by Barbara Dee
Grades 4 & up

Mattie and her friends are thrilled when they learn that the eighth grade play will be an unabridged version of Romeo & Juliet. Life would be great if she could figure out why popular girl Willow hates her and is inviting everyone but her to parties. Mattie risks more of Willow’s wrath when she starts getting friendly with new girl Gemma, already part of Willow’s circle. But Mattie is willingly to risk Willow’s wrath because she just can’t stop thinking about Gemma. A sweet look at crushes, friendships, and plenty of Shakespeare. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish BoyThe Goldfish Boy
by Lisa Thompson
Grades 4 & up

Matty’s fear of germs is taking over his life. He knows that if they win, he will cause someone else to get sick and die. So he washes his hands over and over and compulsively cleans his room and belongings. It’s gotten so bad that he can’t go to school, and barely even leaves his room. Instead, he watches out the window, recording his neighbors’ movements in a notebook, making sure that everyone sticks to their routines. Which puts him in the perfect place to notice things when his next door neighbor’s one year old grandson suddenly goes missing. This is an absorbing mystery, surrounded by Matty’s struggle with OCD as well as some realistic middle grade friend issues. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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At the Bottom of the World

At the Bottom of the World (Jack and the Geniuses, #1)At the Bottom of the World
by Bill Nye
Grades 3 & up

Jack refers to his two foster siblings as “the geniuses.” The three of them ended up in the same foster home several years back and by working together were able to declare themselves emancipated minors, even though Jack and Ava are just 12 and Matt is 15. Through several fortunate coincidences, they discover that eccentric inventor Henry (Hank) Witherspoon is living nearby, and are ecstatic when he takes them all on as apprentices. When he asks them to join him on a trip to Antarctica to judge a desalination project, they are beyond thrilled. Once they get there it is not what they expected. Hank’s friend has disappeared and they become embroiled in the mystery of what her secret discovery was and how to find her. Contains a lot of facts about Antartica seamlessly woven throughout the story, some historical but mostly what life is like for researchers living there now. A strong start to a new series. Highly recommended for grades 3 & up.

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Hello, Universe

Hello, UniverseHello, Universe
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Grades 4 & up

This story of four sixth graders is intertwined on the first day of summer. Virgil hates that his parents call him Turtle, even if he is very quiet. He is going to see his friend Kaori to get help in talking to a girl at school that he wants to be friends with. That girl is Valencia, who is mostly deaf. A combination of lip-reading and hearing aids help her get by, but not everybody looks at her 100% of the time that they are talking, which makes it tough. She is also going to Kaori, to get some help with a reoccurring nightmare. Add in the neighborhood bully who targets both Virgil and Valencia and you have a recipe for disaster one morning in the woods. None of the four realize the impact that they have on each other, or the strength they have when they work together. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Midnight Without a Moon

Midnight Without a Moon (Rose Lee Carter #1)Midnight Without a Moon
by Linda Williams Jackson
Grades 6 & up

Rose is thirteen years old in the summer of 1955, living as a sharecropper outside a small town in Mississippi. Her mother remarried several years before, leaving Rose and her brother with their grandparents. Now her mother has gone North to Chicago, and escaped Mississippi, dashing both Rose’s dreams of being with her mother and getting out of the South. Rose’s grandmother refuses to let anyone talk about the NAACP in their house, or even read the Black newspapers, out of fear of being thrown off “their” land. Rose doesn’t let that stop her from gathering information. But when 14-year-old Emmett Till is killed while visiting a town nearby, Rose’s world is turned upside down. A powerful look at life in Mississippi 10 years before Freedom Summer. Important and inspiring reading for anyone wanting to learn more about the Civil Rights movement. Highly recommended for grades 6 and up.

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The Ethan I Was Before

The Ethan I Was BeforeThe Ethan I Was Before
by Ali Standish
Grades 4 & up

Ethan is having trouble coping after a tragedy involving his best friend. His therapist calls it survivor’s guilt. All he knows is that he can’t stop thinking about Kacey. His parents decide to move the family from Boston to his mother’s small hometown of Palm Knot, Georgia. They move in with his Grandpa Ike, whom Ethan had never met before. Grandpa Ike is very reclusive, and Ethan’s mother seems furious with him. Ethan feels that his older brother blames him for the move, and messing up Roddie’s chance at a baseball scholarship. Against all odds, Ethan begins to make friends again. Just when things seem to be going okay, a series of events bring it all crashing down around — both figuratively and literally with a hurricane headed right towards them. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Real Friends

Real FriendsReal Friends
by Shannon Hale
Grades 3 & up

This poignant graphic memoir takes a hard look at the feelings of loneliness that are all too often glossed over in elementary school. Young Shannon is on the outskirts of the In Group — sometimes included, sometimes excluded, always on the fringes, and always worried about being left behind. Her anxiety and worries are even more real thanks to the stunning illustrations and brilliant colors. While the adults in the book don’t seem concerned, Shannon’s worries will resonate with young readers. A must read for fans of Sisters and Drama, as well as anyone who feels that they don’t quite fit in. Highly recommended for grades 3 & up.

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Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded

Miss Ellicott's School for the Magically MindedMiss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded
by Sage Blackwood
Grades 4 & up

Chantel is a pretty talented sorceress-in-training at Miss Ellicott’s School for Magical Maidens. She is good at summoning, and even has a snake as a familiar. She is pretty good at deportment, but only on the outside. When Miss Ellicott and the other sorceresses disappear, Chantel, her fellow student Anna, and their friend Bowser decide to forget about deportment and take matters into their own hands. What they discover is that life inside their walled city of Lightening Pass is not what they have been told it is. When they find themselves outside the walls for the first time ever, they must reevaluate the history they have been taught. The choices that they make will change things for everyone on both sides of the wall. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Dear Miss Karana

Dear Miss KaranaDear Miss Karana
by Eric Elliot
Grades 4 & up

Tishmal is a fourth grader who lives and goes to school on an Indian Reservation near Riverside, California. After studying Island of the Blue Dolphins in school, she starts writing letters to Karana, the main character of the book. She compares her life as a current day Native American to what was written about Karana in the book, pointing out the inaccuracies and misconceptions. Her voice as a 4th grade student feels very authentic and will appeal to readers of the same age. Highly recommended to everyone who has read Island of the Blue Dolphins, grades 4 & up.

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See You in the Cosmos

See You in the CosmosSee You in the Cosmos
by Jack Cheng
Grades 5 & up

Alex loves space, rockets, and truth, and he idolizes Carl Sagan, which is why he named his dog after him. With the help of an online forum, Alex has built his first rocket and is heading to a rocket festival in New Mexico to launch it and his “golden iPod” (modeled after Sagan’s golden record) into space. The story is told through Alex’s recordings on the iPod, and we gain insight into his life as he explains what is going on around him. His mother is having some of her “quiet days,” and doesn’t seem to realize that he is leaving. Fortunately his combination of resourcefulness and naivety helps him get where he wants. He is also lucky enough to meet up with truly helpful people along the way. In the process of describing life on earth to potential aliens, Alex discovers what life really is all about. This is only tangentially about outer space. It is much more about emotional growth. Recommended for thoughtful students in grades 5 and up.

ARC provided by publisher

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