The Crooked Sixpence by Jennifer BellFantasy. In the secret underground city of Ludinor, even the most boring things can be more than they seem: belts make people fly, bicycle bells talk, and toilet brushes are weapons. After being suddenly whisked away to Ludinor's marketplace for these "uncommon" objects, 11-year-old Ivy and her brother Seb are targeted not only by the police, but also by a sinister group known as Dirge that believes the siblings' family history holds the key to a powerful uncommon treasure. If you enjoyed the vivid magical world, creepy villains, and charming wordplay in the Harry Potter series, you won't want to miss this 1st book in the Uncommoners trilogy.
The Jolly Regina by Kara LaReau; illustrated by Jen HillAdventure. Sisters Kale and Jaundice Bland are upset when their deliciously dull routine of darning socks and waiting for their long-absent parents to return is disrupted by Deadeye Delilah, a pirate captain who kidnaps the girls for some annoyingly exciting adventures with her all-female crew. The pirates are in a race to find the treasure of Captain Ann Tennille, and they don't mind dragging the sisters through all sorts of "Serious, Life-Threatening Peril" if it means beating their all-male rivals on the pirate ship Testostero. Cartoon illustrations and buckets of "booty" puns add to the humor in this swashbuckling tale.
Molly and Pim and the Millions of Stars by Martine MurrayFiction. Ten-year-old Molly's mama was embarrassing even before she turned into a tree. She used to dreamily collect herbs and make weird food for school lunches, but ever since she was transformed by one of her own potions, Molly's mama can only make tree-branch beds and grow unusual fruit. Molly wants her mama back more than anything, but with such a strange problem, she needs help from a strange person -- someone like her offbeat classmate, Pim. Tinged with magic but rooted in everyday life, this story of family and friendship will charm readers who like realistic fiction with a fairy-tale feel.
The Harlem Charade by Natasha TarpleyMystery. While helping at her grandparents' Harlem bodega, seventh-grader Jin notices lots of things that other people don't see -- such as her classmate Alex, who secretly uses her family's wealth to help her neighbors. After Jin joins Alex's quiet charity project, the two girls meet Elvin, who's new to Harlem and recently homeless. Elvin's grandfather is in a coma following a mysterious attack, and the three new friends join forces to find the attacker, uncovering fascinating details about the art and history of Harlem along the way. For further urban mysteries starring smart young sleuths, pick up Elizabeth Eulberg's The Great Shelby Holmes or Blue Balliett's Pieces and Players.
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer TorresFiction. Though she wishes they would give her a little more freedom, middle school artist Estefenia Soto knows that her parents love her. There's only one "family member" Stef just can't stand: Tia Perla, her dad's beloved, battered old taco truck. Instead of letting Stef take the bus to school, her dad drops her off in Tia Perla, earning Stef the embarrassing nickname of "Taco Queen." She does her best to handle the school drama, but when the family business is threatened, Stef might have to step up in Tia Perla's defense. Breezy and sprinkled with Spanish, Stef Soto, Taco Queen serves up a fresh, warm-hearted slice of life.
Mr. and Mrs. Bunny -- Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath; illustrated by Sophie BlackallHumorous Mystery. Discovering that her parents have been kidnapped by disreputable foxes, sensible fifth-grader Madeline joins forces with Mr. and Mrs. Bunny (a pair of fedora-wearing, amateur detective rabbits) in order to find and rescue them. That's about all we can say about this wacky, witty story without ruining it -- but if you like fantastical tales with a slightly old-fashioned feel and both humans and talking animals as characters, hippity-hop right to the library and check out Mr. and Mrs. Bunny -- Detectives Extraordinaire! and its sequel, Lord and Lady Bunny -- Almost Royalty!
Bo at Ballard Creek by Kirkpatrick Hill; illustrated by LeUyen PhamHistorical Fiction. Fans of historical fiction will love this cozy, engaging story set in 1920s Alaska. Abandoned by her mother years ago, five-year-old tomboy Bo lives happily with her adopted papas in Ballard Creek, a close, caring community made up of gold miners and Alaska Natives. Though Bo's life is full of hard work (endless chores, sluicing dirt for gold), it's also got plenty of thrills (being chased by a bear, seeing a plane for the first time). Readers will be fascinated by the diverse characters, authentic details, and expressive illustrations in this endearingly simple tale. If you like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, you should definitely check out Bo at Ballard Creek.
The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison LevyFiction. It's back-to-school time, and along with their two dads and various pets, the multiracial Fletcher brothers -- sixth-grade athlete Sam, almost-twin fourth-graders Jax and Eli, and bouncy kindergartener Frog -- are excited to start the year. Their stodgy next-door neighbor, however, is NOT happy about their annual traditions, such as the epic Halloween party or the backyard ice rink. Can the Fletchers win him over with their brand of cheerful mayhem? Find out in this lively family story, which is followed by a sequel, The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island. For similar stories featuring sisters instead of brothers, don't miss Jeanne Birdsall's Penderwicks series.
The Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerFiction. Twelve-year-old Stella has a happy life on Cape Cod with her great-aunt Louise, although she isn't too fond of Angel, the foster kid Louise has taken in. But then something terrible happens, and Stella and Angel are forced to become a team -- or else they'll both be uprooted and sent away. Intense, deeply emotional, and yet at times surprisingly funny, this story of friendship and survival is one that fans of Kathi Appelt's more fantastical but still mostly realistic book Keeper are bound to enjoy.
The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew WardFiction. Eleven-year-old Arthur Whipple doesn't think it's fair that he's a disappointment to his family. After all, being ordinary isn't a problem unless your family is extraordinary. Arthur's 12 siblings have broken nearly 50,000 world records, from Most Crème Brulée Eaten in One Minute to Highest Hamster-Piloted Model Rocket Launch -- how is completely average Arthur supposed to keep up? A new friend and a curious mystery might just help him find a way. Those who enjoy the quirky characters and over-the-top humor in The Fantastic Family Whipple should be sure to check out the sequel, War of the World Records.
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