Juvenile Books

Outwalkers by Fiona Shaw


Woah, THIS book.  I just finished the book at my desk and my library assistant asked if I liked it.  I pretty much said that first three sentence out loud. She asked me what was it about. I asked if she had every read “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy.  She hadn’t. So I said it was sort of like The Hunger Games. The first book before it all went choppy and lost it’s direction. But also it is NOTHING like The Hunger Games.  It feels post- apocalyptic. But it’s not. There was no apocalypse. It’s not really futuristic either. The best way I could describe it is a “Some Time in the Near Future Refugee Story”.  
What if a wall IS built? What if it keeps it’s citizens in, just as well as it keeps others out? Although you’re probably thinking Hunger Games resistance… it’s much closer to Katniss's accidental resistance of the first novel; Jack Riley just wants to get to Scotland to live with his grandparents.  Problem is, he lives in England and English residents aren’t allowed to leave England. The story is dark and gripping. Which is something my 8th graders are always requesting so I already know it will be on the line up for next year’s Book Club. They like difficult stories, something that pulls them.  Stories that are scary. This checks a lot of their requirements but I also like that it includes courage. But not like the obvious bravery, more like there’s only one option: KEEP MOVING FORWARD. I wouldn’t say it was super fast-paced but it was the sort of story where you end a chapter and drop right into the next one because you need to know what comes next.  
There is a beautifully constructed hardness to it, which is necessary.  This isn’t a light story but it’s spectacular. Easily the best Hunger Games-ish novel I’ve ever read for juvenile fiction.  6th- 8th graders that want a bit of scary and suspense and that liked “Among the Hidden” will love this for sure. It is a little long but in my opinion nothing is in this novel that shouldn’t be (it needs and deserves  its length). This is the first novel I’m putting in my juvenile collection that has more in common with YA style novels than juvenile fiction.
For Ages: 10 years old and up
For Those that Liked: Among the Hidden, City of Ember
***This is the first novel I’m putting in my juvenile collection that has more in common with YA style novels than juvenile fiction.  YA: Matched, The Hunger Games

Full Cicada Moon by Marilyn Hilton


April is poetry month which meant my least favorite month in English class.  I was never a fan of poetry. Of course I grew up reading Shel Silverstein and then endured more Shakespeare plays that is necessary during High School.  I didn’t even know that modern authors were killing the poetry novel game until college. Now that is way too long to go before finding out about Inside Out and Back Again or Love That Dog.  It sort of became of quiet mission of mine to introduce this type of poetry to children, sothey had a chance to learn and love poetry before they got to Shakespeare (is it obvious, I’m NOT a fan….) I read Full Cicada Moon my first year as a librarian and immediately did my best to promote it whenever I could.  I pulled it back off the shelf for Bendy Bookworm Tween classes I’ve been teaching during this Poetry Month. It was easy to turn into a yoga class because the poetry lends itself to beautiful descriptive imagery. This book is crucial for teaching empathy and persistence. It’s an interesting moment of historical fiction; Mimi is a half Black, half Japanese Tween who has just moved with her family to Vermont in 1969.  While her struggles are definitely tied up in being half Black and half Japanese, there’s a huge portion of this story that deals with what it meant to be a young GIRL in 1969. At one point in this story Mimi tells her classmates she wants to be an astronaut and the class laughs at her. I asked the group of girls I was teaching why they laughed. To my delight and bemusement only one girl questioningly asked, “Because she was a girl?”  As if that was an absurd reason to not be allowed to do something. I loved that we’ve come at least this far, for middle school girls to not see their gender as a justifiable reason to be stopped from doing anything. I know we still have so much more work to do. But it was a great moment and also the perfect moment to honor all those middle school girls that came before that weren’t allowed to be astronauts, or take shop class, or not be invited to a friend’s house because of their skin color.  Full Cicada Moon is a privilege to read and a privilege to share. It’s a remembered time in our collective history that wasn’t all fun-loving-Woodstock-Vermont, that questions our resistance to change and prompts us to do better as we move forward.
For Ages: 8 years old and up
For Those That Liked: Amina’s Voice, Inside Out and Back Again, Blended

Sal and Gabi Break The Universe by Carlos Hernandez


A few years ago I went to Florida in October to go to Harry Potter World.  It’s sort of irrelevant to this review except I wanted to make it clear that visiting Harry Potter World was one of the greatest moments of my life and Florida is a sticky humid swamp I would rather avoid.  It was October and my curly hair was a frizzed out poof (think Monica in Barbados), walking down the block caused me to sweat, and (weirdly, considering we were right by the ocean) there was an interesting LACK of sea breeze.  So I connected with Sal, a Connecticut through and through who is starting off the new school year in Miami. I got the distress the Florida heat caused….I liked Sal. I actually liked a lot about this book, which was a shock because I have hated every Rick Riordan Presents so far.  Rick Riordan Presents seemed like it was trying to market cultural myths and legends in a formula that brought the success of The Lightning Thief. It didn’t work. But this one steps away from that formula. It’s not about trying to retell all the myths of a culture; it’s about bringing to life a metaphysical theory about multi universes.  I loved how Carlos Hernandez was able to share culture and language with his characters, while presenting this super trippy concept of “breaking Universes”. I loved that the characters felt unique and ideal in a way that made them fun to read, but also held elements of relatable truth. I loved that the story was fun and ok honestly I just loved that a character like Gabi exists to give every girl the okay to be bossy AND like-able!!!  It was entertaining, magical, and pretty funny too!! AND no tears with this one…
For Ages: 9 years old and up
For Those That Liked: A Wrinkle in Time, Merci Suarez Changes Gears, Hello, Universe

