When you’re a preteen, having control of your life seems to be an impossible dream. Parents make all of your decisions. Sometimes, though, life takes a turn and the possibility of a new direction lies in a kid’s path. The following selections by Junior Library Guild editors showcase characters who must take responsibility for their own actions, and choose new destinies in the process.
BARTOLETTI, Susan Campbell. Down the Rabbit Hole. Scholastic. 2013. ISBN 9780545297011. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).
A Dear America adventure set in 1871 Chicago, Bartoletti’s orphan tale features the diary of Pringle Rose―a strong female character who takes care of her younger brother who has Down syndrome. When their hopes of shelter end on the steps of a Chicago mansion, the siblings turn to a family they’ve met on the train from Pennsylvania. Pringle becomes the governess and amidst the constant fires of a city built of wood, learns to cook, clean, and manage a household. While she learns about the life of the worker, she begins to struggle with her upper class beliefs. Was her father wrong? Are the workers underpaid and overworked? Whether readers recognize the date of the Great Fire or not, the foreboding sense of tragedy looms over the city, creating suspense in the center of Pringle’s conflicting emotions.
GOLDBLATT, Mark. Twerp. Random. 2013. ISBN 9780375971433. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7) .
“I’ve done worse, much worse, and never written a word about it.” After a week of suspension, Justin chooses to write about what happened instead of completing his Shakespeare assignment. He has no trouble retelling the mischief he and his neighborhood buddies get into. “His entire head was surrounded by smoke. It was like something you’d see in a comic book…but only for a split second. Not enough time to realize what was going on, or to think about the consequences―like maybe Quentin was going to be dead once the smoke cleared.” (It took six weeks for his eyebrows to grow back.) Justin finds that writing an account of his sixth-grade year is harder than he thought. From tales of love letters gone awry to heartfelt narratives about an argument between friends, Goldblatt’s first novel for younger readers will have them laughing out loud and reflecting on their own choices as Justin learns about the effects of bullying.
KADOHATA, Cynthia. The Thing About Luck. illus. by Julia Kuo. S & S/Atheneum. 2013. ISBN 9781416918820. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).
Summer’s life has always revolved around the harvesting of wheat. When her parents are called to Japan, she helps take the harvest season on the road as her grandmother’s assistant in the kitchen. She’ll also take care of her younger brother, Jaz, and their dog, Thunder. Timing is everything in this business, so when her grandfather becomes ill and her grandmother’s back causes great pain, the family’s job becomes jeopardized. Can they beat the deadline before the rains come and ruin the profit? Can she save the harvest? Kadohata’s novel combines the power of family responsibility with the story of a young girl determined to triumph over luck.
MILLS, Claudia. Zero Tolerance. Farrar. 2013. ISBN 9780374333126. JLG Level: B : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).
Turning in the knife in her mother’s lunch bag (which she mistakenly took) seemed to be the right thing to do. Sierra never thought it would lead to in-school suspension and an expulsion hearing. Though she is an honor student, the zero tolerance policy at her middle school required immediate action. Her passionate attorney father is determined to gain publicity that will force the principal to back down―even if it means sullying his reputation. Sierra has some hard decisions to make. Should she go to another school? Should she admit to writing the letter from the school secretary? And what about Luke, who is always in trouble, but seems to really like her? Middle grade readers will have much to discuss about the issue of zero tolerance.
WILLIAMS-GARCIA, Rita. P.S. Be Eleven. HarperCollins/Amistad/. 2013. ISBN 9780061938634. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).
Delphine and her sisters have come home inspired by their mother and the Black Panthers, but Big Ma has other ideas. Order, tradition, and rules must be upheld. Uncle Darnell returns from Vietnam, but seems sick all the time. He’s also lost his laughter. When Pa brings home his new girlfriend, it seems that Delphine can’t control anything. She feels responsible for everyone, especially her sisters. In a series of letters from her mother, Cecile, she gets advice to let things go. Sister Vonetta can be in charge of the savings for the Jackson concert. Baby sister Fern can be excited for a new stepmother. Maybe it’s time for Delphine to enjoy her family, her childhood, and to just be eleven.
Junior Library Guild is a collection development service that helps school and public libraries acquire the best new children’s and young adult books. Season after season, year after year, Junior Library Guild book selections go on to win awards, collect starred or favorable reviews, and earn industry honors. Visit us at www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com.
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