Lions & Liars by Kate Beasley; illustrated by Dan SantatWhat it's about: If 5th graders are wild animals, Frederick Frederickson is no lion -- he's more like a flea on a meerkat's butt. So when he accidentally winds up among the "lions" at a disciplinary camp for boys, Frederick has to fake it if he wants to make friends...not to mention survive the hurricane that's heading their way.
Why you might like it: it's easy to relate to Frederick's hilariously awkward attempts to fit in.
Annie's Life in Lists by Kristin MahoneyWhat it is: a collection of lists, each one filling in more details about 10-year-old Annie, who's just moved from Brooklyn to the tiny town of Clover Gap, and who is 1) super shy, 2) struggling to find new friends, and 3) worried that she caused the problem that prompted her family to move.
Why you might like it: the unusual storytelling style makes it easy to zip through this funny, realistic, and touching tale.
The Language of Spells by Garret Weyr; illustrated by Katie HarnettStarring: Grisha, a 140-year-old dragon who emerges from captivity to find that all the other dragons have disappeared, and 11-year-old Maggie, the only human who might be able to help him. The connection between the two friends is strong -- but is it strong enough to defeat the sinister forces they face?
Who it's for: older readers who can't get enough of dragon lore, magical friendships, and intriguing alternate history.
Front Desk by Kelly YangWhat it's about: In 1993, after immigrating from China to America, Mia Tang and her parents take over management of run-down motel in California. Though their boss is terrible, Mia's job at the front desk allows her to practice her writing, make friends with the motel regulars, and find creative ways to fight the injustice she sees around her.
About the author: This authentic and hopeful read is the 1st book by Kelly Yang, who was inspired by her own experiences as a kid.
Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis; illustrated by Jerel DyeStarring: Lily Leanchops, a brilliant young pig who's secretly invented the first airplane to fly without magic.
What happens: When warthogs invade Pigdom Plains, Lily has to reveal her secret and take to the skies to defend her home.
Read it for: a brave heroine, high-flying battles, eye-catching illustrations, and plenty of puns.
Nick and Tesla's High-Voltage Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve HockensmithIntroducing: twins Nick and Tesla, who are determined to uncover the secrets inside a spooky, heavily guarded mansion.
What happens: To get past the mansion's defenses, the twins create clever gadgets (like a "robocat" fueled by mints and soda) -- and each one comes with illustrated instructions so that you can build it yourself.
Try this next: For further DIY-infused fiction, check out the next five books in the Nick and Tesla series, or try Mark Tatulli's Desmond Pucket series.
Frank Einstein & the Antimatter Motor by Jon Scieszka; illustrated by Brian BiggsWhat it's about: When kid genius Frank Einstein's antimatter-powered bike is stolen, along with his eccentric robots Klink and Klank, there can only be one culprit: rival inventor T. Edison.
Who it's for: The story may be offbeat, but the inventions are based in real science, making this a satisfying read for fiction and nonfiction fans alike.
Series alert: This funny, fact-filled chapter book is the 1st in the Frank Einstein series.
Contact your librarian for more great books for ages 8-11!