Teen Librarian Toolbox
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Post-It Note Reviews: Stories about ghosts, chaos bunnies, grief, reform school, and more!

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. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!

Frequent blog readers may have noticed I’m doing a lot more post-it-style reviews and less longer, individual review posts. Partially this is because my way of coping with the many upsetting pieces of the past year has been to drown myself in reading, so I’m burning through so many more books and want to share them, in some form, here. It’s been so hard for authors to be able to promote their books, through things like release parties or festivals or other events, and I want to share as many books as I can particularly these days to help them get the exposure they deserve.

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.

Long Lost by Jacqueline West (ISBN-13: 9780062691750 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/11/2021, Ages 8-12)

Once there were two sisters who did everything together. But only one of them disappeared.

New York Times–bestselling author Jacqueline West’s Long Lost is an atmospheric, eerie mystery brimming with suspense. Fans of Katherine Arden’s Small Spaces and Victoria Schwab’s City of Ghosts series will lose themselves in this mesmerizing and century-spanning tale.

Eleven-year-old Fiona has just read a book that doesn’t exist.

When Fiona’s family moves to a new town to be closer to her older sister’s figure skating club—and far from Fiona’s close-knit group of friends—nobody seems to notice Fiona’s unhappiness. Alone and out of place, Fiona ventures to the town’s library, a rambling mansion donated by a long-dead heiress. And there she finds a gripping mystery novel about a small town, family secrets, and a tragic disappearance.

Soon Fiona begins to notice strange similarities that blur the lines between the novel and her new town. With a little help from a few odd Lost Lake locals, Fiona uncovers the book’s strange history. Lost Lake is a town of restless spirits, and Fiona will learn that both help and danger come from unexpected places—maybe even from the sister she thinks doesn’t care about her anymore.

New York Times–bestselling and acclaimed author Jacqueline West weaves a heart-pounding, intense, and imaginative mystery that builds anticipation on every page, while centering on the strong and often tumultuous bond between sisters. Laced with suspense, Long Lost will fascinate readers of Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Secret Keepers and fans of ghost stories. 

(POST-IT SAYS: Fabulous! Spooky story-within-the-story page-turner that will be a hit with readers who love ghost stories and mysteries. I got so involved in this book that I forgot to start dinner. A great read.)

Saint Ivy: Kind at All Costs by Laurie Morrison (ISBN-13: 9781419741258 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 05/18/2021, Ages 10-14)

A thoughtful middle-grade novel about caring for others and for yourself––and what it truly means to be kind and vulnerable

Thirteen-year-old Ivy Campbell has always been a good kid: She supports her soccer-star brother, bakes with her nana, and puts her friends’ needs before her own. So of course, Ivy is 100 percent supportive when her mom decides to be a gestational surrogate, carrying and giving birth to her friends’ baby. But when Ivy finds out the surrogacy treatment worked and her mom is pregnant—and has been for weeks—she’s shocked that she’s jealous and worried about what others will think. And most of all, she’s ashamed that she isn’t reacting to this news in the right way. The Ivy way. Ivy is determined to prove to herself that she’s just as unselfish as she’s always believed, and she gets the chance to do that when she receives an anonymous email from someone who needs her help. But the more Ivy dives into helping this anonymous person, the further she gets from the people she loves—and from the person who she wants to be.

(POST-IT SAYS: Morrison nails how complicated life can be in middle school. Ivy makes lots of mistakes, struggles with changing friendships, and bottles up all of her feelings to be kind, easy, and please others. Ivy’s parents are divorced but still close. A great read that reminds readers to be kind to themselves, too.)

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga (ISBN-13: 9780062956675 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/11/2021, Ages 8-12)

An extraordinary new novel from Jasmine Warga, Newbery Honor–winning author of Other Words for Home, about loss and healing—and how friendship can be magical.

Cora hasn’t spoken to her best friend, Quinn, in a year.

Despite living next door to each other, they exist in separate worlds of grief. Cora is still grappling with the death of her beloved sister in a school shooting, and Quinn is carrying the guilt of what her brother did.

On the day of Cora’s twelfth birthday, Quinn leaves a box on her doorstep with a note. She has decided that the only way to fix things is to go back in time to the moment before her brother changed all their lives forever—and stop him.

In spite of herself, Cora wants to believe. And so the two former friends begin working together to open a wormhole in the fabric of the universe. But as they attempt to unravel the mysteries of time travel to save their siblings, they learn that the magic of their friendship may actually be the key to saving themselves.

The Shape of Thunder is a deeply moving story, told with exceptional grace, about friendship and loss—and how believing in impossible things can help us heal.

(POST-IT SAYS: A powerful, complicated, sensitive, and emotional story about gun violence, grief, loss, friendship, guilt, and time travel. As much about healing as it is about heartbreaking loss. Warga is a middle grade powerhouse.)

ParaNorthern: And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse by Stephanie Cooke, Mari Costa (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780358169000 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 07/13/2021, Ages 8-12)

A witch named Abby and her three friends—a wolf-girl, a ghost, and a pumpkinhead—band together to try and save their supernatural town from an invasion of rabid (but adorable!) chaos bunnies in this enchanting middle-grade graphic novel for fans of Making Friends, The Okay Witch, and Lumberjanes.

