As the weather gets chillier, what better time to curl under a blanket with a new book? November’s reads offer escape for fantasy lovers and realism for many who are still coping with the world’s situation. Take a look at some of the books releasing this month and mouse over the covers for links to purchase from Bookshop.
The Ice House by Monica Sherwood
With shades of When You Reach Me, The Thing About Jellyfish, and Bridge to Terabithia, and a big, timely climate hook at its core, here is a heartfelt middle-grade debut about the inevitability of change that will resonate profoundly during these extraordinary times.
Spring has arrived, and yet an unyielding winter freeze has left Louisa snowed into her apartment building for months with parents coping with extreme stress, a little brother struggling with cabin fever, and—awkwardly—her neighbor and former close friend, Luke. The new realities of this climate disaster have not only affected Louisa’s family, but when Luke’s dad has an ice-related accident and it’s unclear if he’ll recover, both families’ lives are turned upside down.
Desperate to find an escape from the grief plaguing their homes, Louisa and Luke build a massive snow fort in their yard. But their creation opens up an otherworldly window to what could lie ahead and sets them on a mission: to restore the universe to its rightful order, so the ice will melt, and life will return to “normal”. With a deft combination of heartfelt prose and a touch of magic, Monica Sherwood’s affecting debut novel is a relatable story of families grappling with—and emerging from—a different kind of quarantine.
Stuntboy in the Meantime by Jason Reynolds, illus. Raúl the Third
Portico Reeves’s superpower is making sure all the other superheroes—like his parents and two best friends—stay super. And safe. Super safe. And he does this all in secret. No one in his civilian life knows he’s actually…Stuntboy!
But his regular Portico identity is pretty cool, too. He lives in the biggest house on the block, maybe in the whole city, which basically makes it a castle. His mom calls where they live an apartment building. But a building with fifty doors just in the hallways is definitely a castle. And behind those fifty doors live a bunch of different people who Stuntboy saves all the time. In fact, he’s the only reason the cat, New Name Every Day, has nine lives.
All this is swell except for Portico’s other secret, his not-so-super secret. His parents are fighting all the time. They’re trying to hide it by repeatedly telling Portico to go check on a neighbor “in the meantime.” But Portico knows “meantime” means his parents are heading into the Mean Time which means they’re about to get into it, and well, Portico’s superhero responsibility is to save them, too—as soon as he figures out how. Only, all these secrets give Portico the worry wiggles, the frets, which his mom calls anxiety. Plus, like all superheroes, Portico has an arch-nemesis who is determined to prove that there is nothing super about Portico at all.
Birdie’s Billions by Edith Cohn
A savvy young girl finds half a million dollars and wonders if she can keep it in this charming middle grade mystery that asks big questions about right, wrong, and what you’d do for family.
For as long as eleven-year-old Birdie can remember, it’s always been just her and her mom, which means there’s not a lot of extra money to spend on things like new clothes and batons from the fancy gymnastics store. Still, they always find a way to make ends meet. Then Birdie makes one silly mistake that has a big consequence: Mom loses her job. Now things are more dire than ever, and Birdie knows it’s up to her to fix it.
When Birdie discovers a huge stash of cash in an abandoned house, she just knows it must be the answer to their problems. But the people who left that money behind aren’t willing to give it up so easily. Does “finders, keepers” count when it’s half a million dollars? In this heartfelt small-town story from beloved author Edith Cohn, Birdie learns how to balance what’s right for her family-and herself-with what’s the right thing to do.
When the World Turned Upside Down by K. Ibura
A heartwarming, feel-good story of friendship and overcoming adversity in a time of COVID, this is a book about community, giving back, and understanding the world around us through the power of generosity. With one little announcement from their fourth-grade teacher, Shayla, Liam, Ben, and Ai’s world turned upside down. Now, with school on hold due to a strange virus that they don’t quite understand, the only semblance of safety they feel is knowing that they have one another in their apartment complex.
But as each of them head home and experience their own version of confinement, it becomes very real. And as their individual struggles grow, they need each other now more than ever. Very soon, they discover that they’re not the only ones who need a little help.
Banded together, the friends find ways to help others struggling in their building. And one by one, they do their part in making their neighbors feel just a little bit safer. As the world becomes more complex, as protests take the streets, Shayla, Liam, Ben, and Ai do everything they can to better understand the world around them and the people around them in order to discover the power and comfort that understanding and generosity can bring.
