Finn and the Intergalactic Lunchbox by Michael BuckleyWhat it’s about: You can’t blame 11-year-old Finn for being shocked -- he didn’t exactly expect to find a wormhole generator inside his sister’s lunchbox. And he definitely didn’t expect the generator to attach itself to him, making him an intergalactic target.
Featuring: Finn’s mismatched team of helpers, which include his unicorn-loving sister Kate, school bully Lincoln, conspiracy buff Julep, and alien robot Highbeam.
For fans of: author Michael Buckley’s earlier series, Sisters Grimm and NERDS, as well as anyone looking for funny science fiction.
Lila and Hadley by Kody KeplingerWhat it’s about: With her mom in jail, angry 12-year-old Hadley is sent to live with her sister in Kentucky, where she deals with two unexpected tasks: learning to get around as she goes blind from eye disease and training antisocial rescue dog Lila.
Why you might like it: Hadley and Lila are prickly and persistent, and you’ll be pulling for them both as they figure out how to help each other in this honest, hopeful book.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. OrtegaWelcome to: St. Augustine, Florida, where Lucely Luna lives with her dad and the friendly ghosts of her large, caring family.
What happens: Hoping to revive the fading ghost of Lucely’s abuela, Lucely and her best friend Syd cast a spell and accidentally unleash a group of sinister, vengeful spirits.
Further reading: Similar to Ghost Squad, Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series is a funny supernatural fantasy starring a Latina heroine with a close-knit family and a taste for magic.
The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca SteadWhat it's about: Twelve-year-old Bea looks back on the last few years of her life, describing her parents’ divorce, her dad’s marriage to his boyfriend Jesse, her hope of bonding with new stepsister Sonia...as well as some stuff she’s not proud of.
Why you might like it: Bea’s messy feelings -- excitement, anger, embarrassment, stress -- are so believable that you’ll feel like she’s a real person you know.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée WatsonWhat it’s about: Fourth-grader Ryan has a talent for seeing the sunny side of things, and it’s a talent she needs when her dad loses his job, her family moves to a smaller house, and her brother keeps annoying her.
Why you might like it: There’s something new happening in every chapter, making it easy to pause your reading and pick it up again when you’re ready.
For fans of: Beverly Cleary’s classic Ramona Quimby series, which inspired this upbeat modern remix.
Inspired by Fairy Tales and Folklore
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie AndersonWhat it's about: At age 12, Marinka is already training to take over her grandmother's role as a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead through the gates to the afterlife. But Marinka longs for more: a permanent home (not just a traveling, chicken-legged house) and a real, living friend.
Try this next: For another creepy yet touching spin on Russian folk tales, try Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola.
The Serpent's Secret by Sayantani DasguptaWhat it's about: Kiran's a typical 6th grader -- until her 12th birthday, when her parents disappear and she's attacked by a rakkhosh demon. Soon, Kiran joins two princes (and their flying horses) on a quest to save her parents and discover her true identity as an interdimensional demon slayer.
Who it's for: Inspired by Bengali folktales and filled with action and laugh-out-loud humor, Kiran's adventures are a perfect fit for Rick Riordan fans.
Series alert: 1st in the Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond series.
Xander and the Lost Island of Monsters by Margaret Dilloway; illustrated by Choong YoonIntroducing: Xander Miyamoto, a Japanese American middle schooler who’s good at computer programming, drawing cartoons, and not much else.
What happens: Xander’s grandmother reveals that he’s the last of the legendary warriors known as Momotaro, and Xander launches a magical quest to save the world from oni (demons). But does he have the courage and confidence to see it through?
Who it’s for: readers who are already familiar with folktales about Momotaro, as well as those who love mythology and high-stakes fantasy.
Fairy Tale Comics: Classic Tales Told by Extraordinary Cartoonists by Chris Duffy (editor)What it is: a collection of 17 fairy tales with makeovers from a crew of comic artists.
What’s inside: the comfort of familiar stories (such as an exciting "Rapunzel" and a wordless, hysterically funny "Goldilocks and the Three Bears") mingled with the surprises of lesser-known tales (like the Japanese "The Boy Who Drew Cats").
Art alert: With a huge variety of art styles and artists (such as Raina Telgemeier and Brett Helquist), there’s something for everyone in Fairy Tale Comics.
Shadows of Sherwood: A Robyn Hoodlum Adventure by Kekla MagoonIntroducing: Mischievous Robyn Loxley, who returns from a night of exploring Nott City to find that her parents have been kidnapped (along with other members of Parliament) and the power-hungry Governor Crown has taken over.
What happens: Robyn flees to nearby Sherwood, where she and several other parentless misfits begin to fight back against the Governor.
Series alert: Inspired by the legend of Robin Hood, this action-packed, futuristic adventure is the 1st in the Robyn Hoodlum series.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!