Upper Elem/MS FIC – Smarty Marty; Invisible Emmie; The Night Garden; The Losers Club

Gutierrez, Amy. Smarty Marty Steps up Her Game. Cameron Kids, 2017. 978-1944903084. $13.95. Gr. 2-4.

Marty, who loves baseball, is the score-keeper for her younger brother’s little-league team. Having taught him all she knows (which is more than most grown-ups) about her favorite sport, Marty is there to cheer him on! At one game the announcer doesn’t show up, and Marty has the chance to make her announcing dream come true. Some people don’t like the fact that a girl is announcing the game.  What will Marty do?  THOUGHTS: This book is written by The San Francisco Giants in-game reporter Amy Gutierrez. The author knows what she’s talking about both in terms of baseball lingo, and what it’s like to be a woman expert in a male-dominated sport.

Sports              Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School

 

Libenson, Terri. Invisible Emmie. Harper Collins, 2017. 978-0-06-248494-9. 185 p. $22.99. Gr. 4-8.

Thirteen-year-old Emmie used to be quite the chatterbox, but lately she’s been pretty quiet. The only person Emmie feels she can talk to is her best friend, Brianna. But since middle school started, Emmie and Brianna aren’t in many of the same classes, so Emmie just keeps to herself, spending as much time as she can drawing in her journal. Emmie wishes she could pluck up the courage to talk more, especially to her crush, Tyler Ross. One day Emmie and Brianna are joking around and writing love poems to their crushes, and in a rush to get to next period, Emmie drops hers on the ground. The poem is picked up by the class bully/clown, and soon everyone in school knows that Emmie wrote a love poem about Tyler! To make matters worse, Brianna is frustrated that Emmie would be so careless with their top-secret notes. Emmie begins to feel like a puddle of slime, and finds that the only way to move forward is to speak up for herself. THOUGHTS: Invisible Emmie is a cute and funny story that upper elementary and lower middle school grades will enjoy. Libenson mixes images and text in a unique novel that will appeal to graphic novel fans, but delight parents or teachers who are looking for more text heavy titles.

Realistic Fiction    Vicki Schwoebel, Friends’ Central School

 

Horvath, Polly. The Night Garden. Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, 2017. 978-0-374-30452-2. $16.99. 292 pp. Gr. 3-6.

Franny is a twelve-year-old aspiring writer who lives with her two independent, adopted parents. Life is in balance on their large shorefront property filled with many old gardens, even though WWII is at their doorstep. However, that balance is disturbed when Crying Alice drops off her three kids and leaves to stop Fixing Bob from making a huge mistake. Soon, each character is facing some dilemmas, and the unusual option to have a wish come true through the magical powers of the night garden.  THOUGHTS: Horvath will have young readers laughing and delighted while moved and wondering the true question, “What is a wish worth?”

Historical Fantasy     Dustin Brackbill, State College Area SD

 

Clements, Andrew.  The Losers Club. Random House, 2017. 978-0-399-55755-2. $16.99.  230 p. Gr. 4-7.

Alec loves to read. All the time. Even during class, when he should be paying attention to the teacher. So when the principal threatens Alec with summer school if he doesn’t stop reading during class, he is in a panic. Suddenly, having to attend the after-school program seems like a boon: three hours of uninterrupted reading time. Only, Alec learns he is required to join an established activity, like the programming club or, worse, kickball, dominated by his arch-nemesis, Kent.  Undaunted, Alec petitions to form his own club, the perfect front to sit by himself and read. When he convinces a fellow bookworm to sign on, the Losers Club is formed – the name designed to keep others from joining. However, students slowly migrate to the club, kindred spirits who would rather read than be bullied by Kent. But now Alec finds he spends more time managing the club than reading!  THOUGHTS:  Another delightful Clements offering, an ode to books and reading. Bibliophiles will enjoy finding all the titles mentioned in the book, and many quiet students are sure to identify with Alec.

Realistic Fiction     Nancy Nadig, Penn Manor SD

YA FIC – Sparrow; Far from the Tree; They Both Die at the End

Moon, Sarah. Sparrow. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 978-1-338-03258-1 264p. $18.99.  Gr. 6 and up.

Sparrow is super shy and doesn’t really like people.  She “checks out” of uncomfortable situations by watching birds and imagining she can fly.  Her refuge at school is the school library, but her librarian dies suddenly, leaving Sparrow adrift.  The book begins when she wakes up in the psych ward of the hospital after she is found on the school roof and everyone assumes she was going to jump.  Sparrow ends up in therapy, which is really helpful, eventually. She is exposed to music that really speaks to her.  Music becomes a new obsession.   She even ends up at a great summer camp where she learns to play the bass guitar.  The story ends with great hope for Sparrow’s continued growth.  THOUGHTS:  This is a painful story to read, but an important one.  It is for all of our super shy kids.  It is for all of our black girl nerds.  It is for music lovers.  It is for all of us to build empathy for people in similar situations to Sparrow.

