Wednesday, April 10, 2019



Here are the 50 books the best dressed secondary schools should have -- some for middle school and some for high schools.

Tell me what you think!  How many of these do you already have in your library?  I'd love to know how your teachers may be using them in their classrooms.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Speed of Life by Carol Weston - OPTIONAL

Speed of Life by Carol Weston, 329 pages. Sourcebooks, 2017. $16.99

Language: R (56 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG13; Violence: PG



Death is unavoidable, but you aren’t supposed to have to deal with your mother dying while you’re in middle school. Nevertheless, that is Sofia’s reality. As Sofia navigates this new world without her mother—and everything her mother would have done and would have said when her dad seems to be clueless—Sofia learns that not all change is bad, even when it is unexpected.

Speed of Life is about how life continues to change without regard for time. Sofia goes through challenges that we all have to face at some point, and I found myself relating to this 15-year-old, even though I thought I had moved passed those days. Self-doubt, family problems, and making difficult decisions in general are real struggles at every age and reading Sofia’s story gave me comfort regarding my own problems. Also, I love Sofia’s unique comparisons and epiphanies that help her (and me) find solutions and peace.

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams - ADVISABLE

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams 364 pages. Atheneum (Simon and Schuster), 2019,  $18.

Language: PG (3 swears, 0 'f');

Mature Content: G;

Violence: PG (self harm)



13 year old Genesis doesn't like herself. In fact, she keeps a list of all the reasons. When Genesis was in 6th grade, some girls gave her a note with a list of why they don't like her, and she's been adding to the list ever since. Most of all, Genesis doesn't like that she looks more like her dark skinned father than her light skinned mother, so she's constantly trying new things to lighten her skin and improve her hair. 

Genesis' situation is heartbreaking – she is always hearing that she is not good enough, even from her father and her grandmother. A kind teacher compares her to Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald, but Genesis thinks it’s a physical comparison. Themes of bullying, racism, alcoholism, friendship, poverty, colorism – so much going on, but the plot doesn’t feel cluttered. A great book for building empathy, an amazing read to empower black girls and others.

Lisa Librarian

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson - ESSENTIAL

Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice (Adapted forYoung People) by Bryan Stevenson, 244 pages.  NON-FICTION  Delacorte Press, 2018.  $19  

Content: Language: PG (3 swears); Mature Content: PG-13; Violence: PG-13.  



This book starts out with a young lawyer named Bryan Stevenson deciding that he is going to spend his career helping minorities and the poor who have been wrongfully convicted or have been given harsh sentences.  One of the major cases followed throughout the book is about a man named Walter who was sentenced to death row for a murder that he never committed.  Bryan helps Walter and demands that the evidence be reconsidered.  The book also follows multiple other cases that bring to light the harshness of the U.S. justice system. 

This book made me cry because it hurt my heart.  I think everyone would benefit from the empathy and awareness that this book exposes.  The stories are succinct and powerful and will keep young adults’ interest, while hopefully at the same time making them aware of social injustices.  The content does include reference to rape, sexual abuse, animal abuse and other upsetting acts of violence.  None of these acts are described in detail but they are upsetting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon - ADVISABLE

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon 298 pages. Penguin Random House, 2018. $16.99.

 Language: PG (2 swears 0 'f'); Mature Content: G; Violence: G.



Ten-year-old Caleb and his older brother Bobby Gene get involved in an elevator scheme with 16-year-old Styx Malone. Styx is a foster kid who has recently moved into the house in the woods near Caleb and Bobby's Gene. Styx has the boys convinced that they can "trade up" a bag of fireworks for the green moped in the hardware store, and for the first time in their lives, Caleb and Bobby Gene are disobeying their strict parents for a chance at an adventurous summer. 

The difference between the street smart, independent foster kid and the country boys with caring parents makes for a great story. Although Styx is quite a bit older, Caleb and Bobby Gene are more mature in navigating family relationships, so the scenes where Styx interacts with the parents are great. Magoon has developed the characters perfectly, each with his own strengths and challenges. “The Season of Styx Malone” is a great read for either elementary or middle school.

Lisa Librarian

Friday, March 22, 2019

Girls of July by Alex Flinn - ADVISABLE

Girls of July by Alex Flinn, 470 pages. HarperTeen (Harper Collins), 2019. $18.

Language: R (38 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content PG13; Violence: G; 



After an ad is placed on social media, four girls with wildly different personalities, are seeking seclusion from issues at home, and room together in a secluded cabin in the Adirondacks.  This could be a recipe for disaster or a “traveling pants” in the making.  Though the girls don’t seem a good fit, the more they learn about each other, the more they learn about themselves.   They discover that maybe they are strong enough to face the life circumstances that led them to a mountain retreat.  

