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Post-it Note Reviews of Elementary and Middle Grade Books

IMG_3631Now that I work in an elementary library, I’m reading a lot more titles for younger readers. It’s been super interesting to me to see what the students (grades K-5) check out. I’ve spent so long completely in the world of YA and am glad for an opportunity to work with younger readers and to read all of the great picture books, chapter books, and middle grade books I’ve missed out on!

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.

 

 

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Positively Izzy by Terri Libenson

Award-winning comics creator and author of the bestselling Invisible Emmie Terri Libenson returns with a companion graphic novel that captures the drama, angst, and humor of middle-school life. Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

Middle school is all about labels.

Izzy is the dreamer. There’s nothing Izzy loves more than acting in skits and making up funny stories. The downside? She can never quite focus enough to get her schoolwork done.

Bri is the brain. But she wants people to see there’s more to her than just a report card full of As. At the same time, she wishes her mom would accept her the way she is and stop bugging her to “break out of her shell” and join drama club.

The girls’ lives converge in unexpected ways on the day of a school talent show, which turns out to be even more dramatic than either Bri or Izzy could have imagined.

(POST-IT SAYS: Kids are hungry for graphic novels, so this will circulate well despite its somewhat lackluster intertwining of story lines. I didn’t see the twist coming and wonder if some readers will even understand it. Good messages, uneven book. Ages 9-13)

 

 

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No Fixed Address by Susin Nielsen

For fans of Wendelin van Draanen and Cynthia Lord, a touching and funny middle-grade story about family, friendship, and growing up when you’re one step away from homelessness.

Twelve-and-three-quarter-year-old Felix Knutsson has a knack for trivia. His favorite game show is Who What Where When; he even named his gerbil after the host. Felix’s mom, Astrid, is loving but can’t seem to hold on to a job. So when they get evicted from their latest shabby apartment, they have to move into a van. Astrid swears him to secrecy; he can’t tell anyone about their living arrangement, not even Dylan and Winnie, his best friends at his new school. If he does, she warns him, he’ll be taken away from her and put in foster care.

As their circumstances go from bad to worse, Felix gets a chance to audition for a junior edition of Who What Where When, and he’s determined to earn a spot on the show. Winning the cash prize could make everything okay again. But things don’t turn out the way he expects. . . .

Susin Nielsen deftly combines humor, heartbreak, and hope in this moving story about people who slip through the cracks in society, and about the power of friendship and community to make all the difference.

(POST-IT SAYS: An outstanding book. This look into how easily homelessness can happen will be revelatory to many. A deeply empathetic story, this book deserves a wide readership because of its message and its solid, engaging writing. Ages 10-14)

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Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Marjorie Glatt feels like a ghost. A practical thirteen-year-old in charge of the family laundry business, her daily routine features unforgiving customers, unbearable P.E. classes, and the fastidious Mr. Saubertuck who is committed to destroying everything she’s worked for.

Wendell is a ghost. A boy who lost his life much too young, his daily routine features ineffective death therapy, a sheet-dependent identity, and a dangerous need to seek purpose in the forbidden human world.

When their worlds collide, Marjorie is confronted by unexplainable disasters as Wendell transforms Glatt’s Laundry into his midnight playground, appearing as a mere sheet during the day.
While Wendell attempts to create a new afterlife for himself, he unknowingly sabotages the life that Marjorie is struggling to maintain.

Sheets illustrates the determination of a young girl to fight, even when all parts of her world seem to be conspiring against her. It proves that second chances are possible whether life feels over or life is over. But above all, it is a story of the forgiveness and unlikely friendship that can only transpire inside a haunted laundromat.

(POST-IT SAYS: An almost unrelentingly sad look at loss, grief, responsibility, and death. Marjorie’s mom is dead, her dad is depressed (and doing zero parenting), and her only interactions are with a ghost. I really liked this, but it’s sad and slow. Ages 10-13)

 

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Dactyl Hill Squad (Dactyl Hill Squad Series #1) by Daniel José Older

It’s 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker.

Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community–a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it’s too late?

(POST-IT SAYS: Alt-history with dinosaurs? Yes, please. An awesomely unique adventure that examines racism, slavery, and the Civil War era. Action-packed and full of great characters. Ages 9-13)

 

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Courage by Barbara Binns

For fans of Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander, a poignant and timely novel about race, class, and second chances.

Ever since T’Shawn’s dad died, his mother has been struggling to keep the family afloat. So when he’s offered a spot on a prestigious diving team at the local private swim club, he knows that joining would only add another bill to the pile.

But T studies hard and never gets into trouble, so he thinks his mom might be willing to bear the cost… until he finds out that his older brother, Lamont, is getting released early from prison.

