Sometimes you know exactly what kind of book you’re in the mood for. You want to solve a mystery, deal with dragons, maybe do a little time travel . . . but other times you don’t really know what you want until you see it. Kind of like going to a buffet at a restaurant and spotting something you’ve never seen before that looks delicious.
When you think about it, a library is a kind of a book buffet, isn’t it? You can stroll along the shelves and pull out whatever looks good to you that day.
The books on this list are all ones that I came across while I was looking for something else. Let’s call them happy accidents. After a while I stopped trying to fit them into a category and decided they would all play well together. Variety is good!
I hope you enjoy this grab bag of books. Maybe you’ll find something you weren’t looking for that turns out to be just what you didn’t know you wanted.
1. Bounce by Megan Shull
Have you ever wished you had a different family? Hands up everybody who . . . just kidding. After reading Frannie’s story, you might change your mind about how great it would be to be someone else.
Amazon Description: Seventh grader Frannie Hudson wonders what it would be like to trade in her family for a new one. Her big brother ignores her. Her mean older sister can’t stand her. And her parents have just announced they’re going on a last-minute vacation—without her.
When Frannie makes one desperate, crazy wish—BOOM!—she magically bounces into a whole new life, with a totally different family. And. It. Is. Amazing! There’s only one catch: waking up as someone else keeps happening.
Plunged into lives and adventures she’s only imagined—from being a pop star to meeting one super-cute boy—Frannie finds courage in the unforgettable friends and families she meets along the way. But as her new life spins out of control, Frannie begins to worry if she’ll ever get back home.
2. Lines of Courage by Jennifer A. Nielsen
A timely story for Memorial Day. Don’t start reading this one in the evening or you’ll be up all night reading to find out what happened!
Amazon Description: World War I stretches its cruel fingers across Europe, where five young people, each from different backgrounds and nations, face the terror of battle, the deprivations of hunger, and all the awful challenges of war.
Felix, from Austria-Hungary, longs for the bravery to resist Jewish deportations before his own family can be taken. Kara, from Britain, dreams of someday earning her Red Cross pin and working as a nurse — or even a doctor. Juliette, of France, hopes her family can remain knitted together, despite her father’s imprisonment, as the war’s longest battle stretches on and on. Elsa, from Germany, hopes her homing pigeon might one day bring her a friend from out of the chaos. And Dimitri, of Russia, wants only to survive the front, where he’s been sent with no weapon.
None of them will find exactly what they want. But the winds of fate may cross their paths to give each of them just what they need.
3. The Story Collector by Kristin O’Donnell Tubb
Imagine living in a library! A really, really BIG library! It’s a book lover’s dream come true . . . and once upon a time it actually happened, because this book is inspired by a true story.
Amazon description: Eleven-year-old Viviani Fedeler has spent her whole life in the New York Public Library. She knows every room by heart, except the ones her father keeps locked. When Viviani becomes convinced that the library is haunted, new girl Merit Mubarak makes fun of her. So Viviani decides to play a harmless little prank, roping her older brothers and best friend Eva to help out.
But what begins as a joke quickly gets out of hand, and soon Viviani and her friends have to solve two big mysteries: Is the Library truly haunted? And what happened to the expensive new stamp collection? It’s up to Viviani, Eva, and Merit (reluctantly) to find out.
4. A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat
An award-winning story about a boy on the run from the law and a girl who is determined to find him. The world of Chattana—a kind of Thai fantasy—is fascinating and the story really makes you think.
Amazon Description: All light in Chattana is created by one man — the Governor, who appeared after the Great Fire to bring peace and order to the city. For Pong, who was born in Namwon Prison, the magical lights represent freedom, and he dreams of the day he will be able to walk among them. But when Pong escapes from prison, he realizes that the world outside is no fairer than the one behind bars. The wealthy dine and dance under bright orb light, while the poor toil away in darkness. Worst of all, Pong’s prison tattoo marks him as a fugitive who can never be truly free.
Nok, the prison warden’s perfect daughter, is bent on tracking Pong down and restoring her family’s good name. But as Nok hunts Pong through the alleys and canals of Chattana, she uncovers secrets that make her question the truths she has always held dear.
5. The Queen and Knights of Nor (Legends of Nor Book 1) by R.L. Stelzer
Stories of queens and knights and spells and things are always a good way to get away from reality for a while.
Amazon Description: Micha, the crown princess of Nor, her sister Olive, and cousin Dillip are awaiting friends and family to celebrate her birthday at their seaside estate. Instead, a messenger arrives with news that a terrible enchantment has fallen over the capitol city leaving all the inhabitants spellbound, including the King and Queen. The cousins return to the castle prepared to fight an unknown foe.
Micha feels unprepared for the pressure, which only mounts after she is crowned queen. Micha and their small army are determined to rid their beloved kingdom of the evil encroaching on their land. With an unknown enemy and no idea how to break the spell, they try to form a plan to proceed. . . . Queen Micha and her followers cannot fathom the price they will pay to free their kingdom. However, they learn that it is in the most perilous of circumstances that true honor and loyalty are forged.
6. Show Me a Sign by Ann Clare LeZotte
This book won tons of awards and it’s easy to see why. It’s a fascinating story about a place and people I didn’t know anything about. The author of this book about a deaf girl is also deaf, so she really knows what it’s like to be in Mary’s shoes.
Amazon Description: Mary Lambert has always felt safe and protected on her beloved island of Martha’s Vineyard. Her great-great-grandfather was an early English settler and the first deaf islander. Now, over a hundred years later, many people there — including Mary — are deaf, and nearly everyone can communicate in sign language. Mary has never felt isolated. She is proud of her lineage.
But recent events have delivered winds of change. Mary’s brother died, leaving her family shattered. Tensions over land disputes are mounting between English settlers and the Wampanoag people. And a cunning young scientist has arrived, hoping to discover the origin of the island’s prevalent deafness. His maniacal drive to find answers soon renders Mary a “live specimen” in a cruel experiment. Her struggle to save herself is at the core of this penetrating and poignant novel that probes our perceptions of ability and disability.
7. A Thousand Minutes to Sunlight by Jen White
Everybody has anxiety now and then, but Cora is anxious All. The. Time. Most of the time there’s probably nothing for her to be anxious about. Until there is . . . Also: you’re going to love Patrick. Trust me on this one.
Amazon description: Cora is constantly counting the minutes. It’s the only thing that stops her brain from rattling with worry, from convincing her that danger is up ahead. Afraid of the unknown, Cora spends her days with her feet tucked into sand, marveling at La Quinta beach’s giant waves and her little sister Sunshine’s boundless energy.
And then danger really does show up at Cora’s doorstep―her absentee uncle, whose sudden presence in the middle of the night makes her parents nervous and secretive. As dawn breaks once more, Cora must piece together her family and herself, one minute at a time.
8. Can’t Be Tamed (Horse Country #1) by Yamile Saied Méndez
Here’s a book for all you horse lovers—and anyone who likes a story about unlikely friendships.
Amazon description: Welcome to Paradise Ranch, where everyone can get a second chance. Carolina Aguasvivas grew up on Paradise Ranch, which she knows down to every last pony. But things are sure to change when the new owner’s daughter, Chelsie Sánchez, sweeps in with an attitude and a feisty Thoroughbred named Velvet. The mare is skittish, headstrong, and hurt — and Carolina is determined to ride her.
Chelsie, who considers herself too good to clean stalls, certainly doesn’t seem like a real horse girl. Caro knows she’s the only one who can help Velvet recover, and she’s ready to prove it — no matter what it takes. The girls may discover they have more in common than they think . . . including a passion for bringing the healing power of horses to every kid.
9. The Magnificent Monsters of Cedar Street by Lauren Oliver
I want a houseful of dragons, squelches, and diggles! Don’t you?
Amazon description: Cordelia Clay loves the work she and her father do together: saving and healing the remarkable creatures around Boston at the end of the nineteenth century. Their home on Cedar Street is full to the brim with dragons, squelches, and diggles, and Cordelia loves every one of them.
But their work must be kept secret—others aren’t welcoming to outsiders and immigrants, so what would the people of Boston do to the creatures they call “monsters”?
One morning, Cordelia awakens to discover that her father has disappeared—along with nearly all the monsters.
With only a handful of clues and a cryptic note to guide her, Cordelia must set off to find out what happened to her father, with the help of her new friend Gregory, Iggy the farting filch, a baby dragon, and a small zuppy (zombie puppy, that is).
10. The Aquanaut: A Graphic Novel by Dan Santat
The artwork on this is fabulous, but be warned: the opening is a little dark. Hang in there, though—the story is worth it.
Amazon description: Ever since her father was lost at sea, Sophia has been moping around Aqualand, the marine theme park her dad and uncle created. But Sophia’s world is turned upside down when an “aquanaut” breaks into the park’s research lab.
To her amazement, Sophia discovers that the aquanaut is not what it seems — inside lives a band of four goofy sea creatures! And when they all realize that Aqualand has evolved into something much darker than Sophia’s dad had envisioned, Sophia is determined to help the aquanaut crew free the park’s captive marine life before it’s too late.
Here in the Real World by Sara Pennypacker
A wonderful story about never giving up on your hopes and dreams, even while you learn to accept yourself for who you are.
Amazon description: Ware can’t wait to spend summer “off in his own world”—dreaming of knights in the Middle Ages and generally being left alone. But then his parents sign him up for dreaded Rec camp, where he must endure Meaningful Social Interaction and whatever activities so-called “normal” kids do.
On his first day Ware meets Jolene, a tough, secretive girl planting a garden in the rubble of an abandoned church next to the camp. Soon he starts skipping Rec, creating a castle-like space of his own in the church lot. Jolene scoffs, calling him a dreamer—he doesn’t live in the “real world” like she does. As different as Ware and Jolene are, though, they have one thing in common: for them, the lot is a refuge.
