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Best & Brightest Chapter Books of 2020

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This Best & Brightest list was created by Denver Public Library staff to celebrate our favorite recently published chapter books. Enjoy!

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Once Upon An Eid: Stories Of Hope And Joy By 15 Muslim Voices
3rd-7th grade. “Eid: The short, single-syllable word conjures up a variety of feelings and memories for Muslims. Maybe it’s waking up to the sound of frying samosas or the comfort of bean pie, maybe it’s the pleasure of putting on a new outfit for Eid prayers, or maybe it’s the gift giving and holiday parties to come that day. Whatever it may be, for those who cherish this day of celebration, the emotional responses may be summed up in another short and sweet word: joy.” --From the publisher. This #ownvoices collection honors the diversity of Islam by depicting different cultural perspectives. The stories tackle everything from love to grief, yet all end on a hopeful note, reflecting the celebratory aspect of Eid. Different story formats, from poetry to prose to graphic novel chapters, are engaging and refreshing.
Grasping Mysteries: Girls Who Loved Math
Atkins, Jeannine, 1953- author.
3rd-7th grade. “Learn about seven groundbreaking women in math and science in this biographical novel-in-verse. Told in vibrant, evocative poems, this novel celebrates seven remarkable women who used math as their key to explore the mysteries of the universe and grew up to do innovative work that changed the world.” --From the publisher. Free verse poetry puts a unique spin on this “great women” collection that answers the question, “What can you do with math?” The common thread of asking for more — more money, more recognition, more space for themselves — will resonate with and inspire twenty-first century readers.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero
Baptist, Kelly J., author.
4th-7th grade. “Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it’s a lot harder than his dad made it look. Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own–once she stops hassling Isaiah. And when things get really tough, there’s Daddy’s journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad’s tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!” --From the publisher. Rarely do readers encounter a character as driven and focused as ten-year-old Isaiah Dunn. In a life filled with grief, desperation and struggle, he is the force that keeps his family together. With compassion and hope, this #ownvoices novel featuring Black characters explores themes of addiction, housing and food insecurity.
Astrid And Apollo And The Starry Campout
Bidania, V. T.
2nd-4th grade. “Astrid is afraid of the dark and doesn't want to go on her family camping trip. But her twin brother, Apollo, is excited. When they encounter scary things such as crawly bugs and the creepy dark, Apollo helps his twin through them. And when they encounter the scariest thing of all, Astrid might just be the one to save the starry campout.” --From the publisher. This #ownvoicesstory’s vibrant illustrations and incorporation of Hmong culture and Laotian food — paired with a glossary to build background knowledge — will delight developing readers looking for a multicultural family adventure. The way Astrid and Apollo conquer their fear of camping to enjoy time with family is entertaining and relatable.
A High Five For Glenn Burke
Bildner, Phil, author.
4th-7th grade. “When sixth grader Silas Wade does a school presentation on former Major Leaguer Glenn Burke, it’s more than just a report about the irrepressible inventor of the high five. Burke was a gay baseball player in the 1970s—and for Silas, the presentation is his own first baby step toward revealing a truth about himself he's tired of hiding. Soon he tells his best friend, Zoey, but the longer he keeps his secret from his baseball teammates, the more he suspects they know something’s up—especially when he stages one big cover-up with terrible consequences.” --From the publisher. Fans of baseball, oddball history, coming-out stories or all of the above will enjoy Silas’s story, framed through that of Glenn Burke. Silas’s anxiety is as relatable as the awful mistake he makes because of it, and readers will cheer as he finds his voice and his swing.
King And The Dragonflies
Callender, Kacen, author.
3rd-6th grade. “Twelve-year-old Kingston James is sure his brother Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. When Khalid unexpectedly passed away, he shed what was his first skin for another to live down by the bayou in their small Louisiana town. But when his best friend Sandy goes missing, sparking a town-wide search, and King finds him hiding in a tent in his backyard, he agrees to help Sandy escape from his abusive father, and the two begin an adventure as they build their own private paradise down by the bayou and among the dragonflies.” --From the publisher. An intense and heart wrenching coming-of-age story, this book combines tough topics with lush descriptions and a cast of compelling, predominantly Black characters. This #ownvoices novel explores grief, racism and coming out with sensitivity and grace. Emotionally impactful, readers will find great sadness but also great hope within the pages.
Lily To The Rescue
Cameron, W. Bruce, author.
