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Post-It Note Reviews: Quick reviews of new MG and YA books

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. Reading those is your best bet—carpal tunnel has made my handwriting mostly a disaster!

Shirley and Jamila’s Big Fall by Gillian Goerz (ISBN-13: 9780525552895 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 12/14/2021, Ages 8-12)

For fans of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, this middle grade graphic novel tells the story of Shirley and Jamila, two girl detectives
on a mission to stop their school’s biggest bully once and for all

As Jamila settles into the rhythms of classes and after-school basketball practice, Shirley has a new mystery on her mind. Her old enemy Chuck is up to his usual tricks: He’s been blackmailing kids all over school, and Shirley knows that she and Jamila can put a stop to it.

They hatch a plan: They’ll break into his house late one night and recover all the notes Chuck’s been using to blackmail innocent kids.

But while Shirley and Jamila are at the house, another intruder arrives—an intruder who can help them put a stop to Chuck’s crimes once and for all.

(POST-IT SAYS: Detective work, friendship, and blackmail brings three girls together to work to take down a bully. Great pacing, diverse characters, and expressive, dynamic art. Be sure to check out the first book, too!)

Graceling: The Graphic Novel by Kristin Cashore, Gareth Hinds (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780358250425 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 11/16/2021, Ages 14-18)

The beloved New York Times best-selling YA fantasy by Kristin Cashore is now available as a graphic novel, with stunning illustrations by award-winning artist Gareth Hinds.

Katsa is a Graceling, one of the rare people born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she lived a life of privilege until the day her ability to kill a man with her bare hands revealed itself during a royal banquet. Now she acts as her uncle’s enforcer, traveling the kingdom and threatening those who dare oppose him.

But everything changes when she meets Po, a foreign prince Graced with combat skills who is searching for the truth about his grandfather’s disappearance. When Katsa agrees to help him, she never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace—or about a terrible secret that could destroy them all.

With “gorgeous storytelling” (School Library Journal, starred review) and characters “crafted with meticulous devotion” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review), Graceling is a beloved classic that has continued to resonate with readers for over a decade.

(POST-IT SAYS: How great to see Katsa, Po, and crew brought to visual life here. A solid adaptation with great fight scenes, satisfying depictions of the lands/terrain, and deftly captures the power of Katsa’s Grace and her revelations.)

The Genius Under the Table: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain by Eugene Yelchin (ISBN-13: 9781536215526 Publisher: Candlewick Press Publication date: 10/12/2021, Ages 10-15)

With a masterful mix of comic timing and disarming poignancy, Newbery Honoree Eugene Yelchin offers a memoir of growing up in Cold War Russia.

Drama, family secrets, and a KGB spy in his own kitchen! How will Yevgeny ever fulfill his parents’ dream that he become a national hero when he doesn’t even have his own room? He’s not a star athlete or a legendary ballet dancer. In the tiny apartment he shares with his Baryshnikov-obsessed mother, poetry-loving father, continually outraged grandmother, and safely talented brother, all Yevgeny has is his little pencil, the underside of a massive table, and the doodles that could change everything. With equal amounts charm and solemnity, award-winning author and artist Eugene Yelchin recounts in hilarious detail his childhood in Cold War Russia as a young boy desperate to understand his place in his family.

(POST-IT SAYS: Fantastic read. Vivid look at life in Cold War Soviet Union that puts you right in the middle of his small but exceedingly interesting life. Full of humor, heart, and hope. I loved his parents and the emphasis on art, talent, and expression.)

Honestly Elliott by Gillian McDunn (ISBN-13: 9781547606252 Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Publication date: 03/01/2022, Ages 8-11)

Highly-acclaimed author of Caterpillar Summer, Gillian McDunn explores boyhood in a funny, big-hearted story about a kid trying to find the best way to be his best self.

Elliott has been struggling since his closest friend moved away, and he’s not too sure where he fits into his own family, especially since his newly remarried dad and stepmom are expecting a baby. His grades aren’t too great, he’s always forgetting things, and he doesn’t really like sports. All together, the result is someone the complete opposite of his dad–a fact they’re both very aware of. Elliott’s only solace is cooking, where he can control the outcome, testing exciting recipes and watching his favorite cooking shows.

