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      Before the Ever After

      by Jacqueline Woodson

      Dec 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      For as long as ZJ can remember, his dad has been everyone’s hero. As a charming, talented pro football star, he’s as beloved to the neighborhood kids he plays with as he is to his millions of adoring sports fans. But lately life at ZJ’s house is anything but charming. His dad is having trouble remembering things and seems to be angry all the time. ZJ’s mom explains it’s because of all the head injuries his dad sustained during his career. ZJ can understand that—but it doesn’t make the sting any less real when his own father forgets his name. As ZJ contemplates his new reality, he has to figure out how to hold on tight to family traditions and recollections of the glory days, all the while wondering what their past amounts to if his father can’t remember it. And most importantly, can those happy feelings ever be reclaimed when they are all so busy aching for the past?

      Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero

      by Kelly J. Baptist

      Nov 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Isaiah is now the big man of the house. But it’s a lot harder than his dad made it look. His little sister, Charlie, asks too many questions, and Mama’s gone totally silent.

      Good thing Isaiah can count on his best friend, Sneaky, who always has a scheme for getting around the rules. Plus, his classmate Angel has a few good ideas of her own—once she stops hassling Isaiah.

      And when things get really tough, there’s Daddy’s journal, filled with stories about the amazing Isaiah Dunn, a superhero who gets his powers from beans and rice. Isaiah wishes his dad’s tales were real. He could use those powers right about now!

      Brave Like That

      by Lindsey Stoddard

      Oct 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Find yourself. Find your place. Find your brave.

      Cyrus was just a baby when his firefighter dad found him abandoned on the steps of the firehouse. Now he’s entering middle school, and Cyrus isn’t a record-breaking football star like his dad, or brave like the firefighters who helped raise him.

      Instead, he’s as skittish as the stray dog who turns up on the same firehouse steps eleven years later, parks his head on Cyrus’s shoulder, and earns the perfect name—Parker. Except Cyrus’s dad says Parker would only be a distraction—a distraction that Cyrus desperately wants: from book reports, from football tryouts, and even from his two best friends, who are starting to act like jerks.

      Cyrus feels as out of place as the stray dog who captured his heart. But if fitting in means pretending to be someone he’s not, maybe this is the year Cyrus can decide to be his own kind of normal—and there’s nothing braver than that.

      Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened

      by Emily Blejwas

      Sep 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Justin doesn’t know anything these days. Like how to walk down the halls without getting stared at. Or what to say to Jenni. Or how Phuc is already a physics genius in seventh grade. Or why Benny H. wanders around Wicapi talking to old ghosts. He doesn’t know why his mom suddenly loves church or if his older brother, Murphy, will ever play baseball again. Or if the North Stars have a shot at the playoffs. Justin doesn’t know how people can act like everything’s fine when it’s so obviously not. And most of all, he doesn’t know what really happened the night his dad died on the train tracks. And that sucks.

      But life goes on. And as it does, Justin discovers that some things are just unknowable. He learns that time and space and memory are grander and weirder than he ever thought, and that small moments can hold big things, if you’re paying attention. Just like his math teacher said, even when you think you have all the information, there will be more. There is always more.

      Set during the Gulf War era, Like Nothing Amazing Ever Happened is a story about learning to go on after loss, told with a warmth that could thaw the coldest Minnesota lake.

      The List of Things That Will Not Change

      by Rebecca Stead

      Aug 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      “Things are changing, Bea. But there’s still a lot you can count on. Okay? Things that won’t EVER change.”

      After her parents’ divorce, Bea’s life became different in many ways. But she can always look back at the list she keeps in her green notebook to remember the things that will stay the same. The first and most important: Mom and Dad will always love Bea, and each other.

      When Dad tells Bea that he and his boyfriend, Jesse, are getting married, Bea is thrilled. Bea loves Jesse, and when he and Dad get married, she’ll finally (finally!) have what she’s always wanted—a sister. Even though she’s never met Jesse’s daughter, Sonia, Bea is sure that they’ll be “just like sisters anywhere.”

      As the wedding day approaches, Bea will learn that making a new family brings questions, surprises, and joy, and readers will discover why the New York Times called Rebecca Stead a “writer of great feeling.”

