Skip to main content

 

 

Jay's 2016 Summer Reading List for Upper School Students

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Welcome to summer! Margaret Haddix, the award-winning author of over 30 books for children, once said, “I was lucky enough not to face any required summer reading lists until I went to college. So I still think of summer as the best time to read for fun.” For those of you new to my summer reading lists, it is most definitely non-required reading. That is all of these books will inform, excite, surprise, but they are meant for FUN reading. Why? Because it’s the summer AND vacation!


Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo - Two-time Newbery Medalist Kate DiCamillo returns to her roots with a moving, masterful story of an unforgettable summer friendship. Raymie Clarke has come to realize that everything, absolutely everything, depends on her. And she has a plan. If Raymie can win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, then her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, will see Raymie’s picture in the paper and maybe come home. To win, not only does Raymie have to do good deeds and learn how to twirl a baton–she also has to contend with the wispy, frequently fainting Louisiana Elefante, who has a show business background, and the fiery, stubborn Beverly Tapinski, who’s determined to sabotage the contest. But as the competition approaches, loneliness, loss and unanswerable questions draw the three girls into an unlikely friendship and challenge each of them to come to the rescue in unexpected ways.

Demon Dentist by David Walliams, illus. by Tony Ross - Somewhere out there, the ghost of Roald Dahl is musing, “Teeth? Of course, teeth!” Walliams’s tale is a little darker, scarier, more PG-rated, but still Dahl-esque in the extreme. Twelve-year-old Alfie’s had a rough time—no mother, a loving but very ill dad and the memory of a particularly traumatic dental experience that has resulted in a mouth full of rotting teeth. When the new dentist in town shows up at a school assembly, Alfie’s convinced that she is evil, and it turns out he’s absolutely right. Absurd comedy meets creepy horror, with a little family drama thrown in, all of it racing by at a breakneck pace, with a few pauses for underwear gags, toilet humor and other kid-friendly shtick. Supporting characters sometimes edge perilously close to cliché, but there are a few standouts, including Dad and Gabz–who is not Alfie’s girlfriend, as he points out many, many times. The whole package is extremely British, but American readers should feel comfortable enough, thanks to Ross’s familiar illustrations and most middle graders’ knowledge of all things Muggle.

The Remarkable Journey of Charlie Price by Jennifer Maschari - A heartfelt, beautifully written novel of love, loss and math. Ever since twelve-year-old Charlie Price’s mom died, he feels like his world has been split into two parts. Before included stargazing, Mathletes and Saturday scavenger hunts with his family. After means a dad who’s completely checked out, comically bad dinners and grief group that’s anything but helpful. It seems like losing Mom meant losing everything else he loved, too. Just when Charlie thinks things can’t get any worse, his sister, Imogen, starts acting erratically—missing school and making up lies about their mother. But everything changes when one day he follows her down a secret passageway in the middle of her bedroom and sees for himself. Imogen has found a parallel world where Mom is alive! There’s hot cocoa, Scrabble and scavenger hunts again and everything is perfect–at first. But something doesn’t feel right. Whenever Charlie returns to the real world, things are different, and not in a good way. And Imogen wants to spend more and more time on the other side. It’s almost as if she wants to leave the real world for good. If Charlie doesn’t uncover the truth, he could lose himself, the true memory of their mother and Imogen forever.

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown - Can a robot survive in the wilderness? When robot Roz opens her eyes for the first time, she discovers that she is alone on a remote, wild island. She has no idea how she got there or what her purpose is– but she knows she needs to survive. After battling a fierce storm and escaping a vicious bear attack, she realizes that her only hope for survival is to adapt to her surroundings and learn from the island’s unwelcoming animal inhabitants. As Roz slowly befriends the animals, the island starts to feel like home, until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her. From bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Peter Brown comes a heartwarming and action-packed novel about what happens when nature and technology collide.

