Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

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.

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

Book Review: Let’s Call It a Doomsday by Katie Henry

Publisher’s description

An engrossing and thoughtful contemporary tale that tackles faith, friendship, family, anxiety, and the potential apocalypse from Katie Henry, the acclaimed author of Heretics Anonymous.

There are many ways the world could end. A fire. A catastrophic flood. A super eruption that spews lakes of lava. Ellis Kimball has made note of all possible scenarios, and she is prepared for each one.

What she doesn’t expect is meeting Hannah Marks in her therapist’s waiting room. Hannah calls their meeting fate. After all, Ellis is scared about the end of the world; Hannah knows when it’s going to happen.

Despite Ellis’s anxiety—about what others think of her, about what she’s doing wrong, about the safety of her loved ones—the two girls become friends. But time is ticking down, and as Ellis tries to help Hannah decipher the details of her doomsday premonition, their search for answers only raises more questions.

When does it happen? Who will believe them? And how do you prepare for the end of the world when it feels like your life is just getting started?

Amanda’s thoughts

I took July off from blogging for TLT so I could focus on some other projects. I read a lot of books too for all ages. Some of them I skimmed. Some of them I abandoned. A few I I burned through in a day or two. But this one I read every single word. I tried to not race through it because I didn’t want it to be done. I liked Henry’s other book, Heretics Anonymous, and think I loved this one even more.

Despite being an atheist, or, who knows, maybe because I’m an atheist, I read a lot of books, both fiction and nonfiction, about religion. I like novels that revolve around belief systems, that interrogate belief, that show me the inside of someone’s community, especially if that someone is grappling with what to believe and why. For Ellis, a Mormon, she’s working through reconciling what she feels/believes/who she is with her faith. She’s also facing some other really big issues, like an anxiety disorder that always makes her expect the worse, a certainty that the apocalypse is coming, and the fact that her new friend seems to be a doomsday prophet. It’s a lot for a 16-year-old to deal with.

Ellis feels like she’s spent her whole life disappointing her family and making everything worse. That’s not just her anxiety talking—that’s her mother. Her mom has NO TIME for Ellis’s anxiety, and, despite sending her to therapy for it, doesn’t seem interested in understanding at all what it means for Ellis. She’s just constantly exasperated by her. Her mother believes she has an attitude problem, not a mental illness. Ellis, who is super into disaster preparedness, thinks if she saves her family at the end of the world, they will appreciate her and finally understand all of her preparations. Her fixation on this grows more intense when she meets Hannah, who tells Ellis they were fated to meet. Hannah has visions of how the world will end, and though she does need help interpreting the visions, she does know that she and Ellis will be together when it happens. Ellis knows they have to warn everyone, but things go awry when she gets in trouble for her choices and may not be able to be with Hannah for the big event.

Ellis spends the duration of the book ruminating on belief, unbelief, love, understanding, prophecy, metaphor, and truth. Things are not always as they appear, and Ellis tries to understand that while also clinging tightly to the things she really needs to believe, no matter how true they are or not. She also begins to hang out with (and is possibly attracted to) Tal, a boy who has left the Mormon faith, and is bisexual. Conversations with and her attraction to him help her sort out of her own attraction to boys and girls (though she’s not ready to label that as anything yet). A really smart, thoughtful look at beliefs, anxiety, and survival. After two such great books from Henry, I will happily read anything else she writes.

Review copy courtesy of the publisher

ISBN-13: 9780062698902
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/06/2019

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: Updating the A. S. King Reviews Edition with Dig and The Year We Fell from Space

You can find The Teen’s previous reviews of A. S. King individual books at this post. And you can read in her own words why she loves the works of A. S. King as a whole here. Today we’re updating her A. S. King book reviews by sharing her thoughts on Dig, which came out earlier this year, and The Year We Fell From Space, which is King’s second middle grade book that comes out in October of this year. I got The Teen a signed ARC at TLA earlier this year.

