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Post-It Reviews: Some ghosts, a guide to critical thinking, folktales, Chernobyl, and more

I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. My standard line here is, “Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.” Being home for like 7 weeks now has proven that even with more free time, I still barely make a dent in all the things I really want to read.

Back in the “before,” when I left my house, went to work each day, and circulated in the world, I read just about every free second I had—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I was walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing.

I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. It’s 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 descriptions from the publishers. Post-it note review follows the description.

Nat Enough by Maria Scrivan

Making friends isn’t easy, but losing them is even harder!

Natalie has never felt that she’s enough — athletic enough, stylish enough, or talented enough. And on the first day of middle school, Natalie discovers that things are worse than she thought — now she’s not even cool enough for her best friend, Lily! As Natalie tries to get her best friend back, she learns more about her true self and natural talents. If Natalie can focus on who she is rather than who she isn’t, then she might realize she’s more than enough, just the way she is.

(POST-IT SAYS: Add this to your library or classroom—all who love Telgemeier, Jamieson, Hale, Liberson, etc will eat this up. There can never be too many graphic novels or books about friendship! A satisfying read. Ages 8-12)

The Forgotten Girl by India Hill Brown

“This ghost story gave me chill after chill. It will haunt you.” — R.L. Stine, author of Goosebumps

“Do you know what it feels like to be forgotten?”

On a cold winter night, Iris and her best friend, Daniel, sneak into a clearing in the woods to play in the freshly fallen snow. There, Iris carefully makes a perfect snow angel — only to find the crumbling gravestone of a young girl, Avery Moore, right beneath her.

Immediately, strange things start to happen to Iris: She begins having vivid nightmares. She wakes up to find her bedroom window wide open, letting in the snow. She thinks she sees the shadow of a girl lurking in the woods. And she feels the pull of the abandoned grave, calling her back to the clearing…

Obsessed with figuring out what’s going on, Iris and Daniel start to research the area for a school project. They discover that Avery’s grave is actually part of a neglected and forgotten Black cemetery, dating back to a time when White and Black people were kept separate in life — and in death. As Iris and Daniel learn more about their town’s past, they become determined to restore Avery’s grave and finally have proper respect paid to Avery and the others buried there.

But they have awakened a jealous and demanding ghost, one that’s not satisfied with their plans for getting recognition. One that is searching for a best friend forever — no matter what the cost.

The Forgotten Girl is both a spooky original ghost story and a timely and important storyline about reclaiming an abandoned segregated cemetery.

“A harrowing yet empowering tale reminding us that the past is connected to the present, that every place and every person has a story, and that those stories deserve to be told.” — Renée Watson, New York Times bestselling author of Piecing Me Together

(POST-IT SAYS: While not the most well-written book, the scary/ghost element will draw kids in and they’ll learn about something many may not know about (segregation and abandoned graveyards). Ages 8-11)

Ghost Squad by Claribel A. Ortega

Coco meets Stranger Things with a hint of Ghostbusters in this action-packed supernatural fantasy.

For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business.

Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd’s witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely’s firefly spirits before it’s too late.

With the family dynamics of Coco and action-packed adventure of Ghostbusters, Claribel A. Ortega delivers both a thrillingly spooky and delightfully sweet debut novel.

(POST-IT SAYS: The kids at my school love “spooky” stories and will devour this. A great adventure full of magic, friendship, and family. The great writing and perfect pacing will make readers fly through this story of vengeance and heroics. Ages 8-12)

Think for Yourself: The Ultimate Guide to Critical Thinking in an Age of Information Overload by Andrea Debbink, Aaron Meshon (Illustrator) (MAY 12, 2020)

Middle school is a time of change, when things begin to look different and assumptions start to be questioned, and today more than ever it’s tough to know what to believe. This unique and timely book won’t tell you what to think—that’s up to you!—but it will show you how to think more deeply about your own life and current events. Covering a wide range of subjects affecting the world today, including human and animal rights, social media, cyber bullying, the refugee crisis, and more, THINK FOR YOURSELF will help you to learn how to ask questions, analyze evidence, and use logic to draw conclusions, so you can solve problems and make smart decisions.

