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Post-It Reviews: Elementary and middle grade summer reads part 2

Here are some quick reviews of a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed over the past few months.

Post-It Note reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary.

Lemons by Melissa Savage

The search for Bigfoot gets juicy in this funny and touching story that’s perfect for fans of Kate DiCamillo’s Flora & Ulysses and the movie Smallfoot!

Lemonade Liberty Witt’s mama always told her: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But Lem can’t possibly make lemonade out of her new life in Willow Creek, California—the Bigfoot Capital of the World—where she’s forced to live with a grandfather she’s never met after her mother passes away.

Then she meets eleven-year-old Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives Inc., who is the sole Bigfoot investigator for their small town. After he invites Lem to be his assistant for the summer, they set out on an epic adventure to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film. But along the way, Lem and Tobin end up discovering more than they ever could have imagined. And Lem realizes that maybe she can make lemonade out of her new life after all.

(POST-IT SAYS: Set in 1975, this is a surprisingly deep look at grief and loss–surprising because of the whimsical cover and Bigfoot angle. A lot of issues are packed into this story and all are skillfully, realistically, and empathetically handled. A great read. Ages 8-12)

Emmy in the Key of Code by Aimee Lucido

In this innovative middle grade novel, coding and music take center stage as new girl Emmy tries to find her place in a new school. Perfect for fans of GIRLS WHO CODE series and THE CROSSOVER.

In a new city, at a new school, twelve-year-old Emmy has never felt more out of tune. Things start to look up when she takes her first coding class, unexpectedly connecting with the material—and Abigail, a new friend—through a shared language: music. But when Emmy gets bad news about their computer teacher, and finds out Abigail isn’t being entirely honest about their friendship, she feels like her new life is screeching to a halt. Despite these obstacles, Emmy is determined to prove one thing: that, for the first time ever, she isn’t a wrong note, but a musician in the world’s most beautiful symphony.

(POST-IT SAYS: This will be a hit with a lot of readers: readers who like books in verse; readers who like coding (and verse written in Javascript–whoa!); readers who are exploring their interests; and readers who are navigating new schools/friendships/places. Super innovative format and good messages about being yourself. Ages 10-13)

Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin

Twelve-year-old Emily is flying with her parents to China to adopt and bring home a new baby sister. She’s excited but nervous to travel across the world and very aware that this trip will change her entire life. And the cracks are already starting to show the moment they reach the hotel—her parents are all about the new baby, and have no interest in exploring.

In the adoption trip group, Emily meets Katherine, a Chinese-American girl whose family has returned to China to adopt a second child. The girls eventually become friends and Katherine reveals a secret: she’s determined to find her birth mother, and she wants Emily’s help.

New country, new family, new responsibilities—it’s all a lot to handle, and Emily has never felt more alone.

From the author of Extraordinary and Call Me SunflowerEmily Out of Focus is a warm and winning exploration of the complexity of family, friendship, and identity that readers will love.

(POST-IT SAYS: Emily learns a lot about family, friendship, adoption, and herself as she explores Changsha. Readers will learn a lot about the adoption process, including Katherine’s feelings on adoption and (in an author’s note) Franklin’s own experience adopting a child from China. Ages 8-12)

Towers Falling by Jewell Parker Rhodes

From award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful novel set fifteen years after the 9/11 attacks. 

When her fifth-grade teacher hints that a series of lessons about home and community will culminate with one big answer about two tall towers once visible outside their classroom window, Dèja can’t help but feel confused. She sets off on a journey of discovery, with new friends Ben and Sabeen by her side. But just as she gets closer to answering big questions about who she is, what America means, and how communities can grow (and heal), she uncovers new questions, too. Like, why does Pop get so angry when she brings up anything about the towers? 

Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes tells a powerful story about young people who weren’t alive to witness this defining moment in history, but begin to realize how much it colors their every day.

(POST-IT SAYS: This is a nominee for a Minnesota award voted on by kids, so I’m curious to get student feedback on this from actual kids born post-9/11. Provides a vivid look at the events of that day, but much is watered down/sweetened for the young audience. Ages 8-12)

Wish by Barbara O’Connor

A touching story about a girl and her dog, perfect for young animal lovers

Eleven-year-old Charlie Reese has been making the same secret wish every day since fourth grade. She even has a list of all the ways there are to make the wish, such as cutting off the pointed end of a slice of pie and wishing on it as she takes the last bite. But when she is sent to the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina to live with family she barely knows, it seems unlikely that her wish will ever come true. That is until she meets

Wishbone, a skinny stray dog who captures her heart, and Howard, a neighbor boy who proves surprising in lots of ways. Suddenly Charlie is in serious danger of discovering that what she thought she wanted may not be what she needs at all.

From award-winning author Barbara O’Connor comes a middle-grade novel about a girl who, with the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and the dog of her dreams, unexpectedly learns the true meaning of family in the least likely of places.

(POST-IT SAYS: Fantastic setting and well-developed, unforgettable characters make this heartfelt story stand out. Charlie is so complicated—angry, vulnerable, lonely, wishful—and her voice here shines. Really lovely. Ages 9-12)

Framed! (Framed! Series #1) by James Ponti

Get to know the only kid on the FBI Director’s speed dial and several international criminals’ most wanted lists all because of his Theory of All Small Things in this hilarious start to a brand-new middle grade mystery series.

So you’re only halfway through your homework and the Director of the FBI keeps texting you for help…What do you do? Save your grade? Or save the country?

If you’re Florian Bates, you figure out a way to do both.

Florian is twelve years old and has just moved to Washington. He’s learning his way around using TOAST, which stands for the Theory of All Small Things. It’s a technique he invented to solve life’s little mysteries such as: where to sit on the on the first day of school, or which Chinese restaurant has the best eggrolls.

But when he teaches it to his new friend Margaret, they uncover a mystery that isn’t little. In fact, it’s HUGE, and it involves the National Gallery, the FBI, and a notorious crime syndicate known as EEL.

Can Florian decipher the clues and finish his homework in time to help the FBI solve the case?

(POST-IT SAYS: Well, now I want to employ the TOAST technique. Fun, smart mystery that’s not at all easily solvable for readers. Can’t wait to read the others in this series. Ages 9-12)

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children
by Kath Shackleton (Editor), Zane Whittingham (Illustrator), Ryan Jones (Designed by)
(ISBN-13: 9781492688938 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 10/01/2019)

Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were responsible for the persecution of millions of Jews across Europe.

This extraordinary graphic novel tells the true stories of six Jewish children and young people who survived the Holocaust. From suffering the horrors of Auschwitz, to hiding from Nazi soldiers in war-torn Paris, to sheltering from the Blitz in England, each true story is a powerful testament to the survivors’ courage. These remarkable testimonials serve as a reminder never to allow such a tragedy to happen again.

(POST-IT SAYS: WOW. Beautiful presentation of awful stories. The format makes history accessible to those who may struggle with nonfiction. Back matter includes stories of the 6 children’s lives as adults, glossary, timeline, and resources. Ages 10+)

The End of the Wild by Nicole Helget (ISBN-13: 9780316245135 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 06/26/2018)

Now available in paperback, this timely coming of age novel takes on the controversial issues of fracking and environmental protection.

Stay away from my woods.

Eleven-year-old Fern doesn’t have the easiest life. Her stepfather is out of work, and she’s responsible for putting dinner on the table—not to mention keeping her wild younger brothers out of trouble. The woods near their home is her only refuge, where she finds food and plays with her neighbor’s dog. But when a fracking company rolls into town, her special grove could be ripped away, and no one else seems to care.

Her stepfather needs the money that a job with the frackers could bring to their family, and her wealthy grandfather likes the business it brings to their town. Even her best friend doesn’t understand what the land means to Fern. With no one on her side, how can she save the forest that has protected her for so long?

The acclaimed author of Wonder at the Edge of the World weaves a poignant story about life on the poverty line, the environment, friendship and family—and, most of all, finding your place in the world.

(POST-IT SAYS: A moving, thoughtful, and often very sad look at grief, rural poverty, family, and environmental issues. Even though this is a really bleak read, it’s full of love and, ultimately, hope. Ages 9-12)

Book Review: Contagion by Erin Bowman

This past weekend the entire Jensen family drove to Houston to take Thing 2, who is basically space obsessed, to the NASA Johnson Space Center. As we embarked on our trip I thought it would be fun to listen to an audio book that took place in space and Contagion by Erin Bowman was the perfect book for our family road trip.

After receiving a distress call, a corporate mining ship that just happens to be closest is sent to a distant planet. Upon arriving there they find that it looks like everyone is dead. When a sudden storm breaks out, everyone scrambles for cover and one sole survivor is found and the dead rise. That’s right – there are space zombies! And it is epic and awesome.

What follows is an intense scramble to get off the planet before being taken down or infected by a parasite that no one knows anything about and trying to keep the rest of the galaxy safe. At one point there is an intense chase scene that is amplified by the self destruct count down happening every minute. Surviving crew members are racing through a maze of shafts and tunnels being pursued by cosmically supercharged bad guys, some of whom used to be their friends and lovers, and they are racing against a literal countdown to self-destruction. It is a real edge of your seat thriller.

