New Realistic Fiction for Kids

Bluefish by Pat Schmatz

Grades 5+

You probably learned to read in kindergarten or first grade, maybe even sooner. Maybe it's a little hard for you, maybe it got easier as you read more and more, maybe you can't stop reading. 

But you did learn to read - good at it or not, loving it or not.

For Travis, that never happened. From kindergarten until seventh grade, he never let anyone see that he couldn't read - and no one knew - not even his teachers. When Travis and his grandpa move to a new town, and he begins at a new school, Travis isn't worried that he'll have trouble hiding his secret - until he gets his schedule.

Fourth period. Reading class. Room 134. Mr. McQueen.

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Jefferson's Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Grades 5-9
Third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson lived at the plantation Monticello and kept slaves to work in his fields, farm and home. One of his slaves was a woman named Sally Hemings, mother to four of Jefferson's children - Beverly, Harriet, Maddy, and Eston.  Though slaves, the children and their mother were given special treatment by Jefferson because of his discreet relationship to them - but nevertheless, slaves they remained. 

Master Jefferson promises freedom to all four of his slave children upon their twenty-first birthdays, but Beverly, the eldest, cannot imagine leaving his mother, sister, brothers - but especially his father. Light-skinned and longing for a father figure, Beverly struggles with the secrecy of Jefferson's nonpublic identity as his father, especially when Jefferson presents him and his brothers with a kit violin and lessons. He and his siblings imagine a life where his mother, siblings and father could live openly together as a real family; a life that did not involve waiting on Master Jefferson's real children, especially the snippy Miss Martha.

Based on true events at Monticello during the early 1800s, Jefferson's Sons is a slave tale of a different order, exploring slavery and racial issues from the fresh perspective of Jefferson's slave children. The novel is a welcome look into one aspect of post-revolutionary slave life in Virginia that explores the bonds of family and friendship.

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Jeremy Bender vs. the Cupcake Cadets by Eric Luper

Reading Level: Grade 4-6

Jeremy Bender wants, wants, wants to drive his father's boat...the one he is not allowed to touch. Jeremy has been secretly working on the engine of the boat, an antique Chris-Craft, sure that once his father discovers the boat all ready to run in the spring he will let Jeremy take it out on the lake by himself.

Disaster strikes when a grape soda spill and an accidental green paint spray (his pal Slater's fault) ruins the engine. The boys have to raise $470 so they can secretly repair the engine before spring. How can two 6th grade boys earn that kind of money in a couple of months? Jeremy finds the answer on the library bulletin board, the Cupcake Cadets annual model boat race. First prize is $500.

There is one catch...only girls can be Cupcake Cadets. Armed with two of his older sister's used cadet uniforms and a wig for himself (Slater has long hair), Jeremy and Slater disguise themselves as home-schooled twin sisters and join the cadet troop. The $500 is as good as theirs. How hard could it be to earn three merit badges (the entrance requirement) and beat a bunch of girls?

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Additional tales of the view from the other side include:

The day Joanie Frankenhauser Became a Boy by Francess Lin Lantz

Gender Blender by Blake Nelson and

Boy2Girl by Terence Blacker

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