Tween Chapter Books: 21 New Titles for 8-12 Year Olds (Part 2)

2015 tween chapter books a book long enough

A couple of months back, I shared seven new tween chapter books, perfect for boys and girls roughly ages 8 to 12. I'm finally back to introduce Part 2 of this series. Here are seven more brand new chapter books you don't want your tween to miss!

pieces and players 2015 tween preteen chapter books kids a book long enough

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett

If you know a tween who likes logic puzzles, learning about famous works of art, and a good mystery, middle grade author Blue Balliett is not to be missed. Balliett introduced readers to several engaging, thoughtful pre-teen characters in her previous critically acclaimed novels, in which they solved mysteries involving famous art works. This time 13 pieces of art are missing after a heist. Although the suspenseful pace keeps Pieces and Players interesting, Balliett is particularly adept at developing quirky, deeply intelligent, and thoughtful tween characters. If you use phrases like "still water runs deep" to describe an "old soul" kiddo, please be sure to hand them this series. 

fish in a tree new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Librarians are all aflutter in their praise of this new chapter book, which features a middle school girl trying to survive and thrive under difficult circumstances. Ally is a talented 12-year-old artist and excellent at math, but she has a dark secret ... she can barely read. As a sixth grader, she's entering her seventh school in seven years, and plans to keep her difficulty hidden. But her new teacher Mr. Daniels sees right through the protective wall Ally's built around herself. Kids will enjoy Mr. Daniels' warmth and perception as he helps Ally understand her dyslexia. Besides her difficult learning disability, Ally deals with other issues that will resonate with young preteens, including a parent overseas in the military, a bunch of (realistic) mean girls at school, and coping with being the new kid on the block. Hunt has a way of writing that rises above the sometimes schmaltzy tone of middle school realistic fiction, producing a novel that is beautifully thoughtful.

gone crazy in alabama new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

My 12-year-old daughter loves the previous two books featuring the Gaither sisters, a trio of African-American girls growing up in the 1960s. Kids will want to read One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven (each garnered awards like the Newbery Honor, National Book Award finalist, and the Coretta Scott King Book Award), before picking up this third in the series. This time out, the Gaither girls are headed from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their grandmother in Alabama. Williams-Garcia's books are hard to put down because her characters are so endearing. The sisters squabble, just as expected, but their love for family runs deeper than their temporary irritations with each other. Readers will learn more of the Gaither family history, from slavery to segregation, all couched in humor, warmth, and a fine depiction of the resilience required to survive difficult circumstances. 

jack true story of jack and the beanstalk new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk by Liesl Shurtliff

Readers of Shurtliff's outstanding debut Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin, will be thrilled to learn she has just published a second fantasy novel. This time, Shurtliff broadens another well-known fairy tale. A terrible giant causes an uproar in Jack's hometown, stealing most everything, including Jack's father. Of course Jack travels up the beanstalk, and is immersed in a fantastical land in which he must adjust to being as small as a mouse. Fortunately, Jack's sister Annabella sneaks along behind him and is able to get help from animals and pixies. Kids who enjoy fantasies and fractured fairy tales will eat this book up! 

roller girl new 2015 preteen tween chapter books a book long enough

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

My 10-year-old daughter is a graphic novel fanatic, so I'm always on the lookout for new graphics featuring female main characters. I bought Roller Girl to add to her collection when it was published in March, and I'm pretty sure she's read it (along with El Deafo), at least a dozen times since. Astrid is almost a middle schooler, and unlike her best friend Nicole, who is into boys, dance, and clothes, Astrid's singular fascination is roller derby. Even though Astrid's hard work skating is the premise of the story, this graphic novel is really about navigating the often rocky transition from childhood friendships to adolescent relationships. Female friendships become a minefield around fifth through seventh grade, and Jamieson handles this common experience deftly. Roller Girl is perfect not just for fans of Raina Tagelmeier's Smile, but for all girls navigating the rocky waters of peer pressure and "fitting in."

case of the missing moonstone new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

The Case of the Missing Moonstone by Jordan Stratford

I'm very excited about this new title, the first in the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency series, which I think will greatly appeal to readers of Lemony Snicket and Pseudonymous Bosch. Stratford takes two real life historical characters and introduces them as girls in the 1820s. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and Ada Lovelace, considered the world's first computer programmer, join forces to catch a jewel thief. A witty, charming mix of mystery, history, and fantasy. 

echo new 2015 tween preteen chapter books a book long enough

Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan 

I truly believe Echo will be an award winner for 2015. It's a beautifully drawn story of three children living in terrible times (the Holocaust, World War II, and the Great Depression), who are able to flourish despite painful circumstances. Although the children live in different years and places, each is tied together by a single harmonica. Here's what Kirkus had to say about this stunning novel:

Sweeping across years and place, Ryan's full-bodied story is actually five stories that take readers from an enchanted forest to Germany, Pennsylvania, Southern California and finally New York City. Linking the stories is an ethereal-sounding harmonica first introduced in the fairy-tale beginning of the book ... In Nazi Germany, 12-year-old Friedrich finds the harmonica in an abandoned building; playing it fills him with the courage to attempt to free his father from Dachau. Next, the harmonica reaches two brothers in an orphanage in Depression-era Pennsylvania, from which they are adopted by a mysterious wealthy woman who doesn't seem to want them. Just after the United States enters World War II, the harmonica then makes its way to Southern California in a box of used instruments for poor children; as fifth-grader Ivy Lopez learns to play, she discovers she has exceptional musical ability. Ryan weaves these stories together, first, with the theme of music ... and its ability to empower the disadvantaged and discriminated-against, and then, at the novel's conclusion, as readers learn the intertwined fate of each story's protagonist. A grand narrative that examines the power of music to inspire beauty in a world overrun with fear and intolerance, it's worth every moment of readers' time.

