Reviews

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Mary, born into slavery in 1868, loved watching the birds fly free in the sky while she worked in the fields. She wanted to be free too! But she had to keep working. No time for rest. No time to learn. Even when Mary and her family were freed from slavery she still had to work hard.

One day, Mary was given a Bible, but all she could see were squiggly lines! Mary became determined to learn to read but there was always work to be done and a family to raise. Late in life, Mary said, "No more waiting! Time to learn!" You'll be amazed to learn Mary's age when she finally learned to read and became truly free.

This true story definitely shows that you are never too old to learn. I love how this book is full of hope and the vibrant collage illustrations by Coretta Scott King award winner, Oge Mara, really help tell the story in this amazing picture book biography. There are even real photos of Mary on the front and back covers.

   
Tween   
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My Pet Human

This first-chapter book stars an adorable tuxedo cat who loves living the outdoor life! It can hang out with its friends (other animals in the neighborhood), has lots of great places to eat, and doesn't have to worry about any pesky humans. All of the cat's animal friends have human pets with the weirdest habits and flaws––one human stays in their room all day and another's group of mini-humans jumps all over it. When a new human, a nice one, moves into an abandoned house and gives the cat some yummy tuna mac-and-cheese, the cat tries to train it to make its own "human pet."

This book is so cute and the pictures are really delightful. I love that the story is told from the cat's point of view! It is so funny. If you love cats or stories about animals this would be a good book for you! Recommended for ages 6–10.

Reviewed by Kim B., Children's Librarian

   
Animals    Friendship    Read   
Tween   
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Another Kind

Deep in the desert, not too far from infamous Area 51, is a government facility called the Playroom. In this secret facility are a group of six kids, who are not-quite-human. While the Playroom is a refuge for them, it is also an enclosure. A security breach soon propels them into the world––a world dangerous for "irregularities." Before they know it, this group of clever and funny kids is being hunted by employees of the government, UFO conspiracy theorists, and a mysterious and malevolent "Collector."

This graphic novel features a cast of diverse characters searching for a place to call home, as well as incredible art and some snarky, funny dialogue. If you like books with adventure & beautiful art, a high-stakes plot (without any world ending), and cryptids(!), check it out.

   
Tween   
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Other Boys

Damien hasn't had many positive experiences in his past. His mother was killed when he was just a baby, his brother and aunts and uncles don't understand his hobbies and passions, and he's not even sure he understands himself. So he's starting over in a new school after being bullied harshly at his last. This time around, Damien vows to stay silent and give the kids at his new school absolutely nothing to go on if they want to bully him. Yet it's lonely talking to no one and bottling up all his feelings. 

   
Other boys   
Tween   
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Glitter Gets Everywhere

Kitty, her sister Imogen, and her father all have different ways of coping with the loss of their mother and wife. When her father takes a new job opportunity, the family moves to New York. Though you may think that moving to a different city would stop Kitty from constantly being reminded of her mom, the opposite seems to hold true, and Kitty is reminded of her mom everywhere she goes.

Glitter Gets Everywhere is a great book because provides a heartwarming way to approach the very difficult topic of the loss of a parent. The book would also be helpful if you are coping with the loss of any loved one. Additionally, it contains strong themes of family, connections, and holding onto memories. Recommended for readers ages 8–12.

Reviewed by Kim B., Children’s Librarian

   
Family    Read   
Tween   
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Everything Sad is Untrue: (a True Story)

Indeed this is a true story of a boy named Khosrou, who became known as "Daniel" when he and his mother and sister immigrated to the United States. Author Daniel Nayeri writes from his perspective as a child who loved his relatives and his ancient house in Iran, but was forced into a long immigration process when his mother, a doctor, converted from Islam to Christianity and was thereafter considered a criminal in her own country. The fictionalized account makes many references to the storytelling of the legendary Persian queen Scheherazade, and Nayeri writes as if his own survival depends on telling the many small stories and captured memories, whether poignant, mundane, or traumatic, that make him the person he is today. Humor and also sadness abound, and there is some blood and violence.

This book won the Michael L. Printz Award for literary excellence in young adult literature, in 2021.

   
Award Winner    Diversity    Family    Read   
Tween   
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Cub

Seventh grader, Cindy Copeland does not fit in with the other kids in her class. Several kids bully her because her clothes are old fashioned and unlike the other kids, she loves school! Cindy’s favorite thing to do is writing, so when her teacher offers to pair her with a local newspaper journalist, she jumps at the chance to become a cub reporter! As Cindy experiences life as a young reporter, she makes new friends and learns that she is in charge of writing her own story!

Cub is a graphic novel memoir, telling the true story of author Cynthia Copeland’s as she discovered how to be herself and own her story. I loved seeing Cindy’s writing grow as she gained new experiences and seeing the elements of life in the early-mid 1970s! While so many elements are different (fashion, slang, etc), there are other things that remain similar to our life today (struggles growing up, making friends, and dealing with bullies).

   
Cub   
Tween   
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A Boy Called Bat

Bixby Alexander Tam (Bat, for short) loves all kinds of animals. When Bat's veterinarian mom brings home an orphaned newborn skunk, his focus and goal is to convince her that a skunk might just be a perfect pet. The only trouble is, she insists that the skunk can only stay with them for one short month, just long enough for the baby skunk to grow up enough to transition to a wildlife rehab center. Can Bat convince her to change her mind?  

A sweet and understanding portrayal of a boy on the spectrum, Bat's supportive family and teacher bring to life how it can be difficult to communicate with someone whose mind works differently, and yet, the story never mentions autism at all. When it comes to making friends, and making eye contact, Bat isn't made fun of or judged, and his full focus on his interests is as appreciated as he is. Recommended for ages 8+

Reviewed by Claire C.

   
Animals    Diversity    Fiction    Inclusiveness    Read    Realistic    Staff Picks   
Tween   
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Black Brother, Black Brother

Donte and his brother Trey go to a private middle school where most of their classmates are white. They are biracial; their mother is black and their father is white. Trey is very light-skinned and can pass as white whereas Donte has darker skin and is known as “Black Brother.” Because of Donte’s skin color, he is bullied at his middle school by a white kid named Alan. Alan sets Donte up and gets him in trouble involving the police.

Donte eventually finds the sport of fencing, which is Alan’s sport too, and this brings him to a place of understanding of where he fits in the world. By the time Donte faces off with Alan in a fencing match, Donte is confident in who he is and where he is going in his life.

This book deals with racism and bullying in middle school in a real and relatable way. Readers will learn a lot about fencing and how sports can give people confidence in who they are.

   
African American    Bullying    Read    Siblings    Sports   
Tween   
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