Why I picked it: This sensitively and warmly told coming-of-age story about a Pakistani-American's struggles with middle school and the vandalization of her mosque is engaging and moving without being didactic.
Read it if: You want a sweet, compelling, and timely story.
Dark Shadows: Yes, Another Misadventure
Why I picked it: The Chicken Squad series is a consistently funny series for newly independent readers. This madcap group of chicken detectives is hysterically amusing.
Read it if: You want something funny and clever.
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora
Why I picked it: Arturo Zamora's quest to save his family's Cuban restaurant in Miami is heartfelt, funny when appropriate, and compelling.
Read it if: You want a realistic family story with depth, humor, and hope.
Jada Jones series
Why I picked it: I adore this series (book #2 is just as awesome as the first one). Jada is a rock expert, deals with friendship issues, runs for class president, and learns lessons along the way without the writing being too obvious or preachy.
Read it if: You want a read with one of the cutest (but not annoyingly so) fourth graders in recent children's literature.
Jasmine Toguchi series
Why I picked it: Jasmine is a genuine, spirited, and remarkable character! Her Japanese-American heritage and close family unit is a welcome addition to our chapter book series collection.
Read it if: You want something fun and family-oriented.
Let's Pretend We Never Met
Why I picked it: My dark horse for a Newbery Honor pick. Friendship stories are very common in middle grade literature, but this story of a girl who unwittingly befriends the "weird girl" at her new school is honest, relatable, and ultimately joyous and hopeful.
Read it if: You want something contemporary, truthful, and poignant. I love this one.
Lights, Camera, Cook! (Next Best Junior Chef series)
Why I picked it: This new series about a group of kids vying for the top spot in a cooking competition reality show is pure fun.
Read it if: You want a break from heavy reads!
Lucky Broken Girl
Why I picked it: This can be an emotionally difficult read at times, but this story of a Cuban-Jewish girl in the 1960s dealing with being temporarily bedridden due to an accident is deeply moving and memorable.
Read it if: You want something that might make you cry--or laugh at times. This is also on my Newbery list.
Why I picked it: I adore it and definitely related to it. It's good enough to be on my Newbery list, even though light-ish reads tend to not be rewarded with literary medals. Its message of inclusivity (one important secondary character has a form of dwarfism) and trying new things comes across without being too obvious or preachy
Read it if: You were a short kid--or a theater kid!
Wedgie and Gizmo
Why I picked it: Hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. Books narrated by pets are nothing new, but this is by an expert in those type of books.
Read it if: You want something truly laugh-out-loud funny. Or have ever had an excitable dog in your life. (Or a guinea pig plotting world domination.) Also deals with blended families in a sensitive and believable way.
These are so good that I want people to read them. No room to go into details, but you'll be glad you did:
The Many Reflections of Miss Jane Deming
Stef Soto, Taco Queen
This is Just a Test
The Sweetest Sound
The Losers Club
Why I picked it: This is a compelling and gorgeously illustrated picture book biography of the famed composer.
Read it if: You want an introduction to this great man who incorporated his faith--and his love of patterns!--into his work. (Need a STEAM related biography? Pick this one up!)
Behind the Legend series
Why I picked it: Books about legendary monsters and figures are super popular, but not always well written or worth the money. Thank goodness for this series, which peels back the history of figures such as Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, zombies, werewolves, and unicorns!
Read it if: You've heard about these legendary phenomenons, but are hazy on the details.
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
Why I picked it: Beautifully illustrated by Floyd Cooper and magnificently written by the late great Walter Dean Myers.
Read it if: You want one of the best children's biographies written about this American hero.
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code
Why I picked it: Laurie Wallmark followed her exceptional Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine with another awesome biography of an important woman in computer history (she popularized computer language written in English and understandable by computers and coined the phrase "computer bug," among other things).
Read if if: You want to learn more about an inspiring women in STEM history.
Malala's Magic Pencil
Why I picked it: This is a beautiful and age-appropriate introduction to the young peace activist.
Read it if: You have a youngster not mature enough for her memoir (including the one adapted for young readers).
Maya Lin: Artist-Architect of of Light and Lines
Why I picked it: This is the first noteworthy children's biography of the architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It sensitively captures the controversy of the Memorial at the time, as well as her father's escape from China.
Read it if: You are planning a visit to the Memorial.
Not So Different: What You Really Want to Ask About Having a Disability
Why I picked it: This isn't just a worthwhile read for children; adults can learn much from this guide.
Read it if: You want a honest and age-appropriate book about disabilities. And Shane Burcaw is a cool and enthusiastic guy; you'll really enjoy reading this.
Over and Under the Pond
Why I picked it: I am loving Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal's nature-themed picture books. Not only are they brilliantly illustrated and written, but they would make for awesome read alouds for elementary grade classes.
Read it if: You want an amazing read aloud about the natural world.
Pocket Full of Colors: The Magical World of Mary Blair, Disney Artist Extraordinaire
Why I picked it: Anything Disney history related is a must-read for me. This picture book biography of one of Walt Disney's favorite artists (and the designer of the It's a Small World attraction) is an intriguing read.
Read it if: You're planning a trip to a Disney park, or if you're a Disney fan.
The World is Not a Rectangle: A Portrait of Architect Zaha Hadid
Why I picked it: I love reading biographies of people whose achievements are new to me. As a Muslim architect in Iraq (and later, in the UK), Zaha Hadid faced challenges in her work. That didn't stop her from becoming an internationally successful architect.
Read it if: You want a biography that celebrates achievement and overcoming obstacles.
Next week: Wrapping up 2017 with my favorite picture books and graphic novels.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library