by Patricia Reilly Giff
Jayna’s parents were killed in an accident when she was younger, and her big brother Rob is all that she has. When he joins the Navy and is sent to the Pacific in World War II, Jayna is left in the care of her land lady. Before Rob leaves, he lets her know about a secret he has been hiding — they may have a grandmother in Brooklyn! With the help of a ghostly voice, Jayna finds the hidden book and embarks on the quest to find possible family.
by Amanda Flower
Andi’s parents just died in an accident and Andi and her older sister Bethany are sent to live with their aunt in the old family home. While cleaning out the attic to make another bedroom, Andi discovers an old trunk with her unusual name (Andora) on the top. With the help of her next door neighbor Colin, Andi embarks on quest to search for information about who this Andora might have been. A fun mystery and the start of new series.
ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
The Long Way Home
by Ann M. Martin
Grades 4 & up
In this second of four books in the Family Tree series, Abby is now a mother, and it is her daughter Dana who is featured in this book. When a tragedy tears their family apart, Dana has some tough choices to make. Should she return to the family home in Maine with her mother and twin sister? Or find a way to stay in New York and follow her dreams? Recommended for fans of Better to Wish who want to keep following this family’s story.
ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
Better to Wish
by Ann M. Martin
If you are looking for a new series to recommend to readers that have finished the Little House books and/or Anne of Green Gables, Family Tree by Ann M. Martin may be the answer.
Abby Nichols is growing up in Maine during the Great Depression. Times are tough all around, and changes within the family can make things even harder. We watch Abby grow up and adapt, moving houses, changing friends, until the book ends after she graduates from high school. There are good times and bad, and some of the bad times are very, very sad. The story continues in book 2 of the series, The Long Way Home, with Abby’s daughter Dana as a main character. Recommended for lovers of historical fiction and family sagas.
The House of Hades
by Rick Riordan
Grades 5 & up
Fans of Rick Riordan have been waiting for this book for a year, and House of Hades does not disappoint! It picks up right where Mark of Athena left off. Percy and Annabeth are making their way across Tartarus, trying to reach the Doors of Death. Meanwhile, Piper, Leo, Jason, Nico, Hazel, and Frank are in Argo II hoping to reach the Doors of Death from the other side. Their journeys weave together many of their past adventures, bringing back old foes as well as unexpected friends. It is an adventure-packed read, full of Riordan’s signature wit. A must read for fans of the series. I highly recommended reading the other books in the series first.
A Tangle of Knots
by Lisa Graff
In Cady’s world, some people have Talent and some people are Fair. Throughout this book we meet a variety of people, most of whom do have a Talent, though the usefulness of these varies greatly. Each person that we meet has a secret they are hiding, as we learn through the points of view that change with each chapter, as well as something they are seeking. Cady, the orphan with a cake baking Talent, searches for her forever home. Marigold is searching for any talent at all. Zane is trying to find meaning his life, while Will searches for adventure. The adults in the story each have their own quests as well. Their stories overlap and intersect as we try to unravel the mysteries. Many are solved by the end of the book, but quite a few questions are left unanswered.
by Natasha Farrant
Three years before this book begins, 12-year-old Blue’s twin sister Iris died. (We don’t find out why or how until 2/3 through the book.) In the meantime, she has watched everything fall apart — she is invisible at school, her mother constantly travels for work, and her father is working in another city all together. She, her brother, and two sisters are mostly left to their own devices. This story is told through her journal and the transcripts of the videos that she shoots. Through her eyes, we see things continue to fall apart, until she finds the strength to pick them up and put her life back together. Taking place in London, this story will resonant with middle schoolers from all over. Highly recommended.
Bo at Ballard Creek
by Kirkpatrick Hill
Grades 3 & Up
I really enjoyed this year in a life of a young girl at a mining camp in the 1920s at the end of the Alaskan gold rush. Bo is growing up with two Papas, Jack and Arvid, who adopted her when she was given up by her mother, a former “good time girl” in a mining town. Bo’s best friend is an Eskimo boy named Oscar. Together they enjoy visiting everyone in their community. The small town of Ballard Creek is half Eskimo and half miners, divided by the creek itself. Everything is presented matter-of-factly through Bo’s eyes. This is her world, and there is no judgement placed on her two fathers (whatever their relationship may be), the former “good time girls,” the Eskimos, or any of the fairly eccentric miners. It is portrayed as a sweet, wonderful world, where people truly helped one another, for no one could survive alone on the Alaskan frontier. Recommended for lovers of historical fiction, especially first and second graders who are reading well above grade level. I agree with the reviewers who say it is like Little House in the Big Woods, except set in Alaska. It has a very similar feel, except that the Eskimo culture is appreciated and respected.
(Note: the “good time girls” are explained as women who used to dance with the miners, so everyone would have a good time.)
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Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron
by Mary Losure
Grades 4 & up
The story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron has intrigued me for quite awhile. I had read the picture book version by Mordecai Gerstein, but it left me with many questions. This one was much more detailed in its description of his life after being captured, but unfortunately the basic question of how he came to live in the forest by himself will never be answered. Losure does a good job of presenting the facts we do know, and making sure that the reader knows were she is imposing her own theories about his variety of reactions. It is hard to read about his treatment with modern sensibilities, but interesting to see the beginnings of some modern day differentiated instruction techniques while they were trying to educate him.
Can You Say Catastrophe?
by Laurie B. Friedman
Everything starts to go wrong when April turns 13. She has to share a ridiculously themed birthday party with her younger sisters May & June (really), who constantly make her life miserable. Everything her parents do is just wrong and designed to humiliate her. Things with her best friend Billy and the cute new boy next door start getting tricky. All she can do is countdown the days until she can go away to summer camp. What else could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit as it turns out. April’s summer is not at all what she expected it to be. This book is spot on for middle school girls, dealing with changes in their bodies, their friends, and themselves.