Falling Short by Ernesto CisnerosStarring: unlikely best friends Isaac, a star basketball player with bad grades, and Marco, a straight-A student who's terrible at sports.
What happens: As they start 6th grade, the boys try to measure up to expectations -- Marco joins the basketball team and Isaac actually does his homework -- and hope to make their families proud.
How it's told: from the funny, honest points of view of both friends. (Ages 9-13.)
Golden Girl by Reem FaruqiThe question: Is doing the wrong thing okay for the right reason? That's what 13-year-old Aafiyah wonders after her Abba is accused of a theft he didn't commit, and it looks like the only way help him is by actually stealing something.
Why you might like it: Written in easy-to-read poetry, this heartfelt family drama stars a perfectly imperfect girl facing some big choices...and the consequences that follow. (Ages 8-13.)
Alice Austen Lived Here by Alex GinoWhat it's about: When their hometown of Staten Island announces a contest to design a new statue of a historical figure, nonbinary besties Sam and TJ make a case for choosing lesbian photographer Alice Austen. If they win, it'll prove that history is more than just DSCWM ("Dead Straight Cisgender White Men").
You might also like: Elle McNicoll's A Kind of Spark, another own voices story about an authentic character standing up for who they are through local history. (Ages 9-12.)
Those Kids from Fawn Creek by Erin Entrada KellyWhat it's about: In tiny Fawn Creek, Louisiana, the arrival of mysterious, well-traveled new girl Orchid shakes up the boring routine and exclusive friend groups in the seventh grade.
How it's told: from several different kids' points of view, allowing you to gather clues about Orchid (who might be lying) and to understand not only who each character seems to be, but who they really are.
Who it's for: anyone who's dreamed of a change, or a chance to defy expectations. (Ages 8-12.)
Cress Watercress by Gregory Maguire; illustrated by David LitchfieldWelcome to: the Broken Arms, a hollow "apartment tree" that's home to young rabbit Cress and her many animal neighbors.
What happens: Heartbroken after losing her father, Cress moves to the Broken Arms and finds new friends (like Vivian the squirrel and Tunk the bear) as well as new villains (like a stuck-up skunk and a sneaky snake).
Art alert: Dazzling, color-dappled pictures make this charming animal story one you'll want to look at again and again. (Ages 7-11.)
Witchlings by Claribel A. OrtegaWhat it's about: Feeling angry and disappointed when they're deemed Spare witches without a coven, 12-year-old Seven Salazar and her fellow Spares agree to take on an "impossible task." If they succeed, they'll get their full witch power. If they fail? They could be turned into toads -- permanently.
For fans of: Emma Steinkellner's The Okay Witch, TV's The Owl House, and other modern fantasies about kids who challenge unfairness in magical societies. (Ages 8-12.)
Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa by Julian RandallStarring: 12-year-old filmmaker Pilar, who's planning a documentary about her cousin Natasha's disappearance in the Dominican Republic 50 years ago, when Trujillo was dictator.
What happens: While researching Natasha's case, Pilar opens a folder that transports her to Zafa, a supernatural island where Pilar might find answers -- if she can face down the Dominican boogeyman, El Cuco.
Series alert: This is the 1st in a two-book series filled with breathless adventure and new takes on old tales. (Ages 9-13.)
Miosotis Flores Never Forgets by Hilda Eunice BurgosWhat it's about: For dog-loving Miosotis, the only average kid in a high-achieving family, adopting a rescue pup of her own is the ultimate dream. But her dreams and worries go in a different direction after she finds out that her big sister's husband-to-be is abusive.
Is it for you? Like lots of kids, Miosotis has to deal with scary stuff like abuse, racism, and feeling like she's not good enough, but her relatable story also offers plenty of hope. (Ages 9-13).
Stella Diaz Never Gives Up by Angela DominguezWhat it's about: It's a big summer for Stella. Not only does she visit relatives in Mexico City, she also goes to camp at the big aquarium back home in Chicago and starts a new group to help save the oceans: the Sea Musketeers!
Read it for: cartoony art that makes the story easier to understand, plus some Spanish words to learn if you're new to the language.
Series alert: This is the 2nd in the fun, encouraging Stella Diaz series. (Ages 7-10.)
Happily for Now by Kelly Jones; illustrated by Kelly MurphyStarring: fairy tale fan Fiona, who wants to be a kind of fairy godperson, helping other people the way social worker Ms. Davis has helped her.
What happens: While her mom is in rehab, Fiona stays with distant relatives in the town of Cold Hope, where she helps them revive their struggling bakery and rediscover what makes them happy.
Why you might like it: Fiona's story is sweet and upbeat while still recognizing just how messy real problems can be. (Ages 8-13.)
All Together Now by Hope LarsonWhat it's about: Thrilled to finally make some music with a real band, 13-year-old guitar player Bina instead becomes a solo act when her bandmates start dating each other and ditch her to form a musical duo.
Read it for: cool, purple-tinted artwork and a close-up look at the complicated overlaps between friendships and creativity.
Series alert: This is the 2nd graphic novel in a trilogy that starts with All Summer Long and ends with All My Friends. (Ages 10-13.)
Sisters of the Neversea by Cynthia Leitich SmithWhat it is: an updated version of the classic Peter Pan story, which has all the action and fantasy of the original plus some fascinating new twists.
Featuring: Muscogee Creek Lily, her white stepsister Wendy, and their mixed-race brother Mikey, who all arrive in Neverland only to discover that Peter Pan is not who he seems. (Ages 8-12.)
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica TownsendIntroducing: Morrigan Crow, destined to die on her 11th birthday but rescued by the mysterious Jupiter North, who transports her to the realm of Nevermoor. There, she can escape destiny by competing for entrance into the magical Wundrous Society.
What happens: Without any extraordinary powers, Morrigan has to pass four trials in which failure means certain death.
Series alert: This exciting, multi-layered tale opens the Nevermoor series. (Ages 9-13.)
Contact your librarian for more great books!