The Marvels opens with 400 pages of drawings telling the story of the fictional Royal Theatre in London and five generations of a family of actors. In 1766, young Billy Marvel runs off to sea, stowing away on the Kraken, the ship on which his older brother Marcus is a sailor. The ship sinks, and Billy is the sole survivor, along with his dog, Tar. Making his way eventually to London, Billy gets involved with the Royal Theater and becomes the progenitor of several generations of Marvels, great stage actors all.
Half-Japanese, half-black, Mimi Yoshiko Oliver loves looking at the moon and wants to be an astronaut. In January 1969, she moves from California to the frosty Vermont town of Hillsborough, an unwelcoming place. The farmer next door is always rude, and Mimi is teased at school. Even after she forms a tentative friendship with a girl named Stacey, she’s not invited to Stacey’s home. Then there’s the matter of shop class. Mimi would rather take shop than home ec so she can use power tools to work on her science project, but girls are supposed to “learn how to cook and sew so they can be good homemakers.”
Ten-year-old Christa Adams has a problem. Her parents are making the disastrous mistake of selling the family cabin in Wisconsin’s Northwoods, where Christa has spent every summer of her life. In the past, she might have had help reasoning with her parents from her sister, Amelia—but she’s been replaced by Amelia-the-Princess, who only seems to care about texting and tanning. Luckily for Christa, her new friend Alex might have a solution buried in his family’s past.
Debut novelist Kevin Sands is off to a roaring good start with The Blackthorn Key, which unfolds during six consecutive springtime days in 1665 London. Historical settings can be a bit off-putting to a young reader—they’re generally convinced that it’s going to be too “historical,” and without technology, how exciting can it be? But Sands imbues the story with all the realities of 17th-century England and still keeps the pace tripping along.
As a teenage boy who loves fashion, Francis is used to being teased and bullied at school, and he feels totally alone until he meets Jessica, a girl who shares his untraditional interests. But Jessica has a peculiarity of her own: For all her good spirits, she is thoroughly, completely and definitely dead. Francis is the only person who can see or hear her.
George looks and dresses like a boy, but inside, she’s not a boy. Her family doesn’t understand, but George knows that she’s a girl. It’s hard pretending to be a boy, but it’s even harder when the class bully picks on her and starts fights.
“It happened overnight.” On April 9, 1940, German forces invaded Denmark, where they would remain until surrendering in 1945. Also overnight was the start of a Danish resistance movement—not the result of government initiatives, but rather the selfless actions of individuals who risked their lives.
There’s no doubt that Louis Sachar, the Newbery Medal-winning author of Holes, knows how to draw in his readers. His latest book, Fuzzy Mud, reads like a middle school version of Contagion―it’s a thriller that will have readers quickly turning its pages.
Good historical fiction is hard to find, but it’s probably even harder to write. Newbery Honor winner Gennifer Choldenko’s ability to research obscure yet intriguing topics is uncanny, and as she did with the popular Al Capone trilogy, she turns a tough topic into a high-interest read with Chasing Secrets.
Some may think of New York City’s Upper West Side as “Seinfeld” stomping grounds, but fans of Rebecca Stead know better: These apartments, shops and streets are where Stead does her own stomping—and where the characters in her critically lauded middle grade novels live.