June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Stellar New Tween Reads

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A roundup of recently starred titles for the discerning tweenage reader.

Strange Star by Emma Carroll 

VERDICT An entertaining, thoughtful rendition of Frankenstein’s conception. Some readers may not understand the references to the original story, but they’ll enjoy it nonetheless.

 

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

Nisha writes to her Muslim mother, who died giving birth to her and her twin brother, Amil, in a diary she receives on their 12th birthday. Through her diary entries, Nisha documents the changes brought about by India’s independence from the British…. VERDICT This rich, compelling story, which speaks to the turbulence surrounding India’s independence and to the plight of refugees, should be in all libraries serving middle grade readers.

 

Live in Infamy by Caroline Tung Richmond

The Allied powers have lost World War II. The United States, now sliced into pieces held by Japan, Italy, and Germany, exists under strictly enforced racial and social hierarchies…. VERDICT This is a good introduction to historical reimagining for middle grades; all readers will be engaged with the handling of social issues as well as revelations about the secret pockets of resistors, their plots, and their battles with authorities.

 

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

In Chicago, 12-year-old black youth Jerome is shot and killed by a white police officer who mistakes a toy gun for a real one. As a ghost, Jerome witnesses the aftermath gripping both his family and that of the police officers….  VERDICT Rhodes captures the all-too-real pain of racial injustice and provides an important window for readers who are just beginning to explore the ideas of privilege and implicit bias.

 

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis

Oversized like an ox, 12-year-old Charlie Bobo and his sharecropper parents eke out a living on the Tanner Plantation deep in South Carolina in 1858. When an accident takes his father’s life, Charlie and his mother must settle a debt with the plantation’s sadistic overseer, Cap’n Buck…. VERDICT A thought-provoking book from a master storyteller.

 

 

Voices in the Air by Naomi Shihab Nye

Nye invokes the voices and spirits of countless inspirational figures past and present in her latest poetry collection…. VERDICT A vital addition to poetry collections.

See also: A chat with poet Naomi Shihab Nye.

 

 

After the Shot Drops by Randy Ribay

A dually narrated story of two teen boys, Bunny and Nasir, struggling with a dying friendship…. VERDICT A must-have for YA shelves.

 

 

 

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson

A detailed, well-organized, and vividly illustrated history of Martin Luther King Jr.’s role in the civil rights movement and U.S. political history—and the killer who assassinated him…. ­VERDICT A top pick for YA history collections.

 

 

 

Hermes: Tales of the Trickster by George O’Connor

Hermes, Greek god of thieves and liars (and much more), gets his due in the latest installment of the “Olympians” series…. VERDICT Another stellar addition to graphic novel shelves, especially where previous titles in the series are popular.

Check out our recent Q&A with George O’Connor.

 

 

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

A sweet story of a first crush and being stuck in the middle…. VERDICT Relatable and engaging. A first purchase for public and school libraries.

 

 

 

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

VERDICT This gripping, powerful work will introduce Speak to a brand-new audience and enthrall longtime fans. Admirers of Carroll’s Through the Woods will also appreciate this timeless tale.

Check out our behind-the-scenes look at the making of Speak: The Graphic Novel with Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll.

 

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Judge details the life of the great Mary Shelley through poetry in this atmospheric and illustrated volume…. VERDICT A must-purchase for any middle and high school or public library YA collections, particularly where Gothic horror is in demand.

Find out what inspired Lita Judge’s Mary’s Monster.

 

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

The day before 13-year-old drummer Melly heads to Camp Rockaway, her parents drop a bombshell: They’re getting divorced…. VERDICT Highly recommended; a perfect summer read for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Jennifer Holm.

 

 

 

Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre

When her mother passes away from cancer, middle-schooler Wavie B. Conley comes under the care of Samantha Rose, the cruel aunt she’s never met…. VERDICT With well-written prose, a masterfully realized world, and characters that linger long after the novel closes, this is a must-purchase for any middle grade library collection.

 

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Kiera Parrott About Kiera Parrott

Kiera Parrott is the reviews director for School Library Journal and Library Journal and a former children's librarian. Her favorite books are ones that make her cry—or snort—on public transportation.

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