Post-It Note Reviews: Quick looks at new books for all ages!
It’s hard to complain about working in a school and getting that amazing schedule of three months off. Yet somehow, 2/3 of the summer is pretty much done and my TBR pile remains a towering stack of doom. I read a ton, but a ton of books come in the mail, and let’s not even talk about my almost daily need to put library books on hold. And do you know what I’m spending evenings doing these days, instead of reading? Watching Downton Abbey. We’re usually a good 10-20 years late on finding anything entertaining, so it seems fitting that we’re spending yet another pandemic summer hanging at home and watching something that’s not exactly current. The highlight of our summer conversations? Casting the entire show with animals. Yep, it’s wild times around here (and no, not all the animals are dogs!).
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. They’re also an easier way for me to share books I’ve loved, because let’s face it, digging deep enough to find the bandwidth to write long, intelligent reviews has been a challenge lately. I’d explain, but I think we all exist in the same exhausting world.
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.
Ultimate Book of the Future: Incredible, Ingenious, and Totally Real Tech that will Change Life as You Know It by National Geographic Kids (ISBN-13: 9781426371622 Publisher: National Geographic Publication date: 06/07/2022 Series: National Geographic Kids, Ages 8-12)
Robot dogs! Jet packs! Cyborgs! Super-sleek space suits! It’s not science fiction, it’s science reality. And soon, it may be part of everyday life. This book is a jam-packed collection of the coolest tech and wildest ideas that are shaping the world of tomorrow.
Blast off for an unbelievably fascinating journey through time, space, and even a holographic pop concert (or two)! With chapters on future cities, space travel, high-tech entertainment, and even saving the world, Future World is a thorough, fun compendium of high-tech gadgets being built today and the coolest stuff tomorrow has to offer, plus the amazing dreamers making it all happen.
Special “Could It Happen?” features tackle kids” burning hypothetical questions, like whether Jurassic Park could really exist, or whether a robot could become president. Each chapter also includes a “Future Fail!” that profiles one thing we thought we’d have by now, but don’t (like everything from The Jetsons.) And kids will see where they might fit into the picture through the “Jobs of Tomorrow” profiled in each chapter. (Job titles include mind reader, space pilot, and robot-human communicator. Seriously!)
This is the perfect book for fans of sci-fi, budding engineers and scientists, lovers of futuristic movies and pop culture, and anyone who has ever dreamed about what tomorrow might look like.
(POST-IT SAYS: Beautiful design, fascinating content (especially the “fails”), and will easily appeal to a wide range of curious readers. Pretty sure we’ll have weeks of me relaying info I learned to my family. A must-have book for collections that serve kids.)
Lia and Beckett’s Abracadabra by Amy Noelle Parks (ISBN-13: 9781419753442 Publisher: Amulet Books Publication date: 07/05/2022, Ages 12-18)
A star-crossed YA rom-com that has the charm of Love and Gelato and the magic of Now You See Me
Seventeen-year-old Lia Sawyer is thrilled to get a mysterious invitation from her grandmother to compete in a stage magic contest––even though her parents object. But she’s going to be judged by a bunch of old-school magicians who think that because she’s a girl, her only magical talents lie in wearing sparkly dresses, providing distractions, and getting sawed, crushed, or stretched. And Lia can’t ask her grandmother for help because she’s disappeared, leaving behind only her best magic tricks, a few obscure clues, and an order to stay away from Blackwell boys, the latest generation of a rival magic family. Lia totally plans to follow her grandmother’s rule––until the cute boy she meets on the beach turns out to be Beckett Blackwell, son of the biggest old guard magical family there is. Witty and romantic, Lia and Beckett’s Abracadabra is a YA rom-com with a magical twist!
(POST-IT SAYS: This was really cute! The magic contest and the world of magicians helps set this story apart from other light rom-com/enemies-to-lovers stories. I loved Lia—she’s interesting and cool and knows it! Hand to fans of Dessen.)
Winona Forever parts 1, 2, and 3 by Shawn Patrick Boyd and illustrated by Elijah Henry (learn about purchasing options here)
On Halloween 1987, The Outcasts (Darby, Boots, Sci-Fi and Pretty Boy) join up with three popular kids to hunt down a supernatural relic in a haunted priory. As they unlock clues to its location, they find unexpected first loves, surprising heroes and a cutthroat secret society out to claim the relic for its own dark purposes.
Winona Forever is a suspenseful mystery-thriller for anyone who loves the 80s but doesn’t have a time machine to get there.
(POST-IT SAYS: Something strange if afoot in 1980s Winona, MN. Will the Outcasts be able to outwit a secret society to find a relic and help Darby’s mom? A good read for those looking to spend some more time in the 80s.)
It Doesn’t Scare Me!: A Discovery! by Candy James (ISBN-13: 9780593350201 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 06/14/2022 Series: An Archie & Reddie Book #4, Ages 4-8)
Elephant & Piggie meets Narwhal and Jelly in this hilarious new early-reader graphic novel series about Archie & Reddie, two fox friends who have wild fun! In this fourth book, when Archie is woken by a scary noise in the night, he turns to Reddie to help him get to the bottom of it.
Archie and Reddie are having a sleepover! That means they get to play super fun games all night long and wear their favorite pajamas! And even when a storm knocks out the power, they don’t get scared. Well, maybe a little at first, so it’s a good thing they have their trusty flashlights! But when Archie is woken in the middle of the night by a loud grumble, he’s afraid there might be a monster in the house. Luckily, Reddie is there to remind him of his bravery as the two friends investigate together. Everywhere they look, the noise seems to follow, but they can’t seem to find a monster anywhere. Is it super-sneaky, or could there be something else causing these late-night grumbles?
(POST-IT SAYS: Cute friends explore how to be brave even if you’re feeling scared. The nice big panels and short sentences with quick, energetic dialogue makes this early reader series a hit!)
If You’re a Kid Like Gavin by Gavin Grimm, J Yang (Illustrator), Kyle Lukoff (ISBN-13: 9780063057562 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/12/2022, Ages 4-8)
A celebratory and empowering story from young trans activist Gavin Grimm, two-time Stonewall Award-winning and Newbery Honor-winning author Kyle Lukoff, and illustrator J Yang follows the true story of how a young boy stood up for himself—and made history along the way.
When you’re a kid like Gavin Grimm, you know yourself best. And Gavin knew that he was a boy—even if others saw him as a girl. But when his school took away his right to something as simple as using the boy’s restroom, Gavin knew he had a big decision to make.
Because there are always more choices than the ones others give you.
Gavin chose to correct others when they got his pronouns wrong. He asked to be respected. He stood up for himself. Gavin proved that his school had violated his constitutional rights and had the Supreme Court uphold his case—bringing about a historic win for trans rights. There are many kids out there, some just like Gavin Grimm, and they might even be you.
What choices will you make?
(POST-IT SAYS: An essential purchase that not only will help young readers feel seen, affirmed, and less alone, but reinforces the importance of identity, access, rights, and advocacy. An empowering read.)
M Is for Monster by Talia Dutton (ISBN-13: 9781419751974 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 06/28/2022, Ages 13-17)
A scientist attempts to bring her younger sister back to life with unexpected results in this Frankenstein-inspired graphic novel about ghosts, identity, and family
When Doctor Frances Ai’s younger sister Maura died in a tragic accident six months ago, Frances swore she would bring her back to life. However, the creature that rises from the slab is clearly not Maura. This girl, who chooses the name “M,” doesn’t remember anything about Maura’s life and just wants to be her own person. However, Frances expects M to pursue the same path that Maura had been on—applying to college to become a scientist—and continue the plans she and Maura shared. Hoping to trigger Maura’s memories, Frances surrounds M with the trappings of Maura’s past, but M wants nothing to do with Frances’ attempts to change her into something she’s not.
In order to face the future, both Frances and M need to learn to listen and let go of Maura once and for all. Talia Dutton’s debut graphic novel, M Is for Monster, takes a hard look at what it means to live up to other people’s expectations—as well as our own.
M Is for Monster is one of the titles on our Surely list which is dedicated to showcasing gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual creators and stories.
(POST-IT SAYS: A satisfyingly disturbing look at the perils of trying to bring someone back from dead. The creation of a new person, M, and her interactions with ghost Maura add depth to this story of grief, loss, and experimentation.)
Alice Austen Lived Here by Alex Gino (ISBN-13: 9781338733891 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 06/07/2022, Ages 9-12)
From the award-winning author of Melissa, a phenomenal novel about queerness past, present, and future.
Sam is very in touch with their own queer identity. They’re nonbinary, and their best friend, TJ, is nonbinary as well. Sam’s family is very cool with it… as long as Sam remembers that nonbinary kids are also required to clean their rooms, do their homework, and try not to antagonize their teachers too much.
The teacher-respect thing is hard when it comes to Sam’s history class, because their teacher seems to believe that only Dead Straight Cis White Men are responsible for history. When Sam’s home borough of Staten Island opens up a contest for a new statue, Sam finds the perfect non-DSCWM subject: photographer Alice Austen, whose house has been turned into a museum, and who lived with a female partner for decades.
Soon, Sam’s project isn’t just about winning the contest. It’s about discovering a rich queer history that Sam’s a part of — a queer history that no longer needs to be quiet, as long as there are kids like Sam and TJ to stand up for it.
(POST-IT SAYS: This book is very dear. I adore Sam and all of Sam’s friends. Excellent intergenerational friendships, heartfelt conversations, and lots of LGBTQIA+ history. A really lovely book with a lot to teach its readers.)
The Natural Genius of Ants by Betty Culley (ISBN-13: 9780593175774 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 05/10/2022, Ages 8-12)
A summer ant farm grows into a learning experience for the entire family in this lyrical coming-of-age story from the award-winning author of Down to Earth.
“Endearingly executed, this gentle tale will see readers applauding as they reach the end.” –Booklist, Starred Review
Harvard is used to his father coming home from the hospital and telling him about all the babies he helped. But since he made the mistake at work, Dad has been quieter than usual. And now he is taking Harvard and his little brother, Roger, to Kettle Hole, Maine, for the summer. Harvard hopes this trip isn’t another mistake.
In the small town where he grew up, Dad seems more himself. Especially once the family decides to start an ant farm—just like Dad had as a kid! But when the mail-order ants are D.O.A., Harvard doesn’t want Dad to experience any more sadness. Luckily, his new friend Neveah has the brilliant idea to use the ants crawling around the kitchen instead. But these insects don’t come with directions. So the kids have a lot to learn—about the ants, each other, and how to forgive ourselves when things go wrong.
(POST-IT SAYS: This is such a quiet and thoughtful look at grief, guilt, and healing. I loved sweet Harvard, who is such a caretaker and so observant. His friendship with Nevaeh and all they do together and for each other is so dear. A lovely read.)
Coming Up Short by Laurie Morrison (ISBN-13: 9781419755583 Publisher: ABRAMS Publication date: 06/21/2022, Ages 10-14)
A heartfelt novel about a softball-loving girl coming to terms with her parents’ humanity after a scandal sends shock waves through her town
Bea’s parents think she can accomplish absolutely anything—and she’s determined to prove them right. But at the end of seventh grade, on the same day she makes a gutsy play to send her softball team to the league championships and Xander, the boy she likes, makes it clear that he likes her too, a scandal shakes up her world. Bea’s dad made a big mistake, taking money that belonged to a client. He’s now suspended from practicing law, and another lawyer spread the news online. To make matters worse, that other lawyer is Xander’s dad.
Bea doesn’t want to be angry with her dad, especially since he feels terrible and is trying to make things right. But she can’t face the looks of pity from all her friends, and then she starts missing throws in softball because she’s stuck in her own head. The thing she was best at seems to be slipping out of her fingers along with her formerly happy family. She’s not sure what’s going to be harder—learning to throw again, or forgiving her dad. How can she be the best version of herself when everything she loves is falling apart?
(POST-IT SAYS: Bea has a lot going on. Her dad’s been suspended from his job, things at home are weird, and Bea has a bad case of the yips. The softball player navigates it all, with some help, while figuring out friend stuff, romance, and family secrets. A layered, authentic story.)
Boys I Know by Anna Gracia (ISBN-13: 9781682633717 Publisher: Peachtree Publication date: 07/26/2022, Ages 14-17)
A high school senior navigates messy boys and messier relationships in this unflichingly honest and much-needed look into the overlap of Asian American identity and teen sexuality.
“A fresh tale about a teen’s struggles to define herself.” –Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
June Chu is the “just good enough” girl. Good enough to line the shelves with a slew of third-place trophies and steal secret kisses from her AP Bio partner, Rhys. But not good enough to meet literally any of her Taiwanese mother’s unrelenting expectations or to get Rhys to commit to anything beyond a well-timed joke.
While June’s mother insists she follow in her (perfect) sister’s footsteps and get a (full-ride) violin scholarship to Northwestern (to study pre-med), June doesn’t see the point in trying too hard if she’s destined to fall short anyway. Instead, she focuses her efforts on making her relationship with Rhys “official.” But after her methodically planned, tipsily executed scheme explodes on the level of a nuclear disaster, she flings herself into a new relationship with a guy who’s not allergic to the word girlfriend.
But as the line between sex and love blurs, and pressure to map out her entire future threatens to burst, June will have to decide on whose terms she’s going to live her life—even if it means fraying her relationship with her mother beyond repair.
A modern Judy Blume meets Jenny Han, Boys I Know is a raw and realistic look into the lives of teen girls. June Chu is an authentic if imperfect protagonist, and her journey of self discovery is as uncomfortable as it is cathartic. A Summer/ Fall 2022 Indies Introduce Selection!
(POST-IT SAYS: An intense and authentic look at relationships, sexuality, and choices. June, the child of immigrants, feels a lot of pressure and makes her way to understanding herself with a lot of bumps along the way. An authentically messy look at adolescence and identity.)
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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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