Hi everyone-- Gabby here writing to you from Oregon!
While one of us gearing up for another great year leading the classroom, the other one of us is actually getting ready to be a student again... (cue the student-esque excitement annnd cue the whining about homework... well, hopefully I’ve outgrown that!). When I wasn’t packing or convincing cats that it’s fun to fly on planes to their new home, I have been doing my best read some soon to be released middle grade and YA lit. I have been loving the ARC (advanced reader copy) life.
Here are a few of the recently released or soon to be released (!!) notable reads from the summer. Hopefully, you haven’t spent your whole classroom budget (like we did last year!) and you’ve got room to add a few of these to your shiny classroom library to kick off the year right!
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (cover photo from this beautiful book, too), is hands down my favorite picture book of the summer, likely the year. If you cry reading this too, we should probably be friends? This book is absolute perfection. Buy it for every room, gift it to every friend!
Splat the Cat by Rob Scotton, is a new addition to the Splat collection. This one is fun and back to school relevant for home reading or in the classroom. Yes, sometimes even we can get behind an animal book (then we can all relate to them and they often don't get too gendered!).
Love, by Matt de la Pena. This one isn’t all that new, but it is new enough and we continue to adore it!
Middle grade picks-
- Sheets by Brenna Thummler was a fantastic surprise and our recent favorite kid-appropriate graphic novel. The art is gorgeous, you are totally pulled in, the characters are so very human (doing the best they can), Socio-economic status is part of the story (so great to see a white characters struggling with class), OH, and there are supernatural ghosts ... I mean, how cool and different is that ? This one is unique and melancholy and good.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang is one of our current favorites for the year. Don’t miss this one! We waited patiently for it to come out, and it was worth the wait!
Love Like Sky by Leslie C. Youngblood (if this cover alone doesn’t make you swoon I don’t know what will!) This is the book to have ready in your classroom library. This one takes you on a real emotional rollercoaster from blended family dynamics to friendships to just growing up. It’s very well done and would be an easy win recommendation for many students— with its charming, relatable characters and loving family. There’s some sadness and nerve wracking moments that will definitely provide drama and keep readers hooked. I wish I had this one last year to pass to my kids, but now you can!
Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina. Ah, I just loved this one. This one has so many great pieces and it is done so naturally. A thoughtful feisty 6th grader (Merci) figuring out life and getting a scholarship to a private school, all the while a multi-generational family going through the changes as everyone gets older. Merci has to be a buddy to a new kid she doesn’t like and figure out friendships at her new school-- an excellent coming of age story. This is my vote for classroom read alouds this year.
The Magic of Melwick Orchard by Rebecca Caprara. This one was just lovely. This one has beautiful nature, a super loving family, and an awesome main character (11 year old) who is trying to keep her family afloat when her baby sister gets deathly ill. A great book for those readers who love one of those good, sad-feels ones. This was done so well, we’re amazed this is Caprara’s first MG novel.
All Summer Long by Hope Larson (graphic novel). This one would be especially solid for late 4th, but even more so 5th for relatability about navigating friendships (and shifts), and finding your ‘thing’. The main character is an artsy rocker girl so this would be an extra win for any super musically inspired young people who might ‘get’ her.
The much anticipated Rick Riordan presents, Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes has its strong points. It wasn’t quite as beautifully written as we would’ve hoped, BUT the Mayan mythology and story turns were super fun.There were also some great female characters. We would definitely pass this one on to Percy Jackson lovers and see what they thought! We are moving on to read the next Rick Riordan published author, Yoon Ha Lee’s ARC of Dragon Pearl next!
Middle/high school teachers here are a few we would love to teach-
“Light-Skinned Girls and Kelly Rowlands”, the first short story from How to Love A Jamaican by Alexia Arthurs is a must-use this year (and for years to come). This piece would be incredible for the discussions students would have on this layered identity piece.. let’s just say if you teach this one please invite us to be flies on the wall! Discussions would be brilliant. BRILLIANT.
Autoboyagraphy by Christina Lauren. This super cute, super gay book packs a punch with its look into navigating relationships, differences, and identity. It was even better than we thought it would be! Nuance and conflict and love and getting to know yourself and others..it was so good.
Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor. So full disclosure this one isn’t new (2011), but I’m late to the party and I want to plug it here. I’m thinking early middle school for this one, but it had spectacular world-building, fun characters, and some great features. It’s especially great to enjoy Sunny, the go-getter main character as she analyzes her identity (both the fantasy one and the one where she was born in NY but now lives in Nigeria), and to enjoy her new ‘schooling’ as she learns more about her more magical self...
Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. The texting is done so well in this one, and speaking of another beautiful cover! This one is for the older end of middle school, it’s pacing and (hipster?) style is just for older teens, but its characters are moody and lovable and doing their best.
A Darker Shade of Magic series by V.E. Schwab. A well-written sci-fi / fantasy to rehook that crew who thinks they’ve read everything good. It’s got some blood but not in a gory kind of way, and for once, we don’t have vampires or a bunch of kids who have to kill each other. This one has great worldbuilding and the best (cross-dressing!?) female character we have read in sci-fi in a while.
Not new, but could someone please let us know if you teach any Shaun Tan? We would choose The Arrival. We LOVE his work, but it is over younger student’s heads. Older kid teachers should definitely try using his thoughtful, relevant, provocative, and beautiful work! His work makes me want to teach middle school, I can only imagine the beauty middle schoolers would create in an integrated art unit using some of his pieces as inspiration!
For high school specifically -
Circe by Madeline Miller. Why teach the Odyssey when you can teach Circe?! (I loved reading the odyssey for the first time so I don’t entirely mean that but I do!). I imagine this as an incredible journey and there are so many incredible ways i could see high schoolers discussing feminism and what it means through this one.. There are some tough scenes/ pain and it really is an epic, which is why it’d be for a high school seminar class... or something! I can’t wait to see educators using this one.
Up next! -
Of course there’s so many we haven’t gotten to yet (Children of Blood and Bone!? new Jackie Woodson ?! Oh, the list is always long). I recently learned a new word, “Tsundoku”, which is Japanese and is loosely and modernly translated to someone who has/buys a bunch of that they don’t read and can’t get to, or a great big book pile. That might be me.
Alas! What are some books you’re already excited to reccommend this school year? Any upcoming releases you cannot wait for ?? Ask us about any of these in more detail if you’d like (or other books:), and be sure to check out some of our favorite all class read alouds for other ideas on what to bring into your classroom this year! Happy reading and sharing love of reading with your new crews. Or if you are in my boat, happy school reading and may we make time for fun reading, too!