With the overwhelming amount of homework in middle school, Gregory Korenstein-Jasperton wonders how all the popular kids at Morris Champlin Middle School have time to be popular.  He hasn’t even found the time or the energy for writing the poetry and short stories he loves.  When his dropping grades get him grounded, preventing him from attending open mic night at Booktastic, an indie bookstore and his favorite place on earth, Gregory decides to take action. Borrowing inspiration from Dr. Seuss’ character, the Lorax, Gregory realizes change never comes unless someone speaks up: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going toRead More →

Written with an imagery-rich style and set in Tampere, Finland, As Red As Blood is a mystery, the first book in a trilogy by Salla Simukka featuring Lumikki Andersson.  Prinsessa Lumisirkku ja kääpiöt (Princess Snow-bunting and the Dwarfs) was the original title for the fairy tale “Snow White” in Finland, and Lumikki, like her fairytale namesake, is pursued by bullies who wish her dead.  The violence, torture, and subjugation of this bullying, which began in elementary school, has hardened Lumikki into an independent and pragmatic survivalist.  The physical similarities, however, don’t match the brown-haired Lumikki, who likes her “coffee black and strong, facts straight up, and an apartmentRead More →

Her brother Nolan is dead, her parents are divorced, her aunt Joan is a “hurricane,” and Mel Hannigan has one of many versions of bipolar disorder, but some things you just don’t tell the world.  In the same spirit with which Terry Spencer Hesser skillfully and credibly illustrates obsessive compulsive disorder in Kissing Doorknobs  and Mark Haddon writes about life for someone coping with autism in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Eric Lindstrom shares his honest and informative novel,  A Tragic Kind of Wonderful.  Books like these, with realistic representations of people who experience mental health issues, can help readers notRead More →

For almost four years, birthdays have been a problem for fifth grader Cadence Mariah Jolly, the main character in Sherri Winston’s novel The Sweetest Sound.  The trickiness of birthdays began the day after Cadence’s seventh birthday, when her mother left a farewell note on the coffeepot revealing that life in Harmony, Pennsylvania, was hampering her passion to be a singer.  When Chantel Marie Jolly abandons her family, her daughter’s world slips into darkness. Now, Cadence, whom everyone calls Mouse, is known as the shy and quiet girl whose mother has left.  For Cadence, spending an entire day reading and writing or listening to music andRead More →

Set in Manhattan, New York, with scenes from Santa Monica, California, History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera is a deeply unsettling but important book about the total nightmare of life after losing a loved one.  Although th e book features more references to sex than some readers might find necessary, the book captures how love and heartbreak can turn someone crazy and suspicious and how the death of a loved one can make us “the worst kind of alive” (139), a life after death zombie without a brain, heart, light, or direction. Griffin Jennings, a seventeen-year-old with a fixation for even numbersRead More →