Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017)

long wayAn unforgettable novel in verse about one boy’s role in a cycle of violence.

Recommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9781481438254)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, diverse, own voices, African-American, reluctant readers, award winners

Tone/Style: spare, hard-hitting

Pace: fast

Topics: inner city life, gangs, ghosts

Themes: revenge, grief, cycle of violence, decisions, family

Summary: An ode to Put the Damn Guns Down, this is National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestseller Jason Reynolds’s fiercely stunning novel that takes place in sixty potent seconds—the time it takes a kid to decide whether or not he’s going to murder the guy who killed his brother.
Continue reading

Fashion Rebels: Style Icons Who Changed the World Through Fashion by Carlyn Cerniglia Beccia (2016)

A celebration of women throughout history who had confidence in themselves and used style to make a difference.

Recommended grade level: 4 and up

Pages:  176 (for ISBN 9781582704876)

Genre(s) and keywords: nonfiction, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: informational, celebratory

Pace: fast

Topics: fashion, politics, celebrities, women’s rights

Themes: self-expression, confidence, being oneself

Summary: Throughout time, daring women have made fashion choices that have altered the course of history. From Marie Antoinette, who wore a hairstyle as large as her presence, to Coco Chanel, who imagined a world without rib crushing corsets and heavy gowns, to Katharine Hepburn, who walked around the studio in her underwear when studio executives refused to let her wear her then-scandalous jeans, these women were mavericks as well as rebellious icons. Continue reading

Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016)

bookedKwame’s novel-in-verse follows in the tradition of Newbery Award-winner The Crossover.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages:   320 (for ISBN 9780544570986)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, verse, sports, diverse, reluctant readers, African-American protagonist

Tone/Style: cool, lyrical

Continue reading

Crash by Jerry Spinelli (1995)

Crash3A story told from the point of view of a total jerk.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 176 (for ISBN 9780440238577)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction, humor, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: simple, judgmental (at the beginning)

Pace: fast

Topics: bullying, jocks

Themes: identity, change, family

Summary: Crash Coogan, a seventh-grade football star, has been an aggressive person from the time he was very young; sometimes, he is too aggressive. Continue reading

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur (2009)

loveA touching story of grief and forgiveness.

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages: 262 (for ISBN 9780385737746)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: hurt, hopeful

Pace: moderate

Topics: death of family members, parental abandonment, parent/child relationships, moving, grandmothers, new friends

Themes: grief, feeling unwanted, disappointment, choices, forgiveness

Summary: A beautifully written and deeply moving middle-grade novel with characters to cherish and a story that deals with tragedy and loss in a fresh way. Continue reading

One for the Murphys by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (2012)

one foThis story about a witty, sarcastic girl who struggles to open herself to love in a foster home is a favorite with upper elementary and middle school readers.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 224 (for ISBN 9780399256158)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, reluctant readers

Tone/Style: snarky, longing

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: foster care, domestic abuse, relationships with foster families

Themes: betrayal by a family member, finding familial love, loss, belonging, forgiveness

Summary: In the wake of heart-breaking betrayal, Carley Connors is thrust into foster care and left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family. Continue reading

The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry (2015)

worstThis comedy adventure will have kids cracking up. I booktalked this to 6th and 7th graders, to great success. (Make sure you mention the giant butt kite.)

Recommended grade level: 4-7

Pages: 224 (for ISBN 9781484708491)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, diverse, adventure, reluctant readers, Latinx protagonist

Tone/Style: humorous, self-deprecating

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: field trips, Washington, D.C., terrorism, kidnapping, covert activities

Themes: loyalty to friends

Summary: In this hilarious novel, written in the voice of eighth-grader Wyatt Palmer, Dave Barry takes us on a class trip to Washington, DC. Continue reading