The history of the Jewish Empire of Khazaria would die out completely if not for stories like Black Bird, Blue Road. In this historical fiction account, Sofiya Pasternack shares the story of Ziva and Pesha, twelve year old twins. Stubborn, persistent, passionate, and observant, Ziva aspires to be a judge. Her brother, Pesha may not have the same fire, but he is brilliant in his own way. Ziva is convinced that with his inventive mind, Pesha will find a cure not only for the leprosy that afflicts him but for other diseases, as well. Selfless and kind, Pesha also has a gift for learning languages.Read More →

Alechia Dow writes an intriguing speculative story with her novel The Kindred. Her two protagonists—as is everyone else in the Monchuri system—have been linked with since birth. The Kindred program was created after The Second Chaos, a revolution in which the poor rose up demanding that their voices be heard by the rich. Maru’s top scientists created the mind pairing idea as a solution. Because those who are paired come to know each other’s thoughts so intimately, they often marry. However, in the case of Joy Abara and Felix Hamdi, a pairing is unlikely since he’s of royal blood and in line for the throneRead More →

The Shattered Castle is Book Five in the Ascendance Series by Jennifer Nielsen, and it is as rich with action and adventure as it is filled with lessons for living an honorable life. When Jaron Artolius Eckbert the Third defeated the Prozarian Army, he stole the Devil’s Scope and kept the secret for himself. Now he must not only defend Carthya from the vengeful Prozarians and protect his kingdom and his throne from the power-hungry Castor Veldergrath but win back the trust he lost from Imogen, who is furious with him for this betrayal. Nielsen weaves her plot with mastery and creates her characters withRead More →

Set in the fictional country of Mariposa, The Samosa Rebellion by Shanthi Sekaran tells the story of several twelve-year-old middle schoolers who attend Marble Hill Preparatory (MHP) Academy.  When Muki Krishnan spots Dragonflies—a type of spy drone—monitoring the neighborhood of Oceanview and suddenly hears people talking about moths versus butterflies, he knows strange things are afoot, so he is glad to have his best friend Fabi Calderón by his side. Fabi is smart, funny, genuine, great at soccer, and immune to what the world thinks. Unlike Tinley Schaedler and others whose families have ancestors from Mariposa, the two friends are on scholarship to attend MHP,Read More →

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi is a book about dogs and humans. Eleven-year-old Quinn has lost his dad to a heart attack and his dog Murph to a vehicle accident, and now he’s losing his brother Jessie to a pack of bullies. Craving love and attention, Quinn accepts a job with Miss Lottie, who has created a family of dogs she is giving another chance. Quinn develops into a good belly rubber and an excellent chin scratcher, beloved by the pack of rescue dogs. When the story opens, four dogs comprise the pack. With his strength and courage, Tank is loyal and trusty—a true bulldogRead 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 →

Kim Johnson’s debut young adult novel is a stunning work of realistic fiction. It joins the ranks of stories written by Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds, and Jesmyn Ward.  With This Is My America, Johnson uses art as a tool to inspire social action. Drawing on the idealism, perseverance, and passion of her protagonist Tracy Beaumont, Johnson encourages us to use our voices to demand justice and to become advocates for diversity, equity, and inclusion. Rooted in United States history, where we have inherited a legacy of racial segregation and hate groups like the Ku Klux Klan, this narrative reminds us that the past is alwaysRead More →

With Heartstopper, Alice Oseman has created a heart-warming story of friendship that grows beyond those simple bounds, and the pictures in this graphic novel are as telling as its words. A drummer and mathematics wizard who is better at virtual sports than real ones, Charlie Spring is a sophomore at Truham School for Boys in England.  With the start of the new school year, he is seated next to a young man who is a year older and a star of the rugby team: Nicolas Nelson. When Nick sees the speed at which Charlie can run, he invites him to join the rugby team.  However,Read More →

Dressed in a disguise, the Queen of Mynaria plays the cello with passion and life as her ten-year-old daughter Princess Amaranthine sings in the ale houses.  But mothers die, and Mare becomes a different person after donning a surly personality, wearing it like a suit of armor.  Bold and brazen, she is vakos, a girl without magic and one with an affinity for trouble and without a knack for social pleasantries.  More comfortable in communities where horsemanship is a measure of rank, Mare falls in love with Dennaleia, Princess of Havemont who was betrothed to Mare’s brother, Thandi, and groomed to be a queen.  ButRead More →