As with any good science fiction, there is also a lot of relational, ethical and political drama. There is the mystery of who knows what, who is or isn’t infected, and what is the moral thing to do when it’s not just your life but potentially the entire galaxy at stake. The book ends with a few twists and turns and set up the next book, Immunity, which is already out and I am on hold for the audio book as we speak. We have to figure out another family trip so we can listen to the book together!

The book itself was good and I highly recommend it, but I also want to take a moment to praise the family book listening experience. This is the second or third time that the entire family has gotten so fully invested in a book that everyone was so into. They didn’t want to turn off the car and each time we got in the car, even to drive 5 minutes down the street to eat, they immediately clamored for me to turn the book back on. It’s not just a good book, it’s a well done audio book.

I will say because we listened to it as a family and you may want to listen to it with your family, there is a character who says the F word a lot. My youngest child is 10 and I just told her to not say that word and we kept listening and it was fine for us. There is also some violence and intense anticipation, for those who would want to know. Though to be fair I do believe I mentioned space zombies.

This was a great, thrilling and entertaining book. I highly recommend it.

Publisher’s Book Description

It got in us

After receiving an urgent SOS from a work detail on a distant planet, a skeleton crew is dispatched to perform a standard search-and-rescue mission.

Most are dead.

But when the crew arrives, they find an abandoned site, littered with rotten food, discarded weapons…and dead bodies.

Don’t set foot here again.

As they try to piece together who—or what—could have decimated an entire operation, they discover that some things are best left buried—and some monsters are only too ready to awaken

Coming Soon: YA Lit on the Small and Big Screen

Like many people, I watch a lot of Netflix. Too much? I mean, it’s possible. But it turns out, a lot of what I’m watching on Netflix came from a YA novel, which should surprise no one.

I first noticed this phenomenon when I saw a movie called iBoy on the streaming service. Isn’t that a YA novel, I thought? And the answer is yes. It’s a book written by Kevin Brooks which was originally published in 2010. I had no idea it had been made into a movie and yet here I was watching it. So today for you I share a round up of current and coming soon small and big screen productions that come from a YA novel. This is by no means a complete list so if you know of more please add them to the list in the comments.

Ranking all the YA novels you can currently watch on Netflix, including Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy and To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han https://thewhisp.mommyish.com/entertainment/ranking-netflix-original-ya-novel-adaptations/5/

Trinkets series on Netflix (https://deadline.com/2018/10/netflix-orders-trinkets-series-based-ya-novel-brianna-hildebrand-kiana-madeira-quintessa-swindell-leads-1202483312/)

The Wilds series on Amazon (https://variety.com/2019/tv/news/amazon-the-wilds-series-1203226989/)

Light as a Feather, which you can now see on Hulu, began on Wattpad but you can buy the books and add them to your YA collections now https://www.forbes.com/sites/adamrowe1/2018/10/13/how-light-as-a-feather-traveled-from-a-wattpad-novel-to-a-hulu-tv-show/#450619b95d8c

YA Novel The Stand In is the basis of the Netflix Rom-Com The Perfect Date (https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2019/03/12/1751964/0/en/YA-Novel-The-Stand-In-from-Carolrhoda-Lab-Becomes-the-Netflix-Film-The-Perfect-Date-Starring-Noah-Centineo.html)

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen coming soon to Netflix (https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/netflix-options-sarah-dessen-ya-novels-sets-along-ride-adaptation-1214672)

Tiny Pretty Things optioned by Netflix (https://deadline.com/2019/08/netflix-orders-tiny-pretty-things-ballet-drama-series-based-book-cast-1202662556/)

The Grishaverse/Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo (https://deadline.com/2019/01/netflix-orders-shadow-and-bone-series-leigh-bardugo-grishaverse-fantasy-novels-1202532783/)

Aurora Rising optioned https://deadline.com/2019/06/aurora-rising-ya-novel-adapted-television-mgm-tv-1202632339/

Panic by Lauren Oliver is coming to Amazon https://www.hypable.com/lauren-oliver-first-look-deal-amazon/

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi is being made into a movie https://www.tor.com/2019/02/21/children-of-blood-and-bone-movie-adaptation-tomi-adeyemi/

Popsugar has a list of some current and upcoming productions https://www.popsugar.com/entertainment/YA-Novels-Becoming-Movies-34609728

Epic Reads also has a list of all the YA books being made into movies https://www.epicreads.com/blog/book-to-movie-adaptations-progress/

Cheat Sheet has a list of movies coming out in 2020 that are based on YA books https://www.cheatsheet.com/entertainment/books-becoming-movies-2020.html/

Screen Rant has a list of movies in production and some possibilities https://screenrant.com/ya-adaptations-development-possibilities/

Also, if you’re interested, here’s a list of all the teen shows currently on Netflix that may be of interest to teens: https://www.thrillist.com/entertainment/nation/best-teen-shows-on-netflix

To keep up with this information, I use resources like those you see above and The Hollywood Reporter, Coming Soon.net, Hypable, io9.com, The AV Club, MovieInsider.com and the coming soon feature on IMDB.

New Books Alert: Featuring a middle grade #MeToo, an LGBTQ guide, a haunted house, a memoir about living with Treacher Collins syndrome, and more

There are a lot of great things about working in an elementary library and thus having the summer off, but by far one of my favorite things is being home and able to IMMEDIATELY grab and rip open book mail when it arrives. During the school year, I’ll get alerts on my phone that a package was delivered and desperately want to text my dogs, asking if they could please go carefully open it and report back.

All of the books I get end up going back out the door in some fashion—to teen readers I know, to classroom libraries of friends, to my own school, or in giveaways. I can’t read/review every book I get, but it’s fun to be able to sift through boxes and see what grabs my attention, and to see what books will find loving new homes with the right reader. The following are the books that have arrived here in the past few weeks. I will be reviewing many of them in the upcoming months on TLT. See something you’ve already read and need to make sure I don’t skip? Or something you’re super excited to read when it comes out? Let me know with a comment here or on Twitter, where I’m @CiteSomething.

All descriptions from the publishers.

The Echo Park Castaways by M. G. Hennessey (ISBN-13: 9780062427694 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/02/2019)

From the author of The Other Boy comes a poignant and heartfelt novel that explores what it means to be a family. Perfect for fans of Counting by 7s.

Nevaeh, Vic, and Mara are veterans of the Los Angeles foster care system. For over a year they’ve been staying with Mrs. K in Echo Park. Vic spends most of his time living in a dream world, Mara barely speaks, and Nevaeh is forced to act as a back-up parent. Though their situation isn’t ideal, it’s still their best home yet.

Then Child Protective Services places Quentin in the house, and everything is turned upside down. Nevaeh really can’t handle watching over anyone else, especially a boy on the autism spectrum. Meanwhile, Quentin is having trouble adjusting and attempts to run away.

So when Vic realizes Quentin just wants to see his mom again, he plans an “epic quest” to reunite them. It could result in the foster siblings getting sent to different group homes. But isn’t family always worth the risk?

Stealing Home by Becky Wallace (ISBN-13: 9781624147647 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 07/09/2019)

Fight for your dreams, even if it means breaking a few rules.

“A wonderful baseball story.” – Miranda Kenneally, author of Catching Jordan

“This one’s sure to be a home run with readers!” – Katy Upperman, author of Kissing Max Holden

“A strong female protagonist and a swoon-worthy romance, all woven together with wit and charm.” – Cheyanne Young, author of The Last Wish of Sasha Cade

Ryan Russell has life perfectly planned. She’s going to take over her family’s team, the Buckley Beavers, and become one of the only female General Managers in minor league baseball.

Then Sawyer Campbell shows up, and Ryan’s carefully laid plans are thrown a major curveball. Sawyer is far more charming than the arrogant jocks she usually manages, though fraternizing is against every rule in the Beaver’s handbook.

But after figuring out the desperate state of the team’s finances, Ryan will have to take risks in order to save her future. She teams up with Sawyer, using his star power to draw in sponsors. But the more time she spends with him, the harder it becomes to play by the rules. Is his partnership the key to saving the Beavers, or a distraction she can’t afford?

Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars Series #1) by Elizabeth Lim (ISBN-13: 9780525646990 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 07/09/2019 Series: Blood of Stars Series #1)

“Looking for your next big YA fantasy series? We’ve got our eye on this stylist blockbuster.” —Entertainment Weekly

Project Runway meets Mulan in this sweeping fantasy about a young girl who poses as a boy to compete for the role of imperial tailor and embarks on an impossible journey to sew three magic dresses, from the sun, the moon, and the stars.

Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.


Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.


And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.


Steeped in Chinese culture, sizzling with forbidden romance, and shimmering with magic, this young adult fantasy is pitch-perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas or Renée Ahdieh.

Dreamland (YA edition): The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones (ISBN-13: 9781547601318 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 07/16/2019)

As an adult book, Sam Quinones’s Dreamland took the world by storm, winning the NBCC Award for General Nonfiction and hitting at least a dozen Best Book of the Year lists. Now, adapted for the first time for a young adult audience, this compelling reporting explains the roots of the current opiate crisis.

In 1929, in the blue-collar city of Portsmouth, Ohio, a company built a swimming pool the size of a football field; named Dreamland, it became the vital center of the community. Now, addiction has devastated Portsmouth, as it has hundreds of small rural towns and suburbs across America. How that happened is the riveting story of Dreamland. Quinones explains how the rise of the prescription drug OxyContin, a miraculous and extremely addictive painkiller pushed by pharmaceutical companies, paralleled the massive influx of black tar heroin—cheap, potent, and originating from one small county on Mexico’s west coast, independent of any drug cartel.

