Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai B.L. 4.8
Newbery Award and honor books are regarded as high quality writing for a reason. They often address issues that adults and, maybe especially children, face. This book discusses what it is like to be a refugee, however it is formatted differently than what would be considered normal. It is from the perspective of a 10-year-old girl whose family has to flee Vietnam during wartime. It is not only from her perspective, but is written in verse, which is different and attention getting. This does not have to be read at a certain pace or rhythm like other types of poetry. The format of the writing is mean to communicate a feeling and perhaps some underlying message, but this can be read exactly like any other book!
This novel discusses really difficult issues such as living in a war zone, escaping, and trying to make a new home in a place where not everyone is accepting. This is a great read for all ages, though the issues may be more difficult to grasp for younger readers. This can also be a good way to broach subjects such as empathy and acceptance.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage B.L. 3.9
Three Times Lucky is a really interesting novel from the perspective of 11-year-old Moses LoBeau. Mo (as everyone calls her) is a very intelligent little girl who washed up in a stream in North Carolina as a newborn after a hurricane upstream--no doubt prompting the name “Moses.” Mo is taken in by the Colonel and Miss Lana who raise and love her.
The summer before Mo goes to 6th grade a new man comes to the tiny town of Tupelo Landing-- detective Starr-- as well as a murderer. Mo and her friend Dale start on the journey of finding the killer, while Mo continues to search for her Upstream Mother. Mo and Dale are caught up in a murder and kidnapping with some great twists and reveals in the novel. There is also some internal growth for Mo as she learns what her family in Tupelo means to her.
While this book is a 3.9 level, I would recommend it to slightly older readers. It may be difficult to grasp some language and terminology that is colloquial in North Carolina, but relatively foreign in this part of the country. It may also be difficult for younger readers to grasp the relationship dynamics between Mo, Colonel, and Miss Lana, as well as the abusive relationships in the Johnson family. Having said all of that, it was a really enjoyable book and will keep young and old readers entertained!
Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm B.L. 4.8
There is a lack of punctuation such as parenthesis during conversation, as well as commas. There is also an increase in capitalization that should normally only exist at the beginning of sentences and with proper nouns. This lack of adherence to common English rules and punctuations exists in order to emphasize that the story is being told by a 12-year-old pioneer with limited education. In her storytelling, things such as parentheses and commas don’t matter as much, and she capitalizes for emphasis rather than in adherence to any rules. This is a great facet of this book! The storytelling is not just through the words, but through the appearance and organization of the book as well, making it feel more genuine.
As for content, this book is really about May Amelia finding her place as the only girl among so many men. She-- like most children-- feels restricted in what she can do, mainly because she is told that she is not allowed to do the same things as her brothers. She is constantly testing her boundaries in order to find out who she is and what is going to be best for her. These issues are similar to those faced by many children and therefore I feel the book level is mostly appropriate. I say “mostly” because the book also addresses the topic of loss very poignantly. There is a lot of grief that May Amelia comes to terms with-- even though she may not fully understand it. This topic may be sensitive for some readers, but it is also important that it be addressed. Overall, this was a wonderful book for fifth grade readers and older.
The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate B.L. 3.6
This is a novel about a silverback gorilla, Ivan, who for decades is kept in a small cage in a roadside mall. Ivan begins the novel as a calm and patient gorilla surrounded by other animals who are attractions in the roadside mall. Ivan is not at peace with his situation, but has blocked out memories about where he came from and his former life in the wild. However, as he talks with Stella-- an elephant in a nearby cage-- and connects with a new addition to the mall, Ivan uses his love for art to fulfill a promise and save his friends.
This novel is based on a real-life gorilla who was kept in isolation for decades, and while it is a 3.6 reading level, and can be understood at that level, it is an emotionally mature story. There is some violence and a lot of heartache and sadness. However, this book does bring up good points about not settling for what you have always known, but aspiring to something more. It can also teach about using your talents and work to benefit others and improve yourself. This novel has great content and is a quick read. It may be best for readers who are a little older and able to understand and deal with the emotional turmoil in the book.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham B.L. 4.1
Jean Lee Latham put an extensive amount of research into this historical fiction novel. It is about Nathaniel Bowditch, the man who wrote “The American Practical Navigator” which greatly improved the safety and accuracy of sailing. Mr. Bowditch is portrayed as an extremely intelligent man who has a passion for learning and sailing. There is some information that may be difficult for younger readers to fully grasp, but it is not overly technical. While there is mention of family members and spouses, these details fade into the background of the story. The main focus of the story is sailing and the study and learning of Nathaniel Bowditch which allow him to improve sailing for everyone. There is also a strong focus on Mr. Bowditch’s teaching efforts. He endeavors to teach those on the ship who are not well learned. Through this he learns how to explain sailing concepts and the mathematics involved in different and simpler ways in order to allow many people to learn and understand.
One overarching lesson that can be taken from this book is: Anyone can learn and improve themselves and their lives through hard work and dedication. This book might be a little difficult for younger readers to understand specifics, but it is a historical adventure that can be appreciated in some way or another by readers of any age.
