Twelve-year-old Candice Phee figures that her life needs fixing. Her father and her uncle need to end their longtime feud, and her mother needs to find a way out of her depression. Also, her pen pal Denille needs to finally write back, and her new friend Douglas needs to return to the real home he claims is in Another Dimension. Candice knows she can solve these problems, big and small, because she’s daring, determined and bursting with creative ideas.
Hearing aids aren’t what they used to be. When author-illustrator Cece Bell was a child, it was the Phonic Ear, a bulky one partly strapped to her chest (not the smaller, unobtrusive ones of today), which served as the best option for amplifying her hearing and enabling her to better lip-read the world around her. In her new graphic novel memoir for children, Bell brings this childhood experience to life with humor and style.
Award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson was born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1963, in a “country caught between Black and White.” John F. Kennedy was president, Martin Luther King Jr. was planning the March on Washington, and Malcolm X talked of revolution. But, like her picture book Show Way (2005), Woodson’s new memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, is of the ages—an African-American family’s story traced across the generations to Thomas Jefferson Woodson, perhaps the first son of Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings, and William J. Woodson, who fought for the Union in the Civil War. Her story is “history coming down through time,” narrated as if she is standing right next to us, pointing out family pictures on the wall of her childhood home.
When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s novels A Little Princess and The Secret Garden, in which a girl is whisked from darkest India to a very different environment in England, usually in the wake of a family tragedy. As captivating as those novels were to my preteen self, what was always missing was a real portrait, not just a glimpse, of what the heroine’s life was like in the exotic place from which she came. Katherine Rundell’s Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms does exactly that.
Lots of scientists—Newton, Salk, Galileo—changed the world. Now Ellie’s grandfather Melvin might be on the same track. But is that a good thing?
Eight-year-old Aref loves nature, making lists, his family, his grandfather Sidi and his home in Muscat, Oman. When his parents decide to finish their doctorates in Michigan, Aref refuses to embrace the move. The important things—school, friends, his grandfather, the sea turtle beach—do not fit in Aref’s suitcase, and he finds himself getting in his mother’s way while sinking into sadness. Underneath his sadness is fear: Will Sidi be here in three years when Aref returns? Will Aref remember Muscat?
Most children’s stories that feature animals as main characters tend to be highly anthropomorphic. From “The Three Little Pigs” to The Incredible Journey, animals stand in for humans, right down to living in houses and sitting in chairs. Not so in Nuts to You, the latest from Newbery-winning author Lynne Rae Perkins. The squirrels in this story behave as squirrels, and their story is very interesting.
Abigail (don’t call her “Abby”) is so excited about starting sixth grade, she has to make lists just to calm herself down. She’s ready to rule the school with best friends Alli and Cami and their wicked pom pom choreography when disaster strikes three times over: Abigail ends up in a different homeroom than her friends; she doesn’t make the pom squad; and her homeroom teacher pairs her with wildly unpopular Gabby Marco for a year-long letter writing assignment. Always, Abigail is a story of friendship found in unexpected places, and the cost of kindness versus popularity.
Benjamin Epstein loves “sweeping,” or applying to sweepstakes. He’s especially excited about the competition to write a new slogan for Royal-T Bathroom Tissue. Winning the contest would provide enough money for Benjamin and his mother to avoid eviction from their small Philadelphia apartment without giving up on the Grand Plan his father designed before dying of lung cancer: Benjamin’s mother will finish her accounting degree, get a good job, and she and Benjamin will have a better life.
When antimatter combines with matter, it creates an explosion of energy. That’s an accurate formula for what Jon Scieszka has created with this excellent first book in his new middle grade series.