The Key to Extraordinary by Natalie Lloyd - Everyone in Emma’s family is special. Her ancestors include Revolutionary War spies, brilliant scientists, and famous musicians– every single one of which learned of their extraordinary destiny through a dream. For Emma, her own dream can’t come soon enough. Right before her mother died, Emma promised that she’d do whatever it took to fulfill her destiny, and she doesn’t want to let her mother down. But when Emma’s dream finally arrives, it points her toward an impossible task–finding a legendary treasure hidden in her town’s cemetery. If Emma fails, she’ll let down generations of extraordinary ancestors, including her own mother. But how can she find something that’s been missing for centuries and might be protected by a mysterious singing ghost? With her signature blend of lyrical writing, quirky humor and unforgettable characters, Natalie Lloyd’s The Key to Extraordinary cements her status as one of the most original voices writing for children today.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs - A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. 
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows. See it before the movie!

All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor - From the award-winning author of Waiting for Normal and Crunch, comes a soaring and heartfelt story about love, forgiveness and how innocence makes us all rise up. All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook is a powerful story, perfect for fans of Wonder and When You Reach Me. Eleven-year-old Perry was born and raised by his mom at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility in tiny Surprise, Nebraska. His mom is a resident on Cell Block C, and so far Warden Daugherty has made it possible for them to be together. That is, until a new district attorney discovers the truth—and Perry is removed from the facility and forced into a foster home. When Perry moves to the outside world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from–but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?

Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar - While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina (Carol) is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal and discovering the wonder of the world.

Voyagers book series by Various authors, including D. J. MacHale, Kekla Magoon, Wendy Mass, etc. - In the very near future, Earth’s fossil fuel supply is almost exhausted. Even mandatory daily eight-hour blackouts can only postpone the final catastrophe for a few years. The ultra-secret Project Alpha has identified an extraterrestrial substance that could provide unlimited energy, but the components lie far out in space. No conventional spaceship could bring back the mysterious Source in time to save the planet, but the highly classified Gamma Speed process can shorten the trek to a single year. However, no one over the age of 14 can withstand the metabolic pressure that the Gamma process entails, so the scientists conduct a worldwide search for an elite crew of 12-year-old astronauts. Dash Conroy desperately wants to be one of the squad, not only for the adventure but also for the $10 million prize awarded to each member. But he is joining seven other semifinalists for the final testing at Alpha headquarters, and only four of them can ultimately be chosen. As Dash and his cohorts compete in physical contests, team exercises and virtual reality combat, they begin to suspect that the Alpha project may not be quite what it appears on the surface. Moreover, there is a sinister counterpart to the Alpha group—and the Omega project has plans of its own for the vital Source. As the first entry in the projected six-book series, this title focuses on Dash and the Alpha team as they train for their mission and experience their first interplanetary adventure on the jungle planet J-16, home to carnivorous alien beasts—giant, dinosaur like Raptagons—and the first component of the Source. Each upcoming volume will be written by a different author, in the manner of Scholastic’s Infinity Ring series, and will follow both the Alpha and Omega teams in their dangerous race across the cosmos to complete the Source. All six books will be released by July 2016.

The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Patterson - Gilly Hopkins is a determined-to-be-unpleasant 11-year-old foster kid who the reader can’t help but like by the end. Gilly has been in the foster system all her life, and she dreams of getting back to her, as she imagines, wonderful mother. The mother makes these longings worse by writing the occasional letter. Gilly is all the more determined to leave after she’s placed in a new foster home with a “gross guardian and a freaky kid.” But she soon learns about illusions—the hard way. This Newbery Honor Book manages to treat a somewhat grim and definitely grown-up theme with love and humor, making it a terrific read for a young reader who’s ready to learn that “happy” and “ending” don’t always go together.

Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling by Tony Cliff (Graphic Novel) - Globetrotting troublemaker Delilah Dirk and her loyal friend Selim are just minding their own business, peacefully raiding castles and traipsing across enemy lines, when they attract the unwanted attention of the English Army. Before they know it, Delilah and Selim have gotten themselves accused of espionage against the British crown. Delilah will do whatever it takes to clear her good name, be it sneaking, skirmishing or even sword fighting. But can she bring herself to wear a pretty dress and have a nice cup of tea with her mother? Delilah Dirk may be defeated at last by tulle in Tony Cliff’s Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling.

