Post-It Note Reviews: Twists on fairy tales, family drama, African icons, and a whole lot of graphic novels
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.
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.
It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy (ISBN-13: 9781524766467 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 03/31/2020, Ages 10-14)
The Breakfast Club meets middle school with a prank twist in this hilarious and heartwarming story about six very different seventh graders who are forced to band together after a vandalism incident.
When Theo’s photography project is mysteriously vandalized at school there are five suspected students who all say “it wasn’t me.”
Theo just wants to forget about the humiliating incident but his favorite teacher is determined to get to the bottom of it and has the six of them come into school over vacation to talk. She calls it “Justice Circle.” The six students—the Nerd, the Princess, the Jock, the Screw Up, the Weirdo, and the Nobody—think of it as detention. AKA their worst nightmare.
That is until they realize they might get along after all, despite their differences. But what is everyone hiding and will school ever be the same?
(POST-IT SAYS: The Breakfast Club but with 7th graders! A really great read with distinctive characters with lots of depth. Full of secrets, revelations, and true connections.)
Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, Ann Xu (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780062973863 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/27/2020, Ages 8-12)
For fans of American Born Chinese and Roller Girl, Measuring Up is an own voices graphic novel debut from Lily LaMotte and Ann Xu!
Twelve-year-old Cici has just moved from Taiwan to Seattle, and the only thing she wants more than to fit in at her new school is to celebrate her grandmother, A-má’s, seventieth birthday together.
Since she can’t go to A-má, Cici cooks up a plan to bring A-má to her by winning the grand prize in a kids’ cooking contest to pay for A-má’s plane ticket! There’s just one problem: Cici only knows how to cook Taiwanese food.
And after her pickled cucumber debacle at lunch, she’s determined to channel her inner Julia Child. Can Cici find a winning recipe to reunite with A-má, a way to fit in with her new friends, and somehow find herself too?
(POST-IT SAYS: Cute, fun, and will make you hungry! Lots about cooking but equally about friendship, culture, immigrants, heritage, and being “American.” The only flaw? No recipes!)
Keeping It Real by Paula Chase (ISBN-13: 9780062965691 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/19/2021, Ages 10-14)
Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion—but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie?
Paula Chase, the author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness—and what it means to be family—in this stand-alone novel perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Renée Watson.
Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees—and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.
As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.
Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.
(POST-IT SAYS: Perfect for upper middle graders! Super engaging voice, thoughtful approaches to issues like socioeconomic diversity/race/class, and just enough friend drama. Cool to see teens pursuing fashion and internships. A solid read.)
Friends Forever by Shannon Hale, LeUyen Pham (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781250317568 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 08/31/2021 Series: Friends #3, Ages 10-14)
Following up their mega-bestselling Real Friends and Best Friends graphic memoirs, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham are back with Friends Forever, a story about learning to love yourself exactly as you are.
Shannon is in eighth grade, and life is more complicated than ever. Everything keeps changing, her classmates are starting to date each other (but nobody wants to date her!), and no matter how hard she tries, Shannon can never seem to just be happy.
As she works through her insecurities and undiagnosed depression, she worries about disappointing all the people who care about her. Is something wrong with her? Can she be the person everyone expects her to be? And who does she actually want to be?
With their signature humor, warmth, and insight, Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham have crafted another incredible love letter to their younger selves and to readers everywhere, a reminder to us all that we are enough.
(POST-IT SAYS: Emotional, intense, and more solidly middle grade than the pervious two books in this series. A deep, often painful, look at expectations, mental health, and how awful our own inner voice can be. Honest, vulnerable, and ultimately hopeful.)
Sunny Makes a Splash (Sunny Series #4) by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338233179 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/21/2021 Series: Jennifer L. Holm’s Sunny Series #4, Ages 10-14)
The latest in the New York Times bestselling Sunny series brings Sunny into a sink-or-swim summer, where she needs to float her first job and dive into her first maybe-flirtation.
It’s summer, and Sunny is BORED. Most of her friends are out of town. Her mom wants her to baby-sit way more than Sunny wants to baby-sit. There’s nothing good on TV.
The only place that’s cool (in a not-boring sense) and cool (in a not-hot sense) is the community pool. Sunny loves going there . . . and loves it even more when she’s offered a job at the snack shack. Soon she’s flinging fries and serving soft ice-cream like a pro . . . with the assistance of the very sweet boy who works with her.
Sunny’s mom isn’t sure Sunny should be quite so independent. But Sunny is definitely sure: Life is best when it’s free swim.
