Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Realistic Stories

Greeting from Witness Protection by Jake Burt

Cover image for Greetings from witness protection!Nicki has been in foster care for a long time and seen all sorts of stuff, but when US Marshals show up and ask her to be part of the cover for a family entering witness protection, she’s shocked. The marshals know that the mob is looking for a family of three, not a family of four with a son and a daughter. So, all she has to do is pretend she’s always had a brother and the Trevors really are her parents. Easy right? Oh, she’s also got to be perfectly normal in everything. What could go wrong? Turns out plenty! There’s action, humor, and compelling characters to root for here.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

Cover image for The secret sheriff of sixth gradeLife isn’t easy for Maverick. His mom struggles with drinking and a string of bad boyfriends. There are also money problems, and he gets picked on in school. Basically, nothing seems to be going right. So, Maverick decides to change things when he starts 6th grade. He’ll stand up to the bullies, and protect anyone smaller than him. Unfortunately, there’s only one person smaller then him in 6th grade, and generally when he intervenes, he makes things worse. This book can make you laugh one minute and cry the next.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Frindle by Andrew Clements

Cover image for FrindleNick Allen has mastered the art of making school a more entertaining place to be, whether that involves transforming his classroom into a tropical island, or making sure there is no homework assigned by asking his trademarked, thought-provoking, time-wasting questions.  When asking one of these questions in Mrs. Granger’s 5th grade language arts class, he finds himself instead assigned a report about words and their origins!  He later devises a plan to create a word of his own: frindle.  Soon everyone is using Nick’s new word, despite fierce opposition by Mrs. Granger.  Who will win the war of the words?

Book reviewed by Caitlin B., Youth Services Assistant

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Cover image for All's faire in middle schoolImogen is starting public school for the first time after being homeschooled all her life. She’s worried about fitting in, especially since her family works year round at the local renaissance faire and doesn’t exactly act normal. In an effort to make friends, Imogen ends up becoming a bully herself, but knows it’s wrong and doesn’t fit with her knight training at the Faire. Can she find the courage to be who she really is? Give to fans of Raina Telgemeier, Sunny Side UpEl Deafo, or Roller Girl.

Book reviewed by Keary B., Youth Collection Librarian

Absolutely Alfie and the Furry Purry Secret by Sally Warner

Cover image for Absolutely Alfie and the furry purry secretAbsolutely Alfie and the Furry Purry Secret by Sally Warner is the first book about Alfie, who is the younger sister to EllRay Jakes, which is another series for young chapter book readers. Alfie is a little nervous about starting 2nd grade, and not looking forward to her forced playdates with a neighbor girl, Hanni, who she has heard can be a bit bossy. The girls actually have fun together. Then Hanni’s family gets a bunch of kittens and they’re just giving them away! For free! Alfie can’t resist, even though there’s a family rule: no pets allowed. That’s because Alfie is allergic. But Alfie thinks the rule is wrong and she just knows she can handle taking care of a kitten on her own. She just has to keep it a secret. What could possibly go wrong?

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Pablo and Birdy by Alison McGee

Cover image for Pablo and BirdyWelcome to the island of Isla where an infant and a mute, flightless parrot arrive in a child’s inflatable pool after a storm. The islanders have kept Pablo and Birdy safe ever since.

Ten years have passed and suddenly brought some very strong winds of change. Pablo becomes desperate to learn about his origins. Will his parrot companion Birdy help him in is his discovery?

This is a fable like story and do not forget to pay close attention to the wonderful illustrations.

Book reviewed by Marsha D., Youth Services Assistant

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