Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown was selected by voters in Grades 3 through 5.
Brown tells the story of 12-year-old Arcturus Betelgeuse Chambers, who comes from a family of stargazers, and his quest to find life on other planets is unstoppable.
But when Arty's family announces they're moving to Las Vegas, the City of Lights threatens to put an end to his stargazing dreams forever — especially when he has to stay with his scary next door neighbor while his parents look for a house. As it turns out, “Mr. Death” isn't terrifying at all — he's actually Cash Maddox, a bonafide astronaut!
But when Cash falls ill, will Arty find the courage to complete his mission by himself? And might he actually prove, once and for all, that there is life on Mars?
Author Brown calls herself a “dedicated dreamer/adventurer with no grand plan.” She grew up in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, and wrote her first short story in fourth grade — although she thought she’d be a teacher rather than a writer. The writing bug wouldn’t go away, however, and 13 years ago, she began focusing on that career.
Brown has written young adult novels and women’s fiction. Life on Mars is her first middle-grade novel. It was published by Bloomsbury USA.
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget was selected by voters in Grades 6 through 8.
In A Million Ways Home Poppy finds her life turned upside down when her grandma (and guardian) has a stroke and ends up in the hospital. While Poppy is working on a plan to help her grandma return home, she witnesses a bank robbery and finds her life in danger.
To keep Poppy safe, the budget-strapped police devise an unusual "witness protection program," wherein Poppy will stay with Detective Brannigan's mother. Soon Poppy is feeling almost at home, even making sort-of friends with a girl named Lizzie and definitely friending Gunner, a beautiful dog with an uncertain fate. But it's still not home.
So while she and Lizzie navigate a rocky friendship and plot to save Gunner's life, Poppy also tries to figure out a new plan to save Grandma Beth and their home, all while avoiding a dangerous robber who might be searching for her. But what if Grandma Beth can never come home and the robber is put behind bars? What will happen to Poppy then?
Author Winget began writing when she was 9, but says she kept her notebooks under her bed and away from prying eyes. When she graduated from high school, she admitted her love of writing and began selling short stories and articles to magazines. In 2012, Winget began writing middle-grade novels. A Million Ways Home was published by Scholastic Press in 2014.