My Life Is a Zoo series

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are UntiedHow to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied
by Jess Keating
Grades 4 & up

Jess Keating perfectly captures the painful reality of middle school in this fabulous series! Ana Wright is the daughter of zoologists and granddaughter of a world famous animal showman. Not only that, but they are moving into a house in the zoo where her parents work. Ana secretly loves the animals and working at the zoo. She wishes she could be brave like her mother and grandfather. Instead she is teased mercilessly about the animals in her life, including her name (she was named after an anaconda). When her best friend moves out of the country, everything else about seventh grade starts to spiral out of control. But with a new friend and some new found courage, Ana just might be able to turn things around. This is a must read for students who like school stories and animals. Highly recommended for grades 4-7.

How to Outswim a Shark Without a SnorkelHow to Outswim a Shark Without a Snorkel
by Jess Keating
Grades 5 & up

This second book about Ana Wright is just as fun as the first! Ana is excited to be working in the new aquatic exhibit at the zoo, but that excitement is dampened when she learns that Ashley, her middle school nemesis, will be spending the summer volunteering there as well. When Ashley starts acting friendly, Ana is confused. Could she have been wrong about Ashley all of these years? This is a realistic and humorous exploration of the changing relationships that characterize the middle school years. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up.

How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don't Have a Clue (My Life Is a Zoo, #3)How to Outfox Your Friends When You Don’t Have a Clue
by Jess Keating
Grades 5 & up

When Ana’s best friend Liv returns from New Zealand unexpectedly, Ana must figure out a way to balance both her old best friend and the new friends that she has made since Liv moved. But Liv has changed a lot, and Ana is afraid of losing what they had. With her big 13th birthday on the horizon, Ana feels even more pressure to do everything right. This is a realistic and humorous exploration of the changing relationships that characterize the middle school years. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up. (Must read the other two first.)

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The Swift Boys & Me

The Swift Boys & MeThe Swift Boys & Me
by Kody Keplinger
Grades 4 & up

Nola Sutton has grown up in one half of a duplex with the three Swift brothers on the other half. She considers them her best friends, especially Canaan, the middle brother, who is in her grade. But when their father suddenly leaves, the three boys deal with this in different ways, pulling away from Nola and each other. She tries everything she can to fix the situation, and is deeply hurt by the loss of her closest friends. A good story about friendship and loss, and what it means to be a good friend. Recommended for grades 4-8.

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Always, Abigail

Always, AbigailAlways, Abigail
by Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Grades 5 & up

Abigail can not wait for sixth grade to start, so she and her two best friends can become the Pom Girls that they have always dreamed of being. But life doesn’t always work out the way we imagine it. Alli and Cami are in a different homeroom, together, and Abigail doesn’t even have lunch with them. She gets paired with the school’s geekiest girl for a year long project, and just when it seems things can’t get any worse, she is chosen as an alternate, not an actual Pom Girl. Told through lists, notes, and letters, this is a realistic view of the life and choices of a middle school girl. Recommended to grades 5-7.

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Firefly Hollow

Firefly HollowFirefly Hollow
by Alison McGhee
Grades 2 & up

Firefly isn’t like the other fireflies, she wants to fly to the moon. Cricket isn’t like the other crickets, his dream is to become a great catcher. Vole is the last of the river voles, the rest disappeared long ago. Peter, a human boy, is suffering a devastating loss. These four find each other and together they help and support each other’s dreams. A lovely book about friendship, feeling different, and finding your place in the world. Highly recommended for grades 2-4.

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Tell Me

Tell MeTell Me
by Joan Bauer
Grades 5 & up

Anna is sent to the stay with her grandmother in the small town of Rosemount while her parents sort through their separation. Trying to forget about the troubles at home, Anne throws herself into the preparation for the upcoming Flower Festival. Everything is going well until she sees a girl who looks like she is being taken in a van against her will. Anna can’t get the girl’s face out of her mind. When the local authorities refuse to do anything, Anna’s grandmother helps her take it higher up. An excellent book about trusting your instincts and speaking up when you think something is wrong. Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Gabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle

Gabriel Finley and the Raven's RiddleGabriel Finley and the Raven’s Riddle
by George Hagen
Grades 4 & up

Gabriel’s father has been missing for three years. When Aunt Jaz gives Gabriel his father’s childhood diary and then a mysterious key for his twelfth birthday, Gabriel begins to unravel the secrets of his father’s disappearance. Both his father and his uncle (who also disappeared) had the ability to communicate with ravens. Gabriel believes that their disappearances are tied in to an ancient myth and sets off with his friends to find Aviopolis, and rescue his father. A fun, compelling, riddle-filled fantasy that draws from Norse Mythology. Recommended for grades 4and up.

