"If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales." Albert Einstein

28 November 2014

Library Bingo Redux

Those of you who have been following my blog know that I created a library bingo program for the middle school where I worked last winter. This bingo program helped give the students something to do during the winter doldrums and greatly increased the use of our library as well as circulation.

Now I am working at a public library in the youth services department, and when we were deciding what to do over the winter holidays to keep the children reading and learning, I immediately thought of my library bingo program.  Obviously, the previous card I had created needed to be modified a bit before it could be used in a public library setting, but the idea is still the same: during the month of December, when many children and teens are not spending time at school, we will have the library bingo cards available. Anyone is allowed to participate, from parents who will read to their six-month old each night to sixteen-year olds who are reading from the young adult and adult sections.

One thing I made sure to emphasize was that all types of reading count: reading aloud to someone else, being read aloud to, listening to an audio book, reading an ebook, reading a physical book - all of these are valid forms of reading, and I'll not prohibit someone from counting their form of reading simply because it isn't the most common or popular form.

I also made sure to balance the squares on the card so that a book is required for many of them, but there are also many squares where another library activity - such as checking out a DVD or visiting the website - counts as participation.  The book descriptions are also intentionally vague. When I did this program at my middle school library, one of the squares said "Read a book with a green cover." I had kids who used The Giving Tree as their book and others who used Christopher Paolini's Inheritance. I made no judgmental remarks either way; both books have green covers, and therefore both books count.

One of the benefits of this type of flexibility is that the same bingo card can be used for young children, middle grade children, and teens. There's no need for me to make separate cards and color code them by age level.

When patrons have finished two bingos, they will be allowed to choose a free bookmark. After completing the entire card, they will earn their choice of a free book from our collection of prize books.

I'm hoping that this program will allow parents and children a fun way to interact with the library and give some focus to their winter holiday time, especially if they choose to spend that time at the library.

My new and improved winter reading library bingo card can be downloaded here.  Feel free to borrow and use for your own library as you will.

27 November 2014

Greenglass House

Milford, Kate. Greenglass House. Clarion Books, 2014.

Milo and his parents live and work at the Greenglass House, an inn located at the top of a mountain in a remote area well-known to smugglers. Milo is looking forward to spending his winter vacation with his parents when suddenly the inn is full to bursting with very unusual and suspicious characters. Milo's parents are rushing around trying to meet everyone's needs while Milo befriends a girl named Meddy and the two of them try to solve a mystery together.

This synopsis doesn't do the story justice, but there was no way to write about the ending without using numerous spoilers. This is a great middle grade mystery with lyrical writing reminiscent of Far Far Away. Milford did a fantastic job creating the wintry atmosphere with the guests trapped together in the inn. Milo's explorations throughout the house only add to the mysterious air of the story. For the first time in a very long time, I did not guess at the ending before I reached it, and I was pleasantly surprised to be surprised. Free of red flags, this story would make an excellent upper elementary classroom read-aloud and would be an easy book to book talk, especially around the winter holidays.

Recommended for: 4-6th grade
Red Flags: Movie raters would call it "mild peril" - Milo is chased by the bad guys and thrown into a room with his parents. One of the criminals has a gun, but no one is shot.
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Far Far Away, Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library, Below, The Aviary

26 November 2014

The Night Gardener

Auxier, Jonathan. The Night Gardener. Harry N. Abrams, 2014.

Molly and her brother Kip are orphans, only Kip has been led to believe his parents are on a grand adventure somewhere in the world. Molly is caring for Kip and trying to make sure they are safe and fed and clothed. She finds work for them caring for a creepy old house and the family that has moved there. This house is right next to a mysterious tree; moreover, the house's inhabitants seem to have gotten very sick and weak since they moved in. Molly is able to put the pieces together and discovers the problem, but will she be able to save the family, and will they even want her to save them?

This book was appropriately mysterious, spooky, and creepy. I enjoyed the fairy-tale elements and the creepy bits of the story. Everything was great until I got to the end. I expected the ending to rush past in a blur as everything came to a climax, but it dragged a bit. Still, I would easily and readily recommend this book to middle grade students, tweens, and even some teens.

Recommended for: tweens, fans of spooky stories,

Red Flags: minor amounts of violence

Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

25 November 2014

Lies We Tell Ourselves

Talley, Robin. Lies We Tell Ourselves. Harlequin Teen, 2014.

