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Author Spotlight: Mary Rodgers

June 27th, 2014 (11:04 am)
mellow

Current Mood: mellow
Current Song: Doctor Who score music

Author, screenwriter, and composer Mary Rodgers has passed away.

Ever heard of Freaky Friday? Rodgers wrote that famously fun story about a mother and daughter who accidentally swap bodies. Published in 1972, Freaky Friday was adapted for film three times: the 1976 version with Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster, based on a screenplay by Rodgers; the 1995 made-for-TV movie with Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann; and the 2003 version with Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.

When I was little, I checked out a copy of Freaky Friday from the library. I was a good two-thirds of the way through the book when I discovered a printing error: a chunk of pages repeated, and the ending was missing! I let the librarians know and switched it out for another copy. I then read the other books in the line, A Billion for Boris (aka ESP TV) and Summer Switch, in which the brother and father switch places.

Freaky Friday is not the only Rodgers book to be adapted for TV and film. In 1984, Summer Switch was made into an ABC Afterschool Special. The third Andrews family book was a movie as well, under the title Billions for Boris, and it featured a young Seth Green as Benjamin "Ape-Face" Andrews. Mary Tanner Bailey, who played Annabel in Billions, was also Rachel Fairbanks in The Voyage of the Mimi, and she was recently seen on an episode of Nashville.

I have not read The Rotten Book, which is not related to the Andrews family stories, nor have I read Freaky Monday, a book released in 2009 which is credited to both Mary Rodgers and Heather Hach, in which a student and teacher switch bodies. Hach wrote the screenplay for the 2003 Freaky Friday. Hach is also known for her stage work, having written the libretto for the 2007 musical Legally Blonde. (And let's not forget that Legally Blonde was a novel before it was a movie or a musical! The book was written by Amanda Brown.)

Once Upon a Mattress, the Tony-nominated musical comedy based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale The Princess and the Pea, features music by Mary Rodgers, lyrics by Marshall Barer, and book by Jay Thompson, Dean Fuller, and Marshall Barer. Once Upon a Mattress opened in 1959. It was the Broadway debut of the hilarious, remarkable Carol Burnett, who got a Tony nomination for her work as Princess Winnifred. Once Upon a Mattress has had countless productions all over the world. The Tony-nominated revival in 1997 featured Sarah Jessica Parker, Lewis Cleale, and Jane Krakowski, and the show was adapted for TV in 1963, 1972, and 2005.

Mary also contributed songs to the famous album Free to Be...You and Me, with Marlo Thomas and Friends.

Mary was a mother, a daughter, a sister, and a student. Her family tree is full of art, music, and creativity. Her father, Richard Rodgers, was also a composer. He is the Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein. Mary's mother, Dorothy, wrote My Favorite Things: A Personal Guide to Decorating and Entertaining in the 60s, then collaborated with Mary on the book A Word to the Wives nearly a decade later; the mother-daughter team also contributed a monthly advice column in McCall's. I had not heard of either of these titles until this morning - and as I write this now, I've just discovered another, The House in My Head, in which she details her dream house "from concept to realization," and yet another, A Personal Book. Mary Rodgers had five children, including a daughter (Constance, aka Kim) who is a painter and designer and a son (Adam Guettel) who a composer and librettist.

Which Freaky Friday film is your favorite?
What are your favorite songs from Once Upon a Mattress?
Let me know in the comments below!

Little Willow [userpic]

Poetry Friday: A Solitary Bird from The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

June 27th, 2014 (04:00 am)
artistic

Current Mood: artistic
Current Song: In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel

A solitary bird, hollow it flew
Through a haze of months marked by the moon
Come to a meadow, shiny with dew
Where hollow birds sang, and deep inside grew
The secret hum of a daisy in June.

- from the novel The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer

View all posts tagged as Poetry Friday at Bildungsroman.

View the roundup schedule at A Year of Reading.

Learn more about Poetry Friday.

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The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

June 25th, 2014 (10:28 pm)
optimistic
Tags: ,

Current Mood: optimistic
Current Song: Lungs by Chvrches

This summer, 13-year-old Nina is going to make the world a better place, one day (and one good deed) at a time.

After looking around the cul-de-sac, Nina decides to help out her friends and neighbors in small but remarkable ways. She decides to do 65 anonymous good deeds, one for every day of summer vacation. While some of these activities and gifts are planned in advance, others are spur-of-the-moment, but all of them are based on what the people around her truly need. Nina listens to people, and she listens to her heart. She can tell when someone needs a pick-me-up or a helping hand. Sometimes, she simply leaves an item on someone's doorstep or in their mailbox to make them smile; other times, she simply offers them her shoulder to lean on.

Nina's own house could use some smiles, too. Nina's grandmother, who taught her to value simple truths, passed away exactly one year ago. Now, with her lawyer parents immersed in their current case and her college-bound brother barely ever home, Nina yearns to have a real conversation with her family. Meanwhile, her best friend Jorie is flirting with boys and planning their dates for the homecoming dance, but Nina's not really into that yet. Even though she is kind of seeing her long-time friend Eli in a new light...

As the summer continues, some neighbors seem to appreciate the good deeds while others are grow suspicious, thinking they are pranks. Mostly, though, Nina's actions have the intended result: they brighten someone's day and serve as a reminder than somebody cares. As her "little efforts" rub off on others, Nina realizes that "doing good is contagious," and she continues to practice random acts of kindness simply because she likes helping others.

The transition from middle school to high school can be all sorts of things - overwhelming, intimidating, exciting, nerve-wracking, eye-opening - all at once. This book moves through the summer between eighth and ninth grade with a naturally flowing narrative fueled by a thoughtful, selfless protagonist. Nina is truly a good person, without a hidden agenda, which is so refreshing. This novel is filled with moments that are poignant and uplifting without ever being preachy or cloying. Nina's resolve and voice grows stronger, and she is never once tempted to brag about her good deeds.