Dig by A. S. King

Publisher’s Book Description

The Shoveler, the Freak, CanIHelpYou?, Loretta the Flea-Circus Ring Mistress, and First-Class Malcolm. These are the five teenagers lost in the Hemmings family’s maze of tangled secrets. Only a generation removed from being simple Pennsylvania potato farmers, Gottfried and Marla Hemmings managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now sit atop a seven-figure bank account, wealth they’ve declined to pass on to their adult children or their teenage grand children.

“Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says. 

What does thriving look like? Like carrying a snow shovel everywhere. Like selling pot at the Arby’s drive-thru window. Like a first class ticket to Jamiaca between cancer treatments. Like a flea-circus in a doublewide. Like the GPS coordinates to a mound of dirt in a New Jersey forest. 

As the rot just beneath the surface of the Hemmings precious white suburban respectability begins to spread, the far flung grand children gradually find their ways back to each other, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name.

Kicky’s Post It Note Review:

Simply Perfect. It all comes together.

Karen’s Note:

The Teen likes this book so much she gave a copy to her best friend, who is not as big of a reader and she actually is reading it right now while on a cruise to Alaska!

The Year We Fell from Space by A. S. King

Publisher’s Book Description:

The deeply affecting next book from acclaimed author Amy Sarig King.
Liberty Johansen is going to change the way we look at the night sky. Most people see the old constellations, the things they’ve been told to see. But Liberty sees new patterns, pictures, and possibilities. She’s an exception. 

Some other exceptions:

Her dad, who gave her the stars. Who moved out months ago and hasn’t talked to her since.

Her mom, who’s happier since he left, even though everyone thinks she should be sad and lonely.

And her sister, who won’t go outside their house. 

Liberty feels like her whole world is falling from space. Can she map a new life for herself and her family before they spin too far out of reach? 

Kicky’s Post It Note Review:

Cute and full of hope.

Karen’s Notes:

As you can tell, The Teen is much more efficient with words than I am. This is Amy Sarig King’s second middle grade book and as I mentioned in the intro above, I got The Teen a signed copy at TLA. For those keeping score at home, yes I did in fact cry again while meeting A. S. King and yes The Teen did in fact make fun of me again for crying while meeting A. S. King. I look forward to the day that I don’t cry while meeting A. S. King in person, but The Teen is pretty sure it will never happen. But back to the book. The Teen has a tendency to read a lot of dark stuff, but on occasion she comes to me asking for something light and fluffy because she needs a palette cleanser. When I brought this to her she was excited to read it and it came at just the perfect time because, as she mentions above, it is a hopeful read and it was something she needed to read at the time.

What A. S. King Means to Me, a guest post by The Teen

Today, The Teen is joining us to write her first full length post here at TLT and her topic of choice is author A. S. King. The Teen has always been a prolific reader, but she is starting to really delve into the idea of writing. Today, she is putting both interests together. I do have a funny story to tell you about this post. She came out on Sunday morning and told me I would be so proud because she had given her post a title. When I asked her what that title was she proclaimed: A. S. King. “That’s not really a title,” I explained. Our bff Mary Hinson, who works with teens at a nearby library and blogs at Mary Had a Little Book Blog, came over later and they came up with the title you see above. You can read her reviews on all the A. S. King books here.

I don’t remember the order that I read the A.S. King books in, but that doesn’t change the fact that I loved them all. Her books aren’t like any books that I’ve ever read before. These books require you to think and make connections. You have to read every word and remember the little details. A lot of the time, there is something that won’t many sense until the very end. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much, that sense of not knowing. I have never liked reading books where I could guess the ending, but I’ve never had to worry about that with A.S. King’s books. Also, I like that a lot of the time you get to add your own interpretation to pieces of the story because she doesn’t come right out and set her meaning behind something in stone. There probably is an intended meaning, but I think she allows you to see what you want to see. There’s a kind of chaotic beauty to it all. You’ll feel like you know nothing at all and that this story will never come together, but then it will suddenly make perfect sense. They’re just fascinating pieces of writing, and if you enjoy surreal fiction then you should read her books.