But when their sanctuary is threatened, Ware looks to the knights’ Code of Chivalry: Thou shalt do battle against unfairness wherever faced with it. Thou shalt be always the champion of the Right and Good—and vows to save the lot. But what does a hero look like in real life? And what can two misfit kids do?
My Own Lightning by Lauren Wolk
This is a sequel to the Newbery Honor-winning book Wolf Hollow, so if you haven’t read that—and you really should—you’ll probably want to start there. They’re set in the time of World War II so you get to travel back in the past.
Amazon Description: It’s been several months since the tragic events set in motion by bully Betty Glengarry, and the routine of daily life in Wolf Hollow has slowly returned. But for Annabelle McBride it’s hard to move forward and make peace with what feels like threadbare justice.
Newly warm summer days are about to bring a jolt of change on the winds of a powerful storm. In its wake, the search for her brother’s missing dog will set Annabelle on a new path that brings her to unfamiliar doorsteps and reunites her with a too-familiar adversary—Andy Woodberry, who was complicit in Betty’s most terrible acts. Growing up and blazing her own trail will soon force Annabelle to reexamine deeply felt truths—about people, about justice, about herself—that had once seemed so uncomplicated.
The Monster Hypothesis by Romily Bernard
Not only is this a story about a smart, funny, energetic girl who loves science—there are science experiments in the back of the book. Sounds like summer fun to me!
Amazon description: Welcome to Bohring-home to 453 people, 2,053 alligators, and one monster curse.
Correction: home to 454 people, now that Kick Winter is living in the swamp Hollows with her Grandma Missouri, the town (fake) psychic. Bohring is anything but boring for Kick who has already blown a hole through the kitchen floor, befriended a chicken-eating gator, and discovered that the town’s hundred-year curse is upon them.
It’s the Bohring curse and all the kids are about to become monsters-or so the legend goes. People are worried-except for Kick. She knows there’s a scientific explanation for everything, especially curses and monsters. But Kick is the new kid in school and she’s determined to make a name for herself . . . by pretending to be psychic.
According to her calculations: one teeny-tiny life + (fake) psychic skills = popularity. But when kids start disappearing and glowing creatures start showing up, Kick’s theory quickly evaporates in a puff of foul-smelling swamp gas. Can Kick use her (real) science smarts to prove the curse is a hoax? Or is it just-maybe-sort of-somehow possible the curse is here?
The Colossus of Roads by Christina Uss
If you’ve ever had tummy troubles (and who hasn’t?) you’ll feel for poor Rick. But there’s more to Rick than digestive problems and he might just save the day for his whole family—and maybe the whole City of Los Angeles, too!
Amazon description: Rick Rusek’s stomach has a lot to say. It’s got opinions on tasty foods, not-so-tasty foods, and driving in traffic-jammed Los Angeles makes it roil, boil, gurgle, and howl. It’s doing the best it can. It never meant to earn its owner the nickname Carsick Rick or make him change schools for fifth grade.
And Rick’s stomach isn’t the only one dealing with terrible traffic. His family’s catering service, Smotch, is teetering on the verge of ruin after a rash of late deliveries and missed appointments. Fortunately, Rick has the solution. Unfortunately, no one wants to listen to a kid.
Absolutely certain that he could fix the constant, endless traffic snarls, Rick hatches a plan. But he’ll need help from his unicorn-loving Girl Scout neighbor, a famous street artist, and the best driver in L.A. Together they’ll take on the stream of stalled cars–and a secret conspiracy or two, too.
It’s going to be tough, but Rick won’t give up. If he can successfully move the 330,000 slow-moving cars standing in the way of his family’s future, maybe everyone will see that he’s not Carsick Rick. He’s one of the seven wonders of Los Angeles.
The Secret of Avenfore: William the Kingfisher by Santiago Ros
A hunt for a missing, coded book of secrets . . . how can you resist that? You just know it’s going to lead to an exciting adventure . . . and it does!
Amazon description: Fourteen-year-old William Howbbler travels to Avenfore for the first time since the mysterious incident ten years previously which caused his father to move the family to the city. It is a mixed blessing for William, he will be separated from his family for the first time in his life, but he will be staying with his aunt and uncle in Avenfore, the only place he truly calls home. And, in the autumn, he’ll be attending St Elm’s, one of the most prestigious schools in the country….
Reunited with his cousin, Elsie Harckwell, and her friends, Bridget Durffan and Bridget’s older brother, Chris, William settles into Avenfore. But soon William realises that his life is in danger and all the happiness for having returned to his dreamed home town, turns into fear.
When William visits the local big house, Ravenwood Castle, he meets Amaranta Bonclane, a girl with a shadowy past. William and Amaranta find themselves caught up in a dangerous struggle with an evil man, Ignatius Nosmorum – the Wicked Crow, as they seek to find a coded book of secrets missing for the past four centuries.
That’s the whole bag of books! See anything you like? Come over to my Instagram account and let me know!