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40 Girl-Empowering Beach Reads For Tweens

A Mighty Girl's favorite new releases and old time favorites to keep her reading all summer long!

summer-reading-series-tweens-webEven if your Mighty Girl is past the stage where reading is a brand-new skill, it's important for her to keep practicing over the summer! Tween readers are ready for increasingly complex books, from unique and original flights of fancy to realistic fiction that addresses some of the more difficult issues around us every day — and the longer length of middle grade books allows kids to become totally absorbed in a really fascinating story.

With that in mind, we've put together a list of forty books suitable for tween readers that will pique their curiosity, get them turning pages for hours, and keep them thinking long after the book is done! These books show middle readers that girls can be the star in a longer story, and explore how the courage, intelligence, and determination of the Mighty Girls in these books help them find their own version of happily every after.

For recommendations books for younger readers, check out the earlier blog posts in our Summer Reading Series: 40 Girl-Empowering Picture Books and 40 Mighty Girl Books for New Readers.

40 Middle Grade Books for Summer Reading

The Night Fairy

The Night Fairy

Written by: Laura Amy Schlitz
Illustrated by: Angela Barrett
Recommended Age: 7 - 10

Flory is a night fairy, no taller than an acorn, with a beautiful set of wings like a luna moth... until she loses them in an encounter with a bat. Unable to fly home, Flory suddenly finds herself having to learn how to survive among the daylight creatures in the Giantess' garden! The world may be very big and dangerous, but Flory is fierce and determined, and more than ready to tell silly creatures like Skuggle, her new squirrel friend, what to do. Not all of the garden's residents are willing to bend to her will, though... This magical story features a main character who learns to value a quick wit and compassion as much as bravery in her adventures.

The BFG

The BFG

Written by: Roald Dahl
Illustrated by: Quentin Blake
Recommended Age: 7 - 12

Eight-year-old orphan Sophie's life takes a surprising turn for the better — when a giant swipes her out of her bed in London and takes her to Giantland! The BFG, or Big Friendly Giant, is definitely both friendly and giant to Sophie, but it turns out that he's not so big compared to some of his more ferocious relations. In fact, Sophie and the BFG will have to work together to bring beautiful dreams to all the other boys and girls, make an alliance with the Queen, and finally trap the evil giants for good! This beloved book — which has just been adapted into a film version — is just as entrancing for readers today as it was when it was published decades ago.

The Wild Robot

The Wild Robot

Written by: Peter Brown
Recommended Age: 8 - 11

Roz the robot opens her eyes for the first time to find herself alone on a remote island, full of nothing but wilderness. There's no time to wonder how she got there — or why she's exists — before she's already facing danger. A fierce storm and a vicious bear attack convince Roz that the best way to make it is to adapt, observe, and learn from the island's animals. Slowly, the animals adapt to Roz too, and before long, the island is feeling like home. But can Roz really live a wild, free life — even when her creators finally come looking for her? Author/illustrator Peter Brown tells an exciting and touching story about nature, technology, and what it means to belong.

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter

Ronia, the Robber's Daughter

Written by: Astrid Lindgren
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Ronia is the celebrated daughter of Matt, leader of a ferocious band of robbers, but she’s happiest alone, deep in the forest. There, she meets Birk, the son of Matt’s greatest rival, Borka, and the two become unexpected friends. But when new hostilities break out between two bands, Ronia is faced with conflicting loyalties when her father wants to use Birk as a hostage to force his rival’s surrender. Can Ronia and Birk find a way to reconcile the two robber barons, or will they have to choose between friendship and family? This book by Astrid Lindgren, author of Pippi Longstocking, is full of adventure and suspense.

The Key to Extraordinary

The Key to Extraordinary

Written by: Natalie Lloyd
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Everyone in Emma's family is special, and they all learned what their extraordinary destiny would be through a dream. Emma's been waiting for her dream since her mother died, after promising her she would do whatever it takes to make fulfill it. But when Emma's dream finally does come, it directs her to find a legendary treasure which is hidden in her town's cemetery. It's been missing for centuries and is rumored to be protected by a singing ghost, so the task seems impossible — but how can Emma let down generations of her ancestors and break such an important promise to her own mother? Full of lyrical writing and quirky humor, this book by the author of the best-selling A Snicker of Magic is sure to delight young readers!

