February’s Top Picks for Young Readers

It is a magical time to be a young reader. Epic standalone novels and sensational series are coming out left and right—and this month’s top picks are no exception. From uplifting sports novels to adventure stories filled with humble heroes and tragically misunderstood villains, this month’s selection of books for young readers is filled with fast-paced, crackling page-turners that will help kids’ imaginations run wild, even when inclement weather is keeping them indoors.

Kid President’s Guide to Being Awesome, by Robby Novak and Brad Montague
Open this book to any page, and you’re guaranteed a grin, if not an all-out guffaw. Eleven-year-old Robby Novak initially found fame in 2012 when he and his brother-in-law, Brad Montague, created a series of hilarious, inspirational YouTube videos in which Novak starred as “Kid President,” and exuberantly urged fans to be more awesome. Due to a rare condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta, Robby was born with extremely brittle bones and has spent much of his life in hospitals, but that doesn’t stop him from encouraging both kids and adults to do everything they can to make the world a better place—whether it’s by throwing a parade, giving more hugs, or mailing your friend a corn dog. It’s impossible not to get caught up in Novak’s spirited mission, and this colorful, thoughtful, and smart read will have you voting for Kid President.

Island of Shipwrecks, by Lisa McMann
In the exciting fifth novel in McMann’s bestselling series, artistic adolescents are labeled “Unwanteds” and separated from their stodgier, less imaginative peers (the “Wanteds” and the “Necessaries”) and banished to the magical land of Artime—think The Hunger Games with a colorful twist. Resourceful Unwanted Alex and his crew find themselves shipwrecked and stranded on a supposedly deserted island—but it’s not long they discover they’ve got company. Meanwhile, Alex’s twin brother Aaron continues to cook up trouble back in Quill, where he’s forged a risky alliance that puts everyone in danger. Middle Grade readers will gobble up the latest entry in McMann’s lively, imaginative series.

The Only Game, by Mike Lupica
By turns thrilling and moving, the first novel in a new series by legendary sportswriter Mike Lupica tells the story of Jack Callahan, a rising Little League star whose grief over the loss of his older brother threatens to derail his promising athletic career. Befriended by Cassie, a star softball player, and gentle outcast Teddy, Jack finds the strength to confront his worst fears and follow his dreams. Far more than simply a sports novel, this book is also sensitive and full of heart. There may actually be crying in baseball after all.

Masterminds, by Gordon Korman
For Eli Frieden, the idyllic town of Serenity, New Mexico seems like the perfect place to grow up—that is, until the strange disappearance of one of his friends causes him to take a closer look at his surroundings. Once Eli begins to investigate, the innocent façade of Serenity crumbles—and he realizes that this tranquil town hides some very dark secrets. If your young reader hasn’t yet stumbled upon Korman’s fun, quirky novels, she is in for a treat—what kid hasn’t grown up suspecting (or hoping) that her boring hometown conceals a sinister secret? This clever page-turner is sure to pique the interest of even reluctant readers.

I Totally Funniest, by James Patterson and Chris Grabenstein
Wry, likeable kid comedian Jamie Grimm is back in the third novel in Patterson’s charming I Funny series. Jamie’s hard work in the comedy circuit has paid off and he’s on the brink of becoming nationally known; that is, if he can put together his best standup routine yet. No pressure, right? Unfortunately, Jamie’s burgeoning fame might be starting go to his head, putting his valued friendships at risk. Can Jamie keep his friends close, while still pursuing his dream of becoming the best kid comic in the world? B&N’s exclusive edition includes a reversible book jacket with poster—making it the perfect gift for the kid comedian in your life.

Tombquest Book 1: Book of the Dead, by Michael Northrop
Doctors say that nothing can save Alex Sennefer from a mysterious and devastating disease, but his Egyptologist mother knows better: utilizing a long-lost spell from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, she manages, against all odds, to cure Alex. Unfortunately, in the process she also unleashes a trove of ancient evil and a plague of scorpions, so it’s not exactly win-win. Can Alex and his friend Ren fight a band of Death Walkers and rescue his mother from a terrifying group known as the Order? Readers will love the first book in this fast-paced series; as an added bonus, they can continue the action online by playing games hooked to the gripping story.

The Zodiac Legacy: Convergence, by Stan Lee and Stuart Moore
Another sign that we live in exciting times: Stan Lee, the renowned co-creator of such legendary Marvel superheroes as Spider-Man and the X-Men, has written his long-awaited first prose novel. Young readers who enjoy a good superhero story will relish this dazzling debut, filled with action, suspense, and an unassuming kid who ends up with some pretty enviable superpowers. When 14-year-old Steven Lee discovers a hidden room in a museum while visiting Hong Kong, he inadvertently gains the power of the Tiger—and finds himself drawn into an alliance with other young heroes who have been gifted with fantastic powers based on the zodiac, and fighting an epic battle over control of the world.

Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Sixth-grade Ally has earned a reputation as a troublemaker in every school she has attended (and there have been many). When her new substitute teacher Mr. Daniels discovers that Ally is being disruptive to cover up the fact that she can’t read, he challenges her to accept not only his help, but also the fact that she is a bright student with many gifts to offer. With the help of Mr. Daniels and a couple of newfound friends, Ally works to overcome her difficulties and to believe in herself (a particularly difficult challenge in the sixth grade). Mullaly Hunt’s novel offers a poignant, realistic depiction of the obstacles faced by an adolescent who struggles not only with dyslexia, but also with loneliness and the feeling of being an outsider.

The Terrible Two, by Matt Barnett and Jory John
Miles Murphy was the master prankster at his old school, but now that he’s relocated to sleepy Yawnee Valley (which is famous for its cows…yes, cows) he’s got competition from a mysterious—and very talented—resident prankster. Determined to make his mark, Miles initiates what turns into an all-out prankster war—until the two decide to join forces for what could be the ultimate prank to end all pranks. Fans of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants books will love this quirky new series.

Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
The stories of three resourceful young children, each living during a particularly difficult era in human history—from Nazi Germany to Depression-era Pennsylvania—are all linked by a mysterious harmonica in this epic and genre-blending novel. Ryan’s lyrical prose and nuanced portraits of her characters’ strength and grace in the face of great adversity will appeal to readers of all ages.

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