I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka & Martin Ganda with Liz Welch

Courtesy of FCPS TLC

“I’d never heard of Zimbabwe. But something about the way the name looked up on the blackboard intrigued me. It was exotic, and difficult to pronounce. It was also the last country in a long list that Mrs. Miller had written in chalk. She asked each student in my seventh-grade English class to pick one place for a pen pal program our school was starting that year.

Alfirenka, Caitlin and Ganda, Martin; with Welch, Liz. I will always write back: How one letter changed two lives.  Little, Brown and Company, 2015. 387 pages. Hardcover. $18.00, ISBN 978-0-316-24131-1

From School Library Journal courtesy of Amazon.com

Gr 6 Up—The true story of two young pen pals who forge a life-altering connection. In 1997, Caitlin, a typical 12-year-old girl from a middle class American family, began writing to Martin, a studious 14-year-old from a Zimbabwe slum. In her letters, Caitlin described her life, which consisted of shopping trips, quarrels with friends, and problems at school. Martin was initially far more circumspect in his responses. Inflation had rocketed in Zimbabwe, and even finding money for postage was a struggle for the boy. Staying in school, which required paying costly fees, became merely a dream. Eventually, Martin revealed the harsh realities of his life to Caitlin, who began sending money and gifts. What started as chatty letters turned into a lifeline for Martin and his family, as Caitlin and her parents helped the boy stay in school and achieve his goal of studying at an American university. This is a well-written, accessible story that will open Western adolescents’ eyes to life in developing countries. Told in the first person, with chapters alternating between Caitlin’s and Martin’s points of view, this title effectively conveys both of these young people’s perspectives. Caitlin’s early chapters, however, in which she discusses friendship and boyfriend woes, feel somewhat superficial compared with Martin’s genuinely troubled life. While these chapters provide an effective contrast between the two teens’ lives, they may discourage some readers from continuing with what becomes a strong and inspiring story. VERDICT A useful addition to most collections and an eye-opening look at life in another culture.—Michelle Anderson, Tauranga City Libraries, New Zealand

Want to hear Caitlin and Martin discuss their book? Bloomberg has a great interview.

Bloomberg Interview

Bloomberg Interview

Awards
  • 2015 Parents’ Choice Book Awards: Nonfiction, Silver
  • 2016 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People, 6–8
  • 2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Nonfiction

 

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Liz Welch (image courtesy of Amazon.com)

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Caitlin Alifirenka (image courtesy of Amazon.com)

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Martin Ganda (image courtesy of Amazon.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caitlin’s Twitter

Martin’s Twitter

and

Liz’s Twitter

 

 

 

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How it Went Down by Kekla Magoon

Courtesy of Amazon.com

“The known facts surrounding the shooting death of sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson are few. On the evening of June 2, at approximately 5:30 P.M., Johnson sustained two nine-millimeter gunshot wounds to the torso. Police officers arrived at 5:37 P.M. Johnson was pronounced dead at 6:02 P.M. by EMTs at the scene. Police apprehended a person of interest, Jack Franklin, who was present when Johnson was shot but left the scene in a borrowed vehicle shortly afterward. Franklin was pulled over nearly four miles away from the site of the shooting, at 5:56 P.M. A nine-millimeter handgun, recently fired, was found in the back seat.

Magoon, Kekla. How it Went Down.  Henry Holt and Company, 2014. 325 pages. Hardcover. $20.50, ISBN 978-0-8050-9869-3

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—When 16-year-old Tariq, a black teen, is shot and killed by a white man, every witness has a slightly different perception of the chain of events leading up to the murder. Family, friends, gang members, neighbors, and a well-meaning but self-serving minster make up the broad cast of characters. The police bring their own personal biases to their investigation of the case. When all points of view are combined, the story of a young man emerges and with it, a narrative that plays out in communities across the country every day. Heartbreaking and unputdownable, this is an important book about perception and race. How It Went Down reads very much like Julius Lester’s Day of Tears (Hyperion, 2005) in a modern setting and for an older audience. With a great hook and relatable characters, this will be popular for fans of realistic fiction. The unique storytelling style and thematic relevance will make it a potentially intriguing pick for classroom discussion.—Kristin Anderson, Columbus Metropolitan Library System, OH –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

 

Want to read a truly lovely interview of Kekla Magoon? Here it is 🙂

Awards

  • Junior Library Guild Selection

Courtesy of keklamagoon.com

Kekla Magoon’s Website

Facebook

and

Twitter

 

 

 

Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt

Courtesy of Worldcat.org

“‘He won’t talk about what happened to him there. But since he left Stone Mountain, he won’t wear anything orange. He won’t let anyone stand behind him. He won’t go into rooms that are too small. And he won’t eat canned peaches.

