Do you have a reluctant reader in your life? Someone who gets intimidated by all of the PRINT in chapter books? The following are a few books that deal with some heavier topics but do it in a succinct and powerful way that will have readers coming back for more!
- ” Inside Out & Back Again” by Thanhha Lai combines a “coming-of-age” tale with a refugee narrative. Following the Vietnam War, Ha and her family move to America leaving her father behind somewhere in Vietnam. This is a story of lost culture, country, and family and starting over in a new place with a different language. Heavy hitting topics combine with small doses of humor as in the following: “Mother has always wanted an engineer, a real doctor, a poet, and a lawyer. She turns to me. You love to argue, right? No, I don’t. She brightens. I vow to become much more agreeable.” Any child could relate to unwanted parental expectations! The Accelerated Reading level is 4.8 but it would be a great read for any student. –National Book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book
- Reena’s parents both lose their jobs in the “big city” and on a whim the family decides to move to Maine where they have exotic animals like cows, pigs, and snakes. Luke and Reena will need every ounce of bravery they possess to figure out this new landscape and the freedoms and responsibilities it entails. This book deals with plenty of serious topics but without getting bogged down in emotional quagmires. A light-hearted romp through the countryside written in a sparse and quirky style. Check out “Moo” by Sharon Creech. This was recommended to me by Grace. She will make a fine literary critic some day. Reading Level=4.4.
- Racism, religion, and family dynamics meld together to form a lyrical coming-of-age story with dual 1960s North and South settings. Jacqueline Woodson’s “Brown Girl Dreaming” has been applauded by many. Reading Level=5.3. A great way to get the rhythm of the story down is to listen on Overdrive digital audio while you read the print version. (Overdrive/Libby apps are free and allow you to check out ebooks and audio downloads) –National book Award Winner and Newbery Honor Book
- His older brother was shot and killed last night. Now a young boy plans his revenge following a code he learned on the streets. He doesn’t know as he gets on the elevator how many people are willing to change his mind and show him the way. “Long Way Down” by Jason Reynolds is intense. Mrs. Francisco and I have a running debate regarding this book. Feel free to toss your hat in the ring (so to speak). Reynolds also has a series based on individual members of a track team which have received lots of good press from our patrons. Check out “Ghost”, “Sunny”, and “Patina”. Reading level=4.3 –Newbery Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Honor Book, Printz Honor Book
- A more mature book for the young adult reader, “A Little Piece of Sky” by Nicole Bailey-Williams, is a realistic and gritty portrait of inner city life. This isn’t a light, happy read by any means as the protagonist deals with abandonment, poverty, and grief. Trigger warnings for suicide and family violence. The reading level is rated at 5 but due to the subject matter, I would recommend to 8th and up.