Post-It Note Reviews: The latest graphic novels, nonfiction, and YA and middle grade fiction
Post-it Note Reviews are a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers. Doing these short reviews would also be a great way to share more books during distance learning!
Frequent blog readers may have noticed I’m doing a lot more post-it-style reviews and less longer, individual review posts. Partially this is because my way of coping with the many upsetting pieces of the past year has been to drown myself in reading, so I’m burning through so many more books and want to share them, in some form, here. It’s been so hard for authors to be able to promote their books, through things like release parties or festivals or other events, and I want to share as many books as I can particularly these days to help them get the exposure they deserve.
All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the Post-It notes are below each description.
Ensnared in the Wolf’s Lair: Inside the 1944 Plot to Kill Hitler and the Ghost Children of His Revenge by Ann Bausum (ISBN-13: 9781426338540 Publisher: National Geographic Publication date: 01/12/2021, Ages 10-14)
“I’ve come on orders from Berlin to fetch the three children.” —Gestapo agent, August 24, 1944
With those chilling words Christa von Hofacker and her younger siblings found themselves ensnared in a web of family punishment designed to please one man—Adolf Hitler. The furious dictator sought merciless revenge against not only Christa’s father and the other Germans who had just tried to overthrow his government. He wanted to torment their relatives, too, regardless of age or stature. All of them. Including every last child.
(POST-IT SAYS: I hope your library or classroom is stocked with all of Bausum’s books. This is a powerful look at resistance, dissent, separation, and punishment. Totally compelling. I don’t think other WWII/Hitler books have talked so much about this particular part of history.)
Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher 2: Tater Invaders! by David Fremont (ISBN-13: 9781645950066 Publisher: Pixel+Ink Publication date: 02/02/2021, Ages 8-10)
More hilarious antics, more fast food, and more zany monsters combine in a treat middle grade graphic novel readers will devour in the second installment of the Carlton Crumple Creature Catcher series for fans of Lunch Lady and Dog Man.
Now that Carlton’s an official Creature Catcher with the Shady Plains police department, he’s on the hunt for a new monster.
While taking a snack break with his buddy and faithful assistant Lulu, suddenly one of their tater tots comes alive! And that little robot tot dude leads them to whole underground world of evil potato creatures.
Holy bacon bits!
It’s Carlton Crumple to the rescue, and he’ll have to get to the root of the problem before everything becomes a mashed potato mess!
David Fremont bring even more rolling-on-the-floor humor and fast-food fun in the second installment in his bright and brilliant middle grade graphic novel series, which will especially appeal to fans of series like Lunch Lady and Dog Man.
(POST-IT SAYS: Completely silly and wacky. The fast pacing and busy, goofy illustrations will make readers fly through this low-brow but entertaining book. Hand to fans of Dog Man, The Bad Guys, and Lunch Lady.)
Life in the Balance by Jen Petro-Roy (ISBN-13: 9781250619730 Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Publication date: 02/16/2021, Ages 8-12)
Veronica struggles to balance softball, friends, and family turmoil in this new honest and heartfelt middle grade novel by Jen Petro-Roy, Life in the Balance.
Veronica Conway has been looking forward to trying out for the All-Star softball team for years. She’s practically been playing the game since she was a baby. She should have this tryout on lock.
Except right before tryouts, Veronica’s mom announces that she’s entering rehab for alcoholism, and her dad tells her that they may not be able to afford the fees needed to be on the team.
Veronica decides to enter the town talent show in an effort to make her own money, but along the way discovers a new hobby that leads her to doubt her feelings for the game she thought she loved so much.
Is her mom the only one learning balance, or can Veronica find a way to discover what she really wants to do with her life?
(POST-IT SAYS: So much to love here—a compassionate look at addiction and its many effects, sports-focus that will draw in many readers, navigating friendships, finding your interests, and more. Honest, real, and emotional. A great addition to collections.)