Check out this post for some great murder and mayhem reading suggestions if you are not one for warm and fuzzy holiday reads!
“H” is for Homicide By Sue Grafton
As a part of Grafton’s Alphabet series Kinsey Millhone is at it again, but this time she has taken on a false identity to uncover insurance fraud for the California Fidelity insurance company. Everything changes when one of Kinsey’s close friends is murdered and she is taken in for questioning. She is arrested with Bibianna Diaz who is connected to the gang suspected of killing Kinsey’s friend. Things spiral downward quickly as more and more information gets out and people are getting hurt and even killed. Will Kinsey be able to keep Bibianna Diaz alive and keep things sane in her own life? You’ll just have to read the mystery to find out.
Hour of the Hunter by J.A. Jance
Diana Ladd is trying to piece her life back together 6 years after her husband took his own life to escape the trial for the death of a young Papago Indian girl. The other suspected killer in the case, a once professor, Carlisle, is convicted of the murder and sentenced to serve jail time after Diana and the dead girl’s grandmother, Rita Antone, push for Carlisle’s conviction for the murder. Now 6 years later Carlisle is being released from prison and he has a hunger for killing. Diana and her son’s lives are all at stake as they try to stay hidden from Carlisle as the police search for him. Can Diana stay alive long enough for the authorities to catch him?
The General’s Daughter by Nelson Demille
Captain Ann Campbell is the daughter of General Joe Campbell. She is found dead on the firing range at Fort Hadley and Paul Brenner is brought in to investigate her murder. As a member of the Army’s elite undercover detective unit, Brenner finds out that the general’s daughter isn’t as innocent as first believed when he finds out how many people she had been seeing on the base. The honor code has kept all the different types of relations she was having a secret up until now and Brenner has to put everything together to find out just who killed Ann Campbell and why.
Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly
Ranee Ballard was just returning from working the night shift as a police officer when she returns to her office and finds a man rummaging through her old files. The man identifies himself as Harry Bosch, a retired detective. There was a cold case that he could not get out of his head and he had to search into the matter. Ballard kicks him out of her office and later researches the case files that Bosch was looking at. He was looking at the murder of a 15 year old runaway named Daisy Clayton. Ballard also find outs that what sparked Bosch’s interests in the murder is that he has taken in the girl’s father who is a recovering addict. Ballard teams up with Bosch on the case and they end up within the area of the Varrio San Fer 13 gang, the most dangerous gang in California. Are they able to survive the gang and find Daisy’s murderer?
Voodoo River By Robert Crais
Elvis Cole is hired by a hollywood starlet and her agent to find out who her birth parents really are. When Cole arrives in Louisiana and starts investigating he quickly finds out that this in not a simple case. Blackmail, murder, and love is the mess that he has to put together and find out the facts of what really happened and why. After putting all the pieces together it’s time for Cole and the blackmailed victims to go after their blackmailer. Things get even deeper though as Cole finds out that it’s more than just blackmailing they are facing. He calls in his partner to help him when they find out that they are dealing with forces that shouldn’t be dealt with.
Long Road to Mercy By David Baldacci
13 years ago Atlee was spared by a kidnapper when he chose between taking her or her twin sister Mercy. After he chose Mercy, Atlee never saw her again. Daniel James Tor was convicted of other murders but Atlee believes that he was also the one who took Mercy. Atlee is now an adult working for the FBI in Arizona keeping watch over the Grand Canyon. She has a need to help find those that are missing as she's living with survivor's guilt. A mule is found stabbed multiple times at the bottom of the Grand Canyon and the rider is missing. Atlee will have to put all of her skills to the test for this case and will perhaps have to face the demon of her past.
Killer Pancake by Diane Mott Davidson
Goldy is running her own catering business with her assistant Julian who is dating Claire Satterfield a sales associate with the Mignon Cosmetics Company. Mignon asks Goldy to cater an event for them with one of the most difficult menus that she has ever had. Everything that she is to prepare has to be low calorie.
Things are going great until Claire Satterfield gets hit and killed by a car before the event starts. Goldy thinks that it is just an accident but the police think that there are other motives. Goldy and her detective husband then go on the search for Claire's killer, finding out along the way that the corporate cosmetic world is a cutthroat industry.
This book also has recipe’s that are a part of the story and are also included for you to give them a try.
To Die But Once By Jacqueline Winspear
This book is set in the 1940s with European advance during World War II. Maisie Dobbs investigates as to why a local pub owner’s son, Joe Coombes, has not checked in with them in a while. He is working on a government contract as an apprentice to a painting and decorating company but he was acting strange and complaining of headaches before they lost contact with him. She finds out during her investigation that a very well known London family is involved in organized crime and may be involved in the disappearance of Joe. Maisie is also dealing with her own problems as she is taking in an orphaned child and the person she loves makes a life changing choice for the both of them.