Sarah is one of a group of black students who will be integrating into the all-white high school in their town in Virginia. She is a senior, an honors student, and headed to college. She has been reminded many times how important it is for her to succeed in this very difficult endeavor. Linda is a white student at the same school. Her daddy runs the city newspaper and is very opinionated when it comes to integration. Linda is hoping for graduation to come soon so she can marry and get out of her dad's house. These two characters tell alternating sections of the story of integration at a Virginia high school.

Wow. I love the idea of telling the integration tale from both sides of the coin. I loved reading how Sarah interacted with Linda and was able to make her think about things. Integration stories are always hard to read because I hate it when people act like jerks for stupid reasons, but this book was a quick read because I simply had to find out what happened. This is a great historical fiction story that would be easy to recommend to today's teens.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: lots of violence, bullying, language
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Lions of Little Rock, Brown Girl Dreaming,March: Book One

24 November 2014

I'll Give You the Sun

Nelson, Jandy. I'll Give You the Sun. Dial, 2014.

Jude and Noah are twins who live with a very straight-laced, scientific father and a free-thinking artistic mother. Both are talented artists, and their mother is hoping to get them into an elite high school. Then something happens and Jude and Noah are no longer as close as they were. Told in alternating chapters - Noah telling what happened in the past, when they were in junior high, and Jude telling what is happening currently - their stories intertwine to paint a picture of love and redemption.

This book has a lovely lyrical quality to it that perfectly matches the artistic natures of the two narrators. The story of Noah and Jude has enough twists and turns in it to keep the reader wondering if they've found out everything yet, and strong readers will enjoy watching Jude and Noah discover information that they themselves have already figured out. The alternating chapters have enough of a unique voice that it is easy to transition between the two characters. This book made me laugh, made me cry, made me wonder, and made me think. The lyrical quality of the writing would make this book a good read-alike for fans of novels in verse or teens who are waiting for the latest John Green novel to be returned to the library. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: some language, one rape-ish / kid too young to consent to sex scene, underage drinking, a male model for the art school also gets very drunk
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Fault in Our Stars, Two Boys Kissing, Ask the Passengers

21 November 2014


The shelves on the left have been weeded. The shelves on the right, not so much.

When I first started working at the school library, I noticed the collection was old and neglected. Not only were there no new books on the shelves, but the old books were so crammed on the shelves that it was difficult to find anything interesting to read.

Those who don't work in the library may be flabbergasted to discover that libraries do throw away books on occasion, but if you think about it, it makes sense that libraries eventually have to get rid of some books.  Imagine the library is like your closet.  Each year you buy a few new items to wear, and you probably wear those more often than your old clothes.  You may have a few favorites you wear often, but some of those clothes are old, torn, out of style, or don't fit anymore.  If you never clean out your closet, soon you will find yourself on an episode of Hoarders.

In the same way, the library needs to clean out its books.  If we continually buy new books but never get rid of old ones, we will run out of shelf space.  Not only that, but some older books get damaged, and old non-fiction books may contain information that is no longer accurate.  So weeding is a way to get rid of old books that aren't being used so that it's easier to find the newer ones and so that we can order even more books for people to read.

I've been slowly weeding the juvenile nonfiction collection at my library.  It is a long, slow process. First, I take an empty cart to the shelves.  I pull every book off the shelf that is more than ten years old.  For most nonfiction, especially the STEM areas, ten years is an old book. I put all those books, along with anything damaged, or books with multiple copies (sometimes we have as many as ten copies of just one book) onto a cart.

Next, the books come with me to a computer where I check the date we acquired the book as well as how often it has checked out.  If it hasn't circulated recently (we define "recently" as the last two years), then it goes.  If it turns out it's a really popular book, then I might keep it, especially if it fills a hole in the collection.  If I have twenty-five books about ladybugs, for example, I might weed as many as half of them if they're old or out of date, but if I only have one book about tarantulas, I might keep it until I can replace it with a newer book.

Finally, once the books have been deleted from the computer, I have to decide whether to save the books for a book sale (if they are multiple copies of a fairly recent book) or to box them up so they can be recycled.

