A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

monsterA moving and heartbreakingly honest modern fairy tale.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up; maybe older for sensitive readers

Pages: 216 (for ISBN 9781406311525)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, (light) horror, drama, British import, Europe (England), Kylie’s Favorites

Tone/Style: mysterious, sad

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: monsters, fables, ill parents

Themes: being honest with oneself, death, acceptance, grief and loss, denial, change, moving on, family

Summary:  The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

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Jackaby by William Ritter (2014)

jackabyA charmingly silly detective is at the center of this Victorian-era supernatural mystery.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 229 (for ISBN 9781616203535)

Genre(s) and keywords: mystery, supernatural, light horror

Tone/Style: creepy, formal

Pace: moderate

Topics: fairies, unexplained phenomena, Victorian, detectives, serial killers, monsters

Themes: women’s rights, grief, being oneself

Summary: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane–deny. Continue reading

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (2016)

girlLiterary fantasy and winner of the 2017 Newbery Medal.

Recommended grade level: 5 and up

Pages:  388 (for ISBN 9781616205676)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, fairy tale, award winner

Tone/Style: lyrical, mysterious, melancholy

Pace: leisurely

Topics: witches, magic, lost family, amnesia, hidden potential

Themes: family, sacrifice, sorrow, loyalty, loss

Summary: An epic fantasy about a young girl raised by a witch, a swamp monster, and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon who must unlock the powerful magic buried deep inside her.

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. Continue reading

The Girl in the Blue Coat by Monica Hesse (2016)

girlinThis World War II mystery set in the occupied Netherlands demonstrates the horrors of the Holocaust.

Recommended grade level: 7-11

Pages:   309 (for ISBN 9780316260602)

Genre(s) and keywords: historical fiction, mystery, international, Europe (the Netherlands)

Tone/Style: bleak, fearful, desperate

 

Pace: moderate

Topics: the Holocaust, World War II, the Netherlands, investigations, missing persons

Themes: resistance against oppression, grief and loss, selfishness, risks

Summary: Amsterdam, 1943. Hanneke spends her days procuring and delivering sought-after black market goods to paying customers, her nights hiding the true nature of her work from her concerned parents, and every waking moment mourning her boyfriend, who was killed on the Dutch front lines when the Germans invaded. She likes to think of her illegal work as a small act of rebellion. Continue reading

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart (2016)

lilyThis dual-POV novel addresses big issues like gender identity and depression with due seriousness but a prevailing sense of hope.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages:   352 (for ISBN 9780553536744)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, LGBTQA+

Tone/Style: hopeful, insecure, emotional

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Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass (2006)

jeremy

Two kids set out to solve a puzzle to answer a big question.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 289 (for ISBN 9780316058292)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, mystery

Tone/Style: curious, rebellious

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: searches, important objects, puzzles

Themes: death of a loved one, grief and loss, reconciling with the past, finding meaning

Summary: Twelve-year-old Jeremy receives a wooden box in the mail with the words, “The Meaning of Life—for Jeremy Fink to open on his 13th birthday.” He recognizes the box as his dad’s handiwork, although his dad passed away five years earlier. The box has four locks, requiring four keys. But the keys are missing. He and his best friend Lizzy set off on a quest through the streets of Manhattan to find the keys before time runs out. (Source) Continue reading

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (2006)

life as

This chilling what-if scenario fosters a staunch appreciation for life a we know it.

Recommended grade level: 6-12

Pages: 337 (for ISBN 9780152061548)

Genre(s) and keywords: science fiction, post-apocalyptic, survival, dystopian (in the world-ending sense, not the evil -government sense)

Tone/Style: serious, desperate, dissatisfied

Pace: moderate

Topics: natural disasters, destruction

Themes: survival, family, protecting others, grief and loss, going without, change

Summary: Miranda’s disbelief turns to fear in a split second when an asteroid knocks the moon closer to the earth. How should her family prepare for the future when worldwide tsunamis wipe out the coasts, earthquakes rock the continents, and volcanic ash blocks out the sun? Continue reading