Many books and films showcase the end of a friendship, often with the old friend burning or blowing off the protagonist. But not all friendships end in a big blow-up. Not all friendships end. They change, just like (as) people change. The bond between Jorie and Nina stretches like taffy throughout the book, stretching and straining as their priorities change. Hurwitz does a wonderful job of examining the strangeness and sadness that comes when friendships are tested, when you feel like you are growing apart from someone you've known for so long:

In first grade, when Jorie moved into the cul-de-sac, we had playdates and did the things first-grade girls do. That was enough back then. But now? Jorie and I are in between two places. Like an intermission between the first and second acts of a play. I'm not sure how things are going to end up. - Pages 9-10

I miss the girl who couldn't glue, brought me the towel after we jumped into the water, made sure I was okay. The girl I knew. - Page 114

This is just one example of the connections Nina makes. Hurwitz masterfully creates distinctive, realistic characters and allows her leading lady to have clear relationships and storylines with different people. This includes her older brother, Matt; her workaholic parents; Eli, her friend who is literally the boy next door; Eli's adorable little brother, Thomas, who fancies himself a superhero; Sariah, a new friend in her summer art class; and others on her street, ranging from high-strung Mrs. Millman, who bosses around her dog and her husband, to the extremely pregnant Mrs. Cantaloni and her energetic three young sons, from the soft-spoken Mrs. Chung to the elusive Mr. Dembrowski. Oh, and a fox.

In short: The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is delightful. Pick it up, and pay it forward.

Favorite supporting character: Thomas.

Favorite (and unexpected) scene: Running. (Another favorite moment: The swings.)

This is Michele's second novel for tweens. If you liked Nina's story, make sure to pick up the author's first book, Calli Be Gold! Also check out See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles (alert: you'll need Kleenex for that one) and The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. On the surface, these books might not seem that similar, but consider them like a variety pack, your summer trail mix, with different but complimentary flavors. Let me know what you think!

Related booklists:
Transition Times
Middle School Must-Haves

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Booklist: Tough Issues for Teens

June 25th, 2014 (04:30 pm)
hopeful

Current Mood: hopeful
Current Song: Just Enough by Aslyn

One afternoon in the bookstore, a young woman in her late teens approached me and said, "Excuse me. Can you help me? I want some books like . . . " She named a few teen fiction titles that dealt with drug abuse and anorexia. She looked slightly uncomfortable but mostly excited. I told her that I could recommend many good books. Within minutes, she was sitting on the floor in the teen fiction section, a plastic basket full to the brim with books, with additional titles in her hand and next to her knees and her feet.

We had a great discussion. I was happy on any levels: happy that she felt comfortable enough to come to me, happy that she was open-minded, happy that I got some realistic, well-written books in her hand. This urged me to make a list of books dealing tough issues - eating disorders, loss and grieving, addiction, abuse, and so forth.

Due to subject matter, many of these books are recommended for older teens as well as adults, be they parents, teachers, librarians, or simply avid readers.

I've read every title on this list, and have given each book a rating according to the United States movie rating guide - G, PG, PG-13, or R - based on content, and a number of stars - four being the best - based on quality (my personal opinion).



PARENTAL ABUSE OR NEGLECT - Physical or emotional abuse, alcoholism, etc.
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ABUSE BY OTHERS - physical or emotional abuse; date or acquaintance rape; accusations, secrets and lies
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TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - be they romantic relationships or rumors or no romance, but a definite abuse of power
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POSITIVE & PLATONIC TEACHER/STUDENT RELATIONSHIPS - teachers positively influencing and educating their pupils
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PARENT/CHILD RELATIONSHIPS - reconnecting with or distancing oneself from absentee parents, dealing with restrictions and expectations
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LONG-LOST SIBLINGS - reconnecting with siblings, or meeting them for the first time
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ORIENTATION AND/OR GENDER ROLES
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VIOLENCE AT SCHOOL
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EATING DISORDERS
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PHYSICAL DISORDERS/INJURIES/SPECIAL NEEDS - protagonist, siblings, friends
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BODY CHANGES - growing up and dealing with natural physical changes (as opposed to health, weight, or body image issues; disorders/injuries are in a separate list above this one)
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TEENAGE PREGNANCY - may also deal with adoption and/or abortion
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TEENAGE ALCOHOLISM
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MENTAL ILLNESS OF A PARENT, RELATIVE, OR PEER
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DEPRESSION
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RECOVERY/SUPPORT GROUPS
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CUTTING
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STEALING
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DIVORCE, SEPARATION, AND/OR STEPFAMILIES - parents dating, getting remarried, etc
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LOSS OR PHYSICAL ILLNESS OF A PARENT
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A SIBLING
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A FRIEND OR PEER
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF A GRANDPARENT
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LOSS OR ILLNESS OF ANOTHER CLOSE RELATIVE AND/OR ADULT
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PROTAGONIST WITH AN ILLNESS
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DRUG ADDICTION
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CAR ACCIDENTS (and similar accidents)
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ADOPTION - Also foster care, group homes, and counseling
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KIDNAPPING
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CULTURAL IDENTITY
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SUICIDE OR SUICIDAL TENDENCIES
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ACADEMICS - cheating, excelling, or otherwise dealing with academic pressure
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SOCIAL STATUS - at school or otherwise with peers; popularity, bullying, et al.
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PEER PRESSURE
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RELIGION
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POLITICS
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ACTIVISM
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INTERNET SAFETY - and/or cyberbullying
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SEEKING SHELTER - family shelters, homelessness, runaways
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I hope that this list helps readers of all ages find books they may be too shy to openly discuss with a bookseller or librarian. I want those readers to know they may leave a comment here and tell me which books they have found valuable. Most of all, I want them to know they can talk to their friends or adults they know in order to get the answers and help they may need.

If you would like for me to add more titles about a certain subject, or if you want more information about any of the books on the list, please leave a comment.

Special thanks to those who have shown their support of this list by offering me links, comments, and compliments, such as Jen Robinson, Bookseller Chick, Robin Brande, Sassymonkey at BlogHer, Daisy Whitney, Caroline, Bookstore People, and Jennifer R. Hubbard.

Little Willow [userpic]

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

June 25th, 2014 (03:15 pm)
thoughtful

Current Mood: thoughtful
Current Song: Lies by Chvrches

Cadence comes from wealth. She spends her summers on her family's private island in Massachusetts, alongside her cousins, her aunts and uncles, her maternal grandparents, their dogs, and, of course, her own parents. That is, until her parents split up; then her father is out of the picture. But everything's fine. That is, until her grandmother dies; then people stop talking about her. But everything's fine. That is, until Cady experiences a physical trauma and she cannot remember what happened the summer she was fifteen. For the next two years, as she struggles to keep her head above water and to recover her memories, only bits and pieces of that summer surface. She writes down what she can recall. She begs her mother, her cousins, and the boy she loves to tell her what happened. When she finally discovers the truth, nothing will ever be the same.