At the school library, there was one teacher who insisted that we should send our weeded books to the Philippines.  Doubtless there are patrons at my current library who would feel the same. However, if we are going to donate books to people in need, whether here or abroad, it's important to make sure we are giving them current, accurate, attractive materials similar to the ones we'd put in our own library. No school or library in the Philippines needs science books from the 1970s.

Another good way to use weeded books is for book crafts.  Book crafting programs are popular, and patrons really enjoy making things at the library, so this is a good way to use your old books so they can experience a life beyond the shelf.

So, fellow librarians, how often do you weed your collection? What are your criteria? Have you ever submitted a really old or really weird book to Awful Library Books?

20 November 2014


Wolitzer, Meg. Belzhar. Dutton Juvenile, 2014.

Jam has been sent to a special school for "highly intelligent and emotionally fragile" teens. She hasn't been able to get over the death of her boyfriend, Reeve. To her surprise, Jam is placed in a very special English class where there are only four other students. She soon discovers that there's more to this class than meets the eye.

This book is an excellent example of a story with an unreliable narrator. We hear the tragedies of the other characters throughout the book, but it isn't until the very end that we discover the truth about Jam and why she's been sent to this school.  This was a really interesting, appropriately mysterious book that I could readily recommend to any teen. I finished it in a single afternoon because I couldn't stand the thought of not finding out what happened.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: a couple of drunk parties mentioned, the mention of a character who had smoked pot, some language
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: We Were Liars, Never Let Me Go

19 November 2014

The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die

Henry, April. The Girl Who Was Supposed to Die. Henry Holt and Co. BYR, 2013.

She wakes up on the floor in a cabin. She doesn't know who she is, where the cabin is, why she's here, or why the two men in the room have just decided that she must die. Somehow she must escape them, find out who she is, and find her family, if she has a family.

Very similar to The Rules for Disappearing, the main character in this story has memory problems, but she is alone and cannot remember who she is. She is on the run from people who want to kill her and she wants to find her family, but she doesn't know whom she can trust. I read this book in the space of a single afternoon. The fast, compelling pace will keep even reluctant readers turning the pages. A great thriller for young adults and also tweens.

Recommended for: teens, tweens
Red Flags: violence - the main character wakes up missing two of her fingernails, which apparently were pulled out during an interrogation she doesn't remember. The rest of the book finds her running from people who want to kill her.
Overall Rating: 3/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Rules for Disappearing, Hostage Three, The Naturals, Mind Games

18 November 2014

Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen

Andrews, Arin. Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014.

Arin Andrews is transgender. He was born with a female body, but eventually realized that he is, in fact, male, and was able to transition while still a teen. This is his story, intertwined with that of his former girlfriend, Katie Rain Hill. The teens were the poster children of the trans* community and have worked hard for trans* awareness and equal rights.

Arin's story is uniquely his own, and as I read this book immediately after finishing Katie's memoir, it was interesting to note both the differences in their individual experiences and the different ways the two of them experienced the same event or same conversation. I am glad that Arin has been able to tell his story and give greater visibility to the trans* community.

Recommended for: teens, adults, those who work with teens
Red Flags: Arin discusses the options regarding his "bottom surgery" in fairly explicit detail; he also has sex with several people and gives a few vague details about those experiences
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition,Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

17 November 2014

Evil Librarian

Knudsen, Michelle. Evil Librarian. Candlewick Press, 2014.

Cynthia's best friend, Annie, has a crush on the new librarian. But Cynthia thinks there's something off about him. Every time Annie is with the librarian, she seems to be spaced-out or in a trance. Cynthia soon discovers that the librarian is actually a demon who wants Annie to be his demon bride so he can become king of all the demons. Somehow, Cynthia needs to convince Annie of the truth, save Annie and her classmates, and also design the perfect chair for her school's production of Sweeney Todd.

This book took a while to "hook" me, but once it did, I was flipping pages as quickly as I could. The tie-in with Sweeney Todd and the discussions of theater will delight any theater nerd (which, sadly, I am not), and the discussions Cynthia has with the demons will delight fans of paranormal works and anyone who reads books just because they have the word "librarian" in the title. This one would be easy to book talk, especially around Halloween.

Recommended for: young adults
Red Flags: violence, discussions of occult practices
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Drama Queens in the House, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians, Another Faust

14 November 2014

Library Displays

This is a display I did for Dinovember, minus the plastic dinos I later added.

