The first one is called "I am Drums" by Mike Grosso. It's about a girl named Sam and she loves to drum. Her family is struggling a bit-her parents are fighting, her dad is having trouble keeping a job and her mom is working long hours to try to keep things together. Her little brother is a pain and her best friend is finding other things that are interesting. Sam knows her family can't afford a drum kit, so she makes one herself out of books and her desk. She knows her family can't afford drum lessons so she hatches a plan to cut grass to earn money and then asks a neighbor to teach her. She makes some really bad choices but I really admire her determination. The books makes some great points about lying being a bad idea (and having very big consequences) and parents not being perfect (but loving them anyway) and that kids are not responsible for the actions of adults, no matter what. This one is going to be a great one for our unit on social issues and I think the kids will like it a lot.
In case you were wondering where authors get their ideas, here's a video of Mike playing some not so traditional instruments.
The second book is probably my new favorite. It's called "The Girl Who Drank the Moon" by Kelly Barnhill. I read another one of Kelly's books a couple of years ago, "Iron-Hearted Violet" and it was amazing. This one might even be better. This story is told in two voices, which, in my ARC, were not very clearly delineated, except by the voice. It's a tiny bit confusing at first because the story seems so separate, but the writing is so compelling, it doesn't take long to get completely sucked into the story. It's about a community where every year, they sacrifice a baby to an evil witch. Well, actually, it's too scary and dangerous to actually confront the witch, so they leave the baby at the edge of forest and let the witch find the baby. It turns out that the witch is really not so evil and is completely mystified why these crazy people leave a perfectly good baby at the edge of the forest, so she comes every year, prepared with bottles and warm blankets, and takes the baby to a family that will love it and raise it as their own. She often has to feed the baby a little starlight on the way and they end up being extra special. One year, she makes a little mistake and feeds the baby moonlight instead (moonlight being extra powerful) and then completely falls in love with the baby. It's hard to say what's the best part of the book-the characters who by turn are lovable, funny, terrifying, empathy provoking, and unthinking sheep, the amazing plot turns, the BEAUTIFUL writing. It was all just awesome. DO NOT MISS THIS ONE.
This last one was also awesome! It's called "The Treasure of Maria Mamoun" by Michelle Chalfoun. It's about a girl named Maria who lives with her mom in a small apartment in New York City. Maria's mom is a Lebanese immigrant and Maria's dad is Puerto Rican, but he left before Maria was born. Maria's mom has to work long hours to afford their life in NY but when Maria starts getting bullied, Maria's mom takes a new job as a private nurse for a very wealthy man on Martha's Vineyard. Maria is less than thrilled to living so far away from everything she knows, but pretty soon she finds that she likes living so close to beach and finds an intriguing mystery that involves pirates and buried treasure. She also finds friends, which is a big upgrade from her old life. I really liked Maria's character, but I also loved the other characters around her- her mother, who works really hard, the cook and the yard man, the cook's son, Paolo, who struggles with school and making good choices, and the rich old man. It has some great elements of mystery as well as a lot of historical information about pirates and sailing. I think kids are going to love this one. I know I did!