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.
The Best Worst Thing by Kathleen LaneWhat it’s about: Are all the doors in the house locked? Is anyone hiding under the beds? Did she recite the right words to protect herself and her family? These questions plague 11-year-old Maggie after a shooting at the local convenience store.
Why you might like it: Even as Maggie's anxious thoughts become harder for her to control, you can relate to her concerns about staying safe in an unpredictable world.
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.
The Notations of Cooper Cameron by Jane O'ReillyStarring: Cooper, who can’t stop thinking that his family won't be safe unless he counts things, or washes his hands, or takes careful notes of his observations.
What happens: Dealing with his thoughts and the loss of his grandfather becomes even tougher when Cooper's dad angrily refuses to understand what he’s going through.
Read it for: an honest, moving look at a kid with obsessive-compulsive disorder.
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!