The Other Boy

The Other BoyThe Other Boy
by M.G. Hennessey
Grades 4 & up

Shane is is having a great sixth grade year! The baseball team that he and his best friend Josh are on is going to regionals, the girl he likes in his homeroom seems interested in him as well, and he feels like he really fits in. That is until he finds out that Nico, the mean kid in his grade, has cousins that went to his old school. And at his old school, Shane was a girl. Biologically a girl, Shane has always felt like a boy — a boy brain stuck in a girl’s body. When he and his mom moved between third and fourth grade, Shane took the opportunity to identify as a boy at his new school. Now Nico is spreading rumors, and Shane feels like his life is crumbling in front of him. Heart-wrenching at times and heart-warming at others, this book explores the hard reality facing many transgender tweens and teens today. Powerful and important. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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by Tom Angleberger & Paul Dellinger
Grades 3 & up

Max’s middle school is part of a new program called ConstantUpgrade, where students are tested weekly on their progress in every subject. Everything is computerized, including the Vice Principal, who oversees all testing as well as other discipline issues. This takes place at an unspecified time in the future, when computers and robots have become commonplace in all parts of society. But scientists are still trying to perfect artificial intelligence and robots that can learn. Max’s school is chosen for a robot integration program, to see if a robot can learn to function in an average middle school. Max is picked to escort Fuzzy, the robot, from class to class and help him learn about middle school. Suddenly though, Max is picking up more and more demerits. She also begins receiving failing grades on the weekly tests. It seems like Vice Principal Barbara is out to get her and to end the integration program. Is it possible for a computer to do that? An exciting romp through the future of robotics, as well as a stinging commentary on the nature of standardized testing. Highly recommended for grades 3 & up.

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The Great Shelby Holmes

The Great Shelby Holmes (The Great Shelby Holmes, #1)The Great Shelby Holmes
by Elizabeth Eulberg
Grades 4 & up

John Watson has just moved to New York with his mother, after growing up on a variety of military bases. He meets his upstairs neighbor, Shelby Holmes, on move in day as she correctly deduces several things about his family. He becomes involved in her most recent case, trying to find a classmate’s show dog who disappeared. This is a fantastic middle grade mystery in classic Sir Arthur Conan Doyle style, complete with red herrings and clever deductions. The cast of characters accurately represents what one would find near Columbia University, and the inclusivity is to be commended. Both Shelby and John are quirky and fun. My only quibble with the book (which is super minor) is that Shelby’s bulldog Sir Arthur would most likely be neutered and therefore be ineligible to compete as a show dog. This does not detract from the story, which may lead more students to read the originals. A fabulous homage to Sherlock Holmes. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Lion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words

Lion Island: Cuba's Warrior of WordsLion Island: Cuba’s Warrior of Words
by Margarita Engle
Grades 5 & up

This fascinating novel in verse looks at the intertwined lives of African slaves and Chinese indentured servants in Cuba. Starting in 1871, it is told in multiple view points focussing on Antonio Chuffat, who became a strong advocate for civil rights. It also tells the stories of Wing and Fan, a brother and sister who escaped the anti-Chinese riots in Los Angeles. The three band together to try and improve the lives of both the indentured servants and slaves, eventually becoming involved with the armed rebellion. Based on actual historical events and people. Recommended for grades 5 & up.

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by Holly Goldberg Sloan
Grades 4 & up

Julia is still mourning the loss of her beloved dog Ramon when her mother signs Julia and her younger brother Randy up for a local university production of The Wizard of Oz. Julia is quite short for her age, so her mother is certain she will be cast as a Munchkin. Reluctant at first, Julia becomes more and more enamored with the various people involved in the semi-professional production. The director, some of the actors, and a few of the tech crew have been hired from out of town; some are college students; the rest, like Julia, are from the local community. Julia acknowledges not only her own shortcomings (pun intended) both at school and at home, but is realistic in her assessment of other people as well. The reader will grow along with Julia as she learns about life and the world around her through this classic production. A must read for students who love to act, as well as for those who feel they are average in a world of “stars.” Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