About our Teen Blogger

The Teen is a proud feminist and prolific reader who loves all things YA, though she especially mysteries, fantasy and things where people die. She is also a huge fan of Edgar Allan Poe. She likes to write, play tennis, and do theater. She has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is currently working on getting her second degree. This year she will be a junior in high school and the current plan is that she would like to attend Berkley to major in psychology and be a counselor.

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a teen reader tells us what they think about several new books including Girls of July, Hot Dog Girl, Poet X, 10 Blind Dates, Stepsister and The Serpent King

It’s summer break, which means The Teen has been reading A LOT! As she reads she shares her quick reviews with us via a Post It Note. Here’s what she has had to say about some of the recent books she has read.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Four girls. One unforgettable July.

Britta is the bubbly drama queen. She needs to get away—and a peaceful cabin in the woods sounds like the perfect escape.

Meredith is the overachiever. She’s spent her entire life preparing for college, but at what cost? Now she’s wondering if that’s all there is.

Kate is the reluctant socialite. She’s searching for a reason to begin again after fleeing her small Georgia town—and a shameful family secret.

Spider is the quiet intellectual. She’s struggling with pain that has isolated her from her peers for much of her life.

When these four very different young women stay together for a month in the mountains, they discover that sometimes getting away from it all can only bring you back to who you really are.

The Teen’s Post It Note Review:

Technically, I didn’t get a Post It Note review for this title, but a verbal one. I actually won a signed copy of this book on Twitter and the book came signed to The Teen. She read it pretty quickly and she said that it was overall a pretty good book. She liked that this group of girls came together and learned that they could help each other with their problems and that they didn’t have to be alone.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Elouise (Lou) Parker is determined to have the absolute best, most impossibly epic summer of her life. There are just a few things standing in her way:

* She’s landed a job at Magic Castle Playland . . . as a giant dancing hot dog.
* Her crush, the dreamy Diving Pirate Nick, already has a girlfriend, who is literally the Princess of the park. But Lou’s never liked anyone, guy or otherwise, this much before, and now she wants a chance at her own happily ever after.
* Her best friend, Seeley, the carousel operator, who’s always been up for anything, suddenly isn’t when it comes to Lou’s quest to set her up with the perfect girl or Lou’s scheme to get close to Nick.
* And it turns out that this will be their last summer at Magic Castle Playland–ever–unless she can find a way to stop it from closing.

Jennifer Dugan’s sparkling debut coming-of-age queer romance stars a princess, a pirate, a hot dog, and a carousel operator who find love–and themselves–in unexpected people and unforgettable places. 

Post It Note Review: This book was cute and it had a nice story.

Publisher’s Book Description:

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Post It Note Review: I really enjoyed this book and I think it has some very good messages.

Side Note: The Teen and two of her friends decided to create their own informal book discussion group. This was the first book that they chose to read and then they talked about it via a group text.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Sophie wants one thing for Christmas-a little freedom from her overprotective parents. So when they decide to spend Christmas in South Louisiana with her very pregnant older sister, Sophie is looking forward to some much needed private (read: make-out) time with her long-term boyfriend, Griffin. Except it turns out that Griffin wants a little freedom from their relationship. Cue devastation.

Heartbroken, Sophie flees to her grandparents’ house, where the rest of her boisterous extended family is gathered for the holiday. That’s when her nonna devises a (not so) brilliant plan: Over the next ten days, Sophie will be set up on ten different blind dates by different family members. Like her sweet cousin Sara, who sets her up with a hot guy at an exclusive underground party. Or her crazy aunt Patrice, who signs Sophie up for a lead role in a living nativity. With a boy who barely reaches her shoulder. And a screaming baby.

