Category Archives: young adult

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.

juvie-198x300

* 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

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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.

Six Months Later by Natalie D. Richards

When I received the e-galley of Six Months Later from NetGalley, I was in the middle of reading another book–a print book. Now, I’m not the kind of reader who juggles more than one story at a time–once I enter one fictitious world, I prefer to stay in that world right through to the last page. But when I found myself waiting in a long line at the bank one day, I pulled my Kindle from my bag and opened the Six Months Later e-galley. And that was that. I didn’t go back to the print book until I’d finished my e-galley of Six Months Later. I was swept up into Chloe’s world and had to find out how it ended. As the mom of a teen girl, I knew that kids would be drawn to the mystery and intrigue of the plot. As a teacher-librarian, I was practically giddy at the possibilities for discussion that this book lends.

Publisher’s description:  She Has Everything She Ever Wanted. But Not Her Memory…

When Chloe fell asleep in study hall, it was the middle of May. When she wakes up, snow is on the ground and she can’t remember the last six months of her life.

Before, she’d been a mediocre student. Now, she’s on track for valedictorian and being recruited by Ivy League schools. Before, she never had a chance with super jock Blake. Now he’s her boyfriend. Before, she and Maggie were inseparable. Now her best friend won’t speak to her.

What happened to her? Remembering the truth could be more dangerous than she knows…

I’m happy to welcome author Natalie D. Richards to Biblio Links to talk about how Six Months Later fits into classrooms, libraries, and book clubs.

Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think: That kid needs a copy of Six Months Later. Who is this kid?

Natalie: This is a reader who likes puzzles, a teen who likes to unravel things and enjoys stories that keep them guessing. It might be a kid who struggles to get into “slow start” books, or maybe a kid who’s more bright and promising than she realizes. My main character struggles with her personal definition of success throughout the book, so I think it’s also a good book for readers who are thinkers and challengers, teens who are forge their own path through education.

Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Six Months Later in a lesson, or a librarian is discussing your book in a book club, what might we see?

Natalie: If we are in a literature classroom, she might be talking about how a writer can build different layers of suspense throughout a manuscript. In a guidance counselor’s office or a college prep class, you’d probably hear a conversation about the pressures of late high school life, and strategies for handling those pressures without losing yourself in them.

Biblio Links: What writing advice do you have for teens?

Natalie: READ READ READ. Oh, and read. Then read a little more. No joke, reading is key. And writing is a darn close second. There are also loads of amazing organizations depending on the genre you’re interested in writing. I’m always happy to recommend SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) for anyone interested in writing for children or teens.

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

Natalie: I love visiting schools and speaking with libraries. By all means, email me at natdrichards@gmail.com or check out my website at http://www.nataliedrichards.com

Thanks, Natalie!

Hand this book to the kid who:

* might be a reluctant reader and needs a page-turner of a mystery (I would not be surprised if this book ends up on the ALA Quick Picks for Young Adult Readers)

* dreams of being accepted by the “in crowd” and needs some reminding that he or she can shine without the glitter of popularity

* could use a positive role model of a character with a disability. Chloe’s best friend, Maggie, stutters. While Chloe obviously realizes this, it is not a big deal at all. I love that. There’s a brief reference to one of the popular crowd who teases Maggie, but it’s not a focus of who Maggie is, and it’s not An Issue at all.

Use this to teach:

Plot Structure–The opening of the book begins with Chloe waking up in study hall and having no idea what’s happened to her in the past six months. There are flashbacks, foreshadowing, and red herrings, oh my! Teens will enjoy piecing this plot together.

* Character Development--Chloe learns both who she was and who she is becoming, as well as the value of true friendship.

*Ethics–The Chloe who wakes up in study hall seems to have it all–top grades, dating the most popular boy in school, etc. After reading the book, discuss with kids the ethics behind drugs, procedures, etc. that are designed to bring us closer and closer to perfect. Pair this book with Scott Westerfield’s Uglies series.

Click here for the author’s website and reviews.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Sourcebooks

Publication Date: October 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 9781402285516

Number of Pages: 336

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.

Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

NotaDroptoDrink_final_1I could not put this book down. Aside from the intriguing premise–what would we do if water suddenly became a scare commodity?–I found the characters to be believable, flawed, and empathetic. The plot is a tapestry of both tension and moments of tenderness, with several believable plot twists that I didn’t see coming. I would hand Not A Drop to Drink to both boys and girls; with the survival elements and light (very light) romance, this book should have wide appeal with teens.

Publisher’s description:  Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

Hand this book to the teen who:

* enjoys dystopian tales and stories of survival

* likes strong female characters (Lynn is more skilled at self-defense and survival than is her friend Eli, a city-born teen.)

* wants (or doesn’t mind) books that have elements of light romance, yet doesn’t want (or need) romance to dominate the plot.

Use this to teach:

* Environmental Issues–Although the reason for the water shortage is never explained, this story is sure to spark discussions of resource conservation within the context of global warming and rising pollution levels.

* Human Nature--At which point does our survival instinct overcome empathy and charity towards others? Government policies and main character Lynn’s  believable shift in her world view will make excellent fodder for classroom discussion.

