Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

Before the Ever After Cover Art

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson
Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House 
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
ISBN: 978-0399545436

ZT has the perfect life. He has a group of friends he’s super tight with. His family is loving and supportive, and his dad is a football superstar. But this idyllic life begins to unravel when his father starts getting debilitating migraines, ending his football career. As his father begins to lose his memory, ZT learns that not all success stories have happy endings. And sometimes supporting the people we love most can be incredibly difficult.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

April: Cruelest Month or Kindest? National Poetry Month

T. S. Eliot famously opened his classic poem “The Waste Land” by proclaiming April “the cruelest month,” and students everywhere might agree when April rolls around and teachers pull out their well-worn poetry unit. April is National Poetry Month, which for poetry lovers means the spotlight shines on their favorites, old and new. We encourage the celebration of poetry year round, but in honor of the 25th anniversary of this special designation, here are 25 new titles, ideas, and resources to mark the occasion.


1. Though she needs no real introduction, we would be remiss if we didn’t start our list with NY Times #1 bestseller Amanda Gorman and her forthcoming collection, which includes her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

2. Invite your teens to participate in the Dear Poet project, where young people get to engage directly with award-winning poets, such as Janice Lobo Sapigao:

Continue reading April: Cruelest Month or Kindest? National Poetry Month

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Nominations Round-Up, Spring

Each quarter, the Selected Lists teams compile the titles that have been officially nominated to date. These books have been suggested by the team or through the title suggestion form, read by multiple members of the team, and received approval to be designated an official nomination. At the end of the year, the final list of nominations and each Selected List’s Top Ten will be chosen from these titles.


Becoming Muhammad Ali. By James Patterson and Kwame Alexander. Art by Dawud Anyabwile. 2020. Little, Brown/JIMMY Patterson. $16.99 (9780316498166).

James Patterson and Kwame Alexander tackle the life of Cassius Clay before he became Muhammad Ali in this novel that mixes prose and verse.

Chlorine Sky. By Mahogany L. Browne. Penguin Random House/Crown. $17.99 (9780593176399).

In this novel in verse, Mahogany Browne explores what it’s like to lose a best friend but find yourself.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Nominations Round-Up, Spring

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson & Kwame Alexander, and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson, Kwame Alexander, and Dawud Anyabwile (illustrator)
Jimmy Patterson Books / Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: October 5, 2020
ISBN: 978-0399547966

Cassius Clay Jr. was always the greatest—even if everyone didn’t know it yet. Before the world knew him as Muhammad Ali, Cassius hung out with friends, loved his family, and struggled with school, all against the backdrop of 1950s Louisville, Kentucky. In this fictionalized biography, writers James Patterson and Kwame Alexander show the reader Cassius’ life with a mix of prose and poetry.

The book is engaging and full of heart, with fully realized characters and a well-paced plot. The cover draws you in, and Dawud Anyabwile’s art throughout adds to the book’s appeal. The mix of prose and poetry adds interest. Students will be able to see themselves in Cassius and his best friend, Lucky.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2022) Featured Review of Becoming Muhammad Ali by James Patterson & Kwame Alexander, and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2020) Nominees Round Up, October 10 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Great Graphic Novels nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

Skyward, vol. 3: Fix the World by Joe Henderson, Illustrated by Lee Garbett
Image Comics
Publication Date: September 3, 2019
ISBN: 978-1534312432

Willa and Edison have split up in order to try to save the world. Edison is back in Chicago to warn everyone about the farmer/bug invasion headed their way and to come up with a plan to stop them. Willa is in Kansas City following her father’s last words to fix gravity, but Barrow is right behind her—trying to stop her. What neither of them realizes is that the “big red button” doesn’t actually fix gravity, it opens the path to the safe underground town, Crystal Springs, that Willa’s father built as a prototype city to protect people when gravity failed. Only gravity failed earlier than anticipated and the only people in the town are the ones who worked there previously. Now Willa is trapped in Crystal Springs and can’t get out to help Edison save Chicago.

Continue reading Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2020) Nominees Round Up, October 10 Edition

Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, July 30 Edition

Click here to see all of the current Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers nominees along with more information about the list and past years’ selections.

No More ExcusesNo More Excuses: Dismantling Rape Culture by Amber J. Keyser
Twenty-First Century Books
Publication Date: January 1st 2019
ISBN: 978-1541543959

Starting with an eye-opening account of the Steubenville high school rape case (in 2012), No More Excuses exposes the deep-seated problem of sexual assault and rape culture. With examples of current events, readers are given clear, concise, and easily understood explanations of the  misogynistic problems discussed and given concrete ways to fight the problem.

Continue reading Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2020) Nominees Round Up, July 30 Edition

#BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, July 6 Edition

People Like Us by Dana Mele
G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
ISBN: 978-1524741709

After boarding school student Kay Donovan and her friends discover a body floating in the water, she receives an email to participate in a revenge website to take down her friends. Intrigued, Kay visits the site only to find it is password protected. Unable to crack the code, Kay enlists in the help of Nola, a girl she once was mean to. Once in the site, the two discover that each task is given a certain amount of time to complete. If not completed in time, Kay’s secrets will be exposed. Despite backlash, Kay will do what it takes to hide the truth.

Continue reading #BFYA2019 Nominees Round Up, July 6 Edition

#QP2019 Nominees Round Up, June 5 Edition

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli
HarperCollins / Balzer + Bray
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
ISBN:  978-0062643800

It’s three months before prom and Leah’s squad is in shambles.

Leah has the greatest friends in the universe…so why hasn’t she come out as bi to anyone yet? Especially Simon, her BFF, came out to her to her last year before anyone else in the squad. Maybe it’s because she is starting get to feelings, REAL feelings, for someone in her group circle and that someone is dating her friend. Throw in the spring musical, college acceptances (and rejections), and senior prom, and Leah may just completely lose it.

Continue reading #QP2019 Nominees Round Up, June 5 Edition

#AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks Nominees, Volume 7

This round of Amazing Audiobooks nominees are great stories told in unusual formats.

Solo by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess, narrated by Kwame Alexander and Randy Preston (original music)
Audio Published by Zondervan
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
ISBN: 9780310761891

Solo tells the story of seventeen year old Blade Morrison. Blade, like his father, is a talented musician; but unlike his father, he’s steadier, sober and less haunted by his mother’s death. Blade has a comfortable yet difficult life. His dad is wealthy, so he never needs to worry about money or how to pay for his future. He has a girlfriend, Chapel, with whom he plans to attend college. Yet Blade is constantly in the public eye, because his father is not only famous, but infamous for the stunts he pulls when he’s under the influence.  Blade, who is more self-possessed that most teenage kids with famous substance abusing fathers and self-involved sisters, is learning truths about himself that are throwing his world into a tailspin. Continue reading #AA2018: Amazing Audiobooks Nominees, Volume 7

2016 Middle Grade Titles with Teen Appeal

It can be easy to for me to forget that teens are some of the most dexterous readers out there. They can jump from reading adult novels one day, back to a young adult novel the next, and then have no qualms about picking up a book that we consider middle grade after that. I often feel that I need to be pushing older teens to move onward from young adult titles to adult titles, assuming that is what they are “growing into,” but will be surprised when one says how they have just read Sara Pennypacker’s Pax and loved it. Some teens stay loyal to the authors that meant so much to them in the grade school years, authors like Christopher Paul Curtis and Kate DiCamillo, and others will continue to read anything by Rick Riordan, no matter how old they get. Teens can still have an interest in titles that we assume they would feel are “babyish,” but for them can be a break from angst or romance, and to them are just a great story.

