June 19, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

YA Xpress Reviews | March 2017

A clever and intriguing love story, diverse speculative fiction, and more.

This article was published in School Library Journal's March 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

Best Books 2015: Dime | Young Adult

Plucked out of a bleak foster home by the manipulative pimp Daddy and groomed into a life of prostitution, 13-year-old Dime gives voice to her pain as she attempts to write a note, the intent of which is revealed toward the end of the book. Exploring an oft-overlooked subject, Frank has crafted an honest and raw true-to-life narrative—and one laced with the barest sliver of hope.

Best Books 2015: Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx | Nonfiction

A heartbreaking memoir about how the iconic Latina educator and TV personality found her way to Sesame Street from her modest upbringing in the South Bronx. Opening with fragments from her early childhood and ending with her life-changing audition for the educational program, the book includes vignettes that offer glimpses of a singular coming-of-age filled with poverty and violence but also with love and music. A stark and powerful work.

Best Books 2015: Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound | Nonfiction

The Groove” takes readers on a tour of the origins and demise of Motown, the musical powerhouse responsible for Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, and Stevie Wonder. Centering around Berry Gordy, the talented visionary and eventual mogul, the ingenious narration highlights the company’s humble beginnings, its successes and failures, and its place in sociocultural history. A well-researched and melodic ride.

Best Books 2015: Symphony for the City of the Dead | Nonfiction

Anderson vividly sets the scene with Shostakovich’s young years on the eve of the revolution and the Lenin era, his coming-of-age as a composer, and the rise of Stalin’s reign of terror. The central story of the creation and performance of the Leningrad Symphony while the city was in the crippling throes of a two-and-a-half year siege is devastating, enlightening, and, ultimately, inspiring. A narrative nonfiction triumph.

Best Books 2015: The Tightrope Walkers | Young Adult

Dominic Hall, a British youth from a working-class family, finds himself wavering between attachment to his childhood friend, the artistic Holly Stroud, and the literary future he dreams of, and the powerful, inexplicable draw of Vincent McAlinden, a violent neighborhood bully. Set in the shadow of the 1960s shipbuilding community on the banks of the River Tyne, this beautifully written story is as taut and as exhilarating as the high wire.

Best Books 2015

Best Books 2015: Nonfiction

Best Books 2015: 8: An Animal Alphabet | Picture Books

Each page in this oversize volume includes a range of creatures—from the lowly ant to the exotic zebu—whose names begin with the featured alphabet letter. Muted watercolors depict the denizens of the animal world once, except for the chosen creature, which is seen eight times on the page. Why eight? “Because 8 is great,” states the author. An abecedarian that will get kids counting.

Best Books 2015: Young Adult

Best Books 2015: X: A Novel | Young Adult

Malcolm X’s daughter collaborates with acclaimed young adult author Magoon to craft this historical novel about the civil rights leader’s formative years. From Malcolm Little’s impoverished childhood in Michigan to his downward spiral into a life of excess and crime in New York City, the work chronicles how a troubled young man found his true self and changed the world.

Best Books 2015: Sail Away | Nonfiction

Collecting and illustrating sea-themed verse by Hughes, Bryan frames the famed poet in a new light that will appeal to poetry fans and newcomers alike. The cut-paper collages pulsate with energy and life and echo the passion of Hughes’s words. A luminescent oceanic love song.

Best Books 2015: Everything, Everything | Young Adult

Madeline has spent 18 years at home with only her doctor mother and a nurse to care for her rare form of Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) and can’t risk exposure to the world beyond her highly controlled environment. When a boy her age moves next door, he wreaks havoc with her regimented routine and makes her acutely aware of all that she’s been missing. A tender and bittersweet romance with a jaw-dropping twist.

Best Books 2015: Middle Grade

Best Books 2015: All American Boys | Young Adult

Black teen Rashad is assaulted by a white police officer. White classmate Quinn, who was practically raised by the police officer, witnessed it. When a video of the brutal event surfaces, the school, city, and country explode with protests and outrage, and the two protagonists must examine who they are and what they believe. Told in alternating chapters, this timely YA novel presents a stirring account of two young men coming to grips with the racism that pervades this country and the steps they must take to turn the centuries-long tide.

Best Books 2015: Beastly Verse | Nonfiction

A psychedelic collection of animal-themed poems by Lewis Carroll, William Blake, Christina Rossetti, and more. Yoon’s vibrant Pantone illustrations transport readers through a menagerie of fanciful creatures. For added fun, four of the 16 poems are presented on spreads that fold out, adding to the whimsy and playfulness of this imaginative romp.

Best Books 2015: Bone Gap | Young Adult

A thought-provoking look at our culture’s obsession with beauty. With echoes of the Persephone myth, this magical realism tale centers on Finn’s search for the missing Roza, his older brother’s love and the town sweetheart. Alternating chapters from his and her points of view reveal the sinister and otherworldly nature of Roza’s abductor. Ruby’s lush language, intricate plotting, and impeccable sentence-level writing make this a winning title for sophisticated teen readers.

Best Books 2015: Water Is Water | Nonfiction

Information fuses with imagination as two siblings experience the wondrous ways that water changes form, from cool summertime quaff to autumn fog, fast-skating winter ice, and springtime snowmelt. Readers will relish poring over the effervescent rhymes and winsome action-filled paintings as they soak up the science.

Best Books 2015: Conviction | Young Adult

High school baseball star Braden is the only witness to the car accident that killed a police officer. His father, a Christian radio personality, was behind the wheel. When his prodigal older brother returns, Braden’s convictions about his father, their family’s past, and his faith in God waver. Alternating between the present and past, with baseball metaphors sprinkled throughout, this poignant debut shines with the hope of truth and forgiveness.

Best Books 2015: Wolfie the Bunny | Picture Books

Mama and Papa Bunny are charmed by the adorable wolf cub they find on their doorstep, but wary Dot is convinced that their decision to adopt Wolfie will lead to trouble. OHora’s winsome thick-lined acrylics and Dyckman’s simple text work together to subvert expectations and seamlessly tell a humorous yet heartwarming tale of sibling bonding and the often surprising joy of family.