Introducing a memorable cast of characters—pharmaceutical pioneers, young Mexican entrepreneurs, narcotics investigators, survivors, teens, and parents—Dreamland is a revelatory account of the massive threat facing America and its heartland.

Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman (ISBN-13: 9781541572843 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 09/03/2019)

In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory. When Flor—also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk—robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor’s plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.

The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos (ISBN-13: 9781541528772 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 09/03/2019)

A powerful exploration of love, identity, and self-worth through the eyes of a fierce, questioning Puerto Rican teen.

Fifteen-year-old Verdad doesn’t think she has time for love. She’s still struggling to process the recent death of her best friend, Blanca; dealing with the high expectations of her hardworking Puerto Rican mother and the absence of her remarried father; and keeping everyone at a distance. But when she meets Danny, a new guy at school—who happens to be trans—all bets are off. Verdad suddenly has to deal with her mother’s disapproval of her relationship with Danny as well as her own prejudices and questions about her identity, and Danny himself, who is comfortable in his skin but keeping plenty of other secrets.


The Prom: A Novel Based on the Hit Broadway Musical by Saundra Mitchell, Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, Matthew Sklar (ISBN-13: 9781984837523 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/10/2019)

An honest, laugh-out-loud, feel-good novel inspired by the hit Broadway musical The Prom—a New York Times Critic’s Pick!

Seventeen-year-old Emma Nolan wants only one thing before she graduates: to dance with her girlfriend at the senior prom. But in her small town of Edgewater, Indiana, that’s like asking for the moon. 

Alyssa Greene is her high school’s “it” girl: popular, head of the student council, and daughter of the PTA president. She also has a secret. She’s been dating Emma for the last year and a half. 

When word gets out that Emma plans to bring a girl as her date, it stirs a community-wide uproar that spirals out of control. Now, the PTA, led by Alyssa’s mother, is threatening to cancel the prom altogether.

Enter Barry Glickman and Dee Dee Allen, two Broadway stars who decide to take up the cause and get a little publicity along the way. But when they arrive in Indiana to fight on Emma’s behalf, their good intentions go quickly south. 

Between Emma facing the fray head-on, Alyssa wavering about coming out, and Barry and Dee Dee basking in all the attention, it’s the perfect prom storm. Only when this unlikely group comes together do they realize that love is always worth fighting for.

Shatter City (Impostors Series #2) by Scott Westerfeld (ISBN-13: 9781338150414 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/17/2019)

The sequel to the New York Times bestselling Impostors!

When the world sees Frey, they think they see her twin sister Rafi. Frey was raised to be Rafi’s double, and now she’s taken on the role . . . without anyone else knowing. 

Her goal? To destroy the forces that created her.

But with the world watching and a rebellion rising, Frey is forced into a detour. Suddenly she is stranded on her own in Paz, a city where many of the citizens attempt to regulate their emotions through an interface on their arms. Paz is an easy place to get lost . . . and also an easy place to lose yourself. 

As the city comes under a catastrophic attack, Frey must leave the shadows and enter the chaos of warfare – because there is no other way for her to find her missing sister and have her revenge against her murderous father.

One Person, No Vote (YA edition): How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson, Tonya Bolden (ISBN-13: 9781547601073 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 09/17/2019)

In her New York Times bestseller White Rage, Carol Anderson laid bare an insidious history of policies that have systematically impeded black progress in America, from 1865 to our combustible present. With One Person, No Vote, she chronicles a related history: the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice.

Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2018 midterm elections.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (ISBN-13: 9780593108178 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/17/2019)

A gutsy, queer coming-of-age story perfect for fans of Nina LaCour, Rainbow Rowell, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Juliet Milagros Palante is a self-proclaimed closeted Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx.

Only, she’s not so closeted anymore. Not after coming out to her family the night before flying to Portland, Oregon to intern with her favorite feminist writer–what’s sure to be a life changing experience. And when Juliet’s coming out crashes and burns, she’s not sure her mom will ever speak to her again.

But Juliet has a plan–sort of. Her internship with legendary author Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff is sure to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. Except Harlowe’s white. And not from the Bronx. And she definitely doesn’t have all the answers . . . 

In a summer bursting with queer brown dance parties, a sexy fling with a motorcycling librarian, and intense explorations of race and identity, Juliet learns what it means to come out–to the world, to her family, to herself.

Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis (ISBN-13: 9781595147196 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/24/2019)

The stunning finale of the epic fantasy duology from New York Times bestselling author Beth Revis. Alchemy student turned necromancer Nedra Brysstain has made a life-changing decision to embrace the darkness—but can the boy who loves her bring her back to the light before she pays the ultimate price?

Lunar Island is trying to heal. The necromantic plague that ravaged the land has been eradicated, and Emperor Auguste, the young and charming leader of the Allyrian Empire, has a plan: rid the island of necromancy once and for all. Though Greggori “Grey” Astor wants what’s best for his people, he knows that allying himself with Auguste threatens the one person he loves most: necromancer Nedra Brysstain. Feeling like he already failed to save Nedra once, Grey becomes determined to help the Emperor rebuild Lunar Island while still keeping Nedra safe from harm. 

Back at the quarantine hospital, Nedra’s army of revenants are growing increasingly inhuman by the day. Wracked with guilt for imprisoning their souls, Nedra vows to discover a way to free the dead while still keeping her sister by her side. 

But still reeling from the trauma of the plague, the people of Lunar Island are looking for someone to blame, and Grey can only protect Nedra for so long. And when Nedra and Grey are thrust into a battle with an even more terrifying adversary, Nedra will be pushed to the darkest depths of her necromantic powers. But can Grey let her go that far?

The Crossover (Graphic Novel) by Kwame Alexander, Dawud Anyabwile (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781328575494 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 09/24/2019)

Kwame Alexander’s NYT Bestseller and Newbery Medal winning The Crossover is vividly brought to life as a graphic novel with stunning illustrations by star talent Dawud Anyabwile. 

New York Timesbestseller · Newbery Medal Winner · Coretta Scott King Honor Award · 2015 YALSA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults · 2015 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers · Publishers Weekly Best Book · School Library Journal Best Book · Kirkus Best Book

“A beautifully measured novel of life and line.”The New York Times Book Review

The Crossover is now a graphic novel!

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . . The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. ’Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” raps twelve-year-old Josh Bell. Thanks to their dad, he and his twin brother, Jordan, are kings on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood—he’s got mad beats, too, which help him find his rhythm when it’s all on the line.

See the Bell family in a whole new light through Dawud Anyabwile’s dynamic illustrations as the brothers’ winning season unfolds, and the world as they know it begins to change.

Fake by Donna Cooner (ISBN-13: 9781338239492 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 10/01/2019)

From acclaimed author Donna Cooner comes this gripping and timely story about identity, revenge, and the lies — and truths — we tell online. 

Maisie Fernandez is fed up. Fed up with the bullies who taunt her about her size and her looks. Fed up with being the butt of everyone’s jokes.

So, one night, Maisie goes online and creates a fake profile. “Sienna” is beautiful, skinny, and confident — and soon she’s messaging the most popular kids in Maisie’s school. Maisie doesn’t care about being friends with them. She wants to use Sienna to take them down.

But as Maisie’s web of deception grows, she’s in danger of being exposed. And what will happen when the actual Sienna — the girl whose photos Maisie has been using — shows up in real life?

Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee (ISBN-13: 9781534432376 Publisher: Aladdin Publication date: 10/01/2019)

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates. 

For seventh-grader Mila, it starts with some boys giving her an unwanted hug on the school blacktop. A few days later, at recess, one of the boys (and fellow trumpet player) Callum tells Mila it’s his birthday, and asks her for a “birthday hug.” He’s just being friendly, isn’t he? And how can she say no? But Callum’s hug lasts a few seconds too long, and feels…weird. According to her friend, Zara, Mila is being immature and overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But the boys don’t leave Mila alone. On the bus. In the halls. During band practice—the one place Mila could always escape.

It doesn’t feel like flirting—so what is it? Thanks to a chance meeting, Mila begins to find solace in a new place: karate class. Slowly, with the help of a fellow classmate, Mila learns how to stand her ground and how to respect others—and herself.

From the author of Everything I Know About YouHalfway Normal, and Star-Crossed comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice.

Queer, 2nd Edition: The Ultimate LGBTQ Guide for Teens by Kathy Belge, Marke Bieschke (ISBN-13: 9781942186489 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 10/01/2019)

Honest and engaging, Queer takes LGBT teens on an awesome and enlightening journey through the sometimes scary, sometimes silly, and always fabulous world of queer life. With advice on coming out, navigating a queer social life, dealing with queerphobia, and having safe sex, Queer is a must-have for all teens who think they might be queer—or know someone who is.

Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk (Scholastic Focus) by Meredith Davis, Rebeka Uwitonze (ISBN-13: 9781338356373 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 10/01/2019)

Through her eyes, the moving story of a young Rwandan girl born with clubfeet and the risk she takes for the chance to walk on the bottoms of her feet for the first time.

