Winterborne Home for Vengeance and Valor by Ally CarterWelcome to: Winterborne House, a huge cliffside mansion turned group home where 12-year-old April and four fellow foster kids discover secret passages, surprising dangers, and unexpected bonds.
Read it for: the likable characters, fast-paced adventure, and the satisfaction of watching a twisty mystery unspool.
Try this next: Jessica Lawson’s Nooks & Crannies, for another puzzling mystery featuring a group of kids in an eerie old manor.
Get a Grip, Vivy Cohen! by Sarah KapitWhat it’s about: After a coach sees her amazing knuckleball, 11-year-old Vivy lands her first spot on a real baseball team, despite her mom’s worries about her being the only girl and the only autistic kid on the team.
Why you might like it: Told through letters between Vivy and her pen-pal (a major league pitcher), this authentic story will leave you cheering as Vivy finds new confidence both on and off the field.
Bug Boys by Laura KnetzgerStarring: Rhino-B and Stag-B, two beetle buddies from Bug Village who love to go exploring together, whether they’re following a treasure map, escaping giants, or stopping a war between termites and honeybees.
Art alert: The world of Bug Boys is bursting with candy colors and creative touches, similar to animated shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe.
Try this next: Ben Clanton’s Narwhal and Jelly books, another graphic novel series filled with bite-sized stories and feel-good friendship.
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet by Zanib Mian; illustrated by Nasaya MafaridikIntroducing: British Pakistani ten-year-old Omar, who’s got lots of new things going on: a new home, a new school, a new best friend, a new bully, and his first time fasting for Ramadan.
What happens: Although Omar’s imagination can be either awesome (what if he rode a dragon to school?) or scary (what if his teacher is an alien?), his caring family always helps him through.
Series alert: This is the 1st in the Planet Omar series of doodle-illustrated chapter books.
The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren OliverWhat it’s about: In 1800s Boston, Cordelia Clay and her father work in secret to heal injured monsters and protect the extraordinary creatures from prejudiced humans.
What happens: After her father disappears along with most of the monsters, Cordelia sets out to find them, accompanied by a baby dragon, a smelly filch, a zombie puppy, and a boy named Gregory.
Don’t miss: the included monster guide, which describes the fascinating, fantastical animals and the world they live in.
Some Kind of Happiness by Claire LegrandWhat it’s about: While visiting the grandparents she’s only just met, Finley Hart writes stories about the imaginary world of Everwood. It’s easier to retreat into a magical forest than it is to deal with her parents fighting, or with the “blue days” when she can’t hold back her panic and sadness.
Who it’s for: readers who like quiet, realistic family stories flavored with fantasy and intrigue.
Stanley Will Probably Be Fine by Sally J. PlaWhat it's about: Stanley Fortinbras may be a master of comics trivia, but plenty of other things in his life are hard to handle: his suddenly distant best friend, the sensory processing disorder that makes middle school feel like too much, and his worries about the upcoming Trivia Quest treasure hunt.
Who it's for: comic-book fans (of course), as well as anyone looking for a likable character who's facing his fears and figuring out his friendships.
Frazzled: Everyday Disasters and Impending Doom by Booki VivatWhat it’s about: Worrywart Abbie Wu is about to start middle school, and as a middle child, she knows that nothing good happens in the middle. Can she survive changing friendships, cafeteria injustice, and choosing an elective without completely freaking out?
Series alert: 1st in the Frazzled series, followed by Ordinary Mishaps and Inevitable Catastrophes.
For fans of: the cartoon art, relatable humor, and underdog characters in Jeff Kinney’s Wimpy Kid books or Rachel Renee Russell’s Dork Diaries series.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!