Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Realistic Stories

Roll by Darcy Miller

Cover image for RollRen’s family decides to move to the outskirts of town. He misses being close to his best friend, Aiden, and he just wants things to go back to normal. Imagine his surprise when he looks up in the sky and sees birds just falling towards the ground. He watches closer and begins to think they’re falling on purpose.

As he investigates, he learns his new neighbor, Sutton, is training the pigeons to fly in competition. While Ren becomes better friends with Sutton, he faces some challenges in his friendship with Aiden. Ren has to figure out the type of friend he wants to be and the type of friends he wants to have. I would recommend this book for 4th-6th graders who love realistic fiction.

Book reviewed by Katharin B., Youth Outreach Liaison

Roller Girl  by Victoria Jamieson    

Cover image for Roller girlOne night, Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend to a roller derby, and this sets off a course of events that changes Astrid’s life.  Astrid becomes obsessed with everything roller derby and decides to join roller derby camp the summer before entering junior high.  This decision leads to some major problems with her best friend.  To add to her troubles, Astrid discovers that skating for the roller derbies is much harder than she ever imagined, and she can’t think of an awesome roller name like the other girls in the league.  How will she ever be as talented as her idol, Rainbow Bite?  Roller Girl is a fun, entertaining graphic novel with strong female role models.  It is a great choice for those who enjoyed reading Smile.

Book reviewed by Caitlin B., Youth Services Assistant

Auma’s Long Run by Eucabeth Odhiambo

Cover image for Auma's long runAuma’s Long Run transports the reader to a Kenya where people are just discovering and coming to grips with the AIDS epidemic. Auma, unlike most of her classmates, looks beyond a career as a farmer or wife and dreams of being a doctor. It’s part of why she works to understand why so many people are dying and what can be done. Auma, and most in her community, have to deal with being poor and the limited options there are for women, but she has a great relationship with her family, and the whole community works together to help one another. The author did a good job of putting us in that setting, so that even though it is not my own culture, I could relate. Auma is not only a dutiful daughter and student, but a runner and someone who wishes to go back to being a child. Her friends and classmates experience grief, taunting, romantic feelings, and moments of laughter, just like teens here. I recommend this story especially to middle grade and teen readers who want a new perspective.

 Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Weekends with Max and His Dad by Linda Urban

Cover image for Weekends with Max and his dadThis sweet beginner chapter book will make readers of all ages (including adults) have some real emotion. It is about a boy whose parents are divorced, and yet the word divorce is never even mentioned, because what it’s really about is the relationship between a boy and his dad—how they communicate, how they play together, and also how things are a little different now than they used to be. Each of the three chapters has a theme and a short story within the overall narrative arc. It’s amusing and lovable, without glossing over some of the issues, such as Max’s dislike for how his dad decorated his new room, but his hesitance to tell him because it would hurt his feelings. This is the first of three books in a new, engaging series!

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Cover image for Fish in a tree : a novelSixth-grader Ally gets into trouble during class enough to be a frequent flyer in the principal’s office. Not only does she struggle with her father’s absence due to an overseas deployment, she dreads going to school since she has no friends and she knows she’ll be forced to act out in order to protect a secret. Her life drastically changes when her strange behavior causes a move to a new classroom. Ally initially panics as Mr. Daniels, her new teacher, uncovers her secret. As the school year goes on and new friends are made, however, Ally begins to blossom. If you enjoy reading books that feature a main character who faces challenges in a school setting, this book is for you!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

Sam the Man & the Chicken Plan by Frances O’Roark Dowell

Cover image for Sam the Man & the chicken planEveryone else in his family has a job. Sam wants to earn money too, so he turns to his neighbors to see if they need help doing chores. He lands himself not one, but two jobs! –walking cranky old Mr. Stockfish, as well as helping Mrs. Kerner care for her chickens. Luckily, Sam the Man has a knack for watching chickens, and sets out to get a chicken of his own– one that lays blue eggs, which he can then sell to his classmates to make even MORE money! What will Sam the Man do with all his earnings?

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Blind Guide to Stinkville by Beth Vrabel

Cover image for A blind guide to StinkvilleImagine moving across the country and leaving your best friend when your Dad gets a new job. Now imagine doing all of that with a depressed mom who barely gets out of bed and an older brother who barely speaks to you. Oh, you are also blind and have albinoism. Sound rough? Well, Alice handles it all like a champion and proves along the way the difference between having a vision and having sight.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

I am Drums by Mike Grosso

Cover image for I am drumsDrums are Sam’s life. She hears music everywhere she goes, even when she is dreaming. She even makes her own drum kit out of her encyclopedias and her Calvin and Hobbes books so she can practice all the time. Sam wants to become a better drummer, and she has to figure out how she can pay for lessons. This story is funny, sad, and cool.

Book reviewed by Anne W., Youth Services Assistant

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks

Cover image for Save me a seatImagine starting fifth grade at a new school in a new country. It’s tough! Ravi, who has just moved from India, is stunned to learn that his classmates and teacher at Albert Einstein Elementary do not seem impressed by his previous stellar grades, popularity among his former classmates, and his athletic prowess at cricket. At first, he feels his only hope for climbing the social ladder involves befriending Dillon Samreen, an outgoing classmate. Joe, a fellow student who sits behind Ravi, is bullied frequently by Dillon and notices that he has his sights now set on Ravi. With viewpoints of Ravi and Joe alternating every chapter, you’ll root for each one as they both do their best to navigate life in the fifth grade.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds

Cover image for As brave as youEleven-year old Genie and his older brother Ernie are sent to live with their grandparents in rural Virginia for the summer while their parents go on a trip to work on their relationship. Coming from Brooklyn, and barely knowing their grandparents, this comes as a shock– there is no internet, no TV, and they have to do chores, including shoveling dog poop! What also comes as a shock is that Grandpop is blind. Genie has so many questions, about Grandpop and just about everything else. From, “Where do crickets go when it rains?” and “Why am I so stupid?” To, “How does [Grandpop] match his clothes?” and “Why would a blind man have a gun?” Genie keeps a notebook of these burning questions and also grills Grandpop at every opportunity…especially about the private room he calls his “nunya bidness” room and also why Grandpop never leaves the house. The dialogue and growing bond between Genie and Grandpop is hilarious and heartwarming. Readers learn about generations of family and community issues, as Genie and Ernie question what it means to be brave. This book is one of my favorites of the year because it just feels so real, and is also one of the best audiobooks I’ve listened to in a while. Reader Guy Lockard has the perfect intonation and pace.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator