Tag Archives: bullying

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. September 5, 2017. Dial Books, 248 p. ISBN: 9780525429982.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.6.

The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor, Bullying, Discussion of sex

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 4-7. After years of homeschooling, Imogene is excited to start public school for the first time. Plus, she finally gets to perform in the Renaissance faire, where her mom has a shop (or, shoppe) and her dad plays a knight. Imogene doesn’t have much trouble sliding into her new role at the faire, but middle school is another story. Rules about who to sit with, what to wear, and how to fit in are confounding, especially when she’s getting some seriously mixed messages from the popular girls in her class and realizing how different her family is. Jamieson’s appealing, naturalistic artwork, full of warm tones, realistic-looking characters, and saturated colors, playfully incorporates medieval imagery along with Imogene’s more mundane homelife, particularly when Imogene fears that her misbehavior at home, thanks to frustrations at school, makes her more of a dragon than a knight. Jamieson masterfully taps into the voice and concerns of middle-schoolers, and the offbeat setting of the Renaissance faire adds some lively texture. Kids who loved Jamieson’s Roller Girl (2015) will adore this one, too.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
A home-schooled squireling sallies forth to public school, where the woods turn out to be treacherous and dragons lie in wait.Imogene Vega has grown up among “faire-mily”; her brown-skinned dad is the resident evil knight at a seasonal Renaissance faire, her lighter-skinned mom is in charge of a gift shop, and other adult friends play various costumed roles. As a freshly minted “squire,” she happily charges into new weekend duties helping at jousts, practicing Elizabethan invective (“Thou lumpish reeling-ripe jolt-head!” “Thou loggerheaded rump-fed giglet!”), and keeping younger visitors entertained. But she loses her way when cast among crowds of strangers in sixth grade. Along with getting off on the wrong foot academically, she not only becomes a target of mockery after clumsy efforts to join a clique go humiliatingly awry, but alienates potential friends (and, later, loving parents and adoring little brother too). Amid stabs of regret she wonders whether she’s more dragon than knight. In her neatly drawn sequential panels, Newbery honoree Jamieson (Roller Girl, 2015) portrays a diverse cast of expressive, naturally posed figures occupying two equally immersive worlds. In the end Imogene wins the day in both, proving the mettle of her brave, decent heart in finding ways to make better choices and chivalric amends for her misdeeds. Readers will cheer her victories, wince at her stumbles, and likely demand visits to the nearest faire themselves to sample the wares and fun. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Victoria Jamieson is the creator of the Newbery Honor winner Roller Girl. She received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a children’s book designer before moving to Portland, Oregon and becoming a freelance illustrator. She has also worked as a portrait artist aboard a cruise ship, and has lived in Australia, Italy, and Canada. She maintains a not-so-secret identity as Winnie the Pow, skater with the Rose City Rollers roller derby league and has a not-so-secret past as a Renaissance Faire groupie.

Her website is www.victoriajamieson.com

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The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller

The Art of Starving by Sam J. Miller. July 11, 2017. HarperTeen, 372 p. ISBN: 9780062456717.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 730.

Matt hasn’t eaten in days. His stomach stabs and twists inside, pleading for a meal, but Matt won’t give in. The hunger clears his mind, keeps him sharp—and he needs to be as sharp as possible if he’s going to find out just how Tariq and his band of high school bullies drove his sister, Maya, away.

Matt’s hardworking mom keeps the kitchen crammed with food, but Matt can resist the siren call of casseroles and cookies because he has discovered something: the less he eats the more he seems to have . . . powers. The ability to see things he shouldn’t be able to see. The knack of tuning in to thoughts right out of people’s heads. Maybe even the authority to bend time and space.

So what is lunch, really, compared to the secrets of the universe?

Matt decides to infiltrate Tariq’s life, then use his powers to uncover what happened to Maya. All he needs to do is keep the hunger and longing at bay. No problem. But Matt doesn’t realize there are many kinds of hunger…and he isn’t in control of all of them.

A darkly funny, moving story of body image, addiction, friendship, and love, Sam J. Miller’s debut novel will resonate with any reader who’s ever craved the power that comes with self-acceptance.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Strong sexual themes, Underage drinking, Smoking, Marijuana, Eating disorders, Self-harm, Homophobic slurs, Homophobia, Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 9-12. Miller’s heartfelt debut novel tackles difficult subjects with a bold mix of magical realism, tender empathy, and candor. Matt, 16, lives in a rural upstate New York town with a single mother who slaughters hogs at the local processing plant. Matt is desperate because his beloved older sister, Maya, has left home, supposedly to record an album with her punk band, although he fears she’s met a worse fate at the hands of a group of high-school bullies led by handsome Tariq, an object of desire for both Matt and Maya. Feeling powerless, Matt realizes he can maintain control over one thing: the calories he consumes. As he restricts his food intake, Matt feels his other senses sharpen to the point where he believes he has superpowers, hearing and seeing other people’s thoughts, and influencing others with his own commands. Matt is delusional and anorexic, but he’s also an admirably strong character who is out and proud, brilliant, creative, and determined to survive. It’s not always easy to find novels with troubled gay male protagonists who aren’t doomed, and Miller’s creative portrait of a complex and sympathetic individual will provide a welcome mirror for kindred spirits.

Kirkus Reviews starred (May 1, 2017)
A bullied gay boy harnesses trippy, starvation-induced powers to avenge the disappearance of his beloved sister. Gay, Jewish, white, self-deprecating Matt hates his name but hasn’t changed it because honesty is the best policy. And he is honest, quickly establishing that he has suicidal thoughts and homicidal reveries and his family is at the bottom of the financial food chain. That forthright tongue isn’t fully reflective though, refusing to admit that his body dysmorphia and calorie counting = eating disorder. When he discovers that extreme starvation heightens his senses, the world around him begins to clarify (he can follow scents like a hound and read minds like a clairvoyant as his body slowly degenerates). Convinced that a triptych of king bullies, one of whom is dark and dreamy Middle Eastern Tariq, on whom he hates having a massive crush, is responsible for the disappearance of his older sister, Matt focuses his supernatural gift on them, hoping both to find his sister and to systematically destroy the high school ruling class—even if Tariq might secretly be into him. In first-person journal format, Matt schools readers on the art of starving as he toes the line between expiration and enlightenment, sparing no detail of his twisted, antagonistic relationship with his body. Matt’s sarcastic, biting wit keeps readers rooting for him and hoping for his recovery. In his acknowledgments, Miller reveals the story’s roots in his own teen experiences. A dark and lovely tale of supernatural vengeance and self-destruction. (Fiction. 14-18)

About the Author

Sam J. Miller’s debut novel The Art of Starving, rooted in his own adolescent experience with an eating disorder, was called “Funny, haunting, beautiful, relentless and powerful… a classic in the making” by Book Riot. His second novel, Blackfish City, will be published by Ecco Press in 2018. A finalist for multiple Nebula Awards along with the World Fantasy and Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Awards, he won the 2013 Shirley Jackson Award.

Her website is www.samjmiller.com

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Restart by Gordon Korman

Restart by Gordon Korman. May 30, 2017. Scholastic Press, 243 p. ISBN: 9781338053777.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.5; Lexile: 730.

Chase’s memory just went out the window.

Chase doesn’t remember falling off the roof. He doesn’t remember hitting his head. He doesn’t, in fact, remember anything. He wakes up in a hospital room and suddenly has to learn his whole life all over again . . . starting with his own name.

He knows he’s Chase. But who is Chase? When he gets back to school, he sees that different kids have very different reactions to his return.

Some kids treat him like a hero. Some kids are clearly afraid of him.

One girl in particular is so angry with him that she pours her frozen yogurt on his head the first chance she gets.

Pretty soon, it’s not only a question of who Chase is–it’s a question of who he was . . . and who he’s going to be.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Bullying

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Recovering after a fall, Chase regains consciousness in a hospital bed surrounded by complete strangers—including his mother and brother. After he returns to school, he struggles to regain what amnesia has erased, but what he learns isn’t reassuring. His two old buddies from the football team are bullies. The kids he wants to hang out with now, like those in the video club, were often their victims, and they’re understandably wary of the new Chase. If he regains his memory, will he become the jerk he was before? Chapter by chapter, the very readable first-person narration shifts among seven students, giving readers access to many points of view. Their reactions to the changes in Chase’s outlook vary according to their personalities and their prior relationships with him. The characters are well drawn, and the scenes in which Chase befriends an elderly veteran at an assisted facility are nicely integrated into the novel. A talented storyteller, Korman shows bullying, regret, and forgiveness from various perspectives and leaves readers with ideas to ponder.

Kirkus Reviews (April 1, 2017)
Will a bully always be a bully? That’s the question eighth-grade football captain Chase Ambrose has to answer for himself after a fall from his roof leaves him with no memory of who and what he was. When he returns to Hiawassee Middle School, everything and everyone is new. The football players can hardly wait for him to come back to lead the team. Two, Bear Bratsky and Aaron Hakimian, seem to be special friends, but he’s not sure what they share. Other classmates seem fearful; he doesn’t know why. Temporarily barred from football because of his concussion, he finds a new home in the video club and, over time, develops a new reputation. He shoots videos with former bullying target Brendan Espinoza and even with Shoshanna Weber, who’d hated him passionately for persecuting her twin brother, Joel. Chase voluntarily continues visiting the nursing home where he’d been ordered to do community service before his fall, making a special friend of a decorated Korean War veteran. As his memories slowly return and he begins to piece together his former life, he’s appalled. His crimes were worse than bullying. Will he become that kind of person again? Set in the present day and told in the alternating voices of Chase and several classmates, this finding-your-middle-school-identity story explores provocative territory. Aside from naming conventions, the book subscribes to the white default. Korman’s trademark humor makes this an appealing read. (Fiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Left Out by Tim Green

Left Out by Tim Green. September 27, 2016. HarperCollins, 352 p. ISBN: 9780062293824.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 800.

Perfect for fans of Mike Lupica, New York Times bestselling author and former NFL player Tim Green tells a heartfelt and moving story about a deaf boy’s journey to change how others see him—both on and off the football field.

All Landon Dorch has ever wanted was to be like everyone else. But his deafness and the way he talks have been obstacles all his life. Other kids, and even adults, have never been able to look past his disability and see the real Landon. But now, he finally sees his chance to fit in. Bigger and taller than any other seventh grader in his new school, Landon plans to use his size as his biggest asset.

In Bronxville, football reigns supreme, and what could be better for a hopeful lineman desperate to gain friends beyond his fiery little sister? Still, the same speech problems and the cochlear implants that help him hear continue haunt him. At best, his new teammates keep their distance, and when football proves harder than he thought, the coaches encourage Landon to be their oversized water boy.

Just when it looks like Landon will be left out for good, Brett Bell—a star player whose family knows about being different—becomes an unlikely friend. And the whole Bell family pitches in to help Landon, even Brett’s uncle, a New York Giants All-Pro tackle who shares some of his trade secrets. But in the end only Landon can fight his way off the bench and through a crowded field of bullies bent on seeing him forever left out.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

About the Author

Tim Green, for many years a star defensive end with the Atlanta Falcons, is a man of many talents. He’s the author of such gripping books for adults as the New York Times bestselling The Dark Side of the Game and a dozen suspense novels, including Exact Revenge and Kingdom Come. Tim graduated covaledictorian from Syracuse University and was a first-round NFL draft pick. He later earned his law degree with honors. Tim has worked as an NFL analyst for FOX Sports and as an NFL commentator for National Public Radio, among other broadcast experience.

He lives with his wife, Illyssa, and their five children in upstate New York.  His website is www.timgreenbooks.com.

