Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Realistic Stories

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Cover image for Absolutely almostAlbie is not the smartest in his class or the best at sports or even the greatest artist. In fact, Albie is considered “almost.” When he gets his spelling test and doesn’t get an “A” on it, it’s “almost” an “A” to his Dad. The fact that his favorite book series is Captain Underpants and not the book, Johnny Tremaine, is an “almost” since his mom thinks he should be reading something harder. The same for all the other things he does. When his parents send Albie to a new school, he thinks that maybe he can finally be better than “almost,” but that’s before he meets the bullies in his class. However, then his parents hire a new babysitter for him after school named Calista.  Calista doesn’t think he is an “almost,” but rather that he is good and that he has talent. Sometimes, you just need to work really hard to make that talent shine. However, soon Calista is gone, the bullies are at school are starting to be meaner, and his parents just don’t understand him. Albie realizes that he needs to be the good kid Calista thinks he is, but can he do it?

Book reviewed by Laura B. Youth Technology Librarian

Booked by Kwame Alexander

Cover image for BookedThis novel-in-verse follows Nick, a boy who LOVES soccer and has a crush on April,  a girl at his school.  When a double-whammy comes up in his life in the form of his parents deciding to separate (with his mom moving away) and an emergency stay in the hospital, Nick struggles with staying calm and facing his fears.  Nick wants things to be like they were before, but that isn’t an option anymore.  If you enjoy lightning-fast reads that take place in a school setting, this one’s for you!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers

Cover image for The girl in the well is meEleven-year-old Kammie only wanted to be friends with the popular girls. When they say she has to pass an initiation to join their club, Kammie agrees and lets them cut off her hair. Next, she follows their demands to stand on top of some boards that cover a well, and she falls through. The girls try half-heartedly to help her, but then they run off. As it grows darker, Kammie doesn’t know whether they have gone to get help or if she’ll die alone in the well. Cold, hungry, thirsty, and scared, Kammie begins to imagine that a French-speaking coyote, goats, and all kinds of creepy-crawlies are in the well with her. During this time Kammie also reflects on her past: her dad, who is in prison for stealing money from a fund to help children with cancer; her older brother Robby, who used to be nice until he turned 14 and her former home and friends before moving to “Nowheresville, Texas.”

If you like stories about trying to fit in and finding your true friends—and with a little bit of suspense—check out The Girl in the Well is Me.

Book reviewed by Dana F., Assistant Head of Youth Services

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Cover image for Listen, slowlyMai is ready for summer vacation in California. She plans to spend it on the beach with her best friend and maybe even talk to the guy she likes, but her parents have other ideas. Mai’s family is from Vietnam. Her grandmother left with her children after the Vietnam War. Her grandfather was never found after the war. Now, a detective thinks he has found some information on what happened to her grandfather and her grandmother wants to return to Vietnam for answers. Mai’s parents insist that Mai accompany her grandmother on the trip, which means no beach for Mai. Soon, Mai is in Vietnam, a place she considers hot, smelly, and with a lot of extended family. She doesn’t speak the language well and Vietnam is very different than California. It’s even worse when she finds out that her best friend in California is on the beach hanging with the guy she likes. If only the detective and grandmother could work something out. Then, she would get to go home, but that doesn’t seem likely. Now, she must try to find a balance between California life and Vietnam life, and maybe even try to give Vietnam and her extended family a chance.

Book reviewed by Laura B. Youth Technology Librarian

Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff

Cover image for Lost in the sunIn Lost in the Sun by Lisa Graff, 12-year-old Trent used to love sports and had lots of friends, but 6 months ago all that changed—a boy died after getting hit in the chest with a hockey puck. And guess who hit that hockey puck? So Trent is having a rough year to say the least. His tense visits with his standoffish dad aren’t helping. His homeroom teacher, who he calls the “wrinkled old crone,” forcing him to water her plants after school isn’t helping. The only things that may be helping are his “Book of Thoughts” and the unexpected friendship that’s springing up with Fallon Little, the outcast girl with the scar across her face. Lost in the Sun is a heartfelt and emotional story from a boy’s point of view, with a little bit of sports thrown in.

Book reviewed by Erin E., Youth Services Programming Coordinator

Almost Home by Joan Bauer

Cover image for Almost homeTalk about a challenging life. Sugar has a deadbeat dad, a mom with emotional issues and they lose their house. You would think that would make this sixth grader very negative and troubled. Not Sugar (that is her name :)) She rises above it all with the help of a puppy, poetry and a few people who take the time out to build into her life. This is a really good book!

 

The Truth about Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh

Cover image for The truth about Twinkie PieThe Truth About Twinkie Pie unfolds as GiGi begins 7th grade at a new school and learns more about herself, her mother and her sister. This is a heartwarming story of love, loss, sacrifice, and what it means to be a family. Each chapter begins with a recipe from mama’s cookbook which adds to the charm of this middle grade novel. Readers who like character driven stories with a bit of mystery are sure to enjoy The Truth about Twinkie Pie.

Book reviewed by Amy S., Youth Outreach and Programming Assistant

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

Cover image for Love, AubreyPut this book on your must-read list if you are a fan of stories where the main character must struggle to overcome real-life obstacles. Although Aubrey is only eleven, she has had her share of hardships. Her father and younger sister suddenly pass away in an accident. Then, her mother is unable to cope with their deaths and drives away from the house, leaving Aubrey to fend for herself. Aubrey quietly accepts her abandonment and lives alone for days before her grandmother discovers the truth and whisks her away to her house in Vermont.  With a new place to live and new people in her life, Aubrey searches for what will help her move forward but won’t let her forget precious memories. There are many moments of hope and happiness in this book, but also many sad moments, so get your tissues ready!

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Programming Assistant

The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson.

Cover image for The great Greene heistJackson Greene is known for a couple of things: his blazer jacket and red tie, and big scale tricks or cons like the “Blitz at the Fitz” or incidents like the “Mid-day PDA.” But for the past four months, things have been different. After his last con blew up, he’s decided to stay on the straight and narrow. That was until he found out that Keith Sinclair is planning on running for student council president against Gabby de la Cruz, Jackson’s former best friend/almost girlfriend who kind of hates him right now.  Jackson knows he shouldn’t get involved, but Keith is known for playing dirty, and he has the greedy principal on his side. So Jackson gets together a group of students, each talented at something different, to make sure the election goes according to plan. And if Jackson wins back Gabby’s respect in the process, and stays out of trouble, that will just be the icing on the cake. If you like mystery, adventure, and fast paced stories, check out this entertaining book.

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley

Cover image for The dumbest idea ever!If you ask Jimmy why he started creating comics, he would tell you it all began when he caught chicken pox in middle school. Before that he was popular, an athlete, and doing really well in school, but then he had to miss school and the championship basketball game for being sick. His grades begin to drop, basketball isn’t going great, and his teacher confiscates his comic book in class because it is not acceptable reading material. Rather than be upset, Jimmy created his own comic book. The first one isn’t as great as it could be, so he asks his friend for advice. However, according to Jimmy, the advice is the dumbest idea ever. Is it really though? Find out the idea by reading this graphic novel.

Book reviewed by Laura B., Youth Technology Librarian