May 22, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Heartrending YA Novels by Blockbuster Female Authors

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Suicide, genocide, arranged marriages, and safaris-gone-wrong are on the menu in this selection of novels from the editors at Junior Library Guild. From fan favorites like Holly Black and Gayle Forman to newcomer Aisha Saeed, the following female authors have created works that attest to the power of the imagination and world-building. Pam Muñoz Ryan returns after five years of no new publication with a hard-to-put-down fairy tale on the power of music. Jessica Khoury recently released another gripping companion novel in the “Corpus” series. Marsha Skrypuch adds to her growing list of novels about Armenian Genocide. The following titles and their resources are now included in the new JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder.

Darkest Part of the ForestBLACK, Holly. The Darkest Part of the Forest. 336p. Little, Brown. 2015. ISBN 9780316213073. JLG Level: FH : Fantasy/Science Fiction High (Grades 9–12).

Black is back with a fairy tale reminiscent of the books that shot her straight to stardom. Since childhood, Hazel and her brother Ben have watched the sleeping prince in the glass coffin. He’s always been part of the forest and their dreams of knighthood and monster slaying. When someone finally releases the horned prince, the town of Fairfold finds themselves in a deadly war that only magic can bring.

Fans who haven’t already discovered Black’s website will find tips for writers as well as readalikes for her best-selling works. Though a teacher’s guide is not available, research resources can also be found on the author’s website. The book trailer may be enticing enough to forever keep the book from the shelf.

I Was HereFORMAN, Gayle. I Was Here. 288p. Viking. 2015. ISBN 9780451471475. JLG Level: HI : High-Interest High (Grades 10 & Up).

The day after Meg took her own life, Cody received an email. “This has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me. It’s not your fault.” But how can your best friend plan a perfect suicide, while you have no idea she’s even struggling? When Cody meets Meg’s college friends, she wonders if she knew Meg at all. Finding an encrypted computer file makes her even more determined to find out what really happened.

A visit to the author’s website reveals “13 Things You May Not Know About Gayle.” Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

KalahariKHOURY, Jessica. Kalahari. (Corpus, Bk. 3) 368p. Razorbill. 2015. ISBN 9781595147653. JLG Level: CTH : Current Trends High (Grades 9 & Up).

An educational safari goes wildly out of control when Sarah and five city teens are left alone in the Kalahari Desert. Sarah’s father, the zoologist, and his Bushman guide disappear while tracking poachers. It’s up to her to lead the group to find her father. An alarming discovery makes the desert the least of their worries.

Learn more about the “Corpus” series companion books on Khoury’s website. Fans will find her on social media, including the novel’s Pinterest board. Read more about life on the Kalahari by visiting the Mabalingwe Nature Reserve and Deception Valley Lodge in Botswana, which also assisted the author in her research.

EchoRYAN, Pam Muñoz. Echo. 592p. Scholastic. 2015. ISBN 9780439874021. JLG Level: C+ : Advanced Readers (Grades 6–9).

One fairy tale, three kids, and a harmonica converge in a story where lives are changed. Friedrich in Germany, Mike in Pennsylvania, and Ivy in California face prejudice and injustice in a time of world war and turmoil. The magic of one musical instrument diverts their paths until it joins them together.

Readers can read about how Ryan kept track of the story lines in a Children’s Book Council article. You can follow her on Twitter. Fans who find the history of the harmonica interesting should check out the Hohner Harmonica Factory website. Be sure to share the video of the Philadelphia Harmonica Band. Wonderopolis has a great lesson, “How Do You Play a Harmonica?” Additional resources can be found in the new JLG Booktalks to Go Spring 2015 LiveBinder.

Written in the StarsSAEED, Aisha. Written in the Stars. 304p. Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. 2015. ISBN 9780399171703. JLG Level: Y: Young Adults (Grades 9 & Up).

Naila’s Pakistani parents have forbidden the senior from dating. When she’s caught going to the prom, a quick trip to their homeland seems more of an interruption of her life rather than the end of it. Her irritation quickly changes to fear when she learns her parents intend to leave her in Pakistan as a new bride in an arranged marriage.

Saeed’s debut novel highlights the conflicts between a Pakistani American girl and her conservative, traditional parents. An interview reveals why the author shared this particular story. She is also the Vice President of Strategy for We Need Diverse Books. Fans can follow her on Twitter and learn more about her on her website. Resources in the author’s note can be found online at JLG’s BTG Spring 2015.

Dance of the BanishedSKRYPUCH, Marsha Forchuk. Dance of the Banished. 288p. Pajama Press. ISBN 9781927485651. JLG Level: PBH : Paperbacks High (Grades 10 & Up).

Ali leaves his village in Anatolia so that he can earn enough money to bring his fiancé, Zeynep, to Canada. Shortly after his departure, the Young Turk revolutionary forces turn on Zeynep’s Armenian Christian neighbors. While she struggles with trying to save the lives of her friends, Ali is captured and sent to an internment camp. Can they survive the war and reunite from an ocean apart?

For readers without prior knowledge of the Armenian genocide and Canadian internment camps from 1914, a visit to provides background, while the Kapuskasing Internment Camp website sheds light on Canadian immigration fears. Fans may read the author’s blog. How do you pronounce her name? has an audio file.

Additional Resources

The resources for the above titles have been organized in JLG Booktalks to Go: Spring 2015 LiveBinder. Titles are sorted by interest level, PreK–3, 3–6, 5–8, and YA. 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.