Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights


Bausum, Ann.  Stonewall: Breaking Out in the Fight for Gay Rights.  New York: Viking, 2015. 978-0-670-01679-2. 120 p.  $16.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

A thorough history of the gay rights movement from the 1960s on, this book examines the social climate and discrimination leading up to the Stonewall riots and gives a riveting, unbiased account of the riots themselves which includes photographs and eyewitness quotes.  The book goes on to analyze the advancements made and setbacks suffered by gay rights activists following the riots.  The author pays particular attention to gay pride marches, the AIDS epidemic, and hot-button issues such as gays in the military and gay marriage.  Source notes and a bibliography are included at the end of this excellent addition to LGBT nonfiction collections.

323.3; Stonewall Riots; Gay Rights            Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

This book reads more like a story than other LGBT nonfiction selections on the market.  The use of photographs and quotes from actual eyewitnesses to the riots really makes readers feel like the event is unfolding right before their eyes.  I would definitely recommend this title to those looking to build a collection on the history of gay rights.  It would pair nicely with Betsy Kuhn’s Gay Power!: The Stonewall Riots and the Gay Rights Movement, 1969 or with any of David Levithan’s fiction selections. I should warn potential buyers, however, that the information on gay marriage is already outdated, as the book was published prior to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage in June of 2015.

The Dead I Know…new YA Thriller for reluctant readers


Gardner, Scot. The Dead I Know. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 978-0-544-23274-7. 201p. $17.99. Gr. 7 and up.

Aaron’s life is like a puzzle.  He has terrible recurring nightmares everytime he falls asleep, so he tries not to sleep.  When he does sleep, he sleepwalks and ends up in dangerous places.  His Mam is going more and more into dementia, and Aaron needs to take care of her, but he also needs money and a job.  He and his Mam live in a trailer park with some pretty tough people that may be out to rob or hurt them.  He gets a job at a funeral home with a man who is happy to give him all sorts of opportunities like a new suit, help with getting a driver’s license, and even invites him to eat meals with his family, but Aaron has too much to hide to trust his new boss. As Aaron finds stability in his job with death, the control he has on his life starts to fall apart. Will he be able to face the truth of his past before it destroys him entirely.

Mystery/Psychological Thriller     Rachel Gutzler, Wilson High School

This was a great dark and mysterious read.  I found myself really sucked into the story and finished this book quickly in one afternoon.  I found Aaron to be very human, and his story believable yet sad. I really felt for him and the problems he had with job, family, living situation, and past issues.  This story would appeal to boys, and reluctant readers, as it is just 200 pages, and doesn’t look intimidating.  Mystery readers would also enjoy reading this short novel.

Under a Painted Sky…new YA Historical Fiction


Lee, Stacey.  Under a Painted Sky.  New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2015.  978-0-399-16803-1. 374 p.  $16.99.  Gr. 7 and up.

The year is 1849, and Samantha is a young Chinese girl living in Missouri with her father.  She longs to return to New York to pursue a career in music.  However, her plans change when her father perishes in a fire, and she finds herself wanted for the murder of a man who tried to rape her.  Luckily, she meets Annamae, a black slave who longs for her freedom.  The two girls decide to dress up as boys and run away to California via the Oregon Trail.  On the trail, they meet a group of cowboys who become their travel companions.  Throughout the journey, they face many difficult obstacles, including wild stampedes, cholera, lawmen on the lookout for criminals like themselves, and more.  As they begin to fall in love with two of their travel companions, they struggle to keep hiding their true gender.  A tale of friendship, love, survival and perseverance, this novel will resonate with fans of adventure and historical fiction.

