Healer of the Water Monster by Brian Young

Eleven years old and living in Phoenix, Arizona, Nathan Todacheenie is bouncing from one parent to another after loud arguments fractured the family. Now his divorced dad is dating, and Nathan is not happy about having to share his dad’s time with Leandra. So, he concocts a plan to spend summer break with his grandmother, who summers in New Mexico at her ancestral home on the Navajo Reservation, forty-five minutes

With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

When “quiet, nerdy Ada Bloom finally has a verifiable love interest” (2), several people are surprised—including Ada. After five months, dating affable, athletic Leo Robinson, who is captain of the swim team, the two teens decide their relationship has reached the threshold of “the next step.” After Leo pops the question, Ada realizes she is not ready, and her relationship unravels from there. Cynthia Hand spends the rest of her

When You Look Like Us by Pamela N. Harris

The plot of Pamela N. Harris’s debut novel When You Look Like Us revolves around the life of sixteen-year-old Jay Murphy, his sister Nicole (Nic), and his grandmother Marie Murphy (MiMi). MiMi’s hands are “badges of honor, proof of hard work” (56), and Jay looks forward to the day when she can rest them. He vows that “MiMi is going to retire in Florida, or wherever else she wants to”

I Am Defiance by Jenni L Walsh

With her middle grade novel I Am Defiance, Jenni L. Walsh joins the group of authors who have written about the chilling period in human history that reminds us of the power of hate and the danger of silence: World War II-era Germany and Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. However, Walsh takes her readers of historical fiction beyond that era to remind us all of the power of action, resistance,

In the Shadow of the Moon by Amy Cherrix

Told in stages, similar to the process that occurs in a rocket launch, Amy Cherrix invites her readers to do some critical thinking as they read her book In the Shadow of the Moon. With this nonfiction account, Cherrix tells the story of America, Russia, and the hidden history of the space race. Some of that history is dark because of the shadowy behavior of certain people. No doubt, we

Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

September 11, 2021 will mark the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, and Alan Gratz’s book Ground Zero is here to bring that history to middle grade readers. Told in alternating perspectives between Brandon Chavez, a nine-year-old living in New York City in 2001, and Reshmina, an eleven-year-old girl living in Afghanistan in 2019, the two tales run parallel to one another but ultimately intersect in a surprising twist. As the novel

Root Magic by Eden Royce

Set in the marshes of South Carolina, Root Magic by Eden Royce tells the story of James (Jay) and Jezabel (Jez) Turner—eleven year old twins whose grandmother has just passed. The marsh is a place of fascination, fun, and fear for Jez, who almost loses her life there to a haint. Root Magic is Eden Royce’s way of paying tribute to her African American roots.  In an author’s note, Royce

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stores for Kids edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ancestor Approved is a collection of intertribal stories with a target audience of middle grade youth.  It not only features rising Indigenous voices but the voices of well-established authors like Tim Tingle, Eric Gansworth, and Joseph Bruchac. The core of the book revolves around an intertribal powwow— an important gathering among native people that Rebecca Roanhorse describes through the eyes of Ozzie, the Rez dog,

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan tells the story of thirteen-year-old senior camper Victoria (Vic) Brown who is not happy with her mother’s decision to ship her off to Meadow Wood, a beautiful lakefront campus in New Hampshire where Vic has spent previous pleasure-filled summers. However, this summer, Vic had plans for sleeping in, binge-watching old television shows, floating on a raft at the pool while checking out

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Eleven years old and living in Phoenix, Arizona, Nathan Todacheenie is bouncing from one parent to another after loud arguments fractured the family. Now his divorced dad is dating, and Nathan is not happy about having to share his dad’s time with Leandra. So, he concocts a plan to spend summer break with his grandmother, who summers in New Mexico at her ancestral home on the Navajo Reservation, forty-five minutes north of Church Rock. Under the pretense that he will conduct a science experiment to compare water consumption between Nali’s (his grandmother) heirloom kernels that have been passed down to her through many generations andRead More →

