2021 Staff Picks: Grades 4-5

By Skokie Staff Youth Services

Staff favorites from 2021 for kids in grades 4-5.

  • Amari and the Night Brothers

    2021 by Alston, B. B.

    There’s lots of cool magical stuff happening at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, and 13 year old Amari receives a special invitation from her missing brother to join. Amari’s new best friend (and partner in investigation) is a were-dragon named Elsie, the last of her kind. I loved everything about this book! Recommended by Sharon.

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  • Rez Dogs

    2021 by Bruchac, Joseph

    I love this timely novel-in-verse about a girl whose visit to her grandparents on their reservation turns into a long stay when the pandemic shuts things down. She is determined to take care of her grandparents with the help of a dog that adopts her family. Recommended by Shelley.

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  • The Beatryce Prophecy

    2021 by DiCamillo, Kate

    This book is somehow poignant, thrilling, and creepy while still managing to be laugh-out-loud funny. My fifth grader and I read it together, which, like the book, was both beautiful and heartbreaking because we loved it so much that we couldn’t put it down, leading to some very delayed bedtimes. (Totally worth it!) Recommended by Caitlin S.

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  • The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas

    2021 by García Esperón, María

    This is the first story collection of Indigenous peoples I've seen and it’s way overdue. I loved the beautifully written stories, and the illustrations that are soft, rich, and deep-blue like the sea. Each story is preceded by a poem and the back matter includes a culture guide, map, and glossary, which I’m sure all librarians will be excited to hear! Recommended by Grace.

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  • The Elephant's Girl

    2020 by Rimington, Celesta

    I really liked this story; especially because they lived at the zoo, interacted with the animals, looked out for one another, and touched on awareness about animals in captivity. I wanted to give Lexington and Nyah a great big hug! Recommended by Meleesa.

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  • The Lion of Mars

    2021 by Holm, Jennifer L.

    I love this story of 11-year-old Bell, who has spent his whole life on Mars in an isolated colony. When a pandemic hits and their colony needs help, the kids venture out to try and get it. Bell isn’t the bravest, but he must learn to be to save his family. It’s great to read a story where kids learn that everything is not as it seems and grownups aren’t always perfect. Recommended by Cathy.

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  • The Mystery of the Tenth

    2021 by Acevedo, Chantel

    I just adore this blending of Cuban American culture and Greek Mythology. It is the second installment in the middle-grade duology, Muse Squad. The first title is The Cassandra Curse, published in 2020. Callie Martinez-Silva is one of the nine muses of classical myth, and she has the gift to inspire others in ways that can help humankind in troubled times. Great girl power for sure. Recommended by Sharon.

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  • The Silver Arrow

    2020 by Grossman, Lev

    This would make a great family readaloud! It's like a mashup between Harry Potter and The Polar Express. Recommended by Sue.

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  • Pawcasso

    2021 by Lai, Remy

    I loved this sweet graphic novel involving a dog who shops around town on his own and a young lonely girl who temporarily "adopts" him so she can join an art class. Recommended by Christine.

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  • If the World Were 100 People: A Visual Guide to Our Global Village

    2021 by McCann, Jacqueline

    I love the infographics that make this book work so well! It's so hard to visualize 8 billion people, but in this 100 person village, you can really picture a fact like 71 people have clean water to drink, while 29 people don't. A great book to read and discuss as a family! Recommended by Shelley.

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  • Treasure in the Lake

    2021 by Pamment, Jason

    This beautifully drawn, time-twisty mystery had me on the edge of my seat. I love exploring in dry creek beds and abandoned structures, so I was hooked from the very beginning! Recommended by Caitlin S.

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  • Garlic & the Vampire

    2021 by Paulsen, Bree

    If you told me that one of the most heartwarming books I’d read this year was about a piece of garlic (magicked into consciousness) who suffers from anxiety facing up against a local vampire, I would say...? But as far out as it sounds, the impactful message about facing your fears is surprisingly relatable. This talented creator can even make a great story out of talking vegetables wearing clothes and spouting the sweetest exclamations (cheese and chives)! Recommended by Grace.

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  • No One Returns From the Enchanted Forest

    2021 by Robinson, Robin

    We are big Hilda fans in our house and this is a great readalike about a couple of goblin sisters who go on an adventure to save their home. Recommended by Becca.

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  • Mayor Good Boy

    2021 by Scheidt, Dave

    We delighted in this story of a small town who elects a dog to be its mayor, and all he wants is for people to be kind. It's cute with just a hint of gross--like all the best graphic novels for middle grade kids. Recommended by Becca.

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  • Sisters of the Neversea

    2021 by Smith, Cynthia Leitich

    This is a fresh retelling of Peter Pan featuring a blended Native and white family in present day Tulsa, Oklahoma. I love how Smith reimagines Neverland to heal the negative representation of Native people written in the original story. Recommended by Katie.

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  • Fast Pitch

    2021 by Stone, Nic

    This book is a fast read and combines many things I love--baseball, history, family, and righting a wrong. Shenice is a star player leading her team (the first all Black fast pitch team in the south) to a championship. When she discovers that her grandfather was framed for a crime because he was Black, she loses track of her goal. Can she get back on track? Read it and find out. Recommended by Cathy.

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  • Lotería

    2021 by Valenti, Karla

    I do not have enough words to describe how great this book is. This is magical realism and deep philosophical thought wrapped up in a high stakes, otherworldly adventure story, with great characters, pictures, and writing--for kids! It also made me really want to learn to play Lotería. Anyone up for a game? Recommended by Caitlin S.

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