by Sarah Weeks
Melody’s mother died right after she was born and she has longed for her father to find a girlfriend. When she overhears him calling someone “honey” on the phone, she starts investigating. Some chapters are told by Mo, a French Bulldog, who is living at the new beauty salon in town. The plot of the story is based on a lot of misunderstandings and misheard gossip, with more than a few crazy coincidences to resolve itself. For grades 3-6.
ARC provided by publisher.
by Pam Muñoz Ryan
This epic novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan is more like 3 1/2 books in one. It traces the path of a magical harmonica on its mission to save a life. We first encounter the harmonica when it appears seemingly out of a fairy tale and into the hands of Otto, lost in the woods. Next it is found by Friedrich, at the rise of Nazi Germany. Friedrich has a disfiguring birthmark and is being targeted as not “pure” enough for the Nazi regime. His father, a musician, also has loudly expressed his opposition. The harmonica gives Friedrich not only comfort but the bravery to do what he must to save his family. In the second story, we are transported to Philadelphia a few years later. Mike and his younger brother Frankie are struggling to stay together in an orphanage after their mother and grandmother have passed away. Again, the harmonica plays a pivotal role in their lives. In the third story, Ivy and her family have just moved from Fresno down to Southern California, where her father has been hired as a a caretaker for a Japanese-American farm while the owners are in an internment camp. Ivy faces challenges of her own, as she is sent to the Mexican-American annex school instead of the main elementary school. The harmonica also plays a key role here. Each of these stories cuts off at a pivotal moment, leaving the reader worrying about the fate of these characters. Fortunately, Ryan ties everything up in a glorious ending that traces how the harmonica moved from child to child and ultimately fulfills its mission. Readers who can make it to the end will be rewarded with a story that will stick with them for many years to come. A tribute to the power of music and family. Highly recommended for grades 5-8.
eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss
by Sage Blackwood
In this thrilling conclusion to the Jinx trilogy, the epic battle for the Urwald has begun. Jinx must first rescue Simon and then defeat the Bonemaster once and for all, but something is happening to the Urwald’s lifeforce that he is used to drawing upon. After those challenges, he & Elfwyn must unite the Urwald’s residents, including people, trolls, werewolves and more in order to face the three invading armies. Can Jinx battle his old friend Reven (now King Raymond) without using death force magic? This is a satisfying end to an epic adventure. You must read the first two before this one. Recommended for grades 4-7.
eArc provided by Edelweiss
Me Being Me Is Exactly as Insane as You Being You
by Todd Hasak-Lowy
Grades 9 & up
15-year-old Darren’s life is turned upside down by news from his recently divorced father. That news and an unexpected kiss from a jazz ensemble bandmate shake him to the core, prompting him to run off to spend the the weekend at the University of Michigan with his older brother Nate while he tries to make sense of it all. Along the way he falls head over heels, obsessively in love with classmate Zoey Lovell, who is clearly in trouble. This phenomenal book, told through lists, is Darren’s story as he tries to put the pieces of his life back together. No one is who he thought they were — not his mother, not his father, not Nate, not Zoey, and not even himself. Highly recommended for grades 9 and up.
ARC provided by publisher.
The Penderwicks in Spring
by Jeanne Birdsall
This fourth installment in the Penderwick family saga is as delightful as the first three. Several years have passed since we last visited the Penderwick sisters. Batty is in 5th grade, Ben is in 2nd, and new baby Lydia (now 2) has joined the family. This book focuses on Batty, with side stories about the other Penderwicks plus Jeffrey and the Geiger brothers (across the street). Batty is working through some changes that have occurred in the past few years when a new music teacher lets her know that not only can Batty sing, but that she has an amazing voice. Batty becomes a PWTW (Penderwick Willing to Work), searching for odd jobs in the neighborhood to pay for singing lessons. She cannot wait to share this news with Jeffery, but a fight between Skye and Jeffrey sends him back to Boston before they have a chance to talk. Even worse, Batty has overheard the most awful secret of all. It will take all of the Penderwick’s love and kindness to pull Batty back from the brink. Highly recommend for grades 3-6. Must read the series in order!
ARC received from publisher.
The War that Saved My Life
by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Although this book is set in England during World War II, it is not so much about that war as it is about the personal war that Ada is fighting — against her mother, against Susan’s kindness, against her own hopes and dreams. Ada was born with a club foot and her mother sees that imperfection as something to be ashamed of and punished for. As such, Ada has never been allowed out of their one room apartment above the pub where her mother works. Ada takes care of her younger brother Jamie until he is old enough to go to school. When his entire school is evacuated to the British countryside in anticipation of the bombing of London, Ada defies her mother and joins him. Thrust into the real world for the first time, the enormity of what she does not know overwhelms her. Harder still is the kindness shown by to her by Susan, her new guardian. Thankfully she has the pony Butter as a touchstone through her battles. Highly recommended for grades 5-8.
ARC provided by publisher.
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The Forgotten Sisters
by Shannon Hale
In this third and final book in the Princess Academy series, Miri’s plans to return home to Mount Eskel are put on hold. Instead, the queen asks her to venture south to a swampy region of Danland to become tutor to three royal cousins. She cannot refuse, since the future of Danland is in the balance. Stora is threatening to invade and only the marriage of one of these sisters to the King of Stora can save their country. But the swamp is like nothing Miri has ever seen and the three sisters are too busy trying to survive to be interested in the lessons Miri needs to teach them. This is a must read for fans of the series, and fans of courageous young women who take matters into their own hands. Definitely read the series in order. Recommended for grades 4-8.
ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley.
All the Bright Places
by Jennifer Niven
Grades 8 & up
This is a heart-wrenching look into the anguish of mental illness and its effect not only on those who suffer in silence but the people who love them. Finch and Violet are both suffering silently from different problems their senior year in high school when they meet on the ledge of the bell tower preparing to jump. Though different paths have led them there, the end result is an unlikely friendship formed through mutual pain. Violet’s pain, because of the death of her sister, is “approved” of and she is given excuses and outs due to her extenuating circumstances. Theodore, who is suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness, is given no such luxury. Together they look for the bright places to leave the dark ones behind. A haunting book that will leave the reader saying, “If only…” just like Violet. Recommend for grades 8 & up.
eArc provided through NetGalley
The Truth About Twinkie Pie
by Kat Yeh
When GiGi’s older sister DiDi wins a million dollars in a cooking contest, she moves them out of their small-town trailer park in South Carolina and up to New York. She enrolls GiGi in a prestigious private school while continuing to work as a hair dresser in the salon below their apartment. GiGi takes this opportunity to reinvent herself at school and make friends for the first time. Happy with how things are going, GiGi embarks on a quest to find Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow lipstick as a surprise for DiDi. While doing so, she discovers a family secret that changes everything. Complete with Mama’s recipes, this is a great story about family loyalty and friendship that will appeal to grades 4-6.
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage
by Selina Alko
Grades 2 & up
This non-fiction picture book introduces the historic prejudice against interracial marriage and the fight to make it legal in a clear way that will engage elementary school students. It is an important addition to other books on the history of civil rights in this country and one that students may not be aware of. The author’s note at the end makes the connection between the Lovings’ court case and the continued battle for same-sex marriage today. Add this to your collection for Black History Month and all year round. Recommended for grades 2 & up.