The Swag Is in the Socks by Kelly J. BaptistThe gift: On his birthday, seventh-grade loner Xavier Moon receives a wild pair of socks from his larger-than-life great uncle, along with a challenge to "get your sad self together."
The response: Trying to be as bold as his new socks, Xavier sets out to join the Scepter League, an exclusive club for boys with leadership abilities.
You might also like: Janae Marks' From the Desk of Zoe Washington, another funny, honest read about a kid facing challenges and finding confidence.
Black Ballerinas: My Journey to Our Legacy by Misty Copeland; illustrated by Salena BarnesWhat it is: mini-biographies of Black ballerinas past and present, describing their game-changing skills, the way they challenged the racism of American dance, and the inspiration they offer to young dancers today.
Art alert: The biographies include watercolor art of each strong, graceful ballerina, making the book as interesting to look at as it is to read.
About the author: Author and ballerina Misty Copeland made history as the first African American female principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre.
Ace Takes Flight by Cory McCarthyWhat it's about: It's 2048, and 11-year-old Ace is finally living his dreams as a cadet at the Biological Enhancement Systems Technology (B.E.S.T.) Program, where students train to receive "augmentations" to their minds and bodies. Ace longs for wings -- but does he have what it takes to earn them?
Read it for: fast-paced action, characters you'll want to hang out with, and a fascinating future setting.
Series alert: Ace Takes Flight kicks off the exciting B.E.S.T. World trilogy.
Second Sleep by Diane StanleyWhat it's about: After their mom unexpectedly disappears, Max and Rosie are sent to the family's lakeside cabin with their Grandma Mozelle. There, they find a crew of maybe-magical nighttime friends, and some captivating clues about what's happened to their mom.
Read it for: a realistic story of family and friendship with heart, mystery, and a fantasy twist.
Stuck by Jennifer SwenderStarring: Austin, who's moved schools enough times to become an expert on blending in and hiding his difficulties with reading.
What happens: Austin finds a real friend in energetic classmate Bertie, who wants him to join the Safety Squad with her -- which requires a written test.
Why you might like it: Austin is a determined, observant character who's easy to relate to, whether or not you live with a learning disability.
The Fabled Stables: Willa the Wisp by Jonathan Auxier; illustrated by Olga DemidovaWelcome to: the Fabled Stables, where human kid Auggie takes care of magical and "just plain weird" creatures.
What happens: An empty stall for a shapeshifting wisp appears in the Stables, letting Auggie know that that there's a young wisp nearby in danger -- and in need of a daring rescue.
Who it's for: This funny fantasy series-starter is packed with charming art, making it a great pick for fans of Adam Gidwidtz's Unicorn Rescue Society series.
13th Street: Battle of the Bad-Breath Bats by David Bowles; illustrated by Shane ClesterWhat it's about: While exploring Gulf City's Little Mexico, cousins Malia, Dante, and Ivan accidentally wind up on 13th Street, a creepy otherworld filled with giant, wicked Snatch Bats. Can the cousins make it out safely?
Why you might like it: With spine-tingling scares, short chapters, cartoon art, and progress bars to show you how far you've read, this video game-style chapter book (the 1st in a series) will keep you turning pages.
Aven Green, Sleuthing Machine by Dusti Bowling: illustrated by Gina PerryWhat it's about: When food disappears from school, outgoing eight-year-old Aven Green is on the case. She's got the all the confidence and smarts of a great detective -- in fact, since she was born without arms, she's pretty sure her arm cells went to her brain instead.
Try this next: for another bold kid who does her own thing, try Dawn Quigley's Jo Jo Makoons series; for more chapter book mysteries, try Dori Hillestad Butler's King & Kayla series.
Our Friend Hedgehog: The Story of Us by Lauren CastilloWhat it's about: Hedgehog is happy on her tiny island with Mutty, her stuffed dog. But after a storm sweeps Mutty away, Hedgehog sets out to find him, and meets several helpful new friends along the way.
Why you might like it: The cute animals and cozy vibes in this series-starter will have you looking forward to the next book.
You might also like: Jacqueline Davies' Sydney & Taylor series, which also stars a hedgehog and friends.
Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business by Lyla Lee; illustrated by Dung HoIntroducing: seven-and-a-half-year-old Mindy Kim, who just moved to a new state with her dad after her mom died.
What it's about: Mindy wants to fit in at her new school and raise money for a puppy, so when new friend Sally wants to start a seaweed snack business, Mindy agrees, even though it's against the rules.
Series alert: There are already lots of books in the upbeat Mindy Kim series, and more coming in 2022.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!
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