Back-to-School Book Recs

By: Shanleigh Klassen

With a new school year just around the corner, there’s no better way to gear up for the return of early morning practices, class projects, and homework than with a bit of reading! These six contemporary books feature schools as a major setting to tell important stories of friendship, belonging, navigating the world, and learning to stand on your own.


While you’re at it, don’t forget to enter our TWO giveaways to win a back-to-school bundle! Each bundle will include a hardcover middle grade book and 6-8 awesome bookish items to start the school year off right.

Over on TikTok: We're giving away a FULL CLASSROOM SET of books and goodies to one awesome middle grade teacher! Simply comment the name of your middle grade teacher nominee and why they should get this set! **Winner will need to present proof of being a teacher.**

Over on Instagram: We're giving bundles away to a couple of lucky winners! To enter, just like the post, follow @owlcratejr, and comment your favorite thing about going back to school.

Giveaways are open internationally (anywhere OwlCrate ships!). Winners will be chose on August 31st. Good luck!

Barakah Beats by Maleeha Siddiqui

Nimra has spent her whole life in Islamic school, but so long as she has her best friend Jenna, she figures she can take on the public school system. That is until Jenna starts giving hijab-wearing Nimra the cold shoulder around the other kids. Even though Nimara was taught that music isn’t allowed in Islam, to win Jenna back Nimra accepts an unlikely invitation to join the school's 8th grade boy band, Barakah Beats. She decides that once Jenna is her best friend again, she’ll quietly drop out before her parents find out. But leaving the band proves harder than expected and with Jenna’s friendship hanging in the balance, Nimra has to decide whether to betray her bandmates or herself.


Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

When Jingwen moves to a new country, he feels like he's landed on Mars. School is torture, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he's often stuck looking after his extremely irritating little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned to open before he unexpectedly passed away. But his mother has laid down one major rule: the brothers are not to use the oven while she's at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they'll have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from Mama.


Tight by Torrey Maldonado

Lately, Bryan’s been feeling it in all kinds of ways. He knows what’s tight for him in a good way, like reading comics and drawing superheroes. But drama’s hard to escape where he’s from, and now Bryan’s new friend Mike is challenging him to have fun in ways that are crazy risky. At first, it’s a rush following Mike, hopping turnstiles, skipping school, and getting into all kinds of trouble. But Bryan never feels right acting wrong. So which way will he go when he understands that drama is so not his style? This is a fast-paced, insightful, dynamic story and Readers will connect with Bryan’s journey as he navigates a tough world with a heartfelt desire for a different life.


Falling Short by Ernesto Cisneros

Isaac and Marco already know sixth grade is going to change their lives. But it won't change things at home — not without each other's help. This year, star basketball player Isaac plans on finally keeping up with his schoolwork. Better grades will surely stop Isaac's parents from arguing all the time. Meanwhile, straight-A Marco vows to finally win his father's approval by earning a spot on the school's basketball team. But will their friendship and support for each other be enough to keep the two boys from falling short?



The Boy at the Back of the Class by Onjali Q. Raúf

There used to be an empty chair at the back of the class, but now a new boy called Ahmet is sitting in it. He's eight years old but he's very strange. He never talks and never smiles and doesn't like sweets. But the truth is, Ahmet really isn't very strange at all. He's a refugee who's run away from a War. A real one. With bombs and fires and bullies that hurt people. And the more everyone finds out about him, the more they want to be his friend. Told with humor and heart, this story offers a child's perspective on the refugee crisis, highlighting the importance of friendship and kindness in a world that doesn't always make sense.


Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Illustrated by Ann Xu

Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together. Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket. There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food. And after her pickled cucumber debacle at lunch, she’s determined to channel her inner Julia Child. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?


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