April 24, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Characters with Tough Choices │ JLG’s Booktalks to Go

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We all make difficult choices. Some are harder than others. In the following selections by the editors at Junior Library Guild, kids fight with their siblings, adjust to parents with chronic illnesses, and fight racial prejudice. Sharing these titles with your readers will give them a chance to see that they are not alone. These resources are posted in the middle school tab in the accompanying LiveBinder.

Madman of Piney WoodsCURTIS, Christopher Paul. The Madman of Piney Woods. 384p. Scholastic. ISBN 9780545156646. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

Forty years after Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic, 2007), African Canadian Benji Alston wants to be a newspaper man. In a nearby town, Red copes with his Irish grandmother, who recounts tales of the horrors of coming to America. Prejudice exists on both sides of the tracks. When the boys meet by chance, the two new friends never dream that the watcher in the woods will change their lives more than any ancient history could.

Fans of Curtis and the original novel may want to learn more on the author’s website. He includes resources such as video interviews, as well as information about his other works. Educators will find his teaching materials useful. Scholastic has published a novel discussion guide that connects both books.

Current awards include: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Amazon.com Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

SkinkHIAASEN, Carl. Skink—No Surrender. 288p. Knopf. ISBN 9780375970511. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

When Richard’s wild cousin Malley runs off with a guy she meets online, he is determined to rescue her—even if he has to lie to do it. His accomplice in the task is Skink, the former governor of Florida who ran away after faking his own death. The daring duo embark on a road trip filled with roadkill cuisine and alligator wrestling. One wild event leads to the next, and readers are along for the ride.

As Hiaasen is also an adult author, kids can click on his Books for Young Readers page to learn more about his titles, which often feature an environmental issue. They can also read the first three chapters and watch a video about this laugh-out-loud hilarious story.

Current awards include: 2014 National Book Awards Longlist for Young People’s Literature; Amazon.com Top 20 Editors’ picks 2014, Teen & Young Adult

Egg and SpoonMAGUIRE, Gregory. Egg and Spoon. 496p. Candlewick. ISBN 9780763672201. JLG Level: FM : Fantasy/Science Fiction Middle (Grades 5–8).

Elena never has enough food to eat. Ekaterina can’t begin to imagine life without all of life’s comforts. When the two girls accidentally swap places, Elena gets caught up in the masquerade in order to meet the prince. At the same time, Ekaterina stumbles upon an old folktale which appears to be terribly true. Baba Yaga is alive and well. When the two girls reunite at the palace in St. Petersburg, they must work with the witch to save the world, but can they really trust her?

Macguire is well known for his witch tales, and his kids’ tales have their own page on his website. The discussion guide, found on Candlewick’s website, offers Common Core connections and provides questions to encourage dialogue among your readers. Kids who are unfamiliar with the tales of Baba Yaga may want to visit The Annotated Baba Yaga. Be sure to see the Fabergé website for a look at the famous eggs, which were made for the Russian Imperial family from 1885 to 1916.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Young Adult; Amazon.com Top 20 Editors’ picks 2014, Teen & Young Adult; Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2014

BoundlessOPPEL, Kenneth. The Boundless. 336p. S. & S. ISBN 9781442472884. JLG Level: C : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

It’s 1888, and Will is crossing Canada with his father on the maiden voyage of The Boundless. Excitement turns to apprehension when the boy stumbles upon a murder and a robbery attempt. With the aid of the traveling circus, Will must get to the first of the 987 cars to warn his father before someone kills him for what he knows.

Oppel’s fast-paced novel has a terrific book trailer, which kids will want to see. Visit the author’s website for the photographic backstory on the writing of the adventure. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter. And remember to visit TeachingBooks.net to listen to the correct pronunciation of the author’s name. A curriculum guide is also available. You can read an excerpt on Simon & Schuster’s book detail page.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Middle Grade; Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Amazon.com Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

Meaning of MaggieSOVERN, Megan Jean. The Meaning of Maggie. 224p. Chronicle. 2014. ISBN 9781452110219. JLG Level: B+ : Upper Elementary & Junior High (Grades 5–7).

This is the year that “changed EVERYTHING.” Maggie’s dad’s multiple sclerosis (MS) causes him to stay home, sending her mother to work every day. Rules are her guidelines, but they keep changing, causing the fifth grader confusion and angst. Surely she can find a way to help her father who can no longer feed himself and falls from his chair. But if no one will tell her the whole truth, how can she possibly make a difference?

Sovern’s debut novel comes from her own experiences, as her dad also had MS. You can follow the author on Twitter. Kids will want to read her letter on Dear Teen Me. A book trailer and discussion guide are available. A portion of the proceeds of the sale of this book will be donated to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

Current awards include: Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books; Amazon.com Best Books of the Year 2014, Ages 9–12

SistersTELGEMEIER, Raina. Sisters. illus. by author. 208p. Scholastic/Graphix. 2014. ISBN 9780545540599. JLG Level: GM : Graphic Novels Middle (Grades 5–8).

What could be worse than driving across country with a sister who makes you crazy? How about being stuck on the side of the road? Just the two of you? And then what if you learn there’s a snake in the car and you can’t stand snakes? Raina and her younger sister, Amara, are going to have to find a way to get along while they wait to be rescued.

Fans of Telgemeier may have already been to her website, but be sure they read her FAQ, which includes a link to pronunciation of her name. You’ll find her on Twitter. Scholastic provides a story starter so reading can draw—just like Raina. For other resources on her books and other graphic novels, check out the Graphix site for teachers, which includes a video of the hottest graphic novelists. Watch Raina teach viewers how to draw emotion.

Current awards include: SLJ Best Books 2014, Middle Grade; Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2014, Middle-Grade Books

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 www.JuniorLibraryGuild.com. (NOTE: JLG is owned by Media Source, Inc., SLJ’s parent company.)


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.