The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul CurtisStarring: Charlie Bobo, the son of a white sharecropper whose debts force Charlie into working for Cap'n Buck, the scary plantation overseer. Now it's Charlie's job to help Cap'n Buck track down stolen property -- but how can he finish the job after he finds out that the "property" they're tracking is people, including a boy Charlie's age?
For fans of: author Christopher Paul Curtis' Elijah of Buxton, which offers a different -- but equally honest and powerful -- point of view on the lives of former slaves in 1850s America and Canada.
The Last Gargoyle by Paul DurhamWhat it's about: Don't call Penhallow Fitch a gargoyle. He's a Grotesque, thank you very much, and the guardian of a Boston apartment building. When the Boneless King, ruler of the underworld, comes after the building's newest residents, Penhallow -- along with a peculiar new friend, Viola -- is determined to fight.
You might also like: Similar to The Last Gargoyle, Anne Nesbet's A Box of Gargoyles offers intriguing mysteries, sinister villains, touches of humor, and (you guessed it) gargoyles.
Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble by Anna MerianoWhat it's about: Annoyed at being told she's too young to help with Dia de los Muertos preparations at her family's small-town Texas bakery, Leo Logrono snoops around and discovers that her mom and sisters are brujas (witches) who bake spells into every batch. Eager to test her own powers, Leo steals their magical recipe book and cooks up a big mess.
Don't miss: the recipes at the end (magic not required).
Series alert: If you're charmed by the magical mayhem and cozy family bonds in this bilingual fantasy, you're in luck -- it's 1st in a series.
Ellie, Engineer by Jackson PearceIntroducing: Ellie Bell, third-grade engineer. From a water balloon launcher to a hair braider, there's nothing Ellie won't try to build. She's got big plans to make a dog house for her best friend's new dog, but keeping the project a surprise might be even harder than building it, especially since the friends who are helping her can't get along.
Who it's for: anyone who likes making stuff (diagrams and a tool guide are included), and anyone who's tired of being told what boys or girls are "supposed" to do.
Black Panther: The Young Prince by Ronald L. SmithWhat it's about: Years before he becomes the superhero Black Panther, Prince T'Challa is sent from his homeland of Wakanda to a school on the South Side of Chicago. The move is supposed to keep him safe, but even middle school can be dangerous...and T'Challa's school might be hiding a paranormal threat.
For fans of: the recent Black Panther movie, or Shannon and Dean Hale's The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (another story about a Marvel superhero's school days).
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn AndersonWhat it's about: In Gracie's world, migrating dragons attack strip malls, ghosts linger in backyards, sasquatches lurk in the woods, and Dark Clouds appear before people die. After a Dark Cloud arrives for Gracie's brother, their parents take the family on a wild road trip in search of a safe haven from the supernatural.
Is it for you? If you prefer fantasy stories rooted in reality, you'll love the eccentric characters and bittersweet plot in this imaginative read, written in the form of Gracie's diary.
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg CabotStarring: average New Jersey sixth-grader Olivia Harrison, who's just as shocked as anyone when Princess Mia Thermopolis shows up at school and informs Olivia that they're half-sisters.
Why you might like it: Whether or not you're familiar with the Princess Diaries movies or books, you can enjoy all of the exciting (and awkward) moments that Olivia shares in her notebook as she adjusts to a royal lifestyle.
Diary of a Mad Brownie by Bruce CovilleStarring: Scottish brownie Angus Cairns, a pint-sized magical creature bound by a curse to serve his new mistress, Alex Carhart. Through Angus' diary (as well as through texts, zany illustrations, and hilariously bad poetry), you can watch as neat-freak Angus clashes with messy 11-year-old Alex...and as the two reluctantly join forces after the curse threatens Alex's family.
Read this next: Want more funny books about magical creatures in the human world? Try Adam Rex's Cold Cereal Saga.
The Thing About Luck by Cynthia KadohataWhat it's about: After their parents are called away to Japan, Summer and her brother Jaz have to spend wheat-harvesting season with their old-fashioned grandparents instead. Jiichan and Obaachan are equal parts caring and frustrating, and their health isn't great -- which means that when things go wrong, it's up to Summer to make her own luck.
Is it for you? If you're looking for realistic yet offbeat characters, you'll enjoy getting to know Summer's family through this peek into her journal.
Ava and Pip by Carol WestonWhat it's about: Outgoing "word nerd" Ava uses her diary to describe her attempts to help her older sister Pip make friends despite her extreme shyness. After plans for Pip's birthday party go awry, Ava writes out her anger, only to be surprised by the results when her words become public.
Why you might like it: Clever wordplay and the honest ups and downs of being a sister make Ava and Pip a good pick for young writers and fans of warmhearted family stories.
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