Dust of Eden

Dust of EdenDust of Eden
by Mariko Nagai
Grades 4 & up

Mina Masako Tagawa’s life is turned upside down when Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. Growing up in Seattle, she considered herself 100% American, until the people around her start telling her otherwise. Told in free-verse poems, this is the story of Mina and her family and their lives after they are sent to internment camps in Washington and Idaho. A powerful and moving story. Recommended for grades 4-8.

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Secrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier

Secrets of the Terra-Cotta SoldierSecrets of the Terra-Cotta Soldier
by Ying Chang Compestine
Grades 4 & up

Ming is a 13-year-old boy growing up in China in the 1970s. He and his father, an intellectual, have been sent to a remote farming village for “re-education.” Some of the farmers unearth a terracotta soldier from the 200s BCE. Ming is startled when the statue comes to life and begins telling stories about his life under Emperor Qin. They work together to stop the plot of a greedy Political Officer. A fascinating look at China as ruled by two dictators thousands of years apart. Includes photographs of China in the 1970s. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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A Handful of Stars

A Handful of StarsA Handful of Stars
by Cynthia Lord
Grades 4 & up

Lily’s dog Lucky is almost completely blind, and what Lily wants more than anything is to raise the money for him to have the surgery that might save his sight. He was originally her mother’s dog, and one of the few things that Lily has left from her. When Lucky slips his collar and runs across the blueberry barrens, Lily fears for his life. He is rescued by Salma, a girl working with her family as migrant blueberry pickers. This starts an unusual friendship — migrant workers do not usually socialize with the people who live in the small Maine town year round. Lily has grown apart from her best friend Hannah, however, and is thrilled to make a new friend, especially one who will help her raise the money for Lucky’s surgery. Things get complicated though, when Salma enters the Blueberry Queen pageant against Hannah, the reigning queen. An excellent book about friendship and loyalty and wanting the best for the people you love. Highly recommended for grades 4-7.

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Ambassador & Nomad

AmbassadorAmbassador
by William Alexander
Grades 4 & up

Gabe Fuentes has been chosen to be Earth’s ambassador to an intergalactic council. It is made up of children, because they find it easier to accept beings and situations that are different from the norm. There is a sense of urgency however, since unfamiliar spacecraft have been spotted in the asteroid belt between Mars & Jupiter, and diplomacy is necessary to figure out who is there and why. There is urgency at home, too, since both of Gabe’s parents are in the United States illegally. This is a phenomenal book with spectacular parallels between both kinds of aliens, in addition to being an action-packed adventure. Highly recommended to grades 4-8.

NomadNomad
by William Alexander
Grades 4 & up

Gabe (Earth’s ambassador to the Universe) and the Kaen have resolved their differences from the first book, but now they have an even bigger problem. The Outlast are coming and they want to kill them all. Gabe has problems of his own, too. His father was deported back to Mexico and Gabe is thousands of miles away trying to save the Earth. Only his sister Lupe knows where he is, so his mother must be going out of her mind with worry. Just as Gabe and the Kaen are forming an uneasy alliance, Earth’s former ambassador, Nadia Kollontai, returns. She had disappeared 40 years before, though not that much time has passed for her. She has some ideas about possible ways to stop the Outlast, but the three ambassadors must convince the leaders of the Kaen to trust their plan. This thrilling science fiction adventure contains important statements on immigration, as well as a fun interpretation of Mayan history. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up, but read Ambassador first.

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Gracefully Grayson

Gracefully GraysonGracefully Grayson
by Ami Polonsky
Grade 5 & up

Grayson is a sixth grade boy on the outside, but he knows he is a girl on the inside. He wears a sweatband to hold back his longish hair, wishing that it was a headband. He imagines that his over-sized shirts are dresses and his basketball pants are leggings. He keeps to himself, suffering every day with his secret. When his despair becomes too great, he finally reaches out, and tries out for the female lead in the middle school play. The rest of the book deals with the repercussions of that action, from his classmates, his family, and the school administration. This is a hauntingly beautiful story, and a must read for anyone who has ever felt uncomfortable in their own skin. Highly recommended for grades 5-9.