*Types of Conflict–Lots of examples to choose from in this story–character vs. character, self, society, and nature.

*Text-to-Text Connections–Pair this with Melanie Crowder’s Parched and Linda Sue Park’s A Long Walk to Water, as well as Mike Mullin’s Ashfall trilogy.

Resources for Educators here

The Nitty Gritty~

Click here for reviews and here for the author’s website.

Publisher: Harper Collins / Katherine Tegen

Publication Date: September 24, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0062198501

Number of Pages: 320

Interest Level: Ages 14 to 17

Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself

Jacket.aspxHappy Book Birthday to Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself, edited by writer, educator, and editor-extraordinaire Luke Reynolds!

Last summer, Luke asked me if I would like to contribute an essay to a project that he was putting together to benefit the Children’s Defense Fund–a collection of essays for teens. He wanted me to choose one of society’s unwritten rules and tell not only how I broke that rule, but why teens should, too.

Mind you, as a mother, teacher, and librarian, there are oodles of rules that I follow every day. But some rules beg to be challenged, and I jumped at the chance to contribute to this anthology. And then I found out who the rest of the contributors were–award-winners like Katherine Erskine, A.S. King, Thanhha Lai, Gary SchmidtFrancisco X. Stork, and Sara Zarr.

Gulp.

And many, many other favorite authors of mine–34 in all, to be exact. But I decided to break the Be Intimidated By Greatness rule, and decided instead to be inspired.

School Library Journal  calls the essays “inspiring and thought-provoking,” saying, “As readers head back to the classrooms this fall, these essays can serve as discussion starters and give readers a jumping-off point for thinking about the bigger picture and life after high school.”

Here’s the Publisher‘s description: In Break These Rules, 35 favorite middle grade and young adult authors—including Kathryn Erskine, A. S. King, Matthew Quick, Sara Zarr, Gary Schmidt, and many others—speak directly to their readers and advise them to break the boundaries of conformity. In moving, inspiring, and often funny essays, they take on many of the powerfully inhibiting and unspoken “rules” of adolescence, such as Boys shouldn’t be gentle, kind, and caring; Thou shalt wear Abercrombie & Fitch to fit in; You must be a jock or a nerd—you can’t be both; and Girls should “act like girls.” It is often through reading fiction that kids start to question such restrictions, so who better to speak to them directly than their favorite novelists? The book is focused on encouraging students to break rules in their own lives—a prospect many teens and tweens will find thrilling and fresh.

Hand this book to the kid who:

* Is nervous or unsure about fitting in–maybe a student new to the school or someone who feels left out.

*  Enjoys the work of any of the authors in the anthology.

* Reluctant readers who may be intimidated by reading an entire novel–they can dip into this book and read only the essays with topics that interest them.

Use this to teach:

* Personal narrative–This is the form of writing often used in standardized testing, and this book offers 35 examples of the form for analysis.

* Voice/tone–Some of the essays are funny, some heart-wrenching, others are somewhere in between. It might be an interesting exercise to have students choose an essay and compare it to the tone and voice used by the author in his or her work.

* Anti-Bullying— Aside from the classroom or school library, this would make a good addition to any school guidance counselor’s bookshelf. It would also pair nicely with the It Gets Better campaign.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Chicago Review Press

Publication Date: September 1, 2013

ISBN-13: 978-1-61374-784-1

Number of Pages: 208

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to A Mom's Spare Time  for hosting today! Click here for more non-fiction titles for kids.

Thanks to Anatastia Suen for creating Non-Fiction Mondays, and to A Mom’s Spare Time for hosting today! Click here for more non-fiction titles for kids.

Paradox by Ammi-Joan Paquette

paradox_thumbToday Biblio Links once again welcomes prolific author Ammi-Joan Paquette! She’s had three picture books and two middle grade novels published so far, with another picture book coming out this fall.

Today’s review is for her thrilling sci-fi debut young adult novel Paradox.

Publisher’s summary:  Fans of James Dashner’s Maze Runner series will love this postapocalyptic adventure about a girl who must survive an alien planet in order to save the Earth.

Ana only knows her name because of the tag she finds pinned to her jumpsuit. Waking in the featureless compartment of a rocket ship, she opens the hatch to discover that she has landed on a barren alien world. Instructions in her pocket tell her to observe and to survive, no doubt with help from the wicked-looking knives she carries on her belt. But to what purpose?

Meeting up with three other teens–one boy seems strangely familiar–Ana treks across the inhospitable landscape, occasionally encountering odd twists of light that carry glimpses of people back on Earth. They’re working on some sort of problem, and the situation is critical. What is the connection between Ana’s mission on this planet and the crisis back on Earth, and how is she supposed to figure out the answer when she can’t remember anything?

~

Once I realized that I could NOT put this book down, I immediately thought of several reluctant readers in my library who would love this fast-paced, sci-fi mystery. It’s got a strong female main character, an unfolding mystery, high stakes, danger, and a fascinating other-world setting. Really, what’s not to love?