Realistic Fiction       Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Moon, Sarah. Sparrow. Arthur A. Levine Books, 2017. 978-1-338-02358-1. 272 p. $18.99. Gr. 7 and up.

For introvert and only child Sparrow, navigating her peers and the halls of her school has never been easy. She found “her place” in the library with Mrs. Wexler, the school librarian who knew just the right books to give Sparrow. In the quiet comforting space, Sparrow ate her lunch in the library with other book people but not really with them. The book opens as Sparrow wakes up in a white hospital room, after being found on her school’s roof, apparently attempting suicide. No one believes that she really wasn’t trying to kill herself. Sparrow isolates herself from her mom, the one person who used to understand her, and finds herself meeting with a therapist. Resentful of this invasion of privacy because she really wasn’t trying to kill herself, Sparrow sits quietly through her therapy sessions. Oddly, Dr. Katz is perfectly willing to let Sparrow sit and be with her thoughts and some intriguing music. Eventually, Sparrow begins to trust Dr. Katz, and she pushes herself out of her comfort zone in an attempt to find an outlet for all that she is feeling.  THOUGHTS: This book really gets into the head of a girl dealing with mental health and anxiety issues. I’m not sure how much teens will like Sparrow’s bird fascination, but the way she is able to connect with music on an intense emotional level will resonate. Sparrow’s journey seems like a stretch, since she is initially found isolated on the school’s rooftop and at the end she is healing and able to go so far out of her comfort zone.

Realistic Fiction   Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

Benway, Robin. Far from the Tree. HarperTeen, 2017. 978-0-06-233062-8 374p. $17.99.  Gr. 9 and up.

Grace has had a tough year.  She became pregnant and chose an adoptive family for her baby.  Attending school during the pregnancy is tough, as she loses friends and is mocked in the hallways.  After the birth and seeing her daughter being taken home by someone else, Grace is adrift and wants to know more about her own birth family.  Grace’s adoptive parents are supportive as Grace meets Maya and Joaquin, her biological brother and sister.  Maya has her own secrets as her adoptive parents fight all of the time and her mother drinks.  Joaquin has spent seventeen years in the foster care system and keeps all of his secrets as to not hurt anyone else.  This fast-paced story kept me turning pages to find out how the three of them would treat each other and handle all of the other things happening in their lives. All three siblings have romantic relationships that need some work.  THOUGHTS: This is a great read.   It explores the meaning of family, the complexities of secret-keeping, and the importance of letting other people in. A great purchase for a high school collection.

Realistic Fiction      Toni Vahlsing, Abington Friends School

 

Silvera. Adam. They Both Die at the End. HarperCollins, 2017. 9780062457790. $17.99. 384p.

Gr. 8-12.

What would you do if you knew you only had 24 hours left to live? This story follows two teenaged boys, Mateo and Rufus, who are Puerto Rican and Cuban-American respectively, on their End Day. In the future, you will receive a phone call from specially trained “Deckers” whose job it is to tell you that you will be dying soon. Fortunately, there is an app called Last Friend that allows people to connect with someone that will also die, which is how Mateo and Rufus finally meet after having to deal with a few believable trolling incidents from people using the Last Friend app. The reader follows along as the two teens try to make the most of their last few hours while also coming to terms with their impending death. Chapter titles countdown the time and include additional characters thoughts. THOUGHTS: I enjoyed the premise of this book – that one day you will find out that it is your last day on Earth. It’s something that most people have thought about and can be a great way to focus on what is important in life. Silvera did away with pesky families so that the characters didn’t want to just sit around with them on their last day. This sets the teens up to go out and have experiences together, which included developing a romantic relationship with each other. This will be another great book to add to your LGBT collection.

Dystopian     Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD

YA Realistic Fiction – Lizzie Lovett; The Tea Girl…; The Hate U Give; Follow Me Back

Sedoti, Chelsea. The Hundred Lies of Lizzie Lovett. Sourcebooks, 2017. 978-1-492-63608-3. 400 p. Gr. 9 and up.

While the bigger picture items (depression, bullying, teen suicide, growing up/apart from friends, and feeling like you don’t fit in anywhere) are very compelling, the whole werewolf thing is a distraction. I kept expecting Hawthorn to be diagnosed with something and didn’t enjoy that aspect of the story. Not many high school seniors will make up convoluted fantasies to deal with stress. I stuck with it through the end, but I don’t know that many teens will be as dedicated. Love the cover, though!
Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District

 

See, Lisa. The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane. New York: Scribner, 2017. 978-1501154829. 384 p. $27.00. Gr. 11 and up.