Everyone is buzzing about We Were Liars, and with good reason: the ending must be read to be believed.

But here's the thing that really struck me about the story: It's about things falling apart. Relationships, people, stability, memories, and secrets all unraveling. It's about destruction, both subconscious and self-imposed, subtle and blatant.

We've all heard variations on the saying, "You can't move into the future until you accept your past." Cady lost part of herself at age 15, and until she knows what and why and how, she is broken and stuck. The accident not only led to amnesia but also debilitating headaches that last for days, her mind and her body pushing her, failing her, trapping her, betraying her.

This book captures how precious summers can be: separate from the school year, a time full of ambition and things to do or lazy days at the beach or hiding out alone in your room with a good book. Summer, to Cady, means time with her same-age cousins - snarky Johnny and lovely Mirren - and Gat, the nephew of Johnny's mother's boyfriend, who has been visiting the island with the Sinclair family since he was eight years old. The kinship Cadence feels with Mirren, Gat, and Johnny is special. Lockhart captures those summer relationships that fade in the fall, then get revived every June:

We never kept in touch over the school year. Not much, anyway, though we'd tried when we were younger. We'd text, or tag each other in summer photos, especially in September, but we'd inevitably fade out over a month or so. Somehow, Beechwood's magic never carried over into our everyday lives. We didn't want to hear about school friends and clubs and sports teams. Instead, we knew our affection would revive when we saw one another on the dock the following June, salt spray in the air, pale sun glinting off the water. - Pages 35-36

I've been a fan of E. Lockhart's writing for some time now. As evidenced by the above passage, she has a way with words. With its underlying mystery, We Were Liars is different from her previous works. It is haunting. The release date coupled with the setting makes it a good pick for a summer read, though readers will most likely stay up all night, turning pages and waiting for the other shoe to drop, just as anxious as the protagonist to uncover the secrets of Cadence's fifteenth (and seventeenth) summer.

If you enjoyed We Were Liars, you will also dig Boy Heaven by Laura Kasischke. Trust me. Read my review of Boy Heaven. I would love to hear from people who have read both of these books. Leave a comment below!

We Were Liars has been acquired by Imperative Entertainment, and Lockhart wrote the feature script. You go, E. I hope they make the movie you've created.

I included We Were Liars on my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Check out my reviews of E. Lockhart's novels The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Dramarama.

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Booklist: Set in School and Transition Times

June 25th, 2014 (08:30 am)
nerdy

Current Mood: nerdy
Current Song: Four Years by Jon McLaughlin

My friend Claire asked for a list of YA books which focused on school life. After giving her some recommendations, I typed up this list, and kept adding more and more titles until I had a booklist populated with characters in various grade levels going through all sorts of transitions.

Elementary and middle school:

The Ramona books by Beverly Cleary - Follow Ramona from age 4 to age 10.

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar - Classic girls vs. boys story that also encourages honesty and inspires laughter.

Standing for Socks by Elissa Brent Weissman - Entering middle school, and searching for individualism.

... and, of course, The Baby-Sitters Club. Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia and Stacey are in seventh grade when the series begins. After a handful of books, they are promoted to eighth grade, at which time they gain two additional members, Jessi and Mallory, who are sixth graders. The girls stay in middle school for the remainder of the series. The original four girls finally graduated from eighth grade at the end of the final series, Friends Forever.

Between middle school and high school:
Transitioning from middle school to high school can be exciting, scary, difficult, and overwhelming. The following stories include middle school graduations and/or the summer between middle school and high school.

The Summer I Saved the World...in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz

Lucky by Rachel Vail (the first in a trilogy about sisters)

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet by Sherri L. Smith

Freshman year of high school:
I highly recommend all of the titles on this freshman list. They get it, they really do.

The True Meaning of Cleavage by Mariah Fredericks - The separation of two best friends. Highly recommended.

Nothing but the Truth by Avi - This documentary novel chronicles the life of a ninth grade boy whose minor disturbance in class leads to a major media story.

Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar - A fantastic story, a well-written book.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - School factors heavily into this incredibly memorable story.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson - In this case, the freshman is the protagonist's younger sister, Hannah.

So Not the Drama by Paula Chase - Four friends navigate the high school hallways. The first in a series.

Perfect Girl by Mary Hogan - A first crush, a worldly aunt, and so much more.

The Comeback Season by Jennifer E. Smith - Grieving and healing, a girl and a boy, alone and together.

Looks by Madeleine George - One of the two main characters is a freshman, the other a sophomore.

A Map of the Known World by Lisa Ann Sandell - A freshman girl, still reeling from the loss of her older brother, must enter high school without him there to help her.

Because I am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas - The only member of her family to escape her father's abuse, a quiet girl enters high school, finds her place on the volleyball court, and finds her voice.

Deep in the Heart of High School by Veronica Goldbach - Three best friends - three very different girls who play different instruments in the school marching band and have totally different families - march through their freshman year of high school.

Boarding school and/or private school - for elementary and middle school readers:

The Ballet School Diaries by Alexandra Moss - This cute and fun series for kids is set at a ballet boarding school in the UK.

Accidentally Fabulous series by Lisa Papademetriou - The fashionable protagonist goes to a private middle school on scholarship.
- Accidentally Fabulous
- Accidentally Famous
- Accidentally Fooled
- Accidentally Friends

Boarding school and/or private school - for teen and adult readers:

Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta - Tracing the roots decades-old struggle for power between three types of kids - Jellicoe School (boarding school) students, local Townies, and Cadets from a school in Sydney - and climbing the family tree. Published as On the Jellicoe Road in Australia. Highly recommended.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta - An all-boys school goes co-ed. Recommended.

Looking for Alaska by John Green - Coming-of-age at a modern-day Alabama boarding school. Highly recommended.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart - A fresh take on secret societies, with a young girl thwarting some smirky boys. A great book set a modern day boarding school. Highly recommended.

Breathless by Jessica Warman - After something happens to her older brother, Katie's parents send her off to boarding school, and she is surprised by how much she loves it there. The book follows her from sophomore year through graduation.

The Poison Apples by Lily Archer - Three girls at boarding school bond over their family situations: each has recently acquired a stepmother. Though it uses the fairy tale metaphor, this book isn't a fantasy, nor is it magical realism. It is realistic fiction, and it is really good. Modern day.

A Great and Terrible Beauty trilogy by Libba Bray - Historical fantasy set in a Victorian girls' boarding school. Incredibly imaginative and intriguing.
- A Great and Terrible Beauty
- Rebel Angels
- The Sweet Far Thing

Enthusiasm by Polly Shulman - Two best friends consider Pride & Prejudice and get involved in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Modern day. Recommended.

Prom and Prejudice by Elizabeth Eulberg - A modern-day retelling of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, set in boarding school.

Headlong by Kathe Koja - When a new girl transfers to The Vaughn School, a private school for girls, a lifelong Vaughn student starts to see her school - and her life - differently.

The Gallagher Girls books by Ally Carter - A top-secret modern-day spy school for girls.

The Love series by Emily Franklin - Love starts going to New England boarding school when her dad becomes the principal. Modern day.

The end of senior year:

The Best Night of Your (Pathetic) Life by Tara Altebrando - One week before they graduate from high school, Mary and her friends take part in their school's official-unofficial scavenger hunt.

The summer following high school graduation:

The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

The Story of Us by Deb Caletti

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Return to Me by Justina Chen

Classics:
A Separate Peace by John Knowles
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Good-Bye, Mr. Chips by James Hilton
Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster

Making it through your first year of college:

The Body of Evidence series by Christopher Golden and Rick Hautala - In the first book, Body Bags, protagonist Jenna Blake is just about to enter college. The first line of the first chapter: "It was a beautiful day to grow up." There are ten books in this series, following Jenna through a good chunk of her college life.

Very LeFreak by Rachel Cohn - An intelligent but technology-addicted young woman has a difficult time balancing school and fun during her freshman year at Columbia University.

Additional stories in which school is a supporting character:

Keeping You a Secret by Julie Anne Peters - The main characters start seeing each other before school. Literally.

Innocence by Jane Mendelsohn - Oh, the scenes in the lunchroom! I love this book so much.

Swollen by Melissa Lion - Your perceptions of your classmates may differ from the truth. From their truths. From your truths.

Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan - I wish all schools were this open and accepting. I wish all people were this open and accepting.

Follow a girl through elementary school, middle school, and high school in the Alice McKinley books by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. The series has over twenty titles. The Agony of Alice was the first book and is set in middle school. The author has since written prequels, making Starting With Alice (third grade) the earliest story on the timeline. The Grooming of Alice describes the summer between her eighth grade and ninth grade years. Alice Alone starts off her freshman year. For the full breakdown of titles and grades, please click here.

Barthe DeClements had fun with her grade-oriented dramadies for young readers:
- The Fourth Grade Wizards by Barthe DeClements
- Nothing's Fair in Fifth Grade in Fifth Grade by Barthe DeClements
- Sixth Grade Can Really Kill You by Barthe DeClements
- How Do You Lose Those Ninth-Grade Blues? by Barthe DeClements

For even more stories set in school, please refer to the categories of cheating and teacher relationships within my Tough Issues for Teens booklist.

Also check out my After Graduation booklist.

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Booklist: Filmmakers in Fiction

June 24th, 2014 (08:43 pm)
awake

Current Mood: awake
Current Song: Lies by Chvrches

When I read books featuring visual artists, I want to see their art. Similarly, when protagonists are filmmakers, I'd love to see their films. Here are a few examples:

Notes from the Teenage Underground by Simmone Howell - This story of a teen filmmaker inspired a real-life filmmaking contest. For teens and adults.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour - Emi, a production designer, blossoms when she gets the opportunity to work on an indie movie. For teens and adults. Strongly recommended.

The Latent Powers of Dylan Fontaine by April Lurie - Dylan becomes the unwilling subject of his friend's film. For teens.

Just Listen by Sarah Dessen - In a side plot, one of the main character's sisters makes a film. For teens.

Project 17 by Laurie Faria Stolarz - Six teenagers break into an abandoned mental institution to make a film. For teens.

Play Me by Laura Ruby - Three best friends, all aspiring filmmakers, work together on a production which they post online and enter in a television contest. For teens.

Tru Confessions by Janet Tashjian - Tru was born minutes before her twin brother, who, due to an oxygen deficiency, is developmentally disabled. Now twelve years old, Tru sets out to make a documentary about her brother for a local cable station. This book was made into a TV movie starring and Shia LeBouf. It was fantastic to see Tru's documentary come to life. For ages 10 and up.

Special Case: The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson - Though Jenna does not make films herself, home movies are very important to her. For teens. Strongly recommended.

Related Booklists:
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Person
But I Don't Want to Be Famous!
But I DO Want to Be Famous!
I Am a Dancer
Sing Sing Sing

Little Willow [userpic]

Booklist: But I Don't Want to Be Famous!

June 24th, 2014 (05:50 am)
anxious

Current Mood: anxious
Current Song: In My Pocket by Mandy Moore

What if you are a famous athlete or actor who wants to (or is forced to) spend some time out of the spotlight? What do you do when you are the child of famous parents? What if your sibling is world-famous while you are completely shy? Do you prefer to work backstage rather than appear on stage? Here is a list of fun teen fiction that deal with fame (or performances, or productions). Some titles are comedies, some are melodramas, but all are sassy.

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull - G - ****
Amazing Grace is an absolutely sweet story about a tennis pro who takes a much-needed break from it all. Out of all of the books on this list, Amazing Grace is, hands-down, the best attempt at the "de-celebrity" storyline. Read my review of this and other stories by Shull. Also check out my Full of Grace booklist.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier - G - ****
This book is filled with appreciation for everyone who works backstage, from the costume designer to the stage manager, making this book a must-have for theatre kids, especially those who work on the crew. Follow Callie from the first meeting to closing night of her middle school's musical production!
Read my full-length book review.

One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones - PG - ****
After her mother passes away, Ruby has to relocate from Boston to Los Angeles and live with her father, a famous actor who divorced her mom before Ruby was even born, a person she barely even knows. Loved it, loved it, loved it. My favorite Sones work to date. As with her other books, it is written as poetry prose, which makes it a great recommendation for reluctant readers and aspiring poets alike. Also check out my Verse Novels booklist.

The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald - G - ****
The Rule of Three by Megan McDonald - G - ****
The three Reel sisters, Joey (8), Stevie (10), and Alex (12 and three-quarters), are thick as thieves. These books are perfect for both my But I Don't Want to Be Famous! and But I DO Want to Be Famous! booklists. While Alex loves the spotlight, Stevie doesn't, so she is surprised to find herself onstage in the first book and competing with Alex for a part in a school production of the musical Once Upon a Mattress in the second book.
Read my full-length review of The Sisters Club books.
Want more books about sisters? Click here for a special booklist.

Never Mind the Goldbergs by Matthue Roth - PG-13 - ****
After being randomly discovered outside of a store in New York, Hava is cast in an Off-Broadway play. Not thinking much of herself as an actress, she easily returns to her normal routine of friends, family and school after the play ends. Less than a year later, everything changes when she is cast in a family sitcom, relocates to Los Angeles, and has a total culture shock. Hava discovers that living on her own isn't all that it is cracked up to be, and neither is the entertainment industry. Hava is a fabulous protagonist. Her attempts to find a balance between her religion and her work feel real. She is a flawed, realistic character, and that's what makes it work. Highly recommended. Read my review of Never Mind the Goldbergs at SparkLife.

Cornelia and the Audacious Escapades of the Somerset Sisters by Lesley M.M. Blume - G - ****
Cornelia's parents are both world-famous pianists. Most people would envy that fame and that talent, but not Cornelia. She has no desire to play piano herself and wishes that her jet-setting mother were home more often. Her father is not in the picture; Cornelia has never known him. Though she has every (material) thing she could need, Cornelia is lonely. That is, until new neighbors move in across the hall . . . Read my entire review of the book. Read my interview with the author.

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway - PG/PG-13 - ****
After her boyfriend's band becomes famous, thanks to his song about their breakup, Audrey can't go anywhere without being recognized. All she wants to do is live a normal life, but how can she, with paparazzi snapping her picture, reporters hounding her, and everyone - even her parents! - singing along with the song on the radio? Read my full-length review of the book. Read my interview with the author.

Backstage Pass by Gaby Triana - G - ****
This book is incredibly cute. The 16-year-old protagonist has had plenty of mortifying events due to her name (Desert), her famous father (a rock star), and her busy mom (manager of her dad's band). Desert shies away from the spotlight, while her best friend, Becca, strums her guitar. Sweet and squeaky clean, Backstage Pass is one of the best books on this list.

Geek Magnet by Kieran Scott - G - ***
Here's another inside scoop on life backstage. KJ, a high school junior, is proud to be the stage manager for her high school's production of Grease. She takes a lot of pride in her work and is a very nice young woman - maybe too nice for her own good! In this story, she must deal with unwelcome attention from geeky boys as well as problems with the musical and problems at home. Read my full-length review of the book.

Pop Princess by Rachel Cohn - PG - ***
Pretty young thing Lucky strikes it big as a pop singer. She becomes America's little darling, and the eyes of the world watch her star rise. One day, she is accidentally killed by a car while crossing the street. A few years later, her younger sister Wonder is somewhat unwillingly made into a superstar. Wonder sounds like the girl next door from start to finish, even at the height of her fame. She never loses her true voice. Check out Author Spotlight: Rachel Cohn.

In the Cards trilogy by Mariah Fredericks - G - ***
- Love
- Fame
- Life

When an elderly woman passes away, she leaves her three cats and her deck of tarot cards to her young neighbor Anna and her two best friends. Each girl narrates one of the books in this cute, clean, and realistic trilogy. Make sure that you read them in order:

- In the Cards: Love: Anna likes to sing. She doesn't want to be a singer, though she enjoys being a part of her school choir. That's Anna in a nutshell: glad to be part of a group, but not necessarily looking to be in the spotlight. Then she sets her sights on a cute boy. This is the story of her first crush, her first real boyfriend, and her first heartbreak, and it's totally clean and completely suitable for the middle school crowd.

- In the Cards: Fame: Since Eve DOES want to be a star, I listed this book my But I DO Want to Be Famous! booklist. I also wrote a full-length review of this book.

- In the Cards: Life: This is Syd's story - Syd, who likes to play piano but is reluctant to play in front of other people. Syd, who is like a mother to her elderly cat. Syd, whose father is on a downward spiral. This is a great conclusion to the trilogy. Read my full-length review.

The Hollywood Sisters series by Mary Wilcox - G - ***
- Backstage Pass
- On Location
- Caught on Tape
- Star Quality
- Truth or Dare

Sixteen-year-old Eva Ortiz dazzles viewers weekly on a hit television sitcom. Her younger sister, Jessica, does not have any acting aspirations, preferring to led an average life off-camera. When accidents start happening on the set and things start to go missing, Jess decides it's up to her to solve the mysteries. Learn more about this series by visiting my companion booklist, But I DO Want to Be Famous!

Plan B by Jenny O'Connell - PG-13 - ***
Vanessa is a high school student who has always been a do-gooder and a planner. When her parents tell her that she has a half-brother close to her age, she is surprised. When she is told he is Reed, a television actor who is popular with her peers, she is shocked. When she discovers that he's coming to live with her family and attend her high school, her entire world turns upside down. Read my full-length book review and my interview with the author.

How My Private Personal Journal Became a Bestseller by Julia DeVillers - G - ***
Jamie writes in her journal every single day, creating a story that is a mix of biography and fantasy. She renames her friends and her classmates as well as herself. As Isabella (Is), she is able to zap away popular girls with a flick of the wrist. In reality, she feels like she is in the shadow of her older sister, Allie, a cheerleader, and she is often too nervous to talk to her crush or too scared to stand up to the bullies. Then her journals are published, and the book becomes a bestseller. When her classmates realize that Jamie's characters are based on them, the backlash begins. This book was made into the Disney Channel movie Read It and Weep, which had some changes, both significant and insignificant.

Princess of Gossip by Sabrina Bryan and Julia DeVillers - G - ***
When Avery moves from Ohio to L.A., she expects to run into celebrities at every corner. She doesn't. She does, however, get mistaken for someone in the know! After she creates an online MySpace Street Team for an up-and-coming pop singer named Marisa, she starts getting emails from Marisa's publicity team, who think Avery's somehow connected to or working for her. Avery gets invitations to parties, where she meets celebs and gets even more inside scoops. She starts a celebrity news blog, but takes care to post only true tidbits. Soon, her blog is getting more buzz than she can handle. This book could have been filled with petty jealousy and negative postings, and it wasn't. It was clean and good-natured, just like the leading character. Read my full-length book review. Read my post about this book at SparkLife.

Girl, Hero by Carrie Jones - PG - ***
With the help of some new friends, high school freshman Lili summons up the courage to audition for the school production of South Pacific. Though I'm not a big fan of that show, I really liked how the show brought out the best in Lili, who was fairly quiet and uncertain of her own abilities beforehand. Read my full-length book review. Read my post about this book at SparkLife.

The Hollywood Bliss series by Chloë Rayban - PG - ***
Mega-famous mega-rich British pop star Kandhi decides to pull her thirteen-year-old daughter Holly (short for Hollywood) out of her boarding school and send her to the posh hotel in Piccadilly, London where she resides. Instead of having mother-daughter bonding time, though, Holly is lucky to get ten minutes here and there with her mom. Kandhi is always busy preparing for photo ops or her next awards show performance, leaving Holly to fend for herself. This series, told in diary entries, has both funny and serious bits. It also has a little rabbit named Thumper and a cool great-grandmother called Gi-Gi. Read the books in order: My Life Starring Mum and My Life So Far.

The Fame Unlimited series by Liane Bonin - PG-13 - ***
This series follows the ups and downs of a teen actress - from the point of view of her best friend. This makes for an interesting twist, and it definitely will hit home with girls who feel as though they are standing in the shadow of their more popular best friends. Read the books in order: Celebrity Skin, Pretty on the Outside, and Idol Talk.

The Violet series by Melissa Walker - PG-13 - ***
- Violet on the Runway
- Violet by Design
- Violet in Private

Meet Violet, a tall, awkward girl who teeters in uncomfortable shoes on the road to stardom. After being scouted at her job at the local movie theatre, Violet tries to keep her head on straight as she transitions from the life of a high school student in Chapel Hill to that of an international supermodel. Old friends, new friends, and the expectations of others - not to mention the sudden rise to fame and separation from her family - often leave her confused. Read the books in order: Violet on the Runway, Violet by Design, and Violet in Private. Read my interview with the author.

Teen Idol by Meg Cabot - PG - **
When a famous boy comes to high school to do research for a role, only one student is allowed to know his true identity. That student is Jen, who may be the only girl in her class who didn't have a crush on Luke to begin with - but might have one by the end of the book. Those who like Meg Cabot's series The Princess Diaries (which deals with fame of a different sort, since Princess Mia is royalty) will like Teen Idol.

Related Booklists:
But I DO Want to Be Famous!
Hey There, Sports Fan
Sing Sing Sing
I Am a Dancer
Filmmakers in Fiction

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Booklist: But I DO Want to Be Famous!

June 24th, 2014 (03:40 am)
creative

Current Mood: creative
Current Song: Strangelove Addiction by Supreme Beings of Leisure

My booklist entitled But I Don't Want to Be Famous! includes books about kids and teens who are either forced or coerced into the spotlight or who hide in the shadows of their famous parents or siblings. I decided to make a companion list about the characters who DO want to be famous. Some seek fame and others simply live and breathe for the stage, for the camera, or for the game.

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Booklist: Verse Novels

June 22nd, 2014 (07:30 am)
tired

Current Mood: tired
Current Song: Neon by John Mayer

There are those that like poems. There are those that like novels. Why not combine the best of both worlds and read a verse novel - one cohesive story that is told in poetic form? Here are some of my favorite verse novels as well as novels that have poetry portions.

Reaching for Sun by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - G - ****
Reaching for Sun celebrates the growth of a young girl who flourishes over the course of a year, just like the flowers in her family's garden. As things change with the seasons, so does she, thanks in part to an unexpected new friend, her motivated mother, and her inspirational grandmother.
Read my full-length review of the book.
Read my interview with the author.

Shark Girl by Kelly Bingham - G - ****
What began as a typical day at the beach with her family ended in tragedy. Jane loses her arm to a shark and her life changes forever.
Read my full-length review of the book.
Read my interview with the author.
Read one of my favorite passages from the book.

Margaux with an X by Ron Koertge - PG - ****
Surprising, shocking, refreshing, realistic, this book really left an impression on me. Read it. Margaux is intelligent, so her thoughts and dialogue - the poems - are peppered with multisyllabic words. Readers will root for Margaux. I know I did.

Because I Am Furniture by Thalia Chaltas - PG - ****
Anke's father verbally (and otherwise) abuses her mother, older brother, and older sister - but not her. Instead, he simply ignores her, as if she were a piece of furniture. Anke enters high school and finds herself (in more ways that one) on the volleyball court. Highly recommended.
Read my interview with the author.

Things Left Unsaid by Stephanie Hemphill - PG - ****
Told in first-person poetry, Things Left Unsaid chronicles a school year for Sarah, who is suddenly feeling itchy in her own skin. She finds herself being critical with her own friends and family members, and although they are there for her, she needs something else. Just what that something is, she doesn't know, not yet.
Read my full-length review of the book.

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath by Stephanie Hemphill - PG - ****
This book blends poetry, biography, fiction, and footnotes to describe the life of Sylvia Plath. Really outstanding work here. Highly recommended for adults and teens.

Family by Micol Ostow - PG-13 - ****
Out of the frying pan, into the fire: Shortly after troubled seventeen-year-old Melinda (Mel) packs a bag and finally gets away from her mother and horrible "Uncle" Jack, she is found by a charismatic man named Henry and welcomed into his "family." Henry's followers, who live with him at a run-down ranch, will do anything for him. Anything. When Henry's revolution becomes violent, Mel must decide how far she'll go to remain a member of her new family. Though the author was inspired by the Manson murders, this verse novel is a work of fiction.

One of Those Horrible Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones - PG - ****
Not just good, but great. Really. If you haven't read it yet, please do. It won't take you that long to read, and you'll laugh and cheer as you read it. As with her second book (see below), people seem to make assumptions based on the title and I have to convince them to read it, saying, "It's not what you expect." After a teenager's mom passes away, she has to pick up and move across the country to Southern California to live with her father, a famous actor that she has seen on the screen more often than she has seen him in person.
This title is also on my But I Don't Want to Be Famous! booklist.

Hugging the Rock by Susan Taylor Brown - G - ****
Rachel's mother decides to run away. At least, that's how Rachel feels as she watches her mother pack up the car and drive away to parts unknown. After the dust settles, Rachel takes ownership of Madison, her mother's dog, stops doing her schoolwork, and has trouble talking to her father. This story tactfully and truthfully discusses desertion and bipolar disorder as one young girl learns the truth about her mother. In losing her mother, Rachel is able connect with her father as she never has before. Readers will find hope and heart in these pages.

