Fantastic New Chapter Books, January and February 2020

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Ready for a batch of new January and February 2020 chapter books? I have recommendations for you in realistic, paranormal, fantasy, historical fiction, and science fiction. In other words, there’s something for everybody.


(Let me also add that I honestly can’t pick one or two favorites from this list because they are all really great books.)


Happy reading!


Historical Fiction

Diverse Historical Fiction Chapter Books Written by #OwnVoices
Indian No More
by Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell
Indian No More is an emotional, important story about when the U.S. government arbitrarily made certain Native American tribes no longer tribes without reservations or legal rights. It also shows the historical landscape of prejudice and stereotypes towards people of color. But it also shows, and I love, a close-knit, loving family based on the author’s own life, a family who values each other and their survival. This book is a must-read and must-own for all schools and libraries and would make an excellent book club selection.
Also on: OwnVoices Historical Fiction Chapter Books


Realistic / Growing Up

Planet Omar
by Zanib Mian
I love the playful writing, whimsical illustrations, and rich Pakistani-American culture in this beginning chapter book. One of the best things about Omar is his HUGE imagination! In fact, he faces his new experiences in life with a rich, creative mind filled with dragons, Ferraris, and zombie aliens. He uses his imagination to deal with moving AND starting a new school. Neither of which are very easy. Luckily, at his new school, he makes a best friend right away. Unluckily, he also draws the attention of a mean bully. When he and his family experience racism from their new neighbor and from the bully, in both situations the resolution lies with the other people getting to know Omar and his family, leading to kindness and understanding. Planet Omar is a relatable, interesting story about a likable boy. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND this book for home, classrooms, and libraries.


From the Desk of Zoe Washington
by Janae Marks (ages 9 – 12)
On her 12th birthday, Zoe, a girl who loves to bake, discovers a letter to her from her incarcerated biological father, Marcus. She decides to write him back, even daring to ask him about the murder he’s in jail for — did he really do it? Marcus writes to Zoe that he’s innocent and he can prove it which sets Zoe on a quest to find out the truth for herself, even if her mom and dad forbid it. She enlists the help of her Grandma and her best friend, Trevor. You won’t be able to put down this winsome story with a heroine you can’t help but adore; a story that illuminates social justice with themes of family, friendship, and love.


Birdie and Me!
by J.M.M. Nuanez (ages 9 – 12)

You will fall in love with these characters, especially the brave older sister, Jack, who narrates the story and her sweet younger brother Birdie. After their mom died, the siblings moved in with the fun-loving but neglectful Uncle Carl who didn’t make them attend school. Birdie, in particular. But that doesn’t work out for obvious reasons so now they’re forced to live with their other uncle, the stoic Uncle Patrick. Uncle Patrick, a man of few words, initially makes Birdie buy and wear “regular” boy clothes instead of the flamboyant choices he normally wears. Uncle Patrick thinks he’s helping solve the bullying problems that Birdie continues to face at school. But eventually, he’ll come to realize that his assumptions are wrong and will make space for Birdie to be himself. Big sister Jack unconditionally loves her brother and models complete acceptance for who he is, even though he’s not sure himself. Their new family life isn’t easy but this is such a beautiful story that begins with grief, confusion, and discomfort but ends in redemption, love, and hope.


Clean Getaway
by Nic Stone (ages 9 – 12)
Sometimes growing up means seeing the difficult truth about someone you love…Scoob takes a spontaneous road trip with his beloved G’ma in her new camper, escaping his dad’s spring break punishment. As they visit places from his G’ma’s past, their trip turns out differently than he expects. What begins as only a fun adventure turns into a revelation of current and historical racial prejudices (Scoob is black and his grandmother is white). What’s more, things become strange and confusing as Scoob notices more weird behaviors from G’ma. Was she trying to steal jewelry in the store? And why are there stacks of cash hidden in the camper? Perfect pacing, an intriguing plot, and memorable characters make this a top pick for 2020 middle grade and #ownvoices.

