Unfadeable by Maurice BroaddusWelcome to: the Land, the Indianapolis neighborhood where 13-year-old Bella Fades (aka graffiti artist Unfadeable) makes her art and hides the fact that she's living on her own.
What happens: After she discovers a scheme to change the Land for the worse, Bella risks making connections in order to fight for her neighborhood.
Why you might like it: Savvy problem-solver Bella is a character you can get behind, and the story's combination of real-world issues and gripping mystery will keep you turning pages. (Ages 9-13.)
Jennifer Chan Is Not Alone by Tae KellerThen: During the summer, Mallory Moss hung out with Jennifer Chan, the new girl in town and a firm believer in aliens. But when 7th grade started, Mallory chose the mean, popular girls over staying friends with Jennifer.
Now: Jennifer's gone missing, and a guilt-riddled Mallory can't stop looking for clues about what happened to her.
You might also like: Jen Wang's Stargazing or Aaron Starmer's The Riverman, two further books that blend middle school angst with the otherworldly. (Ages 8-12.)
Bug Scouts: Out in the Wild by Mike LoweryIntroducing: earthworm Abby, spider Josh, firefly Luna, and "some kind of bug" Doug, four adventurous Bug Scouts hoping to earn their foraging badges by finding edible plants (or any kind of snacks, if you're Josh).
Why you might like it: This graphic novel, the 1st in a series, features funny animal characters, useful nature facts, and short, easy-to-read chapters.
For fans of: Drew Brockington's CatStronauts comics or Laura Knetzger's Bug Boys. (Ages 7-10.)
Different Kinds of Fruit by Kyle LukoffWhat it's about: A new student at 6th-grader Annabelle's tiny school is a big deal, especially a new kid as cool as nonbinary Bailey. Being friends with Bailey (and yeah, having a crush on them) opens up Annabelle's world -- but her parents' reactions are the real surprise.
For fans of: Alex Gino, A.J. Sass, Kacen Callendar, and other authors of honest, heartfelt stories about the friendships and families of LGBTQIA kids. (Ages 10-13.)
The Last Mapmaker by Christina SoontornvatStarring: 12-year-old Sai, who pretends she's from an upper-class family in order to escape her con man father and become assistant to Paiyoon, mapmaker for the Mangkon Royal Navy.
What happens: Sai joins Paiyoon on a voyage to the legendary, dragon-filled Sunderlands. Along the way she discovers a stowaway, faces disaster, and reconsiders what she's willing to do to succeed.
If you like: award-winning author Christina Soontornvat's other books, you won't want to miss this fast-paced, Thai-inspired fantasy. (Ages 9-13.)
Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend by Katie ZhaoWhat it's about: To please her parents and beat her nemesis, 11-year-old Winnie Zeng has to be the best at everything. But how is she supposed to deal with that pressure and practice her newly unlocked shaman skills to defeat three dangerous spirits?
Series alert: This is the 1st book in an exciting series packed with details from Chinese mythology.
Try this next: Graci Kim's The Last Fallen Star or Anna Meriano's Love Sugar Magic series. (Ages 8-12.)
Josephine Against the Sea by Shakirah BourneStarring: fiery 11-year-old cricket player Josephine, who uses creative methods to scare off her single dad's girlfriends before they get serious.
What happens: When her dad's latest girlfriend, Mariss, won't be scared away, Josephine suspects that eerie magic is in play.
Try this next: Tracey Baptiste's The Jumbies, another vivid fantasy about a girl protecting her father from a fearsome creature straight out of Caribbean folklore. (Ages 9-13.)
Sea Sirens by Amy Chu and Janet K. LeeWhat it's about: Wiping out on a huge wave plunges surfer Trot and her one-eyed cat Cap'n Bill deep into the undersea realm of the mermaid-like Sea Sirens, where war with the Sea Serpents is looming -- and Trot's beloved grandfather might be caught in the middle.
Read it for: a fast-paced fantasy filled with eye-catching art and dreamy details.
Try this next: K. O'Neill's Aquicorn Cove, another colorful graphic novel about imaginary sea creatures. (Ages 8-12.)
Kondo & Kezumi Reach Bell Bottom by David Goodner; illustrated by Andrea TsurumiWhat it's about: Explorer besties Kondo and Kezumi are sailing to Spaghetti Island, only Kezumi keeps getting distracted and Kondo keeps getting annoyed. Can they make it to their destination without wrecking their boat -- or their friendship?
Read it for: imaginative settings, a fast pace, and lots of illustrations.
Series alert: This is the 2nd book in the Kondo & Kezumi series, which begins with Kondo & Kezumi Visit Giant Island. (Ages 7-10.)
The Flooded Earth by Mardi McConnochie In a world... where floodwaters cover much of the planet Earth, twins Annalie and Will search for their fugitive father while trying to avoid pirates, cannibals, and the corrupt Admiralty.
Is it for you? If you're looking for a gripping seafaring story that will make you think and keep you turning pages, The Flooded Earth might float your boat.
Look for: the sequel, The Castle in the Sea. (Ages 10-12.)
Time Castaways: The Mona Lisa Key by Liesl ShurtliffAll aboard? Despite their parents' rule against public transportation, siblings Matt, Corey, and Ruby risk getting on the NYC subway, only to have it transform into the Vermillion, a time-traveling pirate ship.
First stop: the Louvre museum, Paris, 1911, where the ship's captain wants to prevent the historic heist of the Mona Lisa so that he can steal the painting himself.
Series alert: With steampunk style and plenty of humor, this book kicks off the complicated mysteries of the Time Castaways trilogy. (Ages 9-13.)
Malamander by Thomas Taylor; illustrated by Tom Booth Welcome to: the resort town of Eerie-on-Sea, where determined Violet Parma enlists orphaned Herbie Lemon in the search for her long-missing parents, causing both kids to tangle with local monster-hunters on the trail of the legendary Malamander.
Read it for: clever clues, close calls, and a colorful cast of characters, not to mention a misty, mysterious setting.
Series alert: If you're hooked by this seaside escapade, you're in luck -- it's the 1st in a series. (Ages 9-12.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!
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