Death of a Village by M.C. Beaton
As a part of the Hamish MacBeth series, Hamish returns to visit the fishing town of Stoyre, Scotland. The residents are acting a little strange. He heads to the pub where everyone should be to only find it empty but he then finds everyone at the church. He can tell things are not right just by the feelings in the air, and he knows that everyone is scared. A well known cottage was leveled by an explosion and Hamish thinks that it was foul play and so he starts looking in the matter. He enlists the help of a journalist to help him investigate the situation when his good old friend unexpectedly dies. It is not all just coincidence and if he isn't careful Hamish may lose the loved ones around him.
Christmas Cake Murder By Joanne Fluke
It’s a very merry murder Christmas story with Hannah Swensen’s dreams of opening up her own bakery in Lake Eden. She’s asked to recreate a Christmas Ball from days of old in honor of Essie Granger; a woman who lives in Lake Eden but now resides in an assisted living. Hannah asks Essie for notes about how to make the Christmas Ball and is given permission to look at all of her notes. Hannah soon finds that Essie has written a very exceptional crime novel, but Hannah but Hannah starts to think maybe it isn't all just fiction as things in her life start to match the story line of Essie’s unpublished book. Is Essie’s book just a story, or is it something that is real that went unreported all these years?
As librarians at the Portneuf Library, we love the holidays (just check out our awesome holiday events and decorations if you don’t believe us!) but we know it can begin to feel like you’re reading the same Christmas book over and over every year. That’s why this year Crystal and I have teamed up to give you our picks for books that have a fresh take on holiday themes and that just might leave you feeling a little jollier.
Children and Teen Picks:
The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaola
This warm holiday read is Tomie dePaola’s retelling of the classic Mexican folktale; the flower of the Holy Night. dePaola’s familiar style illuminates this beautiful holiday story which makes for a great opportunity to learn together as a family about how another culture celebrates Christmas.
Merry Un-Christmas by Mike Reiss with illustrations by David Catrow
Basically every kid has wished that every day could be Christmas, presents, candy, and time off from school included. But through the alternate universe of Merry Un-Christmas where only one day a year isn’t Christmas, kids and adults alike can be reminded about just what makes that day so special and why we might even be a little grateful that it’s only a once a year occurrence.
The Christmas Genie by Dan Gutman with illustrations by Dan Santat
In this book, the author of the My Weird School series asks the question “What would you do if you could guarantee that you’d get your Christmas wish?” and of course holiday hoopla ensues as one elementary school class struggles to find the answer. Besides being hilarious, this book is also a good discussion starter for families to share what their wishes would be and what would happen if they suddenly came true.
Shall I Knit You a Hat?: A Christmas Yarn by Kate Klise with illustrations by M. Sarah Klise
This adorable and wintery read is a much needed reminder that while some gifts might not be as wish list worthy as others, it is truly the thought behind each present and the loved ones who give them to us who matter the most.
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
This adorable book is a cute candy cane style twist on a cliché Christmas courtship that’s like You’ve Got Mail with more sass. The back and forth scavenger hunt style of the book leads the characters (and the reader) all around New York City during the happiest and busiest time of the year. This book is a great read whether you’re not as into to Christmas like Dash (guilty as charged!) or are like Lily who is festive enough for the rest of us combined. The holiday hijinks also continue in the sequel, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, which takes place on Christmas the following year.
Other festively fun titles:
-The Worst Person’s Christmas by James Stevenson
-Who is Stealing the 12 Days of Christmas? by Martha Freeman
-The Last Holiday Concert by Andrew Clements.
-Politically Correct Holiday Stories: For an Enlightened Yuletide Season by James Finn Garner
-Matchless by Gregory Maguire
-Spending the Holidays with People I Want to Punch in the Throat: Yuletide Yahoos
-Ho-Ho-Humblebraggers, and Other Seasonal Scourges by Jen Mann
And for a dose of Christmas nostalgia we have a list of quick reads. Most of the books are 200 pages or less, making them perfect for the busy holiday seasons.
First off we have Skipping Christmas by John Grisham.
Luther and Nora Krank are facing their first Christmas in twenty years without their daughter. She is out of the country and Nora and Luther know Christmas just won’t be the same, so they decide to skip it. They are skipping the crowds, the corny office parties, the fruitcakes, and the presents. They have decided to go on a cruise instead. This decision soon proves to be more difficult than it sounds. The story of the Kranks is a funny and entertaining read that is quick and fun.
A Dog Named Christmas by Greg Kincaid
A Dog Named Christmas is a feel good story about a boy named Todd McCray and a special dog changing a family and a town. It all starts when Todd hears about the Adopt a Dog for Christmas Program. He convinces his parents to let him participate and after that he convinces the town to join in. The book is only 149 pages but it’s full of funny, sweet and happy feelings. It’s a great book for getting into a Christmas mood.
The Gift by Nora Roberts
The Gift is actually a set of two Christmas romances, starting with Home for Christmas. Jason is a traveling reporter heading back home after ten years, determined to win back his old flame Faith. The Second Story is All I Want for Christmas where twins Zack and Zeke have one wish for Christmas. They want a mom, and when they meet their new music teacher Miss. Davis They are convinced she is sent for them. Now they just have to convince her and their dad. Both stories are cute reads with fun holiday themes and show it’s never too late for second chances.
