Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartinoIn the Zizzolan Empire, where art is strictly illegal, 12-year-old orphan Giacomo is an outlaw. After a Genius (a forbidden creature that guides creative spirits) bonds with him, Giacomo knows he's in serious danger of being caught. Thankfully, his Genius guides him to a safe, secret place for rebellious artists. There, Giacomo learns to channel his creativity through sacred geometry, only to have his training disrupted by a quest to stop a power-hungry artist from destroying the world. Written by the co-creator of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this Renaissance-inspired series opener offers an equally well-crafted fantasy world and diverse cast.
The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog by Adam Gidwitz; illuminated by Hatem AlyHistorical Fantasy. Okay, so the dog dies -- but don't worry, she comes right back to life! Canine resurrection is one of many miracles in this inventive, multi-layered story set in 13th-century France. The Inquisitor's Tale follows three friends -- Jeanne, a peasant girl who sees visions; Jacob, a Jewish boy with a gift for healing; and William, a super-strong, biracial monk-in-training -- as they flee persecution and face enemies ranging from a farting dragon to King Louis XI. Like a medieval manuscript, the book is "illuminated" with lively drawings that add even more depth to this unusual, funny, and unforgettable story of faith and friendship.
Dive! World War II Stories of Sailors & Submarines in the Pacific by Deborah HopkinsonNonfiction. From the officer who pushed for an onboard ice-cream maker to the 15-year-old who lied so he could enlist, Dive! shares the intriguing true stories of American sailors who served on World War II submarines in the Pacific. These first-person tales ooze with suspense: bone-shaking depth charges, daring missions into enemy waters, and other terrifying realities of submariners are described in breathtaking detail, accompanied by photos and sidebars linking submarines to the big picture of WWII. Whether you're curious about military machines or looking for high-drama history, you'll want to go deep into Dive! Once you've surfaced, you may also want to try Sally M. Walker's Secrets of a Civil War Submarine.
Falling Over Sideways by Jordan SonnenblickFiction. Claire is having a normal breakfast with her dad one morning when he suddenly falls onto the table. It's a stroke, and though he survives, his recovery is slow and uncertain. Now, in addition to worrying about typical 8th-grade stuff like mean girls at school, horrible new braces, a too-perfect brother, and being left behind by her ballet friends, Claire is afraid that her dad won't ever be himself again. As always, author Jordan Sonnenblick delivers an emotional yet down-to-earth take on the pain and hope of real life. Readers who want a similar but less angsty story should pick up Megan Jean Sovern's The Meaning of Maggie.
Focus on: Native Characters
My Name Is Not Easy by Debby Dahl EdwardsonHistorical Fiction. They call him Luke at the Sacred Heart School because his Inupiaq name is too hard for white people to pronounce. He's only 12 years in old 1960, when he arrives at the Catholic boarding school after being taken from his Alaskan village. Yet amidst his homesickness, Luke (along with his schoolmates, who take turns narrating) has to navigate strange food, strict rules, and abuse, not to mention clashes between racial and tribal groups. For another haunting look at the experiences of Native Alaskans, check out Fatty Legs, a memoir by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton.
If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric GansworthHistorical Fiction. As the only American Indian kid in the gifted program at a mostly white school, seventh-grader Lewis Blake feels like he may as well be from a different planet instead of from New York state. He's nearly given up hope of making friends when he and new student George connect over their shared love of the Beatles. Still, Lewis is afraid that he can never be honest with George about his messed-up family and their life on the poverty-stricken Tuscarora reservation. Set in 1975 against a backdrop of classic rock (there's even a playlist included), If I Ever Get Out of Here is an unhurried, authentic story of unlikely friendship.
In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse by Joseph Marshall IIIFiction. Jimmy McClean is three-quarters Lakota and one-quarter white, but his light hair and blue eyes make him a target for the bullies at his school on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. Seeing Jimmy's frustration at having to constantly defend his heritage, Grandpa Nyles decides to take him on a "vision journey" to explore the life of another light-haired Lakota: the famous leader Crazy Horse. As they travel across the Great Plains, stopping along the way for Grandpa Nyles to tell intriguing stories about Crazy Horse's victories and struggles, Jimmy gradually discovers a sense of pride -- not just in himself, but in the pain and power of his people's history.
How I Became a Ghost: A Choctaw Trail of Tears Story by Tim TingleHistorical Fiction. Ghostly Choctaw narrator Isaac begins his tale with a warning: "I am not a ghost when this book begins, so you have to pay very close attention." In 1830, as his tribe is forced to abandon their Mississippi homeland and travel west, ten-year-old Isaac is horrified to see his visions of violence and illness coming true. Even as he glimpses his own death coming, Isaac finds support, from not only his flesh-and-blood family, but also from a little ghost girl, a shape-shifting panther boy, and his talking dog, Jumper. If you're hooked by Isaac's gripping, heartbreaking story, you're in luck: it's the 1st in a trilogy.
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