Teacher Resources

Left Out Curriculum Guide

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Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos

Crazy Messy Beautiful by Carrie Arcos. February 7, 2017. Philomel Books, 320 p. ISBN: 9780399175534.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

When your namesake is Pablo Neruda—the greatest love poet of all time—finding “the one” should be easy. After all, sixteen-year-old aspiring artist Neruda Diaz has been in love many times before. So it’s only a matter of time before someone loves him back.

Callie could be that someone. She’s creative and edgy, and nothing like the girls Neruda typically falls for, so when a school assignment brings them together, he is pleasantly surprised to learn they have a lot in common. With his true love in reach and his artistic ambitions on track, everything is finally coming together.

But as Neruda begins to fall faster and harder than ever before, he is blindsided by the complicated nature of love—and art—in more ways than one. And when the relationships he’s looked to for guidance threaten to implode, Neruda must confront the reality that love is crazier, messier, and more beautiful than he ever realized—and riskier, too, than simply saying the words.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (December 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 7))
Grades 8-11. Names have power, and for Neruda Diaz, the name of “the Poet,” Pablo Neruda, has shaped his conception of the world. Neruda longs to have a whirlwind romance as described in the Poet’s works, but he must balance his ideas of romantic love with the reality of his father cheating on his mother, being forced to work with his nemesis on a mural, and his growing feelings for edgy goth girl Callie. As that relationship grows, the schism between his desire for love and his doubt in it grows wider. It is in learning more about who the Poet truly was that Neruda comes to understand that love is crazy, messy, and beautiful—like all of life. The book shines most in Neruda’s interplay with Callie, who hides her artistic side behind her hard edges, and Ezra, a repentant ex-convict friend whose regret provides guidance for Neruda’s challenges. Arcos has written a classic story of a budding artist finding out the reality behind the artifice, and does so while keeping a wonderful sense of humor.

Publishers Weekly (November 28, 2016)
For 16-year-old Neruda Diaz, love is a mystery, maybe the mystery. He comes by his fixation honestly: he’s named after Chilean love poet Pablo Neruda, his parents are still in love, and he thinks that beautiful Autumn Cho might be the one for him. Then mystery turns tragic: Neruda’s parents’ marriage is less stable than he thought, and-like her predecessors-Autumn isn’t interested. Neruda gets to paint a mural at school, but has to work with a guy he hates, and he and a girl he barely knows have to interview each other for a class assignment. Arcos (There Will Come a Time) makes Neruda thoughtful and real, and Callie Leibowitz, that near stranger from school, is tough, funny, and interesting. Neruda is half Chilean, his Los Angeles is realistically diverse, and he’s a reflective, engaging protagonist. Arcos capably probes the mysterious without attempting to solve it as Neruda discovers the difference between crushing on someone he doesn’t know and loving someone he does, learning that friendship, too, is a kind of love. Ages 12-up. Agent: Kerry Sparks, Levine Greenberg Rostan. (Feb.)

About the Author

Carrie Arcos writes young adult fiction. Her debut novel, Out of Reach, was a 2012 National Book Award finalist for young people’s literature. She lives in Los Angeles, CA with her family.

Her website is  carriearcos.com.

Around the Web

Crazy Messy Beautiful on Amazon

Crazy Messy Beautiful on Goodreads

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Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart

Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart. January 3, 2017. Scholastic Press, 256 p. ISBN: 9781338053845.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.5; Lexile: 610.

Jonathan Grisby is the newest arrival at the Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys — an ancient, crumbling fortress of gray stone rising up from the ocean. It is dark, damp, and dismal. And it is just the place Jonathan figures he deserves.

Because Jonathan has done something terrible. And he’s willing to accept whatever punishment he has coming.

