Lucky Broken Girl by Ruth BeharHistorical Fiction. In 1966, things are looking up for Jewish-Cuban immigrant Ruthie: she's the hopscotch queen of her New York neighborhood, her English is getting much better, and her Papi finally let her have a pair of white go-go boots. Then a terrible car accident lands her in a full-body cast, and Ruthie is stuck in bed for nearly a year. Adjusting is hard, but with support from her diverse group of family and friends, Ruthie finds new ways to explore art, faith, and her own fears. If you like bittersweet, realistic stories about surviving tough situations, you don't want to miss Lucky Broken Girl.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale; illustrated by LeUyen PhamGraphic Novel Memoir. Before she became a famous author, Shannon Hale was an awkward, imaginative girl with a mission: to find "one good friend." She thinks she's found the one in pretty, confident Adrienne -- until 5th grade, when Adrienne begins hanging out with a group of popular girls who have no problem with being mean to Shannon to make themselves seem cooler. At home, Shannon's scary older sister Wendy continues the bullying -- can Shannon ever find a place to fit in? With crisp, colorful illustrations, this honest yet optimistic memoir is perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier's Smile or Cece Bell's El Deafo.
King of the Bench: No Fear! by Steve MooreFiction. Middle school baseball player Steve suffers from a case of "Bean-O-Phobia" -- he's terrified of being beaned in the face by a baseball. This fear is just one of the many reasons that Steve spends most games on the bench alongside his friends, Carlos Diaz and Joey Linguini. Through short chapters and goofy, exaggerated cartoons, you can follow Steve as he tries to find his courage, as well as deal with a worrywart mom, a homework-eating snake, and a coach with an earwax problem. If you laugh-snorted your way through Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid books and want more stories about likable underdogs, this series opener is a home run.
Cilla Lee-Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire by Susan Tan; illustrated by Dana WulfekotteFiction. Eight-and-a-half-year-old Cilla Lee-Jenkins knows that she's meant to be a big-name author someday. People will want to know her life story, but she's got to start writing it now, before it's turned upside down by "The Blob" (also known as the new baby her mom is expecting). On top of this unwelcome deadline, Cilla also has to deal with two pairs of beloved grandparents -- one Chinese, and one white -- who can't seem to get along. Anyone who's ever felt both loved and annoyed by their family will want to root for Cilla in this funny 1st book in a series.
Thunder Underground by Jane Yolen; illustrated by Josee MassePoetry. What's in the ground beneath you right now? You might be surprised by the unexpected things you discover in this book of poetry about the underground world. Here, alongside whimsical cutaway artwork that gives you a peek inside the earth, you'll find poems about living things (like moles, bugs, and roots), things that are built (like rushing subways and pipes), and things that are buried (like pirate treasure and fossils). You'll even get some facts about caves, magma, and earthquakes, making this easy-to-read book a good pick for "scientists and daydreamers" (School Library Journal) alike.
Maybe a Fox by Kathi Appelt and Alison McGheeFantasy. On a snowy morning in Vermont, an unusual fox kit is born. At the same moment, 12-year-old Sylvie Sherman falls into the river and disappears. Devastated, Sylvie's sister Jules struggles to find her way in an "After Sylvie" world. She finds comfort in the forest, where she can sort her treasured rock collection and catch glimpses of a fox -- a fox whose spirit is connected to Jules in ways that neither of them understands...yet. Told from the point of view of both girl and fox, this heart-wrenching yet hopeful book will appeal to mature fans of Sara Pennypacker's Pax.
The Second Life of Abigail Walker by Frances O'Roark DowellFiction. Although Abby Walker is sort of friends with Kristen and the other popular girls, they've started being really mean to her. In a brave moment, Abby stands up to them -- and "that's that," no more friends. But after Abby spots a mysterious fox in her neighborhood, she soon finds herself making new friends and figuring out how to live according to her own rules. Readers who like a touch of fantasy will enjoy following the fox's story, while those who like realistic, emotional stories about friendships and family will want to read about Abby and what she's going through.
Nocturnals: The Mysterious Abductions by Tracey HechtAnimal Fantasy. Animals are disappearing from the Valley every night. First, small animals like kiwis, jerboas, and a tarantula, but soon wombats, coyotes, and honey badgers go missing too. It seems like there's a kidnapper on the loose, and the Brigade -- Dawn the fox, Bismark the sugar glider, and Tobin the pangolin -- is determined to find out who it is and what they've done with the missing animals. With a twisty mystery, fascinating Australian animal characters, and just enough humor, The Mysterious Abductions kicks off the Nocturnals series, which continues in The Ominous Eye and The Fallen Star.
Foxcraft: The Taken by Inbali IserlesAnimal Fantasy. After a mysterious gang of foxes burns down her home, young foxling Isla has no choice but to flee. Separated from her family, Isla tries to survive in a dangerous city full of furless (you might call them humans). There, she meets red fox Siffrin, who teaches her the magic of foxcraft…but can she truly trust him to help her find her family? Fans of Erin Hunter's books who want further sagas about complex, magical animal societies will be enchanted by this 1st adventure in the Foxcraft series -- so be sure to have book 2, The Elders, ready for when you're done!
Pax by Sara PennypackerFiction. Peter and his pet fox, Pax, are best friends. Peter found the orphaned kit on the day of his mother's funeral, and the two have been together ever since. Even after Peter's father, who's headed off to fight in a war, forces Peter to abandon Pax in the wild, the two can't bear to be apart: Peter sets out to walk the hundreds of miles back to his pet, while Pax struggles to survive until their reunion. Illustrations by award-winning artist Jon Klassen enhance this moving tale, which has all the honesty and heart of classics like E.B. White's Charlotte's Web and Robert Newton Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die.
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