Baker’s Magic by Diane Zahler - A cozy fantasy adventure featuring strong female characters. In the Holland-esque kingdom of Aradyn, hungry orphan Bee’s theft of a pastry leads to a job and temporary home in a bakery. Bee’s newfound happiness magically infuses her baked goods with positive feelings, and the business’s increasing popularity attracts the attention of the palace. Powerful mage and pastry lover Master Joris has become guardian to the orphan princess, is holding her captive and has converted all arable land into valuable tulip fields at the expense of trees. Using magic from the village blacksmith’s assistant, Bee helps the lonesome Princess Anika escape a forced marriage. As their shoddy vessel sinks, the group is saved by a crew of tulip-hijacking pirates led by the fierce Zafira Zay. A high seas adventure leads to surprising discoveries about assumed-dead relatives and long-lost trees. The plucky orphan finding magic and friendship is not a new theme, but ample action and charming characters like Bee, Princess Anika, and Captain Zafira Zay make this an entertaining read with an empowering message for girls, while still maintaining cross-gender appeal.

The Broken Lands by Kate Milford - A crossroads can be a place of great power. So begins this deliciously spine-tingling prequel to Kate Milford’s The Boneshaker, set in the colorful world of 19th-century Coney Island and New York City. Few crossroads compare to the one being formed by the Brooklyn Bridge and the East River, and as the bridge’s construction progresses, forces of unimaginable evil seek to bend that power to their advantage. Only two orphans with unusual skills stand in their way. Can the teenagers Sam, a card sharp, and Jin, a fireworks expert, stop them before it’s too late? Here is a richly textured, slow-burning thriller about friendship, courage and the age-old fight between good and evil.

Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts by Susan Cain - The monumental bestseller Quiet has been recast in a new edition that empowers introverted kids and teens Susan Cain sparked a worldwide conversation when she published Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. With her inspiring book, she permanently changed the way we see introverts and the way introverts see themselves. The original book focused on the workplace, and Susan realized that a version for and about kids was also badly needed. This book is all about kids’ world—school, extracurriculars, family life and friendship. You’ll read about actual kids who have tackled the challenges of not being extroverted and who have made a mark in their own quiet way. You’ll hear Susan Cain’s own story, and you’ll be able to make use of the tips at the end of each chapter. There’s even a guide at the end of the book for parents and teachers. This insightful, accessible and empowering book, illustrated with amusing comic-style art, will be eye opening to extroverts and introverts alike.

The Time Fetch by Amy Herrick - Edward picks up what he thinks is a rock. He doesn’t know it is a sleeping Time Fetch–and touching it will release its foragers too soon and alter the entire fabric of time and space. Soon the bell rings to end class just as it has begun. Buses race down streets, too far behind schedule to stop for passengers. Buildings and sidewalks begin to disappear as the whole fabric of the universe starts to unravel. To try to stop the foragers, Edward must depend on the help of his classmates Feenix, Danton and Brigit, whether he likes it or not. They all have touched the Fetch, and it has drawn them together in a strange and thrilling adventure. The boundaries between worlds and dimensions are blurred, and places and creatures on the other side are much like the ones they’ve always known–but slightly twisted, a little darker and much more dangerous.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor - Winner of the 1977 Newbery Medal, this is a remarkably moving novel—one that has impressed the hearts and minds of millions of readers. Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, it is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And, too, it is Cassie’s story–Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

Some Kind of Happiness by Claire Legrand - Things Finley Hart doesn’t want to talk about: her parents, who are having problems (but pretend like they’re not); being sent to her grandparents’ house for the summer; never having met said grandparents; her blue days—when life feels overwhelming, and it’s hard to keep her head up (this happens a lot). Finley’s only retreat is the Everwood, a forest kingdom that exists in the pages of her notebook. Until she discovers the endless woods behind her grandparents’ house and realizes the Everwood is real—and holds more mysteries than she’d ever imagined, including a family of pirates that she isn’t allowed to talk to, trees covered in ash and a strange old wizard living in a house made of bones. With the help of her cousins, Finley sets out on a mission to save the dying Everwood and uncover its secrets. But as the mysteries pile up and the frightening sadness inside her grows, Finley realizes that if she wants to save the Everwood, she’ll first have to save herself.