Ellie Makes Her Move by Marilyn Kaye (ISBN-13: 9780823446094 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 02/09/2021 Series: The Spyglass Sisterhood #1, Ages 8-12)
A magical spyglass reveals secrets that will bring four girls together in this new series.
Twelve-year-old Ellie is ordinary. Absolutely, positively ordinary. Then her dad’s latest community project makes their whole ritzy town, including all of Ellie’s friends, turn against them. Tired of being ostracized, Ellie’s family moves to the other side of the state to live in a rickety 100-year-old house complete with a turret—and Ellie swears off friendship forever.
That is until Ellie explores the turret and discovers an old-fashioned telescope—a spyglass. When she looks through it, the world she sees isn’t the same that’s out the window. There’s a community center that isn’t built yet and her new classmate Alyssa flying around on a broomstick!
To figure out what the magical images mean, Ellie recruits other self-described loners, Alyssa and Rachel. When they see a vision of fellow student Kiara playing tag with a tiger and a donkey—they have their first real spyglass secret to solve.
The New York Times best-selling author behind the Gifted series and the Replica books, Marilyn Kaye delivers a story filled with light magic and heart in this first book in the Spyglass Sisterhood series. Each girl will take a turn at the spyglass, confronting fears and sticking up for her peers.
(POST-IT SAYS: A quiet story about friendship, fitting in, and some mysterious magic. The pacing is pretty slow and while the characters are in 7th grade, it’s a younger audience who will appreciate this series.)
When Dogs Heal: Powerful Stories of People Living with HIV and the Dogs That Saved Them by Jesse Freidin, Robert Garofalo, Zach Stafford, Christina Garofalo (ISBN-13: 9781541586765 Publisher: Lerner Publishing Group Publication date: 03/02/2021, Ages 15+)
The best medicine may not always be found at a pharmacy or in a doctor’s office. Sometimes it comes in the form of a four-legged friend.
Three well-known leaders in their fields—award-winning dog photographer Jesse Freidin, adolescent HIV+ specialist Dr. Robert Garofalo, and LGBTQ advocate and journalist Zach Stafford—offer a refreshing, beautiful, and unique portrait of HIV infused with a deep message of hope. Each extraordinary profile shows the power of the incredible bonds between humans and their canine companions, whether that means combating loneliness and stigma, discovering the importance of unconditional love, overcoming addiction, or simply having a best friend in a time of need.
When Dogs Heal shares the stories of a diverse set of people who are thriving and celebrating life thanks to the compassion and unconditional love of their dogs.
A portion of the proceeds from this book benefits Fred Says, an organization dedicated to financially supporting HIV+ teen health care.
(POST-IT SAYS: A beautiful testament to love, resilience, and the power of a good dog. Will inform readers on the history and progress of AIDS treatments. Narratives are both painful and uplifting.)
Muted by Tami Charles (ISBN-13: 9781338673524 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 02/02/2021, Ages 14+)
A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of ambition, music, and innocence lost, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jason Reynolds!
Be bold. Get seen. Be Heard.
For seventeen-year-old Denver, music is everything. Writing, performing, and her ultimate goal: escaping her very small, very white hometown.
So Denver is more than ready on the day she and her best friends Dali and Shak sing their way into the orbit of the biggest R&B star in the world, Sean “Mercury” Ellis. Merc gives them everything: parties, perks, wild nights — plus hours and hours in the recording studio. Even the painful sacrifices and the lies the girls have to tell are all worth it.
Until they’re not.
Denver begins to realize that she’s trapped in Merc’s world, struggling to hold on to her own voice. As the dream turns into a nightmare, she must make a choice: lose her big break, or get broken.
Inspired by true events, Muted is a fearless exploration of the dark side of the music industry, the business of exploitation, how a girl’s dreams can be used against her — and what it takes to fight back.
