Author of the Stonewall Book Award for Hurricane Child, Kacen Callender has written a new book, King and the Dragonflies targeted for readers in grades three through seven. Set in Richardson, Louisiana, King and the Dragonflies relates the challenge that twelve-year-old Kingston Reginald James has in coping with the sudden and unexpected death of his sixteen-year-old brother Khalid.  While enduring the waves of grief, King must also navigate a series of identity issues on his own since his parents are immersed in their own grief, and his older brother is no longer around to confide in. Shy and prone to reticence, King loves anime, enjoysRead More →

Targeting ‘tweens, How to Disappear Completely by Ali Standish is an interesting novel about difference, not only about how we treat others who are different but the ways our own differences can empower us and even transform us into more than we thought we could be. It is also a book about navigating junior high school and about coping with death. Set in Lanternwood, a town with the feel of stepping back in time, the plot revolves around twelve-year-old Emma Talbot who has just lost her grandmother, who is also her best friend. With Gram, Emma had lived in a world “made of old booksRead More →

In his newest book The Other Better Me, Antony John writes about fifth grader Lola Harmon and the emptiness she feels by not having her dad in her life.  As this inquisitive and energetic people-person navigates life with her classmates at Shoreline Elementary school in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, she learns some important lessons about identity and about bullying behavior and bullies. Lola’s best friends are Nick Merlo and Kiana Richards.  Both live more affluent lives than Lola, who resides in a mobile home with her single mother who battles a thyroid condition.  Lola describes Nick as igneous rock since he resembles cooled lava. Read More →

Like a tower built from Jenga blocks, eleven-year-old Piper Trudeau’s former life in Cypress Point, Texas, all comes crashing down after a series of unfortunate events: her parents’ job hours cut, lost jobs, unexpected medical bills, car trouble, bills piling up, and eventually an eviction.  Now, she and her family are homeless and living in a shelter in Idaho—experiencing new places and new people and learning that a rough patch can seem like a “football field full of briars” (39). But this is only one plot thread in Stay by Bobbie Pyron, a novel targeted for middle grade readers that alternates between the story ofRead More →

All the Greys on Greene Street by Laura Tucker tells the colorful story of Olympia, a twelve-year-old artist who is named after a painting by French painter Manet.  Olympia’s (aka Ollie) dad Graham is an art restorer and her mom Doll is a sculptor.  The family lives in the Soho neighborhood in Manhattan, New York. Ollie’s best friends are Alex, an agile young man who Spiderman’s his way up a wall and who practices jumps like a stuntman in training; and Richard, a monster aficionado fascinated by science who is developing a scrapbook that he calls the Taxonomy.  Using her sketching talent, Ollie will occasionallyRead More →

In 2008, Malcolm Gladwell published his New York Times bestseller, Outliers.  Based largely on the research of Anders Ericsson, Gladwell frequently refers to the 10,000-hour rule, citing it as the magic number that contributes to developing greatness.  Since the writing of that book, Gladwell has fallen under criticism for failing to adequately distinguish between the quantity of hours spent practicing, and the quality of that practice. The takeaway here is that practice may be important, but it’s not the whole story.  In authoring a personal story of success, a person needs to employ very specific, deliberate methods of practice. All of these details flooded back to me when I pickedRead More →

Combining humor, heartbreak, and hope, Canadian writer Susin Nielsen writes No Fixed Address.  In this story about people who suffer from a childhood trauma and subsequent depression, Nielsen also exposes some of the long-term consequences. Felix Knutsson, who is twelve and three quarters years old, calls his mom Astrid because she considers the title Mom to be too hierarchical.  The reader will discover several other peculiarities about Astrid, who spent some time as a child in the foster care system after she and her brother were abused by their father.  But, if nothing else, Astrid is a survivor and a prevaricator. Unlike his mother, FelixRead More →

Cassie feels lost ever since her older sister Julia got pregnant. They used to be best friends, but now there’s a strange wall between them, bridged only by Julia’s baby daughter Addie. In fact, Cassie feels walled off from her parents and her friends too. So when Julia confides to Cassie that she’s leaving with Addie and invites Cassie to come along, Cassie grabs some clothes and hops in the car. Will running away cause more problems, or can they finally find their way to perfect? This story resembles its cover – peaceful, slow, gentle, beautiful. It is the unfolding of a relationship between sisters,Read More →

October has been designated as National Bullying Prevention Month. While we should always focus on the prevention of bullying, this may be a good month for readers to read books to begin conversations about bullying, and You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P! by Alex Gino is a good place to start.  Through dialogue, we hopefully can dispel some of the myths and misperception about diverse cultures and identities. Intentionally chosen literature can also serve as a catalyst for sparking conversations on complex social issues like bullying, diversity, and the effects of prejudice. An activist and advocate for LGBTQ communities since 1997, Gino uses the singular-theyRead More →