The Sakura Medal Middle School Books for 2018
We Are All Made of Molecules by Susan Nielsen
Gr 7–10—Thirteen-year-old Stewart and 14-year-old Ashley could not be more different. Stewart is a quirky, gifted intellectual who is coping with the loss of his mother, while Ashley is a popular fashionista still reeling from her parents' divorce—brought about by her father's announcement that he is gay. When a serious relationship develops between Stewart's father and Ashley's mother, the two teens find themselves living under the same roof. By turns humorous and heartbreaking, the story is told in alternating chapters narrated by both protagonists. In comparison to Stewart, Ashley is somewhat underdeveloped, but the contrast between the two characters makes for a compelling read, particularly as they begin to challenge and influence each other. Their overlapping journeys will leave readers with much to think about, as Nielsen unflinchingly tackles issues such as bullying, bigotry, and tolerance; the true nature of friendship; and what it means to be a family. The book will appeal to fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder (Random, 2012) and Jo Knowles's See You at Harry's(Candlewick, 2012). VERDICT This work of realistic fiction should find a place in most libraries serving teens.—Lauren Strohecker, McKinley Elementary School, Abington School District, PA --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye
Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters the only two in Russia and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side. And so he initiates the Crown s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill and the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the tsar s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands
Until he got that cryptic warning, Christopher Rowe was happy, learning how to solve complex codes and puzzles and creating powerful medicines, potions, and weapons as an apprentice to Master Benedict Blackthorn with maybe an explosion or two along the way. But when a mysterious cult begins to prey on London s apothecaries, the trail of murders grows closer and closer to Blackthorn s shop. With time running out, Christopher must use every skill he s learned to discover the key to a terrible secret with the power to tear the world apart.
All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook by Leslie Connor
When Perry moves to the outside world, he feels trapped. Desperate to be reunited with his mom, Perry goes on a quest for answers about her past crime. As he gets closer to the truth, he will discover that love makes people resilient no matter where they come from . . . but can he find a way to tell everyone what home truly means?
Last Day on Mars by Kevin Emerson
It is Earth year 2213 but, of course, there is no Earth anymore. Not since it was burned to a cinder by the sun, which has mysteriously begun the process of going supernova far sooner than anyone expected. The human race has fled to Mars, but this was only a temporary solution while we have prepared for a second trip: a 150-year journey to a distant star, our best guess at where we might find a new home.
Going Wild by Lisa McMann
Charlie Wilde knew her life would change forever when her family moved from Chicago to Arizona but she had no idea how right she'd really be after she discovers a mysterious bracelet. After putting it on, Charlie notices odd things happening. She s suddenly able to run across the soccer field as fast as a cheetah and lift heavy objects as if she were as strong as an elephant. Of course, Charlie would be thrilled about her transformation if she had any idea how the bracelet works or how to control her amazing powers. So she and her new friends must work together to figure out what s happening to her and uncover the truth behind the incredible device.
Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule the world. To commemorate their Great Victory over Britain and Russia, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor's ball.
The Inquisitor's Tale by Adam Gidwitz (Author), Hatem Aly (Illuminations)
Gr 5–10—What is a miracle? Is a miracle what happens when, faced with murderous bandits, a teenage monk rips a leg off his donkey, beats them to death with it, then restores the donkey's leg? Or is it a miracle when a cranky innkeeper is so moved by a little girl's friendliness that he risks his life to help her and her companions flee a posse of armed knights? Maybe the real miracle happens when readers attracted to the action and violence a particular author is known for find themselves strongly invested in the moral questions that plague bandit-killing monk and friendly peasant girl alike—along with every other character they encounter, from a young minstrel/pickpocket to Louis IX. Gidwitz's tale of medieval France successfully combines the epic with the personal, aiming for that heart-stopping moment when characters readers have come to care about find themselves on a collision course with one of the great wood chippers of history—the Inquisition, agents of which are in hot pursuit of three underdog characters (and one actual dog) from the very start. It is left to the titular Inquisitor to discover the truth behind the legends that quickly rise to surround these kids. He nudges it from each of the travelers at a roadside inn, the narrative tension rising as each facet is revealed. VERDICT This book appeals to the heart, to the mind, and to any reader's appetite for action: read it for the thrilling escapes, the fart jokes, the stinky cheese, and the palace intrigue. Read it for the Talmudic wisdom, commonsense philosophies, and moments of doubt. Read it for the palaces and monasteries and the unbelievable descriptions of food. But read it.—Paula Willey, Baltimore County Public Library, Towson
Everland by Wendy Spinale
London has been destroyed in a blitz of bombs and disease. The only ones who have survived are children, among them Gwen Darling and her siblings, Joanna and Mikey. They spend their nights scavenging and their days avoiding the ruthless Marauders -- the German army led by Captain Hanz Otto Oswald Kretschmer.
When Friendship Followed Me Home by Paul Griffin
Ben Coffin has never felt like he fits in. A former foster kid, he keeps his head down at school to avoid bullies and spends his afternoons reading sci-fi books at the library. But that all changes when he finds a scruffy abandoned dog named Flip and befriends the librarian's daughter, Halley. For the first time, Ben starts to feel like he belongs in his own life. Then, everything changes, and suddenly, Ben is more alone than ever. But with a little help from Halley's magician father, Ben discovers his place in the world and learns to see his own magic through others' eyes.
