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Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

Three months off for summer vacation meant I got a lot of reading done. Here are some quick looks at books I read for younger readers. I’m excited to head back to the elementary school library in a few days and share many of these titles with the students and see what everyone read and enjoyed over the summer!

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

 

 

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The Thing about Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Now available in paperback, this 2015 National Book Award finalist and instant New York Times bestseller is a stunning debut novel about grief and wonder.

Everyone says that it was an accident… that sometimes things “just happen”. But Suzy won’t believe it. Ever. After her best friend dies in a drowning accident, Suzy is convinced that the true cause of the tragedy was a rare jellyfish sting. Retreating into a silent world of imagination, she crafts a plan to prove her theory—even if it means traveling the globe, alone. Suzy’s achingly heartfelt journey explores life, death, the astonishing wonder of the universe…and the potential for love and hope right next door.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: A moving examination of grief, loss, friendship, and healing. Zu’s scientific approach to this loss is compelling, especially as we watch her retreat further from reality and deeper into her theory. Well-written and emotional. Ages 10-13)

 

 

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Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Sixth grade was SO much easier for Danielle. All her friends were in the same room and she knew what to expect from her life. But now that she’s in seventh grade, she’s in a new middle school, her friends are in different classes and forming new cliques, and she is completely lost.

When Danielle inherits a magical sketchbook from her eccentric great aunt Elma, she draws Madison, an ideal best friend that springs to life right off the page! But even when you create a best friend, it’s not easy navigating the ups and downs of relationships, and before long Danielle and Madison are not exactly seeing eye-to-eye.

To make matters worse, Danielle has drawn the head of her favorite (and totally misunderstood) cartoon villain, Prince Neptune. He’s also come to life and is giving her terrible advice about how to make people like her. When she rejects him and he goes on a rampage during a school pep rally, Danielle and Madison have to set aside their differences to stop him!

 

(POST-IT SAYS: LOVE! This will fly off the shelf. Wide appeal and will be an instant hit for Telgemeier fans. Dany’s problems are ones many kids will relate to. The fantasy element is great and fun. Ages 9-13)

 

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Two Dogs in a Trench Coat Go to School, Book 1 by Julie Falatko, Colin Jack

Sassy and Waldo are good dogs. They spend the day keeping their house safe. Has a squirrel ever gotten inside? No! But every day their boy, Stewart, comes home from this terrible place called school smelling like anxiety and looseleaf paper.

Sassy and Waldo decide to save Stewart. But they don’t let dogs into school. So Sassy and Waldo decide to get creative. They put on an old trench coat, and now everyone at Bea Arthur Elementary thinks they are a new student named Salty from Liver, Ohio. Well, everyone except Stewart.

Sassy and Waldo love school! Everything smells like meat and dirty socks. And they discover a whole other way to help out Stewart!

 

(POST-IT SAYS: So silly and fun. Short chapters, dynamic and cartoonish illustrations, and bolded words/sentences will make this appeal to even reluctant readers. A clever and goofy story. Ages 7-10)

 

 

 

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Love Double Dutch! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly

From the creator of the popular Disney Channel original movie, Jump In! comes a double Dutch novel perfect for fans of stories about sports, summer, and friendship.

Brooklyn middle-schooler MaKayla can only think about one thing–taking her double Dutch team all the way to the National Jump-off at Madison Square Garden. That is, until her mother breaks the news. Kayla has to spend the summer at her aunt’s house in North Carolina while her parents work out their problems . . . or decide to call it quits.

Kayla does not feel at home in the South, and she certainly doesn’t get along with her snooty cousin Sally. It looks like her Jump-off dreams are over.

Hold the phone! Turns out, double Dutch is huge in the South. She and Sally just need to find two more kids for a team. And a routine. And the confidence to stand up to the double Dutch divas who used to be Sally’s BFFs. Time to show those Southern belles some Brooklyn attitude!

 

(POST-IT SAYS: A fun, fast read with a small plot—get to the National Jump-Off competition. Lots of little obstacles to overcome keep it interesting. A good look at friendship, teamwork, and a competitive sport we don’t see much of in fiction. Ages 10-13)

 

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The Science of Breakable Things by Tae Keller

An emotionally-charged new classic about the science of hope, love, and miracles! Natalie’s uplifting story of using the scientific process to “save” her mother from depression is sure to take root in readers’ hearts!

How do you grow a miracle? 
For the record, this is not the question Mr. Neely is looking for when he says everyone in class must answer an important question using the scientific process. But Natalie’s botanist mother is suffering from depression, so this is The Question that’s important to Natalie. When Mr. Neely suggests that she enter an egg drop competition, Natalie has hope.