Luckily, T’Shawn is given a scholarship, and he can put all his frustration into diving practices. But when criminal activity increases in the neighborhood and people begin to suspect Lamont, T’Shawn begins to worry that maybe his brother hasn’t left his criminal past behind after all.

And he struggles to hold on to the hope that they can put the broken pieces of their damaged relationship back together.

(POST-IT SAYS: Though a bit too long with an ending that’s too cheerful and tidy, overall this is a complex and emotional look at trauma, gangs, racism, policing, and second chances. Tension-filled with lots to discuss. Ages 10-14)

 

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Lu by Jason Reynolds

Lu must learn to leave his ego on the sidelines if he wants to finally connect with others in the climax to the New York Times bestselling and award-winning Track series from Jason Reynolds. 

Lu was born to be cocaptain of the Defenders. Well, actually, he was born albino, but that’s got nothing to do with being a track star. Lu has swagger, plus the talent to back it up, and with all that—not to mention the gold chains and diamond earrings—no one’s gonna outshine him.

Lu knows he can lead Ghost, Patina, Sunny, and the team to victory at the championships, but it might not be as easy as it seems. Suddenly, there are hurdles in Lu’s way—literally and not-so-literally—and Lu needs to figure out, fast, what winning the gold really means.

Expect the unexpected in this final event in Jason Reynold’s award-winning and bestselling Track series.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful and inspiring end to this series. Plenty of good messages (that don’t feel heavy-handed) about integrity, community, and healing. This whole series has wide appeal. Satisfying conclusion to a great series. Ages 10-14)

 

 

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Lucky Luna by Diana Lopez

Luna Ramos has too many primas to count, but there’s one cousin that’s always getting her into trouble, Claudia. After locking her in the bathroom at their other cousin’s quinceañera, Luna is grounded for a month. Her punishment? Not being allowed to wear her signature hats, which she uses to hide her birthmark, a streak of white in her otherwise dark hair. The only thing that gives Luna the tiniest bit of satisfaction is knowing that Claudia is also being teased because she has a big nose.

Eventually, Luna discovers that Claudia was not being teased after all. Every joke Luna heard was actually directed at her! Luckily, Claudia comes to her rescue, standing up for Luna by telling the other kids to leave her alone. That’s when Luna realizes the true meaning of her grandmother’s wise advice — “blood is thicker than water.” She and Claudia may not like each other, but they are still primas. And it’s the job of primas to stand up for each other.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: Notable particularly because of the focus on relationships with cousins (as friends, enemies, gossips, and defenders). A fun look at a large Latinx family. Realistically flawed Luna learns important lessons about family. Ages 9-12)

 

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Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi, Hatem Aly

Meet Yasmin! Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn’t get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.

(POST-IT SAYS: Four brief stories make up this first installment about curious and spirited Yasmin. The charming art will draw in readers. Backmatter includes Urdu words, facts about Pakistan, and more. Ages 5-8)

 

 

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Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome

In this poignant story eleven-year-old Langston overcomes bullies and loneliness, discovers the public library and the poet Langston Hughes, and makes a new home his own.

Langston’s mother has just died when he and his father leave rural Alabama to make a new home in Chicago’s South Side of the 1940s. It’s lonely in the small apartment with just his father and at school he’s bullied.

But Langston’s new home has one fantastic thing. Unlike the whites-only library in Alabama, the Chicago Public Library welcomes everyone. There, hiding out after school, Langston discovers another Langston, a poet whom he learns inspired his mother enough to name her only son after him.

A moving story of one boy’s experiences during the Great Migration.

 

(POST-IT SAYS: A quick but deep read about grief, identity, and the power of books and libraries. Beautiful and poignant, this book is as hopeful as it is sad and bittersweet. Ages 9-13)

 

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Crush (Berrybrook Middle School Series #3) by Svetlana Chmakova

Following the overwhelming success of AWKWARD and BRAVE, Svetlana Chmakova’s award winning Berrybrook Middle School series continues with its next installment – CRUSH!

Jorge seems to have it all together. He’s big enough that nobody really messes with him, but he’s also a genuinely sweet guy with a solid, reliable group of friends. The only time he ever really feels off his game is when he crosses paths with a certain girl… But when the group dynamic among the boys starts to shift, will Jorge be able to balance what his friends expect of him versus what he actually wants?

(POST-IT SAYS: This is about so much more than just a crush. It’s about friendship, gossip, popularity, and figure out how to not be a bystander to wrongdoings. Jorge is a really good dude. All three books in this series are excellent. Ages 10-14)

 

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