Eleven-year-old Buddy goes on a dangerous quest to rescue his dad from a magical crime Lord. His weapons are a knife and his father’s magical Parsnit cards, and his sidekick is a spider-folk girl named Tally. A fantastic setting, page-turning danger and adventure, quirky characters, a creative game of cards, great messages about family and identity, and a fascinating metanarrative all work together to make this novel an outstanding read.
Beverly, Right Here by Kate DiCamillo (Realistic Fiction)
This is the third book featuring characters from the world of Raymie Nightingale. I loved this tenderhearted, sensitive story about dealing with grief and hardship, and finding unlikely friends in the process. Lyrical, poignant, and simply wonderful.
A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Reilly Giff (Historical Fiction)
A lovely novel, written in verse, about the Irish Land War (1881). Well done, suspenseful, and poignant. Excellent characterization.
Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt (Realistic Fiction / Humor)
Carter Jones is dealing with his first year in middle school, his father’s absence, his brother’s death, his distraught mother, helping to take care of his three younger sisters, and a surprise English butler who wants him to behave like a “proper gentleman” and learn to drink tea and play cricket. Well-written and both funny and heart-wrenching.
The Runaways by Ulf Stark (Realistic Fiction)
A young boy helps his dying grandfather to run away from the hospital for a couple of days, giving him the chance to prepare for his final good-bye. Well-written with delightful characters. An inter-generational adventure full of humor and heart.
“What’s this?” I said.
“Tea with milk and sugar,” said the Butler.
“I don’t drink tea,” I said.
“All civilized people drink tea, young Master Jones.”
“Then I guess I’m not civilized.”
“A claim you share with Vikings, Huns, assorted barbarian hordes, and marauders of all stripes. I have taken the liberty of adding more sugar than one might normally expect.”
I sipped at it. I sipped again. It was pretty good.
“It stinks,” I said.
— from Pay Attention, Carter Jones by Gary D. Schmidt
Here’s a list of 25 diverse jFIC books about family stories. Some are happy and some are sad, some are contemporary and some are historical, most are realistic and a few are fantastical, and all are great reads.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
How Tia Lola Came to (Visit) Stay and sequels by Julia Alvarez
My Diary from the Edge of the World by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall
The Family Under the Bridge by Natalie Savage Carlson
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Lotterys Plus One and sequel by Emma Donoghue
The Birchbark House and sequels by Louise Erdrich
The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and sequels by Karina Yan Glaser
A Slip of a Girl by Patricia Riley Giff
The Family Hitchcock by Mark Levin and Jennifer Flackett
Sarah, Plain, and Tall and sequels by Patricia MacLachlan
Saffy’s Angel and sequels by Hilary McKay
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
The Borrowers and sequels by Mary Norton
Astrid the Unstoppable by Maria Parr
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Esperanza Rising and sequel by Pam Munoz Ryan
Shooting Kabul and sequels by N.H. Senzai
All-of-a-Kind Family and sequels by Sydney Taylor
Three Times Lucky and sequels by Sheila Turnage
One Crazy Summer and sequels by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
“Mercy on us, how they did talk! first one, then the other, then all burst out together–trying to tell the history of three years in half an hour. It was fortunate that tea was at hand, to produce a lull and provide refreshment–for they would have been hoarse and faint if they had gone on much longer.” – Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
October is my favorite month of the year, not just because it’s so cool and colorful, but because it has the funnest holiday: Halloween! To celebrate, here’s a list of creepy reads that’ll leave you feeling delightfully spooked. Read them at night with a steaming cup of your favorite autumn tea.