When he’s paired with the super smart and popular Maribel for a school-wide project, Elliott worries they won’t see eye to eye. But Maribel is also looking for a new way to show others her true self and this project could be the chance they’ve both been waiting for. Sometimes the least likely friends help you see a new side to things . . . and sometimes you have to make a few mistakes before you figure out what’s right.

(POST-IT SAYS: Oh, sweet Elliott! Funny and complicated Elliott has ADHD, a love of cooking, and changing family dynamics. All about dealing with emotions, mistakes, changing friendships/families, and embracing it all, even when it’s messy.)

Prisoners of Geography: Our World Explained in 12 Simple Maps (Illustrated Young Readers Edition) by Tim Marshall, Grace Easton (Illustrator), Jessica Smith (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781615198474 Publisher: The Experiment Publication date: 11/30/2021, Ages 8-18)

The secret world history written in the mountains, rivers, and seas that shape every country’s politics, economy, and international relations—and our own lives—is revealed in this illustrated young readers edition of Prisoners of Geography, the million-copy international bestseller.

History is a story—and it’s impossible to tell the whole tale without understanding the setting. In this eye-opening illustrated edition of the international bestseller Prisoners of Geography, you’ll learn to spot connections between geography and world affairs in ways you never noticed before.

  • How did the US’s rivers help it become a superpower?
  • Why are harsh, cold and swampy Siberia and the Russian Far East two of that country’s most prized regions?
  • How come Japan prefers to trade along the coasts instead of across its land?
  • What do the Himalayas have to do with war?

With colorful maps that capture every continent and region, plus hundreds of illustrations that illuminate how our surroundings shape us, this one-of-a-kind atlas will inspire curious minds of all ages!

(POST-IT SAYS: A unique read. Packed with information, this shows how geography has shaped politics, trade, development, and economies. An interesting twist on maps and geography.)

Dark Hearts: The World’s Most Famous Horror Writers by Jim Gigliotti, Karl James Mountford (Illustrator), Danielle Vega (Foreword by) (ISBN-13: 9780593222782 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 12/28/2021, Ages 10-17)

Sometimes the truth can be much scarier than fiction. And this collection is no exception. Uncover what fascinated and frightened some of our favorite horror writers of all time.

Who are the people who make our hearts race and our minds spin? Why are they so good at making us fear what goes bump in the night? What are the stories behind the writers who give us goosebumps? Dark Hearts is a collection of fourteen short biographies of the world’s best-known horror writers, including Mary Shelley, Shirley Jackson, Neil Gaiman, R. L. Stine, Stephen King, Bram Stoker, and others. Their stories are gathered in this beautiful, gift-able book that is perfect for any horror fan.

(POST-IT SAYS: Beautifully designed book of brief, engaging bios of mostly white and male horror writers. Bios highlight life, fears, legacy, and important works. Will be an easy hit with fans of horror.)

A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures: An Illustrated Encyclopedia by Sami Bayly (ISBN-13: 9781615198245 Publisher: The Experiment Publication date: 12/14/2021 Series: Curious Collection of Creatures, Ages 8-14)

From the frightening murder hornet to the fierce wolverine—a visual trove of the most dangerous animals on the planet, from the author of the beloved A Curious Collection of Peculiar Creatures

When you think of dangerous animals, what comes to mind—a great white shark, a rattlesnake? What about the hooded pitohui, with its extremely poisonous feathers, or the coffin ray, which electrocutes its prey? Dangerous animals get a bad rap—and they can be pretty scary!—but that’s precisely what makes them remarkable. A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures pairs beautifully detailed illustrations with awesome facts about 60 of Earth’s most lethal animals—some that will surprise you, such as the blue-and-yellow macaw and the common otter. With this encyclopedia in hand, you may well steer clear!

What’s more, these fascinating creatures need our help: Many are endangered, and we can’t ignore them any longer. It’s time to find a fearsome creature to love . . . from a safe distance!

Publisher’s note: A Curious Collection of Dangerous Creatures was previously published in Australia under the title The Illustrated Encyclopaedia of Dangerous Animals.

(POST-IT SAYS: Dangerous and generally horrifying and disgusting creatures are showcased. Info on what they eat, where they live, why they’re dangerous, conservation status, and more. A great—if unsettling—collection.)

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