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking

Written by: Astrid Lindgren
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

In the wacky Villa Villekulla lives a very extraordinary girl! Pippi Longstocking, the strongest girl in the world, lives alone with her monkey Mr. Nilsson, and her arrival is going to turn Tommy and Annika’s life upside down. Full of incredible hijinks, daring deeds, and expectation-defying adventures, any child would want to follow Pippi just to see what happens next! Fans of Pippi should also check out The Adventures of Pippi Longstocking, which collects the three full-length Pippi books into one volume. You can also find more Pippi books, films, and toys in our Pippi Longstocking Collection.

The Case of the Girl in Grey

The Case of the Girl in Grey

Written by: Jordan Stratford
Illustrated by: Kelly Murphy
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

The daring girl detectives of the Wollstonecraft Detective Agency are back! After the success of their first case, all of London knows that Lady Ada (Lovelace) and Mary (Wollstonecraft) are the girls to go to if you have a problem. Their new case involves a horrible hospital, a missing will, a hasty engagement, and a suspiciously slippery servant. But Mary's stumbled onto a mystery of her own: a ghostly girl in a grey gown dashing through the park — a girl who is the spitting image of their new client. Are the cases linked, or is there actually a supernatural explanation? Fans of the first book in this STEM-inspired detective series, The Case of the Missing Moonstone, will love getting to dig into the second this summer!

Thursdays With The Crown

Thursdays With The Crown

Written by: Jessica Day George
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Castle Glower has always been mysterious, but when two of its towers transport Celie and her siblings to an unknown land, she realizes that something very strange is happening to her beloved castle. As they try to find their way home — with the help of Celie's pet griffin, Rufus — they meet two wizards and an entire lost people: the original inhabitants of Castle Glower. They may even know the castle better than Celie...but do they know enough to get her home? This new entry in the Tuesdays At The Castle series is sure to captivate fans of Celie and Castle Glower. Readers who are new to the series should start with the first book, Tuesdays At The Castle.

The Middle Moffat

The Middle Moffat

Written by: Eleanor Estes
Illustrated by: Louis Slobodkin
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Jane Moffat finds her position as middle child boring: not the youngest, not the oldest, not anything! So she decides to become the mysterious Middle Moffat, an intriguing figure that will surely get more attention than plain old Jane. But between losing and finding friends, not rescuing stray dogs, caring for the oldest resident of the city, and helping the girls' basketball team win the championship, it turns out that being in the middle is something the most exciting place of all! Any reader who's felt a little ordinary will sympathize with Jane and her quest to be noticed, and adults will love the message that being yourself is the best way to catch everyone's attention!

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon

Where The Mountain Meets The Moon

Written by: Grace Lin
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Minli lives in the valley of the Fruitless Mountain, where she and her parents struggle to survive. At night, her father tells her miraculous tales about the Jade Dragon and the Old Man in the Moon, who holds everyone's destiny, but her mother is too busy worrying to enjoy the stories. So one day, Minli decides that she will find the Old Man in the Moon and change her family's fortune. Along the way, she befriends a talking fish, a flightless dragon, and more amazing creatures... but when she reaches the Old Man, she will have to decide whether asking for riches for herself and her family is the best use of a chance to change fate. Inspired by Chinese folktales and full of vibrant illustrations, this unique story teaches an important lesson about greed and happiness.

The Ordinary Princess

The Ordinary Princess

Written by: M. M. Kaye
Illustrated by: M. M. Kaye
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Upon her christening, the fairies gift Princess Amy with Wit, Charm, Health, Courage... and Ordinariness. Unlike her exquisite sisters, Amy's appearance is plain, and she's far more interested in adventures than in marrying a prince. So when her parents try to marry her off, Amy decides to run away, and her gift of being ordinary allows her to blend in perfectly as a kitchen maid in the neighboring kingdom's palace. There, she makes a new friend — but Perry, a "man of all work", has a secret as remarkable as her own. In fact, they may just be the perfect pair... This charming story, with its reminder that looks are unimportant without substance behind them, also captures the power of choosing your own future.