The Chronicle of The Dark Star: The Shores Beyond Time by Kevin Emerson


I’ve never been into sci-fi.  In fact, science in general wasn’t really my thing.  I didn’t really care too much about aliens. I sort of thought they were tacky…. I never really thought about deep space or “The Future”.  Even today I’m still a bit iffy on where I stand with the genre: I love Ray Bradbury but I have never seen or desired to see a single Star Trek episode.  (Side note: I actually love Star Wars but I just watched ll of the movies for the first time last year.) I hated A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (the book…. Never saw the movie).  So I think me and sci-fi are best described as acquaintances. But if sci-fi were trying to steal my heart, woe me into a relationship then The Chronicle of The Dark Star would be its Ryan Gosling.  
We all know that we live in a made-up linear timeline.  It makes it easy for us to go through life in one direction but time itself is a man-made construct.  This book, taking place in space, plays with our construction of time; breaking it down and apart and questioning it’s reality.  There are a group of species that exist outside of time. For a moment in this book, one member of that species lives without the ability to see his future.  He begins to understand the three dimensional existence of being in a single moment, living a linear life. It made me think of how brave we are, as humans to live without knowing.  We don’t see any future paths but move forward anyway. We move into the dark every morning, every hour. That is brave.
My dad spent the better part of this week in the hospital with a blood clot in his leg.  Each day we were waiting for doctors to visit, the medecine to do it’s thing, for the “You can be discharged now.”  We didn’t know when he could leave, how his body would heal, or even if it would heal…. But the crazy thing as humans, we’re used to not knowing.  Imagine living in all timelines, seeing all possibilities. Would it have made this week easier, if I’d already saw all of the possible outcomes? I don’t know…    
Liam is learning the ways of the time traveling species, he is able to expand out from his current timeline to see and experience others.  But it makes him crave individual moments that he hasn’t seen before. They become more special, more significant. As a yoga practitioner I see enlightenment in this.  He is getting tuned into the present moment, wanting it even with uncertainty over seeing his future timelines. He wants to be in the now.
The coolest thing this series did for me (apart from just being straight entertaining) is that I feel like the NOW is more attainable to me now.  Because as a species, we’re only ever in the now. Sure we can worry or think about the past or the future, but the simple truth is… we’re a NOW species.  Maybe we don’t have to try so hard to accomplish this enlightened NOW. But just remind ourselves that as humans we’ve already nailed this one! Okay okay I know there’s more to it but …. Maybe there isn’t…. Anyway I think we’re pretty brave.  We live everyday not knowing what is going to come next. And we still get out of bed, do shit, and live… I think that makes us all pretty courageous.
For Ages: 9 years old and up
For Those That Liked: When You Reach Me, Among the Hidden, Dragon Pearl

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise by Dan Gemeinhart


I cry all the time when I read… like ALL THE TIME. Now we all know, there’s different types of crying.  There’s beautiful crying where you look like the heroine on a Romance novel. Your shiny lustrous hair is blowing in the wind, your face is glowing and rosy, your eyes are glistening …. Only glistening, with maybe a single tear.  Then there’s trying not to cry crying, where you sniffle a lot and you try and pass it off like of a sudden you got a cold and your nose is just runny. And your eyes are red from desperately trying to hold the tears in. You think everyone just thinks you just recently developed an allergy.  Everyone knows you want to cry. Then there’s ugly crying. You don’t give a crap when you’re ugly crying. There’s snots, gasping for breathe, the neckline of your shirt is literally wet with your tears. Makeup is smearing, you’re choking, you’ll never be happy again…. Ugly tears. I regularly experience different stops along the crying spectrum with different books I’m reading.  The problem is, that I’m sometimes reading and sobbing at my desk in the Children’s room…. This book was just one of those amazing stories that literally had me tearing up like every other page but it was so beautiful I didn't mind at all.  They were sad tears just more like all the feelings tears, beautiful crying. But those last few chapters, the tear ducts opened and the floods came. I hung out in trying not to cry crying for like half a second because I was at my desk...openly weeping,,,, at my desk.... so embarrassing.  There had to be some effort to hold it together. But that was short lived and I landed in ugly crying for the novel's end. At this point, I’m pretty sure the rest of the staff is used to occasionally walking in on me with an open book, red eyes, tears streaming down my face, and sniffles.  I actually wonder if they know I’m crying because of a book… or maybe they just think I’m the Children’s Librarian version of Moaning Myrtle (they wouldn’t be totally wrong…)

Anyway despite this crying disquisition, it was a spectacular book.  Often I’ll read such an amazing book filled with deep, deep emotion and hand it off to a tween with a warning, “This was great but get ready for the feels.”  They come back and tell me, “This was sad?” So I connected to the love, loss, heartbreak and hope but many a Tween might just love the goofy story of a Dad and his daughter living and driving around in a school bus.  They might just like the adventure; the characters that get pick uped along the way. They might like the silliness, the uniqueness, the coolness, and the friendship. Either way it was a remarkable read!!!
For Ages: 8 years old and up
For Those That Liked: Holes, Raymie Nightingale, Flora and Ulysses, Summerlost

