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Carnival Chaos (Moko Magic #1)

Tracey Baptiste (Freedom Fire)

Three Brooklyn cousins discover they are protector spirits during carnival season in this Afro-Caribbean-inspired story. When strange things start happening to Misty and her cousins, such as flames shooting from their mouths after eating mango anchar, the trio must harness their newfound powers to save carnival festivities from impending disaster. Baptiste imbues the adventures with nuance, emphasizing the high spirits of an exuberant festival season and its importance to the tweens' culture.


Dinner at the Brake Fast

Renee Beauregard Lute (Quill Tree)

After her father’s treasured photograph disappears from the family’s breakfast-only diner, the Brake Fast Truck Stop, Tacoma resolves to track it down in this spirited, electrifyingly original odyssey through Washington State. Rich characterizations, a perceptive voice, and standout compassion and candor distinguish this captivating road trip tale by Lute, which explores the sometimes heartbreaking reality of living with a depressed parent, levied by Tacoma’s ever-present yearning to eat something other than breakfast foods.


The (Mostly) True Story of Cleopatra’s Needle

Dan Gutman (Holiday House)

Upon arriving at Cleopatra’s Needle, a Central Park landmark, a mother regales her children with its history in this evenly paced, delightfully fact-ional blend of history and adventure. Weighty topics surrounding housing insecurity and child enslavement are counterbalanced by the protagonists’ distinctively rendered diary-style narrations; varying POVs, including that of an Egyptian boy in 1460 BCE and a female inventor in 1880s N.Y.C., enliven Gutman’s sweeping foray into the iconic monolith’s riveting and little-known history.


Picture Purrfect (Bodega Cats #1)

Hilda Eunice Burgos, illus. by Siara Faison (Holt)

In a family-oriented series opener about the bonds that make life sweet, Burgos centers young Miguel, whose desires—to attend his school’s art club and adopt a stray cat—put him at odds with Mami and Papi, who would rather he focus on helping out at their Washington Heights bodega. Faison’s cozy illustrations, depicting boy, cat, and the surrounding community, buoy this lively portrayal of the many forms that bravery, kindness, and connection can take.


Plain Jane and the Mermaid

Vera Brosgol (First Second)

Setting an upended “The Little Mermaid” against a Dickensian backdrop, Brosgol delivers a rollicking fantasy graphic novel. Upon her parents’ deaths in a runaway fish cart accident, young Jane’s only hope for stability is to secure her dowry through marriage—but her proposal to fisherman Peter is disrupted when a mermaid kidnaps him. To rescue Peter, Jane ventures to the ocean floor and contends with the mermaid’s murderous rage in this hilariously tongue-in-cheek tale.


Summer Vamp

Violet Chan Karim (Random House Graphic)

In crafting a bus mix-up that sends aspiring chef Maya to vampiric Camp Dracula instead of culinary Camp Umami, Karim employs expert comic timing and tonal savvy to create a “regular summer camp” where “garlic is strictly forbidden!” Typical middle school woes rear their head throughout Maya’s stint living as a stealth human among vampires in this wholesome debut graphic novel, which seamlessly blends silliness and sentiment to examine timely topics surrounding acceptance and self-confidence.


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