Book Scavenger

Book Scavenger

Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Emily's literary idol, Garrison Griswold, lives in San Francisco — something that makes her move to the city a lot more exciting! He's the creator of Book Scavenger, a game where books are hidden in cities around the country. But when she arrives, Emily learns that Griswold has been attacked and no one knows anything about the epic new game he was just about to launch. When Emily and her friend James discover a strange book, they find themselves rushing from clue to clue, trying to find the secret — before whoever attacked Griswold comes after them too. This fun adventure, sprinkled with mysteries and ciphers, is sure to appeal to mystery fans.

Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted

Written by: Gail Carson Levine
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

At birth, Ella was given the "gift" of obedience by a foolish fairy; as a result, she cannot refuse any order given to her, no matter what it is — or who gives it to her. Ella's stepmother and stepsisters are more than happy to take advantage of her curse, but Ella is not content to accept her fate. Instead, she sets out to find a way to reverse the curse and spell... and find her own happiness. This Newbery Honor book plays with many aspects of the traditional Cinderella story, but at its heart is an independent, determined heroine who ultimate frees herself.

The War That Saved My Life

The War That Saved My Life

Recommended Age: 10 and up

10-year-old Ada has never left her family's one-bedroom apartment; her abusive mother considers her clubbed foot a humiliation and has kept her from public view her entire life. But when Ada’s little brother Jamie is shipped out of London to escape the dangers of World War II, Ada takes the greatest risk of her life and sneaks out to join him. Susan Smith, the recluse who’s forced to take the siblings in, doesn’t know anything about children — especially girls who flinch at every mistake. But as the pair grow closer, perhaps Ada has finally found someone that she can trust to love her just as she is. This touching 2015 Newbery Honor novel with an engaging main character is part adventure, part search for identity.

Paper Wishes

Paper Wishes

Written by: Lois Sepahban
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

Manami's Japanese American family finds their lives turned upside down: it's 1942, and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour means they're being sent to an internment camp. Worst of all, Yujiin, her and her grandfather's beloved dog, isn't allowed to come. A neighbor agrees to care for Yujiin, but when Manami decides to try to smuggle him with them, she gets caught — and has to abandon him halfway between their old home and the camp. Grief- and guilt-stricken, she becomes mute. She tries to cling to the hope that Yujiin will find a way to them, but if Manami is going to find peace — and her voice — she'll have to find a way to say goodbye to everything her family had to leave behind. This heartrending novel about a dark period of American history will help young readers put a human face to the stories from their textbooks.

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate

Written by: Jacqueline Kelly
Recommended Age: 9 - 13

Callie Vee from The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is back! Callie is now under the tutelage of the town's veterinarian, helping to save the various injured animals her brother Travis brings home. But her contributions are ignored or ridiculed compared to what little work her brother does, and her mother still disapproves of her unladylike pursuits. Then the 1900 Galveston hurricane drops their standoffish cousin Aggie into the household, too. Fortunately, with the support of her beloved grandfather, Callie holds firm to her ambitions to find the life that's right for her. Funny and poignant, this novel continues the adventures of this determined heroine.

Becoming Naomi Leon

Becoming Naomi Leon

Written by: Pam Munoz Ryan
Recommended Age: 9 - 13

It's hard going through school as Naomi Soledad Leon Outlaw — between her long name and the hand-made clothes, she's never been one of the popular kids. But her grandmother is a loving guardian for her and her brother, whose physical deformities make him stand out, and tries her best to teach them both about their Mexican heritage. When Naomi's mother finally shows back up after seven years, with a scary boyfriend in tow, it soon becomes obvious that her motivations are more about profit and convenience than about reconnecting with her children. Fortunately, Gram and their Mexican neighbors work together so that Naomi can finally have the security she desperately needs. Touching and inspiring, this book asks important questions about what it really means to be family.

A Night Divided

A Night Divided

Written by: Jennifer A. Nielsen
Recommended Age: 9 - 13

When the Berlin Wall went up, it split Gerta's family in two: her father and middle brother, who had gone west to look for work, are on one side; Gerta, her mother, and her other brother are on the other, under Soviet control. Now Gerta is growing up with East German soldiers pointing guns at their own citizens to keep them from looking over the wall. Then, on her way to school, Gerta spots her father on a viewing platform, performing a strange dance, and receives a mysterious drawing. Her conclusion? Her father wants them to tunnel under the wall and reunite the family. But do they dare the consequences in search of freedom? This intriguing historical novel, with its unique setting, will give kids a new perspective on history — and on the importance of remembering it.

The Birchbark House

The Birchbark House

Written by: Louise Erdrich
Recommended Age: 9 - 13

Omakayas may be an Ojibwa girl living in the 1800s, but many of her problems will sound familiar to young readers —  like dealing with a pesky brother and desperately wanting the approval of her beloved mother and older sister. Over a year, Omakayas and her family will move to their summer lodgings, harvest wild rice, prepare for a difficult winter, and face the horrors and grief that a smallpox epidemic brings. Along the way, Omakayas will learn more about how she came to be adopted as a toddler — and why her beloved neighbor Old Tallow is alone. Louise Erdich, a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwa, researched the daily life of Ojibwa villages in depth to write this historically accurate and deeply moving series which makes an excellent book to read alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series. Fans of this book can check out the sequence, The Game of Silence and The Porcupine Year.

When You Reach Me

When You Reach Me

Written by: Rebecca Stead
Recommended Age: 9 - 14

Miranda and her best friend, Sal, have spent the years up to sixth grade learning how to navigate their New York City neighborhood. They know where it's safe to go, and they know who to avoid — like the strange guy on the corner. But when Sal suddenly cuts Miranda out of his life, and the spare key to Miranda's apartment gets stolen, her life gets turned upside down. Notes are appearing that seem to be able to predict the future, but surely time travel is just something out of books like her new favorite, A Wrinkle in Time? Or is Miranda the only person who can stop a tragic death — and if she is, has she realized in time? Intriguing and poignant, this novel with a puzzle at its heart shows the challenges kids face as they begin to understand the complexities of life.

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters

Written by: Shannon Hale
Recommended Age: 9 - 14

Miri is eager to return to her beloved home after a year at the king's palace, but instead she finds herself ordered to a distant swamp to start a princess academy for three cousins of the royal family. Astrid, Felissa, and Sus are more interested in hunting and fishing than courtly etiquette, but if Miri is ever going to get back to Mount Eskel, she'll have to convince them to learn. As she spends time with them, though, Miri realizes that the sisters — and the king and queen's interest in them — hide a long-buried secret. It will take all her strength and intelligence to unravel the mystery, protect the sisters, and make her way home. This sequel to Princess Academy and Princess Academy: Palace of Stone will delight fans of the series.

A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time

Written by: Madeleine L'Engle
Recommended Age: 9 and up

People in town think Meg is a loose cannon, her brother Charles Wallace is dumb, and her father ran off and left their scientist mother — but Meg doesn’t believe a word of any of it. So when an unexpected stranger appears in their kitchen and tells Meg about a tesseract — the “wrinkle in time” which her father was researching for the government — Meg decides to set off through space and time to find him. Her adventures with Charles Wallace and neighbor Calvin will require all of their strengths to accomplish! A Wrinkle in Time is the first of a quintet of science fiction classics, which are also available in a box set. Fans of the book can also check out this graphic novel adaptation.

Anne of Green Gables

Anne of Green Gables

Written by: L.M. Montgomery
Recommended Age: 9 and up

Brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert were planning to take in an orphan boy to help on the family farm; they’re not expecting spirited, flame-haired Anne to show up instead. But Matthew is quickly charmed by Anne’s unique personality and vivid imagination -- even if those same qualities often get her in no end of trouble. It may be that this unexpected girl will be the best thing to ever happen to their family! Anne Shirley is a deeply beloved character, and adults who loved reading her adventures will enjoy getting to introduce her to a new generation. Fans of Anne can also check out this box set featuring all the Anne novels, as well as films, toys, and posters in our Anne of Green Gables Collection.

