Tag Archives: JFIC recommendations

Recent Reads

Hello, jFIC fans,

Whatever happened to April and May? Proof we’re living in sad and stressful times. Let me catch June before it whizzes by too!

Here are a few titles I’ve read recently along with my ratings. Most should be available as ebooks and/or audio ebooks.

The World’s Greatest Detective, Caroline Carlson 2017 ****

Mystery, 4th-6th grades

A whodunit story with an endearing main character, quirky secondary characters, and high stakes. The mystery itself is a bit simplistic (from an adult perspective), but interesting and entertaining, and will appeal to kids starting to become familiarized with the genre. (Early 20th century white community.)


We’re Not from Here, Geoff Rodkey 2019 *****

Science Fiction, 5th-7th grades

“A quirky sci-fi adventure with a surprising layer of political irony.” (Kirkus) A group of humans are granted refuge on another planet, but while making the trip there, the planet’s government changes, and their request is denied. Highly entertaining and thought-provoking. Loved the aliens, especially the highly intelligent, marshmallow-like Ororos. (Diversity is implied.)


The Heart and Mind of Frances Pauley, April Stevens 2018 ****

Fiction, 4th-6th grades

A moving, coming-of-age story about acceptance (of oneself and others), empathy, kindness, forgiveness, friendship, grieving, and growth. Loved the main character’s interest in nature and the impact that the wise and kind aging bus driver has on all the children. Great for gifted kids who feel misunderstood and isolated. (Universal messages, but minimal diversity.)


Mañanaland by Pam Muñoz Ryan 2020

Fantasy (I question this classification),  4-6th grades *****

From the book’s blurb: “When eleven-year-old Max uncovers a buried family secret–involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety–he decides it’s time to find out more about his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby.” A poignant commentary on the struggles of refugee immigrants and those who bravely choose to protect them. (Hispanic characters and Own Voices author.)


Aggie Morton Mystery Queen: The Body Under the Piano by Marthe Jocelyn 2020 ****

Mystery/Historical Fiction, 5th-7th grades

Twelve-year-old amateur detective and aspiring writer Aggie Morton investigates a murder by poison with the help of her Belgian friend Hector Perot. A well-crafted mystery inspired by the imagined life of Agatha Christie as a child. The book’s one disappointment is Perot’s poorly-developed character and insubstantial role. (Also, no diversity.) Hopefully Perot’s characterization will improve as the series progresses. For fans of The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency. 


August Isle by Ali Standish 2019 ****

Realistic Fiction, 5-8th grades

A story about a 14-year-old girl uncovering a painful family secret. The pacing is a bit slow, but the lovely seaside setting, the endearing secondary characters, and the main character’s emotional journey hold your interest, plus the climax and resolution make the wait worthwhile. (White main character/family. Indian and biracial secondary characters.)


Some Places More than Others by Renee Watson 2019 *****

Realistic Fiction, 4-6th grades

A lovely story about an 11-year-old girl’s longing to connect with her father’s side of the family and their history. It reads like a travel journal, but that’s the beauty of it: it takes the reader on a fascinating historical tour of New York. (Own Voices: African American main characters/family.)


The Guggenheim Mystery: Sequel to The London Eye Mystery by Robin Stevens 2018 *****

Mystery, 4-7th grades

“Twelve-year-old Ted Stark, his sister, and cousin investigate the theft of a priceless work of art.” Robin Stevens captures the voices of the characters from the first installment of the series (The London Eye Mystery by the late Siobhan Dowd). The stakes are not as high as in the first book, but the plot and the setting hold your interest, and the writing—especially the characterization— is very good. (Diverse main and secondary characters. Main character/narrator has ASD.)


And last but not least, an important book for the times we’re living in:

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi *****

Nonfiction, YA (Grade 7+)

“The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. 

“Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.”


Stay safe and happy reading!

“Tea should be taken in solitude.” –C. S. Lewis

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JFIC for Black History Month

Hello, jFIC fans,

It’s Black History Month, so let’s celebrate African American jFIC authors. Here’s a list of their awesome books :

The Crossover Series by Kwame Alexander

The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste

Hurricane Child by Kacen Callender

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles

So Done by Paula Chase

Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

New Kid (graphic novel) by Jerry Craft (Recent winner of the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature)

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis

Blended by Sharon Draper

The Last Last-Day-of-Summer by Lamar Giles

Garvey’s Choice by Nikki Grimes

Bird by Angela Johnson

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

The Season of Stix Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore

How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons

Ghost and sequels by Jason Reynolds (current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature)

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

One Crazy Summer Trilogy by Rita Williams-Garcia

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich by Ibi Zoboi

And also, because it’s Valentine’s Day, here’s a sweet love story: Dream Within a Dream by Patricia MacLachlan

Happy reading!

“I always get up and make a cup of coffee while it is still dark — it must be dark — and then I drink the coffee and watch the light come.” —Toni Morrison

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JFIC Favorites 2019

Hello, jFIC fans,

Here are my favorite jFIC books of 2019:

The Rambling by Jimmy Cajoleas (Fantasy/Folklore)

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. 

Happy reading!

“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

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JFIC Family Stories

Hello, jFIC Fans,

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

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

The Family Hitchcock by [Levin, Mark, Flackett, Jennifer]

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

Happy reading!

“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

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Spooky JFIC

Hello, jFIC fans,

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

How to Catch a Bogle

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

Happy reading!

“Autumn stars shine through gaps in the wall. We brew midnight tea by the stove’s ruddy light.” ~From a traditional Taoist song

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JFIC Books about School

Hello, jFIC fans,

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 Kid Series 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

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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.

Happy reading!

“Coffee, coffee! It’s our drink! If we don’t get it, we can’t think!” ~Unknown

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JFIC’s Resilient Children

Hello, jFIC fans,

Some of the most engaging jFIC books are about resilient children overcoming terrible circumstances. Here are a few well-known titles:

The Wolves of Willoughby Chase by Joan Aiken

Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes by Jonathan Auxier

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Sweep: A Story of a Girl and Her Monster by Jonathan Auxier

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The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins

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The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl

Matilda by Roald Dahl

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

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The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert

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How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks

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West of the Moon by Margi Preus

West of the Moon by [Preus, Margi]

Withering-by-Sea by Judith Rossell

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J. K. Rowling

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The Explorer by Katherine Rundell 

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Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket

How I Became a Ghost by Tim Tingle

Nightbooks by J. A. White

Happy reading!

Where there’s tea there’s hope.
-Arthur Wing Pinero

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