The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson
Small Spaces and Dead Voices by Katherine Arden
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The House With a Clock in Its Walls and other books by John Bellairs
Doll Bones by Holly Black
The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury
The Ghost Road by Chris Cotter
The Witches by Roald Dahl
A Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Watch Hollow by Gregory Funaro
The Graveyard Book and Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Wait Till Helen Comes and other books by Mary Downing Hahn
The Great Ghost Rescue and Dial-a-Ghost by Eva Ibbotson
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving
How to Catch a Bogle Trilogy by Catherine Jinks
The Dark Thirty by Patricia McKissack
The Book of Bad Things and other books by Dan Poblocki
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (three books) by Alvin Schwartz
City of Ghosts and Tunnel of Bones by Victoria Schwab
Beware! scary stories picked by by R.L. Stine
Goosebumps Series by R.L. Stine
Lockwood & Co Series by Jonathan Stroud
The Accidental Afterlife of Thomas Marsden by Emma Trevayne
Nightbooks by J.A. White
“Autumn stars shine through gaps in the wall. We brew midnight tea by the stove’s ruddy light.” ~From a traditional Taoist song
August is National Back-to-School Month, and many schools have already begun or are about to begin the new school year, so here’s a broad list (alpha by title) of jFIC books (including some graphic novels) about school life, followed by a few personal favorites.
Amelia’s Middle School Graduation Yearbook by Marissa Moss
Anastasia Again! by Lois Lowry
Anna Wang: The Year of the Book by Andrea Cheng
Back to School, Mallory! by Laurie Friedman
The Best Man by Richard Peck
Big Nate in a Class by Himself (Big Nate Series) by Lincoln Peirce
Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly
The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Rauf (NEW 2019)
Diary of a Wimpy KidSeries by Jeff Kinney
Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life (Dork Diaries Series)by Rachel Renee Russell
Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick by Jennifer L. Holm
Ellie McDoodle New Kid in School by Ruth McNally Barshaw
The Fantastic and Terrible Fame of Classroom 13 by Honest Lee and Mathew J. Gilbert
Fire Girl by Tony Abbott
The First Day of School Forever by R. L. Stein
Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
The 47 People You’ll Meet in Middle School by Kristin Mahoney (NEW 2019)
The Friendship Experiment by Erin Teagan
Frindle and other books about school by Andrew Clements
George by Alex Gino
The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang
The Homework Strike by Greg Pincus
How to Survive Middle School by Donna Gephart
If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko
The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park
Loser, Crash, and other books about school by Jerry Spinelli
Middle School Cool by Maiya Williams
Middle School Is Worse than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm
Middle School Misadventures by Jason Platt
The Middle School Rules of Brian Urlacher by Sean Jensen
Middle School Series and other books about school by James Patterson and partner writers
The Misadventures of Max Crumbly Series by Rachel Renee Russell
My Homework Ate My Homework by Patrick Jennings
New Kid by Jerry Craft
One Tough Chick (from the Annabelle Unleashed Series) by Leslie Margolis
Posted by John David Anderson
Tales from Lovecraft Middle School Series by Charles Gilman
Reformed by Justin Weinberger
Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Smile and Drama by Raina Telgemeier
The Strange Case of Origami Yoda Series by Tom Angleberger
The Teacher’s Funeral by Richard Peck
Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made (from the Timmy Failure Series) by Stephan Pastis
Too Cool for This School by Kristen Tracy
Twerp by Mark Goldblatt
The Unteachables and other books about school by Gordon Korman
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry
And three favorites:
Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome
Eleven-year-old Langston moves with his father from Alabama to Chicago in 1946 after his mother dies. Langston has to deal with many new experiences: a whole new way of life in the city, a new school, bullying, and different kinds of discrimination. Fortunately he walks into a library and discovers the comforting words of poet Langston Hughes, his namesake.
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina
Cuban American Merci Suárez lives with her mother, father, and older brother. Her grandfather, with whom she has a close relationship and who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, lives next door. Other relatives live nearby, and the whole extended family helps each other in different ways. Her father doesn’t earn much money, but Merci has earned a scholarship to a private school for rich kids, where she experiences multiple challenges. Merci has to learn to balance the school’s expectations and her family responsibilities. Family comes first, of course.
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
It’s 1967, and seventh grader Holling Hoodhood is being forced to spend each Wednesday afternoon with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, whom he believes hates him. Holling slowly realizes that although Mrs. Baker is strict, she’s also caring and insightful. Through his teacher, his sister, friends, and the works of Shakespeare, Holling opens his eyes to the dangers in the world he’s living in: the Vietnam war and its tragic consequences and the problems of racism and discrimination. The Wednesday Wars is a humorous coming-of-age novel with a lot of heart.
“Coffee, coffee! It’s our drink! If we don’t get it, we can’t think!” ~Unknown