If it was up to me The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z (Walker, 2009) by Kate Messner would be a Newbery winner. I absolutely loved this book.
7th grader Gianna loves to run, but is on probation for the sectionals cross-country track meet unless she gets her leaf project turned in on time for science, and she's barely started. Throw in family problems, sabotage, a friend being teased, death, and a funny little brother for a great mix. The author juggled issues on many levels and created believable characters. (Warning to writers: it's so good it may make you despair over your own writing... However, you'll see Gianna didn't give up, so why should you?)
Read more about the book and the author at www.katemessner.com/books.html Fun to have the sound on, too. You'll need it to watch the trailer anyway where authors talk about what kind of tree they'd be.
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LATE BREAKING NEWS
The Brilliant Fall of Gianna Z has been shortlisted for the E.B. White Read Aloud Award. Crossing my fingers for a win!