Rain Rising by Courtne ComrieWhat it is: a story in poetry about eighth-grader Rain, always worrying about her family, her size, her skin, and the sadness she can't shake. After her beloved older brother is badly beaten in a racist attack, Rain has to work harder than ever to make it through.
Why you might like it: Rain's reactions to painful situations are authentic and moving, and you'll root for her as she moves towards healing.
For fans of: Alicia D. Williams' Genesis Begins Again and Jacqueline Woodson's Brown Girl Dreaming. (Ages 10-13.)
Marya Khan and the Incredible Henna Party by Saadia Faruqi; illustrated by Ani BushryIntroducing: almost-eight-year-old Marya, who's pinned her hopes on convincing her family to throw her a birthday bash even more epic than rich, snobby Alexa's party two days earlier.
Read it for: short chapters, plans gone comically wrong, and a main character you'll want to spend time with. (Lucky for you, this is the 1st book in a series.)
You might also like: Dawn Quigley's Jo Jo Makoons series. (Ages 7-9.)
Two Degrees by Alan GratzWhat it's about: Climate crisis hits home for four North American kids: Natalie is swept into a hurricane storm surge in Florida; Akira and her horse try to outrun a wildfire in California; George and Owen are stalked by hungry polar bears in Manitoba.
Why you might like it: The desperate, dangerous, all-too-real situations in this survival thriller will make you think even as they get your adrenaline pumping. (Ages 8-13.)
Sparrows in the Wind by Gail Carson LevineWhat it is: the story of the Trojan War, told from the point of view of two girls trying to stop the war and save the city of Troy.
Starring: Trojan princess Cassandra, cursed to have nobody believe in her gift of true prophecy, and Amazon princess Rin, the powerful friend who might help prevent a grim fate for Troy...as well as for herself and Cassandra.
Read it for: a fascinating, vivid blend of mythology and history. (Ages 10-13.)
A Rover's Story by Jasmine WargaWhat it's about: the observations of Mars rover Resilience -- aka "Res" -- as he goes from a NASA robotics lab to space exploration, developing complex emotions along the way.
How it's told: through diary-style entries from Res and letters from Sophie, a girl who forms a special bond with the rover.
You might also like: Peter Brown's The Wild Robot, another heartfelt tale of a robot with feelings, or Markus Motum's Curiosity, a fact-filled nonfiction book from the point-of-view of a Mars Rover. (Ages 8-12.)
Play Like a Girl by Misty Wilson; illustrated by David WilsonWhat it is: a graphic novel memoir about the summer when athletic middle schooler Misty joins a boys' football team, finding herself in the sport while growing apart from best friend Bree.
What's inside: exciting play-by-plays on the field, as well as Misty's struggles to be herself when people make her feel like she doesn't fit in.
For fans of: the determined sports action and shifting friendships in Victoria Jamieson's Roller Girl. (Ages 9-13.)
Willodeen by Katherine ApplegateWelcome to: Perchance, a town where animal-loving orphan Willodeen protects the despised screechers -- imagine stinky, spiky warthogs -- while puzzling over the disappearance of the adorable, winged hummingbears.
Why you might like it: This fantasy from the author of The One and Only Ivan combines imaginary animals with the very real connections between humans and nature, resulting in a story that will tug on your heartstrings and make you think. (Ages 8-12.)
Focused by Alyson GerberWhat it's about: Impulsive and easily distracted seventh-grader Clea feels like she's constantly messing up. Even her place on the chess team in danger if she doesn't improve her grades. It's not until she's diagnosed with ADHD that Clea gets some support...but can it change things the ways she hopes?
Why you might like it: Written by an author with ADHD, Clea's story is honest and encouraging, and sure to be relatable for many readers. (Ages 8-13.)
Pawcasso by Remy LaiIt starts small: After lonely Jo meets Pawcasso, a clever, speckled pup doing weekend shopping on his own, she lets the new friends Pawcasso attracts believe she's his owner.
And gets big: When the town's debate over leash laws turns fierce and Pawcasso becomes a target, Jo has to face up to her lies to protect her furry friend.
Why you might like it: zany humor and bright, cartoony artwork keep this graphic novel feeling upbeat. (Ages 8-12.)
The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (As Told to His Brother) by David LevithanWhat it's about: After vanishing for six days, 12-year-old Aidan suddenly reappears. He claims he was in Aveinieu, a magical land he never wanted to leave. His parents and the police assume he's lying, but his younger brother Lucas isn't so sure.
Who it's for: A realistic story twined with threads of mystery and fantasy, this tale of truth and belief will grab fans of mind-bending fiction such as Rebecca Stead's When You Reach Me or Mark Oshiro's The Insiders. (Ages 9-13.)
Everything Sad is Untrue (A True Story) by Daniel NayeriStarring: Khosrou, the boy telling his Oklahoma classmates about life as an Iranian refugee; and his adult self, Daniel, piecing together a "patchwork" of memories to make sense of his family, his past, and his present.
Is it for you? An imagined story based on the author's real life, this deep, free-wheeling story ranges from heartbreaking loss to toilet humor, making it an intriguing choice if you're looking for something out of the ordinary. (Ages 10-13.)
The Way to Bea by Kat YehWhat it's about: Ditched by her old friends and stressed by changes at home, Bea finds solace in the structure of writing haiku, which she hides in a stash she assumes to be secret -- until someone begins writing back.
Read it for: likeable characters (such as Bea's labyrinth-obsessed new friend, Will), tons of book and music references, and a touching take on feeling like an outsider in your own life. (Ages 8-12.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!
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