Rebeka Uwitonze was born in Rwanda with curled and twisted feet, which meant she had to crawl or be carried to get around. At nine years old, she gets an offer that could change her life. A doctor in the US might be able to turn her feet. But it means leaving her own family behind and going to America on her own.

Her Own Two Feet tells Rebeka’s inspiring story through her eyes, with the help of one of her hosts. She travels from Rwanda to Austin, Texas, to join the Davis family, despite knowing almost no English. In the face of dozens of hospital visits and painful surgeries, Rebeka’s incredible bravery and joyful spirit carry her to the opportunity of a lifetime. A stunning debut about hope, perseverance, and what becomes possible when you take a risk.


Creep by Eireann Corrigan (ISBN-13: 9781338095081 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 10/01/2019)

The haunting tale of a family that moves into a new house and finds that someone — or something — does NOT want them there.

Olivia is curious about the people moving into 16 Olcott Place. The last family there moved out in the dead of night, and the new family, the Donahues, has no idea why. Olivia becomes fast friends with Janie Donahue . . . so she’s there at the house when the first of the letters arrives:

—I am the Sentry of Glennon Heights. Long ago I claimed 16 Olcott Place as levy for my guardianship. The walls will not tolerate your trespass. The ceilings will bleed and the windows will shatter. If you do not cease your intrusion, the rooms will soon smell of corpses.—

Who is the Sentry? And why does the Sentry want the Donahues out of the house badly enough to kill? As Olivia and Janie explore the house, they find a number of sinister secrets . . . and as they explore their town, they find a hidden history that the Sentry wants to remain hidden forever. 

You can lock the doors. You can close the windows. But you can’t keep the Sentry out. . . .

Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children
by Kath Shackleton (Editor), Zane Whittingham (Illustrator)
(ISBN-13: 9781492688938 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 10/01/2019)

Between 1933 and 1945, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party were responsible for the persecution of millions of Jews across Europe.

This extraordinary graphic novel tells the true stories of six Jewish children and young people who survived the Holocaust. From suffering the horrors of Auschwitz, to hiding from Nazi soldiers in war-torn Paris, to sheltering from the Blitz in England, each true story is a powerful testament to the survivors’ courage. These remarkable testimonials serve as a reminder never to allow such a tragedy to happen again.

By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery (ISBN-13: 9781624147999 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 10/08/2019)

Heart-wrenchingly honest, fans of Brandy Colbert and Nicola Yoon will anticiapte this poignant reflection on what it means to choose yourself.

On the day Torrey moves and officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bank is foreclosing on the bee farm his Uncle Miles left him.

Torrey’s worked hard to become the first member of his family to go to college, but while the neighborhood held him back emotionally, Uncle Miles encouraged him to reach his full potential. For years, it was just the two of them tending the farm. So Torrey can’t let someone erase his uncle’s legacy without a fight.

He tries balancing his old life in L.A. with his new classes, new friends, and (sort of) new boyfriend in San Francisco, but as the farm heads for auction, the pressure of juggling everything threatens to tear him apart. Can he make a choice between his family and his future without sacrificing a part of himself?

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor (ISBN-13: 9781338312270 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 10/15/2019)

The Lunar Chronicles meets Rook in this queer #OwnVoices science-fantasy novel, perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer and Sharon Cameron.

A secret beats inside Anna Thatcher’s chest: an illegal clockwork heart. Anna works cog by cog — donning the moniker Technician — to supply black market medical technology to the sick and injured, against the Commissioner’s tyrannical laws.

Nathaniel Fremont, the Commissioner’s son, has never had to fear the law. Determined to earn his father’s respect, Nathaniel sets out to capture the Technician. But the more he learns about the outlaw, the more he questions whether his father’s elusive affection is worth chasing at all.

Their game of cat and mouse takes an abrupt turn when Eliza, a skilled assassin and spy, arrives. Her mission is to learn the Commissioner’s secrets at any cost — even if it means betraying her own heart.

When these uneasy allies discover the most dangerous secret of all, they must work together despite their differences and put an end to a deadly epidemic — before the Commissioner ends them first.

The Rubicus Prophecy: Witches of Orkney, Book Two by Alane Adams (ISBN-13: 9781943006984 Publisher: SparkPress Publication date: 10/15/2019)

Abigail has just started her second year at the Tarkana Witch Academy and is already up to her ears studying for Horrid Hexes and Awful Alchemy! Worse, Endera’s malevolent spellbook has its hooks in her, whispering in her ear to use its dark magic. Meanwhile, the entire school is talking about the Rubicus Prophecy; a sign has arrived that the chosen witchling is among them, the one who will one day break Odin’s curse over them. When an Orkadian warship arrives carrying troubling news, Abigail and her friend Hugo are swept into a new mystery after a young boy from the ship, Robert Barconian, asks for their help retrieving a missing item.

Along with the former glitch-witch, Calla, the four friends end up deep in the catacombs beneath the Tarkana Fortress—a place where the draugar , the living dead, wander about. Abigail discovers there is more to the Rubicus Prophecy than anyone ever imagined. Can she stop it in time before she and her friends are destroyed? 

Filled with magical spells, spine-tingling ghosts, and visits from the Norse gods, The Rubicus Prophecy pits Abigail against a sinister power greater than anything she has ever imagined.

Refraction by Naomi Hughes (ISBN-13: 9781624148903 Publisher: Page Street Publishing Publication date: 11/05/2019)

After an attack on earth, all reflective surfaces become weapons to release monsters, causing a planet-wide ban on mirrors. Despite the danger, the demand rises, and 17-year-old Marty Callahan becomes a distributor in an illegal mirror trade—until he’s caught by the mayor’s son, whose slate is far from clean. Both of them are exiled for their crimes to one of the many abandoned cities overrun by fog. But they soon realize their thoughts influence their surroundings and their deepest fears begin to manifest.

With fast pacing and riveting characters, this is a book that you’ll finish in one sitting.

The Princess Who Flew with Dragons by Stephanie Burgis (ISBN-13: 9781547602070 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 11/05/2019)

Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale, this girl-powered fantasy follows a smart young princess determined to save her kingdom.

Princess Sofia of Drachenheim is sick of being used for her older sister’s political gains. At twelve years old, she’s already been a hostage to invading dragons and promised to marry a wicked fairy. Now she’s being sent to far-off Villene to play the part of a charming, diplomatic princess. Her only comfort lies in writing letters to her pen pal and best friend—Jasper, a young dragon she’s never even met.

But when an accident leads to her exile from Villene, Sofia is free to wander as she pleases for the first time in her life. And when Jasper’s magical sister Aventurine turns him into a human boy, Sofia thinks life can’t get any better. Until . . . the legendary ice giants of the north attack, trying to reclaim the territory that was theirs centuries ago. With the dragons and royals frozen in ice, can Sofia and Jasper save their families and kingdom?

With another strong heroine and plenty of action, this is an enchanting and strong-hearted fantasy set in the same world as The Dragon with a Chocolate Heart and The Girl with the Dragon Heart.

Fugly by Claire Waller (ISBN-13: 9781541544994 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 11/05/2019)

A wrenchingly honest, thought-provoking exploration of a girl judged and dismissed by society who must break the cycle of shaming that traps her in her real life and comforts her in her online one.

In real life, eighteen-year-old Beth is overweight, shy, and geeky. She’s been bullied all her life, and her only refuge is food. Online, though, she’s a vicious troll who targets the beautiful, vain, oversharing It Girls of the internet. When she meets Tori, a fellow troll, she becomes her online girlfriend-slash-partner-in-crime.

But then Tori picks a target who’s a little too close to home for Beth. Unsettled, Beth decides to quit their online bullying partnership. The only problem is, Tori is not willing to let her go.

The Wickerlight by Mary Watson (ISBN-13: 9781547601943 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 11/26/2019)

In this lush, magical thriller for fans of the Raven Cycle and The Hazel Wood, one girl’s murder investigation leads her into an ancient magical war.

It’s been two months since Zara’s sister Laila was found lifeless on the village green of the small Irish town Kilshamble, not a mark on her. Vicious rumors circle that she died of an overdose or committed suicide—but an autopsy finds no evidence.

Zara believes somebody must know what happened, and she throws herself headfirst into an investigation. But retracing her sister’s footsteps takes her to David, a member of an ancient magical faction called the judges. The judges are in the midst of an ancient feud with another faction called the augurs, and Zara quickly finds herself embroiled in a dangerous, twisted game. And if she isn’t careful on the path she’s treading, she could end up with the same fate as Laila.

Riveting, atmospheric, and full of dangerous magic, this lyrical novel set in the world of The Wren Hunt is perfect for readers of Maggie Stiefvater and Melissa Albert.

Diamond & Dawn (Amber & Dusk Series #2) by Lyra Selene (ISBN-13: 9781338547597 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 12/03/2019)

Lyra Selene returns to the incandescent magic of Amber & Dusk in a second installment about the corrosions of even the most dazzling dreams, and the strength of hope amidst darkness.

Mirage, triumphant in her coup of the Amber Empire, returns to the palais prepared to take her place as empress. With the support of her friends and a tentative, blossoming romance with Sunder, Mirage is on the cusp of taking hold of everything she has ever wanted.

However, her place in the sun is not as sure as she expected, nor is it quite as bright as she imagined.