(POST-IT SAYS: Nice to see Sunny back and having a good, fun summer while working her first job. Great look at expanding freedom, new friendships, and new responsibilities. And–yay–grandpa’s back!)
Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?!: (A Graphic Novel) by Sophie Escabasse (ISBN-13: 9780593119303 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 09/07/2021 Series: Witches of Brooklyn #2, Ages 8-12)
Effie returns in this spellbinding sequel: a middle-grade graphic novel about found family, friendship, and learning to embrace who you are!
Could there be even MORE witches in Brooklyn?!
Effie is EXCITED to meet so many witches, but what is going on with her friends? Suddenly Effie is no longer the newest kid in school, and it seems like her friends are happy to grow their little group, but Effie isn’t so sure. On top of that, learning magic is HARD WORK!
Effie just wants to have fun being a witch, but her life in Brooklyn is about to get weird(er).
The bewitching second book in the Witches of Brooklyn series captures what it means to be a friend, and how growing up can be a little less scary if you throw some magic in the mix.
(POST-IT SAYS: I love everything about this book (and the first one). The art is so whimsical and unlike what has become sort of standard in kids’ graphic novels. Full of humor, love, and diverse characters, this is a great addition to collections.)
Trespassers by Breena Bard (ISBN-13: 9781338264210 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 05/05/2020, Ages 8-12)
Gabby Woods loves a mystery, but is breaking into an abandoned lake house going too far to uncover the truth?
Gabby Woods is looking forward to another summer vacation at her family’s lake house, even though she would rather bury herself in a mystery novel than make new friends. But soon Gabby meets Paige, a snarky kid from Chicago, and they get caught up in a local mystery: the sudden disappearance of a glamorous couple and the extravagant lake house they left behind. To gather clues about the missing couple, Paige coaxes Gabby into trespassing. Though Gabby knows it’s wrong, each sneaky visit to the abandoned lake house uncovers new mysteries. With suspicions mounting about foul play, Gabby must decide what she’s willing to risk to uncover the truth, or if solving this mystery — and keeping her friendship with Paige — are more trouble than they’re worth.
(POST-IT SAYS: A satisfying mystery. Bookish Gabby is well paired with adventurous Paige and the two are surprised to become actual friends. This fairly long book has a lot of dialogue/reading in it, which is also satisfying.)
Things We Couldn’t Say by Jay Coles (ISBN-13: 9781338734188 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/21/2021, Ages 12-18)
From one of the brightest and most acclaimed new lights in YA fiction, a fantastic new novel about a bi Black boy finding first love . . . and facing the return of the mother who abandoned his preacher family when he was nine.
There’s always been a hole in Gio’s life. Not because he’s into both guys and girls. Not because his father has some drinking issues. Not because his friends are always bringing him their drama. No, the hole in Gio’s life takes the shape of his birth mom, who left Gio, his brother, and his father when Gio was nine years old. For eight years, he never heard a word from her . . . and now, just as he’s started to get his life together, she’s back.
It’s hard for Gio to know what to do. Can he forgive her like she wants to be forgiven? Or should he tell her she lost her chance to be in his life? Complicating things further, Gio’s started to hang out with David, a new guy on the basketball team. Are they friends? More than friends? At first, Gio’s not sure . . . especially because he’s not sure what he wants from anyone right now.
There are no easy answers to love — whether it’s family love or friend love or romantic love. In Things We Couldn’t Say, Jay Coles, acclaimed author of Tyler Johnson Was Here, shows us a guy trying to navigate love in all its ambiguity — hoping at the other end he’ll be able to figure out who is and who he should be.
(POST-IT SAYS: A beautiful book. I want to climb into it and hug Gio. Looks at friendship, bisexuality, racism, trauma, religion, forgiveness, and moving on. So well written, emotional, loving, and real. More Jay Coles, please.)
Beasts and Beauty: Dangerous Tales by Soman Chainani, Julia Iredale (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780062652638 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 09/21/2021, Ages 11+)
You think you know these stories, don’t you?
You are wrong.
You don’t know them at all.
Twelve tales, twelve dangerous tales of mystery, magic, and rebellious hearts. Each twists like a spindle to reveal truths full of warning and triumph, truths that free hearts long kept tame, truths that explore life . . . and death.
A prince has a surprising awakening . . .
A beauty fights like a beast . . .
A boy refuses to become prey . . .
A path to happiness is lost. . . . then found again.
New York Times bestselling author Soman Chainani respins old stories into fresh fairy tales for a new era and creates a world like no other. These stories know you. They understand you. They reflect you. They are tales for our times. So read on, if you dare.
