“When Miss Hazeltine opened her Home for Shy and Fearful Cats, she didn’t know if anyone would come. But come they did.” They come with all sorts of problems—fear of mice and birds; inability to pounce or purr. And then, there is Crumb, who stands out even among the shy and fearful for his timidity. Miss Hazeltine gives lessons: Bird Basics, Climbing, Scary Noises, Meeting New Friends, “How Not to Fear the Broom.” She also tells Crumb she’s afraid too, of mushrooms, and owls, and the dark.
The summer she’s fifteen, Maggie falls for Erin, an older teen and senior counselor at her summer camp. It takes Maggie by surprise—she hasn’t considered her sexuality, or relationships in general—but she senses the attraction is mutual. The times Maggie and Erin see each other become increasingly weighted with possibility but Maggie doesn’t know how to act on her feelings, and she’s worried the other girls will figure them out. For Maggie, the camaraderie and the competitiveness, the boy craziness and hijinks of her fellow campers is something that generally puzzles her.
Cardell “had a perfectly good mama and a perfectly good daddy.” His coyote family’s perfection is marred only slightly by the fact that Cardell’s daddy lives in a different part of the desert and Cardell has to “share him with his perfectly nice stepmama, Lulu, and his perfectly cute stepbrother, Little Frankie.” But Cardell doesn’t have to share his mama with anyone. Then Otis shows up, “holding a handful of ocotillo flowers in one paw and a bag of cactus candies in the other. Cardell felt a grrr form in his throat.” Otis isn’t the first hopeful beau to court Mama, although the previous suitors were dispatched by both Mama and her son. But Mama isn’t sending Otis on his way.
After his mother dies, Matt finds comfort in an unexpected place: the neighborhood funeral parlor. Owner Mr. Ray offers Matt a job, and in addition to helping get things ready for the post-funeral receptions, Matt likes sitting in on the services. Observing other people who are grieving gives Matt a way to see his own pain from the outside in. Mr. Ray becomes a surrogate father to Matt, and it’s a role Matt welcomes since his own dad, also devastated, has started drinking again and ends up in the hospital. Meanwhile, at one of the funerals, the principle mourner is a teenage girl named Love. Soon Matt and Love become friends and are on their way to falling in love.
A small bulldozer is full of excitement as he sets off across a construction site. “Guess what today is!” But his happiness gradually wanes as each big vehicle he encounters seems too busy to care. Digger is “scooping … scooping … scooping.” Dump truck is “sifting … sifting…sifting.” Cement Mixer is stirring. Scraper is filling. Grader is chopping. Roller is mashing. By the time he gets to Crane (lifting … lifting … lifting), Bulldozer’s blade is “dragging sadly in the dirt.”
A novelized account of Malcolm X’s early life is full of both a young man’s promise and the pain of racism and struggle of being Black in America. Growing up in 1930s Lansing, Michigan, Malcolm stands out as exceptional in a family that nurtured education and achievement. His outspoken father is killed when Malcolm is six. Seven years later, his mother, struggling to keep her family together and live by her values, is institutionalized. Malcolm leaves Lansing for Boston after a white teacher makes clear he thinks college out of Malcolm’s reach. Malcolm feels betrayed by his father’s promises.
Sona’s sister is getting married and her know-it-all cousin Vishal has come with her grandparents from India to attend. He can’t believe how little Sona knows about Hindu weddings, including the fact that it’s Sona’s responsibility as a younger sibling of the bride to steal the groom’s shoes during the ceremony and then bargain with him for their return. Nervous but determined, Sona comes up with a plan, and she’s even willing to involve Vishal in carrying it out. An engaging story draws readers right into Sona’s experience, with details about the wedding preparations and ceremony seamlessly incorporated as Sona describes being part of traditions that are new to her yet steeped in family and culture.
When Analyn “Apple” Yengko gets put on the dog log—a list of the ugliest girls at her southern Louisiana middle school—she finds solace in music. It’s always been a connection to her late father, who died before she and her mother came to the United States from the Philippines. Against her mom’s wishes Apple secretly takes up guitar, and she proves to be a gifted student. She also connects with new kid Evan, the first friend she’s had genuinely interested in rather than dismissive of the Filipino culture that Apple can’t escape but has always found an embarrassment.
A little girl who loves to draw wishes she could also knit, like her mom. Her mother tries to teach her, but it turns out to be harder than it looks. When the girl gets discouraged, her mom points out that the little girl’s drawings have inspired many of her knitting projects and suggests that they collaborate. After a day at the beach the little girl puts crayons to paper. “We talk about our project. And then we work to make something we could never have made alone.”
A girl born into a boy’s body, ten-year-old George hasn’t yet confided this truth to anyone. Then she decides to try out for the part of Charlotte in the fourth grade’s dramatization of Charlotte’s Web. George thinks the play will be a vehicle to let her mom know that she’s really a girl, not a boy. But Charlotte is also the part that she wants because she loves the character. George finally tells her friend Kelly the truth, and after Kelly is cast as Charlotte, she and George conspire to have George play Charlotte in the second performance.