Christmas Out West is a collection of western Christmas stories
Christmas out West is a great collection of western Christmas stories, with both classic and contemporary. There are 16 short stories to choose from, making it great for a quick short story here and there, or an afternoon or two of reading them all.
Secret Santa by Robert Miller
It’s Christmas and Rebecca Chandler is in no mood. She has been dumped by her boyfriend and her work as a reporter has her covering seasonal fluff she has no interest in. When she is sent to the small town of Hamden to cover a story on a mysterious secret santa who shows up every Christmas Eve to give a generous gift to someone less fortunate, Rebecca decides not to write a fluffy, holiday piece, she is going to do an investigative piece on the identity on the secret santa. The story is a quick easy read that has the feel of a Hallmark movie. It’s great for mixing a little Christmas spirit into the pressure of the holiday.
Classic literature does not have to be limited to adult fiction or a classroom. Here are ten great classic works for young readers.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Little Women follows the four March sisters in a coming of age tale about growing up, love, and individuality. The sisters have unique personalities that make them easy to identify with, even centuries later. It is an interesting insight into life for young women in the 19th century, but also a moving story about family and budding identities.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
Black Beauty is the life story of a horse with the same name. The story follows his life from a colt to retirement as he learns important moral lessons. It is a great story to teach young readers about empathy and care for animals. It is also one of the biggest selling books of all time!
A Little Princess and The Secret Garden by Frances Hogdson Burnett
Frances Hogdson Burnett is responsible for a few of my favorite childhood stories. A Little Princess and The Secret Garden. Sarah from A Little Princess is a naturally caring and generous girl who goes from wealth, poverty, and back to wealth. Along the way, she makes friends with the underdogs and teaches others (even adults) the value of empathy. Mary in The Secret Garden, on the other hand, was an ignored child who grew up spiteful and uncaring. She eventually learns a lesson on empathy and gains what she’s always craved, love and friendship.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web is another classic that teaches young readers about the importance of caring for others. Especially those who can’t speak for themselves (like animals). The story follows Wilbur the pig as he and his barnyard friends try to keep him from the slaughterhouse. With the help of Charlotte the spider and her miracle webs, Wilbur learns about the challenges of growing up (and apart) and death.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
For most of us, Where the Red Fern Grows brings up memories of the tearfilled afternoon we finished it in elementary school. The story follows Billy and his two hunting dogs as they chase down raccoons and win hunting championships. It is a timeless classic, but will probably make young readers a little weepy.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
A Wrinkle in Time follows siblings Meg and Charles Wallace on a quest to find their father who has been trapped by “The Black Thing.” With the help of a human boy named Calvin and the three supernatural Mrs. Ws, the children go on an adventure through space and time to save their father (and the universe) from the evil “Black Thing.”
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda by Roald Dahl
Roald Dahl is responsible for numerous childhood classics but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory might be his most famous work. The book follows Charlie’s adventure through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. The characters in the story learn valuable lessons about greed. Matilda is another favorite classic of Dahl’s. It is the story of a very intelligent little girl who develops telekinesis due to the neglect and mistreatment from her family and school headmistress.
Holes by Louis Sachar
Holes may not have been around as long as the other books on the list but it is another personal favorite. Stanley Yelnats’s entire family was cursed with bad luck, thanks to his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” When Stanley is falsely accused to stealing an expensive pair of shoes, he’s sent off to Camp Green Lake to dig holes for the Warden. Though the holes are supposed to “build character” it seems that the Warden is actually after the infamous treasure buried in the desert by the outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barlow.
For anyone not quite ready to let go of the creepy, scary, monsters, and magic of Halloween just yet I have a few books that can help you hang on to it for a little while longer.
The Girl with all the Gifts by M. R. Carey
This book is a really unique read. It’s fast paced and thrilling, following first a girl named Melanie and the rest of really interesting group of characters living on a military base after a big fungal infection wipes out a lot of the population. The blurb on the back is what caught me and it did not disappoint.
“Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.”
The Collection by Bentley Little
This book is a collection of short stories that will really fill the creepy and scary want. I originally read this one years ago and it was still the first one I thought of when I started looking for stories for this blog.
*Some of the short stories can be disturbing, containing violence, assault, and graphic descriptions.
The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes.
They don’t all have to be scary to fit into the theme and Fred the Vampire Accountant is really not scary but it is funny and filled with the supernatural. I listened to the audiobook on Hoopla and loved it. Fred was an uninteresting guy and found himself supremely disappointed when that didn’t change after he turned into a vampire. The book is written almost like a diary and goes through a series or adventures that Fred gets roped into by his growing collection of friends, starting with his high school reunion.
Hocus Pocus & the All New Sequel by A.W Jantha
I had to mention this one. Hocus Pocus is a movie I’ve watched every year for Halloween. This is a two-part novel that starts with a retelling of the original movie and continues on to a sequel twenty five years later with Max and Allison’s daughter Poppy and her own encounter with the Sanderson Sisters.
