Perfect for animal lovers, How to Heal a Gryphon by Meg Cannistra puts a magical spin on veterinarians and showcases a plump witch with spunk and sass. Giada Bellantuonos is twelve, and on her thirteenth birthday, she is expected to take the oath to become a guaritrice and to join the family business. These guardians of the people use their power to strengthen people. However, the family business is not Giada’s dream. She has lived in the shadow of her famous brother Rocco, and wants her own identity as a famous fixer. Rather than heal people, she wishes instead to honor Diana, goddess of wildRead More →

Readers of Katherine Patterson will likely appreciate Yonder by Ali Standish. The community of Foggy Gap proves the world is a confusing place—with gaps in understanding and with clarity of vision required on subjects like justice, prejudice, war, and courage. Set in the early 1940s, Standish shares a perspective of what the years surrounding World War II may have been like in the United States. Her story suggests that the country’s role in WWII is more complicated than many of us are taught to believe, especially in the way in which news about Hitler’s Jewish extermination campaign was publicized or received limited coverage. For theRead More →

To reflect her view that the War to End All Wars didn’t do its job because of its complicated and convoluted nature, Jennifer A. Nielsen uses five viewpoints to tell the story Lines of Courage. Through her five protagonists, whose paths all cross, readers are invited to widen their perspective on WWI. Living in Austria-Hungary, a twelve-year-old Jewish boy, Felix Baum was present on June 28, 1914 when he saw a glint of metal and could have screamed a warning. Instead, paralyzed by fear, he remains silent and watches the Archduke of Bosnia and his wife die. The assassination sets in motion events that leadRead More →

Largely inspired by her father’s own story, Wai Chim writes Freedom Swimmer to capture a tumultuous time in China’s history. Set in Guangdong Province in 1968, the novel reveals the journey of Ming Hong who is orphaned at age eleven. For him, the past dances in dark shadows and whispers of loss and loneliness. Ming, who is shy and resigned to his fate, loves the ocean—its murmuring, its offer of freedom, and its ability to drown his fears. Swimming not only gives him peace and confidence but brings him closer to his father and the strength of his dream of reaching Hong Kong. At theRead More →

Set in Ohio, Any Sign of Life by Rae Carson is about a post-apocalyptic world when an airborne virus more deadly than the corona virus has wiped out most of humanity. Terrified and overwhelmed, the few survivors must decide whether they wish to fight or they will give in to despair. Carson invites her readers to wonder what keeps us going since so many of our hopes and dreams—our reasons for living—are determined by sociocultural constructs. Do we recreate what we’ve lost or do we rebuild with something new and better? By asking what happens when all our reasons for living are taken away, CarsonRead More →

Better with Butter by Victoria Piontek takes on the topic of mental health awareness. Her novel features twelve-year-old Marvel McKenna who lives with an anxiety disorder. When she’s not thinking of global, world-ending tragedies, Marvel is thinking of small “me-centric concerns.”  In fact, her insides feel like a forest with “one worry pollinating another” (70). Targeting middle school readers, Piontek’s storyline opens the dialogue about mental challenges. Through Marvel, young readers will come to know that pep talks don’t magic someone back to health, nor can anxiety be teased or bullied out of a person either.  What people with such a condition need most isRead More →

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker tells the colorful story of Olympia, a twelve-year-old artist who is named after a painting by French painter Manet.  Olympia’s (aka Ollie) dad Graham is an art restorer and her mom Doll is a sculptor.  The family lives in the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, New York. Ollie’s best friends are Alex, an agile young man who Spiderman’s his way up a wall and who practices jumps like a stuntman in training; and Richard, a monster aficionado fascinated by science who is developing a scrapbook that he calls the Taxonomy.  Using her sketching talent, Ollie will occasionallyRead More →

Imagine living underground without sunlight, sky, fresh air, or space to run unfettered.  Set in an underground city called Caverna, A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge imagines that possibility for the reader.  An amazing machine where nothing happens naturally or without planning, the city is home to many craftsmen and women who create the world’s delicacies: wines, cheeses, spices, perfumes, and balms.  Despite these elegant refinements with their magical properties, Caverna is a dark and drab and dank place, where even the citizenry have been deprived of real emotion.  Instead, they select a suitable Face from the 200 they have been taught in infancy. Read More →