When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin - A boy’s chance encounter with a scruffy dog leads to an unforgettable friendship in this deeply moving story about life, loss and the meaning of family. Ben Coffin has never been one for making friends. As a former foster kid, he knows people can up and leave without so much as a goodbye. Ben prefers to spend his time with the characters in his favorite sci-fi books until he rescues an abandoned mutt from the ally next-door to the Coney Island Library. Scruffy little Flip leads Ben to befriend a fellow book lover named Halley—yes, like the comet—a girl unlike anyone he has ever met. Ben begins thinking of her as “Rainbow Girl” because of her crazy-colored clothes and her laugh, pure magic, the kind that makes you smile away the stormiest day. Rainbow Girl convinces Ben to write a novel with her. But as their story unfolds Ben’s life begins to unravel, and Ben must discover for himself the truth about friendship and the meaning of home. 

Heat by Mike Lupica - Michael Arroyo has a pitching arm that throws serious heat along with aspirations of leading his team all the way to the Little League World Series. But his firepower is nothing compared to the heat Michael faces in his day-to-day life. Newly orphaned after his father led the family’s escape from Cuba, Michael’s only family is his 17-year old brother Carlos. If Social Services hears of their situation, they will be separated in the foster-care system, or worse, sent back to Cuba. Together, the boys carry on alone, dodging bills and anyone who asks too many questions. But then someone wonders how a 12-year-old boy could possibly throw with as much power as Michael Arroyo throws. With no way to prove his age, no birth certificate, and no parent to fight for his cause, Michael’s secret world is blown wide open, and he discovers that family can come from the most unexpected sources.

Seriously Wicked by Tina Connolly - Camellia just received a 61 percent on her algebra test and her teacher wants to have a parent-teacher conference—which is a problem, because her mother is a witch bent on world domination. When Camellia’s mother summons a demon, who accidentally gets sucked into the cute new boy at school, the teen races to find a spell that will save him, finally admitting to herself that she might be a witch too. In Connolly’s witty, effervescent novel, mother-daughter angst and high school drama is spiced with a 21st-century flavor. The author constructs a magical and whimsical world, where ancient spells echo math word problems and Witchipedia is just a cell phone click away. Readers, especially those who are fans of fantasy and YA romance will adore this clever genre mash-up. Connolly has a gift for creating characters that are familiar teen archetypes yet written with engaging depth, from quirky Jenah who wears fishnet tights and claims to read auras to former-best-friend-turned-enemy Sparkle, whose mean girl tendencies hide a deeper secret. In a refreshing turn from the tokenism prevalent in some teen fiction, several of the major characters are people of color and play pivotal roles in the protagonist’s life. Camellia herself is a heroine who grows in confidence as the pressure and the plot mount, and whose resourceful ingenuity and knowledge of algebra and chemistry will have female readers cheering. 

Nature Anatomy: The Curious Parts and Pieces of the Natural World by Julia Rothman - See the world in a whole new way. Acclaimed illustrator Julia Rothman combines art and science in this exciting and educational guide to the structure, function and personality of the natural world. Explore the anatomy of a jellyfish, the inside of a volcano, monarch butterfly migration, how sunsets work, and much more. Rothman’s whimsical illustrations are paired with interactive activities that encourage curiosity and inspire you to look more closely at the world all around you. 

