Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling (2017)

InsignificantA smart and hilarious voice sets this apart from other books in its genre.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:   262 (for ISBN 9781454923459)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, mystery, ability diverse

Tone/Style: blunt, humorous

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: differently-abled people, theme parks, moving, making friends, new experiences

Themes: perseverance, independence, family, being different, friendship

Summary: Aven Green gets that question a lot. She loves to tell people that she lost her arms in an alligator wrestling match, or a wildfire in Tanzania, but the truth is she was born without them. And when her parents take a job running Stagecoach Pass, a rundown western theme park in Arizona, Aven moves with them across the country knowing that she’ll have to answer the question over and over again. Continue reading

Speed of Life by Carol Weston (2017)

speed of lifeThough it is ostensibly about grief, most readers will be more touched by its frank and empathetic exploration of common and often unspoken relationship struggles experienced by young teen girls.

Recommended grade level: 7 or 8 and up

Pages:   329 (for ISBN 9781492654490)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, romance

Tone/Style: personal, angsty

Pace: leisurely to moderate

Topics: death of a family member, advice columnists, mixed families, first relationships, when to have sex, moving, new school

Themes: grief, moving on, growing up, friendship, family

Summary: Sofia lost her mother eight months ago, and her friends were 100% there for her. Now it’s a new year and they’re ready for Sofia to move on. 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

Continue reading

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (2009)

loveA touching story of grief and forgiveness.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages: 262 (for ISBN 9780385737746)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: hurt, hopeful

Pace: moderate

Topics: death of family members, parental abandonment, parent/child relationships, moving, grandmothers, new friends

Themes: grief, feeling unwanted, disappointment, choices, forgiveness

Summary: A beautifully written and deeply moving middle-grade novel with characters to cherish and a story that deals with tragedy and loss in a fresh way. Continue reading