Elsewhere by William Blatty
I found a nice haunted house book to round out the list. The story follows Joan Freeboard a tough, New York, real estate agent that is set to sell a mansion for giant commission. The fact that it’s haunted is just another step in the process. She gets herself a plan and a ghost busting team. This book was a fun read with fast pace.
Thanks for the read!
The weird fiction genre is the result you get when you throw books of fantasy, science fiction, and horror into a blender. Often including intense and/or graphic scenes and language, these titles are recommended for older teens and adults.
Perdido Street Station by China Mieville: Sentient, steam-powered robots? Check. A love affair between a scientist and a member of a half-woman, half-insect species? Check. Trans-dimensional spiders that only speak in telepathic, stream-of-consciousness free verse? Double check. Join the throngs of New Crobuzon, an overcrowded city full of mismatched people while this book sucks you into its vortex with a great story and even better world building. While working on his latest project, Isaac, a freelance research scientist, unwittingly unleashes a horror that feeds on dreams. Meanwhile his partner, Lin, is commissioned to sculpt a life-size statue of one of New Crobuzon’s most dangerous criminals.
Monstress by Marjorie Liu, Illustrated by Sana Takeda: What do you do when your inner monster keeps trying to eat your friends? Blending pieces of steampunk with anthropomorphic animals and Lovecraftian creatures, Monstress is a beautifully drawn graphic novel set in an alternate version of Asia. Here, a teenage girl is desperately trying to figure out the truth behind her past and how to control the thing that lives inside of her.
The Southern Reach Trilogy--Annihilation, Authority, and Acceptance by Jeff VanderMeer: In an undisclosed region on the southeast coast, behind a barrier that defies scientific explanation, lies Area X. The first expedition into Area X found ruins of the towns and houses of the people who once lived there, but no signs of the people themselves. Members of the third expedition died at each other’s hands in a free-for-all firefight. Members of the eleventh expedition suddenly returned home unseen with no memory of where they had been only to die months later from a particularly malignant form of cancer. Annihilation is the story of the 12th expedition, a group of 4 female scientists: a psychologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a biologist. Unable to communicate with the outside world, these four women must try to find the secrets behind Area X and make it back alive. Area X, however, has other plans…
The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins: Think all librarians are quiet and mousey? Try this novel where they are all homicidal psychopaths. In the beginning was the head librarian, Adam Black, and his twelve student librarians—Father and his twelve children. Now Father has gone missing. Many of the librarians suspect David, librarian over the catalogue of war and Father’s once favorite son. Or was is Father’s right-hand general, the ancient tiger Nobununga? Regardless, Carolyn, librarian over the catalogue of languages, has a plan. If only her plan cared more about humans and less about countering attacks from immortal beings made of pure thought or girls that walk the lands of the dead.
Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor: Welcome to a town where time doesn’t exist and summoning the secret police is as simple as speaking into the microphone that’s (poorly) hidden above your fridge. Here, the mother of a shape changing boy first glimpses the boy’s father for the first time in years. Then she sees another one of him. Then another. Meanwhile, a girl who doesn’t age and can’t remember where her mother keeps the silverware (a trapdoor under the scalded milk drawer) is handed a slip of paper that she literally cannot put down. Welcome to Night Vale is a humorous addition to your reading list, managing to be both dark- and light-hearted at the same time.
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos by H. P. Lovecraft and others: No list of the weird can be complete without including one of the genre’s greatest and original author’s: H. P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu, the dreaded tentacled horror, has gone from little-known character to pop culture icon. This anthology of short tales includes Lovecraft’s original legend, The Call of Cthulhu, as well as new stories written by many different authors.
For our final back to school blog, Crystal and I wanted to feature books that deal with the dreaded topic of high school.
Reluctantly Alice by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Reluctantly Alice is about a girl named Alice starting junior high. She has one goal starting the seventh grade: She wants everyone to like her. She doesn’t need to be popular, but she want everyone to think well of her. Unfortunately that is going to be harder than she thought with Dennis Whitlock hating her. This book is filled with all the dramas of staring middle school. Reluctantly Alice is told in a realistic way that makes it relatable and entertaining.
Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
Eliza and Her Monsters is a great read about a girl named Eliza, who in school doesn’t fit in, doesn’t talk to anyone, and is dreaming of the day she gets to go off to college and never look back. Eliza online however is LadyConstellation, the anonymous maker of the comic Monstrous Sea. Her friends are online. Her story is online, and her life is online. She doesn’t see what the big draw of the real world is until she meets Wallace Warland. He is the new kid in school and an avid writer of Monstrous Sea fanfiction.
This book definitely has strong language and touches on some serious issues such as depression and suicide. It also has the parents in the book talking casually about sex.
Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks
Evil Genius is a book about Cadel Piggott, a genius, who at seven already knew how to hack into computers and through some devious tutoring he learns all sorts of mischief and how to not getting caught. When he is fourteen he is invited to study at Axis Institute to earn his world domination degree. He studies classes for embezzlement, forgery, misinformation, and infiltration, but when he meets a girl online, a girl outside of his evil genius life, he starts to question what he is doing. Evil Genius is a really great read with humor, a few twists, and a bit of a dark side.
While it doesn’t go into a lot of detail, the book does have violence to look out for, and strong language.
Alive by Chandler Baker
Alive, when you read the back seems like just another teen romance, but it end up taking a bit of a twist that made it a really surprising read. The main character Stella has been waiting of the list for a heart transplant for years. She is running out of time and starting to think she won’t reach 18, when it finally happens. She gets a new heart and throws herself into her new life. She meets a new boy named Levi and has never been so drawn to anyone as she is him. She literally aches when he is away. Her recovery is complicated however by hallucinations and recurring pain and soon leads to some unsettling complications.
This book, while sounding mild and cute, has thrilling moments and darkness to watch out for.
Anything but Typical by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Anything but Typical is a wonderful story about a twelve year old boy named Jason Blake. Jason has autism and the story is a first person narration of his struggles to understand and fit in a neurotypical world, and of him finding his first friend through on online site where he posts his writing. Throughout the story you see the world through Jason's experiences, and his difficulty with interacting with people, his family, and at school, and it really endears you to the character. It is really a worthwhile read.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky is a love letter to teens who feel like they don’t quite fit in (who among us hasn’t at one point, especially in high school?). Throughout the schoolyear, former shy kid Charlie is taken under the wing of an eccentric group of older friends who help him to be less afraid of being himself and all the good and trickier parts that come with that. (This book deals with abuse and suicide, but with an ultimately positive outcome).
Scrawl by Mark Shulman goes beyond the typical behind the bully narrative to delve into what life is truly like Todd “pops” Munn. With humor, wit, and laugh out loud vivid description, this unique book is perfect for anyone who wishes that others would take more time to get to know their real story.
Other High School Reads:
The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson
Yearbook by Ally Condie
Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Anna and the French Kiss, by Stephanie Perkins
Monster High by Lisi Harrison
As school begins, and the time to start working on AR reading goals begins, Crystal and I wanted to cover some of our favorite picks in chapter books for the pre-high school crowd.
Ready for Kindergarten Stinky Face? By Lisa Mccourt with illustrations by Cyd Moore, Early Reader Books: Green Level
As Stinky Face tells his mom the wildest worries he has about starting school, his mom helps him come up with solutions proving that if he can handle something as outrageous as sinks that only have grape juice than he can totally handle the normal newness of kindergarten.
Cam Jansen and the First Day of School Mystery by David A. Adler with illustrations by Susanna Natti, 3rd Grade Reading level
Cam and Eric are pretty sure they know what to expect on their first day of school but it doesn’t take Cam long to be in the center of another mystery when their new teacher is arrested! Fortunately for Ms. Benson, star student and top detective Cam Jansen is on the case and has proved her teacher’s innocence by the final bell.
American Girl School Books by Various Authors, 3rd to 4th Grade Reading level
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to go to school as a pioneer, on the prairie, or as a servant girl at the turn of the century, then these books are for you! Each book takes on what it would be like to attend school in a different era highlighting the differences (learning how to drink tea properly instead of use multiplication) but also the things that are familiar to the reader such as having good friends.
Wayside School Series by Louis Sachar with various illustrators, 3rd grade reading level
The Wayside School books by Louis Sachar are probably the funniest, weirdest, and silliest books about school. The fact that Wayside school is thirty stories high isn’t the only thing wacky about this school where you can have ice cream that tastes like your friends and naughty kids get turned into apples.
Middle School is worse than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm with illustrations by Elicia Castaldi, 4th grade reading level
Middle school is a year full of changes and challenges for anyone but poor Ginny seems to have been given an extra helping of bad luck along with the dreaded cafeteria meatloaf. Told through notes, detention slips and cringe worthy school pictures, this book will have you laughing out loud.
Juv Level books for Middle Schoolers
Report Card by Andrew Clements, 4th grade reading level
Clements has written so many great books about school that it was hard to pick just one to feature and while the others are certainly worth checking-out (library pun intended), Report Card is a standout. Nora is a gifted genius but doesn’t want anyone to know because that would mean being obviously different than her classmates and going to a different class than her friends. Like many kids, Nora also feels that everyone is too worried about grades and wants to prove it by bringing home a report card full of C's and D's. Chaos ensues as everyone learns that letter grades aren’t always what determines how smart a person is and that we should all be less afraid of showing what makes us different.
The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School by Robin Epstein, Ben Winters, and David Borgenicht
This middle school survival guide is a great nonfiction book that I found on Hoopla, to help calm those pre-class jitters. It is an informative guide full of tips and tricks to help juggle the new issues that come with lockers, multiple teachers, and homework coming from every class. It even has suggestions for how to handle new problems with friends, finding new interests, and the embarrassment of changing in the locker room.