Schmidt, Gary D. Orbiting Jupiter.  Clarion, 2015. 183 pages. Hardcover. $17.99, ISBN 978-0-544-46222-9

This story takes place in a small town in Maine – on a dairy farm – with a loving family who takes in a foster child. The family has one child of their own, Jack, who is twelve. Jack is the narrator of this story. They take in Joseph who is just a couple of years older than Jack. There are quite a few things that you learn about Joseph right away. He almost killed a teacher (after taking a drug that someone gave him when he was upset). He spent time at a juvenile prison facility called Stone Mountain. He has a daughter, Jupiter, who he has never met. When he arrives, he does very little talking. He has never had this kind of family life. He was raised by an abusive father. Over time he learns to trust this family and becomes friends with Jack. This is a story of a father’s undying love for his child. It is also a story of how far a family and a friend will go to help.

Gary Schmidt’s website, provides a link to the first chapter of the Orbiting Jupiter. Read it for yourself. I think you will be truly moved by the story.

HRS Black-Eyed Susan

Courtesy of www. public-domain-image.com

Orbiting Jupiter is a Grades 6-9 nominee for the 2016-2017 Black Eyed Susan Award. For more information go to the Maryland Association of School Librarians.

 

Gary Schmidt talks about his book Orbiting Jupiter:

Awards

  • Capitol Choices 2016
  • Publishers Weekly Best Children’s Books of 2015, Middle Grade
  • Booklist Best Young Adult Books of 2015
  • ALA Notable Books for Children 2016, Older Readers
  • VOYA’s Perfect Tens 2015; 2016 Winner, Notable Books for a Global Society
  • CCBC Choices 2016, Fiction for Young Adults
  • 2015 Cybils Awards Nomination, Young Adult Fiction

Courtesy of hmhbooks.com

 

 

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

“‘Whaaaaa? What was going on? He was accusing me of things that hadn’t even happened! Like, he couldn’t have been talking to me. I wanted to turn around to check and make sure there wasn’t some other kid standing behind me, stuffing chips in his backpack or something, but I knew there wasn’t.

Reynolds,Jason and Kiely, Brendan. All American Boys.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015. 336 pages. Paperback. $9.99, ISBN 978-1-4814-8990-4

From School Library Journal

“Gr 8 Up—Rashad Butler is a quiet, artistic teen who hates ROTC but dutifully attends because father insists “there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.” He heads to Jerry’s corner store on a Friday night to buy chips, and ends up the victim of unwarranted arrest and police brutality: an event his white schoolmate Quinn Collins witnesses in terrified disbelief. Quinn is even more shocked because the cop is Paul Galluzzo, older brother of his best friend and Quinn’s mentor since his father died in Afghanistan. As events unfold, both boys are forced to confront the knowledge that racism in America has not disappeared and that change will not come unless they step forward. Reynolds and Kiely’s collaborative effort deftly explores the aftermath of police brutality, addressing the fear, confusion, and anger that affects entire communities. Diverse perspectives are presented in a manner that feels organic to the narrative, further emphasizing the tension created when privilege and racism cannot be ignored. Timely and powerful, this novel promises to have an impact long after the pages stop turning. VERDICT Great for fostering discussions about current events among teenage audiences. A must-have for all collections.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal”

Link to Amazon.com
Link to Worldcat.org

 

Available in:

 

All American Boys is a One Maryland One Book for 2016. This is a program in which people all across the state of Maryland read and discuss the same book. For more information go to the Maryland Humanities website. You can also read more on their Facebook page.

Want to read an more about how the book came about – Read this article from NPR?

 

Awards

  • 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book
  • Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature
Courtesy of @JasonReynolds83

Courtesy of @JasonReynolds83

Jason Reynold’s Twitter

Tumblr,
and
Instagram

 

 

HRS Brendan Kiely

Courtesy of brendankiely.com

 Brendan Kiely’s Website,
Facebook,
and Twitter

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

“‘I was used to being invisible. People rarely saw me, and if they did, they never looked close. I wasn’t shiny and charming like my brother, stunning and graceful like my mother, or smart and dynamic like my friends. That’s the thing, though. You always think you want to be noticed. Until you are.