2nd-4th grade. Lily lives with her girl, Maggie Rose. Once a stray, Lily was rescued by the kind people at the animal shelter run by Maggie Rose’s mom. Now she has a very important purpose: to rescue other animals in trouble. In the first book, Lily helps rehabilitate a rescued crow who turns out to be a little too tame at times. The second book features Lily’s work to reunite two rambunctious piglets with their mother. --Summary by DPL Staff. Written from a dog’s perspective and filled with animals galore, these supportive transitional books set in Colorado include frequent word repetition and compelling storytelling. Readers who have mastered the King & Kayla series and are ready for a slightly longer, more challenging series will find much to love in these gently humorous, cozy books.
Lily to the Rescue: Two Little Piggies
Cameron, W. Bruce, author.
2nd-4th grade. Lily lives with her girl, Maggie Rose. Once a stray, Lily was rescued by the kind people at the animal shelter run by Maggie Rose’s mom. Now she has a very important purpose: to rescue other animals in trouble. In the first book, Lily helps rehabilitate a rescued crow who turns out to be a little too tame at times. The second book features Lily’s work to reunite two rambunctious piglets with their mother. --Summary by DPL Staff. Written from a dog’s perspective and filled with animals galore, these supportive transitional books set in Colorado include frequent word repetition and compelling storytelling. Readers who have mastered the King & Kayla series and are ready for a slightly longer, more challenging series will find much to love in these gently humorous, cozy books.
How To Be A Girl In The World
Carter, Caela, author.
4th-7th grade. “Lydia hasn’t felt comfortable in her own skin since the boys at her school started commenting on the way she looks in her uniform. Her cousin and friends think she should be flattered, but the boys—and sometimes her mom’s boyfriend, Jeremy—make Lydia uncomfortable and confused. Then her mom surprises her by buying a dilapidated house in their neighborhood. Lydia hopes to find a little bit of magic in their new home. But just like the adults in her life, and God, and her friends, the magic Lydia deeply believes in eventually loses its power to keep her safe.” --From the publisher. Serious and emotionally impactful, this issue-focused novel is as compelling as it is relatable. While the overarching theme of sexual harassment gives voice to the individual nature of boundaries, an eerie subplot makes it highly atmospheric and suspenseful. Empowering and hopeful, Lydia’s story makes this tough topic accessible to readers.
The Unexplainable Disappearance Of Mars Patel
Chari, Sheela, author.
4th-7th grade. “Mars Patel’s friend Aurora has disappeared! His teachers are clueless. His mom is stressed out about her jobs. But Mars refuses to give up—after all, his own dad disappeared when Mars was a toddler, before he and Ma moved to Puget Sound from India. Luckily, Mars has a group of loyal friends eager to help—smart Toothpick, strong and stylish JP, and maybe-telepathic Caddie. The clues seem to point toward eccentric tech genius (and Mars’s hero) Oliver Pruitt, whose popular podcast now seems to be commenting on their quest! But when the friends investigate Pruitt’s mysterious, elite school, nothing is as it seems—and anyone could be deceiving them.” --From the publisher. Based on the Peabody Award–winning podcast, this thrilling series starter builds to a suspenseful cliffhanging climax. Witty, fast-paced third-person narration is shared by five characters representing a variety of gender identities and cultural backgrounds. Percy Jackson fans will flock to this intriguing blend of science fiction and mystery.
The Only Black Girls In Town
Colbert, Brandy, author.
3rd-7th grade. “Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only Black girl in town for years. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is Black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her. Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie’s attic, they team up to figure out exactly who’s behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.” --From the publisher. Centering on the experience of a Black girl in a homogenous small town, this realistic mystery draws meaningful parallels between past and present. Alberta’s strong voice and diverse family representations as well as several authentic explorations of friendship make this a great recommendation for fans of The Parker Inheritance and Smile.
The Total Eclipse Of Nestor Lopez
Cuevas, Adrianna, author.
3rd-7th grade. “All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad. He definitely doesn’t want anyone to find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals. But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor's grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja—a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner…” --From the publisher. This middle-grade take on the tule vieja legend ties the humor of talking animals with the complex topic of having a parent in the military. Readers will cheer as Cuban American Nestor, yearning for stability, finds community and faces his fears of replacing his dad as “man of the house.”
Eight Princesses And A Magic Mirror
Farrant, Natasha, author.