Strange Star by Emma Carroll


I’m about to type something that may risk my credit as a Literature Major: I have never read Frankenstein.  And to be honest, after a Wishbone (moment of gratitude for this little Jack Russell Terrier who is the reason I made through all my HS AP classes during my no reading phase) episode and multiple viewings of Young Frankenstein, I never really felt like I needed too.  Anyway, I never read it and never ever felt like there was a hole in my “classics” arsenal. Enter Strange Star:

Strange Star falls under the super small but one of my favorite genres of “reimagined literature”.  This is exactly what it sounds like: reimagined stories- fairy tales, movies, stories, moments in history, etc.  Stories that take something we’ve heard before and twist and turn it into something electric and new. But Strange Star goes one genius step further: it is not a retelling of Frankenstein but an imagination inspiration story: what could have inspired Mary Shelley to write the classic novel in the first place.  And suddenly I’m interested in the original work. Historical nuances; a mix fact and fiction in this twisted retelling add a whole new dimension because we are given a chance to “know” the author and the time period before the work. For the first time, I found the premise of Frankenstein fascinating; the quest for science and greatness facing off against humanity.  And while I’m being a bit of a high minded Adult here, let me stop and make absolutely clear that it is 100% accessible to the recommended age. While there’s a whole lot of deep thought going on in this novel for some readers (adults ahem ahem), others can just enjoy a creepy new version of Frankenstein for the ghost story that it is.

Now I’m off to read Frankenstein….

For Ages: 9- 14 years old

For Those That Liked: The War That Saved My Life, Max Tilt Series, Frankenstein ( any Young Readers Editions)

Yoga Pose- Ardha Chandrasana (Half Moon Pose):

*From Utthita Trikonasana (Extended Triangle Pose) on the right side, bring your left hand to rest on your left hip. Inhale and bend your right knee while sliding your left foot about 6 to 12 inches forward along the floor. At the same time, reach your right hand forward to press against the floor about a foot beyond the little-toe side of the right foot.
*Exhale and press your right hand and right heel firmly into the floor.  Straighten your right leg while simultaneously lifting the left leg parallel to the floor. Be careful not to lock (and so hyperextend) the standing knee by mirco bending in the knee.
*Begin to rotate your upper torso to the left.  Most beginners should keep the left hand on the left hip and the head in a neutral position, possibly gazing towards the ground until balance is achieved.
Next Level: Raise the left hand, lifting fingertips towards the sky.  Allow the gaze to follow the fingertips.
To Exit:Stay in this pose for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Inhale to come up, by slowly lowering the lifted heel to down to press firmly into the ground. Reverse the feet and repeat for the same length of time on the opposite side.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams


I truly enjoyed this book but I struggled to get myself to sit down and write the review for it. I didn’t know what I wanted to say.  So I’m settling on telling the only story that keeps coming up whenever I look at the color of this book: Early into my teens, I taped a piece of paper to the back of my closet.  This paper listed all the reasons I was unlovable. Whenever I got into a fight with a family member or had a particularly bad day, I would add to the list. I couldn’t tell you why it started or when it exactly it ended.  (I don't know if it ever truly ended or it just shifted into an internal dialogue as I got older). Honestly, I sort of forgot about the list’s existence until picking up this book. Genesis has the list and for the first time I wonder: how many other children, tweens, teens, adults also have the list: a personal ledger of what they think others think about them, the worst things about themselves?

Although Genesis is a character I didn’t immediately identify with, I found myself in her: the girl that wanted to be a different person.  As a teenager, I went to great lengths to bury the person I was (the one I believed was unloveable) as I tried to be the person I thought I should be.  Had I had Genesis maybe it wouldn’t have taken me into early adulthood to figure it all out…..

This book is a beautiful story about how we see ourselves, how we see others; judgements and prejudices and personal histories. Equal parts infuriating and hopeful.  The entire time absolutely human.

For Ages:10-14 years old

For Those That Liked: Blended, Harbor Me, Stella by Starlight

Yoga Pose- Camatkarasana (Wild Thing Pose):
Start in Adho Mukha Svanasana (Downward-Facing Dog) lift the left leg high moving into Eka Pada Adho Mukha Svanasana (Three-Legged Down Dog).
Bring your weight into your right hand and roll onto the outer edge of your right foot like in Vasisthasana (Side Plank Pose).
*Inhale: lift.  Exhale: step your left foot back and place your toes on the floor with your knee partially bent.
Next Level: If you feel stable, lift your hips higher until you curl more into a backbend with your right foot solid on the ground.
To Exit:
Hold for 5-10 breaths breaths, return to Down Dog and repeat on the other side.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson


Sometimes I need some time to process a book.  I don’t want to sit down and immediately write the review because I end up with a list of adjectives and not a whole lot else.  When I wrote out my adjectives for this I had:

*Hope: this book is the single most hopeful book of 2018. Hope in friendship and community.

*Anger: reading truth can do that.

*Heartbreak: same as above.

*Change: the result of all the previously mentioned emotions.  By the end I felt changed, as if I had just grown through that year in the ARTT room with those six children.  

I usually hate when reviewers refer to books as stunning.  But honestly, it just applies here. Woodson manages to explore the current American political and social landscape while keeping us focused on the six children talking in the ARTT room.  We relate, empathize, and sympathise with their struggle to define their individual identities as well as their place and role in community.

