Teen Librarian Toolbox
Inside Teen Librarian Toolbox

Post-It Note Reviews: Gary Paulsen’s memoir, Huda F Are You?, Other Boys, 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.

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.

Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen (ISBN-13: 9780374314156 Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux Publication date: 01/12/2021, Ages 12+)

“A riveting, hopeful survival story.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

A mesmerizing memoir from a living literary legend, giving readers a new perspective on the origins of Gary Paulsen’s famed survival stories.

His name is synonymous with high-stakes wilderness survival stories. Now, beloved author Gary Paulsen portrays a series of life-altering moments from his turbulent childhood as his own original survival story. If not for his summer escape from a shockingly neglectful Chicago upbringing to a North Woods homestead at age five, there never would have been a Hatchet. Without the encouragement of the librarian who handed him his first book at age thirteen, he may never have become a reader. And without his desperate teenage enlistment in the Army, he would not have discovered his true calling as a storyteller.

An entrancing account of grit and growing up, perfect for newcomers and lifelong fans alike, this is the famed author at his rawest and most real.

(POST-IT SAYS: What a book! What a life! Deeply moving memoir of neglect, trauma, and survival. A complex and emotional read that’s just as engaging as his fiction–maybe even more so. One of my favorite reads of 2021.)

J.D. and the Hair Show Showdown by J. Dillard, Akeem S. Roberts (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593111604 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/16/2021 Series: J.D. the Kid Barber #3, Ages 7-10)

Eight-year-old kid barber J.D. takes his talent to an Atlanta hair show in this illustrated chapter-book series.

At only eight years old, J.D. the Kid Barber has already won a barber battle and appeared on local TV. Now he’s the youngest barber to be invited to the Beauty Brothers Hair Expo in Atlanta! J.D. gets the VIP treatment—he takes his first flight, rides in a limo for the first time, and gets gifts from the show’s sponsors. At the show, there are hair classes to take, product samples to try, and some of J.D.’s favorite hair influencers to meet. And, of course, there’s his own demo alongside kid hairstylist, Isabel Is Incredible. But what J.D. is most excited about is snapping a pic with eleven-year-old rap sensation Li’l Eazy Breezy, which is harder than it sounds! The world of hair and beauty is so much bigger than J.D. could’ve imagined, and he’s ready to step up his game.

Check out the other chapter books in the J.D. the Kid Barber series:
J.D. and the Great Barber Battle
J.D. and the Family Business

(POST-IT SAYS: Loved this! J.D. is living his best life and so full of joy and enthusiasm. Large illustrations convey those feelings and give readers a look at J.D.’s amazing time at the hair expo. Quick, go order this series!)

Bad Sister by Charise Mericle Harper, Rory Lucey (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781250219053 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 8-12)

This middle grade graphic memoir by Charise Mericle Harper, featuring illustrations by Rory Lucey, follows a young girl who undergoes a crisis of conscience, realizing that she is a “bad sister.”

Meet Charise.

She’s energetic, helpful, a model pet owner and full of inventions.

But she’s also a bad sister. When she goes too far and breaks little brother Daniel’s tooth, can she redeem herself? Is an accident really an accident if you could have stopped it? 

But most importantly… What does it mean to be a good sister?

(POST-IT SAYS: Reckless and often mean Charise doesn’t want to be a bad sister, but just can’t help herself. Her badness is the usual stuff of growing up, but leaves lasting impressions and creates real change. Perfect for fans of Hale, Holm, and Telgemeier.)

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renée Watson, Nikkolas Smith (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593307359 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/16/2021, Ages 7-10)

The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson. 

A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders. 
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived.

And the people planted dreams and hope,
willed themselves to keep
living, living.

And the people learned new words
for love
for friend
for family

for joy
for grow
for home.

With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.

(POST-IT SAYS: Profoundly moving. A beautiful book that’s a lyrical ode to strength, origins, ancestry, dreams, and pride. Stunning and full of emotion. This is not to be missed.)