When I worked at the school library, I was responsible for any displays I wanted to put up in the library.  I didn't have very much space to work with, though, so I put up posters where I could and had one small spot that I would change monthly for various displays.

Now that I am at a public library, I have much more display space at my disposal. However, this also means more people are looking at the displays that I make and that I need to change them frequently to reflect the needs and desires of my patrons.

So, how does one go about choosing what to put on a display, you might wonder.  There are two main considerations I have when creating displays - 1) currency and 2) collection.  First, the display should be current.  I want displays to relate to something going on in the community, or a holiday event, or a project the kids are doing at school.  A display of Halloween books in March, for example, is not current and wouldn't make much sense. I like my displays to fit what the community is thinking about at that time.

The other important consideration is the library's collection. Do I have enough books to support the display I want to make?  Say, for example, that I want to make a display about books with the word "snow" in the title.  If I only have three books that fit this description, my display will be empty for most of the month.  If, however, the topic I've chosen matches a sizable portion of my collection, then I can continue to refill the display as needed.

This month being November, my three displays in the children's department are as follows:

1.  A display of books by Lois Ehlrich - her birthday is November 9, and our library has over thirty copies of her books in our picture book collection. It was easy to create a display of her books, and easy enough for the pages to refill that display as books are checked out.

2.  A display of dinosaur books to celebrate Dinovember.  Some parents created the holiday of "dinovember" where they set up their children's plastic dinosaur toys every night as if they had done something - like breaking into the cereal cupboard, watching a movie, playing with the toilet paper, etc. They post pictures of the dino adventures every day, and it was easy to create a display with links to their website as well as some dinosaur books from our collection, and that also is an easy display to refill as needed.

3.  I also created a display of kids' cookbooks in preparation for Thanksgiving. We don't actually have very many kids' cookbooks in our collection, so this is an instance where my display has informed our collection development and made us aware of a gap that needs to be filled.

I definitely plan to expand our display repertoire as I have time, but for now these are the displays that I have created for November.  I use the internet to look for upcoming holidays or sample displays from other libraries to come up with ideas.

What kinds of displays have you created? How do you decide what to display each month?

13 November 2014

Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition

Hill, Katie Rain. Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition. Simon & Schuster BFYR, 2014.

Katie Rain Hill is transgender - she was born with a male body, but discovered that she is actually a girl on the inside, and was able to obtain the therapy, hormones, surgery, etc. to make her body match what her brain thought it should. This is Katie's story as told by Katie, who began writing this memoir when she was still in high school. Interestingly enough, Katie's former boyfriend, who is also transgender, also wrote his memoir - Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen. For a while Arin and Katie were the poster children for the trans* community. This book is Katie's story in Katie's words.

I am so glad that there is finally a memoir written by a teen about a teen who is transgender. There are many memoirs of adults who are transgender, but it is only now that there are children in our society who are trans*, who identify early enough as trans* to be able to begin transitioning before they are adults. Katie's story is one that will bring hope to other teens and also expand their worldview. My only issue with the book is that several times Katie refers to transgender people as "transgenders," which is actually very offensive to many trans* people. "Transgender" is an adjective, not a noun. Throughout the memoir, Katie's teen voice rings true, and many teens will find this book to be easy to read. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens, adults, those who work with teens,
Red Flags: Katie does discuss her "bottom surgery" in fairly explicit detail, but that part of the book is easy to skip if necessary
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen, Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

12 November 2014

The Magicians

Grossman, Lev. The Magicians Series (The Magicians, The Magician King, The Magician's Land). Viking, 2009, 2011, 2014.

Quentin Coldwater is a genius, and his only real friends are the other two geniuses at his high school. He also harbors a lifetime obsession with a series of children's books about a magical place called Fillory, a Narnia-esque fantasy land only accessible through magic portals from our world to theirs. When Quentin is chosen to attend a super-elite magical college a la Hogwarts, he begins to wonder: what if Fillory is real after all? Any more summation will involve spoilers, so I'll stop here.

