Book Lists

AASL 2023

Fresh Voices: Q&A with Andrea Beatriz Arango, author of SOMETHING LIKE HOME

A moving novel in verse in which a lost dog helps a lonely girl find a way home to her family . . . only for them to find family in each other along the way. From the Newbery Honor Award-winning author of Iveliz Explains It All.

**FOUR STARRED REVIEWS**

What inspired you to write Something Like Home?

Since coming to the States, I’ve encountered a lot of Latinx kids in foster care. Some were my students. Some I fostered myself. But even though I often searched for books in which they might see themselves, the books I found tended to lean on unfair and sensationalized portrayals of birth families to up the plot.

I think the first middle grade I really connected with during my search was Patina by Jason Reynolds. It’s the first book I can remember reading in which a kid lived with another family member because their parent couldn’t take care of them. And I remember thinking YES so hard, because the situation was presented in such a non-judgmental way. While I’ve read more books like that since, there aren’t many. With Something Like Home, I’m hoping to add another story to the foster canon, and this time with Puerto Rican representation.

What was the most difficult part about writing the book? What part was the easiest? 

The hardest part about writing the book was ensuring readers got to see Laura’s parents for who they are—adults who love their daughter very much, who would never hurt her on purpose, who are doing their very best even when their best isn’t quite good enough. Because her parents barely make an appearance in the book, I had to find other ways of showing their relationship.

The easiest part, I think, was writing Sparrow! He’s almost a carbon copy of my sweet pitbull/beagle mix, Ghosty José, and I loved getting to play a little tribute to him in the book. I did a ton of school visits during my pub week, and kids really connected to the pictures of Ghost. Everyone wanted to tell me about their dogs!

What character or element of the story do you identify with the most and why? 

I probably identify the most with the character of Titi Silvia, because I do personally know how tough it is to parent someone without actually being their parent. How difficult it is to toe that line. I tried to make her a little flawed, despite her good intentions, because no matter how good of a temporary caregiver someone thinks they are, their mere presence will still always be traumatic for a child. Removal from home always is.

What do you want kids to take away from this story? 

In Something Like Home, Laura is constantly re-discovering who her community is, and I hope this leads kids to see how possible it is for different people to help us at different moments in our lives. That you don’t always have to choose one place or one home or one family to pledge your loyalty to. That multiples can co-exist.

I also like how much the idea of choice plays into the plot of the book. Laura (like all of us) is constantly affected by the choices of those around her, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Not every conflict in this book is solved by the end, but I want to show kids that there will always be new paths available, even when it seems they’ve reached a dead end.

 What are you currently reading? 

I’m currently sick and recovering with the cozy Witch of Wild Things by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland. I loved both her YAs and am excited to see her journeying into the adult romance space.

In the kid lit world, I recently finished an ARC for the middle-grade graphic novel Atana and the Firebird by Vivian Zhou, which was AMAZING, as well as the YA in verse All the Fighting Parts by Hannah V. Sawyer, which has one of the prettiest covers I’ve seen all year.

The Fresh Voices series is in coordination with the RHCB DEI Book Club Committee.

Now Available in Paperback

New Middle Grade Fantasy

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston

Sir Callie and the Champions of Helston By Esme Symes-Smith

In a magical medieval world filled with dragons, shape-shifters, and witches, a twelve-year-old nonbinary hopeful knight battles for the heart of their kingdom. A thrilling middle-grade series opener that explores identity and gender amid sword fights and magic, and proves anyone can be a hero.

“These heroes come in all shapes and skills—I cheered for them throughout their exciting journey.” —#1 New York Times bestselling author Tamora Pierce


When their ex-hero dad is summoned back to the royal capital of Helston to train a hopeless crown prince, Callie lunges at the opportunity to finally prove themself worthy to the kingdom’s "great and powerful."

Except the intolerant great and powerful look at nonbinary Callie and only see girl. But Callie has always known exactly what they want to be, and they’re not about to let anything stand in their way. 

Trapped in Helston’s rigid hierarchy where girls learn magic and boys train as knights, Callie discovers they aren’t alone—there’s Elowen, the chancellor’s brilliant daughter, whose unparalleled power is being stifled; Edwyn, Elowen’s twin brother desperate to win his father’s approval; and Willow, the crown prince who was never meant to be king.  

In this start to an epic series packed with action, humor, and heart, Callie and their new friends quickly find themselves embedded in an ancient war—and their only hope to defeat the threats outside the kingdom lies in first defeating the bigotry within.