Tidesong by Wendy Xu
Perfect for fans of Studio Ghibli and The Tea Dragon Society, this is a magically heartwarming graphic novel about self-acceptance and friendship. Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother pressure her to attend the Royal Magic Academy—the best magic school in the realm—even though her magic is shaky at best. To train for her entrance exams, Sophie is sent to relatives she’s never met.
Cousin Sage and Great-Aunt Lan seem more interested in giving Sophie chores than in teaching her magic. Frustrated, Sophie attempts magic on her own, but the spell goes wrong, and she accidentally entangles her magic with the magic of a young water dragon named Lir.
Lir is trapped on land and can’t remember where he came from. Even so, he’s everything Sophie isn’t—beloved by Sophie’s family and skilled at magic. With his help, Sophie might just ace her entrance exams, but that means standing in the way of Lir’s attempts to regain his memories. Sophie knows what she’s doing is wrong, but without Lir’s help, can she prove herself?
Candidly Cline by Kathryn Ormsbee
A must-read for fans of Julie Murphy and Ashley Herring Blake, this queer coming-of-age story from critically acclaimed author Kathryn Ormsbee sings with heart, warmth, and hope.
Born in Paris, Kentucky, and raised on her gram’s favorite country music, Cline Alden is a girl with big dreams and a heart full of song. When she finds out about a young musicians’ workshop a few towns over, Cline sweet-talks, saves, and maybe fibs her way into her first step toward musical stardom.
But her big dreams never prepared her for the butterflies she feels surrounded by so many other talented kids—especially Sylvie, who gives Cline the type of butterflies she’s only ever heard about in love songs. As she learns to make music of her own, Cline begins to realize how much of herself she’s been holding back. But now, there’s a new song taking shape in her heart—if only she can find her voice and sing it.
Crown Heist by Deron Hicks
In another “suspenseful mystery romp with art appreciation” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Art and Camille head to London to find her estranged father, and soon find themselves embroiled in a heist involving a long-dead monarch. Packed with fascinating facts about real places and pieces of art, this fast-paced thriller is perfect for fans of the Spy School and Mr. Limoncello’s Library series.
No matter how dangerous his adventures have been, Art has always been able to count on his best friend, Camille. Now that Camille is meeting her estranged father, Art wants to be there for her—which means going to London.
But Camille’s history professor father, renowned for expertise in British legend, is missing. When they visit his apartment, Art and Camille find a long-missing object that suggests the professor could be in trouble and solving a mystery related to London’s history. Follow Art and Camille as they visit the Tower of London, National Portrait Gallery, and ride the “tube” in hopes of uncovering the truth before it’s too late.
Tangled Up in Luck (The Tangled Mysteries 1) by Merrill Wyatt
When seventh grade enemies research a missing set of jewels for a class project, they realize that the answers to the unsolved case might be much closer to home than they thought in this fun-filled mystery for fans of The Book Scavenger and Lemons.
If you told Sloane Osburn and Amelia Miller-Poe that they’d be hiding in their town cemetery from an evil mastermind, they would have been hard-pressed to believe you. If you also told them that person was intent on beating them to a cache of long-lost jewels using nothing more than a slingshot and wicked aim, they’d have been sure you got your facts wrong. Finally, if you told them they’d be doing all of this as friends…well, they would have been sure you needed medical attention.
Whether through serendipity (really, really good luck) or zemblanity (really, really bad luck), someone tricked their teacher into using their seventh-grade class to investigate the mystery of their town’s long-missing treasure. From there, things have escalated. Quickly. Now, the girls are stuck hiding behind a gravestone, dodging acorns (who knew acorns could be so threatening?), and just a few clues short of those jewels. It’s up to these enemies-turned-partners to uncover centuries-old clues to find the treasure at the end of this book before the mysterious person on their trail can get to it first.
The Swag is in the Socks by Kelly J. Baptist
Xavier Moon is stepping out of the shadows when his great-uncle gives him some outlandish socks and some even stranger requests. A story about heart, confidence, and standing on your own two feet that is perfect for fans of The Season of Styx Malone and The Parker Inheritance.
Xavier Moon is not one to steal the show. He’s perfectly content to play video games and sit at his bedroom window watching the neighborhood talk outside.
But for Xavier’s twelfth birthday, he receives a pair of funky socks and a challenge from his great-uncle, Frankie Bell, saying it’s time to swag out and speak up. First on the list: get into the legendary Scepter League. Xavier’s grandfather, great-uncle, and father were all invited to join the elite boys’ after-school club that admits only the most suave and confident young men. Xavier has never had the courage to apply before, but his wild socks are getting him some big attention, so maybe it’s time to come out of the shadows and follow in his family’s footsteps. Or maybe Xavier will march down a new path altogether.