It’s fall break in the supernatural town of North Haven, and young witch Abby’s plans include pitching in at her mom’s magical coffee shop, practicing her potion making, and playing board games with her best friends—a pumpkinhead, a wolf-girl, and a ghost. But when Abby finds her younger sister being picked on by some speed demons, she lets out a burst of magic so strong, it opens a portal to a realm of chaos bunnies. And while these bunnies may look cute, they’re about to bring the a-hop-ocalypse  (and get Abby in a cauldronful of trouble) unless she figures out a way to reverse the powerful magic she unwittingly released. What’s a witch to do?

In this deliciously humorous, cozy, and bewitching graphic novel, sometimes the most of powerful magic comes from our connections to family and friends (but kicking bunny butt is great, too).

(POST-IT SAYS: Interdimensional bunnies! Really cute and fun graphic novel with nice diversity of representation and charming characters. Good messages about confidence, support, and friendship.)

On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork (ISBN-13: 9781338692150 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 05/18/2021, Ages 14-18)

“You know I’m coming. You’re dead already.”

Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He’s the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he’s going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector’s death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows — to drop off Joey’s radar — to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector’s brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It’s up to Hector to choose whether he’s going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.

(POST-IT SAYS: Incredibly intense read about violence, trauma, grief, hatred, guilt, and revenge. Half of the story is set at a reform school. An upsetting and all too real look at how unpredictable and complex life can be. So powerful.)

Hand-Me-Down Magic #3: Perfect Patchwork Purse by Corey Ann Haydu, Luisa Uribe (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780062978271 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/04/2021, Ages 6-10)

Family magic saves the day for best-friend-cousins Del and Alma in the third Hand-Me-Down Magic book! With adorable illustrations and short, easy-to-read chapters, this series is perfect for fans of Ivy & Bean and Dory Fantasmagory.

Alma knew it the first time she saw it: The patchwork purse in the window of the Curious Cousins Secondhand Shoppe was magical. Special. Perfect. But when her friend Cassie spots the purse and buys it, what could Alma do but agree that the purse really did look just right on Cassie?

Del decides it’s up to her to bring some homespun magic back into Alma’s life, and she’s got just the plan to do it. After all, she is the EXPERT on magic!

All she needs is some glitter and lots and lots of glue . . . because she knows magic can always come from the most unexpected places, but most importantly, that best-friend-cousins never let each other down.

(POST-IT SAYS: Nice length for a small chapter book. Emphasis is on family, friendship, feelings, and everyday magic. Love the closeness of the cousins. Sweet, quiet, and full of emotions.)

Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley, Tara Audibert (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780063015388 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 05/11/2021 Series: Jo Jo #1, Ages 6-10)

Hello/Boozhoo—meet Jo Jo Makoons! Full of pride, joy, and plenty of humor, this first book in an all-new chapter book series by Dawn Quigley celebrates a spunky young Ojibwe girl who loves who she is.

Jo Jo Makoons Azure is a spirited seven-year-old who moves through the world a little differently than anyone else on her Ojibwe reservation. It always seems like her mom, her kokum (grandma), and her teacher have a lot to learn—about how good Jo Jo is at cleaning up, what makes a good rhyme, and what it means to be friendly.

Even though Jo Jo loves her #1 best friend Mimi (who is a cat), she’s worried that she needs to figure out how to make more friends. Because Fern, her best friend at school, may not want to be friends anymore…

The Heartdrum imprint centers a wide range of intertribal voices, visions, and stories while welcoming all young readers, with an emphasis on the present and future of Indian Country and on the strength of young Native heroes. In partnership with We Need Diverse Books.

(POST-IT SAYS: A joyful and adorable start to a new series. Spirited Jo Jo will instantly win over readers. How absolutely wonderful to see an Ojibwe girl lead a series. Full of humor and heart. A must for all collections.)

The Startup Squad (The Startup Squad Series #1) by Brian Weisfeld, Nicole C. Kear (ISBN-13: 9781250180414 Publisher: Imprint Publication date: 05/07/2019 Series: Startup Squad Series #1, Ages 8-12)

Girls mean business in a brand-new series about friendship and entrepreneurship that Katherine Applegate, Newbery Medal-winning author of The One and Only Ivan, calls “A great read!”

All the great leaders had to start somewhere. And Teresa (“Resa” for short) is starting with the lemonade stand competition her teacher assigned to the class—but making it a success is going to be a lot harder than Resa thinks.

The prize: line-skipping tickets to Adventure Central. The competition: Val, Resa’s middle school nemesis. And the biggest obstacle to success: Resa’s own teammates. Harriet is the class clown, Amelia is the new girl who thinks she knows best, and Didi is Resa’s steadfast friend—who doesn’t know the first thing about making or selling lemonade. The four of them quickly realize that the recipe for success is tough to perfect—but listening to each other is the first step. And making new friends might be the most important one…

The back of each book in this middle-grade series features tips from the Startup Squad and an inspirational profile of a girl entrepreneur!

(POST-IT SAYS: Books 1-3 are now out in this fun series about friendship, teamwork, and entrepreneurship. The 6th graders learn the importance of both success and failure.)

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