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 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 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 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: 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 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."
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 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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