Just as he’s getting used to his new situation, however, a freak accident leaves the troubled boys of Slabhenge without any adult supervision. Suddenly the kids are free, with an entire island to themselves. But freedom brings unexpected danger. And if Jonathan can’t come to terms with the sins of his past and lead his new friends to safety . . . then every boy on the island is doomed.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Bullying; Concealing dead bodies

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist (November 1, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 5))
Grades 4-6. Holes meets Lord of the Flies in this fast-paced novel set in a reform school on a creepy island. Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys. Jonathan, haunted by the tragic circumstances that condemned him to the school, is prepared to serve his time. When a freak accident eliminates (deservedly) the entire staff of adults, the boys turn their prison into a playhouse, though it soon becomes evident that one sort of authoritarian rule has been exchanged for another. The book incorporates the atmospheric hallmarks of an island-bound suspense tale: a crumbling fortress, dank passages, giant rats, and a dark and stormy night. Jonathan is a brave young man capable of leading the boys through this extraordinary situation—if only he was not so incapacitated by his grief and guilt. Told with pathos and compassion, this rises above the label of survival story and examines the way truth and redemption are interconnected in one troubled boy’s life.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Lord of the Flies set on Alcatraz, with the Gothic sensibility of The Wolves of Willoughby Chase. Twelve-year-old Jonathan Grisby has been sentenced to 10 weeks at Slabhenge Reformatory for Troubled Boys, an enormous, decaying fortresslike island prison off an unknown coast, formerly an insane asylum, for a crime that has him staggering under his own guilt. At Slabhenge, rats run wild, a monster lurks behind a locked door, and 15 boys ages 10 through 14 cower in damp cells under the sadistic control of the head. That is, until Jonathan’s first morning there, when a bolt of lightning kills every grown-up in the place without harming a single boy. At the urging of Sebastian, an older boy with dark urges toward control, and Jonathan, who cannot bear the thought of returning home, the multiracial inmates decide to stay awhile and enjoy a bit of freedom. They stick the dead bodies in the walk-in freezer, feast on the stores of food long denied them, and gradually fall under Sebastian’s despotic rule. Before Sebastian can gain complete control or anything truly ugly can happen, a wild storm starts to break Scar Island apart. In finding the courage to rescue his companions, Jonathan finds the strength to face his past. It’s grotesque, compelling, over-the-top, yet fully realized, and nothing like Gemeinhart’s previous work. Children who respond to it well will read it over and over again. (Fiction. 8-12)

About the Author

Hi! I live in a small town smack dab in the middle of Washington state with my wife and three young daughters. I was lucky and grateful to be a teacher-librarian in an elementary school for 13 years, where I got to share awesome books with awesome kids. I love camping, cooking and traveling. I also play guitar (badly) and read (constantly). My house is always a mess. I am really pretty darn happy.

I’ve written three middle grade novels: Scar Island, The Honest Truth, and Some Kind of Courage.

Dan’s website is www.dangemeinhart.com.

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The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen. October 25, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 272 p. ISBN: 9781101940419.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.3; Lexile: 740.

My secret life is filled with psychic vampires, wheelchair zombies, chain-rattlin’ ghosts, and a one-eyed cat. But they’re nothing compared to my real-life stalker: a sixth-grade girl named Kandi Kain…

Lincoln Jones is always working on the latest story he’s got going in his notebook. Those stories are his refuge. A place where the hero always prevails and the bad guy goes to jail. Real life is messy and complicated, so Lincoln sticks to fiction and keeps to himself. Which works fine until a nosy girl at his new school starts prying into his private business. She wants to know what he’s writing, where he disappears to after school, and why he never talks to anybody…

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones is a terrifically funny and poignant story about a boy finding the courage to get to know the real characters all around him—and to let them know him.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to domestic abuse

 

