News from Youth Services Category: For Grades 4-6

In the Key of Us

by Mariama Lockington

in the key of us book cover
JF LOCKINGTON, M.

Harmony Music Camp is a big deal. You have to apply and be accepted for camp, and each week you audition for your seat in the band.  

This is Andi’s first year at camp, and it kind of feels like her aunt and uncle are trying to get rid of her for the summer. Her mother died ten months ago and she hasn’t been able to adjust to life with her aunt and uncle or enjoy the things she used to, like playing the trumpet.  

Zora has been going for many years and has many friends, but because she and Andi are black, people seem to think they should be best friends. And at first, they are definitely not. Andi wears all black and mostly keeps to herself. Zora is bubbly and colorful and friends with everyone. But behind it all, Zora feels all this anxiety to be the best and make her parents happy. And as Andi and Zora get to know one another, they grow closer. Each helps the other be truer to herself and happier. 

If you couldn’t already tell, this book deals with some difficult subjects: death of a parent and anxiety among them, but also self-harm. However, this is also the story of first love and a first kiss.  

Because this is a story about a music camp, there is also a lot of talk about music. The author created a playlist on Spotify to listen to everything mentioned, which I really enjoyed because it let me get to know the characters a little better. Here is the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/0OhGaB2Ao5WGTl07C0uCDn?si=dc0313ab6f804301  

This story is best for readers of realistic fiction, who can handle some of the sad things and will enjoy the budding romance. I hope you enjoy the world of Andi and Zora as much as I did! 

Jennifer Chan is not Alone

by Tae Keller

jennifer chan is not alone book cover
JF KELLER, T.

Do you believe in aliens? The new girl, Jennifer, does, but Mallory knows admitting that would make Jennifer an outcast. Mallory decides to help Jennifer to fit in, but when Jennifer goes missing, she has to admit that maybe her “help” was actually bullying.  

Mallory wants to find Jennifer, so she looks for clues in Jennifer’s journals, and asks her former friends to help. As they search, weird things start happening; things that could be connected to Jennifer’s disappearance, or even aliens. Will Mallory risk her popularity and current friendships to find Jennifer?  

This story is told by Mallory, who goes back and forth from talking about what happened before and after Jennifer’s disappearance. She can be an unreliable narrator, especially when she tries to convince herself and others that she didn’t do anything wrong. Reading a story from the perspective of the bully was new and interesting to me. This was an interesting and realistic mystery, with the best kind of mischief (to help find the truth). The author writes at the end of the book about her own experience being bullied as a child, and I really, really appreciated that. This story was exciting, sad, even funny sometimes, and I recommend it to fans of mysteries and books like Wonder and Restart.  

The Way of the Hive: A Honeybee’s Story

by Jay Hosler

the way of the hive: a honey bee's story book cover
J GRAPH HOSLER, J.

Bees are not my favorite (since I have been stung many times) but I know they are important. The author makes the reader care about honey bees by describing their growth and development. He personalizes it by telling us about one bee, Nyuki. I learned why honey bees are so important and I also care about what happens to them because Mr. Hosler told the story in a beautiful way. 

How to Find What You’re Not Looking For

by Veera Hiranandani

how to find what you're not looking for book cover
JF HIRANANDANI, V.

Ariel Goldberg is in middle school, dealing with friendship and learning challenges. Ariel is also dealing with family issues, as her beloved older sister Leah leaves home to marry Raj, the Indian man that she has fallen in love with.  When Leah’s parents refuse to accept the marriage, Ariel realizes that it is through poetry that she is best able to communicate her feelings about all that is happening in her life.

This story takes place shortly after the Supreme Court decision Loving v. Virgina in 1967 and is inspired by the author’s own family history.  

Ophie’s Ghosts

by Justina Ireland

ophie's ghosts book cover
JF IRELAND, J.

Ophelia, or Ophie, wakes up one night to her father telling her she needs to get out of the house. Moments later, some men from town come and set it on fire. It is only later that Ophie discovers her father was killed the night before, and that his ghost came to give her the message. She and her mother flee Georgia for Pittsburgh, where they must live with Ophie’s sweet great aunt, but also her horrible aunt and cousins. Seriously, they are really unpleasant! Ophie’s mother gets a job as a maid in a very rich family’s home, and soon Ophie must come to work there as well. All the while, she keeps seeing ghosts, and what’s more, the ghosts know she can see them. They start to ask her for things, things they need said or done so they can pass on. Ophie stumbles across a mystery at her job, and her curiosity and desire to help cause her to put herself in danger, all in the name of solving the mystery and helping one very charming ghost.   

This book takes place in the 1920s, and Ophelia’s family is black. Her father is killed because he tried to vote. Even though black men got the right to vote in 1870, it was basically impossible in the South at that time. And even though Ophie and her mom come to the north, they still experience a lot of racism and bad treatment. The story is a hard and sad one, but also very exciting, and by the end, I was so proud of Ophie for her bravery and compassion. If you like your ghost stories with some historical facts sprinkled in, pick up Ophie’s Ghosts by Justina Ireland. I listened to the book, which was wonderful, so if you like audiobooks, give it a listen.