Justina Ireland explores the notion of unfairness in her novel for middle grade readers, Ophie’s Ghosts.  Readers will accompany Ireland on this justice-seeking journey as she asks important questions: How do we live, survive, and thrive in a system that is unjust? How do we remain strong and unbent, willing to do the right thing, even when it puts our own comfort and lives at risk? What are we willing to put on the line in the name of justice that is denied to us? How do we grieve when the ghosts of our loss appear in the everyday suffering of those around us? AsRead More →

Told in 33 chapters by seven voices, Linked by Gordon Korman shares the story of a swastika that sets in motion a series of unintended consequences.  Because the administration at Chokecherry Middle School believes that information is the best antidote to the poison of prejudice, the 600 students who attend are subjected to tolerance education. Still, the swastikas continue to show up. What initially seemed to be a sick joke turns into something more sinister. The persistence dredges up 40-year-old memories of the Ku Klux Klan in Shadbush County and the Night of a Thousand Flames.  Soon, the quiet town of Chokecherry, Colorado, is madeRead 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 →

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 1848, Starting from Seneca Falls by Karen Schwabach joins a multitude of other information-rich, historical fiction books written for young readers.  Schwabach’s novel features eleven-year-old Brigid Gallagher (aka Bridie) who was born in Ireland but orphaned when her last living relative—her mother—is left destitute by a husband who drinks too much.  That is after her father and her brothers die on the coffin ships navigating to America during the potato famine in Ireland. Because Bridie asks question, points out the problems with things, speaks when not spoken to, and has opinions about the way things ought to be, she is considered trouble.  SheRead More →

Whether readers celebrate National Space Day in May, World Space Week in October, or simply dream of someday being an astronaut, We Dream of Space by Erin Entrada Kelly is an inspiring book. It will also appeal to those who enjoy arcade games or who have ever wondered about family, friendship, tragedy, science, and exploration. Kelly’s book follows three plot threads as it accompanies the experiences of Henry Nelson Thomas (aka Fitch), Bernadette Nelson Thomas (aka Bird), and Cash Nelson Thomas.  The perspectives of these three siblings add unique insights to being twelve and thirteen while living in Delaware in the 1980s. Fitch received hisRead More →

Set in 1941 in Viteretz, Ukraine, Don’t Tell the Nazis is a historical fiction account of events during the Soviet Occupation of Ukraine, the few days of “freedom,” and the German infiltration that followed.   Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch frames her story around real people and events so as to be true to the history but takes liberties to humanize it. Readers follow the heroism of Krystia Fediuk, a twelve-year-old girl wishing to bring the hope back to her mama’s eyes after Tato’s death from cancer.  Krystia steps in to take on the tedious tasks that could wear her mama down, but she feels powerless against Ukraine’sRead More →

For the past year, Stuart Mallory and Sophie Sawyer have lived and breathed Camelot’s Honor, an online multi-player game featuring King Arthur, Guinevere, Morgana, Merlin, and the many other characters from Arthurian Legend.  Slaving away on menial quests, gaining experience, and rising in levels, the two tweens are obsessed with gaming.  After all, life is so much easier inside the game where a person never has to worry about being cool or impressing anyone else.  Also unlike junior high, there are no surprises in the game, all the fight sequences can be researched online, and a person can look and act any way he orRead More →

Set in New York in 1863 at the time of the Civil War, Daniel José Older’s series novel Dactyl Hill Squad is a blend of history and fantasy with an abundance of action and adventure. Although Older adds dinosaur riders to his story—giving twelve-year-old Magdalys Roca the special ability to hear the dinos’ thoughts and control them with her mind—he tells the truth about orphan life and explores some other very real social issues.  For example, he mocks segregation habits like designating riding privileges along racial lines or colonization attempts like renaming. When the Kidnapping Club, led by the devious Magistrate Rich Riker, burns downRead More →