Reaching for Sun

This book of poems describes the life of a young girl named Josie, who lives in a small farmhouse with her mother and her “gran.” She has always known that she was different due to her cerebral palsy disability, demanding family members, and never getting the opportunity to know her father. When a new boy named Jordan moves into the same small neighborhood as her, Josie soon realizes that she may not be so different after all and that maybe being unique is better than being ordinary. The two become friends (and possibly something more), and they soon discover all of the beautiful things about one another that other people were so quick to judge and overlook.

The Lunch Witch

This graphic novel is about Grunhilda, a witch who is well-known for her and her family’s magical powers and stirring up strange concoctions in a big, black pot. She inherits her ancestors’ recipes and cauldron and soon finds a job that suits her well… a lunch lady. She finds enjoyment in scaring the children and soon discovers a little girl, Madison, who does not really seem to fit in with the rest of her classmates. After the two meet, Grunhilda soon realizes that helping others is going against every evil thing that she once believed in as a witch. Throughout the book, Grunhilda and Madison try to gain back any magic that may have been lost during Grunhilda’s new experience as a lunch lady, and Grunhilda realizes who she really is on the inside.

Blackbird Fly

In this book, the main character, Apple, struggles with common, everyday kid issues, such as backstabbing friends and not fitting in. When Apply was little, she and her mother moved to Louisiana from the Philippines and ever since, she knew that she was different and that she did not exactly fit in with everybody else. Throughout the book, she does whatever it takes to follow her dreams of becoming a future rock star. With music from the Beatles and two new friends being her best outlets, Apple soon learns that maybe it’s okay to be different and that maybe her dreams can come true.

The Secrets to Ruling School

In this sequel to the book The Secrets to Ruling School (Without Even Trying), the author incorporates humor, real-life dilemmas, and a variety of narratives to create a funny, enjoyable, and relatable book for kids. The main character, Max Corrigan, is running for class president and he describes to the middle school-aged reader about just how cool it can be to run for class president, too. He talks about what a competition, a successful campaign, numerous speeches, and winning votes might actually look like for someone his age. He also talks about how important it is to have certain skills and a positive attitude in order to thrive in middle school and be successful.

Brown Girl Dreaming

This book is a memoir written by the author, Jacqueline Woodson. She tells the story about her life as an African American child, constantly traveling back and forth between the north and the south. Although Jackie and her family were faced with daily struggles and conflicts of racism and segregation, they never failed to remember what was most important to them, and that was family, hope, and God’s faith. Jackie and her family eventually moved to New York City and she decided to become a writer, a writer who still influences children and adults today of all races. Jackie stayed in New York to live a better life, become an excellent writer, and fulfill her dreams.

P.S. Be Eleven

In this sequel to the book One Crazy Summer, the Gaither sisters return to Brooklyn, NY after spending the summer in Oakland, CA with their mother and the Black Panthers to find that many changes have occurred back at home. The Gaither siblings begin to notice that their father is in love with a new woman and their uncle has returned from the Vietnam War a changed man; however, the siblings are still expected to be independent and obey orders. Although Delphine has a lot of other sixth grade problems to worry about, she constantly finds support and guidance from her mother, who reminds her that she must not grow up too fast. This novel is all about what it may have been like to grow up and become an adolescent in the 1960s.

The Night Gardener

This book is a spooky and mysterious ghost story, fable, and science fiction book for kids. The two main characters, Molly and Kip, are siblings who had been separated from their parents during the Great Famine in Ireland and left home to search for a new and better life in England. In their new home, an old woman warns them that there is something dark and dreary there that has kept many people away from the house and the surrounding woods for years, a creature called the Night Man. Molly and Kip’s curiosity and hope for a better life as both siblings and caretakers for each other gives them the courage to stay in this so-called haunted house, at least for a little while.

After the Train

In 1955 in West Germany around the time of WWII, Peter is taught many lessons that summer. While fishing in the river, he and his friends help a man safely reach the West German side and he overhears anti-Semitic comments. He has a recurring nightmare and after going through his parents’ things, he eventually learns that he is Jewish and was given to a stranger after birth. Throughout the book, Peter is constantly confused, so he attempts to announce and live with his newfound identity.

The Yankee at the Seder

This is a historical fiction book about a Jewish Yankee soldier who joins a Jewish family’s Passover celebration. When the young boy, Jacob, sees a real Yankee soldier for the first time, he reminds himself that not all Confederates should surrender to the North, and that it’s okay to be rebellious. However, towards the end of the story, Jacob becomes more optimistic about the situation and realizes that the most important thing at that moment was not the war and who the winners and losers were, but family and freedom were what mattered most.

Circle Unbroken

This book tells the story of a little girl’s grandmother who connects the past with the present by remembering her life as a slave. Although the book mainly sparks the girl’s interest by describing the basket-making techniques and the many uses that the baskets had on the slave plantations, the grandmother tells a story that brings back memories of her life as a slave on a plantation where she met the little girl’s grandfather. The grandparents reflect on important things that they learned and took away from their experiences as slaves. This book is a cultural and eye-opening historical fiction story that can educate those who were not alive during the time of slavery.