When the Empress Severine’s body was recovered from the battle, Mirage discovered she was not dead after all. Rather, Severine is in a coma, her every breath a threat to Mirage’s newfound power. Worse, a distant cousin, Gavin d’Ars, appears at court with the challenge of his blood claim. As Mirage uncovers more secrets from her family’s past, she proposes a series of ancient, grueling trials to determine the most deserving heir. But in Mirage’s fight to defend her vision for the empire, she begins to splinter all of her alliances. Will the battle for control leave anyone untainted?

The Map from Here to There by Emery Lord (ISBN-13: 9781681199382 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 01/07/2020)

Acclaimed author Emery Lord crafts a gorgeous story of friendship and identity, daring to ask: What happens after happily ever after?

It’s senior year, and Paige Hancock is finally living her best life. She has a fun summer job, great friends, and a super charming boyfriend who totally gets her. But senior year also means big decisions. Weighing “the rest of her life,” Paige feels her anxiety begin to pervade every decision she makes. Everything is exactly how she always wanted it to be–how can she leave it all behind next year? In her head, she knows there is so much more to experience after high school. But in her heart, is it so terrible to want everything to stay the same forever?

Emery Lord’s award-winning storytelling shines with lovable characters and heartfelt exploration of life’s most important questions.

Flowers in the Gutter by K. R. Gaddy (ISBN-13: 9780525555414 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/07/2020)

Photo-illustrated nonfiction, the story of the Edelweiss Pirates, a group of working-class teens who not only survived but resisted the Nazis by whatever means they could, even when they knew it could cost them their lives.

Flowers in the Gutter is told from the points of view Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean, three young people from working-class neighborhoods in Cologne, beginning with their pre-school years at the dawn of the Third Reich in the 1930s. Gaddy shows how political activism was always a part of their lives and how they witnessed firsthand the toll it took on their parents–and how they still carried the torch for justice when it was their turn.


Once the war began, Gertrude, Fritz, and Jean and their friends survived and even resisted in one of the most heavily bombed cities in Germany. Gaddy includes tense accounts of fights with Hitler Youth and the Gestapo, of disseminating anti-Nazi pamphlets, of helping POWs and forced laborers, and even of sabotaging Nazi factories.


Ultimately, the war ended tragically for several young Pirates, and Gaddy shows how postwar politics and prejudices led to these young men and women being branded criminals for decades after the war.

A Heart So Fierce and Broken by Brigid Kemmerer (ISBN-13: 9781681195117 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 01/07/2020)

In the sequel to New York Times bestselling A Curse So Dark and Lonely, Brigid Kemmerer returns to the world of Emberfall in a lush fantasy where friends become foes and love blooms in the darkest of places.

Find the heir, win the crown.
The curse is finally broken, but Prince Rhen of Emberfall faces darker troubles still. Rumors circulate that he is not the true heir and that forbidden magic has been unleashed in Emberfall. Although Rhen has Harper by his side, his guardsman Grey is missing, leaving more questions than answers.

Win the crown, save the kingdom. 
Grey may be the heir, but he doesn’t want anyone to know his secret. On the run since he destroyed Lilith, he has no desire to challenge Rhen–until Karis Luran once again threatens to take Emberfall by force. Her own daughter Lia Mara sees the flaws in her mother’s violent plan, but can she convince Grey to stand against Rhen, even for the good of Emberfall?

The heart-pounding, compulsively readable saga continues as loyalties are tested and new love blooms in a kingdom on the brink of war.

All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor (ISBN-13: 9780399257308 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/07/2020)

The saga of the Logan family–made famous in the Newbery Medal-winning Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry–concludes in a long-awaited and deeply fulfilling story.

In her tenth book, Mildred Taylor completes her sweeping saga about the Logan family of Mississippi, which is also the story of the civil rights movement in America of the 20th century. Cassie Logan, first met in Song of the Trees and Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a young woman now, searching for her place in the world, a journey that takes her from Toledo to California, to law school in Boston, and, ultimately, in the 60s, home to Mississippi to participate in voter registration. She is witness to the now-historic events of the century: the Great Migration north, the rise of the civil rights movement, preceded and precipitated by the racist society of America, and the often violent confrontations that brought about change. Rich, compelling storytelling is Ms. Taylor’s hallmark, and she fulfills expectations as she brings to a close the stirring family story that has absorbed her for over forty years. It is a story she was born to tell.


The Thief Knot: A Greenglass House Story by Kate Milford (ISBN-13: 9781328466891 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/14/2020)

Ghosts, a kidnapping, a crew of young detectives, and family secrets mix in this new standalone mystery set in the world of the bestselling Greenglass House, from a National Book Award nominee and Edgar Award-winning author. 

Marzana and her best friend are bored. Even though they live in a notorious city where normal rules do not apply, nothing interesting ever happens to them. Nothing, that is, until Marzana’s parents are recruited to help solve an odd crime, and she realizes that this could be the excitement she’s been waiting for. She assembles a group of kid detectives with special skills—including the ghost of a ship captain’s daughter—and together, they explore hidden passageways, navigate architecture that changes overnight, and try to unravel the puzzle of who the kidnappers are—and where they’re hiding. But will they beat the deadline for a ransom that’s impossible to pay?

Legendary smugglers, suspicious teachers, and some scary bad guys are just a few of the adults the crew must circumvent while discovering hidden truths about their families and themselves in this smart, richly imagined tale.

Normal: One Kid’s Extraordinary Journey by Magdalena Newman, Nathaniel Newman, Neil Swaab (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781328631831 Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publication date: 01/14/2020)

Praised by R.J. Palacio as “wondrous”—this moving memoir follows a teenage boy with TC syndrome and his exceptional family from diagnosis at birth to now.

“This touching memoir is a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about the real-world experiences of a child with craniofacial differences and his extraordinary family. It’s also more than that. It’s a story about the love between a mother and a son, a child and his family, and the breadth of friends, helpers, and doctors that step in when the unexpected happens. It’s a story that will make young readers reevaluate the word “normal”—not only as it applies to others, but to themselves. Any book that can do that is pretty wondrous, as far as I’m concerned.”  —R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder 

Normal. Who is to say what this word means? For Magda Newman, it was a goal. She wanted her son Nathaniel to be able to play on the playground, swim at the beach, enjoy the moments his friends took for granted. But Nathaniel’s severe Treacher Collins syndrome—a craniofacial condition—meant that other concerns came first. Could he eat without the aid of a gastrointestinal tube? Could he hear? Would he ever be able to breathe effortlessly? But Nathaniel looks at “normal” from a completely different perspective.

In this uplifting and humorous memoir that includes black-and-white comic illustrations, mother and son tell the story of his growing up—from facing sixty-seven surgeries before the age of fifteen, to making friends, moving across the country, and persevering through hardships. How they tackle extraordinary circumstances with love and resilience is a true testament to Magda and Nathaniel’s family, and to families everywhere who quietly but courageously persist.

Wardens of Eternity by Courtney Allison Moulton (ISBN-13: 9780310767183 Publisher: Blink Publication date: 01/21/2020)

Ziva Ellison has one memory of her parents, made the day they abandoned her on the streets of New York City when she was three years old. They left her with only a memory and a promise that she had a great and terrible destiny.

Fifteen years later, Ziva discovers that destiny includes powers that she doesn’t understand and can barely control. Her magic attracts vicious, otherworldly monsters, and eventually compatriots to help her fight them. Sayer and Nasira know the secrets Ziva doesn’t; that Ziva is descended from Egyptian royalty and in possession of ancient magic passed down from the time of the gods. They promise to teach Ziva to control her magic and to give her the family she’s always yearned for.

But trouble is brewing in the world around them; darkness is descending on Hitler’s Germany, threatening World War II. As the last heir of a revered Egyptian queen, Ziva is the only one with the power to prevent another costly global conflict. As Ziva navigates her newfound abilities and makes a connection with Anubis and other Egyptian gods, the Nazis are hunting for the ultimate weapon, and Ziva has caught their interest.

From Courtney Allison Moulton, author of the acclaimed Angelfire series, comes Wardens of Eternity, an action-packed page-turner that blends history, mythology, and magic, perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and Kiersten White.

Layoverland by Gabby Noone (ISBN-13: 9781984836120 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/21/2020)

Two teens, one stuck atoning for her sins and one destined for heaven, fall in love in purgatory in this darkly hilarious and heartfelt rom-com, perfect for fans of The Good Place.

Beatrice Fox deserves to go straight to hell. 

At least, that’s what she believes. Her last day on Earth, she ruined the life of the person she loves most–her little sister, Emmy. So when Bea awakens from a fatal car accident to find herself on an airplane headed who knows where, she’s confused, to say the least. 

Once on the ground, Bea receives some truly harrowing news: she’s in purgatory. If she ever wants to catch a flight to heaven, she’ll have to help 5,000 souls figure out what’s keeping them from moving on.

But one of Bea’s first assignments is Caleb, the boy who caused her accident, and the last person Bea would ever want to send to the pearly gates. And as much as Bea would love to see Caleb suffer for dooming her to a seemingly endless future of eating bad airport food and listening to other people’s problems, she can’t help but notice that he’s kind of cute, and sort of sweet, and that maybe, despite her best efforts, she’s totally falling for him. Now, determined to make the most of her time in purgatory, Bea must decide what is truly worth dying for–romance or revenge.

