15 Days Without a Head by Dave Cousins (2013)

daysIn this British import, a teen goes to great lengths to keep anyone from discovering that he and his little brother have been abandoned by their alcoholic mother.

Recommended grade level: 6 and up

Pages:   302 (for ISBN 9780738736426)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic, British

Tone/Style: humorous, distressed

Pace: moderate

Topics: alcoholism, siblings, contests, survival, cons

Themes: family, trust, responsibility

Summary: How far would you go to keep your family together?

Meet Laurence – fifteen years old and six feet tall – he’ll dress up as his mum and impersonate a dead man on the radio. Meet Jay – his six year old brother. He looks like an angel but thinks he’s a dog. He’ll sink his teeth into anyone who gets in the way.

Today is Tuesday – and the next fifteen days will change the boys’ lives for ever… (Source) 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

Perfect by Natasha Friend (2004)

perfectThis book about a girl’s struggle with bulimia is realistic but not too mature, making it a good choice for middle schoolers of all ages.

Recommended grade level: 6-9

Pages: 172 (for ISBN 9781571316516)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic fiction

Tone/Style: depressed

Pace: moderate to fast

Topics: bulimia, therapy groups, loss of a parent, parents with mental illness, friends who are negative influences

Themes: grief and loss,  unhealthy coping, siblings, parent/child relationships, family

Summary: Isabelle Lee is a typical, wisecracking, middle-of-the-pack girl who happens to be dealing with some big issues. Her father has died and no one—especially her mother—wants to talk about it. Meanwhile, Isabelle’s sister, who used to be nine and charming, has ruined everything by ratting Isabelle out to their mom about her eating disorder. Continue reading

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff (2015)

lost

A melancholy tale of a boy who acts out because of guilt, loneliness, and low self-esteem after causing the accidental death of a peer.

Recommended grade level: 5-8

Pages: 304 (for ISBN 9780399164064)

Genre(s) and keywords: realistic

Tone/Style: melancholy

Pace: leisurely

Topics: causing an accidental death, emotional problems, divorced parents, lost friendships, new friendships, brothers

Themes: reasons for misbehavior, coping with guilt, managing anger and other emotions, opening oneself to be helped by others, coping with feelings of inadequacy, earning trust

Summary: Seven months ago, a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent Zimmerman with a brain full of thoughts he can’t shake. Continue reading

The Nest by Kenneth Oppel, illustrated by Jon Klassen (2015)

the-nest-9781481432320_hrA mind-bending horror great for reluctant readers.

Recommended grade level: 4-8

Pages: 256 (for ISBN 9781481432320)

Genre(s) and keywords: horror, psychological

Continue reading