Huda F Are You? by Huda Fahmy (ISBN-13: 9780593324318 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 11/23/2021, Ages 12-17)

From the creator of Yes, I’m Hot In This, this cheeky, hilarious, and honest graphic novel asks the question everyone has to figure out for themselves: Who are you?

Huda and her family just moved to Dearborn, Michigan, a small town with a big Muslim population. In her old town, Huda knew exactly who she was: She was the hijabi girl. But in Dearborn, everyone is the hijabi girl.

Huda is lost in a sea of hijabis, and she can’t rely on her hijab to define her anymore. She has to define herself. So she tries on a bunch of cliques, but she isn’t a hijabi fashionista or a hijabi athlete or a hijabi gamer. She’s not the one who knows everything about her religion or the one all the guys like. She’s miscellaneous, which makes her feel like no one at all. Until she realizes that it’ll take finding out who she isn’t to figure out who she is.

(POST-IT SAYS: One million more books about Huda and her family—especially that “invisible” sister—please! Great look at identity, personality, and acceptance. Heavy issues are addressed and balanced out by bright, cartoonish art and plenty of humor.)

Born Behind Bars by Padma Venkatraman (ISBN-13: 9780593112472 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/07/2021, Ages 10-14)

“Venkatraman has never met a heavy theme she did not like….Borrowing elements of fable, it’s told with a recurring sense of awe by a boy whom the world, for most of his life, has existed only in stories.”—New York Times Book Review 

The author of the award-winning The Bridge Home brings readers another gripping novel set in Chennai, India, featuring a boy who’s unexpectedly released into the world after spending his whole life in jail with his mom.

Kabir has been in jail since the day he was born, because his mom is serving time for a crime she didn’t commit. He’s never met his dad, so the only family he’s got are their cellmates, and the only place he feels the least bit free is in the classroom, where his kind teacher regales him with stories of the wonders of the outside world. Then one day a new warden arrives and announces Kabir is too old to stay. He gets handed over to a long-lost “uncle” who unfortunately turns out to be a fraud, and intends to sell Kabir. So Kabir does the only thing he can–run away as fast as his legs will take him. How does a boy with nowhere to go and no connections make his way? Fortunately, he befriends Rani, another street kid, and she takes him under her wing. But plotting their next move is hard–and fraught with danger–in a world that cares little for homeless, low caste children. This is not the world Kabir dreamed of–but he’s discovered he’s not the type to give up. Kabir is ready to show the world that he–and his mother–deserve a place in it.

(POST-IT SAYS: Pretty dark subject matter and perilous situations, but the fast-pace and can-do attitude keep it from feeling too heavy. Examines poverty, caste, religion, and incarceration. A complex story full of adventure and of hope.)

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable, Stephanie Yue (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781984895639 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 01/05/2021 Series: Katie the Catsitter #1, Ages 8-12)

Calling all Raina Telgemeier fans! Introducing an irresistible new middle-grade graphic novel series about growing up, friendship, heroes, and cats (lots of cats!)–perfect for fans of GutsAwkward and Real Friends (not to mention anyone who loves cats!)

Katie is dreading the boring summer ahead while her best friends are all away at camp–something that’s way out of Katie and her mom’s budget, UNLESS Katie can figure out a way to earn the money for camp herself. But when Katie gets a job catsitting for her mysterious upstairs neighbor, life get interesting. First, Madeline has 217 cats (!) and they’re not exactly . . . normal cats. Also, why is Madeline always out EXACTLY when the city’s most notorious villain commits crimes?! Is it possible that Katie’s upstairs neighbor is really a super villain? Can Katie wrangle a whole lot of wayward cats, save a best friendship (why is Beth barely writing back? And who’s this boy she keeps talking about?!), AND crack the biggest story in the city’s history? Some heroes have capes . . . Katie has cats!