How to Build a Heart by Maria Padian (ISBN-13: 9781616208493 Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers Publication date: 01/28/2020

One young woman’s journey to find her place in the world as the carefully separated strands of her life — family, money, school, and love — begin to overlap and tangle.  

All sixteen-year-old Izzy Crawford wants is to feel like she really belongs somewhere. Her father, a marine, died in Iraq six years ago, and Izzy’s moved to a new town nearly every year since, far from the help of her extended family in North Carolina and Puerto Rico. When Izzy’s hardworking mom moves their small family to Virginia, all her dreams start clicking into place. She likes her new school—even if Izzy is careful to keep her scholarship-student status hidden from her well-to-do classmates and her new athletic and popular boyfriend. And best of all: Izzy’s family has been selected by Habitat for Humanity to build and move into a brand-new house. Izzy is this close to the community and permanence she’s been searching for, until all the secret pieces of her life begin to collide.

How to Build a Heart is the story of Izzy’s journey to find her place in the world and her discovery that the choices we make and the people we love ultimately define us and bring us home.

Diamond City: A Novel by Francesca Flores (ISBN-13: 9781250220448 Publisher: St. Martin”s Publishing Group Publication date: 01/28/2020)

Diamond City is an action-packed young adult fantasy by debut author Francesca Flores about a girl who perseveres through poverty, violence, and loss to achieve a future for herself. 

Welcome to Diamond City, where secret magic could save your life or get you killed.

Meet Aina Solís, whose wit is as sharp as her blade.

At twelve years old, Aina Solís was pulled off of the streets she slept on and trained to be one of the most feared assassins in Sumerand, a kingdom founded by immigrants and built by magic—and in recent years transformed by an industrial revolution. When Aina is given the most lucrative and dangerous job of her career—killing a wealthy industrialist named Kouta—she knows it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leave her impoverished roots in her past once-and-for-all: the payout is enough to free her from under her boss Kohl’s thumb. But when the job goes wrong and Kouta escapes, she is left without a penny to her name and in the crosshairs of Kohl, who is eager to show the world what happens to those that fail him.

With Kohl on her heels, Aina is running out of time to find Kouta and finish what she started. But the closer she gets to killing him, the more she begins to ask the questions assassins are never meant to ask: who wants Kouta dead? And why? In a city full of half-constructed subway tunnels, hidden magical dens, secret weapons markets, and wolf-sized spiders, Aina discovers a conspiracy that could rewrite her city’s history and—if it isn’t stopped—sink her country into a catastrophic war.

The Storm of Life by Amy Rose Capetta (ISBN-13: 9780451478474 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 01/28/2020)

The sumptuous and powerful conclusion to the gender-fluid duet begun by The Brilliant Death, hailed in a starred review by Kirkus as “a delicious and magical intrigue too tempting not to devour.”

By turns thrilling, witty, and heartbreaking, this dramatic conclusion to the Brilliant Death duet transports us to a Vinalia on the verge of transformation and radiates with the electric power of love. 

With her power over magic finally in hand, and her love for Cielo at last confessed, Teodora di Sangro should be on top of the world. But the country of Vinalia is in chaos as the dictator like Capo threatens to plunge them all into war and capture every strega in the land—including Teo and Cielo. 

Teo knows she can’t take down the Capo alone. She must convince a small band of streghe who have been hiding in plain sight to join her in the cause. But as she struggles to bring them together, she discovers a far deadlier enemy than the Capo has been hunting her all along. Now everyone—especially Cielo—is in danger. What lengths will Teo go to in order to unite her country and save the one she loves?

Foul Is Fair: A Novel by Hannah Capin (ISBN-13: 9781250239549 Publisher: St. Martin’s Press Publication date: 02/04/2020)

Elle, along with her friends Jenny, Mads, and Summer are the queens of their school. Untouchable, they have the kind of power that others only dream about. No party is closed to them, and the world is at their feet. Until the night of Elle’s birthday, when they crash a St. Andrew’s Prep party, and her life changes.

The lacrosse boys went after the wrong girl.

Elle enrolls at St. Andrew’s Prep as Jade, with revenge on her mind: with the help of her coven, they’ll take down each boy, one by one. They’ll lose their power, and their lives, as the coven destroys the social structure of the school. Elle and her friends will make sure these boys can never go after a girl again, and they have a perfect way in: a boy named Macbeth, whose ambitions could turn deadly.

Foul is Fair is a bloody, thrilling revenge fantasy for the girls who’ve had enough. The boys better watch out, for something wicked this way comes.

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith (ISBN-13: 978-1328841612 Publisher: Clarion Books Publication date: 02/11/2020)

A delightfully creepy novel from a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner imbued with magic and seafaring mythology. Lemony Snicket and Jessica Townsend meet Greenglass House, with a hint of Edward Gorey thrown in.

When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human—and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows. Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?

Another delightfully creepy tale from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award–winning author, Ronald L. Smith.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a Teen tells us what she thinks about Raven, Sweat Pea, Guts and more

The Teen has been read a lot this summer and she’s heart today to share her thoughts with some post it note reviews. She’s brief, concise and to the point. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of me. Because we also talk about the books we read, I sometimes expand on her reviews with some of our follow up conversations.

Publisher’s Book Description

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom—and Raven’s memory—she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past… and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others—and yourself.

Post It Note Review

“Very quick read. Positive message throughout.”

I asked what the positive message was and The Teen said, “You know how Raven’s dad is a demon. Well she doesn’t want to grow up like her dad and the message is that you don’t have to follow in your parents footsteps, that you can be your own person.”

Publisher’s Book Description

A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York 
Times
 bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of 
SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

Post It Note Review

“Shows anxiety very well and supportive family and friends.”

As The Teen herself has an anxiety disorder, it is high praise indeed that she felt that this was a good, honest depiction of anxiety. Thing 2 has also read this book and highly recommends it as well.

Publisher’s Book Description

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice. 

Post It Note Review

“Extremely good & shows how much harassment affects everything.”

When The Teen moved into middle school in the 7th grade, her and her friends really began experiencing a lot of sexual harassment from the boys at school. There were catcalls, swatted behinds and more. When she read the description of this book she told me, “I know this is middle grade and a little young for me, but I really want to read it.” So she did. She said this was a very important and impactful book and she hopes that it is read far and wide.

Publisher’s Book Description

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Post It Note Review

“Super cute and gives a strong message of hope.”

The Teen is a fan of author Julie Murphy so she was pretty happy to read this book. She especially liked how hopeful it was.

Publisher’s Book Description

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway? 

Post It Note Review

“I think this relationship was toxic and harmful but at least it’s LGBTQ+ affirming.”

This is one of several books lately where The Teen has come to me upset because she has felt that the relationship presented in the book is toxic and she just couldn’t route for or buy into the relationship. We talk a lot about toxic relationships vs. healthy relationships and I’m thankful every time that books help us have those conversations. She’s conflicted about this book because she was very happy with how LGBTQIA+ affirming it was but didn’t really like the relationship. All the professional reviews I read mention that both participants often are truthful with each other while holding things back and I think it was this aspect that she struggled with. You can read author Amber Smith’s post Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance here.

Friday Finds: August 9, 2019

This Week at TLT

Post-It Note Reviews: Elementary and middle grade summer reads part 1

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, reviewed by teen reviewer Elliot

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Book Review: You Be You!: The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family by Jonathan Branfman, Julie Benbassat (Illustrator)

Read Wild: Sarah Mulhern Gross Introduces Us to the Concept of Citizen Science

Around the Web

Why does young adult literature hit so hard? Authors A.S. King and Mariama Lockington weigh in

Where Are All the People of Color on Young Adult Book Covers?

Beloved Author Toni Morrison Has Died at 88

Elizabeth Acevedo Bestseller ‘With The Fire On High’ Lands At Picturestart With Movie In Works

In Plain Sight: Supporting Students Who Are Homeless

Coming To America: Our Best Student Podcasts About Immigration

Post-It Note Reviews: Elementary and middle grade summer reads part 1

Here are some quick reviews of a few of the books I’ve read and enjoyed over the past few months.

Post-It Note reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary.

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy: A Graphic Novel: A Modern Retelling of Little Women by Rey Terciero, Bre Indigo (Illustrator)

2018 marks the 150th anniversary of the classic Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Join Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy as they are reenvisioned as a blended family living in modern day NYC in this beautiful, full-color graphic novel that’s perfect for fans of Raina Telemeier’s Smile, Svetlana Chmakova’s Awkward, and Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl

Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are having a really tough year: Not only is their father overseas with the military and their working overtime to make ends meet, but each girl is struggling with her own unique problems. Whether it’s school woes, health issues, boy troubles, or simply feeling lost, the March sisters all need the same thing: support from each other. By coming together–and sharing lots of laughs and tears–these four young women find the courage to discover who they truly are as individuals…and as a family.

Meg is the eldest March. She has a taste for the finer things in life–especially when it comes to clothes and parties–and dreams of marrying rich and leaving her five-floor walk-up apartment behind.

Jo pushes her siblings to be true to themselves, yet feels like no one will accept her for who she truly is. Her passion for writing gives her an outlet to feel worthy in the eyes of her friends and family.