4th-6th grade. “What makes a princess excellent? Eager to learn the answer, an enchantress casts her magic mirror into our universe. Reflected in it are princesses from around the world and across centuries who refuse to be pretty, polite, and obedient. Princess Leila of the desert protects her people from the king with the black-and-gold banner; Princess Tica takes a crocodile for a pet; Princess Ellen explores the high seas; Princess Abayome puts empathy and kindness above royal beauty; and in an apartment building, a girl named Princess saves her community’s beloved garden from the hands of urban developers.” --From the publisher. Though the tales span diverse cultural and geographical areas, they all demonstrate the importance of being strong, brave and inclusive of others. The full-color, vibrant illustrations are reminiscent of traditional fairytale aesthetics, but the sharp, witty prose brings the stories into the modern age.
A Thousand Questions
Faruqi, Saadia, author.
3rd-6th grade. “Mimi is not thrilled to be spending her summer in Karachi, Pakistan, with grandparents she’s never met. The cook’s daughter, Sakina, still hasn’t told her parents that she’ll be accepted to school only if she can improve her English test score—but then, how could her family possibly afford to lose the money she earns working with her Abba in a rich family’s kitchen? Although the girls seem totally incompatible at first, as the summer goes on, Sakina and Mimi realize that they have plenty in common—and that they each need the other to get what they want most.” --From the publisher. Dual narrators in this #ownvoices novel vividly paint the setting from both a visitor’s and a local’s perspective. From the cool, silent mansion to the noisy and bustling poorer neighborhoods to the camel rides on the boardwalk, Karachi comes alive for readers in this story of family and friendship.
Keep It Together, Keiko Carter
Florence, Debbi Michiko, author.
5th-7th grade. “Seventh grade is supposed to be a game changer. And Keiko thinks she's got it covered, especially with Audrey and Jenna by her side to shop for a new look, pick out a prime lunch spot, and even hit up that cute new bubble tea place after school. But when Audrey decides they need boyfriends before Fall Ball, it looks like things may be changing in all the wrong ways. Keiko feels pulled in two directions. Should she try to help her friends — even if it means losing one of them — or follow her heart?” --From the publisher. Witty banter and sweet, funny relationships with friends and family intertwine with self-discovery and empowerment as Keiko learns to stand up against microaggressions and overt racism. Robust character development, frequent cameos by adorable pooches and a satisfying first kiss conclusion, make this tweenage #ownvoices romcom sparkle.
All He Knew
Frost, Helen, 1949- author.
3rd-6th grade. “Henry has been deaf from an early age—he is intelligent and aware of language, but by age six, he has decided it's not safe to speak to strangers. Henry is sent to Riverview, a bleak institution where he is misunderstood, underestimated and harshly treated. Victor, a conscientious objector to World War II, is part of a Civilian Public Service program offered as an alternative to the draft. In 1942, he arrives at Riverview to serve as an attendant and quickly sees that Henry is far from unteachable—he is brave, clever and sometimes mischievous. In Victor's care, Henry begins to see how things can change for the better.” --From the publisher. Relatable characters are stuck in impossible situations but still try to do what’s right in this novel that takes a new look at the World War II era. The free verse poetry paints Henry’s experiences in vivid color in this often heartbreaking but ultimately redemptive tale.
The Girl And The Ghost
Hanna Alkaf, author.
4th-8th grade. “I am a dark spirit, the ghost announced grandly. I am your inheritance, your grandmother’s legacy. I am yours to command. Suraya is delighted when her witch grandmother gifts her a pelesit. She names her ghostly companion Pink, and the two quickly become inseparable. But Suraya doesn’t know that pelesits have a dark side—and when Pink’s shadows threaten to consume them both, they must find enough light to survive...before they are both lost to the darkness.” --From the publisher. Flawed but relatable humans and creatures from Malaysian folklore populate the suspenseful and atmospheric world of this spine-tingling fantasy rooted in the author’s Malaysian culture. The lyrical prose packs an emotional punch, deftly spinning a haunting tale of family, friendship, love and loss.
Hand-Me-Down Magic: Crystal Ball Fortunes
Haydu, Corey Ann, author.
1st-3rd grade. Del has lived with her family at 86 ½ Twenty-Third Avenue for her whole life, so she’s thrilled when Alma moves in too! Together, the cousins have neighborhood adventures centered around friendship and family, and maybe a little touch of everyday magic. Stoop Sale Treasure focuses on the two girls as they navigate Alma’s transition to her new home. In Crystal Ball Fortunes, Del’s birthday celebration leads to doubts when the crystal ball she received as a gift leads the girls to question good luck and bad luck. --Summary by DPL Staff. Ordinary becomes extraordinary in this gently humorous early chapter book series. Celebrating intergenerational families and urban living, both books explore the complexity of emotions brought on by change. Ivy + Bean and Jasmine Toguchi fans will appreciate the large font, ample white space and spot illustrations perfectly aligned with the text.
Hand-Me-Down Magic: Stoop Sale Treasure
Haydu, Corey Ann, author.
1st-3rd grade. Del has lived with her family at 86 ½ Twenty-Third Avenue for her whole life, so she’s thrilled when Alma moves in too! Together, the cousins have neighborhood adventures centered around friendship and family, and maybe a little touch of everyday magic. Stoop Sale Treasure focuses on the two girls as they navigate Alma’s transition to her new home. In Crystal Ball Fortunes, Del’s birthday celebration leads to doubts when the crystal ball she received as a gift leads the girls to question good luck and bad luck. --Summary by DPL Staff. Ordinary becomes extraordinary in this gently humorous early chapter book series. Celebrating intergenerational families and urban living, both books explore the complexity of emotions brought on by change. Ivy + Bean and Jasmine Toguchi fans will appreciate the large font, ample white space and spot illustrations perfectly aligned with the text.
Hide And Seeker
Hermon, Daka, author.
4th-7th grade. “Justin knows that something is wrong with his best friend. Zee went missing for a year. And when he came back, he was…different. Nobody knows what happened to him. At Zee’s welcome-home party, Justin and the neighborhood crew play hide-and-seek. But it goes wrong. Very wrong. One by one, everyone who plays the game disappears, pulled into a world of nightmares come to life. Justin and his friends realize this horrible place is where Zee had been trapped. All they can do now is hide from the Seeker.” --From the publisher. The fast-paced story will have readers racing to follow the mostly Black cast of characters as they try to escape a parallel world while confronting their own fears. This suspenseful debut has a truly terrifying monster, but the real-life horrors of grief, anxiety and racism are just as chilling.
Benbee And The Teacher Griefer
Holt, K. A., author.
4th-8th grade. “A novel-in-verse series about Ben Bellows—who failed the Language Arts section of the Florida State test—and three classmates who get stuck in a summer school class. But these kids aren't dumb—they're divergent thinkers, as Ms. J tells them: they simply approach things in a different way than traditional school demands. Soon, the kids win over Ms. J with their passion for Sandbox, a Minecraft-type game. But when the administration finds out about this unorthodox method of teaching, Ben B. and his buds have to band together to save their teacher's job—and their own academic future.” --From the publisher. Video gameplay brings lots of kid appeal to this novel about loss, second chances and new starts. Four “divergent thinkers” with distinct, relatable voices narrate as they all practice empathy and self-assertion, and maybe even some reading, with a very special — and very human — teacher.
Saucy
Kadohata, Cynthia, author.
3rd-7th grade. “Being a quadruplet can make it hard to stand out from the crowd. Becca’s three brothers all have something that makes them...them. But when she finds a tiny, sick piglet on the side of the road, Becca knows this is it. This is her thing. She names the piglet Saucy and between her own pleading and Saucy’s sweet, pink face, Becca convinces her family to take her in. Soon, Saucy is as big a part of the family as anyone else—and getting bigger. With each pound Saucy gains, the more capable she becomes of destroying the house and landing Becca in trouble.” --From the publisher. Rollicking capers, warm family moments and a sprinkle of social activism make this an enchanting Charlotte’s Web read-alike. A set of lively quadruplets and a destructive baby pig keep the laughs coming. Jake, the music and dance-loving quadruplet, has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to participate in the antics.
Get A Grip, Vivy Cohen
Kapit, Sarah, author.
3rd-7th grade. “Vivy Cohen is determined. She’s had enough of playing catch in the park. She’s ready to pitch for a real baseball team. But Vivy’s mom is worried about Vivy being the only girl on the team, and the only autistic kid. She wants Vivy to forget about pitching, but Vivy won’t give up. When her social skills teacher makes her write a letter to someone, Vivy knows exactly who to choose: her hero, Major League pitcher VJ Capello. Then two amazing things happen: A coach sees Vivy’s amazing knuckleball and invites her to join his team. And VJ starts writing back!” --From the publisher. Knuckleball pitching is a metaphor for being different from the crowd for a young girl with autism and a Black Major League pitcher, each facing their own challenges. As Vivy confronts naysayers at home and on the field, readers will root for both her courage and her knuckleball.
Mindy Kim And The Birthday Puppy
Lee, Lyla, author.