As a librarian in a very culturally diverse school district, one of the things I appreciate most about Paradox is something I haven’t seen mentioned in other reviews:  the book’s multicultural cast of characters. Ana Ortez is the main character, and she is eventually joined by three other teens, Todd Oslow, Ysa Klein, and Chen Wai. Race or culture doesn’t factor into the plot or dialogue at all. Love that.

JoanI asked Joan to tell us how Paradox might fit into your library or classroom.

BiblioLinks:  A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of Paradox. Who is this kid?

Joan: The ideal PARADOX reader is a student who looks for fast-paced stories and benefits from highly active, engaging storylines. It’s a spare, quick read that would be ideal for reluctant readers. It’s also great for kids with a scientific inclination, and those who like to puzzle out problems and collect data to come to a conclusion. The perfect read for analytical thinkers who want to put their active brains to recreational use!

BiblioLinks: I agree, Joan–this book will definitely appeal to reluctant (and avid!) readers. If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using Paradox in a lesson or with a small group, what might we see?

 Joan: There are many science-based springboard discussions that could arise from this book: the development of disease and how contagious agents could be spread across a global landscape; the very real developments of space travel and the recent discovery of potentially habitable planets; rotation of binary solar systems and how they differ from our own. There’s also a lot of story connections to be made, connecting the generational links and organizing them into a time-sequential storyline, understanding the logic of how the different elements in the book all fit together. Students might also use the enclosed news articles as a springboard to writing their own articles highlighting recent real-life scientific breakthroughs they find exciting and groundbreaking.

 BiblioLinks: Lots of STEM connections for educators to explore. In addition to using the newspapers articles as springboards like you mentioned, the interview transcript with Ana’s mother could also spark spin-offs where students could create mock interviews with other characters in the story. The present-tense, third person point of view would also make for some interesting discussions.

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

 Joan: You can find me on the web at www.ajpaquette.com, and for more about PARADOX specifically, visit the Random Buzzers forum to read some Q&As from teen readers here, or drop by here to read the opening chapter.

Biblio Links: Thanks for joining us, Joan!

Teachers and librarians, click here for rave reviews of Paradox.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Publication Date: June 2013

ISBN-13: 978-0375869624

Interest Level: ages 12 and up

Number of Pages: 240

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

Although Paradox is a young adult title, it’s recommended for ages 12 and up, so I’ve included it in Shannon Messenger’s Marvelous Middle Grade Monday round up. Click here to visit her blog for more middle grade recommendations.

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!

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!

Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers by Susan Van Hecke

Today Biblio Links welcomes author Susan Van Hecke!

 Susan’s non-fiction book Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers takes a behind-the-scenes tour of some of America’s best-known musical instrument manufacturers, from Zildjian cymbals and Fender guitars to Steinway pianos, Ludwig drums, Moog synthesizers, and more. Packed with rare photos and fascinating info, Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’ offers a backstage look at the enterprising individuals – many of whom weren’t even musicians themselves – who became some of the greatest names in the business of making musical instruments.

For a sneak peek, visit the book’s website: http://www.ragginjazzinrockin.com.

The book is absolutely gorgeous–chock full of colorful photos with captions and sidebars. The conversational prose is in manageable chunks, ideal for reluctant readers. An author’s note in the back includes books, articles, and websites for music fans to explore. A portion of the proceeds from the book go to http://www.supportmusic.com, an organization that supports music education.
Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’ offers more than just music. Here’s what Susan had to say about using the book with kids:
Biblio Links: If we were to peek into a classroom where a teacher is using your book in a lesson, what might we see?

Susan Van Hecke: If the teacher had gone to www.RagginJazzinRockin.com and downloaded the handy discussion guide, you might find students exploring immigration and the nineteenth century’s “Great Migration” to the United States (most of the instrument makers profiled in the book were immigrants to this land of new opportunities), life during wartime (many of the instrument makers were impacted by or even directly involved in American war efforts—who knew?), or the secrets of stunning business success (most of the instrument makers were ordinary people of humble means who built extraordinary brands).

Biblio Links: A student walks into my library and I think, That kid needs a copy of RAGGIN’, JAZZIN’, ROCKIN’. Who is this kid?

Susan Van HeckeRaggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’ appeals to students with an interest in music—maybe they take piano or guitar lessons (they’d love the chapters on Steinway pianos, Hammond organs, Moog synthesizers, or Martin and Fender guitars), perhaps they play drums in a garage band (they’d dig the chapters on Ludwig drums and Zildjian cymbals), or perhaps they’re part of the school orchestra (then the chapter on Conn band instruments would be right up their alley). But with all of the fun sidebars about the science of musical instruments and the instrument makers’ impact on American cultural evolution, the STEM crowd, social studies fans, and history lovers will have plenty to enjoy, as well.

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

Susan Van Hecke:To learn more about Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’, visit www.RagginJazzinRockin.com. To learn more about me and my other books, stop by www.SusanVanHecke.com.

Thanks for stopping by, Susan!

Click here for  the glowing reviews and awards. 

Curriculum Guide here.

The Nitty Gritty~

Publisher: Boyds Mills Press

Publication Date: 2011

ISBN-10: 1590785746

ISBN-13: 978-1590785744

Number of Pages: 140

Interest Level: Ages 11 and up