Beth is the timid sister with a voice begging to be heard. Guitar in hand, her courage inspires her siblings to seize the day and not take life for granted.

Amy may be the baby of the family, but she has the biggest personality. Though she loves to fight with her sisters, her tough exterior protects a vulnerable heart that worries about her family’s future.

(POST-IT SAYS: Readers don’t need to know the original story to be able to enjoy this modern retelling. The strong, spirited March sisters shine in this story of acceptance, resilience, ambition, justice, and love. The appealing art will make readers grab this off the shelf. Ages 9-13)

Sal and Gabi Break the Universe (Sal and Gabi Series #1) by Carlos Hernandez

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence that poses this question: What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker?

When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared. 
Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken—including his dead mother—and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.


A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

(POST-IT SAYS: A wild sci-fi adventure full of diverse characters, magic, humor, weirdness, Spanish, multiverses, and interdimensional chickens. This completely wacky, fun book features mostly Cuban-American characters. Ages 10-14)

The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.

But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?

A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.

(Post-It says: Stunning, gorgeous, and unique. A moving exploration of self, identity, ceremony, and culture. Authentic and moving, this quietly powerful book should be in all collections for ages 9-12.)

The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu

Anne Ursu, author of the National Book Award nominee The Real Boy, returns with a story of the power of fantasy, the limits of love, and the struggles inherent in growing up.

When you’re an identical twinyour story always starts with someone else. For Iris, that means her story starts with Lark.

Iris has always been the grounded, capable, and rational one; Lark has been inventive, dreamy, and brilliant—and from their first moments in the world together, they’ve never left each other’s side. Everyone around them realized early on what the two sisters already knew: they had better outcomes when they were together.

When fifth grade arrives, however, it’s decided that Iris and Lark should be split into different classrooms, and something breaks in them both.

Iris is no longer so confident; Lark retreats into herself as she deals with challenges at school. And at the same time, something strange is happening in the city around them, things both great and small going missing without a trace.

As Iris begins to understand that anything can be lost in the blink of an eye, she decides it’s up to her to find a way to keep her sister safe.

(POST-IT SAYS: An extremely satisfying read about magic, monsters, empowerment, feminism, independence, and mystery. Great world-building. I want to join their Awesome girl gang and defeat the monsters (and the patriarchy!). Ages 8-12)

Dissenter on the Bench: Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s Life and Work by Victoria Ortiz

The life and career of the fiercely principled Supreme Court Justice, now a popular icon, with dramatic accounts of her landmark cases that moved the needle on legal protection of human rights, illustrated with b/w archival photographs.

Dramatically narrated case histories from Justice Ginsburg’s stellar career are interwoven with an account of RBG’s life—childhood, family, beliefs, education, marriage, legal and judicial career, children, and achievements—and her many-faceted personality is captured. The cases described, many involving young people, demonstrate her passionate concern for gender equality, fairness, and our constitutional rights. Notes, bibliography, index.

(POST-IT SAYS: While I get why most chapters start with cases involving teens/important court cases, I really wanted a more straightforward biography. That quibble aside, this is a solid introduction to RBG and her history of questioning systems and pursuing equality. Ages 12+)

Apocalypse Taco by Nathan Hale

Sid, Axl, and Ivan volunteer to make a late-night fast-food run for the high school theater crew, and when they return, they find themselves. Not in a deep, metaphoric sense: They find copies of themselves onstage. As they look closer, they begin to realize that the world around them isn’t quite right. Turns out, when they went to the taco place across town, they actually crossed into an alien dimension that’s eerily similar to their world. The aliens have made sinister copies of cars, buildings, and people—and they all want to get Sid, Axl, and Ivan. Now the group will have to use their wits, their truck, and even their windshield scraper to escape! But they may be too late. They may now be copies themselves . . .

(POST-IT SAYS: Delightfully weird, this creepy and unsettling look at bioengineering gone very wrong will appeal to readers who like truly strange stories. Ages 9-13)

Aru Shah and the Song of Death by Roshani Chokshi

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents best-selling author Roshani Chokshi and her sequel to Aru Shah and the End of Time. Aru is only just getting the hang of this whole Pandava thing when the Otherworld goes into full panic mode. The god of love’s bow and arrow have gone missing, and the thief isn’t playing Cupid. Instead, they’re turning people into heartless fighting-machine zombies. If that weren’t bad enough, somehow Aru gets framed as the thief. If she doesn’t find the arrow by the next full moon, she’ll be kicked out of the Otherworld. For good. But, for better or worse, she won’t be going it alone. Along with her soul-sister, Mini, Aru will team up with Brynne, an ultra-strong girl who knows more than she lets on, and Aiden, the boy who lives across the street and is also hiding plenty of secrets. Together they’ll battle demons, travel through a glittering and dangerous serpent realm, and discover that their enemy isn’t at all who they expected.

(POST-IT SAYS: Book #2 in the Pandava Quartet. A great fast-paced quest. This solid fantasy also has lots of humor. I’m not much of a fantasy reader, but I find these so fun. Diversify your fantasy collection! Ages 9-12)

Just Jaime by Terri Libenson

Another spot-on story of middle school drama and friendship from Terri Libenson, national bestselling author of Invisible Emmie and Positively Izzy.

Friends. Frenemies. Middle school…

The last day of seventh grade has Jaime and Maya wondering who their real friends are.

Jaime knows something is off with her friend group. They’ve started to exclude her and make fun of the way she dresses and the things she likes. At least she can count on her BFF, Maya, to have her back . . . right?

Maya feels more and more annoyed with Jaime, who seems babyish compared to the other girls in their popular group. It’s like she has nothing in common with Jai anymore. Are their days as BFFs numbered . . . ?

Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Jennifer L. Holm.

(POST-IT SAYS: The first two books by this author are VERY popular at my school. Fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends will especially like this look at middle school drama and fickle friends. An ultimately hopeful reassurance about finding your people. Ages 8-12)

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai

A poignant, laugh-out-loud illustrated middle-grade novel about an eleven-year-old boy’s immigration experience, his annoying little brother, and their cake-baking hijinks!

An Amazon Best Book of the Month and recipient of FIVE starred reviews!

“Pie in the Sky is like enjoying a decadent cake . . . heartwarming and rib-tickling.” —Terri Libenson, bestselling author of Invisible Emmie

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 from the loneliness, 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. The only problem is 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.

In her hilarious, moving middle-grade debut, Remy Lai delivers a scrumptious combination of vibrant graphic art and pitch-perfect writing that will appeal to fans of Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham’s Real Friends, Kelly Yang’s Front Desk, and Jerry Craft’s New Kid.

(POST-IT SAYS: Much to love here. Set in Australia, this illustrated novel looks at family, grief, and assimilation through a heartfelt, sometimes humorous, cake-filled lens. Really great. Ages 9-13)

The Good Boy Squad posing with Pie in the Sky. They’re glad it’s summer and I’m home all the time. Nothing they like more than when I sit down to read!

Good Enough: A Novel by Jen Petro-Roy

A young girl with an eating disorder must find the strength to recover in this moving middle-grade novel from Jen Petro-Roy

Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend.

But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she’s receiving treatment for anorexia, it’s easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family’s trust.

If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover. Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up.

But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley’s old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does “recover,” there’s no way she’ll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister.

Written by an eating disorder survivor and activist, Good Enough is a realistic depiction of inpatient eating disorder treatment, and a moving story about a girl who has to fight herself to survive.

(POST-IT SAYS: A valuable and intense story of eating disorders, triggers, treatment, and recovery. Petro-Roy brings compassion and authenticity to Riley’s story. Though sometimes hard to read, this hopeful story is important. Ages 9-13)

Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson

From Newbery Honor- and Coretta Scott King Author Award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Renée Watson comes a heartwarming and inspiring middle-grade novel about finding deep roots and exploring the past, the present, and the places that make us who we are.

All Amara wants for her birthday is to visit her father’s family in New York City—Harlem, to be exact. She can’t wait to finally meet her Grandpa Earl and cousins in person, and to stay in the brownstone where her father grew up. Maybe this will help her understand her family—and herself—in new way.

But New York City is not exactly what Amara thought it would be. It’s crowded, with confusing subways, suffocating sidewalks, and her father is too busy with work to spend time with her and too angry to spend time with Grandpa Earl. As she explores, asks questions, and learns more and more about Harlem and about her father and his family history, she realizes how, in some ways more than others, she connects with him, her home, and her family.

(POST-IT SAYS: Renee Watson never disappoints. Amara’s exploration of New York, family, and African American history is really beautiful and full of pride and love. Though a bit slow to start, readers will enjoy Amara’s journey. Ages 9-12)

It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity by Theresa Thorn, Noah Grigni (Illustrator)

A picture book that introduces the concept of gender identity to the youngest reader from writer Theresa Thorn and illustrator Noah Grigni.

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.

This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others. With child-friendly language and vibrant art, It Feels Good to Be Yourself provides young readers and parents alike with the vocabulary to discuss this important topic with sensitivity.

(POST-IT SAYS: What a lovely, affirming, important book. Author has a trans kiddo and illustrator is non-binary trans. Includes a glossary, resources, and a note about pronouns. A joyful, loving look at how expansive gender is. Ages 4+)

The Crossover (Graphic Novel) by Kwame Alexander, Dawud Anyabwile (Illustrator)

Kwame Alexander’s NYT Bestseller and Newbery Medal winning The Crossover is vividly brought to life as a graphic novel with stunning illustrations by star talent Dawud Anyabwile. 