Eggs are breakable. Hope is not.
Natalie has a secret plan for the prize money. She’s going to fly her mother to see the Cobalt Blue Orchids–flowers that survive against impossible odds. The magical flowers are sure to inspire her mother to love life again. As Natalie prepares for the competition, she will discover that talking about problems is like taking a plant out of a dark cupboard and giving it light.

An extraordinary debut about the coming-of-age moment when kids realize that parents are people, too. Think THE FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH meets THE THING ABOUT JELLYFISH.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Alert! A middle grade book that deals with mental health! Compassionate and moving look at families, support, therapy, and the ways depression can affect a family. As hopeful as it is heartbreaking. Ages 10-14)

 

 

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Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin

Fans of The Thing About Jellyfish and A Snicker of Magic will be swept away by Cindy Baldwin’s debut middle grade about a girl coming to terms with her mother’s mental illness.

When twelve-year-old Della Kelly finds her mother furiously digging black seeds from a watermelon in the middle of the night and talking to people who aren’t there, Della worries that it’s happening again—that the sickness that put her mama in the hospital four years ago is back. That her mama is going to be hospitalized for months like she was last time.

With her daddy struggling to save the farm and her mama in denial about what’s happening, it’s up to Della to heal her mama for good. And she knows just how she’ll do it: with a jar of the Bee Lady’s magic honey, which has mended the wounds and woes of Maryville, North Carolina, for generations.

But when the Bee Lady says that the solution might have less to do with fixing Mama’s brain and more to do with healing her own heart, Della must learn that love means accepting her mama just as she is.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Unbeknownst to her family, Della’s mom has stopped taking her schizophrenia meds. Della feels responsible for her mom’s illness and for finding a cure. A quiet and empathetic look at how mental illness can affect a family. A supportive community helps Della through this hard time. Ages 10-13)

 

 

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The Jigsaw Jungle by Kristin Levine

A mysterious treasure hunt helps to heal a broken family in critically acclaimed author Kristin Levine’s first contemporary tale—perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Jennifer L. Holm

Claudia Dalton’s father has disappeared. What began as a late night at work has spiraled into a missing persons case—one that’s left twelve-year-old Claudia questioning everything she’s ever known about her father and their family.

But when she finally gets word from her dad, it turns out he isn’t missing at all. He’s just gone to “think things over” and visit an old friend, whatever that means. Feeling confused and helpless, Claudia starts to assemble a scrapbook, gathering emails, receipts, phone transcripts and more, all in a desperate attempt to figure out what’s happening with her dad. Claudia’s investigation deepens at her grandfather’s house, where she receives an envelope containing a puzzle piece and a cryptic message.

It’s this curious first clue that sets Claudia on an unexpected treasure hunt that she hopes will bring her dad home and heal whatever’s gone wrong with her family. Told through the pages of Claudia’s scrapbook, The Jigsaw Jungle is a moving story of a family lost and then found, with a dash of mystery and loads of heart, from award-winning author and middle-grade master Kristin Levine.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Interesting format with texts, emails, video transcripts, receipts, etc. The story behind the mystery is a complex one of identity and sexuality. Strong characters carry the story. A thoughtful look at family relationships and truth. Ages 10-13)

 

 

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The House That Lou Built by Mae Respicio

A coming-of-age story that explores culture and family, forgiveness and friendship, and what makes a true home. Perfect for fans of Wendy Mass and Joan Bauer.

Lou Bulosan-Nelson has the ultimate summer DIY project. She’s going to build her own “tiny house,” 100 square feet all her own. She shares a room with her mom in her grandmother’s house, and longs for a place where she can escape her crazy but lovable extended Filipino family. Lou enjoys her woodshop class and creating projects, and she plans to build the house on land she inherited from her dad, who died before she was born. But then she finds out that the land may not be hers for much longer.

Lou discovers it’s not easy to save her land, or to build a house. But she won’t give up; with the help of friends and relatives, her dream begins to take shape, and she learns the deeper meaning of home and family.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Wonderful look at community and culture. Filipino American Lou has a real talent for carpentry, design, and architecture. Lou is spirited, filled with determination and heart. Unique read. Ages 9-13)

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  1. […] book recommendations, professional development, resources, discussions and more. A post titled, Post-it Note Reviews, discusses a personal way to recommend books to elementary and middle grade […]

  2. […] novel LOVE DOUBLE DUTCH! by Doreen Spicer-Dannelly got a fun Post-It Note review on Teen Librarian Toolbox: “A fun, fast read with a small plot—get to the National Jump-Off competition. Lots of […]

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