"Everything you could possibly want from a middle grade fantasy." —The Nerd Daily

Forever Twelve

Forever Twelve By Stacy McAnulty

What if you were twelve for all of eternity? From the award-winning author of The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl comes a magical mystery about a group of kids who have been alive for hundreds of years.

At the elite West Archer Academy, all the students are gifted, but four are exceptional. Though the Evers look twelve, they're actually centuries old, possessing knowledge and talents that make them extraordinary. And boarding school is the perfect cover for their brilliance -- and their secret. 

It's supposed to be a typical year in the anything-but-typical lives of these "kids" . . . until Ivy Stewart shows up. She resembles an Ever who went missing more than seventy years ago. And Ivy could be the key to unlocking their curse. 

But ambitious Ivy is at West Archer to achieve her own extraordinary goals, and nothing will distract her. Or so she thinks! With the desperate Evers determined to find answers, and her former classmate -- and laid-back cool guy -- Ronan determined to protect her, Ivy soon finds herself swept up in a mystery ony she can solve. 

Will her life be changed forever . . . and ever?

Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind

Momo Arashima Steals the Sword of the Wind By Misa Sugiura

A thrilling fantasy series about a twelve year old girl who sets out to save her Shinto goddess mother—and the world—by facing down demons intent on bringing chaos.

“A grand adventure.” —Brandon Mull, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Fablehaven

“A wild ride of a novel…hilarious.” —Sayantani DasGupta, New York Times bestselling author of The Kingdom Beyond


All Momo wants for her twelfth birthday is an ordinary life—like everyone else's. At home, she has to take care of her absentminded widowed mother. At school, kids ridicule her for mixing up reality with the magical stories her mother used to tell her.

But then Momo’s mother falls gravely ill, and a death hag straight out of those childhood stories attacks Momo at the mall, where she’s rescued by a talking fox . . . and “ordinary” goes out the window. It turns out that Momo's mother is a banished Shinto goddess who used to protect a long-forgotten passageway to Yomi—a.k.a. the land of the dead. That passageway is now under attack, and countless evil spirits threaten to escape and wreak havoc across the earth.

Joined by Niko the fox and Danny—her former best friend turned popular jerk, whom she never planned to speak to again, much less save the world with—Momo must embrace her (definitely not "ordinary") identity as half human, half goddess to unlock her divine powers, save her mother’s life, and force the demons back to Yomi.

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend

Winnie Zeng Unleashes a Legend By Katie Zhao

An epic new fantasy series inspired by Chinese mythology that #1 New York Times bestselling author Kwame Mbalia calls "a hilarious tussle between homework, family, and heroism." When a girl awakens the stuff of legends from an old family recipe, she must embrace her extraordinary heritage to save the world.

Winnie Zeng has two goals: survive her first year of middle school and outdo her stuck-up archnemesis, David Zuo. It won’t be easy, since, according to her older sister, middle school is the pits. Luckily, Winnie studied middle school survival tactics in comic books and anime, and nothing will stop her from being the very best student.
 
But none of Winnie’s research has prepared her to face the mother of all hurdles: evil spirits. When she makes mooncakes for a class bake sale, she awakens the stuff of legends from her grandmother’s old cookbook, spilling otherworldly chaos into her sleepy town.
 
Suddenly Winnie finds herself in a race against time, vanquishing demons instead of group projects. Armed with a magic cookbook and a talking white rabbit, she must embrace her new powers and legacy of her ancestors. Because if she doesn’t, her town—and rest of the world—may fall to chaos forever.

The Enchanted Bridge

The Enchanted Bridge By Zetta Elliott; illustrated by Cherise Harris

Getting three baby dragons back home was just the beginning. Now Jaxon is on a mission to help all magical creatures from Dragons in a Bag! But things in the magical realm are more complicated than they seem in the fourth book in the critically acclaimed series.

With their new special abilities, Jaxon and his friends are not the ordinary kids they used to be. No longer destined to become a witch, Jax finds himself caught up in a secret plan involving the Guardian of Palmara’s mysterious twin brother, Ol-Korrok. As the ambassador to the realm of magic, Jax must convince Sis that magical creatures should be free to return to the human world.

But to reach Palmara, Jax and his friends must cross Ol-Korrok’s enchanted bridge connecting the two realms. Is Ol-Korrok really the ally he pretends to be? Or has Jax set in motion a plan that will endanger both realms?

It takes strength to build a bridge. But sometimes even the strongest bridges must be burned.

Give ’em Pumpkin to Talk About

Creepy Reads for Every Level of Scary

Picture Books

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