Book Trailer

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (October 15, 2016 (Online))
Grades 4-7. Sixth grade is tough, especially when you’re new and spend your afternoons with the “oldies” at Brookside, a memory care facility. Lincoln’s ma, having recently escaped an abusive boyfriend, takes a job as a caregiver at Brookside. At school, Lincoln hides his love of writing stories, his thick Southern accent, and, most important, his Brookside connection. Lincoln thinks all the Brookside oldies are crazy, but as he gets to know them, he realizes he’s seeing the illogical, heartbreaking effects of dementia. Humorous dialogue and a swift plot, occasionally dragged down by contrived situations, anchor this realistic story. Lincoln is a delightful narrator, prone to daydreaming about stories. He has a strong, supportive relationship with his mother, although his ability to bounce back after living in an abusive situation seems unrealistic. Aging and dying with dignity are lightly touched upon, but never quite as deeply as one would hope. This book is a good place to start a classroom discussion on intergenerational relationships and the effects of memory loss.

Publishers Weekly Annex (October 17, 2016)
Eleven-year-old Lincoln has several secrets: the stories he writes in his notebook, his cross-country move with his mother to escape her abusive boyfriend, and the home for people with memory loss and dementia where his mother works (and where Lincoln hangs out after school). Lincoln, who thinks of the residents as “the crazies,” is mortified at the thought of his classmates discovering where he spends his time-he’s already an outcast and a bullying target. But one outspoken classmate, the memorably named Kandi Kane, takes a persistent interest in him and as Lincoln gets to know the group home’s residents better, he begins to see that he isn’t the only one with secrets and stories. Van Draanen (the Sammy Keyes series) effectively portrays the frustrations of aging and memory loss through a mix of humor, sharp-eyed observations, and the compassion of Lincoln’s mother and her colleagues. Lincoln is relatable in his flaws and insecurities, and the story’s supporting characters are equally well-developed. It’s a moving coming-of-age story about creating new and unexpected connections. Ages 8-12. Agent: Ginger Knowlton, Curtis Brown.

About the Author

Wendelin Van Draanen has written more than thirty novels for young readers and teens. She is the author of the 18-book Edgar-winning Sammy Keyes mystery series, and wrote Flipped which was named a Top 100 Children’s Novel for the 21st Century by SLJ and became a Warner Brothers feature film in 2010.

Her other stand-alone titles include The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones, Runaway, Confessions of a Serial Kisser, Swear to Howdy, and The Running Dream which was awarded ALA’s Schneider Family Award for its portrayal of the disability experience.

Van Draanen has also created two four-book series for younger readers. The Shredderman books feature a boy who deals with a bully and received the Christopher Award for “affirming the highest values of the human spirit,” and The Gecko & Sticky books, which are fun read-alouds, perfect for reluctant readers.

A classroom teacher for fifteen years, Van Draanen is married to Mark Huntley Parsons, also an author, and they have two sons.

Her website is www.wendelinvand.com.

Around the Web

The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones on Amazon

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Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung. September 6, 2016. Knopf Books for Young Reader, 352 p. ISBN: 9780399550492.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 900.

Gilmore Girls meets Fresh Off the Boat in this witty novel about navigating life in private school while remaining true to yourself.

Lucy is a bit of a pushover, but she’s ambitious and smart, and she has just received the opportunity of a lifetime: a scholarship to a prestigious school, and a ticket out of her broken-down suburb. Though she’s worried she will stick out like badly cut bangs among the razor-straight students, she is soon welcomed into the Cabinet, the supremely popular trio who wield influence over classmates and teachers alike.

Linh is blunt, strong-willed, and fearless—everything Lucy once loved about herself. She is also Lucy’s last solid link to her life before private school, but she is growing tired of being eclipsed by the glamour of the Cabinet.