The characters are likeable and we learn along with them.  Mature content may be the grandmother’s same sex attraction, but it was handled discreetly. There weren’t many surprises, but it was a fun read and Flinn’s writing doesn’t disappoint.  It will make you want to find your own mountain getaway.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens, edited by Marieke Nijkamp - OPTIONAL

Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens edited by Marieke Nijkamp, 304 pages. Farrar Strauss Giroux Books (Macmillan), 2018, $18.

Language: R (31 swears, 26 “f”); Mature Content PG13 (same sex fantasizing); Violence: PG; 



This is a diverse compilation of stories featuring disabled teens in many time periods and genres. The stories run the gamut from crippled to sight impaired to mental and even demon possession (okay, I don’t think demon possession was the disability in that story, though it may definitely impair a person).  

Many of the authors used beautifully worded stories rich in figurative language.  The cover alone sells this book. Some of the stories were a little uneven.  Story selection is largely female centric, so not as many disabled stories for males.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Thursday, March 21, 2019

We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott - NO

We Told Six Lies by Victoria Scott, 352 pages.  Entangled Teen, 2019.  $18.  

Content: Language: R (102 swears; 62 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: PG-13.  



Cobain is a social outcast who feels his time with weight lifting.  One day a new girl, named Molly, comes to school and she and Cobain have a connection. But when Molly goes missing, Cobain seems to be the one everyone suspects, even though Molly sent a letter to her mom saying she was running away.  Cobain knows that he and Molly’s love is stronger than her just leaving, and that something bad has happened to her.  He becomes obsessed with finding her, but as he starts to put the clues together, he realizes that he might be the reason she is missing.  

This suspenseful read was hard to put down.  As the book twists and turns, I was never sure if Cobain was a reliable narrator or that Molly was really a victim.  The characters in this book are dark and disturbing but it all comes to a climax in the end.  The content is over the top swearing, on page sex as well as other descriptive sexual acts, emotional abuse and violent fighting.  

Reviewer, C. Peterson 

Someone Else’s Shoes by Ellen Wittlinger - OPTIONAL

Someone Else’s Shoes by Ellen Wittlinger, 292 pages. Charlesbridge, 2018, $17.

Language: R (41 swears, 0 “f”); Mature Content PG13; Violence: PG; 



Izzy is an aspiring stand up comedian beginning 7th grade and life seems pretty dismal.  Not only has her father remarried, but her mother’s new boyfriend has an annoying teenage son who is staying at her house.  If that isn’t bad enough, her aunt committed suicide and her uncle has come to stay with them with his son, her younger cousin, Oliver.  Her uncle is only a shell of a man because of his wife’s loss.  When her uncle goes missing, Izzy, Ben, and Oliver fear the worst and go on a quest to find him.  

There are great themes of what it means to be a family, and how to redefine those relationships, even under adversity.  The characters discover things about themselves and each other that help them to grow.   

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman - ESSENTIAL

 Jacob’s Room to Choose by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, illustrated by Chris Case.  PICTURE BOOK.  Magination Press, MAY 2019.  $18. 9781433830730



Jacob and Sophie need to use the bathroom at school, but the older kids chase them out because they each don’t look like the picture on the door.  When they explain to their teacher, she and the kids in the class talk it through and then come up with a solution.

So many, many people need to read this book.  Kids adults, politicians, administrators – there is not one person in this world that doesn’t need to digest and ponder the less of this sweet, simple, and very necessary (unfortunately) book. 

Cindy, Middle School Librarian, MLS

Double Play by Tim Green and Derek Jeter - ADVISABLE

Double Play (Baseball Genius #2) by Tim Green and Derek Jeter, 336 pages.  Aladin (Simon & Schuster), 2018, $18.

Language: G (0 swears); Mature Content PG; Violence: PG; 



This is book two in the Baseball Genius series.  Jalen DaLuca continues to use his baseball genius of predicting pitches to help Yankees star, James “JY” Yager.  Yager reciprocates by helping his father’s diner take off and provided much needed funds for Jalen and his dad.  Jalen has problems of his own too.  He deals poorly with the bullying of the coach’s son, which costs him his spot on his baseball team. In the end, it comes down to a double play of epic proportions to save both baseball players.

If you are into baseball, then this is your book.  The sports writing captures the game well.  It does seem a bit of a stretch that a twelve year old can predict pitches so well and that his friend Cat, another twelve year old, is a mini lawyer and sets up deals with a pro baseball player.  Though Jalen runs into problems, this book pretty much wraps up the ending with a bow, though there is a definite lead-in to the next book.  

Michelle in the Middle, Teacher