For Ages: 9 years old and up

For Those That Liked: Blended, The Parker Inheritance, Louisiana’s Way Home

Yoga Pose- Ustrasana (Camel Pose):
*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Rest your hands on the back of your pelvis (bases of the palms on the tops of the buttocks, fingers pointing down).  Inhale and lift your heart.
*ENGAGE YOUR CORE and begin to lean back while keeping your head up, chin near the sternum, and your hands on the pelvis.

*Kneel on the floor with your knees hip width and thighs perpendicular to the floor. Move one ankle in front of the other knee.  Rotate your thighs inward slightly as you firm your buttocks. Imagine that you're drawing your sitting bones up, into your torso. Press your shins and the tops of your feet firmly into floor.
*Continue to ENGAGE YOUR CORE as you lean further back, while keeping the heart elevated.  Reach the right hand back to touch the right foot and then allow the left hand to follow. (If you're not able to touch your feet without compressing your lower back, turn your toes under and lift your heels.)

Stay in this pose anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. When you are ready to exit, bring your hands onto the front of your pelvis, at the hip points. Inhale and lift the head and torso up by pushing the hip points down, toward the floor. If your head is back, lead with your heart to come up.  Rest in Child's Pose for a few breaths.

Where the Watermelons Grow by Cindy Baldwin


At first I didn’t want to read this book.  I didn’t really liked the cover, I’m not a fan of the watermelon pattern because it feels a little childish to me (like patches on a pair of Osh Kosh overalls) and I didn’t really like the title because it reminded me of the song.  I’m still a little perplexed by the title…. But some of the other children’s librarian nominated it for our Mock Awards. Normally I’m in agreement with what we nominate so I was prepared to kick myself in the butt for judging this particular book by its cover.

I didn’t love it.  

I guess the main character was pretty decently developed.  And all the plot points were hit on nicely. It should have been the kind of book that makes me cry: the mother has Schizophrenia, has stopped taking her medication, and the family farm is failing, instead it felt like it lacked emotional charge.  It read a bit predictable and I couldn’t help but feel like Della underwent an unrealistic personality change in too short a time period; a forced resolution in a story without a resolution.
But here’s where I want to try and reframe my perspective: I thought authentic emotion was missing BUT maybe it's perfect for the age group.  Maybe it felt predictable because pride is so familiar to us. Exhausting and boring as it is, most of us let pride interfere. Maybe as adults we want children to be children so badly we forget that most of the time they feel the weight of the world, they feel responsible, they feel adult.  Maybe the emotional charge I felt was lacking, was written in a different form (shoving the emotion down and ignoring it).  Final decision: although it wasn’t my favorite juvenile book of 2018, I see its merits and I can see how it can be relatable to children who react like Della to fear.

For Ages: 8-12 years old

For Those That Liked: The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, The Science of Breakable Things, See You in The Cosmos  

Blended by Susan Draper


I was wiping away some fresh tears when my friend walked into the room.  I put the book down and said, “This one has me tearing up at the end of every other chapter.”

“Why are you reading it then?”

“Because they’re good tears; its beautiful….that’s why I’m crying.”

Okay so tears as I read through this young girl’s experience of family whiplash- being passed off between parents every week (remembering how much children feel, experience, and understand- a chronic problem of adult’s underestimating this).  Tears as the middle school is rocked and then attempts to heal. Tears as Izzy/Isabella bravely steps into her identity. And then a gasp as the plot twists in a way I never saw coming, do we ever see tragedy hit us?? But it was remarkable and insightful.  I thank Susan Draper deeply for this novel, for this character, for telling this story.   

For Ages: 8-14 years old

For Those That Liked: Ghost Boys, Front Desk, Love Like Sky

Yoga Pose- Salamba Sirsasana (Supported Headstand):
*Kneel on the floor. Bring your right fingers to hug your left arm, just above the bent elbow as you bring your left fingers to hug your right arm, just above the right bent elbow. (this will give you the proper distance to keep your elbows as you set your forearms on the floor).
*Lace your fingers together, set the forearms on the floor, and roll the upper arms slightly outward, while pressing the inner wrists firmly into the floor.
*Set the crown of your head on the floor. For added support: press the bases of your palms together and snuggle the back of your head against the clasped hands. You also have the option to open your hands and place the back of the head into the open palms.
*Inhale and lift your knees off the floor (downdog legs). Walk your feet as close to your elbows as possible while keeping the heels elevated. Actively lift the shoulder blades together and towards the tailbone so the front torso stays as long as possible. (This should help prevent the weight of the shoulders collapsing onto your neck and head.)
*Exhale and lift one leg straight towards the ceiling- further enabling your shoulders to be stacked in line with your hips.  Lift the opposite leg toward the ceiling then slowly begin to bend both knees, lowering them to hug close to the chest.
*Remember  to press the shoulder blades against the back, widen them, and draw them toward the tailbone. Keep the weight evenly balanced on the two forearms. It's also essential that your tailbone continues to lift upward toward the heels.
*Practice holding this position for a set number of breaths before releasing the feet back down to the floor.  

The Book of Boy by Catherine Gilbert Murdock


The end makes this totally worth it.  So in the Children’s Librarian world we have what we call award bait.  These are incredibly well written novels with beautiful language, an articulate story, and deeply developed characters.  The type of book that adults love and praise. The type of book that finds its way into school curriculum. The type of book parents shove at their children.  The type of book that children don’t finish. I believe this novel checks off all those boxes. It is beautiful and exquisite. It had a wonderful end that made the entire plot leading up to it, really and truly mean something (extra points because the reader ahem, me didn’t even know it was supposed to mean something).  To be totally clear: the story as a whole was brilliant, but you don’t fully appreciate that until the end.  Getting to the end, well ….honestly.. it was boooorrrriiinnggg. It was sort of drawn out in a Canterbury Tales way (I am not a fan of Canterbury Tales); a pilgrim and a boy head out in Medieval France to gather the Relics of Saint Peter, in order to receive their desired miracles.  I followed through mainly because if the book is even moderately interesting, I’ll commit to finishing it. This is a remnant of some sort of weird competition I began with myself back when I was forcing reading my list of “classics”. I generally tell the children that if their reading for pleasure and not enjoying the book to immediately stop reading it, there are just too many fantastic books that will be right up their alley to waste their time hating a book…. No one should hate a book.   BUT I should also point out that there have been many books that I ended up loving ONLY because of the end. This is one of them. Had I stopped when I first felt mildly bored, I would not have finished. I would not have appreciated the plot progression. Because I’m a 30 year old Librarian, I appreciate plot progression. I live for plot progression and deeply developed characters. I bow to the Literary Gods when a book has a capital E, ENDING!! I am shot with Cupid’s arrow when I drag myself through a book only to be convinced of the author’s genius right in the last three chapters.  I eat up Award bait. Hook, line, and sinker. So to end this review that was more about my tendency to swoon over exquisite endings, I suggest it to any and all adults. I will shove it into your hands, check it out onto your library card, and shout its praises on our Mock Awards spreadsheet. But I probably won’t add it to my collection. I probably won’t suggest it to any of my young patrons. And I don’t really see myself using it in any programs. Because it’s Mock Award Bait: deliciously irresistible to us Librarians, but really just a handful of earthworms dug up from the backyard (brown and bland) to all the children.    

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Unfinished Angel, Bob, Crenshaw

Yoga Pose- Fallen Angel:

*Begin standing with the big toes and inner heels touching. Bend the knees drawing the weight into the heels keeping toe toes light and fluffy.
*Begin by lowering the hips down into Utkatasana (Chair Pose).  Keep the big toes light, while majority of weight is held in the heels.
*With hands at your heart in Anjali Mudra, revolve from your upper chest and twist to land the left elbow onto or to the outside of the right thigh.
If this is plenty, breathe here pushing the palms together to point the right elbow up toward the ceiling. If there is wiggle space, keep working the armpit towards the thigh to deepen the twist.
*Gently place both hands onto the ground shoulder width apart, fingertips pointing away from the right thigh. Bend the elbows toward a 90 degree angle as the feet sweep back (into a variation of supported side crow).
*Bring your elbows directly over the wrists as you lift the shin bones up parallel to the ground.
Keep the inner thighs squeezing and the inner elbows hugging in.
*Lower the head to the ground so that the right side of the face rests lightly on the floor.
*While reaching the left leg straight up towards the sky as the bottom foot (right foot) rotates up toward the sky as well.
Continue to keep the right knee bent.

TO COME OUT: Re-stack the knees into Side Crow before lowering the feet back onto the ground.

You don’t know everything, Jilly P! By Alex Gino


Truth time: I’m revising my original review.  I read this a few weeks ago and when I first finished I was disappointed.  My opening line was, “I really wanted to like this…” Because I felt like it had been unfocused and a little unfinished.  Originally I wrote, “To be fair there are a lot of merits to this story but it felt like two different stories merged into one.”  Then it hit me out of nowhere and unavoidable: DUH that was its point!! Different stories, different voices; messing up and learning.  Alex Gino writes a brilliant novel shining a light on racism while also creating a voice and for another juvenile fiction minority: the deaf community. The multiple story lines reflect our ability (and often inability) to emphasize, learn, and better understand one another.  There’s a lot more in this novel and it isn’t a completed story; but maybe that’s also the whole point- that there’s SO much in these stories and it’s only the beginning of listening to them, telling them, and learning from them.  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Parker Inheritance, Ghost Boys, The Miscalculations of Lightening Girl

Saving Winslow by Sharon Creech


Winslow is a sick, newborn donkey.  Nobody expects him to live through a few days.  Nobody, except Louie. Louie takes responsibility for his care. Constantly repeating “Don’t say that.” when Winslow’s chances are questioned.  As Louie become more attached to Winslow, he becomes more aware of the people around him. Creech shares this story in her uniquely wonderful, understated prose that are reminiscent of storing and sharing memories.  The story runs circles around itself in short and seemingly even a bit unrelated snippets; exactly how we store and share our own memories and experiences. In the end, each stories purpose becomes as clear as Winslow’s. (Great pick for animal lovers)!!  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The One and Only Ivan, The Tale of Despereaux, Because of Winn-Dixie

Yoga Pose- Sirsasana II  (Tripod Headstand Pose):
*Start in tabletop: placing the hands flat on the ground, shoulder distance apart.
Bend the elbows back towards the ribs (similar to chaturanga arms)
*Place the crown of the head onto the ground.
Make sure that your hands are far enough away from your face that you can create a 90
degree angle in the elbows and be able to see your fingers.  
*Curl the toes under, lift the hips, and straighten the legs into dolphin pose.  Begin to walk the toes towards the head. Press down into your hands, using the strength to keep your shoulders lifted, and any added pressure off your head and/ or neck.
*If you feel stable, draw your belly button to your spine and use your core strength to lift your right leg, bend the knee and place it lightly on your right tricep.  Bend the left knee and place on the left tricep.

