The $150,000 Rugelach follows Jillian and Jack, two kids with opposing personalities and a shared love of food and cooking. JIllian’s mom died a year ago and her dad is working two jobs to keep them afloat after her mother’s restaurant closed. They’ve also had to move in with Jillian’s grandma, Rita. So when Jillian finds about a cooking competition hosted by major corporation CEO Phineas Farnsworth II, she thinks it’s a good opportunity to make money to help out the family. Jack is also hugely interested in the contest as Farnsworth is his role model. When the two kids are assigned as teammates, Jack’s loud attitude clashes with Jillian’s quieter personality, but even worse, the kids realize that Farnsworth has a more sinister plan for the contest than they could have imagined.
Isaiah Dunn Is My Hero has been on my TBR for a while, so it was a pleasure to finally read it! Isaiah’s father has died, leaving behind Isaiah, his mom, and his younger sister, Charlie. Isaiah’s mom is so depressed she’s lost her job — and started drinking too many bottles of wine. Isaiah realizes that they need money if they’ll ever move out of the motel where they’ve had to live since being unable to pay for their home. Thankfully, Isaiah has his father’s books of poems, his best friend Sneaky who sells candy at school (and lets Isaiah be his business partner), and the kind people who look out for him once they realize he’s in need. In the end, will Isaiah be the hero of his story?
Maddy Gaines is an anxious girl still coping with the grief of her father’s death — and also adjusting to her new stepfather. Home conditions are good: her mother is patient and reassuring, and she and her stepdad go on regular outings together by themselves. One day, Maddy sees on the news that a boy named Billy Holcomb has gone missing. Then several weeks after, she runs into another boy who looks a lot like Billy, except his hair is different and he’s taller than Billy was, and oh — his name is Eric.
Where the Rhythm Takes You is Sarah Dass’s debut YA novel. Seventeen-year-old Reyna is working at her family’s hotel, The Plumeria — as she has since her mother’s death two years before. Everyone around her seems to be moving forward with their lives. Her best friend, Olivia is going to art school in England, her first love Aiden moved away to the US where he has become a Grammy-winning singer/songwriter. Even her father seems ready to move on. But Reyna is stuck, and now Aiden is back on a surprise trip to Tobago — where Reyna lives — to celebrate his birthday.
Kitty Wentworth is grappling with the grief of losing her mother to lung cancer (even though she never smoked). Her older sister Imogen seems to be coping better and her dad just seems a bit lost. Thankfully, they have their grandmother and a baking enthusiast neighbor Ms. Allison to keep their moods up and care for them. Ms. Allison is also gearing up to start filming The Great British Bake-Off as a contestant. But Kitty’s world shifts when her father gets a work opportunity in New York and wants her and Imogen to move.
The Peach family is embarking on The Great Peach Experiment, their first one: making and selling pies out of a food truck! Oh, and they’ll be road tripping the whole summer too. Lucy, Freddie, and Herb have spent more time with each other than with their father since their mom died. But now one of their mom’s inventions has sold for a lot of money and their dad has bought a food truck and wants them to spend the summer traveling through the country as a family.
Clues to the Universe follows Ro and a boy in her school Benji. In this debut middle grade book told from two points of view, Ro and Benji become lab partners and form a pact to help each other achieve their goals. For Ro, that’s building the rocket she and her dad always meant to build before he died a year ago. And for Benji, it’s not getting a failing grade in science by tacking on to Ro’s science project. But when Benji discovers that a popular comic artist is his estranged father, Ro insists on helping Benji reunite with his father.
Kate Albus’s debut middle-grade book, A Place to Hang the Moon follows three orphaned kids in England during the WWII evacuation. Orphans William, Edmund, and Anna (aged 12, 11, and 9) are evacuated after their (not nice) grandmother dies. The kids are instructed not to disclose how well off their family is until they’re placed with a new family that feels like a forever family.
Red, White, and Whole is Rajani LaRocca’s newest middle-grade verse novel. The year is 1983 and 13-year-old Reha is caught between two cultures: her Indian family and community at home, and the all-American experience at school and with her white “school best friend.” But it’s not all rosy. Her mother doesn’t approve of Reha acting more American than Indian. She makes all of Reha’s clothes, and is upset when Reha says she would like to go to the school dance.
Reha is understandably frustrated at her mother’s lack of understanding, but she’s about to have more problems. Her mom is diagnosed with leukemia and Reha’s life is turned upside down.
Georgia’s father was a renowned fine artist in New York before he died from cancer while only in his fifties. It’s been two years since he died, and her mom seems to be absorbed in managing his estate and trying to keep the family afloat financially. Georgia is still deeply grieving and dealing with several complicated feelings about her father, the world’s view of him, and her friendship with her oldest and best friend, Theo, who was also close to her dad.
The Sea in Winter is the story of 12-year-old ballet dancer Maisie Cannon who is recovering from a torn ACL. Maisie is Native American and part of a blended family; her mom remarried after her father’s death and she has a younger half-brother. With regard to her heritage, her mom is Makah, her father was Piscataway, and her stepfather, Jack, is from the Elwha Klallam Tribe.
Maisie is miserable because her two closest (and only) friends Eva and Hattie are also ballerinas and now that she isn’t dancing, it’s too difficult to maintain her friendships with them. She’s also struggling with how slowly she’s recovering and is a bit depressed in general because of how much she loves ballet how tightly woven into her identity it was.
Serenity and her brother, Danny, have to move in with their grandparents after her mother’s death. Their father is nowhere to be found and the kids have to deal with their grief while adjusting to a new lifestyle — new school, new friends, new routines — with their mother’s parents. Their grandfather is a preacher and both grandparents are ardent churchgoers. The story is told from Serenity’s point of view as she tries to make sense of life through her poetry in English class.