Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: For Grades 4-6

Roll by Darcy Miller

Cover image for RollRen’s family decides to move to the outskirts of town. He misses being close to his best friend, Aiden, and he just wants things to go back to normal. Imagine his surprise when he looks up in the sky and sees birds just falling towards the ground. He watches closer and begins to think they’re falling on purpose.

As he investigates, he learns his new neighbor, Sutton, is training the pigeons to fly in competition. While Ren becomes better friends with Sutton, he faces some challenges in his friendship with Aiden. Ren has to figure out the type of friend he wants to be and the type of friends he wants to have. I would recommend this book for 4th-6th graders who love realistic fiction.

Book reviewed by Katharin B., Youth Outreach Liaison

Roller Girl  by Victoria Jamieson    

Cover image for Roller girlOne night, Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend to a roller derby, and this sets off a course of events that changes Astrid’s life.  Astrid becomes obsessed with everything roller derby and decides to join roller derby camp the summer before entering junior high.  This decision leads to some major problems with her best friend.  To add to her troubles, Astrid discovers that skating for the roller derbies is much harder than she ever imagined, and she can’t think of an awesome roller name like the other girls in the league.  How will she ever be as talented as her idol, Rainbow Bite?  Roller Girl is a fun, entertaining graphic novel with strong female role models.  It is a great choice for those who enjoyed reading Smile.

Book reviewed by Caitlin B., Youth Services Assistant

Auma’s Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo

Cover image for Auma's long runAuma’s Long Run transports the reader to a Kenya where people are just discovering and coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic. Auma, unlike most of her classmates, looks beyond a career as a farmer or wife and dreams of being a doctor. It’s part of why she works to understand why so many people are dying and what can be done. Auma, and most in her community, have to deal with being poor and the limited options there are for women, but she has a great relationship with her family, and the whole community works together to help one another. The author did a good job of putting us in that setting, so that even though it is not my own culture, I could relate. Auma is not only a dutiful daughter and student, but a runner and someone who wishes to go back to being a child. Her friends and classmates experience grief, taunting, romantic feelings, and moments of laughter, just like teens here. I recommend this story especially to middle grade and teen readers who want a new perspective.

 Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Under the Egg by Laura Marx Fitzgerald

Cover image for Under the eggTheodora “Theo” Tenpenny knows a lot about artwork. Her grandfather was an artist and worked as a security guard at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Then, he passed away and left her a note telling her to “look under the egg.” What egg? Did he mean the painting that hangs in his art studio? It has a large egg on it. When she accidentally spills water on this painting, she finds that there is another painting; one that looks like it should be in a museum. How did her grandfather get this painting?  Did he do something illegal? Theo doesn’t know what to do. With the help of a new friend, Theo decides she must figure out what her grandfather did to get this painting and also clear his name if she needs to. This mystery has many twists and turns as well as some great information about art, World War II, and a special group called the Monuments Men.

Book reviewed by Laura B., Youth Technology Librarian

Real Friends by Shannon Hale

Cover image for Real friendsGrowing up can be rough: sometimes your friends move away, sometimes your friends aren’t as kind as they should be, and sometimes you just feel out of place. Shannon Hale writes about how she viewed the world while she was in elementary school. Like most kids, she had trouble with her sibling and friends. As the story goes on, she realizes she may not always realize all the things the people in her life are dealing with. It’s a helpful reminder that growing up isn’t always easy, and sometimes we need to walk in someone else’s shoes to understand them. If you loved Smile or El Deafo, you’ll enjoy this graphic novel too!

Book reviewed by Katharin B., Youth Outreach Liaison

I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka and Martin Ganda

Cover image for I will always write back : how one letter changed two livesStarting as an assignment for school, Caitlin is a middle school student in the United States who decides to write to Martin in Zimbabwe. They learn about each other’s lives and become friends long after the assignment has been completed. As Caitlin realizes that Martin and his family are in increasing danger in their country, she and her family find ways to help and eventually get Martin to the United States so he can continue his education. It’s a true story.

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

The Gathering by Dan Poblocki

Cover image for The gatheringLooking for a chapter book that sends cold shivers up your spine? Look no further than The Gathering, the first book in the “Shadow House” series by Dan Poblocki.  Five children from across the U.S. are lured to the mysterious Larkspur House under false pretenses. Is it a music academy? Is it the residence of a long-lost great aunt?  What they find inside the immense building is something completely different. Once the kids are behind the locked doors, they may never leave again.  One of the strengths of this unique title is its connection to an app called “Shadow House” which can be downloaded for free from the Google Play app for Android smartphones or from the Apple app store for iPhones. Once the app is downloaded, the reader can access additional ghost stories every time a sigil, or symbol, is discovered on a book page. I enjoyed the app’s creepy music and stories as well as the spooky illustrations. The book will entice you without the app, but I recommend trying the app to add to the chilling experience.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman

Cover image for Book scavengerA cross country move, secret puzzles, mysterious clues, bumbling bad guys, and a race to find the answers all equals one action filled book! In the Book Scavenger, Emily and her new friend James race around San Francisco as they solve clues and decode secret messages. It all started when Emily and James found a mysterious book in the subway. However, a couple of strange men want the book and are only a step or two behind. Read this book if you like puzzles, problem solving, and mysteries.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Making it Right by Marilee Peters

Cover image for Making it right : building peace, settling conflictLet’s talk about real life superheroes! When bad things happen, we can’t call Batman or the Avengers, but there are things we ourselves can do. Making it Right, by Marilee Peters, explains how the criminal justice system, which makes rules on how to deal with crime, was developed and how it works today. Most of the time in the US, people go to court and have lawyers, a judge, and jury decide what happens. At school, the principal probably decides your punishment. In some communities, the offender and victim meet, along with a mediator, learn more about each other’s perspectives, and decide together what the offender can do to make up for their wrong. There are stories about kids who learn how to resolve fights at school, kids in New Orleans who worked on solving problems in their schools after Hurricane Katrina, and the ways young people in South Africa worked to heal after apartheid. I thought this was a really interesting book, and a good one to check out to help you deal with problems at school and beyond. All around the world, kids like you are doing something to help others and make the world a better place. Pick up this book if you want to start learning more!

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Cover image for A night dividedImagine that someone builds a wall in the middle of the night separating your town into different sides. You have to stay on the side you are on and never get to visit the other side. That is exactly what happened when the Berlin Wall was built to separate the West from the East. Gerta, her brother Fritz, and her mom are on the east side while her father and her brother Dominic are on the west side. The people on the east side are watched very closely, and the people on the west side have better living conditions. Gerta is inspired to get her family to the west side, but can she do it without being discovered by the guards? Read this story to find out!

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant