Ms. Bixby’s Last Day

Ms. Bixby's Last DayMs. Bixby’s Last Day
by John David Anderson
Grades 4 & up

Topher, Steve, and Brand are having a good sixth grade year, a large part of which is due to their amazing teacher, Ms. Bixby. She is definitely one of the “good ones,” according to Topher’s teacher rating system. She has found a way to connect with each of them that makes them feel valued. When they learn that she has cancer and won’t be able to finish the year, they are devastated. They decide to give her the best day possible, even if it means skipping school and sneaking downtown to the hospital, gathering supplies along the way. Their plan is not without its flaws however. As on any quest, they meet those who help them and those who stand in their way. They make some questionable choices as well. But their true desire to do something wonderful for the teacher who means so much to them keeps the boys going against all odds. The book is the perfect mix of humor and deep emotions, just like middle school itself. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

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All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. CookAll Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook
by Leslie Connor
Grades 4 & up

Perry Cook has an unusual home. Because his mother was serving time at a minimum security prison when he was born, he has been allowed to live there (though not exactly with her) as a foster child of the warden. Now in sixth grade (he attends the local middle school), he has a close family that includes not just his mother, but many of the other residents and workers at the prison. He and his mother are eagerly awaiting her parole when a well-meaning District Attorney decides that Perry would be better off on the outside. Ripped from the only home he has ever known, Perry does his best to serve his time away from his mother and make sense of what has happened. As he digs deeper into his own story and those of the other residents, he finds some truths that make him question what he has always believed. This is a powerful book about self-discovery, friendship, and what truly makes a family. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Nothing Up My Sleeve

Nothing Up My SleeveNothing Up My Sleeve
by Diana López
Grades 4 & up

When Dominic, Loop, & Z stumble upon the Conjuring Cats magic shop, their summer plans start looking up. Even the owner’s daughter, Ariel, with her condescending manner and obvious dislike of them, can’t scare the boys away. They start to learn how to do sleights of hand, each focusing on a different type of trick. Ariel becomes even more irritated when her father begins mentoring the boys and getting them ready to enter a contest at the end of the summer. All three boys have loving but very different Latinx families. They each must find ways to balance their new found love of magic with their responsibilities to their families as well as their friendship with each other. This is a well-crafted novel with realistic situations that will draw in readers and keeping them interested until the end. Includes a great list of resources for becoming a magician. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

ARC provided by publisher.

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The Seventh Wish

The Seventh WishThe Seventh Wish
by Kate Messner
Grades 5 & up

What starts out as a fun book about a magical talking fish turns into a powerful story about family, adversity, and hope. Charlie is excited about the upcoming feis (Irish Dance competition) where she hopes to be able to move up to the Novice class. Her parents have given her $300 towards a dress for it, but she decides to go ice fishing with her friend Drew to earn even more. Their first time out, she catches a small fish that pleads with her to release it in exchange for a wish. When that wish immediately comes true, Charlie realizes that she has something special on her hands. She knows what happens to people in books who make wishes, how they can be twisted in unexpected ways, so she tries to be as careful as she can with the wording of her wishes. Each time she catches the wish fish, she makes sure to use it to help someone else. Still, they don’t come true in the exact ways that she had hoped for. When her older sister has to withdraw from college and enter a drug rehab facility due to heroin addiction, Charlie’s world begins to fall apart. She doesn’t think that even the fish is up to fixing this one. With heroin use nearing epidemic proportions in middle class communities, this is an important book to have on hand. We see through Charlie’s eyes how addiction can happen to anyone and how it affects the rest of the family as well. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up.

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The Eighth Day Series

The Eighth Day (Eighth Day, #1)The Eighth Day
by Dianne K. Salerni
Grades 5-8

When Jax’s father is killed, he is surprised to learn that his father made some 18-year-old boy his guardian. Jax wants to go live with his cousins, but instead is forced to stay with Riley who often doesn’t have enough food in the house. But when he wakes up on the Thursday morning after his thirteenth birthday to find a world with no other people in it, he learns that he and Riley are part of a special group. As Transitioners, they live through an eighth day that falls between Wednesday and Thursday. But there is evil in this eighth day, tracing back to the time of Merlin & King Arthur, and it is up to Jax to help stop it. A thrilling fantasy. Highly recommended for grades 5-8.

