Post-It Note Reviews: Disability essays, a middle grade about opioid addiction, so many graphic novels, and more!
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. Reading those is your best bet—carpal tunnel has made my handwriting mostly a disaster!
Shark Summer by Ira Marcks (ISBN-13: 9780316461443 Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers Publication date: 05/25/2021, Ages 8-12)
When a Hollywood film crew arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with a mechanical shark and a youth film contest boasting a huge cash prize, disgraced pitcher Gayle “Blue Streak” Briar sees a chance to turn a bad season into the best summer ever.
After recruiting aspiring cinematographer Elijah Jones and moody director Maddie Grey, Gayle and her crew set out to uncover the truth of the island’s own phantom shark and win the prize money. But these unlikely friends are about to discover what happens when you turn your camera toward the bad things lurking below the surface.
(POST-IT SAYS: This was fantastic. New friendships unfold as three kids works together on a film. Complex characters, interesting setting, and a well-developed story. Full of mystery, conflict, and real connection.)
What About Will by Ellen Hopkins (ISBN-13: 9780593108642 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 10-13)
From #1 New York Times bestselling author Ellen Hopkins comes a new heartbreakingly tender middle grade novel-in-verse about the bonds between two brothers and the love they share.
Twelve-year-old Trace Reynolds has always looked up to his brother, mostly because Will, who’s five years older, has never looked down on him. It was Will who taught Trace to ride a bike, would watch sports on TV with him, and cheer him on at Little League. But when Will was knocked out cold during a football game, resulting in a brain injury–everything changed. Now, seventeen months later, their family is still living under the weight of “the incident,” that left Will with a facial tic, depression, and an anger he cannot always control, culminating in their parents’ divorce. Afraid of further fracturing his family, Trace begins to cover for Will who, struggling with addiction to pain medication, becomes someone Trace doesn’t recognize. But when the brother he loves so much becomes more and more withdrawn, and escalates to stealing money and ditching school, Trace realizes some secrets cannot be kept if we ever hope to heal.
(POST-IT SAYS: I love that Hopkins is now writing middle grade, too. Tackles addiction/opioid abuse, mental health, and changing family dynamics. A raw, powerful look at how addiction affects a family.)
Himawari House by Harmony Becker (ISBN-13: 9781250235572 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 11/09/2021, Ages 13-17)
A young adult graphic novel about three foreign exchange students and the pleasures, and difficulties, of adjusting to living in Japan.
Living in a new country is no walk in the park—Nao, Hyejung, and Tina can all attest to that. The three of them became fast friends through living together in the Himawari House in Tokyo and attending the same Japanese cram school. Nao came to Japan to reconnect with her Japanese heritage, while Hyejung and Tina came to find freedom and their own paths. Though each of them has her own motivations and challenges, they all deal with language barriers, being a fish out of water, self discovery, love, and family.
(POST-IT SAYS: Super interesting story of young adults from various backgrounds finding community, freedom, and identities while living together in Japan. A layered, complex look at making your own path.)
Disability Visibility (Adapted for Young Adults): 17 First-Person Stories for Today by Alice Wong (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9780593381670 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 10/26/2021, Ages 12-17)
Disabled young people will be proud to see themselves reflected in this hopeful, compelling, and insightful essay collection, adapted for young adults from the critically acclaimed adult book, Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century that “sheds light on the experience of life as an individual with disabilities, as told by none other than authors with these life experiences.” —Chicago Tribune, “Best books published in summer 2020” (Vintage/Knopf Doubleday edition).
The seventeen eye-opening essays in Disability Visibility, all written by disabled people, offer keen insight into the complex and rich disability experience, examining life’s ableism and inequality, its challenges and losses, and celebrating its wisdom, passion, and joy.
The accounts in this collection ask readers to think about disabled people not as individuals who need to be “fixed,” but as members of a community with its own history, culture, and movements. They offer diverse perspectives that speak to past, present, and future generations. It is essential reading for all.
(POST-IT SAYS: What a powerful and important collection. The authors have diverse backgrounds and a variety of disabilities. This passionate, political, and so very personal collection is essential reading.)
How to Find What You’re Not Looking For by Veera Hiranandani (ISBN-13: 9780525555032 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 09/14/2021, Ages 10-14)
New historical fiction from a Newbery Honor–winning author about how middle schooler Ariel Goldberg’s life changes when her big sister elopes following the 1967 Loving v. Virginia decision, and she’s forced to grapple with both her family’s prejudice and the antisemitism she experiences, as she defines her own beliefs.
Twelve-year-old Ariel Goldberg’s life feels like the moment after the final guest leaves the party. Her family’s Jewish bakery runs into financial trouble, and her older sister has eloped with a young man from India following the Supreme Court decision that strikes down laws banning interracial marriage. As change becomes Ariel’s only constant, she’s left to hone something that will be with her always—her own voice.
(POST-IT SAYS: Really outstanding. Unique look at interracial/interfaith relationships in the late 1960s. Sweet Ari grapples with so many big questions and finds her voice through her new thoughts/beliefs and through poetry.)
Louie and Bear in the Land of Anything Goes by Brady Smith (ISBN-13: 9780593224151 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 12/07/2021, Ages 8-12)
“The kind of book I wish I had as a kid!” – Christopher Eliopoulos, author-illustrator of Cosmic Commandos
Get sucked in – literally – to the Land of Anything Goes with Louie and Bear, in this hilarious graphic novel filled with bizarre new worlds, crazy creatures, and a whole lot of adventure! Perfect for fans of Hilo and Cardboard Kingdom!
Welcome to the Land of Anything Goes! It’s a world filled with wild creatures, absurd chicken-boy hybrids, and oh, did we mention the giant, winged, kid-eating monster called a Cacapoop?
