Category Archives: bullying

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina

140127095838-25-young-adult-book-awards-horizontal-gallery1With four starred reviews and a Pura Belpré Award on the cover, I knew this would be a good book. What I didn’t realize is that I would stay up until 1:30 in the morning reading the last chapters, needing to know how everything turns out for Piddy Sanchez. This is a gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story that ultimately offers hope in the power of making our own choices in life.

Publisher’s description:  One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* has reached a cross-roads and has important choices or decisions to make

* struggles with poverty, or needs to be introduced to someone who does

* is being raised by a single parent

* is exploring what it means to be part of a particular culture or to straddle more than one culture (Piddy is bullied by Yaqui in part because Yaqui doesn’t think she is “Latina enough.”)

* responds to a teen voice that is honest and  unapologetic

Use this to discuss:

* Choices –Piddy has a slew of choices in front of her, and not one of them is easy. We see the choices that her friend Joey makes, and some of the choices that Yaqui makes. What choices does Piddy have in life? What are the ramifications of each? This would make for a good discussion, especially when paired with Steve Watkins’ young adult novel Juvie.


* Community–Although Piddy is being raised by her mother and has never met her father, she doesn’t lack for a support network. Lila, her mother’s friend, and the other ladies at the beauty salon where Lila works (and where Piddy works on the weekends) form a tightly-knit community that looks out for each other. Use Piddy’s story as a springboard to discuss various support systems that teens have in their lives.

* Point of View–Although we never get into Yaqui’s head, we get a glimpse of what her life must be like through Raul, a policeman who patrols Yaqui’s crime-ridden neighborhood, and Joey, Piddy’s friend and neighbor who lives with daily violence in his own home. Although Yaqui is the girl we want to hate, Meg Medina won’t let us, even though she keeps Yaqui’s point of view at arm’s length. How would Yaqui describe seeing Piddy for the first time? What bothers her so much about Piddy Sanchez?

* Bullying–One of the biggest choices Piddy must make is how to handle Yaqui’s bullying. Should she try to avoid Yaqui? Confront her? Tell an adult? This would make an excellent discussion starter about how to handle bullying and its lingering consequences.

Visit author Meg Medina’s website here, and read some sample chapters and see the string of honors this book has received here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: March 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0-7636-65859-5 (hardcover); 978-0-7636-7164-8 (paperback)

Number of Pages: 272

For ages 14 and up


Juvie by Steve Watkins


I received this e-galley from the publisher via Netgalley and read it on my ancient Kindle, so I didn’t pay much attention to the cover, including–I’m embarrassed to say–the author’s name. The story is written from a female teen’s point of view, and it’s done so well that I was shocked when I sat down to write this review and discovered that the author is male. I was also surprised to realize that, had I seen the cover before reading the story, I would have thought that was a book about a teen boy. My own misguided preconceptions, of course–girls go to jail, too.

Publisher’s description:  Sadie Windas has always been the responsible one — she’s the star player on her AAU basketball team, she gets good grades, she dates a cute soccer player, and she tries to help out at home. Not like her older sister, Carla, who leaves her three-year-old daughter, Lulu, with Aunt Sadie while she parties and gets high. But when both sisters are caught up in a drug deal — wrong place, wrong time — it falls to Sadie to confess to a crime she didn’t commit to keep Carla out of jail and Lulu out of foster care. Sadie is supposed to get off with a slap on the wrist, but somehow, impossibly, gets sentenced to six months in juvie. As life as Sadie knew it disappears beyond the stark bars of her cell, her anger — at her ex-boyfriend, at Carla, and at herself — fills the empty space left behind. Can Sadie forgive Carla for getting her mixed up in this mess? Can Carla straighten herself out to make a better life for Lulu, and for all of them? Can Sadie survive her time in juvie with her spirit intact?

Heart-wrenching and real, Juvie tells the story of two sisters grappling with accountability, sacrifice — and who will be there to help you after you take the fall.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* is struggling with making good choices in life

* knows someone who has been incarcerated or has first-hand experience with the juvenile detention system

* plays basketball–Sadie is on the college scholarship path when she has to leave high school to serve her six-month sentence.

* has a family member who suffers from agoraphobia–Sadie’s father never makes an appearance in the story because he hasn’t come out of his house in years. Although we don’t get to know him as well as we know the agoraphobic father in Linda Urban’s A Crooked Kind of Perfect,  we can still feel Sadie’s father’s love for her when he does reach out to her via the US mail.

Use this to discuss:

* Character Motivation–Sadie decides to take the fall for her older sister, Carla, who has been in trouble with the law in the past. Should she have made that sacrifice? What if Sadie’s decision can’t save her sister or her young niece, Lulu? Would she have made the same sacrifice if she had known that she’d spend six months in jail?