As Lucy floats further away from the world she once knew, her connection to Linh—and to her old life—threatens to snap. Sharp and honest, Alice Pung’s novel examines what it means to grow into the person you want to be without leaving yourself behind.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language; Bullying

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist starred (September 15, 2016 (Vol. 113, No. 2))
Grades 9-12. This Australian author’s beautifully written YA debut follows a lower-middle-class Chinese Australian teen who wins a prestigious scholarship to an exclusive all-girls school and struggles to find herself among the snobby mean girls. In a letter to Linh, the constant friend she’s left behind, 15-year-old Lucy recounts her first year as an “Equal Access” scholarship student at Laurinda Ladies’ College. Once fearlessly outspoken and full of fun, Lucy has become withdrawn and unsure of herself. A small group of rich, spoiled, and casually racist girls, known as the Cabinet, dominates her class and play horrible pranks on students and teachers with impunity. With the help of a male teacher and a popular boy from a nearby private boys school who’s not ashamed of being lower-middle class, Lucy learns to stand up for herself and reject the Cabinet. Lucy’s biting comments about Laurinda and her struggle to reconcile her school and home life in the dilapidated and rundown town of Stanley effectively ring true as she realizes her family’s immigrant life there is precious. The reveal of the truth of her relationship with Linh is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative. Lucy’s struggle to find her place and sense of self will have a wide appeal for teen readers and is a welcome addition to the prep-school canon.

School Library Journal (September 1, 2016)
Gr 8 Up-Life is not easy for Lucy Lam. Her immigrant mother and father work seemingly never-ending hours to make life bearable for her and her young brother in suburban Stanley, Australia. Lucy can’t help but compare herself to her more outgoing friends, especially Linh, who always seems to come out on top with her easy retorts and spunky attitude. When she and her classmates learn of a contest for a full ride scholarship to the most prestigious private school in the area, all the girls try out. To everyone’s surprise, Lucy gets the spot and quickly feels the pressure to assimilate to the glamorous lifestyle of the school. At first, leaving her old life seems like the perfect plan, and she soon loses touch with everyone, including Linh. Will Lucy realize the importance of her past and stay true to herself? Pung revitalizes the popular “mean girls against the new girl” trope in a surprising new way by revealing the difficulty in distinguishing between good and bad in this engaging novel. She deftly creates a story that immerses readers and makes this world relatable. Young adults will root for quirky Lucy and will be checked by a big twist at the end. VERDICT This daring work with an authentic protagonist teaches important lessons about being yourself while navigating through life. A strong purchase that will captivate teens and adults alike.-DeHanza Kwong, Central Piedmont Community College, Charlotte, NC

About the Author

Alice Pung is an Australian author whose award-winning books span the genres of memoir, non-fiction, anthology, young adult and children’s fiction. Alice’s first book Unpolished Gem won the 2007 Australian Book Industry Award for Newcomer of the Year. Her second book, Her Father’s Daughter, won the 2011 Western Australia Premier’s Literary Award, and her first novel, Laurinda won the 2016 Ethel Turner Prize. Laurinda is published in the United States as Lucy and Linh, and has been a Kirkus-starred book.

Her website is www.alicepung.com.

Teacher Resources

Lucy and Linh (Laurinda) Teaching Notes

Around the Web

Lucy and Linh on Amazon

Lucy and Linh on JLG

Lucy and Linh on Goodreads

 

A Blind Guide to Normal by Beth Vrabel

A Blind Guide to Normal  by Beth Vrabel. October 11, 2016. Sky Pony Press, 272 p. ISBN: 9781510702288.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.2; Lexile: 670.

Richie “Ryder” Raymond has a gift. He can find the punchline in any situation, even in his limited vision and prosthetic eye. During the past year at Addison School for the Blind, Ryder’s quick wit earned the respect and friendship of his classmates. Heading to mainstream, or “normal,” school for eighth grade is going to be awesome.

After all, what’s not to like? At Addison, Ryder was everyone’s favorite person. He could make anyone laugh, especially his best friend Alice. So long as he can be first to make all of the one-eyed jokes, Ryder is sure he’ll fit in just as quick at Papuaville Middle School, home of the Fighting Guinea Pigs. But Alice warns him fitting in might not be as easy as he thinks.

Turns out, Alice was right. In just the first hour of “normal” school, Ryder is attacked by General MacCathur II (aka, Gramps’s cat), causes his bio teacher to pass out cold, makes an enemy out town hero Max, and falls for Jocelyn, the fierce girl next door who happens to be Max’s girlfriend. On top of that, Ryder struggles to hold onto his dignity in the face of students’ pity and Gramps’s non-stop practical jokes.