Stuck by Jennifer Sender
A coming-of-age story about a boy who is used to flying under the radar, and the classroom of kids determined to help him stand out. This touching friendship tale is the perfect read for fans of Fish in a Tree and Song for a Whale.
If Austin picked a color to describe his life, it would be tumbleweed brown. Austin doesn’t like standing out. He’s always the new kid, and there’s no hiding his size. Plus, Austin has a secret: he struggles to read.
Then Austin meets Bertie, who is razzmatazz. Everything about Bertie is bursting! But the best part of his newest school is the Safety Squad, with their laser lemon vests. Their easy confidence and leadership stand out in the coolest way. Even when things are not so vibrant and life at home makes Austin feel pacific blue, for the first time, he wants to leave a mark. And the more Austin speaks up, the more he finds he may not be that different after all.
A-Okay by Jarad Greene
A-Okay is a heartfelt semi-autobiographical middle grade graphic novel about acne, identity, and finding your place.
When Jay starts eighth grade with a few pimples he doesn’t think much of it at first…except to wonder if the embarrassing acne will disappear as quickly as it arrived. But when his acne goes from bad to worse, Jay’s prescribed a powerful medication that comes with some serious side effects. Regardless, he’s convinced it’ll all be worth it if clear skin is on the horizon!
Meanwhile, school isn’t going exactly as planned. All of Jay’s friends are in different classes; he has no one to sit with at lunch; his best friend, Brace, is avoiding him; and—to top it off—Jay doesn’t understand why he doesn’t share the same feelings two of his fellow classmates, a boy named Mark and a girl named Amy, have for him. Eighth grade can be tough, but Jay has to believe everything’s going to be a-okay…right?
Spell Sweeper by Lee Edward Fodi
Featuring a failed young wizard and her cleanup crew, this delightfully dysfunctional middle-grade fantasy is an imaginative twist on magic school that’s perfect for fans of Nevermoor and The School for Good and Evil.
Cara Moone is a wizard—but she’s basically flunked out of wizard school. Now she’s in training to be a MOP, also known as Magical Occurrence Purger, also known as it’s Cara’s job to sweep up the hazardous dust a real wizard’s spells leave behind.
A real wizard, that is, like Harlee Wu, the so-called Chosen One destined to save the magical world. But when one of Harlee’s spells goes awry and leaves behind a rift in the fabric of magic itself, it’ll take more than magic to clean up the mess. Luckily, messes are kind of Cara’s thing.
Gussy by Jimmy Cajoleas
A magical, lyrical middle grade novel that will enchant fans of Kelly Barnhill and Anne Ursu, about a girl who must take on the ultimate responsibility in her village—and the dangers of secrets kept locked away in the dark.
Gussy knows that being a village Protector is a big job, even if Grandpa Widow makes the role look easy. So when Grandpa Widow is suddenly called to travel across the desert surrounding the village, and Gussy has to step into the role of Protector herself, she barely feels ready to perform the magical Rites that keep her village safe from the Great Doom, the mysterious power that threatens the residents in the lands outside.
On her very first night in charge, a mysterious young girl arrives in search of shelter, forcing Gussy to break the number one rule of being a Protector: When the sun goes down, keep the gates shut. Soon it becomes clear that the Great Doom has managed to get inside the village walls. And as the villagers all look to Gussy for help, Gussy will have to turn to some surprising allies to save the only home she’s ever known.
The Art of Running Away by Sabrina Kleckner
Twelve-year-old Maisie is an artist. When she’s in front of her sketchbook or apprenticing at Glenna’s Portraits, the family-run art shop her grandmother started, the world makes sense. She doesn’t think about Calum, her brother who mysteriously left home and cut ties with her family six years ago, or her parents’ insistence that she “broaden her horizons” and try something new—something that isn’t art.
But when Glenna’s Portraits falls on hard times, Maisie’s plan to take over the shop when she’s older and become a lifelong artist starts to crumble. In desperation to make things right, Maisie runs away to London to reconnect with her adult brother, hoping he might be the key to saving the shop.
But as Maisie learns about her family’s past from Calum, she starts to rethink everything she’s ever known. Maisie must decide not only if saving her family’s art shop is worth it, but if she can forgive her parents for the mistakes they’ve made.