(POST-IT SAYS: Intense. Hand this to readers who enjoyed Grown or who are leaning what the music/fame worlds can do to young women thanks to #FreeBritney. I absolutely burned through this story and did not see the twist at the end coming. Wow.)
Kingston and the Magician’s Lost and Found by Rucker Moses, Theo Gangi (ISBN-13: 9780525516866 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 02/16/2021, Ages 10-14)
Magic has all but disappeared in Brooklyn, but one tenacious young magician is determined to bring it back in this exciting middle grade mystery.
Twelve-year-old Kingston has just moved from the suburbs back to Echo City, Brooklyn—the last place his father was seen alive. Kingston’s father was King Preston, one of the world’s greatest magicians. Until one trick went wrong and he disappeared. Now that Kingston is back in Echo City, he’s determined to find his father.
Somehow, though, when his father disappeared, he took all of Echo City’s magic with him. Now Echo City—a ghost of its past—is living up to its name. With no magic left, the magicians have packed up and left town and those who’ve stayed behind don’t look too kindly on any who reminds them of what they once had.
When Kingston finds a magic box his father left behind as a clue, Kingston knows there’s more to his father’s disappearance than meets the eye. He’ll have to keep it a secret—that is, until he can restore magic to Echo City. With his cousin Veronica and childhood friend Too Tall Eddie, Kingston works to solve the clues, but one wrong move and his father might not be the only one who goes missing.
(POST-IT SAYS: Magic, fantasy, mystery—what’s not to like?! The fast-paced plot will immediately grab readers. Ciphers, puzzles, and twists abound—great appeal for readers who are drawn to those things. Almost all characters are Black.)
Some Other Now by Sarah Everett (ISBN-13: 9780358251866 Publisher: HMH Books Publication date: 02/23/2021, Ages 14-18)
This Is Us for teens, this luminous and heartbreaking contemporary novel follows a girl caught between two brothers as the three of them navigate family, loss, and love over the course of two summers. For fans of Far From the Tree, Emergency Contact, and Nina LaCour.
Before she kissed one of the Cohen boys, seventeen-year-old Jessi Rumfield knew what it was like to have a family—even if, technically, that family didn’t belong to her. She’d spent her childhood in the house next door, challenging Rowan Cohen to tennis matches while his older brother, Luke, studied in the background and Mel watched over the three like the mother Jessi always wished she had.
But then everything changed. It’s been almost a year since Jessi last visited the Cohen house. Rowan is gone. Mel is in remission and Luke hates Jessi for the role she played in breaking his family apart. Now Jessi spends her days at a dead-end summer job avoiding her real mother, who suddenly wants to play a role in Jessi’s life after being absent for so long. But when Luke comes home from college, it’s hard to ignore the past. And when he asks Jessi to pretend to be his girlfriend for the final months of Mel’s life, Jessi finds herself drawn back into the world of the Cohens. Everything’s changed, but Jessi can’t help wanting to be a Cohen, even if it means playing pretend for one final summer.
(POST-IT SAYS: Don’t open this looking for a swoony romance—this is a real gut-punch of a look at grief, death, loss, depression, and families falling apart. A real twist on the “fake dating” concept.)
After the Rain by Nnedi Okorafor, David Brame (Illustrator), John Jennings (Adapted by) (ISBN-13: 9781419743559 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 01/05/2021, Ages 16+)
During a furious storm a young woman’s destiny is revealed . . . and her life is changed forever
After the Rain is a graphic novel adaptation of Nnedi Okorafor’s short story “On the Road.” The drama takes place in a small Nigerian town during a violent and unexpected storm. A Nigerian-American woman named Chioma answers a knock at her door and is horrified to see a boy with a severe head wound standing at her doorstep. He reaches for her, and his touch burns like fire. Something is very wrong. Haunted and hunted, Chioma must embrace her heritage in order to survive. John Jennings and David Brame’s graphic novel collaboration uses bold art and colors to powerfully tell this tale of identity and destiny.