I don't know how I missed this book when it first came out, but I started reading it and I loved it so much I forced myself to slow down and read at a pace that for me felt like the struggle of a three-legged turtle stampeding through peanut butter. Similar to the way I felt when I read Harry Potter or Ender's Game for the first time, I realized early on that I was going to love this book and also that I would be sad when I finished. I was right. There are enough Narnia, Harry Potter, Watership Down, Star Wars, and other references throughout this book to warm my little geeky heart. I love the world that Grossman created, both the world of Brakebills and also the land of Fillory. I was the kid who read and re-read the Narnia books and always wished there was a magical land hidden in the back of my closet, so this "Narnia for grown-ups" book where not everything had a happy ending was excellent.

I don't keep many books in my own personal library, as I rarely re-read as an adult and think my books should find new life in the hands of another reader, but The Magicians series will be going on my shelf next to Harry Potter and the Ender series.

Recommended for: adult fans of Harry Potter, Narnia, etc.
Red Flags: it's an adult book, so lots - drinking, sex, violence, language
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

11 November 2014


Westerfeld, Scott. Afterworlds. Simon Pulse, 2014.

Darcy, a high school senior, wrote a novel for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and is on track to have her book published. In fact, her publisher offered her a two-book contract for what seems to Darcy a ridiculous sum of money. Now Darcy is putting college plans on the back burner and moving to New York city to fulfill her dream of being a famous author. Alternating with the chapters of Darcy's life are chapters from Darcy's book, so the reader gets a peek into both the publishing world and the paranormal romance that Darcy wrote for NaNoWriMo.

My summary doesn't do this book justice. This is one of those rare books that I knew I would love from the moment I started reading it. I wanted to drag it out and read more slowly so it would last longer, but I got so wrapped up both in Darcy's life and in her story that I just had to keep reading. This book would be an easy sell for fans of paranormal books and for strong teen readers who want a large tome they can just keep reading and reading. This also would make a great addition to a library's NaNoWriMo display.

Recommended for: teens, adults
Red Flags: minor language, minor fantasy violence, some of the characters in Darcy's novel were murdered and it's hinted that they may have been abused, too, although details are never given
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

10 November 2014

Brown Girl Dreaming

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014.

Woodson grew up both in South Carolina and New York, different places with very different cultures and issues of race. With a foot in each place, Woodson tells the story of her childhood and the things she loved about living in the city and about living with her grandmother in the deep south.

Wow. A memoir/autobiography written by a young adult author and the book is written in blank verse. There's a lot to love here. The lyrical quality of the writing makes this book very easy to read, and the poetic style will draw fans of Ellen Hopkins and other authors of novels in verse. I shelved this book in the biographies, but it doesn't spend much time on the shelf. Strongly recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens, teens, fans of Woodson's other work
Red Flags: racist language (used appropriately for the time/place)
Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Dark Sons, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard, Miracle's Boys

07 November 2014

Top Ten Young Adult LGBT Characters

Entertainment Monthly recently published a list of the top ten LGBT characters in young adult literature, and a friend of mine and fellow librarian posted her response to that article. I have to agree with what Jenna and others have said - the Entertainment Monthly list is too focused on David Levithan, contains too many odd references (Dumbledore, for example), and doesn't demonstrate the variety that is found within LGBT literature.  So without further ado, I present my list of the top ten LGBT characters in young adult literature, in no particular order:

I intentionally included only young adult works, not middle grade or adult books.  Each of these books has received a 5/5 star rating from me on Goodreads and has been reviewed here on my blog.

One thing I noticed about my list after I made it was that it does indeed reflect a lot of variety both in the characters and in the genres. In fact, many of these stories are set in worlds where a person's gender identity or sexual orientation is not an issue, so rather than being a "coming out" story, some of the stories are simply stories that happen to feature a character who is transgender or who is gay/lesbian.

Young adult literature has vastly improved its record of including diverse characters and not the novel as a lesson where the gay character gets a horrible disease or dies by the end of the book.  We have also moved past the point where every story is a coming out story; many LGBT characters in young adult literature are sure of their orientation or identity and are very open about it with their friends and family.  This, perhaps more than anything, is why the Entertainment Monthly article strikes me as odd; there's no reason to be so limited in a list when there is such variety within the literature.

What are your favorite LGBT characters? Are there characters that I missed that you would have included in your top ten list?

06 November 2014

100 Sideways Miles

Smith, Andrew. 100 Sideways Miles. Simon & Schuster, 2014.

