Set in Cuba and the United Stated from 1958-1961, Farewell Cuba, Mi Isla by Alexandra Diaz was inspired by history. Many readers will recall the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Bay of Pigs, a time when Cubans fled from the tyranny of Fidel Castro, seeking refuge in Florida. While several of those refugees thought their home in the United States would be temporary, believing that the US would not allow a Communist country so close to their border, that belief did not come to pass. Borrowing from memories of her own family’s stories, Diaz creates two tween cousins, Victoria Pino del Mar and Jacqueline RomeroRead More →

Bobert Bougainvillea is eleven years old and feels virtually invisible. Actually, he might be oscillating between visibility and invisibility, given that there is all kinds of evil scheming taking place in Nefaria. Such is the opening of Adi Alsaid’s first novel for middle grade readers, The Bravest Warrior in Nefaria. When Bobert is in a visible phase, he invites some classmates to the town square to do homework while he waits for his parents. Here the group discusses Nefaria’s gumball machine which has been cursed by Evil Wizard Matt.  In every corner of the kingdom, both commoners and nobles are known to be dreaming upRead More →

Middle-schooler Shane Johnson loves the sounds, action, and energy of basketball. On the court, he feels most whole and alive. After he is in a serious accident that leaves him in a coma for a month, Shane returns to basketball, but Travis Clark has taken over his position on the team. How will Shane regain that lost part of himself so that he no longer feels empty, helpless, and without a purpose? Now that he is on the road to full recovery, Shane is happy to be out from under the pain, anger, sadness, and stress that he thought would hover like a dark cloudRead More →

Award-winning author Minh Lê and illustrator Chan Chau collaborated to produce Enlighten Me, a graphic novel for young readers. After he is threatened with disciplinary action at school following a fight, Bihn and his family travel to Three Jewels Mountain Retreat for meditation exercises. Binh Bui, a Vietnamese boy, is taunted for eating cat and takes on the school bully. Thinking he is a hero, like those he sees in his video games, Binh is confused by the reaction of his parents and his vice principal. While at Three Mountains, Binh learns from the teachings of Sister Peace about the diamond of knowledge that grantsRead More →

Living in Maryland, Nova and Sparkle Moore are sisters who both love dancing, modeling, and acting. Thanks to their mother’s backdrops, props, and posing techniques, the duo has social media followers and are on their way to being influencers despite being only fifth and sixth graders. Along with her best friends, Taryn Wood—an advanced level ballet and tap dancer—and Rae Ferrell—a true, creative artist, Sparkle attends the Arts Academy whose motto is “dream big; anything is possible.” As the three friends vow to steer clear of bad energy and to explore their true gifts, they also have to navigate peer politics and bullies. Sparkle livesRead More →

Mexican-American author Pedro Martín writes a graphic memoir with his latest creation, Mexikid. Largely, it features a 1970s setting and recounts Pedro’s memories growing up. As a Mexican his name is Pedro, but as an American, he is Peter. The dual names are all part of being a Mexikid, according to Martín whose feet are planted on American soil but whose heart belongs to both sides of the border and whose head is trying to fill in the gaps in his own heritage story. A creative, barrel-shaped boy, Pedro likes comic books and collects action figures. These characteristics often make him the target of others’Read More →

Sixth grader Frances Bishop is prone to worry. She wonders how thoughts can be compartmentalized or put into a box when “worry is like water. It leaks” (41). Furthermore, “no one chooses to worry. Worry just is” (99), and it causes Franny to get herself into a tangle. Because her mother is a former drug addict, Franny has had to be the responsible one, making worry a constant for her. As an escape, Franny has math where the problems have clear steps and a solution. Math is her happy place. Franny also has an ally in her mother’s Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Mimi, whoRead More →

Kin: Rooted in Hope by Carole Boston Weatherford is a powerful textual tribute to “the ancestors who carried us through” accented by scratchboard-like illustrations by Jeffery Boston Weatherford. In this verse novel, the Weatherfords conjure the voices of their ancestors and speak to them and through them with their art. Seeking answers to key questions: “At what age is hope born, when does resistance first rise up, and when do dreams wither” (22-23), the mother/son pair tells a moving story of their family tree. Their goal is to give voice to their African-American ancestors who were “marginalized, muted, or muzzled” as they tilled fields intoRead More →

Set in Maine, Sparrow Being Sparrow by Gail Donovan and illustrated by Elysia Case is a novel for middle grade readers. It features Sarah Robinson, aka Sparrow, who is a fourth grader at Eastbrook Elementary School. High-spirited and imaginative, Sparrow loves to dance and leap. In one of Sparrow’s rambunctious moments, her neighbor Mrs. LaRose leaps with Sparrow and ends up breaking a hip. As a way to make amends for what she sees as her fault, Sparrow takes care of Mrs. LaRose’s seven cats. Besides being a story about developing responsibility, Sparrow Being Sparrow also addresses other middle grade issues. Along with Sparrow, readersRead More →