* Ethics–When Sadie tries to shield a fellow inmate from harm during a prison riot, she is reprimanded for getting involved and told that her only job in juvie is to follow directions. Yet she later risks her own life to save another. Sadie’s choices in these scenes would make good fodder for discussion. And speaking of choices…

* Choices–At first, I was indignant at the unfairness of Sadie going to jail for something she didn’t do. But Sadie eventually comes to the conclusion that although she didn’t knowingly break the law, a series of smaller bad decisions led her to the wrong place at the wrong time. Did she deserve to go to jail? Definitely not. But the ultimate consequences of her choices that led her to the scene of the crime could have so easily been avoided.

*Types of Conflict–There are several types in this story–character vs. character, and character vs. self, but the most interesting to explore might be character vs. society and the role of prisons in our society. The disparity between the crimes that some of the characters commit on the outside and their behavior on the inside would also make for good discussion.

Visit author Steve Watkins’ website here.

Click here for reviews (including starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly) and here to read the first chapter.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Publication Date: October 8, 2013

ISBN-10: 0763655090

ISBN-13: 978-0763655099

Number of Pages: 320

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

The Art of Flying by Judy Hoffman

The Art of Flying

I was charmed by this sweet adventure story about a girl named Fortuna who finds a friend in Martin, a shy boy who has been transformed from bird to human. The fantasy elements–witchcraft, talking animals, and flying children–all felt believable.

Publisher’s description:                Fortuna Dalliance is practical. Rational. Clever. But when she finds herself at the doorstep of an adventure, she discovers something that has been inside her all along: the courage to step through. 

The old Baldwin sisters are in trouble, and they’ve asked Fortuna to help them out of a fix. The sisters have accidentally turned a swallow into a boy, and he refuses to be turned back. But if Martin doesn’t return to his original form within five days, he’ll remain a boy forever . . . and the Baldwin sisters will have a lot to answer for. Fortuna’s not sure she believes in magic, and once she’s gotten to know Martin, she’s not sure she wants him to be changed back. As Fortuna figures out what it truly means to be a friend, she must decide whose side she’s on-before it’s too late.

Judy Hoffman’s debut, with delightful illustrations by Stephanie Graegin, weaves an enchanting tale of loyalty, freedom, and feathers.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* wants to read about witches and bad guys but isn’t ready for anything super scary yet,

* has a  best friend who drifts away–not because of an argument, but just with the passage of time,

* loves being outside, or

* anyone who has ever dreamed of flying.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is told from Fortuna’s point of view, her challenge is to realize that what she wants isn’t necessarily best for her new friend, Martin. She has to make some tough choices for the benefit of her friend, which would make a good discussion starter on empathy and what it means to be a good friend.

* Anti-Bullying Strategies--The antagonist in the story is a bully–both in his human and owl form. The Baldwin sisters get into trouble because they change Martin and his brother from swallows into boys when they are being bullied by the owl. Use this opportunity to discuss the role of bystanders in bullying and what kids can do when they witness another person being bullied.

*Types of Conflict–There’re a lot examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, and…magic.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Publication Date: October 29, 2013

ISBN-10: 1423158156

ISBN-13: 978-1423158158

Number of Pages: 310

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Rose by Holly Webb

517zbG28mQL._SY300_I was charmed by Rose right from the start. She’s likable and believable–someone you’d want as a friend.

Publisher’s description: Rose isn’t like the other orphans at St Bridget’s Home for Abandoned Girls. Instead of dreaming of getting adopted by loving, wealthy parents, Rose wants to get a job and be independent. She doesn’t need anyone but herself. She finds her escape working as a maid for Mr. Fountain, an alchemist. Unable to ignore the magic that flows throughout the grand residence, Rose realizes that just maybe; she might have a little bit of magic in her too. This new series featuring magicians, witches, talking cats, mist-monsters, and friendships will have young readers in a trance!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* enjoys reading about magic and alchemy and mystery,

* is ready for some scariness, but not too too much, and

* gobbles up historical fiction or stories set back in time.

Use this to teach:

Points of view–While this story is from Rose’s point of view, we soon meet Freddie, the alchemist’s haughty apprentice. Freddie has no redeeming qualities at the start, but will grow on you as you (and Rose) get to know him better. Ask students to retell (in writing or orally) Rose’s first meeting with Freddie from Freddie’s point of view.

* Chemistry--Although the potions and magic mixtures are straight fiction, it would be fun to pair this title with a science unit on mixtures, solutions, and chemical properties.

*Genre blending–More and more books today are difficult to fit into one genre, and this is one of them. Fantasy? Check. Historical fiction? Yup. Is it more one than the other? Let you students decide.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky

Publication Date: September 3, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1402285813

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Ages 9 and up

The Accidental Time Traveler by Janis Mackay


This story grew on me with each passing chapter. Saul is a likable, flawed kid who ultimately wants to do the right thing–send Agatha back to her life in 1813. Agatha is gutsy and kind and an inspiration to Saul and his scaredy-cat friends.

Publisher’s description:                

Saul is on his way to the corner shop on a seemingly ordinary day, when a girl appears suddenly in the middle of the road. She does not understand traffic or the things she sees in shops, and she’s wearing a long dress with ruffled sleeves. Her name is Agatha Black.

