Fight + Flight by Jules Machias is a book for any young reader looking for a story that shows how to face a barrage of struggles that seem to occur simultaneously. A pansexual thirteen-year-old with lots of sass, Avery Hart loves dirt bikes because they’re “buzzy and beautiful.” This bold and assertive girl dreams of becoming “a robotics engineer who invents adorable AI assistants that do boring chores like washing dishes and folding laundry and cleaning the bathroom” (26). Diagnosed with the hypermobile type of Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (hEDS), Avery’s body presents a series of challenges. Although she has always been rubber-band flexible, now she isRead More →

Written for middle grade readers, The Not-So-Uniform Life of Holly-Mei by Christina Matula is a strong reminder that things don’t always go as planned and that life doesn’t follow some script. Besides sharing the experiences of seventh grader, Holly-Mei Jones, a mixed Taiwanese Canadian who moves abroad to Hong Kong, Matula imparts a rich mix of cultural details—including mores for behavior like guanxi (relationships, connections, network) and multiple gustatory delights like bolo bao (pineapple buns) and jiaozi (dumplings). She even includes recipes following the book’s glossary of the Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taiwanese words, sayings, and other terms used in the novel. While heritage is aRead More →

In his novel Drifters, Kevin Emerson explores what it feels like to be adrift, to not fit in or to feel empty and alone.  Where Micah Rogers blooms in a group of people, Jovie Williams withers. Now, Micah has disappeared, and Jovie feels untethered. Her missing friend leaves a hole in the world and a hollow feeling inside Jovie. Although other people are able to “move on” with their lives, Jovie is obsessed with finding her friend. When she discovers evidence that suggests Micah may have found a way to cross into an alternate universe, she is determined to bring her back. Jovie secures theRead More →

Growing up, Rochelle Hassan read about dragons, quests, and unlikely heroes. Now, she writes about them in her first novel, The Prince to Nowhere. Hassan’s novel is set in the Aerlands, an imaginary world prowled by multiple monsters. To defend human settlements from these terrors, a mist hovers. This protective enchantment was placed there by the legendary mage Aurelion Kader.  In a community called Brume, twelve-year-old Roda lives with her mother and her aunt Dora. Kind, compassionate, and possessing a desire to help, Roda has always looked up to her brave aunt. When Roda begins receiving cryptic letters from Anonymous, she grows curious. The lettersRead More →

Apart from his name, Cymbeline Igloo thinks he is normal in every way. A friendly and supportive nine-year-old, Cymbeline isn’t aware of how odd his life story is until a nightmare invades with the heaviness of death. One of Cym’s classmates pushes him into the pool during a school activity, an action which triggers Cym’s mom, Janet Igloo, to have a mental breakdown. Now, Cymbeline’s routine and familiar life has been disrupted in a major way. Cym is left to solve the mystery of his mother’s discomfort with swimming. As Cym sleuths out the details with the help of Veronique Chang—a genius and fellow classmateRead More →

With her novel Green Eyes and Ham, Mary Penney explores multiple topics relevant to middle grade readers. In her protagonist Abraham Hudson, readers will find a relatable character who confronts familiar conflicts. After all, the junior high years are fraught with challenges revolving around issues like first love, sexuality, friendship, and finding a sense of belonging where everything looks different, smells different, tastes different and where the language and customs are also unknowns. For twelve years, Ham has been homeschooled, but when his mother, who is a priest, experiences a cardiac event and needs to pare some of the stress from her life, Ham isRead More →

Any reader looking for a book that teaches middle schoolers to talk back to power and to channel anger into productive civic action will find that Unfadeable by Maurice Broaddus is a prime candidate. Broaddus paints the character of his protagonist, Isabella Fades, aka Unfadeable or Bella, as a confident tagger and painter of murals in her Indiana neighborhood. Both strong and stubborn, thirteen-year-old Bella is unintimidated by adults and fighting to make the world a prettier place. She’s also homeless and hiding that fact from the powers that be. When she approaches the city to secure money for a youth arts program to beautify herRead More →

Twelve-year-old Logan Foster is good at research, deductive reasoning, and logical problem-solving. However, he is not so adept at emotional responses, human interaction, and reading social cues. This unique protagonist evolves into the hero of Shawn Peters’ novel The Unforgettable Logan Foster.  Set in Santa Monica, California, Peters’ novel retells the story of an orphan who loves comics. Logan considers comics relatable because most superheroes are orphans. They also work to undermine villains and thwart bullies. When Gil Grant and Margie Morrow visit the El Segundo Transitional Orphanage (ESTO) as promising prospective foster parents, Logan experiences the feeling of being wanted and decides it feelsRead More →

Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis by Susan Hood with Greg Dawson is a novel about the Holocaust told in verse and organized into seven parts. The story rings with Zhanna’s love for her Ukrainian homeland, sorrow for her lost family, and fury for both Stalin and the Nazis. The story opens with the insatiable curiosity of Zhanna Arshanskaya, a born explorer. Until 1935, Zhanna and her sister, Frina, live a candy-coated life in Berdyansk, Ukraine, nestled near the Sea of Azov. When Stalin begins to devour their country and imposes “death by hunger,” the family is forced to seek refuge inRead More →