(POST-IT SAYS: I’m obsessed! 217 cats! Superheroes! Activism! A diverse cast of characters! I loved all the details in the art, especially with those busy cats. Full of whimsy, humor, justice, and CATS!)

The Daily Bark: The Puppy Problem by Laura James (ISBN-13: 9781547608812 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 01/11/2022, Ages 7-10)

The first book in a charming new chapter book series about enterprising young pups who start a neighborhood newspaper, for fans of The Secret Life of Pets.

Gizmo is a city dog, so when he moves to the village of Puddle with his journalist human, he doesn’t know WHAT to expect. Certainly not FLOWERS. Or BEES. And he couldn’t have even imagined MUD. Luckily he’s got Jilly, the wolfhound next door, to show him around. 

But Jilly has a problem. Her puppies are going to be adopted by new owners who live far away — she’ll never see them again! Gizmo has got a nose for a story, and a great idea to help Jilly. What if the dogs of Puddle started a newspaper to get the word out and keep these pups closer to home? Stop the presses!

Perfect for fans of The Secret Life of Pets, this is the first book in a charming and humorous new chapter book series — featuring full-color illustrations — about the things dogs get up to when their humans aren’t looking.

(POST-IT SAYS: So cute I can hardly stand it! Sweet doxie Gizmo and his new friends live busy lives of jobs, caretaking, and adventure. I look forward to more Daily Bark stories!)

Other Boys by Damian Alexander (ISBN-13: 9781250222817 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 09/28/2021, Ages 10-14)

In Other Boys, debut author Damian Alexander delivers a moving middle grade graphic memoir about his struggles with bullying, the death of his mother, and coming out.

Damian is the new kid at school, and he has a foolproof plan to avoid the bullying that’s plagued him his whole childhood: he’s going to stop talking. Starting on the first day seventh grade, he won’t utter a word. If he keeps his mouth shut, the bullies will have nothing to tease him about—right?

But Damian’s vow of silence doesn’t work—his classmates can tell there’s something different about him. His family doesn’t look like the kind on TV: his mother is dead, his father is gone, and he’s being raised by his grandparents in a low-income household. And Damian does things that boys aren’t supposed do, like play with Barbies instead of GI Joe. Kids have teased him about this his whole life, especially other boys. But if boys can be so cruel, why does Damian have a crush on one?

(POST-IT SAYS: What an empathetic and tender story. All about gender, sexuality, family, bullies, and trauma. A really lovely look at how difficult childhood can be for so many reasons.)

Besties: Work It Out by Kayla Miller, Jeffrey Canino, Kristina Luu (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780358521150 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 10/19/2021 Series: World of Click Series, Ages 8-12)

A fun and fresh graphic-novel series spin-off of the New York Times best-selling Click books, featuring aspiring entrepreneurs Beth and Chanda! When the girls land a lucrative dogsitting gig, they’re sure that fame, fortune, and popularity can’t be far behind, but nothing can prepare them for the mishap that throws their business plan—and friendship—into chaos!
 
Meet Beth and Chanda, two stylish best friends on their way to building their fashion empire! An unexpected business opportunity presents itself when the girls are asked to dogsit at Ms. Langford’s luxurious house while she’s away, but it quickly turns into a disaster after an accident leaves one of Ms. Langford’s prized possessions in pieces! Now Beth and Chanda have to take on as many odd jobs as they can in order to afford a replacement. Car washing, book sales, interior decorating—you name it, Beth and Chanda are there! Will they be able to patch up their mistake in time?
 
New York Times best-selling author Kayla Miller and co-author Jeffrey Canino deliver a vibrant and honest story about middle school friendships and personal responsibility. Accompanied by Kristina Luu’s fizzy, expressive art style, this graphic novel is the perfect companion to Olive’s existing stories.

(POST-IT SAYS: Great to see two kids working odd jobs to make money and learning lessons about responsibility along the way. I hope we see more stories about the characters from the Click series.)

Speak Your Mind

*