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All the Greys on Greene Street

Laura Tucker, illus. by Kelly Murphy (Viking)

It's 1981, and Ollie, 12, is trying her best to keep her mother's latest depressive episode a secret—her mom hasn't gotten out of bed since Ollie's art restorer father fled mysteriously to France. Tucker skillfully balances themes of mental illness, friendship, and creativity with vibrant characters, a clearly wrought 1980s SoHo setting, and a satisfying, Konigsburg-tinged art mystery.

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Dream Within a Dream

Patricia MacLachlan (S&S/McElderry)

Newbery Medalist MacLachlan concisely conveys character and emotion in this novel about two siblings spending the summer on their grandparents' farm in Maine. Though Louisa, almost 12, loathes change, it is change that expands her sense of self and connection with others. MacLachlan tenderly captures the family, Louisa's instantaneous friendship with a new neighbor, and the way island life embraces them all.

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The Line Tender

Kate Allen (Dutton)

In Rockport, Mass., budding artist and narrator Lucy, 12, does everything with her best friend Fred, a keen scientist. After a local fisherman accidentally catches a great white shark, TV stations broadcast old footage of Lucy's late marine biologist mother, and a tragic accident plunges the entire town into grief. Allen tackles the complexities of heartache with subtly wry humor and insight in this richly layered middle grade debut about the power of science and love.

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Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks

Jason Reynolds, illus. by Alexander Nabaum (Atheneum/Dlouhy)

Reynolds packs the 10 blocks surrounding multiple schools with 10 relatable slice-of-life stories that start after school ends. An overlapping cast of characters experiences the tribulations of familial love, fears, first crushes, and more. In Reynolds's signature style, each story rings with emotional authenticity and empathy, and not a small amount of humor offsets the sometimes bittersweet realities of the characters' lives.

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The Lost Girl

Anne Ursu (Walden Pond)

Twin sisters Iris and Lark—"identical, but not the same"—are devastated when placed in different classes during fifth grade. A series of unsettling, fantastic events connect to a dark secret that proves dangerous to Iris and could separate the twins forever. As intriguing as it is eerie, Ursu's story of empowerment shows how one girl can triumph with the help of others.

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My Jasper June

Laurel Snyder (Walden Pond)

Facing a long and lonely summer at home following her brother's death, Leah, 13, is intrigued by Jasper, a gregarious girl she meets at a nearby farm. But as Leah learns that Jasper has a past she wants to leave behind, she grapples with how to protect her. A candid story about two teens finding solace and strength in each other.

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New Kid

Jerry Craft (HarperCollins)

Riverdale Academy Day School has a beautiful sprawling campus, a rigorous academic curriculum, and ample extracurricular activities. It's also distinctly lacking in diversity, and though African-American new kid Jordan Banks would rather go to art school, he dutifully attends, navigating myriad microaggressions. Craft's artwork interweaves the story with Jordan's sketchbook drawings, which convey tensions of being a person of color in traditionally white surroundings.

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The Next Great Paulie Fink

Ali Benjamin (Little, Brown)

A wildly imaginative but never mean-spirited prankster, Paulie Fink was the life of Mitchell School. When he doesn't appear on the first day of seventh grade, his classmates stage a reality TV–style competition, recruiting new girl Caitlyn to replace him with someone who can make things memorable. Genuinely original, the novel offers thoughtful perspectives on friendship, change, and the many guises of storytelling.

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Other Words for Home

Jasmine Warga (HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray)

In this timely book in verse, Jude and her pregnant mother flee to Cincinnati, leaving family behind, when violence erupts near their Syrian city. Rhythmic lines distill Jude's deepest emotions—homesickness, shock over prejudice in the U.S.—and trace the internal journey of a young refugee adjusting to a new home and culture.

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Pay Attention, Carter Jones

Gary D. Schmidt (Clarion)

Using amusing verbal badinage, Schmidt fuses pathos and humor with cricket in this adroitly layered novel about a dapper British "gentleman's gentleman" who descends upon sixth grader Carter's mourning family to offer his services as his mother struggles to parent her four children alone during his father's deployment.

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Queen of the Sea

Dylan Meconis (Walker Books US)

Set in a remote island convent, Meconis's quietly ambitious graphic novel, an atmospheric alternate history, is inspired by the childhood and succession of Queen Elizabeth I. The island world is richly developed, both in its physical particulars and its close-knit community, and the heroine proves endearing, with a strong voice full of humor and wonder.

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Sal & Gabi Break the Universe

Carlos Hernandez (Disney-Hyperion/Riordan)

Sal Vidón, a 13-year-old amateur magician with type 1 diabetes, has the inexplicable ability to open holes in the space-time continuum. When his friend Gabi's baby brother needs help, Sal's power might just be the solution they need—unless it destroys the universe. Hernandez's inclusive tale features a sprawling, memorable, largely Cuban-American cast and plenty of heart.

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The Strangers

Margaret Peterson Haddix (HarperCollins/Tegen)

In Ohio, the three Greystone siblings live a pleasant life with their mother. But after they find her weeping and wan over a story about three kidnapped Arizona kids, the Greystones receive a cryptic farewell and a coded letter that makes them wonder if they're connected to the kidnapped children. A secret-stacked, thrilling series opener.

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This Was Our Pact

Ryan Andrews (First Second)

Creepy yet benign, this leisurely graphic novel opens on the autumn equinox, when a community sends paper lanterns down a river. A group of boys makes a pact to follow them, but the vow proves daunting, and soon only two remain on the trail. Picaresque episodes and a dreamlike resolution conjure a giddy sensation, like staying up all night.

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Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Kwame Mbalia (Disney-Hyperion/Riordan)

In this triumphant middle grade debut inspired by West African mythology and African-American folk tales, when a talking doll named Gum Baby steals Tristan's prized book of stories, he pursues, accidentally tearing a hole into a land filled with legendary heroes. Mbalia expertly weaves a portrayal of community with myth and history—including the legacy of the slave trade—creating a fast-paced series starter.

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