Stella Diaz Dreams Big is the third book in the Stella Diaz series and Stella is finally in fourth grade! Her brother Nick is a high schooler, and both he and Stella are shocked by the volume of HOMEWORK they now have to do compared to what they did in their prior classes. Nick is also working part-time at a pizzeria and Stella’s fourth-grade goals have her signing up for several extracurriculars — and stretching herself thin.
Larissa Fan’s Ten Little Dumplings is based on a true account of the life of a family member. It follows a family with 10 sons in the village of Fengfu. In Taiwanese culture, male children are prized over females, and so as Fan writes, the family is viewed as special. They’re “special because they had ten sons. To have one son was considered lucky. To have ten was great luck indeed.” As we see the 10 boys grow through life, a beautiful surprise awaits readers in the middle of the story.
In Luna’s Yum Yum Dim Sum, Luna and her family go out for dim sum on her birthday. When the mouthwatering meal arrives, the kids have six buns which they can share equally, but in her excitement, Luna drops one pork bun, leaving the three kids only five buns to share. As they negotiate using the Lunar calendar, common sense, and math skills, they find a surprising solution to their dilemma.
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.
14-year-old David is a quintessential middle child. His sister Bridgette is in college and the family’s academic success story. Mal, his younger brother is on the autism spectrum, although his family prefers not to use the autism label. Mal is almost non-verbal and only says the word “okay.” David has always has a large appetite and an interest in competitive eating, but after he accidentally leaves a $2000 bill on his mother’s credit card, he’s forced to join a pizza eating contest to win the grand prize of $5000.
In between finding his place in the family and trying not to ruin his internal organs by overeating, David also has to navigate the fact that his two oldest friends Cyn and HeyMan might be dating each other. Where does that leave him? As the third musketeer still, or an unwanted third wheel?
Fourth grader Mya Tibbs is excited for Spirit Week! She has made plans to partner with her best friend Naomi Jackson. Mya’s life seems pretty good with her brother Nugget, his best friend affectionately known as Fish, and her other friends, identical twins Starr and Skye. The one scary part is Mean Connie Tate, who everyone knows is the biggest fourth-grade bully. So, you can imagine Mya’s terror when she’s partnered with Connie and Connie refuses to trade partners. On top of that, Naomi is mad at Mya for not trying harder to trade partners. Even the twins who agree on everything are getting torn apart because Skye wants to stay friends with Mya, while Starr is on Naomi’s side.
But as Mya works with Connie, she realizes that things aren’t as she’s thought.
Zoo-Mate Wanted is an adorable picture book featuring two physically identically sisters with (of course) different personalities. Leah and Lilly love each other, but they just have different preferences. One day, after dealing with Leah’s messes, Lilly gets fed up and moves out of their room. Leah is unfazed, and just decides she’ll find a new “zoo-mate” who doesn’t mind messes and is willing to paint and get creative everywhere and whenever. After interviewing and testing out a few animal friends, she realizes finding a new zoo-mate isn’t as easy as it seems.
This middle-grade book follows Lucy, a short Chinese-American girl caught between two cultures. Lucy plays basketball (very well) and would choose mac and cheese over most Chinese dishes. Her older siblings seem to fit the “perfect Chinese child” stereotype more than she does. Regina, her older sister started a Chinese club in high school and speaks flawless Chinese, while her brother Kenny, although a bookworm loves and eats all Chinese food and is a Math whiz. Still Lucy perseveres with interests, eagerly anticipating her sister’s move to college so she can have their room all to herself, but that is not to be.
I know that many parents and teachers prefer books that model positive sibling relationships (less backbiting, more love) and I’m all for that as well. Most of the books on this list feature sweet sister relationships, while the rest feature difficult relationships that significantly improve by the end of the story.
As life can be, a few of these stories are a bit sad and feature the death of a sister, or a sister with a serious illness. But many others are adventure-filled or feature families coping with financial insecurity, the end of a marriage, and other challenges. Overall, though, I’ve only chosen books with a focus on the relationship between two or more sisters. Twins, big sisters, little sisters, close in age, far apart — it’s a sister party!
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.
The Distance to Home is Jenn Bishop’s debut middle-grade novel. I read and loved her most recent release, Things We Can’t Say about a boy dealing with parental suicide. The Distance to Home focuses on an equally sensitive subject: the death of a sibling. This summer, Quinnen isn’t playing baseball with her team — she decided to quit after her sister, Haley died the summer before. But when her family decides to host a player from a Minor League Baseball team, Quinnen starts to bond with the a couple of the players.
In Raina Telgemeier’s Sisters, Raina and her little sister’s relationship is under the microscope. Despite having always prayed for a little sister, Raina realizes as soon as her sister comes home with her parents that things may not exactly have worked out as she planned. Her sister is a fussy baby and often moody toddler who likes to play by herself. Plus, Raina herself has to learn to share space and time — and of course, she struggles in the beginning. The sisters squabble over the years until a three-week family road trip from California to Colorado changes everything.