Agatha Black is from 1813, and Saul needs to find a way to get her back to her time. With help from his buddies Will and Robbie, he tries to figure out how to make time travel happen.

This face-paced, time-traveling adventure from Janis Mackay (author of the Magnus Fin books) is full of funny misunderstandings and gripping action.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* likes reading about time travel–you might pair this with Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me

* enjoys historical fiction–this tale is history brought forward in time to present-day

* appreciates a strong female lead. Although this story is from Saul’s point of view, we get a good take on Agatha, who does things that Saul wouldn’t dream of doing, like spending the night alone in the abandoned lot that houses Saul’s and his friends’ clubhouse–the site that used to belong to Agatha’s grandfather back in the day.

Use this to teach:

Essay writing–Saul enters an essay-writing contest about life in his hometown back in the “olden days.” He gets his material first-hand from Agatha, of course, but the final interpretation is all his. It might be fun to have students interview someone from an older generation–a grandparent or another senior citizen–and then compose an essay that compares and contrasts life now with life in the past.

* Anti-Bullying--There’s an obvious bully in this story–a boy who torments Saul and every other kid who dare cross into his territory. But Saul and his friends are bystanders who completely shut out another classmate–a girl who, as it turns out, has a future family tie to Agatha. Not only does Saul gain the courage to stand up to the bully who has threatened him since always, but he also learns to reach out to a loner girl in his class–someone who has always existed on the fringes, of society, both socially and economically.

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews.

Publisher: Floris Books (UK)

Publication Date: July 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0863159541

Number of Pages: 240

Interest Level: Middle Grade (ages 9-12)

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys for starting this meme, and Jen (Teach Mentor Texts) and Kellee (Unleashing Readers) for turning it into a kid-lit meme! Click here for more Monday reviews.

Visit Shannon Messenger's website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

Visit Shannon Messenger’s website for more marvelous middle grade titles!

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu by Wendy Wan-Long Shang

Today Biblio Links welcomes middle grade author Wendy Wan Long Shang!

Our school was lucky enough to have Wendy come and visit last summer to lead some writing workshops, and her book doesn’t stay on our shelves long (we’ve got several copies). I teach in a very culturally diverse school, and I’m always eager to hand our students books that reflect their multicultural backgrounds. Many of our families have grandparents and other extended family living with them, and those kids immediately connect with THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU. Although this book first caught my attention because of its multicultural appeal, it has tons of heart that all kinds of kids will enjoy. Lucy’s story is about dealing with bullies, navigating two cultures, and pursuing her dream of basketball stardom.
Here’s a summary of the story from Indie Bound:
In this humorous and heartfelt debut about a split cultural identity, nothing goes according to plan for sixth-grader Lucy Wu.
Lucy Wu, aspiring basketball star and interior designer, is on the verge of having the best year of her life. She’s ready to rule the school as a sixth grader and take over the bedroom she has always shared with her sister. In an instant, though, her plans are shattered when she finds out that Yi Po, her beloved grandmother’s sister, is coming to visit for several months — and is staying in Lucy’s room. Lucy’s vision of a perfect year begins to crumble, and in its place come an unwelcome roommate, foiled birthday plans, and Chinese school with the awful Talent Chang.
Wendy was kind enough to stop by and talk about how LUCY can be used in the classroom.

Biblio Links:A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of The Great Wall of Lucy Wu. Who is this child?

Wendy Shang: I think I wrote LUCY in part because I needed a story like this one.  When I was growing up, it was very rare for me to find a modern Chinese-American character in books or popular culture.  (Hence my undying love for Judy Blume and her Tracy Wu character, the best friend of Jill, in BLUBBER.)

There is so much more diversity in today’s children’s literature scene, thank goodness, but I’d like to think that LUCY is perfect for a kid who feels that everyone else’s family is so much more supportive, fair and well, mainstream, than his or her own.  I hope that kids who read LUCY realize that their own families can be amazing sources of strength and inspiration.

Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

Wendy Shang: I would love to see LUCY used in a discussion of how characters change and grow over the course of a book.  Having just completed a series of writing workshops with 4th, 5th and 6th graders, I think that’s a challenging thing to get kids to think about, though it’s so essential to storytelling.  It would be great to hear the teacher ask, “How does Lucy’s outlook change from the beginning of the book to the end of the book?”

Biblio Links: Where can teachers, librarians and students learn more about you and your book?

Wendy Shang: They can go to, where they can learn about my childhood and my (slight) gummi bear obsession.

Biblio Links: And who doesn’t like gummy bears?? 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Wendy!
Click here to read the glowing reviews and awards bestowed upon THE GREAT WALL OF LUCY WU.For teachers and librarians, Wendy’s website has discussion questions and activities for readers. Check out Wendy’s advice on how kids can find their writing voice in this Scholastic’s Instructor magazine article.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Scholastic Press

Publication Date: January 1, 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0545162159

Number of Pages: 320

Ages: 8 and up