Rules

Rules

Written by: Cynthia Lord
Recommended Age: 9 and up

Catherine just wants a normal life, but that seems impossible thanks to her autistic brother, David. The family's whole life revolves around David, and Catherine has spent years trying to teach him rules so that he won't embarrass her — everything from "a peach is not a funny-looking apple" to "keep your pants on in public." But when Catherine becomes friends with Jason, a nonverbal paraplegic who uses a book of images to communicate, she's suddenly confronted with the truth: "normal" is hard to define, and rules are less important than acceptance and love. Catherine is an appealing character whose struggles between love for her brother and frustration with having to defer to his needs ring true. This book is sure to provoke thought and discussion from young readers.

Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight

Written by: Sharon M. Draper
Recommended Age: 9 and up

In Bumblebee, North Carolina, Stella is used to segregation: some stores she can go into, some she can't, and that's just the way it is. But she's never thought as racism as dangerous before. Until one day, Stella and her brother see something they aren't supposed to: a Ku Klux Klan meeting, practically right in their backyard. It's the beginning of many frightening and unpleasant changes to come. But Stella's community decides to draw together and stand up against the injustices around them, and as they do, Stella will not only learn that hope can come from strange places — even ashes — but also discover an unexpected talent and purpose. By the author of the bestselling Out of My Mind, this touching historical novel featuring a warm, lively main character is inspiring and touching.

Summerlost

Summerlost

Written by: Ally Condie
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

It's the first summer since Cedar's father and brother were killed in an accident, and Cedar and what's left of our family are returning to the town of Iron Creek. Cedar's mom sets herself to fixing up the house, leaving Cedar and her younger brother to explore on their own. When Cedar sees a boy in a costume ride by on a bike, she's curious enough to follow him — and discovers the renowned local theater festival. With a new friend, a job at the festival, and a mystery to occupy her mind, Cedar might find the most valuable thing of all: healing. This touching and tender novel uses lyrical language and vibrant characters to tell a heartfelt story about grief and resilience.

Raymie Nightingale

Raymie Nightingale

Written by: Kate DiCamillo
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

Raymie has a plan: she'll win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, her father will see her picture in the paper, and he'll forget all about the dental hygienist he ran away with and come home. Winning the competition requires new skills, including dealing with her fellow competitors — like Louisiana Elefante, who has a show business background but faints constantly, and Beverly Tapinski, who's determined to sabotage the whole thing. But as the competition approaches, the three girls develop an unexpected bond based on loneliness, grief, and a series of adventures in which each girl gets a chance to come to the rescue. Two-time Newbery Award-winning author Kate DiCamillo has crafted a unique and deeply appealing character in Raymie, and young readers will love watching her finally find a degree of peace.

Wolf Hollow

Wolf Hollow

Written by: Lauren Wolk
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Even Annabelle's small Pennsylvania town has been touched by the two world wars that ravaged the world, but day to day life there has been quiet until the day a new student, Betty Glengarry, comes to her school. Betty is cruel and delights in bullying the vulnerable people around her — including reclusive World War I veteran Toby. Annabelle knows that Toby is kind, but the other people in town see nothing but his odd behavior. As Betty agitates the town against Toby, Annabelle will have to find the courage to be a voice of justice... even if she's standing alone. This poignant novel raises questions about right and wrong — and what marks the dark parts of history leave on all of us.

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Written by: Robert Beatty
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

It’s 1899 and 12-year-old Serafina lives with her pa in the basement of the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, where the most important rule has always been that no one can know she’s there. The rich owners don't know that she lives in the basement with her father, the estate's maintenance man. But when children start disappearing, Serafina knows the culprit: the mysterious man in a black cloak she’s seen stalking the estate’s halls. With the help of the estate owners’ nephew, Braeden, Serafina must find a way to reveal the man’s true identity before all the children are gone. In the process, Serafina will learn secrets about a legacy of magic and discover who she really is. Serafina is a believably courageous heroine of this suspenseful story and the friendship between her and Braeden is heartfelt and real.