When Griffin turns up unexpectedly and begs for a second chance, Sophie feels more confused than ever. Because maybe, just maybe, she’s started to have feelings for someone else . . . Someone who is definitely not available.

This is going to be the worst Christmas break ever… or is it?

Post It Note Review: This book was very cute but you could kind of guess the end.

Side Note: This book comes out in October of 2019. The Teen came to me after reading a couple of dark books and said she needed something light to read and I handed her this. She has read it twice now when she needed a break from the dark books she typically likes to read.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Post It Note Review: I liked this take on the fairytale, very optimistic and fun.

Prince Charming AKA Charm

Side Note: At the age of 4, The Teen was obsessed with Cinderella. Our dog is named Charm, short for Prince Charming. She was Cinderella 3 Halloween’s in a row and her room was decked out all in Cinderella. So I was curious as to what she would and her self proclaimed black heart would think of this book.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. The end of high school will lead to new beginnings for Lydia, whose edgy fashion blog is her ticket out of their rural Tennessee town. And Travis is happy wherever he is thanks to his obsession with the epic book series Bloodfall and the fangirl who may be turning his harsh reality into real-life fantasy. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia—neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending—one that will rock his life to the core.

Debut novelist Jeff Zentner provides an unblinking and at times comic view of the hard realities of growing up in the Bible Belt, and an intimate look at the struggles to find one’s true self in the wreckage of the past. 

Post It Note Review: This book is spectacular; I think it addresses many important issues.

Side Note: The Teen read this book because a friend recommended it to her. Sure, her mom who is a YA librarian had recommended it to her several times, but when one of her besties recommended it to her she finally read it. I’m not bitter. But I am glad that she loved it. And for the record, this is one of the dark books she read and then asked me for a light, fluffy read to cleanse her palette.

Book Review: The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

Publisher’s Book Description:

No one speaks of the grace year. It’s forbidden.

Girls are told they have the power to lure grown men from their beds, drive women mad with jealousy. They believe their very skin emits a powerful aphrodisiac, the potent essence of youth, of a girl on the edge of womanhood. That’s why they’re banished for their sixteenth year, to release their magic into the wild so they can return purified and ready for marriage. But not all of them will make it home alive.

Sixteen-year-old Tierney James dreams of a better life—a society that doesn’t pit friend against friend or woman against woman, but as her own grace year draws near, she quickly realizes that it’s not just the brutal elements they must fear. It’s not even the poachers in the woods, men who are waiting for their chance to grab one of the girls in order to make their fortune on the black market. Their greatest threat may very well be each other.

With sharp prose and gritty realism, The Grace Year examines the complex and sometimes twisted relationships between girls, the women they eventually become, and the difficult decisions they make in-between.

Karen and The Teen’s Thoughts:

This was the first time that The Teen and I read the same book at the same time but not together. I started it and then a few days later she started it and then we were racing to see who would finish it first. It’s been two weeks since we have finished reading it and we still come together and talk about it. There’s a lot to unpack and talk about in this dystopian tale.

Let me start by saying this: We both LOVED and highly recommend this book. We found it interesting, compelling, thoughtful and very discussable. I thought the middle part dragged a bit, but she did not. At the end, we both agreed it is one of our top 10 YA reads for 2019 so far.

I am a person who likes to collect quotes and for me, there were a lot of spot on quotes about feminism, how we think about and treat women, and the importance of coming into your own. There were sentences and phrases that just jumped off the page and spoke to me.

This is also a story that very much demonstrates how religion, tradition, laws and control of information can be used to hold a person or people group in subjugation. Though this may be a made up dystopian world with rules that we think could never happen, the truth is that it felt all too real. In fact, given the current political climate, the essence of this story didn’t feel that impossible at all, which made it all the more terrifying.

The heart of this story is Tierney, who is a flawed but fierce main character who knows a lot, but doesn’t know as much as she think she knows. She is surrounded by a variety of characters who help her, hurt her, surprise her, terrify her, disappoint her and challenge her in ways that often surprise the reader as well.

