The first one is called "Weird" by by Erin Frankel. It's part of a series of books about self esteem and bullying. It's a picture book and the pictures are lovely pen and ink drawings with splashes of color to draw attention to the main character. The main character, Luisa, is being bullied by a girl named Sam. When Luisa does things (like speaking to her dad in Spanish or raising her hand in math class) Sam calls her weird. Luisa tries not doing those things to avoid the label of weird. But people who care about her notice that she's behaving differently and when she tells her mom, her mom reminds her that she's wonderful just the way she is and Luisa embraces all the things that make her weird. What's really great about this book is at the end, there are notes from both Luisa (the main character) and Sam (the bully) that have messages of self empowerment and how bullying maybe isn't a great way to be a friend or to get friends. LOVED this book and I can't wait to get it for my library. This would be great paired with "Chrysanthemum" by Kevin Henkes or "Oliver Button is a Sissy" by Tomie de Paola which also have themes of bullying and self esteem.
Here's an author profile.
The second one is called "Nightbird" by Alice Hoffman. It's about a girl named Twig (a nickname for Teresa) who lives with her mom in a small town in Connecticut. Twig's mom bakes the most amazing pies and they are very shy about talking to anyone else because they have a big secret, which is a brother who has wings. There is a magical curse involved as well as redemption and the power of love. I thought this was an interesting premise (If you have magical powers do you have to hide? How would your neighbors react if there really was magic? Is magic monstrous? Do we have to be afraid of people who are different from us?) but I didn't think it was particularly well done. There are some holes in the story that make it kind of weird but I think a lot of kids will like it. It's a nice readable story.
Here's a video of Alice Hoffman talking about the difference between writing books for adult and writing books for kids.
The last book is a follow-up novel from an author I really liked... Sara Gruen. She wrote "Like Water for Elephants", which I adored and is definitely a book for grown ups. This new one is called "At the Water's Edge" and it's also definitely an adult novel. This one is also historical fiction and it's starts in Philadelphia during World War 2. Maddie is a young married woman who lives from party to party. Her mother in law disapproves of her marriage and her own mother is dead and she is estranged from her father, so her husband is really her only support, both financially and emotionally. She and her husband have a disagreement with her in-laws and decide the only way to solve the disagreement is to go to Scotland. His best friend also decides to go along. Their best plan is to go by ship, which is fraught with peril since the Germans have been sinking passenger ships. When they arrive in Scotland, things are much more difficult than they imagine (war time rationing is taken a lot more seriously when your country is actually actively being bombed by the enemy) and Maddie starts to think hard about her life and the truth of how she's been living. It's a good story and you find yourself hoping that Maddie will be able to find happiness.