Goodbye Stranger

Goodbye Stranger

Written by: Rebecca Stead
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

Bridge, Emily, and Tabitha are best friends in seventh grade, all wrestling with their own challenges: Bridge is an accident survivor wondering why she's alive; Emily has a developing body attracting wanted, and unwanted, attention; and Tabitha is developing her identity as a human rights activist. The three girls are best friends with one rule: No fighting. But is that enough to get them through middle school? This captivating novel captures all the ups and downs, triumphs and tragedies, that can seem overwhelming as a young teen.

Counting Thyme

Counting Thyme

Written by: Melanie Conklin
Recommended Age: 10 - 13

If Thyme's little brother Val is going to get an experimental new cancer therapy that may save his life, it means moving thousands of miles away, to New York. Thyme consoles herself by treating the move as temporary, but when Val shows real improvement and their father accepts a full-time position, she realizes that she might have to start thinking of New York as home. As she wrestles with the guilt of wanting to leave, Thyme also faces new friends, a first crush, a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird, and perhaps the biggest challenge of all: learning that it's okay for her to have her own needs and how to tell the people who love her that she does. This contemplative, touching book with an appealing, believable protagonist is sure to tug at the heartstrings.

Dealing With Dragons

Dealing With Dragons

Written by: Patricia C. Wrede
Illustrated by: Elise Primavera
Recommended Age: 10 - 14

Princess Cimorene has no interest in being a proper princess, so instead of waiting to be kidnapped by a dragon, she runs away and makes a bargain with one — she’ll keep house as a captured princess would, provided she also gets to be herself and explore her non-princessy interests. And to the great confusion of the princes who come to rescue her, she treats them with disdain and sends them packing! Fortunately for Kazul, Cimorene’s dragon, Cimorene also manages to help unearth the wizards’ plot against the dragons in time to stop it... for now. Fantasy fans will love reading about how Cimorene finds life, love, and family, all on her own terms. Readers can also check out the Enchanted Forest Chronicles box set, which includes all four books in the series.

Fish In A Tree

Fish In A Tree

Written by: Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Ally is clever — she knows that, if she's enough of a disruption in class, no one will figure out just how little she can read. But how can she be smart if she can't even read the simplest things? But her newest teacher, Mr. Daniels, seems to see past her brash, troublemaking exterior, and even puts a name to her reading problems: dyslexia. Lynda Mullaly Hunt provides a compassionate look at life with a learning disability, with an ending that's realistic: Ally's happy ending will involve small changes and a lot of hard work! Most importantly, she reminds the reader that great minds don't always think alike.

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home

The Girl Who Raced Fairyland All The Way Home

Written by: Catherynne M. Valente
Illustrated by: Ana Juan
Recommended Age: 10 and up

September is back for her final adventure! September is shocked to find herself accidentally declared the Queen of Fairyland — and there are plenty who want to contest her right to the throne. So it's time for a Royal Race: whoever wins takes the crown. But during the race, September's beloved friends — both old friends like the Wyverary A-Through-L and the boy Saturday, and new friends like the changelings Hawthorn and Tamburlaine and the wombat Blunderbuss — get caught up in the trouble. And now September's parents are crossing the universe trying to find her too. This innovative series comes to an unexpected and delightful conclusion in this book. If your kids are new to the Fairyland series, you can start them with the first volume, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making.

The Hero and The Crown

The Hero and The Crown

Written by: Robin McKinley
Recommended Age: 10 and up

As the king of Damar’s only child, Aerin should be his heir, but because her mother was a witchwoman from the North, Damarians don’t trust her. But Aerin’s destiny is to battle the black dragon, Maur; meet the wizard Luthe, who gives her both the Blue Sword, Gonturan, and the truth about her mother; and face the evil mage, Agsded, who has taken the Hero’s Crown — the secret strength of Damar itself. Along the way she will receive great gifts that come with a great price, and realize that she will decide the fate of both Damar and her world. Robin McKinley’s Newbery Award-winning book features a complex and strong main character, whose courage allows her to save the day. Fans of this book can check out the much beloved sequel, The Blue Sword.