Airman by Eoin Colfer - Conor Broekhart was born to fly. It is the 1890s, and Conor and his family live on the sovereign Saltee Islands, off the Irish coast. Conor spends his days studying the science of flight with his tutor and exploring the castle with the king’s daughter, Princess Isabella. But the boy’s idyllic life changes forever the day he discovers a deadly conspiracy against the king. When Conor intervenes, he is branded a traitor and thrown into jail on the prison island of Little Saltee. There, he has to fight for his life, as he and the other prisoners are forced to mine for diamonds in inhumane conditions. There is only one way to escape Little Saltee, and that is to fly. So Conor passes the solitary months by scratching drawings of flying machines into the prison walls. The months turn into years, but eventually the day comes when Conor must find the courage to trust his revolutionary designs and take to the skies.

A Time for Miracles by Anne-Laure Bondoux, trans. by Y. Maudet - Blaise Fortune, also known as Koumaïl, loves hearing the story of how he came to live with Gloria in the Republic of Georgia—Gloria was picking peaches in her father’s orchard when she heard a train derail. After running to the site of the accident, she found an injured woman who asked Gloria to take her baby. The woman, Gloria claims, was French, and the baby was Blaise. When Blaise turns seven years old, the Soviet Union collapses and Gloria decides that she and Blaise must flee the political troubles and civil unrest in Georgia. The two make their way westward on foot, heading toward France, where Gloria says they will find safe haven. But what exactly is the truth about Blaise’s past? Bits and pieces are revealed as he and Gloria endure a five-year journey across the Caucasus and Europe, weathering hardships and welcoming unforgettable encounters with other refugees searching for a better life. During this time Blaise grows from a boy into an adolescent; but only later, as a young man, can he finally attempt to untangle his identity. Bondoux’s heartbreaking tale of exile, sacrifice, hope and survival is a story of ultimate love.

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova (Graphic Novel) - Cardinal rule number one for surviving school– don’t get noticed by the mean kids. Cardinal rule number two for surviving school– seek out groups with similar interests and join them. On her first day at her new school, Penelope “Peppi” Torres reminds herself of these basics. But when she trips into a quiet boy in the hall, Jaime Thompson, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her the “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this crisis? By shoving poor Jaime and running away! Falling back on rule two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi still can’t help feeling ashamed about the way she treated Jaime. Things are already awkward enough between the two, but to make matters worse, he’s a member of her own club’s archrivals—the science club! And when the two clubs go to war, Peppi realizes that sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart - Lily Jo McGrother, born Timothy McGrother, is a girl. But being a girl is not so easy when you look like a boy. Especially when you’re in the eighth grade. Dunkin Dorfman, birth name Norbert Dorfman, is dealing with bipolar disorder and has just moved from the New Jersey town he’s called home for the past thirteen years. This would be hard enough, but the fact that he is also hiding from a painful secret makes it even worse. One summer morning, Lily Jo McGrother meets Dunkin Dorfman, and their lives forever change.  

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani - Jim Ottaviani returns with an action-packed account of the three greatest primatologists of the last century: Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Biruté Galdikas. These three groundbreaking researchers were all students of the great Louis Leakey, and each made profound contributions to primatology and to our own understanding of ourselves. Tackling Goodall, Fossey and Galdikas in turn and covering the highlights of their respective careers, Primates is an accessible, entertaining and informative look at the field of primatology and at the lives of three of the most remarkable women scientists of the twentieth century. Thanks to the charming and inviting illustrations by Maris Wicks, this is a nonfiction graphic novel with broad appeal.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older - Paint a mural. Start a battle. Change the world. Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of  making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on. With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one—and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come. Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.

The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle by Janet Fox - “Keep calm and carry on.” That’s what Katherine Bateson’s father told her, and that’s what she’s trying to do—when her father goes off to the war, when her mother sends Kat and her brother and sister away from London to escape the incessant bombing, even when the children arrive at Rookskill Castle, an ancient, crumbling manor on the misty Scottish highlands. But it’s hard to keep calm in the strange castle that seems haunted by ghosts or worse. What’s making those terrifying screeches and groans at night? Why do the castle’s walls seem to have a mind of their own? And why do people seem to mysteriously appear and disappear? Kat believes she knows the answer. Lady Eleanor, who rules Rookskill Castle, is harboring a Nazi spy. But when her classmates begin to vanish one by one Kat must uncover the truth about what the castle actually harbors and who Lady Eleanor really is–before it’s too late.