Next Level:
*Lift the hips up (until they are stacked over the shoulders) as the thighs draw into the chest.
Remember to lift the shoulders and keep the triceps engaged in chaturanga.  
*Engage the core by drawing the belly button to the spine. Cross legs at the ankle! Hold for desired length of time.

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs


The first time I watched “Are You Afraid of the Dark,” it was the episode with the little girl stuck in the mirror who kept knocking down the house’s “For Sale” sign so her aging mother couldn’t sell the house and move away.  I was scared out of my mind. Couldn’t sleep for weeks and didn’t watch another “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episode until the following year.
My friends and I watched “It” one night during a sleepover back in 7th grade.  It was on two VHS’s; the three of us sat there with my friend’s mom, holding our breath as the suspense grew.  When the first tape was done we were all temporarily baffled, coming out of our horror stupor to question with a little frustration, “Is that it?” We realized we had another tape to go and popped it in with renewed expectations. At the end I remember feeling colossal disappointment, all that for a spider? Was I missing something?
That marked the beginning of my frustration with horror movies.  The plots never seemed quite right, I mean how is Jason an adult if he drowned as a child?  Too much suspension of disbelief, too much focus on gore and zero focus on plot development.  However, I still love a good ghost story, maybe it reminds me of that first “Are You Afraid of the Dark” episode and all the ones I watched after I waited a year to build up some courage.  (My sister can say, “I’m Cold” and to this day I get goosebumps.)  Which leads me to why I liked The Darkdeep.  It is entertaining AF.
There’s a typical friendship arch with bullies and unexpected alliances; predictable (of course!), but absolutely necessary for the genre!!  A crisis in the community creates an unseen element of simmering turmoil. While fog and chill roll through the story building unease and leading the reader expectantly into all the unleashed creepy.  It’s weird and mysterious and my suspense and curiosity were sparked the entire time. Not too scary but the perfect ghost story and miraculously well developed. Although there is still a heavy need for suspension of disbelief, it's satisfyingly unexplained with a delightful ending….  

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: The Nightbooks, Goosebumps, Small Spaces

Yoga Pose- Sirsasana II  (Tripod Headstand Pose):
*Start in tabletop: placing the hands flat on the ground, shoulder distance apart.
Bend the elbows back towards the ribs (similar to chaturanga arms)
*Place the crown of the head onto the ground.
Make sure that your hands are far enough away from your face that you can create a 90
degree angle in the elbows and be able to see your fingers.  
*Curl the toes under, lift the hips, and straighten the legs into dolphin pose.  Begin to walk the toes towards the head. Press down into your hands, using the strength to keep your shoulders lifted, and any added pressure off your head and/ or neck.
*If you feel stable, draw your belly button to your spine and use your core strength to lift your right leg, bend the knee and place it lightly on your right tricep.  Bend the left knee and place on the left tricep.

Next Level:
*Lift the hips up (until they are stacked over the shoulders) as the thighs draw into the chest.
Remember to lift the shoulders and keep the triceps engaged in chaturanga.  
*You can choose to raise one leg at a time or send both feet towards the ceiling.  Hug the inner thighs, continue to draw the navel to the spine, and spread the toes.

24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling


I’m going to keep this one short: It reminded me a little of Tom and Huck (for all of you still half in love with the 90’s, I’m referring to the one with JTT <swoon>). I think I loved this novel so much because it felt like all of the best friendship movies (The Goonies, The Sandlot, Stand by Me, etc.).  It’s a classic adventure novel: a group of tweens head into a cursed cave in search of legendary buried treasure. They don’t start out as friends but after a night spent lost in the dark tunnels, stalked by a mountain lion, and having a vicious bat poop fight a bonded friendship is inevitable.  Great for conversations about growing pains (bullying, crappy home life, etc.) but honestly, even better for just being a fantastic old school friendship novel, with a hint of adventure and mystery!!

For Ages: 8-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: Holes, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, Lions and Liars

Yoga Pose- Utthita Hasta Padangustasana (Extended Hand-to- Big-Toe Pose):
*From Tadasana (standing Mountain Pose) lift your left knee toward your belly; hugging it in.
*Reach your left arm inside the thigh, cross it over the front ankle, and hold the outside of your left foot. Or take Peace Fingers to grab hold of the left big toe.
If your hamstrings are tight, hold a strap looped around the left sole.
*Inhale and extend the left leg forward. Straighten the knee as much as possible. If you're steady, swing the leg out to the left side. Breathe steadily and hold your drishti (focused gaze) to help you balance.
*Hold until you are ready to come out.  Return to center with an inhale, and lower the foot to the floor with an exhale. Repeat on the other side for the same length of time.