We have some great resources when we are looking for adult books for teen appeal. We have YALSA’s Alex Award and their annual vetted list of books and School Library Journal’s column Adult Books for Teens, but we rarely see resources out there for younger books that might have a place in a teen’s reading pile. Here is a list of recent titles, titles that can be both successful with both a 5th-grader and an 11-grader.

middle-grade-re

Realistic Fiction

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

This story starts and ends with a gunshot. Ever since the night his father shot a gun at him and his mother, Castle Cranshaw left running and hasn’t stopped since. Now in seventh-grade, he’s nicknamed himself Ghost after coming upon a track tryout, and without officially entering, taking on one of the most elite runners and winning. Now he is being courted by the coach to join the track team, and learns that you don’t always have to run away from things, but can run towards things too. Track is one of those sports that many kids and teens participate in, but it is rarely the subject of novels. Fans of Friday Night Lights with love this coach in this as much as they do Coach Taylor. This is a character-driven and plot-driven novel with many appeals, but teens that especially love a Gatsby-esque novel laden with imagery and themes will find so much to pore over in this short, but rich, novel.

The Best Man by Richard Peck

This story starts and ends with a wedding. One that is a complete train-wreck, and one that couldn’t be more perfect. This coming-of-age novel is full of snarky humor and hilarious episodes that allow you to see the world of adults through a younger generation’s eyes. Unlike Tom Sawyer and Holden Caulfield, Archer Magill is clueless to the world around him, and his best friend Lynette is always having to explain life’s nuances. Teen’s who have appreciated David Sedaris’ childhood memoir essays will feel at home in how family can be hilarious and still be the best parts of our world.

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Soccer is the backdrop to this coming-of-age novel. Nick Hall, whose father makes him study the dictionary and turn in homework to him, would love to escape the world of words and books. Nick thinks he has the world all-figured out. He lives for soccer, and both he and his best-friend are getting to play in the Dallas Dr. Pepper Open, but on different teams. Just as things seem to be going his way, especially with his crush paying a little of attention to him, bombs start to drop–his mother announces she is leaving to follow her dream of training race horses, but in a different state, and he get appendicitis right before the big tournament. Teens will appreciate how messy life can be, and appreciate those little moments when you realize that you’ve gotten it all wrong.

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart

At the start of their eighth grade year both Lily and Dunkin are trying to establish new identities for themselves. Everyone sees Lily as Timothy, but she is ready for the real her to be known, only her father isn’t ready for the the transition. Dunkin, has just moved to Lily’s Florida town to live with his Grandmother, and would love to leave his old name “Norbert”and some painful secrets in the past. This middle grade novel has strong characterization of two young teens navigating their identities. Older teens will identify with the work it takes to let others see the real you, and the hope they will accept you for who you truly are.

middle-grade-fantasy

Fantasy

Pax by Sara Pennypacker

When Peter’s father is heading off to war, he is forced to abandon his pet fox in the woods. Unable to handle the separation, Peter runs away to find his beloved pet, Pax. Told through alternating perspective between Peter and Pax, this book is a sensitive look at grief, man’s relationship with animals, and the marks of war.

When the Sea Turned Silver by Grace Lin

The magic of story will transport readers into a new time and place filled with adventure. Pinmei has to find the Luminous Stone to rescue her grandmother who has been kidnapped by the emperor. Teens that love books of fairytales retold, with love that feeling as Lin weaves new stories that have that classic feeling.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Young Alice lives in a world that values both magic and color, and she unfortunately seems to be lacking both. She hasn’t seem to exhibit any magical powers similar to those in her community, and she was born with no color in her skin or hair. After her father has been missing for several years, she hears that he might be in the mythical, dangerous land of Furthermore, and she sets out to find him. Teens will be drawn to this Whimsical, gothic fairy tale with a narrator voice similar to Series of Unfortunate Events.

Goblin’s Puzzle; Being the Adventures of A Boy With No Name and Two Girls Called Alice by Andrew S. Chilton

Teen fans of Douglas Adams or Monty Python will love the humorous writing and twists and turns in this adventure. This follows a slave boy with no name as he tries to rescue a princess and a peasant (both named Alice), and discover what his destiny is. He seeks the help of Mennofar, a tiny green goblin, even though he can’t be trusted as everyone knows goblins are sneaky. Continue reading 2016 Middle Grade Titles with Teen Appeal