Rubber Houses by Ellen Yeomans - G - ****
Father, mother, sister, brother. A happy family - until the youngest, the boy, is diagnosed with cancer. Told from the point of view of the teenaged daughter, this story is written simply and shared gently. Read it alongside Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick and With You and Without You by Ann M. Martin.

Loose Threads by Lorie Ann Grover - PG - ****
Four generations of women live under one roof, with the youngest, Kay, being a seventh-grader. When her grandmother is diagnosed with breast cancer, she begins to see the threads of her household unravel. Each woman reacts to the situation in a different way. A sadly beautiful story about mothers and daughters, inspired by the author's real relatives.
Read my interview with the author.

On Pointe by Lorie Ann Grover - PG - ****
A hopeful ballerina named Claire discovers that she may be considered too tall to pursue her dream. This book has hope, grief, eating disorders, and family matters. I recommend it to fans of A Dance of Sisters by Tracey Porter and The Sisters Impossible by J.D. Landis.
Read my interview with the author.

Hold Me Tight by Lorie Ann Grover - PG-13 - ****
This story has some hard-hitting subjects - divorce, secrets, abuse - but proves that a book with heavy subject matter doesn't have to weigh readers down. Recommended.
Read my interview with the author.

Brushing Mom's Hair by Andrea Cheng, illustrated by Nicole Wong - G - ****
Ann's mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her recovery from surgery and her chemo treatments are told from her youngest daughter's point of view. Ann, a ballerina, wishes the barré were always there so she could dance her worries away. This wonderfully heartfelt story was inspired by the author's daughter and how she reacted when her mother was undergoing treatment for breast cancer. The text is aided with lovely black-and-white illustrations by Nicole Wong. I will definitely be seeking out more books from both Andrea Cheng and Nicole Wong.
Read my full-length book review.

Eva of the Farm by Dia Calhoun - G - ****
When she learns they could potentially lose the farm that has been in her family for generations, a 12-year-old girl channels her emotions into her poems. A reaction to change, and a beautiful testament to family, Washington State, creativity, and hope.
Read my full-length book review.
Also pick up the companion novel, After the River the Sun - See below!

After the River the Sun by Dia Calhoun - G - ****
Four months after losing both parents in a river rafting accident, a 12-year-old boy goes to live with an uncle he's never known. This book explores his survivor's guilt as well as his attempt to adjust to country life.
Read my full-length book review.
This is a companion story to Eva of the Farm - See above!

Song of the Sparrow by Lisa Ann Sandell - G - ****
A retelling of The Lady of Shalott gives Elaine of Astolat a powerful voice. Highly recommended.
Read one of my favorite passages from the novel.
Read my interview with the author.

The Weight of the Sky by Lisa Ann Sandell - G - ***
A high school junior goes to a kibbutz in Israel for the summer.
Read my favorite passage from the novel.
Read my interview with the author.

Lisa Schroeder has written multiple YA novels in verse, including I Heart You, You Haunt Me, Far From You, and Chasing Brooklyn. Her YA novel The Bridge from Me to You is a mix of verse and prose.

42 Miles by Tracie Vaughn Zimmer - G - ***
JoEllen's parents are divorced. With only 42 miles between their houses, she goes back and forth between them pretty often. Weekends are spent with in the country her dad, who calls her Joey, but on weekdays, she's Ellen, living in the city with her mom. Great pick for reluctant readers, shy poets, and kids of divorced parents. A very quick read with bonus illustrations.
Read my interview with the author.

Nothing by Robin Friedman - PG - ***
This novel uses a dual narrative: Parker relates his thoughts in straightforward prose while his younger sister Danielle uses verse. Danielle wishes she got a fraction of the attention Parker gets from their family and friends, not knowing that Parker, translating that attention as pressure, has started secretly binging and purging.
Read my full-length review.
Read my interview with the author.

Orchards by Holly Thompson - PG - ****
The summer following eighth grade, Kana Goldberg stays with relatives in Japan, far away from her American hometown, where her classmate committed suicide. This book offers a nice blend of introspection and connection with others as Kana attempts to bond with her extended family while dealing with feelings of guilt and remorse. She wonders if she and her friends played a role in Ruth's suicide. Coming to terms with tragedy is never easy, and while the sensitive subject matter is handled well here, the author is not afraid to add something that even I didn't see coming, a sting alongside the soothing. Recommended.

The Language Inside by Holly Thompson - G - ****
Emma has lived in Japan nearly her entire life. When her mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, the family moves back to Massachusetts, to Emma's grandmother's home. Her new classmates immediately think Emma is American because she's Caucasian and speaks English, but Emma misses Japan something terrible. While awaiting her mother's surgery and test results, Emma volunteers at a long-term care center, working one-on-one with a woman who has locked-in syndrome as the result of a stroke. The two women bond over a love of poetry. Emma also befriends another volunteer, a boy who goes to her school. This book explores cultural identity, details different forms of communication, and tests the strength of relationships between relatives and friends, both at home and across the ocean. Recommended.
Read my full-length review of the book.

Heaven Looks a Lot Like the Mall by Wendy Mass - PG - ***
Imagine coming upon a bag of forgotten things, then reliving memories for each and every item you touch. After being beaned on the head during a game of dodgeball, high school junior Tessa finds herself in heaven - or the local mall - or both. She remembers being hit and falling down, but she's not quite sure if she's dead or just dreaming.
Read my full-length review of the book within my Author Spotlight on Wendy Mass.

Jinx by Margaret Wild - R - ***
This is a story of love, loss, and labelling. Boyfriend #1 commits suicide. Girl struggles to deal. Girl moves on. Boyfriend #2 passes away. Girl earns a new nickname: Jinx.

Dead on Town Line by Leslie Connor - PG-13 - ***
A murdered girl tells her story to readers from beyond the grave. For fans of The Lovely Bones. In fact, I recommend this book instead of The Lovely Bones.

Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate - G - ***
This modern-day verse novel discusses immigration, loss, grief, extended families, foster homes, and more as a young boy attempts to learn new customs, a new language, and new way of life in America with his aunt and cousin after tragedy befalls his family in Africa. A good, solid story.

The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan - PG-13 - ***
The author channels 12 different characters in this book, all attending the same high school, each telling his or her own experience with classmates, teachers, and family members in a distinct voice.
Read one of my favorite passages.

A Bad Boy Can Be Good for a Girl by Tanya Lee Stone - PG-13/R - ***
Three girls who have dated the same boy tell their stories to the readers.
Read my full-length review of the book.
Read my interview with the author.

