A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (2011)

monsterA moving and heartbreakingly honest modern fairy tale.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up; maybe older for sensitive readers

Pages: 216 (for ISBN 9781406311525)

Genre(s) and keywords: fantasy, (light) horror, drama, British import, Europe (England), Kylie’s Favorites

Tone/Style: mysterious, sad

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: monsters, fables, ill parents

Themes: being honest with oneself, death, acceptance, grief and loss, denial, change, moving on, family

Summary:  The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do. But it isn’t the monster Conor’s been expecting. He’s been expecting the one from his nightmare, the one he’s had nearly every night since his mother started her treatments, the one with the darkness and the wind and the screaming… The monster in his back garden, though, this monster is something different. Something ancient, something wild. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth.

Continue reading

Falling Over Sideways by Jordan Sonnenblick (2016)

fallingJordan Sonnenblick is a staple in realistic fiction aimed at middle school readers.  His newest offering does not disappoint.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   272 (for ISBN 9780545863247)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, humor

Tone/Style: thoughtful, self-pitying

Pace: moderate

Topics: parental illness, strokes, recovery, dance, saxophone

Themes: family, parent-child relationships, selfishness, sacrifice

Summary: It’s not easy being Claire. (Really.)

Claire’s life is a joke . . . but she’s not laughing. While her friends seem to be leaping forward, she’s dancing in the same place. The mean girls at school are living up to their mean name, and there’s a boy, Ryder, who’s just as bad, if not worse. And at home, nobody’s really listening to her — if anything, they seem to be more in on the joke than she is. Continue reading

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt (2007)

The_wednesday_warsThis beloved tragicomedy is like hiding veggies in a smoothie: they won’t even notice it’s historical fiction!

Recommended grade level: 5-9

Pages: 264 (for ISBN 9780618724833)

Genre(s) and keywords: historical fiction, humor, award winners

Tone/Style: personal, embarrassed

Pace: moderate

Topics: school, theatre, baseball, the Vietnam War, Shakespeare

Themes: parent/child relationships, sibling relationships, teacher relationships, war, disappointment, parental approval, self-discovery

Summary: Holling Hoodhood is really in for it.

He’s just started seventh grade with Mrs. Baker, a teacher he knows is out to get him. Why else would she make him read Shakespeare…outside of class? Continue reading

Chomp by Carl Hiaasen (2012)

chompThis Everglades adventure has humor, action, a well-developed cast of characters, and biting–lots of biting.

Recommended grade level: 5-9

Pages: 290 (for ISBN 9780375868429)

Genre(s) and keywords: adventure, humor, survival

Tone/Style: quirky, humorous

Pace: moderate

Topics: animals, swamps, reality TV, domestic abuse

Themes: parent/child relationships, protecting others, dishonesty on television

Summary: Wahoo Cray lives in a zoo. His father is an animal wrangler, so he’s grown up with all manner of gators, snakes, parrots, rats, monkeys, snappers, and more in his backyard. Continue reading

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans (2011)

prisoner

This sci-fi/action story is one of the most popular books among middle schoolers at my library.

Recommended grade level: 6-10

Pages: 326 (for ISBN 9781451656503)

Genre(s) and keywords: action, science fiction

Tone/Style: mysterious, exciting

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: powers (supernatural), fitting in, rescue, escape

Themes: parent/child relationships, friendship, being different, young people being used by adults

Summary: To everyone at Meridian High School, fourteen-year-old Michael Vey is nothing special, just the kid who has Tourette’s syndrome. But in truth, Michael is extremely special—he has electric powers. Continue reading

srsly Hamlet by Courtney Carbone (2015)

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It’s Shakespeare…in text messages. I’m amazed nobody tried this sooner.

Recommended grade level: 7 and up

Pages: 128 (for ISBN 9780553535389)

Genre(s) and keywords: humor, retellings, text

Tone/Style: chatspeak

Pace: fast

Topics: murder, ghosts, royalty

Themes: revenge, indecision, parent/child relationships, suicide, death, action vs. inaction

Summary: Hamlet, one of the greatest stories ever told . . . in texts?! Continue reading

When Parents Text: So Much Said, So Little Understood by Lauren Kaelin and Sophia Fraioli (2011)

when parentsRecommended grade level: 8 and up

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9780761166047)

 Genre(s) and keywords: humor, nonfiction, Internet

Tone/Style: humorous, text

Pace: fast, browsable

Topics: technology, misunderstandings, generation gaps

Themes: parent/child relationships, familial love, challenges of modern communication

Summary: A collection of insanely funny texts between parents and kids, When Parents Text is a surprisingly affecting window into the complicated time when parents aren’t ready to let go, and kids aren’t ready to be let go. Continue reading