Two Naomis

Two NaomisTwo Naomis
by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich & Audrey Vernick
Grades 4 & up

It’s hard when your divorced parent starts seriously dating someone. It’s even harder when that person has a daughter with the same name as you. But that’s exactly what happens with Naomi Marie and Naomi Edith (who now have to be identified by their middle names). What’s worse is their parents want them to be friends and conspire to register them for a coding class together. Neither of them appreciates the upheaval in their lives, which were perfectly fine before. Told in alternating points of view from the two Naomis, this is a realistic look at the range of emotions that tweens go through as their families change. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Making Friends with Billy Wong

Making Friends with Billy WongMaking Friends with Billy Wong
by Augusta Scattergood
Grades 4 & up

Azalea is sure that it is going to be the worst summer ever when she is sent to stay with a grandmother she has never met in the small town of Paris Junction, Arkansas. She doesn’t like talking to people she doesn’t know and she already has a friend at home so she doesn’t need more. But Grandma Clark hurt her foot and Azalea can’t stay home alone, so she is forced to spend the summer of 1952 there. The first thing Azalea learns is that in this small town, everybody knows everyone else’s business. The second thing she learns is that people aren’t always who you might expect them to be — not Billy Wong, the grocer’s great nephew, not trouble-maker Willis DeLoach, not Grandma Clark, and maybe not even Azalea herself. A great summer story about questioning one’s assumptions and believing in one’s self. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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Unbound: A Novel in Verse

Unbound: A Novel in VerseUnbound: A Novel in Verse
by Ann E. Burg
Grades 4 & up

This free verse novel follows the story of Grace as she is torn from her mother and brothers and sent to work in the Big House, due to her light skin. Grace and her family are slaves on a plantation near the Great Dismal Swamp. Only nine years old, Grace promises her mother that she will keep her eyes down and her thoughts to herself, but she sees new things every day that cause her to question why things are the way they are. The injustice of it all becomes too much for her, threatening her entire family. A powerful look at the horrors of slavery and the bravery and resilience of those who lived through it. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Home Sweet Motel

Home Sweet Motel (Welcome to Wonderland, #1)Home Sweet Motel
by Chris Grabenstein
Grades 3 & up

P.T. Wilkie lives at the Wonderland Motel, started by his grandfather and run by his mother. His grandfather had hoped to make it the biggest attraction in Florida. That is until Disney World opened a year later. Now the motel is barely scraping by, though his grandfather is still trying. When P.T. finds out that they have to raise $100,000 in one month or lose the motel, he kicks his storytelling into high gear. Helped by new motel guest Gloria Ortiz, he pieces together scheme after scheme to try to raise the money. This fun beach-side romp will have every kid wishing they lived in a motel plus teach them about finances as well. The first in a new series. (Book 2 is out now as well.) Recommended for grades 3 & up.

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Journey’s End

Journey's EndJourney’s End
by Rachel Hawkins
Grades 4 & up

Nolie is off to Scotland, to spend the summer with her father. He has been there for six months already, in the small village of Journey’s End, studying the mysterious fog bank off the coast. Legend has it that the fog was caused by a witch, and people who go into it never return. But on Nolie’s first day there, someone does return — Albert, who disappeared a hundred years before. It is up to Nolie and her new friend Bel, with some help from Albert, to figure out what causes the fog and why it is suddenly getting closer to shore. A fun adventure story with spine-tingling twists. Highly recommended to grades 4 & up.

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Cloud and Wallfish

Cloud and WallfishCloud and Wallfish
by Anne Nesbet
Grades 4 & up

Noah’s day went from strange to surreal as his parents picked him up from school, told him his name was now Jonah and his birthday was 6 months later than he thought, threw out his backpack, and went straight to the airport to fly from what was no longer his home in Virginia to East Germany. Noah has an Astonishing Stutter, and speaking German with all of its hard consonants doesn’t help. It is 1989 and his mother has received permission to study children with speech defects in East Berlin. It is rare and unusual for Americans to be there, and Noah/Jonah must follow a strict set of rules, which may or may not include the possibility of making friends. This fascinating look at life just before the fall of the Berlin Wall will intrigue young readers who are looking for real-life spy stories. Pair this with Jennifer Nielsen’s A Night Divided for a look at the beginning and end of the Wall. Highly recommended to grades 4 & up.

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Rebel of the Sands & Traitor to the Throne

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands, #1)Rebel of the Sands
by Alwyn Hamilton
Grades 6 & up

Amani is willing to try just about anything to get out of her dying desert town before she is forced to marry her uncle. She has been living with extended family ever since her mother killed her father, and would rather face the Jinn and other magical creatures that still roam the desert at night than to spend one day longer there. When a mysterious stranger comes to town pursued by the Sultan’s army, Amani jumps at the chance to escape with him. But where she ends up going and what she learns about herself and the rest of the world is much more than she ever imagined. Recommended for grades 6 & up.

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands, #2)Traitor to the Throne
by Alwyn Hamilton
Grades 5 & up

It is rare that sequel is even better than the first, but this book was AMAZING! I can’t even write up a review because I don’t want to give any spoilers. If you liked Rebel of the Sands, you must read this book. It continues Amani’s story and will keep readers on the edge of their seats. I know that I stayed up way too late reading it!

Highly recommended for grades 5 & up, for anyone who likes books with a magical, mythological bent.

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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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Fuzzy

FuzzyFuzzy
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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