(POST-IT SAYS: Definitely grab this if you need a gift for a reader in your life. Gorgeous illustrations alongside familiar fairy tales given new, inclusive twists. As dark and evocative as the cover implies.)
Cardboardia 1: The Other Side of the Box by Lucy Campagnolo, Richard Fairgray (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781645950998 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 09/07/2021 Series: Cardboardia #1, Ages 8-10)
A group of friends must use their ingenuity to save a parallel world that can only be accessed through cardboard boxes in this series starter from Black Sand Beach author Richard Fairgray and Lucy Campagnolo. Perfect for readers ready to step up from Jelly.
When Mac, Masie, and Bird find mysterious tokens in their cereal boxes, they’re transported to Cardboardia, a magical landmade of paper and cardboard. In this parallel universe to ours, creativity thrives: Every time a box of anything is created in our world, a replica appears there, bringing residents art supplies, food, books, and more.
But an evil presence is slowly moving in, threatening to wipe all art and beauty from this paper paradise. It’s no mistake that the three friends have been transported through their cardboard portals. Each has a special talent they never knew existed. And only when they figure out to harness them together will they be able to stop the destruction.
(POST-IT SAYS: Every kid who has created play spaces with cardboard boxes will be unsurprised to learn here that they can transport you to magical lands. Little dialogue—the focus is on the story the big panels with bright art tell.)
African Icons: Ten People Who Shaped History by Tracey Baptiste (ISBN-13: 9781616209001 Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill Publication date: 10/19/2021, Ages 8-12)
“In African Icons, Baptiste engages in the hard work of unveiling the myths about the African continent to young readers . . . This is a great beginner’s guide to pre-colonial Africa.”
—Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist
Meet ten real-life kings, queens, inventors, scholars, and visionaries who lived in Africa thousands of years ago and changed the world.
Black history began long ago with the many cultures and people of the African continent.
Through portraits of ten heroic figures, author Tracey Baptiste takes readers on a journey across Africa to meet some of the great leaders and thinkers whose vision built a continent and shaped the world.
Illustrator Hillary D. Wilson’s brilliant portraits accompany each profile, along with vivid, information-filled landscapes, maps, and graphics for readers to pore over and return to again and again.
(POST-IT SAYS: I had heard of only 1 person in here. 1! Clearly this is a necessary book. Packed with information about the 10 people, cultures, history, society, achievements, and legacies, this is a vial addition to all collections.)
Just Pretend by Tori Sharp (ISBN-13: 9780316538855 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/18/2021 (Ages 10-13)
Fans of Real Friends and Be Prepared will love this energetic, affecting graphic memoir, in which a young girl uses her active imagination to navigate middle school as well as the fallout from her parents’ divorce.
Tori has never lived in just one world.
Since her parents’ divorce, she’s lived in both her mom’s house and her dad’s new apartment. And in both places, no matter how hard she tries, her family still treats her like a little kid. Then there’s school, where friendships old and new are starting to feel more and more out of her hands.
Thankfully, she has books-and writing. And now the stories she makes up in her head just might save her when everything else around her—friendships, school, family—is falling apart.
Author Tori Sharp takes us with her on a journey through the many commonplace but complex issues of fractured families, as well as the beautiful fantasy narrative that helps her cope, gorgeously illustrated and full of magic, fairies, witches and lost and found friendships.
(POST-IT SAYS: An easy one to recommend to readers who love Telgemeier and Hale’s graphic novels. Deals a lot with strains on friendship and family as well as the safe escape writing and books can provide.)
The Big Break by Mark Tatulli (ISBN-13: 9780316440554 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 03/31/2020, Ages 8-10)
A full-color graphic novel about growing up, growing apart, and monster hunting, perfect for fans of Real Friends and All’s Faire in Middle School.
Andrew and Russ are best friends obsessed with finding the legendary Jersey Devil that supposedly lives in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey, right in their own backyards. They’re even making a movie about their desperate search for any sign of the mythical creature. But when Russ starts spending less time on their movie, and more time with artsy, first-chair violinist Tara, Andrew feels the cracks in their friendship begin to form.
Suddenly, all of Andrew’s favorite things are too babyish for Russ, and Andrew is left trying to figure out where he belongs without his best friend by his side. Then a rash of Jersey Devil sightings excite their small town, and the boys are thrown back together on a fevered hunt. Can Andrew and Russ put aside their differences for one last chance to find the monster of their dreams, or will the break in their friendship be too big to mend?
(POST-IT SAYS: Nice look at how middle school friendships can change and be stressed. Fun cryptozoology hook, but lots of real vulnerability and heart here, too.)
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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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