Happy Groundhog Day! I’m not sure if we’re in for a long Winter or an early Spring, but either way, we have a pile of new books to keep you company this month.
Cameron Battle and the Hidden Kingdoms by Jamar J. Perry
As the true Descendant, I command to open
The door to Chidani; it shall be broken
Magic awaits those who seek the queen’s peace
And all the suffering you feel will cease
Those who open the histories will hear a sound
What was lost has finally been found.
Cameron Battle grew up reading The Book of Chidani, cherishing stories about the fabled kingdom that cut itself off from the world to save the Igbo people from danger. Passed down over generations, the Book is Cameron’s only connection to his parents who disappeared one fateful night, two years ago.
Ever since, his grandmother has kept the Book locked away, but it calls to Cameron. When he and his best friends Zion and Aliyah decide to open it again, they are magically transported to Chidani. Instead of a land of beauty and wonder, they find a kingdom in extreme danger, as the Queen’s sister seeks to destroy the barrier between worlds. The people of Chidani have been waiting for the last Descendant to return and save them . . . is Cameron ready to be the hero they need?
Inspired by West African and Igbo history and mythology, this adventurous middle-grade fantasy debut perfect for fans of Aru Shah and Tristan Strong celebrates the triumphs and challenges of a boy finding his truth path to greatness.
Just Right Jillian by Nicole D. Collier
In this heartfelt middle-grade novel from debut author Nicole D. Collier, fifth-grader Jillian must learn to speak and break free of her shell to enter her school’s academic competition and keep her promise to her grandmother.
Fifth-grader Jillian will do just about anything to blend in, including staying quiet even when she has the right answer. After she loses a classroom competition because she won’t speak up, she sets her mind on winning her school’s biggest competition. But breaking out of her shell is easier said than done, and Jillian has only a month to keep her promise to her grandmother and prove to herself that she can speak up and show everyone her true self.
A warm and relatable middle-grade debut novel about family, friendship, and finding the confidence to break free from the crowd and be who you truly are.
The River Between Hearts by Heather Mateus Sappenfield
On an ordinary Monday, Rill Kruse left for third grade with a dad, but when she came home, he’d been stolen. By a river. One year and thirteen days later-on the first morning of summer vacation-Rill still insists he’s trudging home. Her mom has become a practical woman. Her older brother, Eddy, now calls her baby and dork. Gus, second-in-command at Kruse Whitewater Adventures, Rill’s family’s rafting company, has gone from being her dad’s “risk bro” to her mom’s guardian angel. Joyce, company secretary, arm-wrestler, and mechanic, still calls Rill a fingerling, but, after learning what a cheater water is, Rill wishes she’d stop.
When Rill’s cat, Clifford, leads her to the family tree fort on the mountainside behind home, she discovers a stowaway, Perla. To help Perla, Rill embarks on an adventure that tests her understanding of the world, of loss, and of what it means to be a friend. In the end, what Rill discovers will nudge her-and all those she loves-toward healing.
Each of Us a Universe by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo
What do you do when you’re facing the impossible?
Ever since the day when everything changed, Cal Scott’s answer has been to run–run from her mother who’s fighting cancer, run from her father whom she can’t forgive, and run from classmates who’ve never seemed to “get” her anyway. The only thing Cal runs toward is nearby Mt. Meteorite, named for the magical meteorite some say crashed there fifty years ago. Cal spends her afternoons plotting to summit the mountain, so she can find the magic she believes will make the impossible possible and heal her mother. But no one has successfully reached its peak–no one who’s lived to tell about it, anyway.
Then Cal meets Rosine Kanambe, a girl who’s faced more impossibles than anyone should have to. Rosine has her own secret plan for the mountain and its magic, and convinces Cal they can summit its peak if they work together. As the girls climb high and dig deep to face the mountain’s challenges, Cal learns from Rosine what real courage looks like, and begins to wonder if the magic she’s been looking for is really the kind she needs.
