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.

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 - OPTIONAL

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

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Becoming Me by Andrea Pippins - GIFT

Becoming Me by Andrea Pippins, 186 pages. ACTIVITY BOOK. Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House Children’s Books), 2016. $14.99

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



Pippins guides any reader—of any creativity experience level—through art and creativity exercises. You can finish the book in an exciting afternoon or take it one page at a time. The first half focuses on introducing different styles of art, and the second half focuses more on letting you use the tools Pippins introduces to find your creative style and desires. I found the book fun, and I had to try really hard to let go of the idea of doing things “right” so that I could just enjoy the process of making art. Good luck!

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones - OPTIONAL

The Ruinous Sweep by Tim Wynne-Jones, 385 pages.  Candlewick, 2018.  $19.  

Language: R (20+ swears, 10 ‘f’); Mature Content: R (sex, drugs, death); Violence: R 



Donovan is in the Ruinous Sweep, trapped between life and death, in some nightmare scape. Donovan tries to work out the last night of his life with help from the living and the dead. Once he almost has it solved, he is able to offer clues to his girlfriend via his coma ramblings, to his girlfriend who then takes on the case to solve his father’s murder and his soon to be death in the living world.

Ruinous Sweep is a line from Dante’s Inferno. Wynne-Jones’ writing is very dense and full of ten dollar ACT words, symbolism, and allusions to Dante and other classical works. Although beautiful and well constructed, it is hard to wade through and the average high schooler isn’t going to care enough to make the effort. Perhaps AP students or super fans of Dante or classical literature. Also, the pay off isn’t that great, just like all classic heroes on a journey, they find what they need and the story ends tied up in a happy bow. 

Dina W. - ELA teacher

Monday, March 18, 2019

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson - OPTIONAL

Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson, 251 pages. NON-FICTION. Scholastic Press (Scholastic Inc), 2018. $19.99

Language: PG (1 swear, 0 “f”); Mature Content: PG; Violence: PG13



Martin Luther King, Jr. may have lived over half a century ago, but his is still a familiar name. His work in the Civil Rights movement continues to impact those today. In this book, Swanson details the events that made Dr. King so well-known, that caused his death, and that occurred as his murderer was found and arrested.

While I have learned many things in school about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I was enlightened by the context and details that Swanson gives his readers. I have been hit with recognition that this is still only recent history. We are still not living Dr. King’s dream—how can we contribute to his work today? As the late President Kennedy said, “Every man can make a difference, and every man should try.”

Reviewer: Carolina Herdegen

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen - OPTIONAL

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen. GRAPHIC NOVEL. First Second (Macmillan), 2018. $22

Language: R (8 swears, 6 “f”); Mature Content: R; Violence: R.



Frames in this graphic novel switch between events leading up to the Rwandan Genocide and the after-effects on one individual, Deogratias, who participated in the brutality. The story rotates around two girls and their mother and the white missionaries they work for. Deogratias is in love with the girls but betrays them in the end. His punishment is to become a dog and beg for mercy from the village.

I have to acknowledge that this book takes on the most difficult and brutal of subjects, so I feel hesitant to say it was too dark, given it is a mirror held up to actual events. But the events were portrayed unflinchingly and comprehensively, taking on foreign hypocrisy, rape, murder, prostitution, alcohol abuse, and of course genocide. The illustrations were not gratuitous, but that does little to soften the difficult subject matter.

Jen Wecker, HS English Teacher