by Kate Messner (ages 9 – 12)
As usual, Messner writes layer upon layer of complexity and themes in a cohesive, interesting novel. On the surface, this story is about Mia helping to save her grandmother’s cricket farm that is losing money and being sabotaged. But it’s about more than that, it’s about finding out who she is if she’s not able to be a gymnast, facing her fears, and standing up for herself after a coach’s sexual harassment. Readers will be exposed to some important topics like how to define yourself when what you’ve loved is gone and what to do if you feel uncomfortable with a coach’s behavior. Plus, they might not have heard of cricket flour — or cricket snacks — which perhaps will inspire a new food adventure!

Fantasy & Science Fiction

by Amy McCulloch (ages 9 – 12)
What an amazing premise — you are going to love this on so many levels. It’s “a fairy tale, but not of princes and frogs, ball gowns and pumpkins, but of makers and metal, of wire and ingenuity and inspiration and creativity and invention.” In this evolved society, the tech company MONCHA makes computerized pets caled bakus that act like smartphones and computers. Lacey finds an unusual, half-destroyed cat baku and rebuilds it using a 3D printer and found parts. When her baku Jinx starts to work, he’s noticeably different than the other bakus– he can speak into her mind and think for himself! So when she starts competing with other kids at her prestigious school in the battle of the bakus, Jinx doesn’t follow the rules which lead to his capture and the discovery of a sinister truth about MONCHA. Fantastic, fast-paced, and thought-provoking. Because…what if?


Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse (ages 9 – 12)
The compelling, well-written story jumps into the action immediately when Nizhoni, from the Diné (Navajo) people, sees a monster (disguised as a human) at her basketball game. Making matters worse, it’s her dad’s new boss who kidnaps her dad and wants her little brother, too. She escapes with her brother and best friend to ask the Spider Woman for help, learning that she and her brothers are the descendants of the Hero Twins. Her journey challenges her with heroic trials in order to meet the Sun who will give her weapons to fight the monsters and culminating in a fierce battle between the good guys and the monsters. I LOVED this story — it’s a fast-paced hero’s journey with a rich, diverse mythology.


The Secret Deep
by Lindsay Galvin (ages 9 – 12)
A fascinating, action-paced sci-fi book perfect for readers who love adventure, mystery, and kids doing surviving despite the odds. After their mother dies of cancer, Aster and her younger sister, Poppy, travel to New Zeland to live with their cancer researcher aunt. Poppy sneaks a phone into their aunt’s eco-village and that’s how she sends their new friend from the plane, Sam, a message about where they are. But when Sam bikes to visit them, all he finds of the village are ashes. That’s because Aster’s aunt has moved everyone and burned the village. What happens next is hard to believe…Aster’s aunt gasses everyone on the boat, from which Aster wakes up –in the ocean and alone — no sister or people in sight. She will eventually find an island and two other teenagers from the village but strangest of all is she meets a boy with gills who breathes water instead of air. When danger arrives with Sam’s help, it’s a fight for survival and answers.

Gloom Town
by Ronald Smith (ages 9 – 12)
Due to dire finances and the threat of eviction, 12-year-old Rory gets a job as a valet for the creepy Lord Foxglove. But something isn’t right in the strange mansion. He and his best friend Izzy determine to figure out what’s going on, following the clues and pondering Rory’s strange dreams. They learn that Foxglove bought the town and renamed it Gloom, stealing shadows from the people living there to feed an ancient evil. It’s an intriguing premise and the writing zips along, getting creepier and creepier!


Hollow Dolls
by MarcyKate Connolly (ages 9 – 12)
Mysterious and suspenseful! Mind-reader Simone is a former captive of the evil witch Lady Aisling. But she’s the only captive who has yet to be reunited with family. She and her friends travel to the Parillan library to search for answers, thwarted along the way by a bodywalker who takes over Sebastian’s sister’s body. Even at the library, they can tell things are amiss. There, Simone will uncover a new evil plot and the horrifying truth about her biological family.


Favorite New Chapter Books, January and February 2020

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