The Left-Handed Fate by Kate Milford
Lucy Bluecrowne and Maxwell Ault are on a mission: find the three pieces of an ancient magical engine. They're not exactly sure what this machine does, but they have it on good authority that it will stop the war that's raging between their home country of England and Napoleon Bonaparte's France.
Murder in Midwinter by Fleur Hitchcock
Sitting on the top deck of a bus days before Christmas, Maya sees a couple arguing violently in the middle of a crowded Regent Street. They see her watching, she looks away, and the woman disappears. Maya goes to the police, who shrug and send her away. Then a body turns up... Now convinced she is a vital witness to a crime, the police send Maya into hiding in rural Wales. She resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery. Then the snow comes and no one can get out. But what if someone can still get in?From the author of Dear Scarlet and Saving Sophia
The Novice (The Summoner #1) by Taran Matharu
Fletcher is working as a blacksmith s apprentice when he discovers he has the rare ability to summon demons from another world. Chased from his village for a crime he did not commit, Fletcher must travel with his demon, Ignatius, to an academy for adepts, where the gifted are taught the art of summoning. Along with nobles and commoners, Fletcher endures grueling lessons that will prepare him to serve as a Battlemage in the Empire s war against the savage Orcs. But sinister forces infect new friendships and rivalries grow. With no one but Ignatius by his side, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of the Empire is in his hands. . . .
Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee
Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his "brothers"; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.
The Last Boy at St. Edith's by Lee Gjersten Malone
Gr 6–8—There used to be 27 boys at St. Edith's Academy, but one by one they all left, leaving seventh grader Jeremy with 475 classmates—all girls. His best friends are sarcastic Claudia and prim Emily. He even lives with all girls—two sisters and his single mother. Jeremy becomes desperate to find out how his life could be different if he had even one guy friend. But to do that, he needs to go to another school. How can he get kicked out of St. Edith's without completely damaging his chances of getting a good high school scholarship? Claudia has the answer in one word, pranks. Soon Jeremy is caught in a web of lies and pranks gone awry. Ultimately, he realizes that although he doesn't have a single male friend at school, he has wonderful friends (who just happen to be girls) and St. Edith's might actually be pretty great. Set in western Massachusetts, this realistic novel is grounded in the relationships between the convincingly flawed but emotionally and intellectually compelling characters. The clever dialogue is humorous yet believable. Several characters belong to a film club, and there are frequent references to films and filmmaking, which are accessible to cinema buffs and newbies alike. Short chapters and growing urgency as the pranks and stakes rise keep the plot moving quickly. VERDICT Great characters and clever dialogue make for a humorous yet realistic read for middle schoolers.—Amy Seto Forrester, Denver Public Library
Ghosts by Reina Telgemeier (Author-Illustrator)
Catrina and her family have moved to the coast of Northern California for the sake of her little sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis--and Cat is even less happy about the move when she is told that her new town is inhabited by ghosts, and Maya sets her heart on meeting one.
Four-Four-Two by Dean Hughes
BASED ON REAL HISTORY: The 442nd Regimental Combat Team-the Four-Four-Two-was a real unit that fought in World War II. It was a segregated regiment made up entirely of Japanese American soldiers. For its size, it became the most decorated military unit in American history-and it also suffered some of the highest casualty rates of the war. As Dean explains in his introduction, while all of his characters are fictional, the framework of his story is based on very real military history.
Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty
Serafina has never had a reason to disobey her pa and venture beyond the grounds of the Biltmore estate.There s plenty to explore in her grand home, although she must take care to never be seen. None of the rich folk upstairs know that Serafina exists; she and her pa, the estate s maintenance man, have secretly lived in the basement for as long as Serafina can remember. But when children at the estate start disappearing, only Serafina knows who the culprit is...
The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillow
Subhi is a refugee. He was born in an Australian permanent detention center after his mother and sister fled the violence of a distant homeland, and the center is the only world he knows. But every night, the faraway whales sing to him, the birds tell him their stories, and the magical Night Sea from his mother's stories brings him gifts. As Subhi grows, his imagination threatens to burst beyond the limits of the fences that contain him. Until one night, it seems to do just that.
Welcome to Nowhere by Elizabeth Laird
Twelve-year-old Omar and his brothers and sister were born and raised in the beautiful and bustling city of Bosra, Syria. Omar doesn't care about politics; all her wants is to grow up to become a successful businessman who will take the world by storm. But when his clever older brother, Musa, gets mixed up with some young political activists, everything changes..
The Last Cherry Blossom by Kathleen Burkinshaw
Yuriko is happy growing up in Hiroshima when it's just her and Papa. But her aunt Kimiko and her cousin Genji are living with them now, and the family is only getting bigger with talk of a double marriage! And while things are changing at home, the world beyond their doors is even more unpredictable. World War II is coming to an end, and Japan's fate is not entirely clear, with any battle losses being hidden from its people. Yuriko is used to the sirens and air raid drills, but things start to feel more real when the neighbors who have left to fight stop coming home. When the atomic bomb hits Hiroshima, it's through Yuriko's twelve-year-old eyes that we witness the devastation and horror.