Each of Us a Universe by Jeanne Zulick Ferruolo is a glowing story of friendship, inner strength, and what happens when the impossible becomes possible.
Omar Rising by Aisha Saeed
In this compelling companion to New York Times bestseller Amal Unbound, Amal’s friend Omar must contend with being treated like a second-class citizen when he gets a scholarship to an elite boarding school.
Omar knows his scholarship to Ghalib Academy Boarding School is a game changer, providing him–the son of a servant–with an opportunity to improve his station in life. He can’t wait to experience all the school has to offer, especially science club and hopefully the soccer team; but when he arrives, his hopes are dashed. First-year scholarship students aren’t allowed to join clubs or teams–and not only that, they have to earn their keep doing menial chores. At first Omar is dejected–but then he gets angry when he learns something even worse–the school deliberately weeds out kids like him by requiring them to get significantly higher grades than kids who can pay tuition, making it nearly impossible for scholarship students to graduate. It’s a good thing that in his favorite class, he’s learned the importance of being stubbornly optimistic. So with the help of his tightknit new group of friends–and with the threat of expulsion looming over him–he sets out to do what seems impossible: change a rigged system.
This Last Adventure by Ryan Dalton
When Archie’s beloved grandpa is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Archie desperately wants to slow the progression of his grandpa’s memory loss.
Using Grandpa’s old journal entries as inspiration, he creates shared role-playing fantasies with epic quests for them to tackle together–allowing Grandpa to live in the present and stay in touch with his fading memories. But as Grandpa’s condition gradually worsens, Archie must come to terms with what’s happening to his hero. The limits of the fantasies, revelations about Grandpa’s past, and a school project about the future force Archie to grapple with what it truly means to live a life worth remembering.
Wishing Upon the Same Stars by Jacquetta Nammar Feldman
This powerful and poignant coming-of-age middle grade debut novel follows an Arab American girl named Yasmeen as she moves to San Antonio with her family and navigates finding friendship–and herself. Perfect for fans of Other Words for Home, Front Desk, and American as Paneer Pie.
When twelve-year-old Yasmeen Khoury moves with her family to San Antonio, all she wants to do is fit in. But her classmates in Texas are nothing like her friends in the predominantly Arab neighborhood back in Detroit where she grew up. Almost immediately, Yasmeen feels like the odd girl out, and as she faces middle school mean girls and tries to make new friends, she feels more alone than ever before.
Then Yasmeen meets her neighbor, Ayelet Cohen, a first-generation Israeli American. As the two girls grow closer, Yasmeen is grateful to know someone who understands what it feels like when your parents’ idea of home is half a world away.
But when Yasmeen’s grandmother moves in after her home in Jerusalem is destroyed, Yasmeen and Ayelet must grapple with how much closer the events of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are than they’d realized. As Yasmeen begins to develop her own understandings of home, heritage, and most importantly, herself, can the two girls learn there’s more that brings them together than might tear them apart . . . and that peace begins with them?
Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee
Packed with surprises, heart, and stories within stories, this irresistible novel from an award-winning author celebrates food, fortune, and family.
Welcome to the Golden Palace!
Maizy has never been to Last Chance, Minnesota . . . until now. Her mom’s plan is just to stay for a couple weeks, until her grandfather gets better. But plans change, and as Maizy spends more time in Last Chance (where she and her family are the only Asian Americans) and at the Golden Palace–the restaurant that’s been in her family for generations–she makes some discoveries. For instance:
– You can tell a LOT about someone by the way they order food.
– And people can surprise you. Sometimes in good ways, sometimes in disappointing ways.
– And the Golden Palace has secrets.
But the more Maizy discovers, the more questions she has. Like, why are her mom and her grandmother always fighting? Who are the people in the photographs on the office wall? And when she discovers that a beloved family treasure has gone missing–and someone has left a racist note–Maizy decides it’s time to find the answers.