Dessen, Sarah. Saint Anything.  Viking, 2015. 417 pages. Hardcover. $19.99, ISBN 978-0-451-47470-4

Sydney’s world has been turned upside down. Her brother, Peyton, is in prison.  Peyton hit a boy on his bike one night while driving drunk. The legal fess have been high so Sydney has decided to leave her private school and her friends to save money.  Her mother is obsessed with helping Peyton. Ames, her brother’s new best friend from Narcotics Anonymous is creepy and always around. She’s feeling guilty about the boy that her brother ran over and it bothers her that no one in her family feels the same way. Her mother, especially, is just focused on how everything affects her brother. Things are about to change. Sydney makes some new friends, gets pulled into a new family, falls for a really great guy, and avoids Ames (for the most part). But can it last? Will Sydney have to stop being invisible and stand up for who she is? This is a story about finding your own voice. Read it. I think you’ll like it. I did.
Link to Amazon.com
Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

 

Saint Anything is a nominee for the 2016-2017 High School Black Eyed Susan Award. For more information go to the Maryland Association of School Librarians.

Want to hear more about Sarah Dessen and her writing process?

Awards

  • New York Times bestseller
  • Kids’ Indie Next List Pick (Summer 2015)
  • TIME‘s Top 10 YA Book of the Year
Courtesy of @sarahdessen

Courtesy of @sarahdessen

Sarah Dessen’s
 Website ,
Facebook,
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

Ball Don’t Lie by Matt de la Peña

Courtesy of Amazon.com

“‘If I don’t make it to the NBA I’ll kill myself. I know it don’t sound so good when I say it, Annie, but that’s how I feel. There ain’t nothin else I wanna do. Just play ball.

De la Peña, Matt. Ball Don’t Lie.  Delacorte Press, 2005. 280 pages. Hardcover. $8.99, ISBN 978-0-385-902588

Matt de la Peña is one of my new favorite authors. I did a lesson for my high schoolers introducing Matt, book talking a few of his books, and practicing writing a story from a primary source picture just like he did with Last Stop on Market Street.

I became intrigued by Matt after reading “Sometimes The ‘Tough Teen’ Is Quietly Writing Stories”

 

From School Library Journal (Courtesy of Amazon.com)

“Starred Review. Grade 9 Up–That white boy can ball….He don’t play like no regular white boy. Sticky, 17, has spent his life being abused by pimps living with his prostitute mother, bouncing from one foster home to another, and living on the street between failed placements. But he’s developed incredible hoop skills that have given him considerable social standing among his mostly black peers. And he gets a girlfriend named Anh-thu, who loves him and wants to help him reach his dreams. Sticky sees basketball as his way out of his dead-end life and is determined to make the right moves in the game to attain his goal. But he doesn’t quite know how to make the right moves in his life, until a bad decision leads him to confront dark secrets. Jumping back and forth in time, this first novel has a unique narrative voice that mixes street lingo, basketball jargon, and trash talk to tell Sticky’s sorry saga from a variety of viewpoints. Although readers who are not familiar with basketball may have trouble following some of the detailed game action, even they will be involved in the teen’s at once depressing and inspiring story. Sticky is a true original, and de la Peña has skillfully brought him to life.–Jack Forman, Mesa College Library, San Diego”

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

Ball Don’t Lie was made into a movie. Unfortunately, it’s rated R.

 

 

Want to learn more about Matt de la Pena? Click Here for an interview with Matt de la Peña.

 

Awards

  • An ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults
  • An ALA-YALSA Quick Pick
Courtesy of mattdelapena.com

  Courtesy of mattdelapena.com

Matt de la Peña’s
 Website ,
Facebook,
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Courtesy of Amazon.com

“‘I see me pushing Devon off the cliff.

Him in the air reaching, ricocheting off the ice plant cliff, hitting the sand, people circling his crooked body.

The grunion coming from the ocean.

Olivia crying in her hands.”

De la Peña, Matt. I Will Save You.  Ember, 2010. 306 pages. Hardcover. $8.99, ISBN 978-0-329-88994-4

I loved this book! I was rooting for Kidd throughout the entire book. But, this book had a twist I would not have expected in a million years. You’ll have to read it to believe it.

From Booklist (courtesy of Amazon.com):

“After running away from a group home, 17-year-old Kidd Ellison sets up camp at a beach, where he is put to work by Mr. Red, an aging surfer who runs a maintenance shop. Hardworking and handsome, if somewhat slow, Kidd begins to make friends with some of the camp’s teens, especially Olivia, a blond beauty who wears a ski cap that covers part of her face regardless of the weather. Then Devon, Kidd’s former best friend and nemesis, finds Kidd and threatens to destroy the peaceful life that he has fallen into. De la Peña has crafted a taut psychological novel that will both frustrate and fascinate readers. Narrated by Kidd, it moves from the immediate past and a possible murder to the present, then to the far past, constantly offering clues to the mysteries of Kidd’s sad and violent life. The intriguing, well-developed characters introduce themes of class and gender friction, creating a puzzling and sobering yet strangely hopeful book that will stay with readers. Grades 8-11. –Frances Bradburn –“

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

 

Want to learn more about Matt de la Pena? Click Here for an interview with Matt de la Peña.

 

Awards

  • A Junior Library Guild Selection
  • ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers
  • Finalist for the 2011 Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award
  • Named to 2012-2013 Texas High School TAYSHAS Reading List
Courtesy of mattdelapena.com

  Courtesy of mattdelapena.com

Matt de la Peña’s
 Website ,
Facebook,
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

Every Day by David Leviathan

Courtesy of FCPS TLC

“‘Every day I am someone else. I am myself—I know I am myself—but I am also someone else. It has always been like this.”

Levithan, David. Every Day.  Alfred A. Knopf, 2012. 322 pages. Hardcover. $17.99, ISBN 978-0-307-93188-7

What would you do if you woke up every morning in a different body? Sometime a male body, sometimes a female, sometimes a drug addict, sometimes you were gay, sometimes you were athletic, sometimes you were suicidal. You just had to make it through that one day without causing harm to the person whose body you were in. You never had a family or a home to call your own. You just floated from one body to the next until one day, you fell in love and all that mattered was being with that one person no matter whose body you were in. What would you do? How would you survive? Imagine…

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

 David Leviathan’s Website 
Facebook
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

Schooled by Gordon Korman

HRS Schooled

Courtesy of FCPS.org TLC

“‘I was thirteen the first time I saw a police officer up close. He was arresting me for driving without a license. At the time, I didn’t even know what a license was. I wasn’t too clear on what being arrested meant either.”

Korman, Gordon. Schooled.  Disney-Hyperion, 2008. 224 pages. Paperback. $5.99, ISBN 978-1423105169

Cap – short for Capricorn – has always lived on Garland Farm Commune, population two, with his grandmother, Rain. The only time he has left the farm is to pick up supplies. When Rain falls out of a tree and has to go to rehab, Cap is forced to live with a social worker, Florimunda, who just happened to live at the commune as a child. Cap is also enrolled in middle school for the first time ever. Imagine Cap – long hair – tye-dyed t-shirts – homemade sandals – being thrown into middle school. He’s never eaten pizza, watched TV, or played a video game. He practices tai chi on the school’s front lawn. Zach, big man on campus, is out to get him by getting him elected president, so that he can humiliate him. Can Cap survive middle school? What’s going to happen to him?

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Gordon Korman’s
 Website 
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

Framed by Gordon Korman

“‘We do trust you,’ Mom soothed. ‘It’s just that most parents don’t even go through this once. Our street is starting to look like the parking lot of the police station.'”

Korman, Gordon. Framed.  Scholastic, 2010. 234 pages. Hardcover. $8.99, ISBN 978-0-545-27081-6

Griffin Bing, “The Man with the Plan”, has a history of getting in trouble. Always in the name of “fairness” but still, he’s got a reputation. This time though, he didn’t do it. A Super Bowl ring, donated to his Middle School has gone missing from the school display case. It was replaced with Griffin’s retainer, making Griffin the prime suspect. What follows will keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s an appearance before the judge, a transfer to a JFK school, affectionately called “Jail for Kids”, a foiled plan with his friends to find out who the real thief is, an ankle bracelet that prevents him from leaving home, and much, much, more. Will the true thief be discovered? Will Griffin have to go to jail? You’ve got to read this one to find out.

Link to Amazon.com

Link to Worldcat.org

Available in:

Courtesy of Amazon.com

Gordon Korman’s
 Website 
and
Twitter Account 

 

 

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© Chris Peeler 2013