Historical Fiction      Julie Ritter, Montoursville Area High School

Despite its three starred reviews, I wasn’t sure about this book when I first picked it up; it just sounded like another Wild West adventure story.  Boy, was I wrong!  The action picked up immediately, as a fire killed Samantha’s father in the first chapter, and Samantha killed her former landlord and rapist by the end of the third chapter.  From there on, the action only continued at a rapid pace.  I found myself unable to put the book down, wanting to know the answers to my questions.  Are the girls going to get caught by law enforcement officials?  Will the cowboys figure out that they are girls, and if so, will they love them back?  Will they make it to California on the Oregon Trail?  Besides being an exciting read, there were so many elements that made this book a great addition to any social studies curriculum or historical fiction collection.  There were many historical components incorporated into the story, including Oregon Trail landmarks, 19th century race relations, slavery, the Chinese zodiac and many other Chinese cultural elements.  I would definitely recommend this title for any school library!​


Girl Underwater – New YA Thriller


Kells, Claire. Girl Underwater. New York: Dutton, 2015. 978-0-525-95493-4. 291 p. $26.95. Gr. 10 and up.

College sophomore and competitive swimmer Avery Delacorte is en route to Boston for Thanksgiving when her flight crashes into a remote lake in the Rocky Mountains. Against all odds, Avery, her teammate Colin Shea, and three young boys survive the impact and make it to shore. Scenes of their high-stakes alpine survival are intercut with Avery’s recovery in the hospital, her efforts to return to campus and rejoin the team, and her unwillingness to face Colin and the boys again. Tension mounts with every page as the reader wonders, why is Avery so sure she let them all down out there? If she is meant to be with her college boyfriend, Lee, then why does her mind keep wandering back to Colin? And can she swim again without memories of the ordeal overwhelming her? This debut novel by Philadelphia native Claire Kells could easily have been published as YA. With athletics, adventure, suspense, and spine-tingling romance, it’s one of the best crossover books of 2015 (so far)!
Realistic Fiction      Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

The audiobook production is read by the wonderful Julia Whelan, who also lent her voice to The Impossible Knife of Memory and I’ll Give You the Sun, among many other titles. Playing a sample of this stellar audiobook would be a great way to interest students in the novel and audiobooks alike!

Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story


Levithan, David. Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story, a musical novel.  New York: Dutton. 2015. 978-0-525-42884-8 $17.99. 200p.  Gr. 10+.

Fans of Will Grayson, Will Grayson are probably all rejoicing that they finally get to read Tiny Cooper’s musical from the end of David Levithan’s previous novel.  Even if you thought Tiny Cooper was a little (or a lot) over the top, you most likely were a little curious to know what was in his musical at the end of Will Grayson, Will Grayson.  Hold Me Closer: The Tiny Cooper Story lets readers know just that.   This musical novel is the script, complete with blocking and author’s commentary, starting with Tiny’s birth and taking readers up to his latest break-up.  

The story will tug at heart strings, answer questions and maybe just make you scratch your head.  It’s a great follow-up to  Will Grayson, Will Grayson and a book that any fan of David Levithan or John Green should read.  I’d recommend it to anyone who liked Will Grayson, Will Grayson and is looking to find out more about the outrageous Tiny Cooper.

Musical Novel      Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS


Middle Grades Realistic Fiction – A Tale of Two Besties and The Looney Experiment


Rossi, Sophia. A Tale of Two Besties (a Hello Giggles novel). New York: Razorbill, 2015.  978-1-595148-056. 320p. $17.99. Gr. 7-10.

Harper and Lily have been best friends since elementary school; nothing comes between them. There’s never any doubt that they are besties and will be forever.  This is the exact reason they make a pact, to never change to please someone else, on the eve of freshmen year.  Lily is heading to Pathways, the super creative private high school where the children of famous musicians, actors, and artists all attend, while Harper is attending the local public high school.  Things get rocky for once-super popular Harper at Beverly Hills High, and it’s even harder without her BFF by her side.  Meanwhile Lily is the new freshmen sensation at her new high school where she gets wrapped up in her new extracurriculars, especially in namaste led by Pathways diva, Nicole, and forgets to be there for Harper.

This is a really cute story that will appeal to tween girls especially those making the leap to high school soon.  The characters are both 13 and entering 9th grade which I find a little unrealistic.  It’s hard to believe that the two are as mature as they are when they are still 13.  

