Author Christine Day claims to have written The Sea of Winter for young people who struggle with loneliness, a separation from friends, and uncertainty about the future. It is also for those learning to live with and recover from trauma. However, it’s not just a story for those who despair but for readers who can relate to athletes whose dreams are altered by injury. It’s for readers of Cynthia Leitich Smith, James Welch, and Jennifer Longo or for anyone struggling to find joy again and needing a reminder that pain is temporary. Twelve-year-old Maisie Cannon is a Makah/Piscataway girl whose sanctuary is ballet school. SheRead More →

In the kingdom of Nothing, every time peace between the volken and the human races seems imminent, something happens to fuel the conflict with fear or lies and then prevent the two factions from achieving peaceful coexistence. What or who is behind this perpetual warring? Targeting middle-grade readers, the graphic novel Fantastic Tales of Nothing by Alejandra Green and Fanny Rodriguez is an adventure featuring an unlikely quartet: Nathan Cadwell, Sina, Bardou, and Haven, who form an unexpected bond. Nathan is a human boy who simply wants a quiet and peaceful life, with maybe a little money to gamble now and then. Sina Crowe is a volken,Read More →

Sixth grader and lover of horses, Waka Tanaka was born in the United States and lives in Kansas, but her Japanese parents worry that Waka’s Japanese language skills are lacking, so they decide to send her to Tokyo to live with her Obaasama, her grandmother. In her semi-autobiographical account, While I Was Away, Waka T. Brown shares Waka’s struggle to find a place in her grandmother’s home, to curate a friend group, and to read and write the complicated strokes of kanji. Brown also takes the reader on a tour of Japan with its culinary, linguistic, and cultural practices. In Tokyo, Waka experiences a life-changingRead More →

Betita is a nine-year-old girl with a loving family in modern-day America. She enjoys learning new words, spelling, drawing, and playing with other kids her age. What appears to be a rather normal life quickly begins to unravel into fear and uncertainty when her Papi doesn’t pick her up after school one day. After failing to reach her father, the principal drives Betita home. While her mother tries to hide her worry, Betita knows something is wrong, and she soon finds out that the almost-worst has happened. Her father has been deported, leaving her mother, who is newly pregnant, and Betita to fend for themselvesRead More →

With her recent autobiographical account in Out of Hiding: A Holocaust’s Survivor’s Journey to America, Ruth Gruener (aka Luncia Gamzer) tells her story of survival. Her memoir joins those stories told by other survivors of this unimaginable time in history. This was a time when anxiety turned to cold, raw fear as the Nazis burned synagogues and committed murder without regard for the sanctity of human life—a time when choice was taken, freedom was scarce, and normal took on an entirely different definition. Gruener tells of her feeling like a nonperson, “a body that took up space” (27). She describes hunger, loneliness, hiding, and aRead More →

With Cinders & Sparrows, Stefan Bachmann has written a gothic novel for middle grade readers. Given the genre, his book incorporates ghosts, spirits, hauntings, misty woods, gloomy environs, enchanted chambers and staircases, talking trees and a marble bust who claims to be a prince. The novel’s plot revolves around twelve-year-old Zita Brydgeborn and her discovery that she is not an orphan after all but a member of the Brydgeborn family of witches and the heiress to Blackbird Castle. With Mrs. Cantanker as her teacher, Zita receives all sorts of training—some of it oddly questionable. Still, according to Mrs. Cantanker, “A true Blackbird is graced withRead More →

Although Cynthia Voigt’s newest book, Little Bird, has a target audience of middle-grade readers, with its anthropomorphism, it joins beast fables like Monkey Wars by Richard Kurti and Watership Down by Richard Adams, adding its own brand of commentary on human societies and behaviors. The title character, Little Bird belongs to a small flock of crows who forage, guard against danger, and live out their short lives near Old Davis Farm. However, Little Bird doesn’t have the sharp-beaked, sharp-clawed, and sharp-spoken way of other crows. She discovers additional differences between herself and other crows, when the flock loses a good luck charm called Our Luck,Read More →

A Thousand Questions by Saadia Faruqi is a story that captures the ideas of belonging and imagination and poverty and richness, with a focus on economic disparity  With her novel, Faruqi also pays homage to Karachi, a city of her own childhood, as she attempts to help readers better understand Pakistan. To fulfill this objective, Faruqi creates eleven-year-old Mimi, whose father, Tom Scotts, is a journalist who travels a lot for his job. Her mother, Samia, is an art teacher and painter.  Because the couple has grown apart and decide to separate, Mimi, who is about to enter sixth grade in Houston, feels abandoned andRead More →

Believing that humor is often more honest than being serious and that laughter contributes to resilience, author John Cusick writes books laden with laughter and bordering on the absurd. When Lola Ray and Phineas Fogg find themselves in a precarious situation where the fate of the universe is at stake, Phin must keep Lola from falling into the hands of the evil Goro Bolus and the Temporal Transit Authority who will turn her over to the Phan. The young duo must both get out of New Jersey, off the planet, and as far away from Earth’s solar system as they can. In their attempt atRead More →