Note: There is nothing sexual in this book. It is strictly about gender identity in a middle school appropriate way.

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Saving Kabul Corner

Saving Kabul CornerSaving Kabul Corner
by N.H. Senzai
Grades 5 & up

When another Afghan market opens in the same Fremont plaza as her family’s, Ariana worries about what this will mean to her father’s plans. Ariana is having a rough start to her school year, feeling that her cousin Laila, who only recently arrived in America, is taking over her home and friends and doing everything better than Ariana in the process. Everything begins to be turned upside down when a decades old feud between her family and the owners of Pamir Market is reignited. Ariana notices a few things that are off, though, and with the help of her perfect cousin and best friend Mariam (from Shooting Kabul) follows the clues to find who really is behind the destruction. A gripping mystery with a satisfying ending. Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Dangerous

DangerousDangerous
by Shannon Hale
Grade 7 & up

When Maisie wins a sweepstakes to attend a three week session at Howell Astronaut Boot Camp, she believes all of her dreams have come true. In spite of her missing right hand, she and her fireteam (plus the boy she has fallen for) are chosen to see the launch of the space elevator. After talking their way onto the mission, they encounter much more than they had expected. Part science fiction, part romance, Maisie must decide how much she is willing to do to save her family and her planet. Recommended for grades 7 & up.

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The Dirt Diary

The Dirt Diary (The Dirt Diary, #1)The Dirt Diary
by Anna Staniszewski
Grades 5 & up

Rachel is having an absolutely miserable eighth grade year. Her dad has moved down to Florida to start a scuba diving business, and her mom has been struggling to make ends meet. Rachel agrees to help her mom clean houses on the weekends in order to earn the money for a plane ticket (which she already bought out of her college account). Her hope is that she can fly down to Florida and convince her dad to come home. But nothing ever works out as planned, especially when one of the houses they have to clean belongs to mean girl Briana who was already tormenting Rachel at school. Things go from bad to worse, both at school and at home. Can Rachel pull herself back together before it is too late? A great middle school read. Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Threatened

Threatened (Ape Quartet #2)Threatened
by Eliot Schrefer
Grade 7 & up

After Luc’s mother and baby sister die, he is taken in by Monsieur Tatagani and forced to work off his mother’s debt. All of this changes when a stranger arrives in Franceville, Gabon. Professor Abdul Mohammad wants to be the African Jane Goodall. He is planning on studying the chimpanzees in Gabon and hires Luc to accompany him into the jungle. Luc had always feared the “mock men,” but he has no other alternative. What they find inside the jungle is so much more than either of them expected. An amazing look at life inside a chimpanzee troop. Recommended for grades 7 & up.

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The Great Greene Heist and To Catch a Cheat

The Great Greene HeistThe Great Greene Heist
by Varian Johnson
Grades 4 & up

Jackson Greene comes from a long line of con men, but he has promised to stay clean, especially after what happened four months ago. That was before he found out that Keith Sinclair was trying to steal the election for middle school president from his best friend’s sister. And now that he knows what Keith plans to do after he is elected, Jackson has to step in, whether Gaby wants him to or not. In a heist worthy of Ocean’s Eleven, Jackson and Charlie assemble a crew to pull off the most daring con job of their middle school careers. A fun read, with a truly diverse cast of characters. Recommended for grades 4-8.

To Catch a Cheat (The Great Greene Heist, #2)To Catch a Cheat
by Varian Johnson
Grades 4 & up

The crew of The Great Greene Heist is back, but this time they are on the receiving end of a con! Somebody has flooded the school bathrooms and tried frame Gang Greene. Charlie’s bag and Jackson’s notebook are found at the scene plus none of them have reliable alibis for Saturday night. Coincidence? Now Jackson, Charlie, Gaby, Megan, Hashemi, and the rest must find a way to not only prove their innocence but catch the people who actually did it. With more cons, twists, and electronic devices in Beta than the first one, readers won’t be able to put it down. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up. Best to read them in order.

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