A novel for middle-grade readers, Gigi Shin Is Not a Nerd by Lyla Lee tells the story of a seventh grade mixed race girl, Ji-Young who selected the American name Gigi. Living in Texas, Gigi draws for adventure. Although her parents want her to pursue a career that privileges math and science, Gigi loves art and creating comic characters like Meteor Girl and Choir Boy. When the opportunity to attend Starscape, a prestigious summer art camp, comes along, Gigi is determined to attend. However, when Gigi asks her parents about the camp, they tell her that money is tight. Frustrated by their lack of supportRead More →

A graphic novel organized in five parts, K Is in Trouble by Gary Clement tells the story of young K. Although K has ambitions and hopes to be a writer someday, he more often finds himself misunderstood and admonished. As he navigates a world of mostly unkind adults, K tries to please but rarely receives compliments. Ultimately, this is a quick read on the absurdities of childhood. K talks to a beetle, converses with a crow, and finds himself tricked by a talking carp. These creatures have more patience with K than any of the adults he encounters.Read More →

Written by Jessixa Bagley and illustrated by Aaron Bagley, Duel is a graphic novel about family relationships as much as it is about fencing. With creative word play and pictures, the pair tell the story of Lucy and Georgia (Gigi) Jones whose passion is fencing, a passion developed by their father and passed on to his two daughters. When Dad unexpectedly dies, the girls and their mother forget how to be a family, and soon, they are in turmoil. Feeling inadequate and unsure of themselves, the two tweens take out their frustrations on one another. Pushed to her limits, Lucy challenges her sister to aRead More →

Set in Oahu, Hawaii, in 1941, Heroes by Alan Gratz is a novel about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Two thirteen-year-old boys: Stanley Summer and Frank McCoy, whose fathers are pilots for the U.S. Navy, bond over their love of comic books. The two see the fleet of ships on Battleship Row as a metaphor for superheroes: the Justice Society of America. Frank is a writer and Stanley an illustrator. Together, they invent characters, write their origin stories, and draw them into situations where they emerge as heroes. However, Frank feels a bit like a fraud. Ever since The Incident in Florida, their last militaryRead More →

Set in Minnesota, Just Keep Walking is a middle grade novel written in part to encourage resilience and perseverance in tweens. Erin Soderberg Downing creates twelve-year-old Josephine Conlan, aka Jo, to carry her message about not giving up in the face of adversity and challenge. Jo’s older brother, Jake, is in college now, and her dad side-stepped into a new family despite his promise to take his daughter on the Superior Hiking Trail the summer of her seventh grade year.  With all of her alone time, Jo experiences “too many uncomfortable silences. Too much time to think about the way things used to be. TooRead More →

Remember My Story by Claire Sarnowski with Sarah Durand recounts the memories of the author who befriends Alter Wiener, a Holocaust survivor, when she is only nine years old. The main purpose of the book is to share the truth that remembering the history of atrocities like the Jewish genocide can help prevent intolerance, violence, and hate. After hearing Alter Wiener’s presentation about his surviving the concentration camps, Claire is inspired by his attitude to “become better, not bitter.” Despite their huge age gap—Alter is 87—the two become fast friends, and together they spread the message that we can’t remove pain by hiding the truthRead More →

Set in Colorado, Backcountry by Jenny Goebel tells the story of thirteen-year-old Emily Walker. Daughter of a mom with grit and determination who tells her to play it safe and an athletic dad who tells her to go for it, Em is a lead attacker for the Impalers’ volleyball team. Strong, adventurous, and Identifying as an athlete, Em feels like she has to compete with Dad’s real estate clients for attention. Because a bad appraisal or inspection often takes precedence over Emily and her mother, Emily believes that her dad only pays attention to her life when she is winning tournaments and trophies. When EmilyRead More →

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 →