Finn's mother was killed when a dead horse fell off a bridge (where it was being transported for disposal) and landed on her. This same accident caused Finn to develop a seizure disorder. Finn's father, a famous author, published a book containing a character who has bizarrely similar characteristics to Finn. Finn isn't sure if he himself is a real person or just a product of his father's imagination. A road trip to Oklahoma with his best friend changes Finn's life.

I loved Andrew Smith's Winger but was very unimpressed with Grasshopper Jungle, so I wasn't sure what I would think about this one. And sadly, I was disappointed. The characters in this story are as flat and stock as the ones in Grasshopper Jungle, and the story itself did not compel me to keep reading. Add that to the fact that this story is told from within the head of a horny teenage boy, and this book did not appeal to me. Unfortunately, with a picture of a horse on the cover, this book will likely not move from the YA shelves, either, unless some serious book-talking occurs. The horse may be important to the story, but my first thought when I saw the cover was, "What? A horse story? I thought people got over those after about 4th grade."

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: lots of bathroom humor and sexual comments
Overall Rating: 2/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Grasshopper Jungle, The Universe Versus Alex Woods

05 November 2014

Girls Like Us

Giles, Gail. Girls Like Us. Candlewick Press, 2014.

Quincy and Biddy have both graduated from their high school's special education program, and they have been placed together to live in the above-garage apartment at a woman's home. Biddy is supposed to help around the house - cooking, cleaning, etc. - and Quincy has a job at a local supermarket. Circumstances provide Biddy with a safe space to reveal some harrowing secrets about her past while Quincy keeps a current secret safe as well. The girls become friends as they realize they have more in common then just being "speddies."

There are definitely not enough books featuring characters with disabilities, so I was glad to see this book containing two main characters who age out of the high school special education program and who are then placed in jobs where they can maintain some sort of independent life. Their lives are not portrayed as perfect and each girl tells the back story behind her placement in the special education program. Survivors of sexual assault will want to take gentle care as the story does involve a rape. Recommended.

Recommended for: teens
Red Flags: language, violence, one character is raped while another discusses a past rape, one character was violently abused as a child which caused her TBI (traumatic brain injury)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: Speak, Out of My Mind

04 November 2014

The Eighth Day

Salerni, Dianne. The Eighth Day. Harper Collins, 2014.

Jax has been orphaned due to a horrible accident, and rather than living with his aunt, uncle, and cousins, he is forced to live with Riley - an friend of his father who is barely older than Jax and doesn't know the first thing about caring for a teen. The Wednesday night after Jax's thirteenth birthday, though, he discovers something odd - a day exists between Wednesday and Thursday, and Jax is from a long line of people who can inhabit the regular week and the 8th day. But just as there are good people on this 8th day, there are also bad people, and soon Jax has to determine whom he can trust.

I thought this book was very cleverly done, and it would be an easy one to book talk with middle grade students. Jax's age makes it possible to recommend this book to middle school students as well, and the action will keep even reluctant readers still reading. This would be a fun book to read aloud in an English/Language Arts classroom as well.

Recommended for: middle grade
Red Flags: fantasy violence (minor)
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: The Merchant of Death, Far Far Away, Sky Jumpers

03 November 2014

Gracefully Grayson

Polonsky, Amy. Gracefully Grayson. Disney-Hyperion, 2014.

Grayson is an orphan who is living with some very kind relatives who have been nothing but loving and supportive. At school, though, Grayson doesn't feel like she can be herself, because Grayson is transgender. She tries to fly under the radar, that is, until a teacher who also happens to direct the theater department allows Grayson to try out for a female role. Grayson is delighted that she can be herself on stage, and she finds friends in the cast of the play. This delightful middle grade story allows the reader to watch Grayson blossom and show more of her true colors.

I enjoyed the gentle, lyrical quality of the writing in this book. Grayson is trans, but this book is more about Grayson acting in the play and how her adoptive parents react when they find out that she is playing a female role. There are scores of angst-y teen books featuring trans characters who are trying to tell the world around them that they are trans, but there has yet to be a good middle grade book about a trans character. This is a hole in the LGBT cannon that has needed to be filled. Recommended.

Recommended for: middle grade, tweens
Red Flags: none
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars

Read-Alikes: My Mixed-Up Berry Blue Summer, Better Nate Than Ever, Wandering Son: Volume One