      Stand Up, Yumi Chung!

      by Jessica Kim

      Jul 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

      Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura—and Yumi doesn’t correct them.

      As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.

      Things You Can't Say

      by Jenn Bishop

      Jun 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Nothing is going right this summer for Drew. And after losing his dad unexpectedly three years ago, Drew knows a lot about things not going right. First, it’s the new girl Audrey taking over everything at the library, Drew’s sacred space. Then it’s his best friend, Filipe, pulling away from him. But most upsetting has to be the mysterious man who is suddenly staying with Drew’s family. An old friend of Mom’s? Drew isn’t buying that.

      With an unlikely ally in Audrey, he’s determined to get to the bottom of who this man really is. The thing is, there are some fears—like what if the person you thought was your dad actually wasn’t—that you can’t speak out loud, not to anyone. At least that’s what Drew thinks.

      But then again, first impressions can be deceiving.

      Mañanaland

      by Pam Muñoz Ryan

      May 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Maximiliano Córdoba loves stories, especially the legend Buelo tells him about a mythical gatekeeper who can guide brave travelers, who are true of heart, on a journey into tomorrow.

      If Max could see tomorrow, he would know if he'd make Santa Maria's celebrated fútbol team, and whether he'd ever meet his mother, who disappeared when he was a baby. He longs to know more about her, but Papá won't talk. So when Max uncovers a buried family secret-involving an underground network of guardians who lead people fleeing a neighboring country to safety-he decides to seek answers on his own.

      The Queen Bee and Me

      by Gillian McDunn

      Apr 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Meg has been best friends with Beatrix forever. Everyone at school wants to be like confident, decisive Beatrix, and Meg has always felt the same. But this year, Meg wants to take a science course instead of dance class. She’d rather do what makes her happy—not what Beatrix wants.

      When a quirky girl named Hazel moves to town, Meg is partnered with her on a science project about bees. Meg learns a lot about being Queen Bee—in a hive and in middle school. As Beatrix is less than welcoming to Hazel, Meg feels her loyalty fraying. Choosing Hazel could mean ending her oldest friendship—a choice more difficult than Meg ever expected.

      When You Trap a Tiger

      by Tae Keller

      Mar 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Some stories refuse to stay bottled up…

      When Lily and her family move in with her sick grandmother, a magical tiger straight out of her halmoni’s Korean folktales arrives, prompting Lily to unravel a secret family history. Long, long ago, Halmoni stole something from the tigers. Now they want it back. And when one of the tigers approaches Lily with a deal—return what her grandmother stole in exchange for Halmoni’s health—Lily is tempted to agree. But deals with tigers are never what they seem! With the help of her sister and her new friend Ricky, Lily must find her voice…and the courage to face a tiger.

      Author’s note.

      Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

      by Jason Reynolds

      Feb 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      This story was going to begin like all the best stories. With a school bus falling from the sky. But no one saw it happen. They were all too busy—
      Talking about boogers.
      Stealing pocket change.
      Skateboarding.
      Wiping out.
      Braving up.
      Executing complicated handshakes.
      Planning an escape.
      Making jokes.
      Lotioning up.
      Finding comfort.
      But mostly, too busy walking home.

      Jason Reynolds conjures ten tales (one per block) about what happens after the dismissal bell rings, and brilliantly weaves them into one wickedly funny, piercingly poignant look at the detours we face on the walk home, and in life.

      Beverly, Right Here

      by Kate DiCamillo

      Jan 2020

      Upper Elementary & Junior High

      Beverly Tapinski has run away from home plenty of times, but that was when she was just a kid. By now, she figures, it’s not running away. It’s leaving. Determined to make it on her own, Beverly finds a job and a place to live, and tries to forget about her dog, Buddy, now buried underneath the orange trees back home; her friend Raymie, whom she left without a word; and her mom, Rhonda, who has never cared about anyone but herself. Beverly doesn’t want to depend on anyone, and she definitely doesn’t want anyone to depend on her. But despite her best efforts, she can’t help forming connections with the people around her— and gradually, she learns to see herself through their eyes.

      In a touching, funny, and fearless conclusion to her sequence of novels about the beloved Three Rancheros, #1 New York Times best-selling author Kate DiCamillo tells the story of a character who will break your heart and put it back together again.
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