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The One Safe Place

The One Safe PlaceThe One Safe Place
by Tania Unsworth
Grades 4 & up

In the not too distant future, the earth has gotten much hotter and rain is a rarity. Devin lives with his grandfather on a remote farm that has its own source of water. When his grandfather dies suddenly, Devin finds it too hard to manage on his own, and heads to the city to find help. But the city is not what he expected. Life is much harsher and crueler than he could have imagined. Thankfully, a girl named Kit befriends him, and teaches him how to survive. When he has the chance to escape for a better life, he won’t leave without her. But is the Home they find the place of their dreams, or of nightmares? A compelling read for young fans of dystopian fiction. Recommended for grades 4 and up.

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Three Bird Summer

Three Bird SummerThree Bird Summer
by Sara St. Antoine
Grades 5 & up

This is the first summer that Adam has been to the cabin on the lake in Northern Minnesota without his rowdy bunch of cousins. But since his parents divorced this past year, it’s just Adam, his mom, and his grandmother. That’s not the only thing that is different though, something seems off with his grandmother. She isn’t acting like her usual self, which becomes even more apparent when Adam starts finding cryptic notes. Plus, there’s a new girl living next door. The popular girls make Adam’s life miserable back at school. How does he know that Alice won’t be the same? It is a transformational summer as Adam learns about growing up, growing old, and learning to trust himself and the people around him. A great summer read. Recommended for grades 5-8.

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Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens and Bride of Slug Man

Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie ChickensKate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens
by Julie Mata
Grades 4 & up

Kate Walden’s life is turned on end when her mother quits her corporate job and moves the family to a micro-farm on the outskirts of town and begins raising organic chickens. Kate, who dreams of becoming a Hollywood director, tries to make the best of the situation by filming a feature length movie about Zombie chickens. It stars her best friend, Alyssa. Everything is coming along well, until Alyssa starts becoming friends with the most popular girl in the seventh grade. Suddenly Kate finds herself without a best friend, and at the bottom of the social pecking order because of the chickens. How will she mange to survive middle school as the daughter of a chicken farmer? A hilarious look at the ups and downs of middle school friendships. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

Kate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug ManKate Walden Directs: Bride of Slug Man
by Julie Mata
Grades 4 & up

In this sequel to Kate Walden Directs: Night of the Zombie Chickens, Kate is riding high on the success of her first movie. She is getting ready to start on another one when she learns that the new boy in seventh grade has just moved from New York and also likes to make movies. Suddenly everyone wants to be in his movie. It doesn’t help that the Paul and Blake, the resident bullies, are actively discouraging people from working with Kate. How can she compete with Tristan’s cool factor while she lives on a chicken farm? And how can she make her next movie when no one wants to be in it? An excellent look at the nuances and constantly changing hierarchies of the middle school social scene. I recommend reading the first book before this one. For grades 4 & up.

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The Swap

The SwapThe Swap
by Megan Shull
Grades 6 & up

Ellie feels that her life is falling apart. It is the start of seventh grade and her former best friend Sassy has turned into a mean girl and is making her life miserable. Jack is happy to start eighth grade, until he gets into a fist fight with one of the school bullies. When the two end up in the school nurse’s office, they each wish they could not be themselves for the day. After falling asleep briefly, they wake to find their wish has come true. Ellie is inside Jack’s body, and Jack is now inside Ellie’s. Since they weren’t friends before, navigating their home lives is especially tricky. It is eye-opening for them each to see what kind of battles the other is fighting, and each one is able to help the other while in their bodies. Although funny at times, there is a lot of meat in this novel about navigating middle school and home life for teens. Once they switch bodies, it is hard to put down. Recommended for grades 6 & up. (Soon to be a Disney Channel movie.)

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