Pieces of Georgia by Jen Bryant - PG - ***
Georgia's artist mother passed away when she was 7. Now 13 and an artist herself, Georgia begins to write to her mother in a journal provided by the school counselor. This book is very sweet, and it made me smile. Now I'll let Georgia sum up the plot in this excerpt from page 73:

I wanted to let her know
that sometimes living with Daddy's sadness,
and a hyper hunting dog,
and the ghost of my mother,
and a super-athletic best friend
was just too much.


Exposed by Kimberly Marcus - PG-13 - ***
A high school girl - a budding photographer who is more comfortable behind the lens than in front of it - is torn between two of the most important people in her life when her forever-best friend accuses her older brother of an unconscionable act.

Girl Coming in for a Landing by April Halprin Wayland, with illustrations by Elaine Clayton - PG - ***
An extremely fast read about a teenager who expresses her thoughts about her life, her parents, and her sister in poems and art. I really liked Clayton's artwork, which includes sketches, clip art, photos, and collages.

The Geography of Girlhood by Kirsten Smith - PG - ***
This follows one girl's experiences from age 14 to 17, able to capture her entire high school career in one slim volume. My favorite line appears on Page 123:
In the end, I'm just a girl on a sleeping bag in the middle of nowhere, at the starting line of every mistake she'll ever make.

Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell - G - ***
Evan, a high school senior, is bullied and teased by some of his classmates after he asks the school board to remove his school's mascot, which he feels dishonors his Native American heritage. Month after month, Evan continues to make his case to the board. Readers learn that his older brother, now at college, also tried to have the mascot removed. This powerful, succinct story follows Evan from the beginning of his senior year until graduation day.

Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell - G - ***
After the death of their mother, two Mohawk sisters, Mattie and Sarah, are sent away from their reservation to a school in upstate New York. The narration alternates between the two girls with every other chapter.
Read my full-length review of the book.

What I Believe by Norma Fox Mazer - PG - ***
A mix of journal entries and poems written by a young girl. After her father lost his job, he became a different person. In the two years that followed the layoff, the family struggled to get by and her father became more and more depressed. When he leaves, it only makes things worse.

What My Mother Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones - G - ***
What My Girlfriend Doesn't Know by Sonya Sones - G - ***
Cute, likable novels. Kids pick them up because of the titles and the covers. Though the first book implies parental issues, it's more focused on the lead character's first crush. Teachers and parents seem surprised to find out how innocuous the book is - again, I think, adults make assumptions due to the title, but I assure them that it's really harmless.

The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle - G - ***
Cuba's three wars for independence raged on as Rosa la Bayamesa, a nurse, tended to the sick and the injured. Using medicine made from plants, she helped the fallen soldiers, the children, even those who fought for the other side. This verse novel is based on actual events and people, and it follows Rosa's life from 1850 to 1899. Even when they were pursued by her enemies, Rosa and her husband Jose never stopped helping others. Jose and a few other supporting characters, such as a little girl named Silvia, step in from time to time to share a poem, but Rosa is the driving force behind the story. We could all learn something from her selflessness and determination.

The Fruit Bowl Project by Sarah Durkee - PG - ***
What happens when a teacher and a famous rock star give a class of middle schoolers a writing prompt - but assign each student a different writing style? This hilarious and self-aware story has two portions: the initial setup, which is written in prose, and then the variations on the project, which are written in every way imaginable. There's a screenplay. A limerick. A newspaper article. A transcript. The point of view of an insider, an outsider, a popular girl, a gossip hound. Different styles, different kids. This book completely lives up to its premise. I encourage teachers and students to read and discuss this book in their classroom, then create their own Fruit Bowl Project.

Diamond Willow by Helen Frost - G - ***
Willow loves her dogs, who happily mush with her through the snow in her Alaskan hometown. After something that was supposed to be fun leads to an accident, Willow must deal with the consequences of her actions. This verse novel is dominated by diamond-shaped poems written from Willow's point of view, with the occasional piece of prose from some surprising and wise older narrators.

The Braid by Helen Frost - G - ***
Like Sweetgrass Basket, The Braid is narrated by two sisters, Sarah and Jeannie. This story takes place in the year 1850 and follows the girls' lives after they are separated.

17 by Liz Rosenberg - PG - **
A lot of issues are addressed as Stephanie reaches out to - and pushes away from - her loved ones. Your level of interest in it will depend on your tolerance of melodrama. Put it to you this way: if you like Degrassi the Next Generation, you'll probably like this; if you don't, you probably won't.

Split Image by Mel Glenn - PG - **
Ever wonder what everyone thought about you? This book collects the thoughts of Laura's classmates, teachers, and faculty members. Some love her, others loathe her. Laura struggles with how others perceive her. You as the reader are privy to everyone's honest opinions of her; had Laura herself know what they truly thought, things may have gone differently for her. Note: I recommend Leap Day by Wendy Mass to people who like this book. Though Leap Day is not a verse novel, it has a fantastically innovative way to tell the story: the A part of the chapter is in first person from the protagonist's point of view, while the B part retells that part of the story from someone else's perspective.

Stop Pretending by Sonya Sones - PG - **
Sones' first novel is semi-autobiographical. What happens when your big sister goes "crazy?" Told from the younger sister's point of view and based on her family's experiences, this novel is for those who like A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry and/or want something like Cut by Patricia McCormack or Checkers by John Marsden for someone who is not quite old or mature enough to read either of those titles.

Love That Dog by Sharon Creech - G - **
Out of all of the titles here, this book is intended for the youngest audience, say ages 8 and up. It is also the most poetry-oriented story on the list. By that, I mean that it actually is about poetry, and it is supposed to be a student's collection of poems, rather than a story that just happens to be expressed in that format. Jack is an elementary school student who doesn't want to write poetry, but he has to for class.

Finding Ruby Starling by Karen Rivers - G - ***
This is actually an epistolary novel, with the majority of the story is conveyed in letters and emails. However, one of the characters, Ruth, occasionally shares one of her poems, which she posts on tumblr - but, as of this posting, it is not an active account in real life. This book's premise is like Freaky Friday plus adoption: Two girls connect after one of them finds the other via an online photo site and is surprised to see someone who looks an awful lot like her. Could they be twins? The finder has always known she was adopted, but neither girl ever suspected they had any siblings, let alone an identical twin.

Which of these books have you read and enjoyed? Leave a comment below and let me know!