Like the Fleetwood Mac Song “Go Your Own Way,” Eric Smith’s protagonists Adam Stillwater and Whitney Mitchell—in his novel You Can Go Your Own Way—must decide whether love and sharing their worlds is worth the risk or whether divisiveness and potential loneliness is their reality. Set in Philadelphia, Smith’s novel alternates between the two lead characters in its telling, giving readers insight and perspective.  A lover of old movies, music, and pin ball arcade games, Adam is struggling to let go of his father’s dream in exchange for his own since he feels as if giving up on the dream would mean he is alsoRead More →

Although not the historical fiction giant that is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Wolf’s Curse by Jessica Vitalis uses Death as one of its narrators. Through her twelve-year-old protagonist Gauge, the Carpenter’s grandson, Vitalis explores the social custom of rites of passage and life after death. After his grandpapá dies, Gauge no longer has the protection he needs from Lord Mayor Vulpine who is terrorizing the village of Bouge and who blames Gauge for the death of his wife. To protect him from the Guards, who wish to arrest Gauge and set him out to sea to die because he is a VoyantRead More →

Secondhand Dogs by Carolyn Crimi is a book about dogs and humans. Eleven-year-old Quinn has lost his dad to a heart attack and his dog Murph to a vehicle accident, and now he’s losing his brother Jessie to a pack of bullies. Craving love and attention, Quinn accepts a job with Miss Lottie, who has created a family of dogs she is giving another chance. Quinn develops into a good belly rubber and an excellent chin scratcher, beloved by the pack of rescue dogs. When the story opens, four dogs comprise the pack. With his strength and courage, Tank is loyal and trusty—a true bulldogRead More →

Set in North Carolina, The Ghosts We Keep by Mason Deaver is a book about coping with grief. It confirms that healing is a complicated process different for everyone. When Liam Cooper’s brother, Ethan is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Liam loses the normal in his universe.  The sixteen-year-old, non-binary musician can find no life outside the music he makes with the aid of GarageBand software. Even his friends Joel and Vanessa consider him too morose. Feeling like he doesn’t belong anywhere and trying to navigate the grieving process alone, his anger and depression consume him. Initially, Liam believes that he will move through theRead More →

Like nightmares, scary stories are a sort of dress rehearsal for real-life fear, helping children learn to cope with the emotion in a low-stakes setting.  After all, the world can be a scary place where children will encounter frightful situations—such as getting lost, losing friends, being less loved than a sibling, or experiencing abandonment as a result of parental death or divorce.  Therefore, knowing how to confront fear can benefit children and help them cope with difficulty. Scary stories like Dan Poblocki’s Ghost Hunter’s Daughter, targeted for middle grade readers in the eight to twelve year old age group, not only help children forge resilience but give them a senseRead 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 →

Jacqueline Woodson’s recent middle-grade novel, Harbor Me imparts how story holds the power to heal because it helps us make sense of the world.  Woodson tells a tale about rising from tragedy and how tragedy not only takes away but bestows gifts. Similar to other novels that use trees as metaphors for survival and interconnected relationships—novels like Hidden Roots by Joseph Bruchac, Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith—Woodson’s book alludes to Ailanthus trees with their extensive root systems that help not only to ground them but to lend endurance in harsh conditions. Set in Brooklyn, the native landRead More →

Dana L. Davis is an actress, a classical violinist, and now an author.  Her debut novel, Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now is a remarkable book about a sixteen-year-old young woman who has found herself in a tsunami of change after her mother dies from Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Because Grams is an elderly resident in an assisted living facility, suddenly Tiffany is flying from low-income housing in Chicago to a mansion in Los Angeles to live with the doctor dad she didn’t even know existed.  Uprooted from her familiar neighborhood, school, and friends and suffering from anxiety disorder, Tiffany must find comfort with a stepmother, four sisters,Read More →

With his debut novel, Tyler Johnson Was Here, Jay Coles tells the story of Tyler and Marvin Johnson, twin teenage boys living in Sterling Point, Alabama.  In their neighborhood, they worry often about police visits, gang-infested streets, robberies, vandalism, and gun violence.  For eight years, their father has been in Montgomery Correctional Facility for a crime he did not commit, and Marvin would “kill to have him back” (19). Because he hung around men who committed crimes, Jamal Johnson received his sentence from a corrupt system.  To cope with his dad’s absence and to see past the shame, Marvin writes letters to his absent father,Read More →