Maddie and her friends are excited to audition for the eighth grade play Romeo and Juliet. There is plenty of drama happening on the middle school stage already with crushes, mean girls, cliques and rivalries. New girl Gemma with her good looks, British accent, and kind, cheery personality is a shoe in for Juliet. Maddie likes her, a lot, maybe as more than a friend. When the boy playing Romeo drops out only weeks before opening night, there is only one person who the director sees as a possible replacement. Is this Maddie dream role or her worst nightmare? Sprinkled with the Bard’s words, as well as the fun to be had using Shakespearean insults, this story will appeal to theatre geeks everywhere.
Aven likes to tell people that she lost her arms alligator wrestling in the Everglades or in a freak roller coaster accident or a skydiving trip gone wrong. The truth is that she was born without them. When her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to explain herself over and over again. There she meets Connor, a solitary boy who is dealing with his own disability. They become friends and discover a mystery with big secrets having to do with Aven's past (she is adopted). Aven is feisty, hilarious, and she can do it all...even without arms. If you loved Wonder, you will adore this book. youtu.be/s2usmrzHi5s Toetalks. Click for an interview with the author and two women who inspire her.
Harlem is home to three multi-ethnic kids. Jen watches life from the window of her family’s bodega. Alex wants to help the needy but keeps herself closed. An attack on Elvin’s grandfather has left him surviving on the streets alone. They come together to find out the truth about the grandfather’s attack. Their sleuthing leads them to a mysterious artist whose missing paintings are worth a fortune. A fortune that could save the neighborhood from development by an unscrupulous politician who wants to turn Harlem into a theme park. This exciting mystery explores what defines community, how art has the power to show truth and how we need to protect history and home.
Tessa Picks, 4th-7th grade, People of Color, Mystery, Fast paced, Friendship
What could be better than playing a munchkin in the Wizard of OZ? Well O.K. for me it would be the wicked witch. But Julia, did I mention that she is really short, is cast to play a munchkin. Not her idea. It’s her younger brother Randy who is the actor; she has just been coerced into tagging along to watch out for him. It turns out to be the summer of her life as she becomes best friends with one of the munchkins, Olive, an adult with dwarfism. Olive, the director, and an older neighbor who helps with costumes are all quirky wonderful characters who help Julia figure out who she is. “On opening night of the show: I lean into the window on the passenger side of the car. I smile at Mom and tell her something I’ve wanted to say all summer. “Thanks, Mom. Thanks for making me try out for this play.” I think I might just have made being a mother totally worthwhile for her. I will try to never forget her face…. Mom’s got tears in her eyes and she’s smiling. It’s an amazing look. I have to remember how powerful it can be to say thank you. Especially to the people you live with. They probably least expect it.” This book will have you laughing out loud one minute and swiping a tear the next.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-7th grade, Character driven, Humor, Friendship, Contemporary fiction.
Red is over 200 years old, but she still doesn't understand people. She's been the community's wish tree for a long time and seen all sorts of wishes from the silly to the profound. She's never actually done anything to grant a wish though. Trees are the strong, silent types. Then one day a new girl wishes for a friend. When Red finds out that she's going to be cut down, she decides that for once she's going to do something to make a wish come true.
I love the perspective of a Red Oak as a narrator and all the critters who live in and around her. There's so many delightful details like the naming conventions of all the animals from skunks (named after something sweet) to opossums (named after their biggest fear.) As someone who is fond of jokes that aren't always appreciated by others, I identified with the tree's attempts at humor.
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate Erica's Picks 3rd - 5th Grade Tags: Animals, Character Driven, Friendship, People of Color
When Anna reads Secret Garden, she decides she wants to create a magical garden of her own. Her family just moved to a new house with a back yard that looks pretty rough and weedy, but she can already see how it would look with a little help. Luckily there's a girl on her street whose birthday is just one day apart from hers. She can help her get the garden ready. But when school starts and poison ivy attacks, Anna wonders if she's lost her friend and her garden.
I love Anna's imagination and the way she navigates her new friendship. A lot of kids will love the storyline about the lost baby bunny they rescue. It's great for kids learning to read chapter books on their own, but parents would enjoy it as a read aloud as well.
Year of the Garden by Andrea Cheng
Erica's Picks 1st - 3rd Grade Tags: character driven, animals, contemporary fiction, friendship, people of color
Detective Gordon is getting on in years but he's still the best detective around. When he discovers a young mouse who steals a single nut out of hunger, he decides that instead of arresting her, he should take her on as an apprentice and give her food and shelter. They work together to solve cases around town. It's a funny book with a lot of heart and it would make a great read aloud. My favorite part is how particular he is with his stamp. It reminds me of when I let kids stamp their library books.
Squirrel Girl has the proportional strength and speed of a squirrel as well as the ability to talk to them. She even has a squirrel tail, but her mother insists that she hide it or the other kids would get jealous. More than that she has relentless optimism, and an irreverent take on all the other Marvel Superheroes. When she moves to a new town she tries to blend in with everyone else, but when a new super villain starts attacking the town, she knows she has use all her squirrel skills to save the day!
I love this younger, novel-length take on the Squirrel Girl story. I also enjoy the new character of her best friend who is Deaf and creates a name sign for Squirrel Girl. Fans as well as those new to the character will enjoy this romp through the marvel universe.
When Chase wakes up in a hospital room, he doesn't even recognize his own mother. As the weeks pass, his body recovers, but his past is still a complete blank. His dad tells Chase that he was the star of the football and lacrosse teams and his mom points out his best friends to him. But when school starts, he notices that kids shrink away from him in the hallways and his 'best friends' are jerks. He has a lot of questions about his past, but people are reluctant to answer him. As his memories come back and he learns who he was, the main question on everyone's mind is who will he be? Will the old Chase return, or is this a fresh start?
I loved this book! There's sports, humor, viral YouTube videos, and a lot more to enjoy. I particularly like that it shifts perspective so I got a sense of how the other students responded to Chase and how he affected their lives.
Since Cadence Jolly’s mom left town five years ago, the whole town protects and fosters her shyness. Now she is almost eleven and wants to break out of her shell. She needs to find the self-confidence to let herself and her amazing singing voice shine. There are going to be auditions for the church choir and Cadence and her friends Zara and Faith mean to make the grade. When a secret recording of Cadence singing leaks and catches the attention of the whole church, her friend wants to take the credit. How can she put herself out in the world and still keep her friends? Will she have the confidence to step into the spotlight? The sense of love, faith and community is heartwarming and Cadence is an endearing protagonist. Don't miss President of the Whole Fifth Grade by the same author.
Tessa's Picks, 3rd-5th grade, Contemporary fiction, Character driven, Friendship, People of Color