Reading level 6th grade
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess by Meg Cabot
From the Notebooks of a Middle School Princess is a story about Olivia Grace, the long lost half-sister of Princess Mia. Olivia is in the 6th grade going about her business like usual, dreaming of being a wildlife illustrator, when out of nowhere she gets the news of her princess title from a very jealous friend turned bully. She is suddenly in a school where everyone wants to sit next to her, even if they have never spoken to her before, and meeting the family she has always wanted. It is a really cute book and the start of a new series.
Reading level 5th grade
Middle School: Get Me Out of Here by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
Middle School: Get Me Out of Here is the story of a boy named Rafe who is just starting 7th grade in a new town and a new school. He is accepted into the Cathedral School of Arts and finds out that getting in was the easy part. The school has the students reapply after every year! He needs to keep up good grades, make great art, and keep out of trouble to be able to come back next year. That could be easier said than done. This book is told in an entertaining way and is full of great drawings.
Reading level 5th grade
Geeked Out by Obert Sky
Geeked Out is a dystopian middle school book. The world has gone to ruin after a dreadful movie adaptation led to a revolt, and the revolt led to the collapse of governments, and life was never the same. Unfortunately, even with the mess society has become kids still have to go to school. The main character is Timothy Dover (Tip). He and the rest of the AV Club start out attempting to get revenge against the jocks and end up getting super powers. This book is a funny one with lots of illustrations.
Reading Level: 5th grade
The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
The School for Good and Evil is a story about two girls that were picked to attend the fabled School for Good and Evil to be trained to be fairy tale heroes or villains. The main characters, Sophie and Agatha, thought they knew what sides they were destined for but are taken by surprise when Sophie, with her pink dresses and glass slippers, is sent to the school for evil, and Agatha, who dislikes nearly everyone is sent to the school for good.
Reading Level 5th grade
Other fun school Books:
Mama Don’t go by Rosemary Wells with illustrations by Jody Wheeler, Early Reader Books: Red Level
According to Humphrey series by Betty G. Birney, Reading level 3rd to 4th grade
Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson, Juv collection, 3rd grade reading level
All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson, YA Graphic Novels, 3rd grade reading level
The end of August can be a dreaded time for kids of all ages as summer fun transitions back into school routine. What better way to get back into the swing of things than with familiar characters, favorite authors, and honest, relatable, fun tales from school? To give recommendations for every kid in the family, I’ve teamed up with Crystal to suggest the best school books available at the library or through the Hoopla app. Stay tuned for our next blogs where we’ll be talking about school themed chapter books for early readers and beyond! To start things off, I’ve highlighted some of the best picture books for helping younger kids gain confidence about going to school, especially if they are going for the first time.
Pete the Cat Rocking in my School Shoes by Eric Litwin with pictures by James Dean
Pete the cat knows the importance of looking good on his first day as he goes to school rocking a new pair of his signature sneakers. The first day of school isn’t without its challenges for Pete, but this book shows how something as simple as a new pair of shoes can help a child start school with the confidence of everyone’s favorite cat. Pete the Cat: The Wheels on the Bus and Pete the Cat’s Got Class are also available at the library with audio versions available on the Hoopla app.
What Did You Do Today?: The First Day of School by Kerry Arquette with illustrations by Nancy Hayashi
This unique book does the double duty of showing a kid what to expect at school while also giving them a look into what their grownups do during the day as well. While many back to school books focus on the child missing their adult, this book shows that missing one another is shared experience along with other activities like having lunch.
School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex with Illustrations by Christian Robinson
Kids aren’t the only ones who get nervous about going back to school, it turns out that your school is very nervous about meeting you too! This sweet and hilarious book shows what your school goes through to be ready as Frederick Douglass Elementary shares many of the same worries as the kids who will soon inhabit it. Will the kids at school like school? What if school gets embarrassed? Luckily, in spite of a first day full of new things, both school and its new students decide they want to have many more days of fun that year.
Maisy goes to Preschool by Lucy Cousins
Starting preschool can be just as big of an adventure for kids and Maisy Goes to Preschool introduces small children to everything they can expect at school through Cousins’s friendly illustrations and a short story that’s the perfect size for smaller attention spans.
First Grade Stinks by Mary Ann Rodman with illustrations by Beth Spiegel
Many children are excited about the new freedom of first grade and maturity that comes with being old pros at going to school. But many kids are also not expecting the new changes that come with moving past kindergarten. Through this funny and relatable book, Haley learns that while many things are different in first grade, that can be a good thing when it comes to learning new things like reading. She also learns that the most important things, having teachers that care and good friends, are the same no matter what grade you’re in.
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn with illustrations by Nancy M. Leak
The Kissing Hand is a wonderful book for a child who is especially nervous about starting school and being away from their parents for the first time. This book is a beloved classic because of the useful ritual it shares for helping kids feel close to their loved ones when they are apart. By finding a way to bring a kiss with him to school, Chester Racoon helps remind kids that they are loved and that separation is only temporary.
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Little worries can seem huge to a child Wemberly’s age so starting school is no easy task when that change can make even the bravest child worry. This book reminds kids that everyone worries about big changes (including grownups!), and that they won’t be the only ones who are nervous on the first day.