Realistic Fiction    Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS  

Audio book information:

Rossi, Sophia. A Tale of Two Besties: A Hello Giggles Novel. Read by Anna Brisbin & Nora Hunter. New York: Listening Library, 2015.  978-1-101915-240. 8 hours $29.92. Gr. 7-10.


Reynolds, Luke.  The Looney Experiment.  Grand Rapids: Blink,  2015. 978-1-101915-240  $15.99. 208p. Gr. 7-9.

Everything in Atticus Hobart’s life is lousy.  He can’t get a hit in Little League; Danny Wills keeps calling him Fatticus, and to top it all off, his dad leaves his family.  Atticus thinks things can’t get any worse until his English teacher goes on maternity leave, and the class is left with a teacher who is older than dirt.  How on Earth can kooky, old Mr. Looney teach his class anything!  Atticus soon finds out that Mr. Looney may be old, and very weird, but he teaches Atticus more than he ever imagined.  

While reading Harper Lee’s best-selling novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, for English class, Atticus meets his namesake and finds the true meaning of courage.  Things with the class bully Danny get worse before they get better, but with a little help from Atticus Finch, Atticus Hobart finds the courage to stand up to his bully and help those he loves.  

Reynolds’ debut middle grades novel is great for boys who are trying to find their way.  It seems a little preachy at times, but the message is clear: it takes courage to stand up and fight even when you know you can’t win.  I would definitely put this in the hands of middle school boys who need to find a friend, even if it is in a book.  

Realistic Fiction    Laura Ward, Fox Chapel Area HS

Go Set a Watchman


Lee, Harper. Go Set A Watchman. New York: HarperCollins, 2015. 978-0-06-240985-0. 278 p. $28.99. Gr. 9 & up.

The most anticipated novel of the year reads exactly as it’s purported to be: an early version of what eventually became To Kill A Mockingbird.  Headstrong Scout’s sharp wit is there, along with entire paragraphs that are duplicated in Mockingbird.  Despite its rough, choppy style, this is a must-have for any high school collection, especially in schools with Mockingbird in the curriculum.  Atticus’ racist comments will break the hearts of Mockingbird devotees, who will likely feel pain along with Scout as she laments, “The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her … had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.”  But this shock can be a gateway to dialogue about segregation as students compare the idealistic Mockingbird with Watchman, which vacillates between depressingly realistic and downright outrageous when reflecting attitudes of Southerners in the 1960s.  Lee’s editor reportedly told her to rewrite the story to focus on Scout’s childhood; this advice was spot-on, as the best passages from Watchman are flashbacks.  Did Harper Lee ever intend for the world to read her early work?  We may never know, but it does provide us with a jumping-off point for additional discussions about editing, point of view, and the ethics of publishing Watchman in the first place.

Realistic (Historical) Fiction            Kristen Rowe, Plum Senior High School

Steve Jobs: Insanely Great….New in Biography


Hartland, Jessie.  Steve Jobs: Insanely Great.  New York: Schwartz & Wade, 2015.  978-0-307-98295-7.  240 p.  $22.95.  Gr. 7 and up.

This latest biography of Steve Jobs is much like the beloved products he designed;  it is deceptively simple and accessible.  However, when you look deeper, the detail and the level of thought that went into this book becomes obvious.  Like most biographies, Insanely Great starts with Jobs’ birth, talks about his major life events in a mostly chronological fashion, and ends with his death in 2011.  This book is unique in that it is told in a graphic format.  The drawings are not particularly artistic, and Jessie Hartland’s penmanship won’t win any awards, but this book gets it right.  It pictures Jobs as a brilliant man who is obsessed with simplicity of design and wants to make the perfect product for consumers.  However the book does not shy away from some of the negative aspects of Jobs’ personality.  He was a rule-breaker from his earliest days, was often difficult to get along/ work for, and had a tendency to abandon people who did not fit into his life anymore (including the mother of his first child and, arguably, Steve Wozniak, the technical genius behind Apple’s designs).  This book will appeal to students who might not be taken with the more traditional Steve Jobs biographies out there.  Insanely Great is easy to understand, the drawings are engaging, and it is a fast read.  One gets the feeling that Steve Jobs would have been very happy with this telling of his life story.

