The first one is called "Orphan Trains" by Rebecca Langston-George. I loved her last book about Malala Yousfazi called "For the Right to Learn" (so did my students!). So I was excited to read this new one, which comes out in September. It's profiles of kids who rode on the Orphan trains that took orphan kids from the big eastern cities like NY to rural places where people who farmed needed help and could feed the kids. Most of the kids had suffered big traumatic losses, some in child birth but some of them in terrible accidents or from illness. The ones who still had siblings naturally wanted to stay together but this wasn't always possible. Each chapter is about a different child, their background and what happened when they were placed in homes. It turns out that not all of the homes were stable or even kind. There are also follow up pieces at the end of the book. I liked this one a lot. Middle grade kids seem to love to read stories about misfortunes and this one has a lot. It might also be a great conversation starter about the foster care system that is in place now and how it's different or the same. It would also be great paired with "The Train to Somewhere" by Eve Bunting.
This second one is a biography about Juan Esquivel who was a composer. It's called "Esquivel! Space-Age Sound Artist. Esquivel was a cutting edge artist in the 1950s and 1960s who combined different kinds of music and sound to create something that had never been heard before. It has components of jazz, lounge music, and Latin flavors. This one probably needs to be paired with some of the music, which is readily available on youtube and other places, so that people can hear it to understand what it's all about it before reading the book, but the book is terrific. The text is fairly simple and explains how Esquivel got his start and how famous he got to be. It also tells about how he created some of his sounds and how he experimented with the new technology of stereo sound (which should really blow kids' minds). I really loved the art work, which felt sort of modern and Aztec-ish all at the same time. I think this one would make a great addition to library.
Have a listen to some of his music.
The last one is a chapter book about World War 2 called "Guts and Glory: World War 2" by Ben Thompson. It's a brief history or maybe an overview of World War 2. It consists of short chapters with lots of pictures about different pivotal events of the war. The language of the book is very informal, which I think kids will find appealing (although I worried about some of the historical accuracy of the comments, like at the beginning, Thompson says "Then in 1938, he (Hitler) absorbed Austria into his lands, which was fine with Austria because they were super into it." I'm not sure that really holds up to the actual truth of how Austria was annexed (I checked the super source-Wikipedia, which indicated that Austrians were somewhat less than enthusiastic about being annexed). That also made me then question the veracity of some of the other more casually phrased and somewhat editorial comments. If that level of accuracy is ok with you, then I think this is a book that kids will like because the chapters are short and vivid. There are some nice tables that compare and contrast some of the equipment and there is a nice mix of photos and black line drawings. It might be useful to have something written in a less formal style available to check some of the more casually phrased comments to check their accuracy. That would be a great time to have a conversation about point of view.