Some of the characters could have been fleshed out a tad more and I thought the middle section could have been condensed a bit, but this was a book that I picked up and couldn’t stop reading. The same is true for The Teen, who picked it up late one evening and had finished it the following afternoon.

I’ve read many books that claimed to be feminist reads this year that I found lacking, but this book is fiercely feminist and challenging and The Teen and I highly recommend it.

The Grace Year doesn’t come out until October of 2019 but I hope everyone will be reading and talking about this book.


Book Review: Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle E Pitman

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 6–9—A thorough if somewhat disjointed examination of the events before, during, and in the aftermath of the Stonewall Riots gives young readers an overview of the LGBTQ+ activism of the 1950s and 1960s. Pitman traces meeting places, social clubs, and the rise of organizations and activist groups as well as the many police raids of gay establishments, focusing on the June 28, 1969, raid on the mob-owned Stonewall Inn. Due to a lack of documented accounts, use of pseudonyms, and conflicting reports, controversies remain over the actuality of events at Stonewall. Post-Stonewall, readers learn about the increase in radical groups and visibility that challenged negative attitudes and discrimination. Pitman occasionally expands the narrative focus to examine what was happening in various places around the country and to consider other issues and movements of the time, including weaknesses and missteps in the movement for LGBTQ+ rights. The unique approach of using various objects (matchbooks, leaflets, buttons, arrest records, photographs, and more, with many reproductions too small or low resolution to read) to guide, inform, and reconstruct the story of the riots prevents a smooth narrative flow and makes the text feel repetitive as it moves back and forth in time. Back matter includes a time line, notes, bibliography, and an index. 

VERDICT An important look at a major moment in American history. Readers will come to understand why the iconic Stonewall Inn is now on the National Register of Historic Places, a National Historic Landmark, and a National Monument.

ISBN-13: 9781419737206
Publisher: ABRAMS
Publication date: 05/14/2019

Book Review: Technically, You Started It by Lana Wood Johnson

Publisher’s description

A hilarious, snarky, and utterly addicting #ownvoices debut that explores friendship, sexual orientation, mental health, and falling in love (even if things might be falling apart around you).

When a guy named Martin Nathaniel Munroe II texts you, it should be obvious who you’re talking to. Except there’s two of them (it’s a long story), and Haley thinks she’s talking to the one she doesn’t hate.

A question about a class project rapidly evolves into an all-consuming conversation. Haley finds that Martin is actually willing to listen to her weird facts and unusual obsessions, and Martin feels like Haley is the first person to really see who he is. Haley and Martin might be too awkward to hang out in real life, but over text, they’re becoming addicted to each other.

There’s just one problem: Haley doesn’t know who Martin is. And Martin doesn’t know that Haley doesn’t know. But they better figure it out fast before their meet-cute becomes an epic meet-disaster . . .

Amanda’s thoughts

You know how I’m always going on and on about how what I really want is just a book of endless dialogue because that’s what I like—strong characters just talking? Well, with this book, I get that. The entire novel is told through texts between Martin and Haley. It was supremely satisfying to me, a character-driven reader who always just really wants people plopped down in a space and talking. This review is going to be really short, which isn’t because I didn’t enjoy the book (I did! So much!), but because there isn’t a ton to say other than “I really liked this book!” I like that it’s people who get to know each other through texts and that we only see their story that way. I like that it’s about mistaken identity. I like that the characters have interesting, complicated families and friendships. I like that Martin is bi and Haley is demisexual. I like that the two develop a quick banter with instant little inside jokes. This is a cute and fun story that’s a perfect summer read (it’s also summer in the book). One of my very favorite hobbies is eavesdropping, and reading this book gave me that giddy feeling of getting to spy on someone and also knowing things they don’t know. Hand this to readers who like different formats and their romances more on the cerebral side. Good fun.

ISBN-13: 9781338335460
Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
Publication date: 06/25/2019