New York Timesbestseller · Newbery Medal Winner · Coretta Scott King Honor Award · 2015 YALSA 2015 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults · 2015 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers · Publishers Weekly Best Book · School Library Journal Best Book · Kirkus Best Book

“A beautifully measured novel of life and line.”The New York Times Book Review

The Crossover is now a graphic novel!

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . . The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. ’Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” raps twelve-year-old Josh Bell. Thanks to their dad, he and his twin brother, Jordan, are kings on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood—he’s got mad beats, too, which help him find his rhythm when it’s all on the line.

See the Bell family in a whole new light through Dawud Anyabwile’s dynamic illustrations as the brothers’ winning season unfolds, and the world as they know it begins to change.

(POST-IT SAYS: This fantastic novel is made even better as a graphic novel. Alexander’s dynamic verse is enhanced by the sprawling, lively art that conveys so many emotions. Will fly off the shelves. Ages 9-13)

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson, reviewed by teen reviewer Elliot

In the first day at his new school, Leo Denton has one goal: to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in his class is definitely not part of that plan- especially because Leo is a trans guy and isn’t out at his new school. Then Leo stands up for a classmate in a fight and they become friends. With Leo’s help and support, the classmate, who is a trans girl, prepares to come out and transition- and to find a new name, Kate. Though Kate and Leo are surrounded by bigots, they have each other, and they have hope in the future.


Elliot’s Thoughts

As someone with a trans experience I was delighted to find a book that followed the journey of not one, but two trans individuals. However, as I delved into this book I quickly realized that the trans representation seemed to be very cliche’ and it was difficult for me to be transported to another world because, for me, this book just seemed like fiction rather than a world that I could escape to.

To start, the characters in this book were not very fleshed out. Most of the characters did not have any backstory and thus lead to them being more like characters than actual people. Even Leo, the character who got the most of a background, still seemed to not be very connected to his past despite being driven by it. 

Characters were often introduced merely as plot devices rather than being used as actual people with connections to others in the story. One of the best examples of this is with Leo’s twin sister, Amber, and his younger sister, Tia. Both of his sisters are mentioned multiple times throughout the novel, but we never learn much about them, their personality, or their relationship to the other characters in the story.

My next biggest problem is how Kate’s identity was explored throughout the novel. The POV rotated between being from Leo’s POV and Kate’s POV and with each rotation, the title of the chapter was labeled as the character’s name to clarify who’s POV the audience was reading. However, instead of titling the chapters from Kate’s POV as “Kate,” author Lisa Williamson titled them as Kate’s birth name, “David.” Perhaps this was because Kate was not out about her gender identity and Williamson just wanted that to be clear to the audience, but to me it just seemed like sloppy trans representation especially because even after Kate came out, her chapters were still labeled as “David.”

One of my last major complaints is that the biggest turning point in the novel was completely spoiled for me…from the description that Williamson gave on the back of the book! Throughout the first half of the novel it is never mentioned that Leo is trans. He blends in and acts just like everybody else until he hooks up with a girl and has to reveal his identity before things get too intimate. If the back of the novel had not already told me that Leo was trans, I would have never suspected a thing and I would have been very pleasantly surprised at this point of the story, but, unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy the reveal and it made me feel disconnected with such an intimate part of Leo’s story arch.

Now that I’ve spent a lot of time harping on this novel, I’d like to take a second to express the things that I DID enjoy about Williamson’s novel. 

From the very beginning of the novel, Williamson made Leo a very mysterious character. His father left when he was a kid and he had a really dark history at his old school which, although he purposefully never talks about that experience, is the reason for his transfer to his new school. This mystery of what happened at Leo’s old school was one of the few things that made me want to keep reading. I wanted to know about Leo’s past- why his father left, where his father went, what happened at his old school, and why Leo is such a hard-shelled person. 

Williamson provided a similar scenario that needed to be answered about Kate’s life. From the very first chapter we learn about Kate’s trans identity and how she has been aware of her identity ever since she was a child. However, Kate never came out to anybody except for her two best friends, Felix and Essie. This leaves us wondering if she’s ever going to come out to her family and how that will change her experience at school and her relationship with her parents. These unanswered questions following Leo and Kate were what kept me reading until the very end, so I have to applaud Williamson for keeping the book interesting. 

In conclusion, I would give Williamson’s The Art of Being Normal a 2 out of 5 stars. It was interesting enough to keep me reading until the very end and I felt somewhat satisfied when I finished. However, there were so many things that I think could have been done better. I appreciate being able to read a story about trans individuals, but I think I set my expectations a little too high. Overall, this novel was good for exposure, and a good place for people to be introduced into the experiences of those with a trans identity; however, I hope that after someone reads this, that they don’t expect Leo and Kate’s stories to represent the whole trans community.

Cindy Crushes Programming: Star Wars Escape Room

Today YA Librarian Cindy Shutts is walking us through her Star Wars themed Escape Room.

To learn more about the basics of hosting an Escape Room, please check out Breakout Edu as they have basic kits that you can use as a foundation. You can also read a couple of previous posts on Escape Rooms here at TLT:

TPiB: Build an Escape Room by Michelle Biwer – Teen Librarian Toolbox

TPiB: Locked in the Library! Hosting an Escape Room by Heather Booth

Cindy Crushes Programming: Hosting a Stranger Things Escape Room

Basic program premise . . .

Your teens will be “locked” in the library and in order to escape, they must unravel a mystery, find the secret codes, and “unlock” the boxes to survive or meet your end goal. Most escape rooms give participants an hour to escape.

Plot: Your planet is about to be exploded by the Death Star. You have 45 minutes to find the key to the escape pod. Use the Force to uncover the clues that will lead you to safety.

Supplies: 

  • You could use the Breakout Edu Kit
  • 4 digit lock
  • 3 digit lock
  • Word lock
  •  Key lock and key
  • Two lock boxes
  • Directional lock
  • Note  ”Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hour or the planet will be destroyed”
  • Note with Riddle
  • Porg
  • Four
  • 4 Wookies with numbers
  • Star Wars planet map printed out from internet
  • Various space and Star Wars props
  • Skelton key labeled escape pod

Room and lock set up

Word lock: Siren.

I will have a riddle “what warns of danger but also can lead to the death of sailors?” Lock on big box. See supplemental materials below.

4 Digit lock: I will hide four Wookies that all have different numbers on them in the room. The number will be 0132. Lock on big box.

3 Digit lock:  I will make a note that says “A space ship enters warp speed and is going 3 times the speed of light 299 792 458 meters per second 3(299792458). How many meters does it go in one second and what are the last three digits of the number”?  899,188,374 (374)

Key lock: Key will be placed place in the big box. Lock will be placed on the small lockbox.  Skelton key labeled escape pods will be placed in small lockbox.

Red Herring: Will be various props and the note that says, “Rebels must surrender by 12:00 hours or the planet will be destroyed”

Directional lock: “S.O. S. This is Rebel Leader Gyn. I am on planet Mooja. We received a message from Arbra that a message from Hok has been received that Javin is in danger from the Deathstar. Evacuation needs help! Anyone who hears this message needs to help the people of Javin!”  Note will correspond with map of Star Wars planets. The combination is Up Down Right Left. Lock on big box.

Final Thoughts: This was a fun adventure! The teens thought it was way harder than the last Escape Room and in fact only got the Escape Room done with less than 30 seconds to go.

Supplemental Notes and Materials

Book Review: You Be You!: The Kid’s Guide to Gender, Sexuality, and Family by Jonathan Branfman, Julie Benbassat (Illustrator)

When I’m reviewing books for professional publications, I stay quiet about them on social media. I’m always really excited once a review comes out to be able to talk about the book, finally! Here’s one of my most recent reviews, which originally appeared in an issue of School Library Journal

Gr 3–6—This conversational primer on gender, sexuality, and family supports and affirms all identities, urging readers to see and value all human experiences. The author posits that the narrow and conventional ideas many children are taught—born a boy or girl, marry someone of the “opposite” sex, have children, conform to gender roles—are untrue, and “that’s great news!” Instead, a world of possibility is open to all children. Full of joyful, bright, comic-style illustrations, this brief guide touches on assigned sexes, people who are intersex, stereotypes, and gender identity. The author clarifies that marriage and children are a choice, not an expectation, and explains discrimination (looking specifically at sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and biphobia), privilege, intersectionality, and what it means to be an ally. Readers learn definitions for identities and orientations like genderqueer, nonbinary, gender-fluid, transgender, cisgender, asexual, aromantic, bisexual, and pansexual. This supportive, educational look at identities offers constant reminders that no matter your chosen identity, whoever you love is great. A varied depiction of ethnicities, races, abilities, ages, and body shapes are shown in the vibrant illustrations. This guide could easily be read together with younger readers; certainly many older readers, including adults, could benefit from this quick and easy look at acceptance. 

VERDICT This inclusive and respectful guide should be part of all curricula about family, gender, and sexuality. Short, accessible, and important.

ISBN-13: 9781787750104
Publisher: Kingsley, Jessica Publishers
Publication date: 07/18/2019