Sixth-grader Benjamin Pratt is weathering a few different storms in We the Children, Andrew Clements's newest series for the middle-school set. His parents have just split up, his school--a landmark in his old New England sailing town--is about to be torn down, and the janitor sneaks him a mysterious gold coin...hours before he dies unexpectedly.
Lia and Alice buried their father on a rainy day in the fall of 1890. His death was sudden, and strange happenings are keeping the twins from resuming their wealthy, well-educated lives. Lia begins to dream of flying and Alice, while reserved, does not appear to mourn her father. Lia's boyfriend, James, uncovers an ancient tome that cryptically tells of two sisters, one the Gate and one the Guardian. One has the power to return Satan to Earth, the other the responsibility to keep her sister in check.
As usual, sixth-grader Hero's Shakespearean name prompts teasing in her new school, and her loving parents are clueless about her difficulties. Then intriguing, elderly neighbor Mrs. Roth tells her about the enormous diamond rumored to be hidden in Hero's new house. Helped by Mrs. Roth and cute eighth-grader Danny, Hero launches into a stealthy search that unearths links between the diamond's original owner and Edward de Vere, a nobleman believed by some to be the original author of Shakespeare's plays.
Hoping to fly under the radar in middle school, Hamlet’s dream of a quiet eighth-grade year is dashed. Her genius seven-year-old sister, Desdemona, is also enrolled in eighth grade so she can fill her homeschooled curriculum deficiencies in the arts before moving on to college, and her flamboyant Shakespearean scholar parents—in full Elizabethan garb—offer their expertise in Hamlet’s class. Hamlet stands out during a dazzling reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream, which reveals her natural talent for theater.
In the spring of 1776, Isabel, a teenage slave, and her sister, Ruth, are sold to ruthless, wealthy loyalists in Manhattan. While running errands, Isabel is approached by rebels, who promise her freedom (and help finding Ruth, who has been sent away) if she agrees to spy. Using the invisibility her slave status brings, Isabel lurks and listens as Master Lockton and his fellow Tories plot to crush the rebel uprisings, but the incendiary proof that she carries to the rebel camp doesn’t bring the desired rewards.
Ten-year-old Caitlyn hates recess, with all its noise and chaos, and her kind, patient counselor, Mrs. Brook, helps her to understand the reasons behind her discomfort, while offering advice about how to cope with her Asberger’s Syndrome, make friends, and deal with her grief over her older brother’s death in a recent school shooting.
Yolen takes the story of Briar Rose (commonly known as Sleeping Beauty) and links it to the Holocaust--a far-from-obvious connection that she makes perfectly convincing. Rebecca Berlin, a young woman who has grown up hearing her grandmother Gemma tell an unusual and frightening version of the Sleeping Beauty legend, realizes when Gemma dies that the fairy tale offers one of the very few clues she has to her grandmother's past.
Gemma, 16, has had an unconventional upbringing in India, until the day she foresees her mother’s death in a black, swirling vision that turns out to be true. Sent back to England, she is enrolled at Spence. One night she is led by a child-spirit to find a diary that reveals the secrets of a mystical Order. Gemma is left with the knowledge that her role as the link between worlds leaves her with a mission to seek out the "others" and rebuild the Order.