Aug 302018

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! 


  1. ” 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
  2.  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. 
  3. 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
  4. 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
  5.  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. 
Aug 172018

Well, I have avoided it long enough.  It was necessary to read some teen fiction so I would have something to recommend. Don’t get me wrong. There are some very talented young adult writers; however, the genre seems to be in a “dark and dystopian” frame of “mind”. It just isn’t where I want to spend a lot of my time. Fortunately, I had some lovely folks recommend these books or authors to me, so I was able to pick up a few reads to pass along….


The best fantasy novel I have read all Summer (adult included).  Psychics, ley lines, and a hunt for a missing king.  I am a sucker for a good “treasure” hunt and this delivered.  It is a mystery/gothic romance and the first in a series so there will be more fun in the future. Thanks Mrs. D. for the rec.


“Imperfect Spiral” is a story of grief and guilt following a terrible accident and the scapegoating of “others”.  When a young boy is killed walking home from the park, a community plays the “blame game” and a young girl tries to deal with her own feelings of guilt and grief while deciding how involved she will become in the political aftermath. Thanks to Taylor for the recommendation (actually she gave me a two page list of books to read and this was one of them).


The rich and middle class live in a compound to protect them from the monsters that roam the earth following a catastrophe that changed the earth’s social structures.  Hunters track down and kill the monsters trying to break into the compound and have a huge, ranked social media presence. The monsters are getting smarter and the hunters fewer. Suddenly, the hunters realize they may be fighting more than monsters…..Thanks to Jaida for the rec.


Amy’s father died in a car wreck. Her mother moved from California to the East Coast, leaving Amy to come after the school year finished.  Amy’s brother is in rehab. Now she must travel cross country with a young man she doesn’t know.

Roger’s girlfriend dumped him with no warning. His mother’s old friend wants him to drive a young girl across the country.  She didn’t mention the reason Amy doesn’t drive anymore….

A melancholy look at two souls dealing with different types of loss and grief and the friendship and romance that result.  Morgan Matson knows how to write a good book!


“Heartless”.  The Queen of Hearts lost her heart.  This is the tale of how that happened and why this book couldn’t have a happy ending. It is very atmospheric. The first part was a 5 smooth-star read; however, the drama drama got to be a bit much.


Aug 162018

Today is the first day of school.  Where did the Summer go?  About 2 weeks ago, it occurred to me that I had not read any middle grade or teen novels this Summer. What fresh recommendations would I be able to give? Disaster! I could already see the disappointed looks on the faces of young readers. What a slack librarian!  Fortunately, there were plenty of books at hand!  I covered my dining room table with reading options. Middle grade is where it’s at as far as great adventures, magic, and fun so that is where I started.

Kate DiCamillo is a wonderful author.  Yes, she wrote “The Tale of Despereaux” and “Because of Winn Dixie” but her “Mercy Watson” series stole my heart!  Raymie Nightingale tells the tale of a wonderful friendship formed between three young girls training for a local talent contest. Each girl has a distinct goal in entering the contest and each one is dealing with serious issues at home.  I was cheering them on throughout the whole book and heartily recommend this book to everyone! smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

Set in late 1800s Washington, this is the story of May Amelia, daughter of Finnish farmers and sister to SEVEN brothers. I would have felt sorry for her except this adventurous gal needed no help from anyone.  As we follow the hardscrabble life of the family, we watch as each of the children reach for their goals while supporting their family.  This book has some “sad bits” but it was a wonderful read. smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star


Two young boys are the best of friends. When a babysitter enters the picture, life changes drastically for one of the boys. Will his friend be able to save him without losing his friendship?  This book dealt with very serious issues and while the book was written at approximately a 4th grade reading level, I wouldn’t recommend it to that age of child.  There was a glimmer of hope at the end of the novel but not much.  smooth-starsmooth-starsmooth-star

The Accelerated Reading level for this children’s adventure tale is 5.5.  The story itself feels a lot “younger” than that. It is a sweet story about a family falling on hard times and moving from a grand house to a shack in the English countryside. The kids meet lots of interesting people, form friendships, and have wild adventures while their mother works to keep a roof over their head and their falsely imprisoned father sits in jail.


When a drought hits the reservation, eleven-year-old Gregory and his family head for the big city.  Gregory tries to fit in at a new school while dealing with the loss of his home and father. Culture shock, poverty, and domestic abuse seem like a lot to cram into this very short book.  smooth-starsmooth-star