Each chapter of the book covers one key step in the critical thinking process, and includes a real-world example to help convey the importance and relevance of every step:

Ask Questions: If you want to be a critical thinker, it helps to be curious. It’s normal to wonder about the world around us. Some questions are big, and some are small. Sometimes questions can spark debate and argument. All critical thinking starts with at least one question. 
Gather Evidence: First, find information—from making observations to interviewing experts to researching a topic online or in books. Then make connections and draw conclusions.
Evaluating Evidence: Smart thinkers evaluate the importance, accuracy and relevancy of the information they gather.
Getting Curious: Consider other points of view, examine your own point of view, understand the power of emotion, and practice empathy.
Draw Conclusions: The final step in the critical thinking process, this is based on reason and evidence. Revisit your original question, review the evidence and what you’ve learned, and consider your values. And remember: critical thinking doesn’t stop when you’ve reached a decision. Learn how to discuss and debate other points of view. Then keep growing. Sometimes you might change your mind—that’s OK, too!

Featuring profiles of real-life inspiring young critical thinkers from around the world, checklists, quizzes, and activities, THINK FOR YOURSELF is a clever and fun illustrated guide that teaches middle schoolers that even young people can make a difference in the world just by thinking smart and understanding. 

INCLUDES:

  • Your Turn: activities to help connect ideas to readers’ lives
  • Quizzes
  • Profiles of inspiring young critical thinkers
  • A Reading List for Young Thinkers
  • Teacher’s guides
  • Plus a table of contents, index, and glossary for easy searching

(POST-IT SAYS: Teaching how and why to think critically is especially vital these days. This book is short but very thorough with a format and content variety that will keep kids reading. Learn how to think, not what! Ages 10-14)

Folktales for Fearless Girls: The Stories We Were Never Told by Myriam Sayalero, Dani Torrent (Illustrator)

Heroines save the day in this empowering collection of folktales from around the world, perfect for fans of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

Curses to be broken. Riddles to be solved. Kings’ favor to be won. These are the standard stories we’ve heard in folktales and fables for as long as we can remember—challenges faced and overcome by princes and knights in shining armor. In Folktales for Fearless Girls, though, we see a different set of heroes charge across the page. In fact, we see heroines.

Wily women and clever girls, valiant queens and brave villagers—these are the people to save the day in this collection of folktales from around the world and across the ages. Long before J.K. Rowling brought us Hermione Granger, well before Katniss Everdeen entered the arena, these fierce protagonists were the role models for strong girls through the ages. Here we read the story of Jimena, who dresses like a man to go fight in a war; of Min, whose cleverness leads her family to riches; and of Nabiha, who outsmarts thieves and wins the respect of the king. With stories from China, Russia, Persia, India, Armenia, the UK, Spain, France, Southern Africa, Egypt, and Germany, this is a collection of tales that showcases the original literary feminists.

With beautiful full-color art throughout to accompany these empowering tales, this an essential book for all girls!

(POST-IT SAYS: This book is gorgeous. Empowering feminist tales full of smart, outspoken, bold girls who are not waiting to be saved by anyone. An essential addition to collections and a great gift idea. Ages 9-14)

Taylor Before and After by Jennie Englund

In journal entries alternating between two timelines—before and after a tragic accident—Jennie Englund’s heartfelt coming-of-age story, Taylor Before and After follows the year that changes one girl’s life forever.

Before, Taylor Harper is finally popular, sitting with the cool kids at lunch, and maybe, just maybe, getting invited to the biggest, most exclusive party of the year.

After, no one talks to her.

Before, she’s friends with Brielle Branson, the coolest girl in school.

After, Brielle has become a bully, and Taylor’s her favorite target.

Before, home isn’t perfect, but at least her family is together.

After, Mom won’t get out of bed, Dad won’t stop yelling, and Eli…

Eli’s gone.