Ryan masterfully executes a mystical tale that will leave young readers deeply touched and inspired with hope. I highly recommend that parents and teachers consider it as a book discussion choice for kids ages 10 and up. 

I'll be back soon to share with you seven more 2015 chapter books for tweens!

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Tween Chapter Books: 21 New Titles for 8-12 Year Olds (Part 1!)

new tween chapter books 2015 part 1

2015 is looking exciting on the chapter book front, with so many new titles for tweens (8-12 year old readers) being released, I had a hard time narrowing this list down to 21! These are chapter books in all genres, from realistic fiction to fantasy to humor, that you want to make sure you know about so you can hand them over to your reader. Today, I'm going to introduce you to seven titles, with more posts to come in the near future to complete the recommendations. Enjoy!

The Detective's Assistant by Kate Hannigan

Hannigan takes the real-life historical figure Kate Warne of Pinkerton Detective Agency fame, and spins an adventure novel based around her fictional niece. (Warne was the first official female detective in the United States.) In 1859, young Nell works to help Aunt Kitty solve mysteries, while keeping up a pen-pal relationship with Jessa, a young girl whose family is active helping African-Americans escape slavery via the Underground Railroad. Readers will enjoy Nell's spunk, intelligence, and independence, as well as the ciphers that appear throughout the book. They'll also be swept away by the fast pace and edge-of-your-seat ending.

The Great Good Summer by Liz Garton Scanlon

I'm hearing a lot of praise for this debut chapter book by established picture book author Liz Garton Scanlon. Main characters Ivy and her friend Paul are having a rotten summer. Ivy's mother has taken off to Florida with a charismatic preacher and Paul's dream of becoming an astronaut seems doomed by the closing of NASA's space program. The two concoct a plan to find Mama and see the space shuttle along the way. Hand this poignant novel about faith with a side of adventure to fans of Kate DiCamillo's Because of Winn-Dixie.  

Witherwood Reform School by Obert Skye

Ready for a dark, humorous adventure for kids who loved Lemony Snicket or The Mysterious Benedict Society?  Siblings Tobias and Charlotte are dropped off at the Witherwood Reform School as punishment for playing a trick on their nanny. The scary headmaster makes sure their father magically forgets he's ever dropped the children off, and they quickly embark on an adventure to escape the eerie school. Kids who like detailed, intelligent adventures with plenty of creepy characters and dark humor are going to eat this one up!

Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper 

Stella is 10 years old when she and her brother witness a Klan meeting that takes place very close to her home in Depression-era North Carolina. Stella lives in a close-knit community that strives to overcome oppression and economic hardship with dignity and determination. She hopes to become a journalist when she grows up, and much of the novel consists of her journal entries. Her own journey is paralleled with an effort in the community to get three registered African-American voters to the polls. There are several qualities that make Stella by Starlight a beautiful and engaging novel. First, Sharon Draper is a fine writer. She knows how to tell a story that is difficult to put down. Second, she's created a character that is extraordinarily brave, yet immensely humble and likable. Modern kids will find Stella, who is based on Draper's grandmother, a wonderful role model for creativity, courage, and strength of character. They'll also rip through Draper's storytelling, unable to put this novel down.

The Island of Dr. Libris by Chris Grabenstein 

Attention Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library fans! Chris Grabenstein has a brand new novel out this spring filled with more fantastic adventures based on books and reading. This time we meet Billy, who's dealing with his parents' impending divorce and anticipating a blasé summer. Especially in a lake cabin with no electronic entertainment! The only thing to keep him busy is a cabinet full of books that belong to the absent owner, Dr. Libris. But these are no ordinary books, for they lead Billy to a magical island where he encounters book characters brought to life, including the Sheriff of Nottingham, Pollyanna, Tom Sawyer, and Hercules. Things quickly get out of control as the characters interact in several dangerous shenanigans. Fast-paced adventure that kids will breeze through quickly.

Masterminds by Gordon Korman 

Gordon Korman has legions of tween fans, and well he should, as he's an established and critically-acclaimed series and stand alone chapter book author. This spring he's published the first in a highly original new trilogy, and readers are raving. Serenity, New Mexico is a perfect town where everyone is perfectly behaved and perfectly happy. Thirteen-year-old Eli is more than content to live there, until his friend Randy gets in trouble and is forced to leave town. Eli and a few friends start asking questions, only to learn that the town factory doesn't manufacture traffic cones, but something much more sinister. As they discover that their lives are an overwhelming, artificially created lie, they also learn that they can trust no one, not even their parents. Kids are going to love the way this story is told in alternating voices by kids with varying personalities and points of view, that the plot is propelled forward by suspense and adventure, and that the cliffhanger ending means more will be learned in the next installment of Masterminds!

The Penderwicks in Spring by Jeanne Birdsall

If you missed the first three Penderwicks titles, and you know a tween who enjoys family stories with a nostalgic, classic feel a lá Little Women, run quickly and hand them these. Fans have been waiting for this, the fourth installment, since 2011 and it looks like their patience has been rewarded! The Pendericks in Spring focuses on ten-year-old sister Batty, who discovers she has a talent for singing and plans a secret "Grand Birthday Concert" to share it with her family. Unfortunately, Batty overhears a family secret and succumbs to the belief that she is somehow responsible for her mother's death years earlier. The Penderwick family works together to figure out Batty's new sadness. Readers will enjoy the Penderwicks' honesty, warmth, and love for one another, and will be reassured by the way in which the family interacts to solve problems. Birdsall's charming writing and keen wit are immensely appealing and make this series a wonderful read-aloud for kids in a wide age group.

Coming soon ... we'll look at chapter books number 8-14 on my list of 21 tween novels not to miss in 2015!