The Inquisitor's Mark (Eighth Day, #2)The Inquisitor’s Mark
by Dianne K. Salerni
Grades 4-8

Picking up where The Eighth Day left off, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline are in hiding in a remote cabin protected by the Crandalls. The world and the eighth day have survived but the danger is not over yet. The Dulacs (who everyone believes killed Jax’s father) have kidnapped Billy, Jax’s best friend from Normal life. When Riley disappears into the Eighth Day timeline with Evangeline, Jax takes it upon himself to go and rescue Billy with the help of Tegan and Thomas. At the Dulac stronghold in New York City, Billy learns more about this powerful enemy as well as himself, his family, and his father. An exciting continuation of the epic battle for good and evil started in The Eighth Day. Highly recommended for grades 4-8. Must read the series in order.

The Morrigan's Curse (Eighth Day, #3)The Morrigan’s Curse
by Dianne K. Salerni
Grades 5 & up

In this third (and hopefully not last!) adventure in the Eighth Day series, Addie has been kidnapped by the Kin who are trying to end the Eighth Day. She believes that she is the last of her line, not knowing Evangeline is still alive. Meanwhile, Jax, Riley, and Evangeline are doing their best to locate and rescue her. But Addie does not realize how truly evil these Kin are, and may not want to be rescued. It will take a lot of negotiating and strained alliances between the Transitioners and some of the Kin to defeat the others as they once again join forces in an epic battle to prevent the Eighth Day spell from being broken. Told in alternating points of view between Addie and Jax, readers will be on the edge of their seats throughout. Highly recommended for grade 5 & up. Must read the series in order.

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Stef Soto, Taco Queen

Stef Soto, Taco QueenStef Soto, Taco Queen
by Jennifer Torres
Grades 4 & up

Stef Soto used to love Tia Perla, her father’s food truck. It changed her family’s life for the better when he bought it. Now, though, it embarrasses her beyond belief when her father picks her up from middle school in it. It doesn’t help when her former best friend Julia starts calling her “taco queen” and saying that she smells like tacos. Plus, Stef feels like her parents still treat her like a baby, especially when her new best friend wins concert tickets for a singer they love. But when the food trucks in her city are threatened with stricter regulations and her school needs to raise money for art supplies, Stef has to re-examine what is important to her. A thoughtful look at the the changing relationships between middle schoolers, their families, and their friends. Recommended for grades 4 & up. (Note: May cause cravings for warm tortillas with butter.)

ARC provided by publisher

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My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights

My Seventh-Grade Life in TightsMy Seventh-Grade Life in Tights
by Brooks Benjamin
Grades 5 & up

Dillon Parker wants to dance. Really dance. Since quitting karate, he has been using a martial arts version of dancing full of kicks and punches. He and his two closest friends, Kassie and Carson, have formed a dance crew (Dizzee Freekz) and are putting together videos of their dancing. But they won’t teach Dillon the classical dance forms that they learned before they left their studios. When the chance comes up to audition for a spot at Dance-splosion, Kassie’s old studio, Dillon really wants to try for it, even though he knows how much Kassie hates the place. But instead of forbidding him to try, she puts together a plan that will get revenge on both the studio and her nemesis. When everything starts to fall apart, Dillon must choose between his friends and the kind of dancing he wants to do. A fun book about the hard choices we all face in middle school. Recommended for grades 5 & up.

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Spy School Series

Spy School (Spy School #1)Spy School
by Stuart Gibbs
Grades 3 & up

Ben comes home from 7th grade one day to find a man dressed like James Bond in his living room. It seems that Ben has been recruited for a super secret spy training school run by the CIA. He can’t tell anyone where he is going — not his parents, not his best friend. They think he is going to a science boarding school. From the moment that Ben walks into his school it is not what he expected. First, everyone seems to think he has mad cryptography skills. Second, he keeps being attacked. While some are tests by the school, there also are real assassins out to get him for these skills he doesn’t actually have. Thankfully Erica, a very smart and savvy third year, takes him under her wing as she begins to unravel the hows and whys of Ben’s showing up at the school. Full of twists, double-crossing, and non-stop action, Spy School will keep readers on the edge of their seats and wishing that they could go there too! Recommended for grade 3 & up.