When “quiet, nerdy Ada Bloom finally has a verifiable love interest” (2), several people are surprised—including Ada. After five months, dating affable, athletic Leo Robinson, who is captain of the swim team, the two teens decide their relationship has reached the threshold of “the next step.” After Leo pops the question, Ada realizes she is not ready, and her relationship unravels from there. Cynthia Hand spends the rest of her novel With You All the Way exploring what makes someone believe he or she is ready for sex. She also addresses various motivations for the sexual act: curiosity, revenge, being sixteen, doing something risky andRead More →

The plot of Pamela N. Harris’s debut novel When You Look Like Us revolves around the life of sixteen-year-old Jay Murphy, his sister Nicole (Nic), and his grandmother Marie Murphy (MiMi). MiMi’s hands are “badges of honor, proof of hard work” (56), and Jay looks forward to the day when she can rest them. He vows that “MiMi is going to retire in Florida, or wherever else she wants to” (17) once he builds her nest egg as repayment for her sacrifices. The family lives in Newport News, Virginia, in a housing project called the Ducts. Despite what other people might think, Jay is livingRead More →

With her middle grade novel I Am Defiance, Jenni L. Walsh joins the group of authors who have written about the chilling period in human history that reminds us of the power of hate and the danger of silence: World War II-era Germany and Adolph Hitler’s reign of terror. However, Walsh takes her readers of historical fiction beyond that era to remind us all of the power of action, resistance, words, and asking questions rather than blindly accepting what we are told. This book comes out in time to mark Hitler’s April 20th birthday so that readers might examine the truth through the curious eyesRead More →

Told in stages, similar to the process that occurs in a rocket launch, Amy Cherrix invites her readers to do some critical thinking as they read her book In the Shadow of the Moon. With this nonfiction account, Cherrix tells the story of America, Russia, and the hidden history of the space race. Some of that history is dark because of the shadowy behavior of certain people. No doubt, we are all well aware that people keep secrets, governments classify documents to keep the populace in the dark on certain topics, and individuals veil their intentions hoping to get what they want.  We also mayRead More →

September 11, 2021 will mark the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, and Alan Gratz’s book Ground Zero is here to bring that history to middle grade readers. Told in alternating perspectives between Brandon Chavez, a nine-year-old living in New York City in 2001, and Reshmina, an eleven-year-old girl living in Afghanistan in 2019, the two tales run parallel to one another but ultimately intersect in a surprising twist. As the novel opens, Brandon has been suspended for punching a bully in the nose, and because his mother has died and no one is available to watch him at home, he has to accompany his father toRead More →

Set in the marshes of South Carolina, Root Magic by Eden Royce tells the story of James (Jay) and Jezabel (Jez) Turner—eleven year old twins whose grandmother has just passed. The marsh is a place of fascination, fun, and fear for Jez, who almost loses her life there to a haint. Root Magic is Eden Royce’s way of paying tribute to her African American roots.  In an author’s note, Royce explains that although rootwork is not a religion, it is a spiritual and magical practice whose traditions are passed down in families. Rootwork, along with many of the African American food traditions, is one ofRead More →

Edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ancestor Approved is a collection of intertribal stories with a target audience of middle grade youth.  It not only features rising Indigenous voices but the voices of well-established authors like Tim Tingle, Eric Gansworth, and Joseph Bruchac. The core of the book revolves around an intertribal powwow— an important gathering among native people that Rebecca Roanhorse describes through the eyes of Ozzie, the Rez dog, as “a riot of color and noise and happy people” (83). Adding a unifying as well as a humorous thread, Ozzie turns up in several of the later stories wearing either an Ancestor Approved orRead More →

Summer at Meadow Wood by Amy Rebecca Tan tells the story of thirteen-year-old senior camper Victoria (Vic) Brown who is not happy with her mother’s decision to ship her off to Meadow Wood, a beautiful lakefront campus in New Hampshire where Vic has spent previous pleasure-filled summers. However, this summer, Vic had plans for sleeping in, binge-watching old television shows, floating on a raft at the pool while checking out the lifeguards, and shining flashlight beams into the night sky as she and Jamie, her bestie in Pennsylvania, whispered their deepest wishes and fears to each other. Instead, she is covered in sweat, fighting aRead More →