Heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and ultimately soul-soothing, this is one of the most profoundly emotional books I have ever read. Part fairy tale and part historical fiction, ECHO follows an enchanted harmonica across three dovetailing stories whose troubled young characters are separated by time and space but connected by the mystical power of music. As I was reading about these characters, I felt like author Pam Muñoz Ryan was introducing me to new friends – I laughed with them, I cried with them, I danced with them, and I embraced them. Their lives affected me deeply, and their stories will live with me forever. Handling heavy issues and upsetting themes with grace and optimism, ECHO is harmony among discord, a modern classic that deserves to be passed down through the ages for generations to come. Read it and be enriched. -Jason
GEORGE is a sweet and unassuming story about a kid who just wants to be accepted and known openly for who they are. It shows the strength of true friendship, and the importance of loving yourself no matter what other people think of you. I love this little book, and ten-year-old George's experiences immediately pulled at all my heartstrings. It's sincere, unique, and I couldn't help but read it in one sitting. -Leah
Chris Colfer is back with the fourth book in his bestselling Land of Stories series. In BEYOND THE KINGDOMS, Alex and Conner Bailey are stepping out of the fairy tale world and chasing the evil Masked Man through classic literature. Along the way, they meet famed characters such as Robin Hood (who has a smidgeon of a yelling problem), Merlin (who may have a crush on Mother Goose), and many more. This book will keep you on the edge of your seat with its twists and turns and the ending has me eagerly awaiting book five. -Heather H.
Alfie Summerfield is five years old when his father leaves to fight in World War I. By the time he is nine, the letters from the front have stopped coming, and none of the adults he has known his whole life will tell him the truth about what might have happened to his dad. Alfie is determined to figure it out for himself. Alfie's world centers around his London neighborhood -- the close, terraced houses on Damley Road, where "all the people were friends, or they had been before the war began." His observations -- of the small changes creeping into his everyday life; of his neighbors and their differing opinions about the war -- bring the period to life. Boyne doesn't shy away from the horrors of war, but I was so invested in the characters I couldn't stop reading. No matter your age, you'll connect with Alfie's story. -Emmy
I didn't’t think Rick Riordan could come up with a character I liked more than Percy Jackson, but I was dead wrong. In his newest series that centers on the Norse gods (you know -- Odin, Thor, Loki . . . those guys), Riordan gives us his most enthralling character to date in the form of Magnus Chase. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Fans of Percy Jackson will remember Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena. Magnus is her cousin, and yes, she makes appearances in the story. The story is told through Magnus himself and the voice Riordan gives Magnus is far from a Percy Jackson repeat. I thoroughly enjoyed the juxtaposition of snark and humility in Magnus, and actually caught myself laughing out loud in several places. There are definite inside jokes that readers of the previous three series will appreciate, and as always, the writing makes this book nearly impossible to put down. I truly feel that this is Riordan’s best work yet and await the next installment with bated breath! -Scott
As played out as the trope of "hero on an adventure learning life lessons in the process" is, I was never bored with THE DOLDRUMS. It is a whimsical coming-of-age story, told by dreamers who are trying their darnedest to be achievers. If Lemony Snicket and Roald Dahl came together, this might be the book they would produce. Go ahead and sprinkle in some Camus, too, for Oliver Glub, who is now my favorite sidekick. He is an existential punk who grounds this otherwise dreamy tale of longing for adventure and discovering friendship. Additionally, this is an absolutely gorgeous book. I want to live in the world Gannon has created; for now, I’ll have to be content seeing it through the eyes of our heroes. -Amanda
As soon as I started this last book of the Princess Academy series, I fell right in. I love how Shannon Hale makes her characters tough in the way of brains—beat the bad guys with economics and historical texts! Miri and the princesses she’s tutoring are such likable characters, I was sad to say a final goodbye. But nevertheless, in this book we get some closure for the original Princess Academy graduates, and plenty of quarry-speak. Hale reminds us once again that using your words and intellect is just as powerful as the sword, to win the war. -Leah
I played roller derby for 4 years (Hi, Hellbent Heather here) and I loved this book because it was true to the experience of just starting out. Astrid discovers roller derby at the time when she and her childhood best friend are drifting apart. The story shows that you have to put in the work and practice if you want to play roller derby. Astrid falls a lot, get bruises, but she doesn't quit. She finds friendship within her teammates and her "warface." This is a great book for any young girl who is curious about roller derby, or any roller derby player out, current or retired, as a look into the life of a roller derby player. -Heather G.