March 18, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Ring the Bell: Back-to-School YA Titles

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Labor Day marks the unofficial close of summer, and the start of the new school year. It’s time to put away bathing suits and flip-flops and strap on book bags filled with packed lunches. Going back to school also brings teens the possibilities of new friendships and catching up with old ones. In Malala’s case, it meant fighting for her right to even go to school. And in a fantasy novel, being one of the “in crowd” could mean your death. The following Junior Library Guild selections lead readers into the divergent worlds of life in high school.

With the turn of the publishing calendar, a new JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder has been created. Titles are now sorted by interest level. Clicking on that tab will take you to the books and their resources. The Spring 2014 LiveBinder will continue to be posted.

REEDY, Trent. If You’re Reading This. Scholastic/Arthur A. Levine Bks. 2014. ISBN 9780545433426. JLG Level: SH : Sports High (Grades 9 & Up).

If You're Reading ThisMike’s mom has grown overprotective since his father’s death in the war against Afghanistan. Feeling as if all he does is go to school, work, and fix anything that’s broken, it’s no wonder that at 16, he decides to lie to his mom and just play football anyway. The final nudge to accept the coach’s offer comes from an unexpected delivery. He receives a letter from his father written seven years ago. And it’s just the first.

Check out the author’s website or the publisher book page. You can follow Reedy on Tumblr and Twitter. Don’t miss his “Divided We Fall” series (Scholastic, 2014) about a National Guard high schooler who gets caught up in civil war―in Idaho. Fans of football stories may be interested in Muckers by Sandra Neil Wallace (Knopf, 2014) which is based on the true story of a 1950s underdog high school football team’s fight for victory.

RICHMOND, Peter. Always a Catch. Philomel. 2014. ISBN 9780399250552. JLG Level: SH : Sports High (Grades 9 & Up).

Always a CatchIn his junior year of high school Jack transfers to a boarding school. Away from the daily pressure of his father’s ideals of how he should live his life, Jack quickly warms up to the school. Though piano is his forte, why not try playing football? Why not join a band? How about a girlfriend? And while he is at it, when it comes time to take a stand for himself, why not do just that?

Adult author Richmond’s first YA novel strikes many chords. His characters deal with stereotypes, peer pressure, bullying from adults and students, as well as drugs and alcohol. Even boys who don’t attend boarding school will find that this coming-of-age novel makes them cheer for the home team. Read about Richmond’s interesting path to YA on his website and follow him on Twitter. An excerpt is available on his publisher’s website. Read about high school football team use of steroids at the Huffington Post. Follow the reading of the novel with the Lexile-adjustable article on steroid use in baseball on Newsela. Be sure to listen to Gershwin playing George Gershwin’s Three Preludes―the most important published piece of music in the novel.

SULLIVAN, Kiki. The Dolls. HarperCollins/Balzer & Bray. 2014. ISBN 9780062281487. JLG Level: PBH: Paperbacks High School (Grades 10 & Up).


Nothing could have prepared Eveny for her transition from life in New York City to her return to life in Carrefour, Louisiana. You’d think wearing a uniform like everyone else would keep you from drawing attention―not so when you’re the daughter of the only person who killed herself in that town. And not in a place like Carrefour. It’s a town where no one ever comes in and no one ever goes out. She’s quickly brought into the highest social group where the clique is so beautiful, it seems like magic. Eveny has plenty of questions, starting with why is she so quickly accepted by the Dolls. Why would a perfectly normal girl drink a bottle of vodka and stab herself in the heart? And why does someone want to kill her?

Check out Sullivan’s website for the cast of characters, a bio, and a creepy book trailer. Her website even has its own theme music. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Fans will be delighted to know that the new series has been picked up for a television show. Read an excerpt on HarperCollins. Teens may be interested in the Voodoo Museum of New Orleans. While waiting for the next book, fans might enjoy Rachel Hawkins’s “Hex Hall” series (Disney-Hyperion).

I am malalaYOUSAFZAI, Malala with Patricia McCormick. I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition). Little, Brown. 2014.  ISBN 9780316327930. JLG Level: C+ : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

What began as an ordinary ride on the school bus for 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai ended in a nightmare. Shot in the head at point-blank range, the Taliban’s attempt to silence her and her campaign for girls’ rights to go to school would later fail. They would neither kill her or stop the fight for equal rights for women in Pakistan. Her voice would soon be heard around the world.

Malala’s autobiography focuses on Pakistan’s history and the teen’s fight for education. Find out more by reading her blog or watching videos on her website. Now an international figure, students may want to follow her cause on Facebook or Twitter. Winner of Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize, she was also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013 and 2014. Taking her crusade to the United Nations, Malala told them, “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world. Education is the only solution.” All resources for this title can be found under the middle school tab of the Fall 2014 LiveBinder. A YA version of Malala’s story is located in the Spring 2014 LiveBinder.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in a new JLG Booktalks to Go: Fall 2014 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK-3, 3-6, 5-8, and YA. Check out our award-winning Spring 2014 LiveBinder which organizes resources for spring releases. All websites are posted within each LiveBinder, along with the accompanying booktalk. As I write more columns, more books and their resources are added. Everything you need to teach or share brand new, hot-off-the-press books is now all in one place. Booktalks and resources are also included on JLG’s BTG Pinterest board.

For library resources, tips, and ideas, please visit JLG’s Shelf Life Blog.

Junior Library Guild (JLG) 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 (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)

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Deborah B. Ford About Deborah B. Ford

Deborah is the Director of Library Outreach for Junior Library Guild. She is an award-winning teacher librarian with almost 30 years of experience as a classroom teacher and librarian in K–12 schools.

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