Lisa See has done it again, writing a beautifully nuanced and wonderfully engaging story of mothers and their bonds with daughters. The story begins with Li-yan, a young girl who is a member of a small ethnic minority, the Akha, that live in the mountains of southern China. Their livelihood is dependent upon the tea trees that cover their mountain. Li-yan is to inherit a special grove of trees passed down among the women in her tribe.  Li-yan attends a local school, and yearns to experience life beyond her tiny mountain. Soon, however, she becomes involved with a boy from a nearby tribe, and this relationship results in pregnancy. Normally, the pregnancy would be aborted since the couple is not yet married, but Li-yan refuses to let that happen, trying to keep her growing belly a secret. Her mother takes her to their private tree grove to give birth, and Li-yan takes the baby to an orphanage, leaving her with a small cake of tea leaves wrapped in paper. The girl is quickly adopted by a couple from California. The story is interspersed with small chapters about the childhood of the girl, who her parents name Haley, as she struggles with understanding why her birth mother did not want her. Her storyline highlights the difficulty of assimilating into another culture through adoption. In China, Li-yan marries the man she fell in love with, but their story is cursed from the start. She eventually ends up at school and learns more about her beloved tea. The reader will be appalled by the archaic traditions practiced by the Akha, but See does an excellent job of making their livelihood understood, looking at it through Li-yan’s changing eyes yet loving heart. See obviously did extensive research on both the Akha and the process of making tea as well as the culture of tea in China.  Li-yan is strong but humble, and searches throughout her life for meaning, love, and forgiveness. THOUGHTS: This is an excellent story to give to students interested in tea, China, and/or adoption from another country. Highly recommended for mature teens and adults.

Realistic Fiction    Lindsey Myers, Shadyside Academy

I absolutely loved this book. Not only was it an introduction to a new culture in China, but it was also an interesting presentation of the adoption process and what young children of other cultures go through when they are adopted into white American families. I have always enjoyed Lisa See’s novels, but this one stands out as a favorite. When I was towards the end, I often found myself wishing that the story would go on and on, as I wanted to stay with the characters and see their stories continue to grow and evolve.  

 

Thomas, Angie. The Hate U Give. Balzer & Bray/HarperTeen, 2017. 978-0-062-49853-3. 444 p. $17.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Starr may seem like the average teenage girl; she plays sports, likes spending time with her friends, and occasionally fights with her boyfriend, but she’s actually living a double-life.  Starr is torn between who she thinks she wants to be and who she thinks she should be.  While Starr lives in a poor, all-black neighborhood with gangs and drive-bys (to which she’s already lost one childhood best friend), she attends a rich, mostly-white prep school where stereotypes are so commonplace that she tries to blend in as much as possible to avoid being one, causing her to contemplate what it truly means to be black in today’s society.  Starr’s parents educated her and her brothers about racism when they were younger, even outlining specific possibilities they themselves may encounter, but this never stopped Starr from giving people the benefit of the doubt.  That is, until tragedy strikes and yet another childhood friend is killed; this time at the hands of the very people meant to keep us safe, the police.  When the young man is labeled as a drug dealer and a “thug”, laying the groundwork for a cover-up of this heinous crime, it is up to Starr to finally decide which life she wants to lead and how important she is to ensuring equality and justice for all.  THOUGHTS: Poignant. Thought-provoking. Powerful. Heartbreaking. Thomas writes an incredibly impactful story of race and culture that sadly rings so true today, shining a very bright light at racism, gang violence, drug dealing, interracial dating, and other parts of our society that many turn a blind-eye to. I cannot find the words to adequately explain how important this story is, except to say that while Starr and Khalil are fictional, their experiences unfortunately are not. Read this book. Then share it. I, for one, will be adding it to my high school library collection and putting it on display, front and center.

Realistic Fiction           Sandra Reilly, Pleasant Valley School District

 

Geiger, A.V. Follow Me Back. Sourcebooks Fire, 2017. 978-1-492-64523-8. 368 p. $10.99. Gr. 9 and up.

Something happened to Tessa that made her an agoraphobic; she hasn’t left her house, more specifically her room, since she returned from New Orleans in June. She has limited access to the outside word and relies on her phone, Twitter, and Wattpad. Tessa feels safe in the anonymous world writing fanfiction about Eric Thorn.

Eric Thorn was thrown into the spotlight when he rocketed to the top of the music charts, gaining instant fame and a lot of fans. Eric feels trapped by his recording contract and his fame. Since a fellow singer was murdered by a crazed fan, Eric has become fearful of his fans and bitter about the life he is forced to live.  Among his tons of fans, Eric connects with Tessa on Twitter. They both feel a connection with each other and look forward to their daily DM conversations. Meeting in real life is a risk for both of them, but is it one they should take?

THOUGHTS:  Set in the present and the past, readers are given bits of the story as told by Tessa and Eric, their tweets and direct messages, and their police interviews. This fast-paced drama will attract those of the tech generation. While the terminology may become outdated as technology changes, this book will fly off of the shelves today.

Realistic Fiction       Maryalice Bond, South Middleton School District