Nightbooks by J.A. White


My sister and I shared a room as children, so obviously many nights were spent scaring ourselves silly reading from the Scary Stories To Tell in The Dark series.  The stories were short and even more terrifying because so much was left to the imagination. Nightbooks is the best scary story for juvenile fiction I have ever read! A re-imagined Hansel and Gretel, J.A. White sprinkles in Scary Stories to Tell in The Dark type tales inside a larger story.  I can’t praise this one enough! Fully developed and creepily executed, this novel will give you goosebumps but still shares a message of friendship and being authentically unapologetically yourself.
P.S. normally I’m bored with hokey or unexplained scary story endings that feel like cheap attempts to end the story, J.A. White delivers a great ending making this a terror to read cover to cover!
Recently I revised my Tween yoga program and decided to use this book for my first new class format.  (It ended up being around Halloween which is sort of irrelevant except that I was able to use a spooky theme.)  They loved it so much three of the children participating ended up requesting the book so they could read how it ended… Apart from my recommendation, I feel pretty confident in saying that my 4th- 8th graders would recommend it as well!

For Ages: 9-12 yrs. old

For Those That Liked: “Goosebumps” series, “The Darkdeep” and “The Graveyard Book”

Yoga Pose- Step One of Tittibhasana (Firefly Pose):
*Squat with your feet a little less than shoulder distance apart.  Tilt your pelvis forward and lower down between your legs until your pelvis is about knee height.
Bring your left upper arm and shoulder as far as possible underneath the back of your left thigh and place your left hand on the floor at the outside edge of your foot.  Repeat these actions on the other side.
Next Level (Full Tittibhasana):
Lift your feet off the floor by carefully shifting your center of gravity. Press your hands into the floor as you slowly begin to rock your weight back (shifting the weight off your feet and on to your hands).
*Keep your inner thighs as high on your arms as possible as you stretch your legs out to the sides as straight as you can.  Straighten your arms as much as possible. Widening your shoulder blades will round your upper back in order to lift your torso higher.
Without tensing your neck, lift your head and gaze forward. Breathe slowly and hold the pose then release your feet to the floor with an exhale.

Why I’m obsessed with Juvenile Fiction and You Should Be Too!


Before I became a Children’s Librarian I was an English Major that hadn’t read many “classics”.  If I was going to graduate with an English Lit. degree, I believed I needed to read a few. So I compiled a list and started checking them off.  When I started my M.L.I.S. I hadn’t read many YA books. If I was going to be a YA Librarian, I needed to read much more of that collection. So I read YA.

Then I got hired….as a Children’s Librarian.

My previous years of dedicated reading meant nothing: no one was asking me if I preferred Dostoevsky to Gogol or if John Green’s “Turtles All The Way Down” read like “The Fault in Our Stars”. So I did what every librarian/avid reader does when faced with a dilemma, a question, or a Friday night with no plans: I read. And read and read.

Returning to Juvenile Fiction (and the reason I truly believe ALL adults should go back to reading middle grade novels as well) changed who I was, as a person.

They taught me empathy.  Recently published juvenile fiction shares more perspectives, situations, and lifestyles than ever before.  It is impossible to read a book without a plethora of characters from all different backgrounds and experiences. When reading so many different voices, it is impossible not to become more sympathetic and empathetic.  These books teach us to look at each other with more honesty and love; to rethink our experiences and reimagine others’. In a world increasingly aggressive, these books above all else, will be our saving grace to evoke internal change and intellectual shift as they expose us to ideas outside of our personal “norms”.  

They remind me what it is like to be a kid.  It is our nature as humans to relate from where we are now.  And now I’m a 30 year old, not an 11 year old. I often see my young patrons as who I want them to be: having fun without adult stress, being kind to each other, loving themselves, etc.  In essence, I see them as how I wish I could have been if I could do it over. I forget that as an 11 year old I still felt worry and stress. I forget that I wanted to be treated as an adult.  I wanted to be respected and included. Reading juvenile fiction is indispensable guidance for any adult who interacts with adolescents. If you want to be able to reach an age group, relate to that age group.  Juvenile fiction will bring up all the feels; reminding us what it was like to be in middle school.

They speak to simplicity.  Now don’t get me wrong; these books have brain tumors, murder, and homeless children.  They have racism. They have bad people who do good things and good people who make colossal and awful mistakes. They have “adult” topics because there really are no adult topics vs. children topics.  There is just life and life is scary, dark, and brutal sometimes.  But juvenile fiction doesn’t muss around with our adult baggage. It gets to the point: this situation sucks but these are people surviving.  Juvenile fiction is filled with reality: the good stuff and the bad stuff. What I love most of all is that there’s always a sense of accomplishment within each book. You end it feeling like you’ve grown.  You’ve changed. How many adult books offer that (outside of self help)??

Juvenile Fiction (also known as middle grade novels) make better people and that is why I have chosen to review them more than any other collection.  Adults MUST go back to reading them: We will raise better children and become a better society.

Breakout by Kate Messner


Pizza Book club starts today!! Last spring I tried out a lunchtime book club.  A group of 8th graders walked across the street to the library to eat pizza and talk about a book.  This year we decided to start the lunchtime book club earlier in the school year, so they'd be able to read more than one book and today is our first meeting!! I’m starting us off with Breakout by Kate Messner… it's a bit longer than I would usually pick but the entire story is told in a series of documents (letters, poems, text messages, news stories, and comics) collected by Nora Tucker for the Wolf Creek Community Time Capsule Project.  So although its got a high page count, it's a fairly quick read.
The plot: Nora Tucker is in the last two weeks of school before summer vacation in Upstate New York when two inmates break out of the town's maximum security prison.  Suddenly this small “safe and friendly” town is in constant fear and lock-down.
Here’s where the story kicks ass: She introduces a new classmate for Nora who’s brother is serving time in the prison.  As Nora becomes friends with Edilee she begins to see that Wolf Creek might be safe and welcoming for her and her white friends but it does not treat her new black friend the same.