Lunch Money and Almost Late to School by Carol Diggory Shields with illustrations by Paul Misel
These two collections of poems are silly fun for all ages and cover a wide variety of school topics from show and tell mishaps to making sense of math. Told with fun illustrations and words that crawl, twist, and turn across the page, these books are perfect for reading aloud and laughing away back to school jitters.
Other Great School books:
The Berenstain Bears go to School by Jan And Stan Berenstain
How do Dinosaurs go to School? By Jane Yolen with illustrations by Mark Teague (Also available as an audiobook on the Hoopla app).
Froggy Goes to School by Jonathan London with illustrations by Frank Remkiewicz
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don't! by Elise Parsley
We Don't Eat Our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins (available as an e-book with narration through the Hoopla app)
For this month, with summer reading going on, I thought I’d recommend some bingo picks. Now, even though I have a specific bingo in mind, that doesn’t mean some books can’t be mixed and matched. A few, if not all of the books can fit into multiple categories. Also, I am a big believer in the story being the thing that counts, so even though the bingo is on the adult reading log, the books are a mix of juvenile, young adult, and adult fiction.
Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks
Friends with Boys is a graphic novel about a girl named Maggie who is not only just starting high school, but is also going to public school for the first time. She has only ever been home schooled before. Her only classmates were her brothers. Now she is thrust into a world she doesn’t know how to navigate and is struggling to deal with her brothers having friends and activities that don’t include her. It is a nice coming of age story with budding friendships, the perils of fitting in, and even ghosts. The artwork is really detailed and done well enough that I don’t miss the inner monologue and descriptions that you would find in other novels.
Other graphic novels you may consider are...
Playing For Pizza by John Grisham
Okay, so this one was the square I was least looking forward to. Sports fiction is not usually my go-to genre, the bingo is definitely doing its job in making me branch out with this one. Playing for Pizza was a surprise. It was really interesting and it draws you in quickly. The character Rick Dockery is a third string quarterback (That’s right, I now know what a quarterback is!) who is in the hospital after what could be considered the single worst performance in NFL history. He took an almost guaranteed win and trip to the super bowl and destroyed it. He is cut from the team and no one else will take his agent's calls, let alone let him near their team. He is getting death threats and his agent is telling him to call it quits, but he won’t. He refuses to give up on his painful career and takes his only offer. He goes to Parma, Italy to play for the Panthers. Playing for Pizza is a light read filled with food and humor.
Other sports fiction you might consider are...
The Kept Woman by Karin Slaughter
The Kept Woman is a really intense read. It is a detective mystery with a few twists and turns that surprised and made it a new favorite of mine. I quickly got caught up in the characters with all their problems surrounding the case and their relationships. The Kept Woman follows GBI's investigator Will Trent while he investigates the murder of an ex-cop and the secrets that surround it. The Kept Woman is actually the eighth in a series that follows Will Trent, but it can be read alone. I started with The Kept Woman and liked it so much that I went back and read the rest.
This book has violence, swearing, and abuse. So be careful. It is a darker book than I usually recommend, but if you don’t mind that, it really is worth it.
Other Mystery you might consider are...
The Good Guy by Dean Koontz
The Good Guy is about a stone mason Timothy Carrier who is at the bar with friends after work when a nervous man sits beside him. He is passed an envelope filled with cash and picture. “Ten thousand now. You get the rest when she’s gone.” So he has a choice, ignore it or help the woman in the photo. With the title “The Good Guy” you can guess what he chose. The problem is the man who was actually hired for the job doesn’t give up that easily, and he does not appreciate someone interfering in his work.
The Good Guy has some creepy, twisted, and violent bits when you’re in the point of view of the killer, but it is a mostly clean read.
Other suspense novels you might consider are...
Made Into a Movie
Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
Ella Enchanted is one of my all-time favorite books and if you have only seen the movie you are missing out. The movie isn’t a bad movie by itself. However, it, like most movies, only scratches the surface of the book, and takes a few too many artistic licenses. The movie is fine and flashy and all that, but the book is so much better. Ella Enchanted, if you haven’t heard of it, is a story about a girl who was given the gift of obedience from a fairy named Lucinda. She has to do whatever she is told to do. When her mother dies and her father remarries Ella is put in a really difficult situation, because her step-mother and step-sisters don’t know about the curse. That doesn’t stop them from using her uncanny obedience though. So at first chance Ella sets out on a quest to find Lucinda the fairy and have her undo the curse.
Other Books Made Into A Movie You Might Consider Are...
(Let’s just say that if you have seen a movie based on a book, the book deserves a read.)
If you want more suggestions for a different bingo square let me know, and I’ll get back to you!
Looking for some inspiration on what to read next? Who better to ask then the people who work around books for a living!? Each month we will post a "staff picks" blog post written by one of our staff members. These posts will vary in genre, theme, age appropriateness, etc. If you have any requests on a genre or age category you would like to see, submit a comment here and we will get it on the list!