Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-RansomeWhat it's about: After his mother's death in 1946, 11-year-old Langston and his dad move from rural Alabama to Chicago, Illinois, where the heartbroken boy finds refuge in the local library and the poetry of his namesake, Langston Hughes.
You might also like: Janice N. Harrington's Catching a Storyfish, another sincere, powerful book about a homesick kid finding comfort in words.
The Girl in the Locked Room by Mary Downing HahnWhat it's about: Jules has lived in lots of old mansions (her dad restores them), but Oak Hill gives her an uneasy feeling -- and that's before she sees an eerie shadow through the window of a locked upstairs room.
Read it for: a nameless ghost, a centuries-old murder, and a page-turning mystery.
For fans of: paranormal stories that are creepy but not leave-the-lights-on scary.
The Third Mushroom by Jennifer L. HolmFeaturing: Ellie, who's learning that middle school friendships, first dates, sick pets, and science fair experiments can all be equally complicated; and Melvin, Ellie's scientist grandfather who's trapped in the body of a 14-year-old boy.
Series alert: Fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish will get the most out of this smart, amusing sequel that offers touches of science fiction while staying grounded in reality.
Megabat by Anna Humphrey; illustrated by Kass ReichWhat it's about: After moving into his new attic bedroom, Daniel Misumi discovers an unexpected roommate: Megabat, a talking fruit bat who just wants to go home to Borneo.
Why you might like it: It's hard not to smile at Megabat's unusual way of speaking (smooshfruit, anyone?) and love of Star Wars (he's even got a bendy-straw lightsaber).
Series alert: This illustrated story of cross-species friendship is the 1st in a new series.
The Treasure of Mad Doc Magee by Elinor TeeleWhat it's about: Everyone in Eden knows about the legendary gold nugget that Doc Magee hid in the hills surrounding their ramshackle town. When 12-year-old Jenny and her dad face losing their home, Jenny decides to search for the nugget -- and she's not the only one.
Who it's for: Set in post-gold rush New Zealand, this thrilling tale of courage, code-breaking, and treasure-hunting is sure to grab readers with a thirst for adventure.
Pennybaker School is Headed for Disaster by Jennifer BrownWelcome to: the Pennybaker Hill Academy for the Uniquely Gifted, where new kid Thomas' magic tricks aren't very impressive compared to classmates who juggle chainsaws, talk to hedgehogs, or play the didgeridoo.
What happens: Thomas is accused of stealing from the school, and nobody except his weird neighbor Chip will help him find the real thief.
Series alert: This 1st book in the Pennybaker School series combines mystery and off-the-wall humor to create an uproarious read.
The Girl with the Glass Bird by Esme KerrWhat it's about: At the request of a secretive Russian prince, orphan Edie Wilson is sent to an elite all-girls boarding school to discover why the prince's daughter, Anastasia, is so unhappy.
Why you might like it: it's a modern mystery with an old-fashioned feel.
Try this next: If you enjoy this clever, twisty 1st entry in the Knight's Haddon series, be sure to pick up the sequel, Mischief at Midnight, as well as Robin Stevens' Wells & Wong mysteries.
Friday Barnes: Girl Detective by R.A. Spratt; illustrated by Phil GosierWhat it's about: Although she's a genius detective, 11-year-old Friday Barnes can't seem to fit in at Highcrest Academy -- but she won't let that stop her from investigating everything from missing homework to the yeti that lurks in the school swamp.
Who it's for: Kicking off the eight-book Friday Barnes series, Girl Detective is a good bet for older readers who like mysteries with lots of eccentric humor and just a hint of romance.
The Real McCoys by Matthew Swanson; illustrated by Robbi BehrStarring: fourth-grade detective Moxie McCoy, who makes it her business to live up to her name, whether she's searching for a new best friend or for Tiddlywhump Elementary's missing mascot. Her enthusiasm, however, outweighs her sleuthing skills, leading Moxie to some offbeat conclusions and plenty of trouble.
Series alert: This zany, cartoon-illustrated mystery is the 1st in a series.
The Mystery of the Missing Everything by Ben H. WintersWhat it's about: After Mary Todd Lincoln Middle School's only trophy is stolen and the principal threatens to cancel the eighth grade class trip unless it's returned, semi-experienced sleuth Bethesda Fielding races to crack the case.
Why you might like it: With a huge cast of quirky characters -- some of them familiar to readers of Bethesda's first case, The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman -- this fast and funny mystery will keep you guessing.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!
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