A Long Pitch Home
by Natalie Dias Lorenzi
Grades 4 & up
Bilal is surprised when he, his siblings, and his mother suddenly leave Pakistan for America. His father must stay behind. They go to Virginia, where they stay with his aunt, uncle, and teenage cousin. The move to the United States is difficult for Bilal — in Pakistan he had good friends and was the star of the his cricket team. His cousin enrolls him in baseball camp to make the transition easier, but baseball really isn’t anything like cricket. Bilal can pitch, but batting is a lot harder. Plus, the English his coaches and teammates are speaking is very different from what he learned in school. To make matters worse, there is a girl on the team as well. Bilal worries constantly, about his father, his playing, his English. He knows he is fortunate in a lot of ways, and he has the help and support of many people in his life. This is an excellent look at the difficult transition of moving to the United States. Bilal is so likable and relatable that readers can’t help but become involved in his story and root for his success. There is plenty of baseball to keep sports lovers interested as well. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.
One Half from the East
by Nadia Hashimi
Grades 4 & up
When Obayda’s father loses his leg in a car bombing attack, her family must move from their apartment in Kabul to the countryside with their extended family. Life is very different in this small village for Obayda and her three older sisters. There are greater restrictions on girls, plus their father won’t leave his bedroom. When her bossy aunt convinces her mother that a boy would bring better luck to the family, Obayda is “changed” into Obayd. Her hair is cut off, she wears boys’ clothes, and goes to the boys’ class at school. Obayd finds he likes his new found freedom and the way he is treated as a boy. When he meets another bacha posh, they try to find a way to stay boys forever, without returning to the restrictive life of Afghani girls. A fascinating look at the harm of gender stereotyping, and what it truly means to be a boy or a girl. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.
Things I Should Have Known
by Claire LaZebnik
Grades 8 & up
Chloe is striving to have the perfect life. She works hard at it — good at school, perfect boyfriend, loving sister. She wants to be able to go on to college, but she’s always felt responsible for her sister Ivy. Ivy is older but is on the Autism spectrum. Chloe hatches a plot to find a boyfriend for Ivy, so she can become more independent. She sets up Ivy with Ethan, a boy who in Ivy’s class who is also on the spectrum. What she doesn’t know at first is that Ethan’s brother David is in her grade, and she finds David to be the most obnoxious, condescending, annoying person in the school. But she’s willing to do anything for Ivy, and David feels the same way about Ethan, so the two end up spending a considerable amount of time together, hoping that Ivy & Ethan will hit it off. During this, Chloe learns a great deal about herself, her family, and David. A fabulous teen romance with a couple great twists makes this novel stand out from the rest. Highly recommended for grades 8 and up.
eARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
by Heather Vogel Frederick
Grades 4 & up
The Pumpkin Falls Private Eyes are back in this sequel to Absolutely Truly. Truly has settled into her new town, and is enjoying the Maple Madness that comes with spring in the North East. Her cousin and best friend Mackenzie is visiting from Texas, and Truly finds herself jealous of all of the attention that Mackenzie is getting. There are two mysteries for the PFPEs to solve this time — who is sabotaging the maple sap lines and what is the big secret in the old diary that Truly and Mackenzie found? A fun book for mystery lovers and fans of The Mother-Daughter Book Club series. It is not necessary to have read the first one, but it helps. Warning: this will make you crave maple syrup! Recommended for grades 4 & up.
eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss
Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls
by Beth McMullen
Grades 4 & up
Abby is shocked when she learns that her mother is sending her away to boarding school for seventh grade. Sure, she’s gotten in trouble sometimes (okay, a lot of times), but she and her mom do everything together. They’ve traveled the world together. Why would her mother do this? When a very mean but very popular girl disappears, Abby sneaks into the Headmistress’s office to try and find out why. Instead, she finds out that the posh and proper Smith School is actually a covert spy training school. She is discovered in the process and is cast as bait in the next spy mission. A fast-paced and fun adventure! Fans of Stuart Gibbs’s Spy School series will enjoy it! Recommended for grades 4 & up.
eARC provided by Edelweiss
The Kindness Club: Chloe on the Bright Side
by Courtney Sheinmel
Grades 3 & up
Chloe’s parents have recently divorced, and she is starting 5th grade in a new school. She is trying to remain positive about finding new friends. Her best friend from her old school was invited to the popular girls’ club, so Chloe jumps at the chance to become an It Girl at her new school. But she also likes quirky Lucy and nerdy Theo, and enjoys the science project the three of them have been assigned. They must come up with their own experiment and decide to study the effects of kindness on other people. Unfortunately, this is at odds with the It Girls club and Chloe finds herself having to make hard choices over and over. A realistic portrayal of the friendship issues upper elementary students often face. They will find themselves rooting for Chloe to make the right choice. Recommended for grades 3 & up.
The Pants Project
by Cat Clarke
Grades 4 & up
Liv is not looking forward to starting sixth grade at the new middle school for one big reason. The dress code requires that all girls wear skirts. Liv not only doesn’t like wearing skirts, Liv is pretty sure that she isn’t supposed to be a girl at all. She’s done some research online, and while she hasn’t told anyone yet, Liv learns that there is a word for people like her (transgender) and knowing that makes her feel not so alone. But having a super short haircut and two moms already has her in the crosshairs of the resident mean girl, so she isn’t about to share that with anyone. Plus, her best friend has deserted her. Luckily she finds new friends in unexpected places, and with their help manages to launch The Pants Project, to change the dress code. While this book could seem like a diversity checklist (transgender, same sex parents, immigrants, differently abled), Cat manages to weave it into a powerful story that middle schoolers of all backgrounds will be able to relate to. Recommended for grades 4 & up.
ARC provided by publisher.
Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
by Kate Beasley
Grades 3 & up
Gertie is on a mission to become the best fifth grader ever! She has to you, you see, because her mother who left when she was baby is about to move out of town and Gertie needs to prove that she doesn’t need her. But a new girl that just joined her class seems to be better than Gertie at everything, and is turning the rest of the class against her. Will this be the first mission that Gertie doesn’t complete? There is too much at stake for Gertie to feel. Any student who has ever felt left out or ostracized will relate to Gertie. Recommended for grades 3 & up.
by Patricia Reilly Giff
Grades 3 & up
Judith’s mother abandoned her as a toddler, leaving her with her Aunt Cora. While Judith has grown up loved and cared for, she hasn’t spoken to anyone since her mother left. This has caused her problems with friends and in school, though it seems that most people in their small island community do look out for her. Now in 5th grade in a regular class with a teacher new to the island, she faces new challenges and new people in her life. A quiet, introspective story. Recommended for grades 3 & up.
Juana and Lucas
by Juana Medina
Grades 1 & up
This super fun book is a great way to introduce early elementary students to kids like them living outside of the United States. Juana and her dog Lucas live in Bogota, Columbia. She takes us through her average school day, complete with lunch and recess, and we see the areas that are easy for her and where she struggles. This year she is starting to learn English and it is HARD. When she doesn’t see the importance of learning another language, she asks various people in her life what they think. They all answer positively, but it is her grandfather who manages to convince with her the promise of a trip to an amusement park in Florida. Sprinkled with Spanish words throughout, American kids will have no problem relating to spunky Juana. It is nice to see a book set in South America that does not deal with war or poverty. Highly recommended for grades 1 & up.