Whistling in the Dark by Shirley HughesStarring: 13-year-old Joan Armitage, who is grieving her father's death, forging a new friendship, and trying to reunite an army deserter and his family, even as German bombs shatter her hometown of 1940 Liverpool.
Read this next: Author Shirley Hughes' equally bittersweet and moving World War II book, Hero on a Bicycle, or Kimberly Brubaker Bradley's The War That Saved My Life.
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey StoddardWhat it's about: Though Robinson "Robbie" Hart tries to keep her cool (like her namesake, baseball great Jackie Robinson), it's hard to put up with teasing at school when so much of her patience goes toward helping her ailing grandfather, the only family member she's got left.
You might also like: Patricia Reilly Giff's Pictures of Hollis Woods, which also features a prickly, determined girl trying to protect her unconventional family.
The Bone Sparrow by Zana FraillonWhat it's about: Though his family once lived in Myanmar, Subhi only knows the Australian refugee detention center where he was born. It's a filthy, violent place where Subhi's only escape is his imagination. When local girl Jimmie finds her way into the center, Subhi agrees to read to her, sparking a secret friendship.
You might also like: Linda Sue Park's A Long Walk to Water, another realistic, heart-twisting read about young refugees.
Award buzz: Finalist for the Children's Book Council of Australia 2017 Book of the Year.
The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz; illuminated by Hatem AlyWhat it's about: Okay, so the dog dies -- but don't worry, she comes right back to life! It's just one of the many miracles in this story about three unlikely friends who flee persecution in medieval France and face enemies ranging from a farting dragon to King Louis IX.
Why you might like it: "Illuminated" with lively drawings and told by multiple characters, The Inquisitor's Tale is an unusual, funny, and unforgettable story of faith and friendship.
Award buzz: A 2017 Newbery honor book.
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin NielsenWhat it's about: After their single parents move in together, brilliant but awkward Stewart feels excited to have a sister, while popular Ashley -- already stressed about hiding the fact that her parents split because her dad's gay -- is embarrassed by her almost-stepbrother.
Why you might like it: With Stewart and Ashley taking turns narrating, you get to experience both sides of this honest (and hilarious) story about a complicated family.
Award buzz: Finalist for the 2015 Governor General's Award.
Ghost by Jason ReynoldsStarring: Castle "Ghost" Cranshaw, a guy with a troubled past and a temper as quick as his feet. Joining a local track team gives him an unexpected sense of belonging, but Ghost isn't sure he can live up to the coach's rule about avoiding "altercations" at school.
Series alert: Short, powerful, and totally authentic, Ghost kicks off the TRACK series, which continues with Patina and (coming in April) Sunny.
Award buzz: Finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonWhat it is: Author Jacqueline Woodson's autobiography in verse, describing how young Jackie found her voice as a writer and how her loving family's moves (from Ohio to South Carolina to New York) shaped her experience of growing up African American during the Civil Rights Movement.
Who it's for: These quietly beautiful poems and clear-eyed observations are sure to inspire writers and dreamers of all ages.
Award buzz: A 2015 Sibert honor book.
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