The Boy Who Met a Whale by Nizrana Farook
A Sri Lankan fisherboy is swept up in a thrilling seafaring adventure, complete with a kidnapping, missing treasure, and a huge blue whale! From the author of The Girl Who Stole an Elephant.
Razi, a local fisherboy, is watching turtle eggs hatch when he sees a boat bobbing into view. With a chill, he notices a small, still hand hanging over the side.
Inside is Zheng, who’s escaped a shipwreck and is full of tales of sea monsters and missing treasure. But the villains who are after Zheng are soon after Razi and his sister, Shifa, too. And so begins an exhilarating escapade in the shadow of the biggest sea monster of them all.
Author Nizrana Farook has crafted another briskly paced, action-packed quest that swells with empathetic heroes, missing treasure, and a great beast lurking beneath. Set against a vibrant, authentic landscape inspired by Sri Lanka, this delightful caper will thrill young fans of adventure and fantasy.
The Swallowtail Legacy 1: Wreck at Ada’s Reef by Michael D. Beil
Punctuated with transcripts, letters, maps, black-and-white illustrations and more, The Swallowtail Legacy: Wreck at Ada’s Reef is a vibrant contemporary mystery with a classic feel exploring righting past wrongs, redefining family, and finding yourself.
Twelve-year-old Lark Heron-Finch is steeling herself to spend the summer on Swallowtail Island off the shores of Lake Erie. It’s the first time that she and her sister will have seen the old house since their mom passed away. And while her stepfather and his boys are okay, the island’s always been full of happy memories–and now everything is different.
When Nadine, a close family friend, tells Lark about a tragic boat accident that happened off the coast many years before, Lark’s enthralled with the story. Nadine’s working on a book about Dinah Purdy, Swallowtails’s oldest resident who had a connection to the crash, and she’s sure that the accident was not as it appeared. Impressed by Lark’s keen eye, she hires her as her research assistant for the summer.
And then Lark discovers something amazing. Something that could change Dinah’s life. Something linked to the crash and even to her own family’s history with Swallowtail. But there are others on the island who would do anything to keep the truth buried in the watery depths of the past.
A compelling and complex mystery with a classic feel, Wreck at Ada’s Reef is perfect for fans of The Parker Inheritance, Holes, The Westing Game, and anyone looking for a satisfying puzzle that stretches across decades.
The Witch, the Sword, and the Cursed Knights by Alexandria Rogers
A charming middle-grade fantasy debut that puts a new spin on the legend of Camelot, perfect for fans of The School for Good and Evil and A Tale of Magic…
Twelve-year-old Ellie can’t help that she’s a witch, the most hated member of society. Determined to prove her worth and eschew her heritage, Ellie applies to the Fairy Godmother Academy–her golden ticket to societal acceptance. But Ellie’s dreams are squashed when she receives the dreaded draft letter to serve as a knight of King Arthur’s legendary Round Table. She can get out of the draft–but only if she saves a lost cause.
Enter Caedmon, a boy from Wisconsin struggling with the death of his best friend. He first dismisses the draft as ridiculous; magic can’t possibly exist. But when Merlin’s ancient magic foretells his family’s death if he doesn’t follow through, he travels to the knights’ castle, where he learns of a wicked curse leeching the knights of their power.
To break the curse, Ellie and Caedmon must pass a series of deathly trials and reforge the lost, shattered sword of Excalibur. And unless Ellie accepts her witch magic and Caedmon rises to become the knight he’s meant to be, they will both fail–and the world will fall to the same darkness that brought King Arthur and Camelot to ruin.
A Baker’s Guide to Robber Pie by Caitlin Sangster
A clever young girl looking for adventure gets more than she bargained for when she stumbles into a nest of robbers in this tale baked with magic, fun, and friendship!
Evie Baker is a great story-teller, an avid prankster, and a fantastic baker. And while she loves her parent’s bakery, she has no plans to stay in their small town and become stuffy or static. Evie wants to go on adventures and she knows just what she needs to do it!
