Staff Picks 4 Kids Category: Realistic Stories

The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon

The Season of Styx MaloneCaleb and his brother Bobby Gene are having an average summer, playing in the woods behind their house, when they accidentally trade their baby sister for a bag of illegal fireworks. Shortly after, they meet Styx Malone, a 16 year old boy. He offers to help them get something better for the fireworks, but it requires some trickery: namely, an elevator trade, where they keep trading things for bigger and bigger things.  Their father doesn’t like them to leave their small town of Sutton, Indiana, fearing what could happen to them in a place no one knows them, but quickly, their friendship with Styx has them doing riskier and riskier things…like swimming in the lake in the woods, hitching a ride on a train, and “trading,” or stealing depending on who you ask. Caleb has always wanted to have an adventure, and he practically idolizes Styx, who doesn’t seem to be afraid of anything. Styx is mysterious and charming and seems to have learned how to get people to like him, but also won’t get too attached to anyone or any place.It’s how he has learned to survive as a foster child. The Season of Styx Malone is an adventure story with laughs and trouble-making, as well as family and friends and the difficulties some people face.

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Best Buds Under Frogs by Leslie Patricelli

Best Buds Under Frogs book coverMaking friends at a new school is hard, and its even harder when you throw up on someone’s brand-new shoes during recess. Lily just wants to crawl into her imaginary turtle shell or better yet never ever go to school again.  But, luckily for her, she meets Darby, who doesn’t seem to care what other people think.  Lily and Darby form the Rizzlerunk Club with their own secret handshake, an invisible clubhouse, and candy bracelets. Everything is going great until Darby’s former best friend and original mean girl Jill returns.  Suddenly, Lily finds herself getting into trouble that she never could have imagined such as accidentally shaving off her eyebrows, thinking about shoplifting candy, and even secretly painting the school’s monkey bars.  Is it time to quit the Rizzlerunk Club or simply time to oust its newest member–Queenbee Jill?  With its hilarious hijinks and comical illustrations, this is a great read for 3rd and 4th graders.

Book reviewed by Mary S., Youth Services Department Head

Stella Diaz has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say book coverStella is a Mexican-American in 3rd grade, growing up in Arlington Heights (yes, our next door neighbor!). She loves marine animals, especially fish, but she has trouble speaking up in school and feeling like she belongs because sometimes she uses Spanish instead of English or doesn’t have the right pronunciation. She doesn’t even fit in with her family, where her Spanish isn’t quite good enough. A new kid, Stanley, joins her class and while she wants to be friends with him, she is too shy to ever talk to him. She also has to do an oral presentation in class, which terrifies her, but she gets help from her older brother, her best friend, and eventually Stanley, who she befriends at the Shedd Aquarium. Can she find the courage to speak up and find her place in the world? This is a story of friendship, bravery, and individuality with funny moments and great illustrations throughout.

Book reviewed by Claire B., Youth Outreach Librarian

Hope in the Holler by Lisa Lewis Tyre

Hope in the Holler book coverWavie and her mother haven’t always had a lot of money, but they’ve been happy together in their trailer home surrounded by thoughtful neighbors and friends. After her mother passes away and she is forced to live with a previously unknown (and unkind) aunt in rural “Convict Holler,” Wavie struggles to stay positive in this different new life. With the help of  some new friends, Wavie may just find a little hope along with some smiles going forward while trying to answer some puzzling questions about her family’s past. This title is recommended for those in 5th grade and up.

Book reviewed by Amy M., Youth Services Assistant

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.