Twins by Varian Johnson; illustrated by Shannon WrightStarring: brainy, nervous Maureen and confident go-getter Francine, identical twin sisters who used to be best friends.
What happens: Starting middle school highlights the ways in which the sisters are growing apart, although they still agree about one thing: each wants to beat the other in the race for class president.
Art alert: Smart details and expressive faces make it easy to tell the feuding twins apart in this warm, funny read (the 1st in a series).
Premeditated Myrtle by Elizabeth C. BunceIntroducing: Myrtle, a 12-year-old girl who’s more interested in crime and toxicology than she is in following Victorian rules for Young Ladies of Quality.
What happens: When nobody in her small English village believes that Myrtle’s neighbor was poisoned, Myrtle decides to find the murderer herself, proving both her intelligence and her skill as a sleuth.
Series alert: Packed with wit, twists, and eccentric characters, this book kicks off the Myrtle Hardcastle Mystery series.
Grow a Garden!
by Alexis Frederick-Frost
What it's about: Assigned to the most unpopular teacher at Garden Gnome Academy, Violet, Will and Basil learn unexpectedly engaging lessons about soil, compost and the secrets to growing a healthy garden, in a story that shares step-by-step instructions for growing a container garden.
Why you might like it: This entry in the popular Maker Comics series is entertaining and instructive.
by Dori Hillestad Butler
Introducing: Simon, a grumpy cat and jealous cat, and Baxter, an excitable dog.
What's inside: Through a series of letters, Simon informs Baxter, his boy's new dog, that he is not welcome and should leave at once.
Is it for you? Choose this if you want a hilarious illustrated chapter book.
Dolphin Girl: Trouble in Pizza Paradise by Zach SmithWhat it's about: When they're not protecting the town of Deerburbia, Dolphin Girl and her dad, Captain Dugong, run the Pizza Paradise restaurant -- until the scheming Sea Cow and her Bad Guys Club for Bad Guys try to take it over.
Series alert: Fighting for the family business is just the first of many hilariously non-epic adventures starring Dolphin Girl.
For fans of: the silly, offbeat comics of Dav Pilkey and Aaron Blabey.
One-Third Nerd by Gennifer Choldenko; illustrated by Églantine CeulemansWhat it's about: Either the dog or the family has to go! So says the landlord of the apartment where Liam and his family live with Cupcake, their German Shepherd who keeps peeing on the carpet. Can Liam and his younger sisters -- scientist Dakota and hug expert Izzy -- find a way to keep both their dog and their home?
You might also like: Dana Alison Levy's Family Fletcher series, for further slice-of-life stories about a quirky, loving family.
The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue by Karina Yan GlaserWhat it's about: During one hectic week, the five Vanderbeeker kids team up to save their mom's baking business and investigate the abandoned pets that keep appearing at their already-crowded home.
Series alert: Although this is the 3rd book about the determined, energetic Vanderbeekers, the story stands on its own.
Further reading: Similar to the Vanderbeekers series, Emma Donoghue's Lotterys series focuses on the joys and challenges of life in a large multiracial family.
The Problim Children by Natalie LloydWhat it's about: All seven of the Problim siblings have a "grace," an unusual ability unique to the day of the week when they were born. Altogether, they're a charmingly odd bunch, and they've just moved into their grandfather's old mansion -- right next door to mean, scheming Desdemona O’pinion.
Series alert: 1st in a new trilogy from the author of A Snicker of Magic, The Problim Children has a similar mix of warmth, whimsy, and low-key fantasy.
Caterpillar Summer by Gillian McDunnWelcome to: Gingerbread Island, North Carolina, where protective older sister Cat and her brother Chicken are visiting the grandparents they’ve only just met.
What happens: Since their dad died, Cat has taken care of Chicken while their mom works. But with their grandparents around to help, Cat's responsibilities shift, making her reconsider how she fits into her family.
Try this next: Teresa E. Harris’ The Perfect Place, which also follows siblings who spend a life-changing summer with an older relative.
Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-GarciaWhat it's about: Sisters Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern travel from their Brooklyn home to rural Alabama so they can spend the summer of 1969 with their grandmother, Big Ma. While there, the girls discover the complicated history of their African American family and get tangled in a long-standing feud between Big Ma and her half-sister.
Series alert: Warm, vivid, and authentic, Gone Crazy in Alabama is a satisfying conclusion to the award-winning series that begins with One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven.