When I was in elementary school one of my favorite things to do over the winter holiday was to curl up with a good book. I loved the fact that I could wake up (whenever I wanted!) and read for an hour or two before I even got out of bed in the morning. That could be why I loved to get books for both Christmas and my birthday (which is also around the winter holidays). Here are some of my favorite books that have come out this year to give to readers who like to read juvenile fiction books:
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Action/Adventure
By J. L. Esplin
John and Stew are brothers who are left to fend for themselves in Nevada during a massive power-outage—meaning a power outage that lasts for days and covers most of the Western US. Even though their dad has a lot of emergency preparedness supplies, since he isn’t home many others come and take everything from the boys leaving the brothers with no choice but to cross the desert on foot in order to survive.
DARING DARLEEN: QUEEN OF THE SCREEN
By Anne Nesbet
Darleen is a child actor who has grown up in the spotlight in the early days of silent black and white films. She is required by her uncles to perform her own stunts—most of which tend to be life-threatening. Life gets increasingly exciting when Darleen is accidently kidnaped along with an orphaned heiress. Darleen must use all her brainpower and stunt skills to save the day.
By Terry Lynn Johnson
Even though she has deteriorating eyesight, McKenna decides that she wants to compete in a multi-day dog sled race over unfamiliar territory across parts of the US and Canada. McKenna’s younger sister also has the disease and McKenna doesn’t want their over-protective mom to take away her independence the way that she has for her younger sister Emma. However, racing is dangerous enough with good eyesight, and it becomes even more challenging when all McKenna can see are things in her periphery.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Books that Deal with Tough Topics
BLACK BROTHER BLACK BROTHER
By Jewell Parker Rhodes
The tough topic in here is an African American boy having to deal with racism. Donte and his brother Trey don’t look alike. Their mother is African American and their father is of Scandinavian decent. This means that Trey has lighter skin and people tend to accept him. Donte has darker skin and tends to get in trouble for things he didn’t do. This is a hard look at how society often favors those with lighter skin tones.
CLOSER TO NOWHERE
By Ellen Hopkins
There is more than one tough topic in this book: foster care, past abuse, and PTSD. Cal comes to live with his cousin Hannah, 3 years after his mother passed away from cancer. At the start of the book it has been 14 months since Cal has moved in. He still doesn’t feel like he belongs and is scared that he will be sent away—or worse that he will have to go and live with his abusive father again once he gets out of jail. Hannah, on the other hand, finds it hard to have her cousin move in. He is everything she isn’t and Hannah gets frustrated that Cal’s jokes, pranks, and antics disrupt her life so much. This is a good look at what makes a family and how life gets crazy when so many emotions are thrown together in one place.
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
The tough topics in this book are, sexual assault and attempted suicide; however, it is done in a gentle way that is appropriate for middle grade readers. This book is not for every reader; but it is one powerhouse of a book and is definitely on the top-ten list of books I have read this year. Della has always had her older sister Suki to keep her safe. But when their mom’s boyfriend tries to put his hand down Della’s pants (and their mom is in prison) Suki rushes Della away. Now they are both in foster care and Della has to deal not only with all her emotions but also Suki she is hiding.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Fantasy
LAND OF ROAR
By Jenny Mclachlan
Arthur Trout has a twin sister named Rose that he has always looked up to. But lately Rose has been more interested in her friends and telling Arthur just how embarrassing he is than spending time with her twin. When their granddad goes missing into the make-believe-world that the twins created when they were much younger, Arthur goes to save him—even though Rose was the brave one and Arthur was not. Adventure, magic, and a part-scarecrow part-crow bad guy all await in the Land Of Roar, as Arthur comes to figure out who he is and if he can be brave all on his own.
By Angie Sage
In a world where magic and enchanters are banned, Alex is the daughter of an enchanter who was smuggled out of the capitol to be raised as a foster daughter by a woman who doesn’t really like her. When they find out about her magical ability, she escapes and decides to go on a quest to make life better for herself and other children of enchanters. Enter Benn, the novice Flyer who rides the enormous Hawke that hunts down enchanters or their children. When Benn doesn’t kill Alex and decides to help her instead, he puts his livelihood in danger. This is a story full of twists and turns, magic and humor.
WHEN YOU TRAP A TIGER
By Tae Keller
This is a magic realism book about Lily and her Korean grandmother, Halmoni. Halmoni is dying and Lily, her sister Sam, and her mom have moved to Halmoni’s town to help take care of her. Lily doesn’t have friends and Sam is extremely frustrated to be uprooted. Things get more complicated when Lily turns to a magical tiger based on Korean mythology and tries to catch the tiger to force the magical creature to heal her grandmother—which of course has its own magical consequences.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Funny Books
MY LIFE AS A POTATO
By Arianne Costner
Ben Hardy doesn’t like potatoes. His mom’s mashed potatoes are gross and once he broke his arm tripping over a bag of potatoes. When he gets in trouble at school, Ben must take on the role of the school’s mascot for the next four basketball games—only the mascot is a potato. Ben must figure out how to secretly be the school’s potato while trying to balance friends, family, and school.
STAND UP YUMI CHUNG
By Jessica Kim
Yumi Chung has a secret dream of becoming a comedian. When she stumbles upon a comedy camp (that her parents would never sign her up for) and the camp members think she is someone else, she decides to go along with it so she can study the art of comedy. However, things soon spiral out of control when her identity is questioned by her friends and campmates and her activities are questioned by her parents.
By Rob Harrell
Ross has been diagnosed with cancer of the eye which makes him stand out in school and life when all he wants to be is an average middle schooler that only his friends notice. With crushes, friend drama, and a whole lot of gross goop that he has to apply to his eye, Ross does his best to get through life—there are even some comic panels throughout the book.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Graphic Novels
By Jerry Craft
In this sequel to Newbery Award-Winning book NEW KID, Craft continues the story of the Riverdale Academy Day School kids—specifically of Jordan (the previous protagonist), Drew, and Liam. Jordan is still working on art and trying to fit in, but he is frustrated that, unlike his friends, he hasn’t hit puberty quite yet. Drew is trying to come to grips with the fact that he is an African American that doesn’t have a lot. Life is harder for him because of his background, including having a father who is never around because business is more important than family.
CITY OF SECRETS: SECRET OF THE SWITCHBOARD
By Victoria Ying
Ever Barnes lives in the Switchboard Operating Facility. There he (and his family before them) have been tasked with protecting a secret. Hannah’s father owns the Switchboard Operating Facility and when she sees Ever, she wants to become his friend. Only the two also encounter others who want to get close to Ever to either kill him or to get the secret he is protecting. There is a lot of action in this first in a projected series of a historical/steampunk type of city and these two kid adventurers.
SHIRLEY AND JAMILA SAVE THEIR SUMMER
By Gillian Goerz
Jamila doesn’t want to have to go to camp for the summer. Shirley doesn’t want to either. When the pair meet at a random garage sale just before the camps were set to start, Shirley convinces Jamila’s mom to let the two spend time together over the summer instead. While the two hang out, Jamila realizes that there is more than meets the eye to Shirley—who is like a Sherlock Holmes that goes around and solves mysteries for the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. Once Jamila realizes what is happening, she decides that she wants to help solve a mystery too.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Historical
By Lauren Wolk
When the Great Depression hits, Ellie’s family loses everything and moves to a mountain in Maine. There the family must learn how to live off the land—something that is especially hard for Ellie’s mother and older sister who loved life in the city. Things get worse when Ellie’s father gets hurt in an accident and it is up to Ellie to figure out how to put the pieces of her family back together.
By Linda Sue Park
Hanna is a “half-Chinese and half-white” girl who lives with her father in a town in the Dakota territory similar to where, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE is set. Hanna’s dream is to go to school and learn; however, the prejudices the town has for a girl who is “half-Chinese” means that most parents don’t want her in school with their children.
VILLAGE OF SCOUNDRELS
By Margi Preus
Villagers in Vichy—in the mountains of France—do secret acts on a daily basis. Their country has been taken over by the Nazis and uniformed men go around looking to round up Jews. But villagers in Vichy, hide Jews, sometimes right under the noses of the Nazi officers. This is a story, based on a real village that works together for good and common decency even though it could put their own lives at risk.
For the Reader in Your Life Who Likes: Realistic Fiction
By Chris Negron
Dan’s two favorite things in life are comics and baseball. His baseball team is going onto a championship tournament and his favorite comics keep coming out. Life is good. Until it isn’t and his best friend—and the star player of the team—is hit in the head by a baseball while at practice and is now in a coma. And Dan thinks it is his fault. Now Dan must figure out if there is a way to make his own comic to help his best friend come to and get his world back to normal.
By Ernesto Cisneros
Efrén’s world is turned up-side-down when his mother is deported after an ICE raid. Now Efrén’s dad has two jobs to make ends meet and Efrén must help take care of his younger twin siblings, Max and Mia. This is no small feat, seeing how Max has a learning disability which sometimes makes life especially difficult. This is a story about family, immigration, and heart.
A PLACE AT THE TABLE
By Saadia Faruqi and Laura Shovan
This is a story about two girls and the beginning of their friendship. Sara is a Pakistani American girl and Elizabeth is a Jewish daughter of a homesick British mum and an American dad. When the two are paired together in an afterschool cooking class (that Sara’s mom teaches), they aren’t quite sure what to make of each other—but they do their best to make food and a friendship despite all their differences.