Ryder quickly sees the only thing worse than explaining a joke is being the punchline. But with help from his stuck-in-the-70s Gramps and encouragement from Alice, Ryder finds the strength to not only fight back, but to make peace.

Sequel to: A Blind Guide to Stinkville

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Death of a child

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (October 1, 2016)
Gr 4-6-Richie Ryder Randolf is used to being a big fish in a small pond. At the Addison School for the Blind, he’s hilarious, he’s smooth, and he’s popular enough to serve as a social mentor for others. Relocated to a middle school in suburban Washington, DC, for eighth grade while his scientist parents go on assignment, he’s flopping on the shore and gasping for air. Between navigating the challenges of his limited vision (he wears an artificial eye owing to complications from cancer) and being a social disaster, Ryder is seriously struggling-and he’s not the only one. His grandfather, who’s supposed to be taking care of Ryder while the boy’s parents are away, talks to his decades-dead wife, lives as if he’s still in the 1970s, and insists on calling the protagonist by his full name, Richie Ryder. Ryder’s parents are immersed in work to the point of benign neglect. In this sequel to A Blind Guide to Stinkville, Vrabel injects just the right goofy mix of hormones and pain into Ryder’s mounting rages, fervent emotional deflection techniques, and confusing romantic ups and downs and gives equal weight to the foibles and dramas of those around him. As any reader of middle grade fiction might expect, the title is a red herring-nobody’s normal, and everybody’s just trying their best. VERDICT A sweet, thoughtful, and funny read. Hand this to fans of Vrabel’s previous novels and those who enjoy a heartfelt tale without the typical saccharine coating.-Katya Schapiro, Brooklyn Public Library

Kirkus Reviews (August 15, 2016)
When Ryder graduates from the Addison School for the Blind, he and Artie—his artificial eye, courtesy of cancer—look forward to being normal, whatever that is. Wisecracking, white Ryder is forced to stay with his eccentric, equally sarcastic grandfather when his parents, both avid research biologists, accept new assignments. His arrival at Papuaville Middle School is a shock—to the teacher he causes to faint and the semibully he inadvertently provokes. Fortunately, crushing on white, tough-but-wounded Jocelyn and wielding his increasingly desperate sense of humor help him to withstand bullies, distant parents, and cringeworthy good intentions. Karate classes provide an outlet, humor, and further character development, and a surprise quilting class provides surprising insight. Readers may groan at Ryder’s jokes, but the pranks he pulls with his narration are great fun, calling out “very special episode” clichés and blindness stereotypes. But the “relentless positivity” trope is dismantled with care as Ryder interacts with equally vulnerable characters and sees his clowning for the defense mechanism it often is—and acknowledges the anger it’s masking. Like Alice of the preceding A Blind Guide to Stinkville (2015), Ryder and his family and friends all experience disorientation—this time from the shock of moving forward as well as away—and learn how to grieve in their own ways. As Ryder might say, Vrabel has an eye for sympathetic, offbeat characters—and a knack for feel-good resolutions. (Fiction. 9-12)

About the Author

Beth Vrabel grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania. She won a short-story contest in fourth grade and promptly decided writing was what she was going to do with her life. Although her other plans–becoming a wolf biologist, a Yellowstone National Park ranger, and a professional roller skater–didn’t come to fruition, she stuck with the writing. After graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in journalism, she moved through the ranks of a local newspaper to become editor of two regional magazines and a lifestyle columnist. Beth now lives in Connecticut with her wonderful husband, two charming children, a spoiled rotten puppy, and two guinea pigs, Winn-Dixie and Pippin.

Her website is www.bethvrabel.com.

Around the Web

A Blind Guide to Normal on Amazon

A Blind Guide to Normal on JLG

A Blind Guide to Normal on Goodreads