Sonya Sones’ What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is an easily accessible story of a lovable nerd experiencing his first relationship and its accompanying issues. It tells the story of Robin Murphy, an awkward artist who happens to land a popular girlfriend. When she is dropped by her friends for dating ‘the’ Murphy, they must make a stand together or lose what they have fought to gain. Written in accessible verse, What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is a poignant coming-of-age tale. Sones’ narrator Murphy is the anti-hero whose quirks and insecurities are instantly endearing and lovable. As an imperfect Prince Charming, Murphy’s journey from timid boyRead More →

Evolution, Me, & Other Freaks of Nature by Robin Brande attacks the controversial arguments surrounding religion in schools from a new perspective. Mena, Brande’s protagonist, starts the school year having been kicked out of her church group. When none of her former friends will speak to her, Mena finds refuge in science class with a charismatic teacher and cute new lab partner. When the class begins the unit on evolution, however, Mena finds herself in a difficult position between her old and new friends. Tackling a number of controversial subjects, this book tells a compelling story of a young girl figuring out what she believesRead More →

   The Afterlife by Gary Soto grabs the reluctant reader in the first few pages with the story of Chuy who is stabbed, dies, and becomes the ghostly protagonist of this compelling story.  As Chuy struggles to find the significance of his life and watches his family come to terms with his violent end, he meets the lovely Crystal, also recently deceased.  I read this story with junior high students who “HATE to read” but they were quickly drawn into Chuy’s search for understanding and the question of whether his death would be avenged.  The author of this book, Gary Soto, is a favorite ofRead More →

The Alchemyst (The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel) tells the story of teen twins Sophie and Josh who discover that a San Francisco bookstore owner, Nick Flemming, is really Nicholas Flamel, a nearly 700 year old alchemist who created the elixir of life.  His enemy, Dr. John Dee, steals the Codex, an ancient book containing the secrets of magic, and a prophecy regarding the twins. As Flamel and the twins race to recover the book, they are pursued by Dee and the members of the Elder race who are the source of most of humanity’s ancient myths and legends.  Throughout this riveting book, Elders and other magical creatures line up onRead More →

The Arrival, the newest book by Shaun Tan, tells the the familiar story of an immigrant in an intriguing new way.  Conveyed entirely in detailed drawings which look like sepia-toned, worn photographs, this book feels like paging through an old photo album without the aid of captions or notes.  We follow the immigrant as he packs a small bag, says a heartbreaking goodbye to his wife and small daughter, and boards a steamer ship along with hundreds of others to reach a new land.  The new city is at once recognizable and surreal and recalls the halls and images of Ellis Island and New York City.Read More →