Readers of Roald Dahl and Rick Riordan will likely enjoy The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes, a mixture of Mayan mythology, adventure, and magic featuring Zane Obispo and his three-legged dog Rosie.  Rosie is a half-boxer, half Dalmatian who is Zane’s best friend, loyal companion, and kindred spirit.  Together, the two explore the mesas in New Mexico, but their favorite turf is the volcano—aka the Beast—in their backyard. Thirteen-year-old Zane has one leg shorter than the other, so he walks with his warrior dragon cane, a gift from his mom to give him confidence.  Although his bum leg is a medical mystery that makes himRead More →

The child of first-generation Chinese immigrants to the United States, Kelly Yang writes a work of fiction, Front Desk, based on her own life so that her son could know her story and take inspiration, not fear, from the life of shame and pain and poverty and joy she experienced as a child.  Yang tells her story through Mia Tang and Jason Tao to open the eyes and fill the hearts of readers, giving them empathy for people from all backgrounds and walks of life and arousing in them the courage needed to stand up to injustice when they see it. Jason’s dad, Mr. YaoRead More →

At seventeen years old, the protagonist in The Fall of Grace by Amy Fellner Dominy, Grace Marie Pierce, is living the life of a privileged girl, the pure embodiment of the American dream with money, security, friends, and hope for a golden future.  Hardly ever angry, Grace has been sheltered by wealth and fame as the daughter of Janelle Pierce, an investment broker who swaddles herself in luxury: exotic travel, expensive clothes, and other unlimited material comforts.  Janelle occasionally escapes the heat of Phoenix, Arizona, and the stress of the financial world by visiting her favorite place, Blue Lakes in Ridgway, Colorado, where the serenity and theRead More →

Consumed by grief, the Darrow family is broken, and nine-year-old Stanley is wishing with all his effort that some kind of magic will arrive to put his family back together after the death of his father.  “From the bottom of [his] flip-flops to the top of [his] Chicago Cubs baseball cap” (22), Stanley vows to find a way to make that happen. While searching for a solution, Stanley encounters a man in a green jacket who can make leaves dance.  When the mysterious man with a crooked grin shows up on the Darrow’s front step, Stanley wonders whether a male nanny (a manny?) can replaceRead More →

More than an adventure story, The Care and Feeding of a Pet Black Hole by Michelle Cuevas is an earth (space) science lesson as well as a grief healing journey.  Overwhelmed by the pain of loss, eleven-year-old Stella Rodriguez narrates her story to her deceased father, whose “missing you feeling” follows her everywhere.  With the Voyager 2 launch date only months away, Stella is desperate to visit with Carl Sagan who might send something into space for her on his Golden Record.  On her way home from the failed attempt, she encounters big needy eyes, “eyes that shimmered and seemed to have tiny galaxies insideRead More →

Maverick Falconer is the world’s lamest super-hero, in his estimation.  At age eleven, he’s small, weak, near-sighted, prone to allergies, and possesses an anti-dollar forcefield.  But none of those shortcomings deter Maverick from his goal: Doing good deeds, righting wrongs, standing up against evil, and protecting anybody who is small or weak. When Maverick was three, his military firefighter dad, died, leaving Maverick alone with an alcoholic and neglectful mother who dates a string of abusive men.  The only stable person in his life is Aunt Cat, who is as wild as her name.  But she loves, defends, and protects Maverick.  Wanting to live inRead More →

For almost four years, birthdays have been a problem for fifth grader Cadence Mariah Jolly, the main character in Sherri Winston’s novel The Sweetest Sound.  The trickiness of birthdays began the day after Cadence’s seventh birthday, when her mother left a farewell note on the coffeepot revealing that life in Harmony, Pennsylvania, was hampering her passion to be a singer.  When Chantel Marie Jolly abandons her family, her daughter’s world slips into darkness. Now, Cadence, whom everyone calls Mouse, is known as the shy and quiet girl whose mother has left.  For Cadence, spending an entire day reading and writing or listening to music andRead More →

Had Molly Rosenberg known that middle school was going to be the high point in her life, she would have tried harder to enjoy it.  Now, she’s a freshman at Santa Monica High School in Southern California, and she’s friendless and living a life haunted by past mistakes and regrets.  Because she suffers from severe anxiety and panic attacks, her service dog Pixel coaxes her to breathe. But life wasn’t always like this.  Before everything changed, the Rosenbergs were a regular family who played Monopoly or snuggled under blankets to watch old movies together.  “After the awful thing that happened last winter” (47), Mom became addictedRead More →

Similar to Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, The Way Back to You by Michelle Andreani and Mindi Scott uses a road trip as a metaphor for the journey survivors take as they learn how to cope with death and loss. After sixteen-year-old Ashlyn Montiel dies in a freakish bicycle accident in Bend, Oregon, her boyfriend—Kyle Ocie, a baseball player who doesn’t believe in the afterlife—and her best friend—sassy, smart, cheerleader Claudia Marlowe—have difficulty overcoming the shock of having Ashlyn ripped from their lives.  Realizing they will never be with her again not only affects how the two live; the idea of going on withoutRead More →