The first one is called "The Penderwicks in Spring" by Jeanne Birdsall. This one is the fourth one in the series and although I read the first one, I haven't read the second or third one and I really don't remember too much about the first one other than I liked it. The Penderwicks are a big, loving, old fashioned kind of family. The kids are nice to each other and although the story is set in a modern time (there are cultural references that make that obvious) the kids play outside, listen to music, and read and seem completely oblivious to screens. There are some issues and this book, they revolve around love. The older girls are in high school and moving towards college (and boyfriends) and that seems complicated. The youngest kids are dealing with age appropriate drama (a big girl bed and keeping secrets) but the middle daughter, Batty, is the one with the most drama. The story works out in the best possible way and it left me wishing I could be a part of a family like that, much like I did when reading Louisa May Alcott stories. I think these will become classics.
The second one is called "Gracefully Grayson" by Ami Polonsky. It's about a boy named Grayson who lives with his aunt and uncle and two cousins in Chicago. He's there because his parents were killed in a car accident when he was four. Grayson doesn't have many friends because he has a big secret, he feels like he's really a girl. This story feels real. I think it's really timely with all the conversation about gay rights and transgender issues. It's interesting to see different points of view even within one family AND how feelings can change over time. Grayson feels courageous and strong as he tries to figure things out. One thing that didn't really come up was counseling and I wonder if Grayson had had an opportunity to talk with a professional about all his feelings if things might have been different.
The last one in this group, thankfully, wasn't quite as heavy emotionally, although it did have some emotional pull. This one is called "The Truth about Twinkie Pie" by Kat Yeh. It's about two girls, Didi and Gigi who have moved from SC to a small town in NY. This move was financed by winning a cooking competition and the girls are still dealing with the loss of their mom. But Didi is determined that Gigi (a genius) will get a good education and get a great job. Gigi has never really had close friends so now as a 6th grader in a small private school, she finds that there are kids who are charmed by her accent and want to be her friend. They are very different from the people she knows in SC and sprinkled throughout the book are recipes that sound great. I think kids are going to like this one a lot.