Catherine, Called Birdy

Catherine, Called Birdy

Written by: Karen Cushman
Recommended Age: 10 and up

It's 1291, and that means 14-year-old Catherine — known as Birdy — should be married soon... at least, according to her father. But Shaggy Beard, as Birdy calls her suitor in her diary, is disgusting, and she has no intention of becoming a perfect Medieval lady. Instead, she wants to find her freedom and set her own path. Birdy's brother Edward has demanded she start writing an account of her days as practice, and as her fourteenth year goes on, it goes from being a resented assignment to becoming a cherished opportunity to observe her world, explore her own feelings, and dream about what could be. Full of details about the not-so-glamorous life of Medieval times, this humor-filled novel has a deeply appealing main character who is sure to appeal to fans of historical fiction.

Howl's Moving Castle

Howl's Moving Castle

Written by: Diana Wynne Jones
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Sophie is the eldest of three daughters, and destined to fail miserably should she ever leave home to seek her fate. But when she unwittingly attracts the ire of the Witch of the Waste, Sophie finds herself under a horrid spell that transforms her into an old lady. Her only chance at breaking the spell lies in the Wizard Howl's ever-moving castle in the hills. To untangle the enchantment, Sophie must handle the seemingly heartless Howl, strike a bargain with a fire demon, and meet the Witch of the Waste head-on. Along the way, she discovers that there's far more to Howl — and herself — than first meets the eye. Diana Wynne-Jones' magical book, which inspired the Academy Award nominated Studio Ghibli film, is inventive and full of wonder. Fans of this book should also check out the sequel, House of Many Ways.

Out of My Mind

Out of My Mind

Written by: Sharon M. Draper
Recommended Age: 10 and up

Melody's classmates and teachers dismiss her as mentally challenged, because her cerebral palsy leaves her unable to walk or speak. But the truth is that Melody's mind is remarkable: deeply intelligent and with a photographic memory, she's capable of much more than anyone expects. And while she's been repeating the same preschool-level ABCs year after year, she's also been planning exactly what she'll say whenever she figures out how to communicate. Then her parents get a computer — one which has a special keyboard that will allow Melody to talk. Melody has found her voice; are people ready to hear what she has to say? Complex and thought-provoking, this novel will open middle readers' eyes to the misconceptions about people with disabilities.

The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish

Written by: Ali Benjamin
Recommended Age: 10 and up

12-year-old Suzy’s best friend was far too good a swimmer to have drowned, so Suzy concludes that Franny must have been stung by a lethal jellyfish — and she’s determined to scientifically prove it; maybe then she can start speaking again. But as the history of the relationship between Suzy and Franny is slowly revealed through a series of flashbacks, it becomes clear that their friendship was no longer what it had once been: Franny had been leaving her socially awkward friend behind as they reached middle school, and Suzy's confused attempt at revenge and reconnection has left her struggling with guilt and regret, along with a profound sense of loss following Franny's death. This complex, emotionally layered novel — a finalist for the National Book Award — tackles multiple issues, including the difficulty of finding your place as you get older and the different ways that people process grief.

Esperanza Rising

Esperanza Rising

Written by: Pam Munoz Ryan
Recommended Age: 11 and up

Esperanza grew up in privilege in Mexico, but when her father is killed by bandits shortly before her thirteenth birthday, she and her mother flee to America. In Depression-era California, no one cares about the elegant life Esperanza remembers: she’s just a farm worker, good for nothing but hard labor. But as Esperanza struggles with poverty, racism, and grief, a multiethnic spirit of labor organization is blossoming around her. Hope is coming both for Esperanza and for the workers around her struggling to get by. This Pura Belpre Award-winning novel is both heartfelt and thought-provoking.

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