2nd-4th grade. Mindy Kim just wants three things: 1. A puppy! 2. To fit in at her new school. 3. For her dad to be happy again. But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. In the first book, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed becomes a lunchtime sensation that turns into the Yummy Seaweed Business. In Lunar New Year Parade, Mindy is determined to continue her family’s Korean New Year traditions, but things don’t go quite as planned. Finally, in book three Mindy convinces her father she’s responsible enough to have a puppy of her very own. Can Mindy prove to her dad that she can handle a new addition to the Kim household? --Summary by DPL Staff. This #ownvoices transitional chapter book series simultaneously explores the universal struggle of starting at a new school along with the culturally specific experience of moving from a place with a large Korean American presence to a community lacking the same cultural vibrancy. Culturally specific background knowledge and frequent illustrations support developing readers.
Mindy Kim And The Lunar New Year Parade
Lee, Lyla, author.
2nd-4th grade. Mindy Kim just wants three things: 1. A puppy! 2. To fit in at her new school. 3. For her dad to be happy again. But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. In the first book, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed becomes a lunchtime sensation that turns into the Yummy Seaweed Business. In Lunar New Year Parade, Mindy is determined to continue her family’s Korean New Year traditions, but things don’t go quite as planned. Finally, in book three Mindy convinces her father she’s responsible enough to have a puppy of her very own. Can Mindy prove to her dad that she can handle a new addition to the Kim household? --Summary by DPL Staff. This #ownvoices transitional chapter book series simultaneously explores the universal struggle of starting at a new school along with the culturally specific experience of moving from a place with a large Korean American presence to a community lacking the same cultural vibrancy. Culturally specific background knowledge and frequent illustrations support developing readers.
Mindy Kim And The Yummy Seaweed Business
Lee, Lyla, author.
2nd-4th grade. Mindy Kim just wants three things: 1. A puppy! 2. To fit in at her new school. 3. For her dad to be happy again. But, getting all three of the things on her list is a lot trickier than she thought it would be. In the first book, Mindy’s school snack of dried seaweed becomes a lunchtime sensation that turns into the Yummy Seaweed Business. In Lunar New Year Parade, Mindy is determined to continue her family’s Korean New Year traditions, but things don’t go quite as planned. Finally, in book three Mindy convinces her father she’s responsible enough to have a puppy of her very own. Can Mindy prove to her dad that she can handle a new addition to the Kim household? --Summary by DPL Staff. This #ownvoices transitional chapter book series simultaneously explores the universal struggle of starting at a new school along with the culturally specific experience of moving from a place with a large Korean American presence to a community lacking the same cultural vibrancy. Culturally specific background knowledge and frequent illustrations support developing readers.
Thirteens
Marshall, Kate Alice, author.
5th-8th grade. “Eleanor has just moved to the quiet, prosperous Eden Eld. When she awakes to discover an ancient grandfather clock that she’s never seen before outside her new room, she’s sure her eyes must be playing tricks on her. But then she spots a large bird, staring at her as she boards the school bus. And a black dog with glowing red eyes follows her around town. All she wants is to be normal, and these are far from normal. And worse–no one else can see them. Except for her new friends, Pip and Otto, who teach her a thing or two about surviving in Eden Eld.” --From the publisher. The odd, creepy visions of the main characters lead to an eerie mystery and a trail of compelling clues. This is a read that is spooky yet not frightening for those who want just a dash of thrilling adventure. The cliffhanger ending sets this up as a promising start to a series.
Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet
Mian, Zanib, author.
3rd-6th grade. Omar and his family have just moved, and he is NOT excited about starting at a new school or finding a new mosque. But by the end of book one, Omar has made a new best friend and thwarted a Big Mean Bully. In the second book Omar hears that his family’s favorite mosque is at risk of shutting down due to lack of funds. So he rallies his friends to create a showstopping, fundraising school talent contest. The show is sure to be a success, but what if Omar’s older sister raises more money than Omar and his friends? --Summary by DPL Staff. Nuanced character development and authentic religious, as well as cultural markers make this hilarious, illustrated diary series standout from other Diary of a Wimpy Kid read alikes. Set at home, school and mosque, Omar infuses his daily life with whimsical flights of fantasy, reflected in the energetic cartoons that intermingle with the text.
Planet OmarL Unexpected Super Spy
Mian, Zanib, author.