92 Graphic Biography      Susan Fox, Washington JSHS

Although this book is primarily about the life of Steve Jobs, there are panels throughout the book that place events in a historical context by showing the technology of the times from the 1970’s to the 2000’s (which is humorous for us people “of a certain age”).  Jessie Hartland also includes timelines of  developments in computer technology as well as visual explanations of computer terms like RAM and CPU.  This book is educational on many levels, and students who take the time to read all of the explanations will end up learning quite a bit.   Steve Jobs: Insanely Great IS an insanely great book that will be enjoyed by a wide range of students.


The Devil You Know – New YA Thriller


Doller, Trish. The Devil You Know. New York: Bloomsbury, 2015. 978-1-61963-416-9. 246 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

In the summer after high school graduation, Cadie Wells wants to ditch backward-looking drama with her ex-boyfriend and find some “forward adventure” instead. She’s also itching for a break from all the responsibility she’s shouldered at home since her mom’s death three years ago. A chance for a few days of freedom arrives at a campfire party in the form of hunky cousins Noah and Matt. Cadie impulsively accepts an invitation to join both guys on a canoe trip around some local Florida waterways. Though caught up in the excitement and her lust for Noah, Cadie has a nagging sense of guilt over ditching her dad and little brother. She also questions whether she can fully trust Noah, who has a violent past, especially when two missing persons seem to overlap with his travels. This is a very fast-paced romantic thriller. I love the way Trish Doller incorporates the steamy, sticky wilds of Florida and some survival elements into the narrative. This will be popular with teenage girls who like their romantic reads with a dangerous twist. It would be perfect to read this one in a tent after a long day of paddling on the river!
Thriller            Amy V. Pickett, Ridley High School

In The Devil You Know, Cadie and Noah share an intimate moment in the Devil’s Chair in the Cassadaga, FL, graveyard. This wonderfully creepy setting is real! The Devil’s Chair was supposedly built for an elderly widower to visit his wife’s grave, but urban legends about the chair abound. As with the mortsafes featured in Dianne Salerni’s The Caged Graves, it would be fun to incorporate pictures of these real places into a booktalk!

Full Cicada Moon


Hilton, Marilyn.  Full Cicada Moon.  New York: Dial, 2015.  978-0-525-42875-6.  $17.99. 400 p.  Grades 5-8.

It’s 1969, and Mimi Yoshiko Oliver and her mother are finally moving to Vermont to be with Mimi’s father.  Mimi’s father is a college professor, but their new neighbors are not used to living with people who are “different”, especially with someone like Mimi, who is half black and half Japanese.  Mimi’s father tells her to, “Be kind, be respectful, and persist.”  Mimi takes his advice to heart.  In spite of continued bigotry, she begins to make good friends.  She grows close to a girl named Stacey (another professor’s daughter) and Timothy (the boy next door who lives with his bigoted uncle). She does well at school and dreams of being an astronaut when she gets older.

Mimi is angry when she discovers that she will not be allowed to take shop. Only boys are able to take shop; girls need to learn how to sew and cook.  She decides to calmly and politely protest the school’s policy and ends up getting suspended.  During the time that she is away from school, her classmates show their support by staging a sit-in.  This is all happening during a time of tremendous social change; protests over the Vietnam War are raging on, and the Apollo Space Program is putting a man on the moon.  Change is also beginning to take place in Mimi Yoshiko Oliver’s corner of Vermont, and her life will never be the same.

Historical Fiction (1960s); Novel in Verse         Susan Fox, Washington JSHS

This is a wonderful book.  Mimi is a likeable heroine, and you can’t help rooting for her.  The verse format manages to convey Mimi’s frustrations, sadness, and ultimate joy in only a few words.  The author is also able to capture the ethos of a turbulent period in American history within the limits of this format, and it is beautiful.  This book is highly recommended for middle and junior high school students.