The Becket List: A Blackberry Farm Story by Adele Griffin; illustrated by LeUyen PhamIntroducing: Becket Branch, a loud, enthusiastic nine-year-old who doesn’t hesitate to yell “Beautiful Alert!” whenever she sees something awesome.
What happens: Becket is excited to try new things after her family moves from the city to the country, but doing farm chores, running a lemonade stand, and finding new friends aren’t as easy as she imagined.
Try this next: Kelly Jones’ Unusual Chicken series also stars a former city girl adjusting to country life.
Sweeping Up the Heart by Kevin HenkesWhat it’s about: Fully expecting a boring spring break, lonely seventh-grader Amelia is surprised to find herself making friends with a visiting boy named Casey and investigating the identity of a woman who looks a lot like her long-dead mother.
Is it for you? If you love getting to know characters so well that they begin to feel like friends, you won’t want to miss this quiet but hopeful book from award-winning author Kevin Henkes.
Sal and Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos HernandezWhat it’s about: After middle school magician Sal Vidón tears a hole in time and space in order to plant a raw chicken in the school bully’s locker, he draws the attention of ambitious classmate Gabi Reál. Together, Sal and Gabi might be able to change things for the better...assuming they don’t destroy the universe in the process.
Series alert: Packed with unique characters and laugh-out-loud moments, this off-the-wall blend of science fiction and Cuban folklore is the 1st in a series.
Bernice Buttman, Model Citizen by Niki LenzStarring: fifth-grader, wannabe stuntwoman, and hard-hearted bully Bernice Buttman, who doesn’t see why she should be nice to anyone when no one’s nice to her.
What happens: After her mom runs off and leaves her with her Aunt Josephine, a nun, Bernice decides to become a better person -- maybe then she’ll finally make a real friend.
Try this next: Maria T. Lennon’s Confessions of a So-Called Middle Child, another funny and genuine story about a reformed bully.
Because of the Rabbit by Cynthia LordWhat it’s about: Emma bonds instantly with Lapi, the rescued bunny her family is fostering, but she has a harder time making friends at her new school. She and classmate Jack both love animals, but the other kids treat Jack like an outsider, and Emma just wants to fit in.
Why you might like it: Though it’s easy to read, Because of the Rabbit takes a hard look at how difficult it can be to make (and keep) friends of any species.
Focus on: Creative Problem-Solving
CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew BrockingtonFeaturing: Blanket, Pom Pom, Waffles, and Major Meowser, four brave cat astronauts who blast off on a mission to build a solar power plant on the moon.
Series alert: Equal parts silly and smart, this cartoon-illustrated graphic novel is the 1st in a series, followed by CatStronauts: Race to Mars.
You might also like: Ian Boothby’s Sparks! or James Kochalka’s Pinky & Stinky.
The Science of Breakable Things by Tae KellerWhat it is: Natalie Napoli’s seventh-grade science class journal, where she writes about working on an egg drop competition with her friends and dreaming about a trip that might inspire her scientist mother to get out of bed again.
Read if for: scientific diagrams and experiments; a complicated kid with complicated parents; a heartfelt, honest story about living with someone who has depression.
For fans of: Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish.
The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl by Stacy McAnultyStarring: twelve-year-old Lucy, who has genius-level math skills (a side effect of surviving a lightning strike) and obsessive-compulsive habits (a side effect of living with a "supercomputer brain").
What happens: Lucy's grandma won't let her apply to college unless she abandons her familiar homeschooling routine and completes one year of public middle school. Yikes.
Who it's for: proud math geeks, as well as anyone looking for a unique character facing typical problems.
The Inventors at No. 8 by A.M. MorgenWhat it's about: Though he's convinced of his own bad luck, young orphan George joins his inventor neighbor, Ada, as well as new friend Oscar and baby orangutan Ruthie, on a daring treasure hunt across 1800s Europe.
Read it for: fantastic flying machines, close calls with criminals, and touches of humor.
Try this next: Jordan Stratford's Wollenstonecraft Detective Agency series offers further imagined adventures for real-life tech pioneer Ada Byron Lovelace.
The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad SellWhat it is: a bright, exciting graphic novel about a group of kids who create imaginary alter-egos and build an epic fantasy world out of cardboard, while also dealing with family problems, fighting with friends, or feeling misunderstood.
Featuring: Sophie, the unruly Big Banshee; Jack, the dramatic Evil Sorceress; Seth, the protective Gargoyle; Vijay, the mighty Beast; Amanda, the mustached Mad Scientist; and lots more.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!