3rd-6th grade. Omar and his family have just moved, and he is NOT excited about starting at a new school or finding a new mosque. But by the end of book one, Omar has made a new best friend and thwarted a Big Mean Bully. In the second book Omar hears that his family’s favorite mosque is at risk of shutting down due to lack of funds. So he rallies his friends to create a showstopping, fundraising school talent contest. The show is sure to be a success, but what if Omar’s older sister raises more money than Omar and his friends? --Summary by DPL Staff. Nuanced character development and authentic religious, as well as cultural markers make this hilarious, illustrated diary series standout from other Diary of a Wimpy Kid read alikes. Set at home, school and mosque, Omar infuses his daily life with whimsical flights of fantasy, reflected in the energetic cartoons that intermingle with the text.
Something To Say
Ramée, Lisa Moore, author.
3rd-6th grade. “Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends—and she’s just fine with that. Then a new student shows up at school—a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won’t quit. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team. There’s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience—including risking the first real friendship she’s ever had.” --From the publisher. Jenae is a sympathetic character who overcomes crippling anxiety to enact social change in this #ownvoices novel. The controversy over renaming her school invites conversations around race and representation in history, and themes of friendship, family and finding inner strength will appeal to fans of Kwame Alexander and Nikki Grimes.
Black Brother, Black Brother
Rhodes, Jewell Parker, author.
5th-8th grade. “Sometimes, 12-year-old Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, most of the students don’t look like him. Dubbing him “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter-skinned brother, Trey. When he’s bullied and framed by the captain of the fencing team, he’s suspended from school and arrested. Terrified, searching for a place where he belongs, Donte joins a local youth center and meets former Olympic fencer Arden Jones. With Arden’s help, he begins training as a competitive fencer, setting his sights on taking down the fencing team captain, no matter what.” --From the publisher. Sport offers redemption, transformation and a path to both showing up bullies and finding personal excellence in this brief #ownvoices novel packed with fencing action. While Donte’s affluent family can’t protect him from systemic racism and bullying, his persistence and determination will leave readers cheering.
The Barren Grounds
Robertson, David, 1977- author.
3rd-7th grade. “Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive.” --From the publisher. Atmospheric and suspenseful, this #ownvoices Indigenous fantasy is steeped in Cree folklore. Themes of found family and connecting to roots add an emotional layer to the propulsive action. Readers who enjoyed the Narnia series will find much to love in this culturally immersive read-alike, the first in The Misewa Saga.
The Derby Daredevils
Rosewater, Kit, author.
3rd-6th grade. “Ever since they can remember, fifth graders Kenzie (aka Kenzilla) and Shelly (aka Bomb Shell) have dreamed of becoming roller derby superstars. When Austin’s city league introduces a brand-new junior league, the dynamic duo celebrates! But they’ll need to try out as a five-person team. Kenzie and Shelly have just one week to convince three other girls that roller derby is the coolest thing on wheels. But Kenzie starts to have second thoughts when Shelly starts acting like everyone’s best friend...Isn’t she supposed to be Kenzie’s best friend? And things get really awkward when Shelly recruits Kenzie’s neighbor (and secret crush!) for the team.” --From the publisher. Roller derby action fuels this light-hearted story of friendship and first crushes. Girl power abounds in the diverse cast of characters and LGBTQ themes are seamlessly interwoven into the narrative. With plenty of illustrations and shorter chapters, this book will appeal to a wide range of readers.
Ana On The Edge
Sass, A. J., author.
3rd-7th grade. “Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season’s program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn’t correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he’s around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it’s tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice.” --From the publisher. Sass brings their personal experience as a nonbinary figure skater to this heartfelt coming-of-age story featuring a Jewish protagonist with a Chinese American and white background. Captivating descriptive writing puts readers right on the ice with Ana as she grows as a person, friend and competitive figure skater.
The Lost Wonderland Diaries
Savage, J. Scott (Jeffrey Scott), 1963- author.
4th-7th grade. “Something monstrous wants to exit Wonderland and enter the real world. Lewis Carroll, author of the classic book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, secretly recorded the true story of his actual travels to Wonderland in four journals which have been lost to the world...until now. Celia and Tyrus discover the legendary Lost Diaries of Wonderland and fall into a portal that pulls them into the same fantasy world as the White Rabbit and the Mad Hatter. However, Wonderland has vastly changed. Some of the characters that Tyrus remembers from the book have been transformed into angry monsters.” --From the publisher. The whimsy of Wonderland shines through as Celia and Tyrus use their math and literacy skills to work through engaging puzzles that twist and turn across the pages of the book. In depicting that their differences are as important as their strengths, Savage imparts a message of self-acceptance and love.

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