With her best friend, Cecily, by her side, Evie sets off into the Old Forest to find one of the Fel, a group of crow-like magical creatures who can’t lie. She is sure her family’s irresistible raspberry tart and a carefully crafted deal will get them to take her on a magical adventure–without getting her eaten or worse. But the forest hides many dangers and when they finally find their Fel, they also discover a nest of robbers!
Having seen the Robber Lord’s face, Evie is whisked away into hiding for her own protection. But even in the queen’s own city, trouble has a way of finding her…
The View from the Very Best House in Town by Meera Trehan
Part thriller, part friendship story, part real estate listing, this witty and inventive debut explores the nature of friendship and home.
Sam and Asha. Asha and Sam. Their friendship is so long established, they take it for granted. Just as Asha takes for granted that Donnybrooke, the mansion that sits on the highest hill in Coreville, is the best house in town. But when Sam is accepted into snobbish Castleton Academy as an autistic “Miracle Boy,” he leaves Asha, who is also autistic, to navigate middle school alone. He also leaves her wondering if she can take anything for granted anymore. Because soon Sam is spending time with Prestyn, Asha’s nemesis, whose family owns Donnybrooke and, since a housewarming party gone wrong, has forbidden Asha to set foot inside. Who is Asha without Sam? And who will she be when it becomes clear that Prestyn’s interest in her friend isn’t so friendly?
Told from the points of view of Asha, Sam, and Donnybrooke itself, this suspenseful and highly original debut explores issues of ableism and classism as it delves into the mysteries of what makes a person a friend and a house a home.
Lemon Drop Falls by Heather Clark
Brave the sour to taste the sweet.
Morgan is devastated by her mother’s sudden death. Before, Mom’s amazing organizational skills kept the family on track, and her bowl of lemon drops was always on hand to make difficult conversations easy, turning life’s sour into sweet. After, there’s no one to help Morgan navigate her new role caring for her younger siblings, her worries about starting junior high, and her increasingly confusing friendships. All she can do is try to fulfill her mother’s final request: Keep them safe, Morgan. Be brave for them. Help them be happy.
When Dad insists on taking the family on their regular summer camping trip, and Morgan’s efforts to keep her promise to Mom seem doomed to fail, Morgan’s anxiety spirals into a panic attack, and Dad treats her like she’s impossibly broken. Unable to share her fears and needs with Dad, and desperate to prove she’s got the strength to hold the family together, Morgan sets off alone to hike a flooding canyon trail. But somewhere on that lonely and dangerous journey, Morgan will encounter the truth about the final words her mother left her, the power in finding her own voice, and the possibility of new beginnings.
A Comb of Wishes by Lisa Stringfellow
Set against the backdrop of Caribbean folklore, Lisa Stringfellow’s spellbinding middle grade debut tells of a grieving girl and a vengeful mermaid and will enchant readers who loved Kacen Callender’s Hurricane Child or Christian McKay Heidicker’s Scary Stories for Young Foxes.
Ever since her mother’s death, Kela feels every bit as broken as the shards of glass, known as “mermaid’s tears,” that sparkle on the Caribbean beaches of St. Rita. So when Kela and her friend Lissy stumble across an ancient-looking comb in a coral cave, with all she’s already lost, Kela can’t help but bring home her very own found treasure.
Far away, deep in the cold ocean, the mermaid Ophidia can feel that her comb has been taken. And despite her hatred of all humans, her magic requires that she make a bargain: the comb in exchange for a wish.
But what Kela wants most is for her mother to be alive. And a wish that big will exact an even bigger price…
I think that might be enough to keep us all busy this month. Let me know which of the February New Releases you are looking forward to in the comments below. Happy Reading!
Lots of good ones coming. I’m particularly interested in The River Between Hearts (love that title!) and Each of Us a Universe. Thanks for doing this. I look forward to this each month.
These all look wonderful, and I can’t wait to get my hands on Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee.