Set in 1941 in Viteretz, Ukraine, Don’t Tell the Nazis is a historical fiction account of events during the Soviet Occupation of Ukraine, the few days of “freedom,” and the German infiltration that followed.   Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch frames her story around real people and events so as to be true to the history but takes liberties to humanize it. Readers follow the heroism of Krystia Fediuk, a twelve-year-old girl wishing to bring the hope back to her mama’s eyes after Tato’s death from cancer.  Krystia steps in to take on the tedious tasks that could wear her mama down, but she feels powerless against Ukraine’sRead More →

With The Surface Breaks, Louise O’Neill has reimagined the story of The Little Mermaid, while looking through a feminist lens. This fractured fairy tale follows of Hans Christian Andersen’s original plot line with variations typical of a reimagined tale. O’Neill’s story features Princess Muirgen, a curious mermaid whose mother named her Gaia.  This name has influenced her curiosity for earthly things.  Now that she is fifteen, Muirgen will be allowed to visit the surface rather than remain confined by her watery world.  She is eager for this trip since she hopes to find answers about her mother’s disappearance.  Muireann vanished on Muirgen’s first birthday, andRead 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 →

The child of first-generation Chinese immigrants to the United States, Kelly Yang writes a work of fiction, Front Desk, based on her own life so that her son could know her story and take inspiration, not fear, from the life of shame and pain and poverty and joy she experienced as a child.  Yang tells her story through Mia Tang and Jason Tao to open the eyes and fill the hearts of readers, giving them empathy for people from all backgrounds and walks of life and arousing in them the courage needed to stand up to injustice when they see it. Jason’s dad, Mr. YaoRead More →

Three stories told, three countries represented, and three lives profiled.  Despite the years that separate them, the trinity of humanity featured in Alan Gratz’s novel Refugee experience remarkable and horrifying similarities with intersecting conclusions. Imagine feeling unwanted, dirty, and illegal.   Imagine hearing sirens, soldiers, shouting, gunfire, breaking glass, and screams daily.  Imagine thinking that if you want to live, you have to leave your homeland and all that is familiar.  These are the realities of three refugees and their families: Josef Landau, a barely thirteen Jewish boy living in Germany in 1939 under the reign of Adolph Hitler; Isabel Fernandez, a pre-teen Cuban citizen enduringRead More →

Here’ the dirt on Dirt by Denise Gosliner Orenstein: Eleven-year-old Yonder attends Robert Frost Middle School in Vermont, where her classmates are “just dumb losers with mean mouths full of empty words” (5). After her mother dies, Yonder screams and yells for her mother to come back but realizes that words don’t work, so she stops speaking since “silence seems safer.” Yonder’s father masks his grief and fills the empty void with alcohol: “My father drank and drank and drank and didn’t really know how to be a regular father at all” (48). Despite his sobbing and his littering the floor with beer bottles, YonderRead More →

Alex Meadows has just passed from primary to secondary school in Lambourn, England, so he is constantly on guard to protect his status and to avoid being targeted by Alan’s Battalion, a gang of school yard bullies commanded by Alan Tydman.  Alex plans not to react to any of the gang’s bait since reactors get hurt, a truth that David Marsh can testify to when he refuses to fly under the radar.  But when Alex—and everyone else in his grade—gets an invitation to the Icarus Show, he dares to believe in possibility.  From the teaser campaign to the main event, Alex is intent on solving theRead More →

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 by daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson, recounts the historical fiction tale of tumultuous times of global, racial, cultural, and religious unrest in the late 1940s.  Because of its inspirational message about the need to depend on faith, family, and friends during the worst of times, contemporary readers will find this story of friendship and unity especially relevant as Martin Luther King, Junior’s 87th birthday approaches. In 1948, Steven Satlow is eight years old, and a train ride to Ebbets Field costs five cents each way.  Because Steve is the shortest kid in his class andRead More →