Spy Camp (Spy School #2)Spy Camp
by Stuart Gibbs
Grades 3 & up

Ben Ripley has just made it through seventh grade at Spy School and is looking forward to a summer at home when he learns that he has to attend the mandatory Spy Camp. This is wilderness training at its finest. Unfortunately, as soon as he arrives, Ben is issued another ultimatum from SPYDER — join them or die. When Ben is evacuated for his own safety, SPDYER strikes. Luckily Erica Hale is there again to save the day. Building off of the action in the first book, they must not only save Ben and rescue their classmates, but once again defeat the ubiquitous SPYDER. Non-stop action interspersed with amusing dialogue make this book a sure winner. Recommended for grades 3 & up. It is important to read the series in order.

(Note: I was uncomfortable with the implied references to Native Americans and the fact that the bad guy’s last name was Hallal.)

Evil Spy SchoolEvil Spy School
by Stuart Gibbs
Grades 3 & up

When Ben is expelled due to a mishap on the first day of his second year at Spy School, he is immediately recruited by SPYDER to attend their version of a training school. It is located in a gated community in New Jersey and is luxurious compared to the CIA’s spy school. Unfortunately for Ben, it is also full of the people he has been fighting for the past six months. This third book in the Spy School series is just as action packed and full of clever comments as the first two. You must read the series in order. Recommended for grades 3 & up.

Spy Ski School (Spy School #4)Spy Ski School
by Stuart Gibbs
Grades 4 & up

In this fourth Spy School adventure, spy-in-training Ben Ripley is once again sent out into the field. It is Winter Break of his second year at Spy School and Ben, Erica, Zoe, Warren, and Chip are skiing undercover in Vail, Colorado. A reclusive Chinese crime boss is taking his daughter skiing and Ben’s mission is to befriend her in order to find out what he is up to. Spy Ski School has as much action, adventure, double-crossing, and life and death situations as the first three, with the added bonus of the mountain setting. I enjoyed this one most of all. Please read the series in order. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Spy School Secret Service (Spy School, #5)Spy School Secret Service
by Stuart Gibbs
Grades 4 & up

In this fifth book in the Spy School series, Ben Ripley is again being called into active duty. Super agent Cyrus Hale is worried that SPYDER has infiltrated both the CIA and the Secret Service, so he calls on Ben to go undercover in the White House. There has been chatter about threats on the president’s life and Cyrus wants Ben to figure out who could be the possible mole in the White House. Full of the same fun antics as the first five, as well as twists, turns, and narrow escapes, this is a must read for fans of the series. I strongly suggest reading them in order. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Unidentified Suburban Object

Unidentified Suburban ObjectUnidentified Suburban Object
by Mike Jung
Grades 4 & up

Chloe Cho has had it with being not just the only Korean-American in her entire school/town, but the only Asian-American at all! To make matters worse, her parents refuse to tell her anything about her heritage. Luckily, her best friend Shelley is just as excited to explore all things Korean. Together they make food, buy clothes, and listen to K-Pop. It’s almost enough to make up for the microaggressions she faces on a daily basis. Chloe can’t believe her luck when the new social studies teacher at school is also Korean-American! Finally, some one like her! But her first assignment from the Ms. Lee is disastrous — she has to write a personal family history story. This leads to her parents finally revealing the truth about her heritage, which turns Chloe’s world upside down. Chloe’s raw emotions, mixed with equal parts snarky sarcasm, will ring true for any middle schooler who feels out of place. It is not only a fun book, but can also serve as an important starting place for discussions on identity and feelings of being “other.” Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

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The Secret Keepers

The Secret KeepersThe Secret Keepers
by Trenton Lee Stewart
Grades 4 & up

It’s a hard time for Reuben and his mom. They have had to move to a smaller apartment in a poorer area and his mom is working two jobs trying to make ends meet. Reuben spends his days exploring different sections of town, avoiding the Directions — men employed by The Smoke, the mysterious and evil overlord of their city. One day he finds a gorgeous, antique, and clearly expensive pocket watch. While he tries to figure out how he can use it to make things better for himself and his mother, Reuben discovers the magical properties of the watch. Unfortunately, he also alerts others to its presence, including people who will stop at nothing to get it. Now Reuben must figure out where it came from and how to protect his family before it is too late. But who can he trust with this secret? An exciting adventure with twists, turns, and double-crosses throughout. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

eARC provided by publisher via NetGalley

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