Through everything, Taylor has her notebook, a diary of the year that one fatal accident tears her life apart. In entries alternating between the first and second semester of her eighth-grade year, she navigates joy and grief, gain and loss, hope and depression.

How can Taylor pick up the pieces of what used to be her social life? How can her house ever feel like home again after everything that’s happened? And how can she move forward if she can’t stop looking back?

(POST-IT SAYS: The stream of consciousness narration may deter some readers, but I hope this poignant and complex look at mental health, friendship, and a life-changing catastrophe finds a large audience. Ages 10-13)

Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim

One lie snowballs into a full-blown double life in this irresistible story about an aspiring stand-up comedian.

On the outside, Yumi Chung suffers from #shygirlproblems, a perm-gone-wrong, and kids calling her “Yu-MEAT” because she smells like her family’s Korean barbecue restaurant. On the inside, Yumi is ready for her Netflix stand-up special. Her notebook is filled with mortifying memories that she’s reworked into comedy gold. All she needs is a stage and courage.

Instead of spending the summer studying her favorite YouTube comedians, Yumi is enrolled in test-prep tutoring to qualify for a private school scholarship, which will help in a time of hardship at the restaurant. One day after class, Yumi stumbles on an opportunity that will change her life: a comedy camp for kids taught by one of her favorite YouTube stars. The only problem is that the instructor and all the students think she’s a girl named Kay Nakamura—and Yumi doesn’t correct them.

As this case of mistaken identity unravels, Yumi must decide to stand up and reveal the truth or risk losing her dreams and disappointing everyone she cares about.

(POST-IT SAYS: Standing ovation! Fantastic read. Great hook, great voice, great look at learning how to be yourself, share your unique talents, and pursue your interests. Widely appealing. Ages 9-12)

The Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman

Like Ruta Sepetys for middle grade, Anne Blankman pens a poignant and timeless story of friendship that twines together moments in underexplored history.

On a spring morning, neighbors Valentina Kaplan and Oksana Savchenko wake up to an angry red sky. A reactor at the nuclear power plant where their fathers work—Chernobyl—has exploded. Before they know it, the two girls, who’ve always been enemies, find themselves on a train bound for Leningrad to stay with Valentina’s estranged grandmother, Rita Grigorievna. In their new lives in Leningrad, they begin to learn what it means to trust another person. Oksana must face the lies her parents told her all her life. Valentina must keep her grandmother’s secret, one that could put all their lives in danger. And both of them discover something they’ve wished for: a best friend. But how far would you go to save your best friend’s life? Would you risk your own?

Told in alternating perspectives among three girls—Valentina and Oksana in 1986 and Rifka in 1941—this story shows that hatred, intolerance, and oppression are no match for the power of true friendship.

(POST-IT SAYS: An amazing read. This will be many young readers’ first exploration of life after Chernobyl. A profoundly powerful story of friendship, grief, and perseverance. Ages 10-13)

Red Hood by Elana K. Arnold

Elana K. Arnold, author of the Printz Honor book Damsel, returns with a dark, engrossing, blood-drenched tale of the familiar threats to female power—and one girl’s journey to regain it.

You are alone in the woods, seen only by the unblinking yellow moon. Your hands are empty. You are nearly naked. And the wolf is angry.

Since her grandmother became her caretaker when she was four years old, Bisou Martel has lived a quiet life in a little house in Seattle. She’s kept mostly to herself. She’s been good.

But then comes the night of homecoming, when she finds herself running for her life over roots and between trees, a fury of claws and teeth behind her.

A wolf attacks. Bisou fights back. A new moon rises. And with it, questions.

About the blood in Bisou’s past, and on her hands as she stumbles home.

About broken boys and vicious wolves.

About girls lost in the woods—frightened, but not alone.

(POST-IT SAYS: This book tackles: the patriarchy; #MeToo; feminism; toxic masculinity; periods; incels; justice; empowerment. Dark, raw, gruesome, upsetting, and phenomenal. Ages 14-18)

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