Rez Dogs by Joseph BruchacWelcome to: the Penacook reservation, where Boston 8th-grader Malian's visit with her grandparents turns into a much longer stay thanks to a shelter-in-place order during the COVID-19 pandemic.
What happens: Though she's frustrated to be stuck, Malian finds comfort in her grandparents' Wabanaki tales and in her bond with Malsum, the dog who chooses her as a companion.
Why you might like it: Written in uncomplicated poetry, Rez Dogs invites you into Malian's growing connection to Native history and her own family.
Samira Surfs by Rukhsanna Guidroz; illustrated by Fahmida AzimWhat it's about: Living as an undocumented refugee in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, 11-year-old Samira doesn't have many opportunities to change things for herself and her Rohingya Muslim family. After making friends with local Bengali surfer girls, however, she makes the bold decision to enter a surf contest with a big cash prize.
Read it for: short, speedy chapters, large black-and-white illustrations, and a realistic slice of one refugee kid's life.
Ahmed Aziz's Epic Year by Nina HamzaStarring: nervous, homesick Ahmed, who's reluctantly transplanted from Hawaii to Minnesota so that his sick father can get much-needed treatment.
What happens: While fending off a bully and trying to survive accelerated language arts (he hates reading), Ahmed discovers unexpected truths about his Indian American family -- and about who he wants to become.
You might also like: Zanib Mian's Planet Omar series, another funny, honest story about a Muslim kid starting over in a new place.
Much Ado About Baseball by Rajani LaRoccaWhat it's about: Twelve-year-olds Trish and Ben are math competition opponents and reluctant baseball teammates, but when threatened by dangerous magical events, their rivalry begins to shift toward friendship.
Featuring: quirky characters, fascinating math puzzles, enchanted snacks, and (of course) plenty of baseball.
Series alert: Although Much Ado About Baseball takes place in the same town as author Rajani LaRocca's Midsummer's Mayhem, it tells a standalone story that will appeal to fans and newcomers alike.
A Glasshouse of Stars by Shirley MarrWhat it's about: Meixing calls the house "Big Scary," because even though her family immigrated to New Land to live in First Uncle's old home, there's something off about the place. It seems to change depending on Meixing's emotions -- especially in the overgrown greenhouse, where she makes an impossible discovery.
Who it's for: Meixing faces lots of trouble and tragedy, but the dreamy feeling of her story will grab readers who love moving, realistic books with touches of imaginative fantasy.
Orphan Eleven by Gennifer CholdenkoWhat it's about: an orphan who runs away to join the circus (no, really).
What happens: Lucy, who no longer talks after enduring abuse at the orphanage, joins three other runaway kids who wind up at Saachi's Circus Spectacular in 1939 Chicago. Lucy longs to work with the elephants there, but she's not allowed -- not unless she can find her voice.
Why you might like it: Threads of mystery and adventure run throughout this fascinating story, along with you-are-there details and events inspired by real historical facts.
We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada KellyThe setting: Delaware, January 1986, where three very different siblings confront their own problems as they look forward to the launch of the space shuttle Challenger.
What happens: As their parents’ fighting gets worse and tragedy strikes the Challenger, Cash, Bird, and Fitch have to depend on each other like never before.
Why you might like it: Newbery Medalist Erin Entrada Kelly uses each kid’s point of view to give you a moving, up-close look at one family during a specific moment in time.
Not Your All-American Girl by Madelyn Rosenberg and Wendy Wan-Long ShangWhat it's about: In 1984 Virginia, sensational singer Lauren is angry when she's passed over for the lead in the school musical -- the teacher says her Chinese and Jewish looks aren't "all-American" enough. Lauren's white bestie Tara gets the part instead, and even worse, she doesn't understand why Lauren's mad.
Read it for: Lauren's fiery grandmas; the funny buttons she makes; and her relatable search for belonging even when other people make her feel like she doesn't fit in.
Three Keys by Kelly YangWelcome to: the Calivista Hotel, California, 1994, where 11-year-old Mia Tang and her Chinese American parents are keeping the place running despite money problems and the threat of a new anti-immigrant law.
Why you might like it: Although Mia faces tough situations, she can depend on her family, her friends, and her growing skills as a writer.
Series alert: This thoughtful, heartfelt read is the sequel to Front Desk, and is followed by Room to Dream (which will be out in September).
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi ZoboiWhat it’s about: After moving from Alabama, where she lived with her NASA engineer grandfather, to New York City to live with the father she barely knows, space-obsessed Ebony-Grace has a hard time fitting in with the other kids in 1984 Harlem.
Why you might like it: Sprinkled with science fiction comics and dispatches from Ebony-Grace’s outer-space “imagination location,” this book isn’t just outside the box -- it’s out of this world.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!