Here are two books for the younger middle grade set that are just coming out in April of 2020, both featuring girls on bikes These are both from my Cybils Awards ReadDown TBR pile.
Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega. Scholastic, 2020. ISBN 978-1338280128. Read from ARC – audiobook on hoopla.
Lucely Luna lives in St. Augustine, Florida, with her father and lots of friendly family ghosts who are anchored to the willow tree in the backyard, where they hang out as fireflies when not keeping Lucely company in human form. Her mother walked out years ago, and her father Simon’s ghost tour business has been struggling since a new and glitzier ghost tour company came to town. If they lose their house, will they lose access to their family ghosts as well?
Then Lucely’s beloved abuela, also a ghost, warns of a coming storm before disappearing, and Lucely is panicked. She and her best friend Syd decide to explore the legend of las Brujas Moradas (aka the Purple Coven) and their missing spellbook – in hopes that it will stop the storm and save Lucely’s firefly ghosts. Syd’s grandmother, Babette, (an extra-cool lady with gray dreadlocks) is a witch herself, and Syd and Lucely plan to sneak her supplies and then head out on their bikes at night to search for the missing spellbook.
It’s a battle of friendly versus evil ghosts, with the battle centering on two pre-teen girls on bikes, inspired by the author’s loss of her brother – solidarity, sister! There’s a lot of value placed on both traditional and found family, with lots of strong women and a look at how people in power can shape history to their benefit. Those are some pretty deep thoughts hidden in a mostly light-hearted and cozy ghost-hunting story that feels perfect for younger middle grade readers looking for something spooky. This authentic Dominican-American story would pair well with the Mexican-American ghost stories A Properly Unhaunted Place by William Alexander, as well as Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits.
Ways to Make Sunshine by Renée Watson. Bloomsbury, April 2020. ISBN 978-1547600564. Read from ARC – ebook through Libby.
Here is the start to a new series for younger middle grade readers from the award-winning author of Piecing Me Together. Ryan Hart is a fourth-grade girl with “a name a lot of boys have.” In a rare example of book character discussing the reasons for their names, she explains that Ryan means “leader”, which is what her parents expect her to be. Her big brother Raymond is named her protector – even if it feels to Ryan more like overprotection or teasing – and their parents tell them to “be what you were named to be” as they drop them off at school every morning.
Her father, a former postal worker, has finally found a new job, one that requires a move to a smaller house and selling a car. Ryan isn’t really sure she believes her mother that the new house is “cozy” rather than too small – but Ryan herself has a sunny spirit and works hard to make it so.
The story follows Ryan and her family over the last three months of the school year, over the move, bike races between Ryan and Ray, struggles to maintain a friendship with a friend who moved across town, wondering if she really is more beautiful when her grandmother straightens her hair for her, and trying to figure out what to do for the mandatory school talent show when what she’s best at is cooking.
Like Ramona, Ryan lives in Portland, Oregon, and the tales of family, friends, and hapless adventures have lots of appeal for the same audience. With its focus on facing difficulties with love and humor and finding the best in the current situation even when it seems not as good as the old one, this feels like the perfect book for right now. Give to fans of Clementine or Ivy and Bean.