Booked by Kwame Alexander – “Like lightning/ you strike/ fast and free/ legs zoom/ down field/ eyes fixed/ on the checkered ball/ on the goal/ ten yards to go/ can’t nobody stop you/ can’t nobody cop you.” In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love and friendship take center stage as 12-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read. This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action and emotion of a World Cup match.

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories edited by Stephanie Perkins – Featuring some of the best YA writers today, Leigh Bardugo, Libby Bray and Tim Federle, readers will be enticed by more than romance in this volume of contemporary love stories from 12 popular authors. Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by 12 bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have 12 reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

 Absolute Brightness by James Lecesne - Phoebe’s life in Neptune, New Jersey, is somewhat unremarkable. She helps her mom out with her hair salon, she goes to school and she envies her perfect older sister. But everything changes when Leonard arrives. Leonard is an orphan, a cousin who Phoebe never knew she had. When he comes to live with Phoebe’s family, he upsets the delicate balance of their lives. He’s gay and confident about who he is. He inspires the people around him. He sees people not as they are but as they hope to be. One day, Leonard goes missing. Phoebe, her family, and her community fight to understand what happened and to make sense of why someone might want to extinguish the beautiful absolute brightness that was Leonard Pelkey. This novel by James Lecesne, the co-founder of The Trevor Project, inspired the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway show “The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey.”

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk - Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount. Brilliantly crafted, Wolf Hollow is a haunting tale of America at a crossroads and a time when one girl’s resilience and strength help to illuminate the darkest corners of our history.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton - Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned or female. Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the backcountry town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead. Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew. Rebel of the Sands reveals what happens when a dream deferred explodes in the fires of rebellion, of romantic passion and the all-consuming inferno of a girl finally, at long last, embracing her power.

The Essential Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson – (Jay’s note: I recently noticed a resurgence of Calvin and Hobbes among young people. It was always a favorite so I went back and looked through all my “old” books– amazing! I laughed until it hurt.) Perhaps the most brilliant comic strip ever created, Calvin and Hobbes continues to entertain with dazzling cartooning and tremendous humor. Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes has been a worldwide favorite since its introduction in 1985. The strip follows the richly imaginative adventures of Calvin and his trusty tiger, Hobbes. Whether a poignant look at serious family issues or a round of time-travel (with the aid of a well-labeled cardboard box), Calvin and Hobbes will astound and delight you. Beginning with the day Hobbes sprang into Calvin’s tuna fish trap, the first two Calvin and Hobbes collections, Calvin and Hobbes and Something Under The Bed Is Drooling are brought together in this treasury. This includes black and white dailies and color Sundays.

The Last Boy at St. Edith’s by Lee Gjertsen Malone - A seventh grade prankster is determined to escape the all-girls academy where he’s the only boy by getting expelled in this “spectacular debut” (Kirkus Reviews) that’s perfect for “fans of Jerry Spinelli’s Crash and Loser” (Booklist). Seventh grader Jeremy Miner has a girl problem. Or, more accurately, a girls problem—475 of them to be exact. That’s how many girls attend his school, St. Edith’s Academy. Jeremy is the only boy left after the school’s brief experiment in co-education, and he needs to get out. But his mother, a teacher at the school, won’t let him transfer, so Jeremy takes matters into his own hands—he’s going to get expelled. Together with his best friend Claudia, Jeremy unleashes a series of hilarious pranks in hopes that he’ll get kicked out with minimal damage to his permanent record. But when his stunts start to backfire, Jeremy has to decide how far he’s willing to go and whom he’s willing to knock down to get out the door.