(POST-IT SAYS: Hand this to older readers who like gore and horror. This suspenseful and creepy story mixes the supernatural with folklore to explore identity and culture.)
Upstaged by Diana Harmon Asher (ISBN-13: 9781419740817 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/16/2021, Ages 8-12)
A shy seventh grader learns to step into the spotlight in this heartwarming middle-grade novel by acclaimed author, Diana Harmon Asher
Shira Gordon is painfully shy. She rarely speaks and blushes at everything. And yet, when she’s alone in her room, she’ll sing and dance, dreaming she were different. So when her best friend forces her to audition for their school’s production of The Music Man, she’s mostly hoping the play will get canceled . . . but a tiny part of her hopes she’ll get in.
And she does. As a member of the barbershop quartet. Playing a dude with a mustache is not exactly her dream role, but Shira is surprised by how much she loves rehearsing with her quirky new friends. When her teacher asks her to understudy the lead role, Marian the Librarian, she reluctantly accepts.
It’s not easy to understudy Monica Manley, an eighth-grade diva who will notbe upstaged. And things get even more complicated when a mysterious prankster starts playing tricks on Monica and Shira’s crush joins the cast. But something keeps Shira going, and it might just be Marian herself. Sure, Marian is a leading lady, but she’s also misunderstood, lonely . . . and shy. And if a star can be shy, then maybe, just maybe, a shy person can be a star.
(POST-IT SAYS: Recommend this one to the shy kids, the theater kids, the “finding their people” kids, the “where is my place in middle school” kids. Wide appeal, great characters, and full of heart. A great read.)
The Follower by Kate Doughty (ISBN-13: 9781419748011 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 13-18)
A spine-tingling YA thriller based on a true story
Instagram-famous triplets Cecily, Amber, and Rudy—the children of home renovation superstars—are ready for a perfect summer. They’ve just moved onto the site of their parents’ latest renovation project when they begin to receive spine-tingling messages from someone called The Follower. It soon becomes clear that this anonymous threat is more than a simple Internet troll, and they can’t wait to shatter the Cole family’s perfect veneer and take back what’s theirs.
The Follower examines the implications of what it is to be watched in the era of social-media fame—as well as the lies we tell and the lengths we’ll go to uphold a perfect image, when our lives depend on it.
(POST IT SAYS: I was obsessed with the story of the Watcher and that NJ house, so I burned through this seemingly Watcher-inspired book. Satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful thriller that’s fast-paced and not entirely predictable.)
Rivals by Tommy Greenwald (ISBN-13: 9781419748271 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 03/23/2021, Ages 10-14)
From the author of the award-winning Game Changer comes a gripping novel about two student-athletes searching for stardom, a young reporter searching for the truth, and a crosstown basketball rivalry that goes too far
The people of Walthorne love their basketball—and one of the things they love most is the special rivalry between the Walthorne North Middle School Cougars and the Walthorne South Middle School Panthers. As the season begins, two star players are feeling the heat: Austin Chambers, captain of Walthorne North, worries that he’s not good enough to live up to his father’s legacy, while across town, the brilliantly talented Carter Haswell, captain of Walthorne South, is already under pressure to get a scholarship that might ease his family’s financial stress.
While both boys do whatever they can to make sure their team wins, Alfie Jenks, a school sports reporter, discovers that behind-the-scenes scandals are just as much a part of youth sports as on-the-court action. When she blows the story wide open, the whole season is jeopardized.
Told through a series of flashbacks, newspaper reports, social media posts, and interviews, Rivals will have readers tearing through the pages to see what happens next—and asking themselves if winning has become more important than doing the right thing.
(POST-IT SAYS: The format (texts, interviews, different narrators, etc) will engage readers. Lots of action and exploration of youth sports and all that goes with them. Delves into family issues, pressure and expectations, rivalries, and choices. Wide appeal, especially for sports fans.)
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About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
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