ARC provided by publisher

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As Brave As You

As Brave As YouAs Brave As You
by Jason Reynolds
Grades 4 & up

Genie is surprised to learn that he and his older brother Ernie are going to be spending a month with their grandparents in rural Virginia. He’s never left Brooklyn! He’s more surprised to find there is no cell phone or Internet access at his grandparents’ house when he gets there. But the biggest surprise of all is that his grandfather is blind. Grandpop is a very proud man, who doesn’t want help or pity, so he didn’t want Genie knowing about the blindness in advance. While there though, he encourages Genie to ask his millions of bottled up questions and even accepts Genie’s help in learning to go outside again. But when Genie makes a a few big mistakes and Grandpop makes an even bigger one, they must both face their fears and and be brave enough to tell the truth. It is a summer of growing for everyone, with lessons about love, loss, and family. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up. (It reminded me of a brothers version of Gone Crazy in Alabama)

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Lucky Broken Girl

Lucky Broken GirlLucky Broken Girl
by Ruth Behar
Grades 4 & up

When Ruthie’s family emigrates from Cuba to New York, she is placed in the “dumb” class because she doesn’t speak English. But she and her closest friend Rumi study hard and are finally promoted to the “smart” fifth grade. Horrifically, on the day before this is about to happen, she is involved in a major car accident and winds up spending months in bed in a full body cast. As she lies there for the rest of 1966 and most of 1967, she must come to terms with who she is and what life she wants to live. She learns resilience from her grandmother who escaped Poland to Cuba ahead of Hitler, from the Mexican artist who left his family to be true to his dreams, from her best friend’s mother who left an abusive husband in Belgium to start over in New York. Everyone has their own story and deals with adversity in their own way. We see this all through Ruthie’s eyes and watch as she learns and grows, while her body is immobilized in the cast. Based on the author’s childhood experiences, this story will resonant with children searching for their own paths through life, wondering if they are the only ones who are scared. (Spoiler alert: they’re not.) Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

ARC provided by publisher

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by Louise Erdrich
Grades 4 & up

In this fifth book in the Birchbark House series, Chickadee has returned and Makoons is finally healing after his long illness. The twins are learning to live in their new home on the Dakota plains, a big difference from the woods of what is now Minnesota. I suggest reading the first four books before this one in order to have a better sense of the family’s saga. This is a must read series, especially for fans of the Little House on the Prairie series. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Full of Beans

Full of BeansFull of Beans
by Jennifer L. Holm
Grades 4 & up

This companion novel to Turtle in Paradise gives the back story to Beans and how he set up his infamous Diaper Gang. Beans is doing what he can to hold his family together in Key West while his father is looking for work in New Jersey. It is the Great Depression, and times are tough everywhere. Beans earns money wherever possible, crossing the line between right and wrong with varying results. He also has to put up with the “New Dealers” who are trying to fix up Key West as a vacation paradise. A fun look at a rather bleak time in US history. Give this one to your troublemakers with hearts of gold, just like Beans. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Dory Dory Black Sheep

Dory Dory Black SheepDory Dory Black Sheep
by Abby Hanlon
Kindergarten & up

This third book about 6-year-old Dory is the best one yet. Dory is upset that she doesn’t quite know how to read. Her good friend Rosabelle is already reading thick books, which is very frustrating for Dory. So she makes up her own story, which of course involves her fairy godmother Mr. Nuggy and her arch-enemy Mrs. Gobble Gracker as well as a farm, a lost sheep, a superhero, and a trip to outer space. Dory clearly knows the difference between her real world and her imaginary world, and children will have no trouble moving between the two. This beginning chapter book about a struggling reader is meta in the best way. Highly recommended for Kindergarten and up.

Book provided by publisher.

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