When Louie and his pet hamster get sucked through a portal into a bizarre new land where truly anything can happen, they have no idea the adventure that’s waiting for them. Really, they’re less focused on adventure and more concerned about the fact that Louie has turned into a wrestler, Scooty the hamster has become Bear the giant bear, and they’re now being chased across a purple planet by a terrifying monster! When they find other kids stuck on the planet too, they learn that things are even worse than they feared — dozens of kids are trapped by the dastardly Harry Larry, and it’s up to Louie to save them all. And if that wasn’t worrying enough, Bear can’t even find a single burrito to eat! In order to make it home alive, Louie and Bear will have to embrace their destinies and save the day… or be stranded in the Land of Anything Goes forever.
(POST-IT SAYS: Visual chaos, weird creatures, and an infinite supply of poop jokes abound in this busy adventure. Sweet spot is probably 8-9 year olds who enjoy humor and wacky characters.)
Dolphin Girl 2: Eye of the Baloney Storm by Zach Smith (ISBN-13: 9781645950202 Publisher: Holiday House Publication date: 01/18/2022 Series: Dolphin Girl #2, Ages 8-12)
Attention fans of Lunch Lady and Steven Universe! Middle grade graphic novel superhero-in-training Dolphin Girl is back fending off cold cut storms and learning to deal with a new (super-annoying) rival in the second book in this side-splitting series.
Ever since the evil Sea Cow tried to steal Dolphin Girl and Captain Dugong’s restaurant/hideout in Trouble in Pizza Paradise!, business has been bad. Dolphin Girl attempts to rebrand the restaurant, but everyone who works there hates the new outfits and the new music. Even worse, there’s a new superhero in town—everyone loves, Wonder Friend and they seemingly can do no wrong. On the other hand, Dolphin Girl is getting everything wrong.
But when Sea Cow returns to cover Midwestern Deerburbia in a blizzard of baloney, Dolphin Girl and Otter Boy have no choice but to team up with the all-too-wonderful Wonder Friend to prevent their town from becoming a big Jimmy John’s sandwich!
With bold, bright, energetic illustration Into the Baloney Storm serves up a graphic novel that fans of Steven Universe will be eager to sink their teeth into.
(POST-IT SAYS: If this were a cartoon, I’d watch it! Quirky, unusual superheroes, low-stakes adventure, and lots of humor. A baloney blizzard and bumbling heroes—this will fly off shelves!)
I Know Your Secret by Daphne Benedis-Grab (ISBN-13: 9781338746334 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 12/07/2021, Ages 8-12)
This twisty middle school thriller is One of Us is Lying meets Pretty Little Liars for young readers.
The email arrives Sunday night: Do exactly what I say, when I say it, or I will reveal your secret.
On Monday morning, seventh graders Owen, Gemma, Ally, and Todd, who have nothing in common and barely know each other, must work together and follow the instructions of an anonymous blackmailer. None of them want to go along with the blackmailer’s strange instructions, but each of them have a secret they must protect at all costs.
Set during a single day of school, the students race against the clock to complete a unsettling list of tasks. They’ll do whatever it takes to keep their secrets hidden . . . but when they discover what the blackmailer has in mind, they realize things may have just gone too far. Can they put a stop to the plan, or is it too late?
(POST-IT SAYS: 4 7th graders are blackmailed into completing tasks at school and try to solve who’s behind it all. Satisfyingly suspenseful with some big secrets. Alternating perspectives move the story along quickly.)
Courage: My Story of Persecution by Freshta Tori Jan, Zainab Nasrati (Editor), Zoe Ruiz (Editor), Amanda Uhle (Editor), Dave Eggers (Editor) (ISBN-13: 9781324016670 Publisher: Norton Young Readers Publication date: 01/11/2022 Series: I, Witness, Ages 9-14)
Continuing this propulsive middle grade nonfiction series, a young woman once persecuted by the Taliban shares her journey to becoming a community activist.As a girl and as part of an ethnic minority in Afghanistan, Freshta Tori Jan was persecuted relentlessly. Her family faced kidnappings and daily murder attempts on the bus, on the way to school, in the workplace, and beyond. Freshta’s school was shut down by the Taliban, and many of her friends were murdered and shot. Her journey through poverty, terrorism, and other forms of injustice has enabled her to be a voice for those unable to share their stories and those unable to receive the opportunities she has sought. She believes in empowering youth in order to bring about change and be the leaders of today and tomorrow.
With a voice that is both accessible and engaging, Freshta brings forward a captivating first-person account of strength, resilience, and determination, and delivers compelling narrative nonfiction by young people, for young people.
(POST-IT SAYS: Glad to see another volume in this great series. Poignant look at life under the Taliban, the Hazara genocide, and the commitment to getting an education. Both moving and eye-opening.)
Manu by Kelly Fernández (ISBN-13: 9781338264180 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 11/02/2021, Ages 8-12)
A funny and heartwarming middle-grade graphic novel adventure about friendship, defying expectations, and finding your place.
Manu and her best friend, Josefina, live at a magical school for girls, and Manu is always getting into trouble. The headmistress believes that Manu has the potential to help people with her magic, but Manu would rather have fun than fall in line. One day, a prank goes seriously wrong, and Josefina gets angry and wishes for Manu’s magic to disappear… and it does. Manu uses a dangerous spell to restore it, but it makes her magic too powerful and nearly impossible to control. Great power comes at a cost, and it may be a price that Manu isn’t able to pay!
(POST-IT SAYS: Give me more adventures of Manu! She has tons of magical talent, but questions about her background and her inability to control her powers makes her dangerous. Love the setting and Manu’s escapades.)
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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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