The novel is fast-paced and entertaining while poking at some pretty intense contemporary issues within criminal justice, racial bias, and community goodwill. I’ll let you all know the Lunchtime Book Club opinion when we’ve finished it!!

Recommended Age: 9- 14 years old

For Those That Liked: “ The Science of Breakable Things”, “Front Desk” “The Parker Inheritance”

Yoga Pose: Utkatasana (Chair Pose):
*Stand in Tadasana. Inhale and raise your arms perpendicular to the floor (shoulders distance apart, palms facing each other).  If you feel tightness in the shoulders (a rising of the shoulders towards the ears) move your arms out wider than shoulders distance apart.
*Exhale and bend the knees, lower down so that the thighs are parallel to the floor. Reach the hips down and back, bringing your weight to the heels of the feet. Do not bring the hips lower than the level of the knees. Remain for 3-5 breathes.

Next Level (Awkward Chair Pose):
Draw your tailbone down to the floor, keeping your lower back long and bring your hips down lower (shift your weight into your heels, about 80% of weight, so that you could lift your toes off the mat if you wanted to).
*Consciously place all weight anchored in the right foot.  Lift the left foot with control. Bend at the knee and rest the left ankle on top of the right knee.  Remain here for 3-5 breaths before lowering the left foot back to the floor and rising to Tadasana. Repeat on the opposite side, beginning in Utkatasana before moving into awkward chair.

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya


Marcus has given himself an identity based on the opinions of classmates (pretty much the fact that he is incredibly, magnificently tall) and his role in his family (protector of his older brother who has Down Syndrome) in his hometown of Springfield, Pennsylvania.  However as he, his mother, and brother travel to Puerto Rico (visiting family he never knew he had and searching for a father he hasn’t communicated with in ten years) he allows his identity to deepen with his roots. Identity is a huge topic in YA/Adult Lit. but rarely given the attention it deserves in Juvenile Fiction.  It was nice to see the conversation expanding to a younger demographic in this novel. Identity is important to every individual, no matter the age. I liked that the novel was able to address the idea of being in two vastly different worlds:Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico and how a Tween can be both!

Recommended Age: 10 years old and up.
For Those That Liked: “Listen, Slowly”, “The Night Diary”, “Louisiana’s Way Home”, “The Stars Beneath Our Feet”

Yoga Pose: Krounchasana (Heron Pose):
*Kneel on your mat with your knees together, separate your feet slightly wider than hip width (if this is painful on the tops of your feet or your knees, kneel on a thin blanket, you may also be more comfortable with the knees remaining hips distance apart).
*Bend lower in your knees as you lean forward to place your hands behind you on your calves:  Pull your calf muscles away from your knees as you lower to sit on the floor between your feet.
*Place your hands on your knees and draw the skin on the knees back towards your thighs.

Next Level:
*Slowly lower yourself down to rest on your hands (placed behind your hips, fingertips pointing towards your feet), your forearms, or all the way down to rest on your back.
* Straighten the right leg out in front of you before bending the knee and placing the foot on the floor, just in front of the right sitting bone. Place your right arm against the inside of the right leg (so that your shoulder presses against the inner knee). Cross your hand in front of the right ankle and grasp the outside of the right foot. Finally grasp the inside of the right foot with your left hand.
* Lean back slightly, but maintain a lift of the chest. Raise the right leg diagonally to the floor.
*Lower right leg gently to the floor before releasing the left leg into Dandasana (Staff Pose).

Max Tilt: 80 Days or Die by Peter Lerangis


Here’s what I love:

*A modern twist Jules Verne’s adventure stories, updating the “classics” (that all adults love to force children to read) to be much more relevant and fun.

*Rapid fire plot pace, making it impossible to put down

*The main character is a child on the spectrum, giving a face to an underrepresented voice in entertainment and literature.

Just as great as the first, already itching for the third!!

Recommended Age: 8-13 years old.
For Those That Liked: A Robert Langdon series for middle graders, “Holes”, “Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library”, “The 39 Clues” series

Yoga Pose: Sirsasana II (Tripod Headstand Pose):
*Start in tabletop: placing the hands flat on the ground, shoulder distance apart.
Bend the elbows back towards the ribs (similar to chaturanga arms)
*Place the crown of the head onto the ground.
Make sure that your hands are far enough away from your face that you can create a 90
degree angle in the elbows and be able to see your fingers.  
*Curl the toes under, lift the hips, and straighten the legs into dolphin pose.  Begin to walk the toes towards the head. Press down into your hands, using the strength to keep your shoulders lifted, and any added pressure off your head and/ or neck.
*If you feel stable, draw your belly button to your spine and use your core strength to lift your right leg, bend the knee and place it lightly on your right tricep.  Bend the left knee and place on the left tricep.

Next Level:
*Lift the hips up (until they are stacked over the shoulders) as the thighs draw into the chest.
Remember to lift the shoulders and keep the triceps engaged in chaturanga.  
*You can choose to raise one leg at a time or send both feet towards the ceiling.  Hug the inner thighs, continue to draw the navel to the spine, and spread the toes.