Drama by Raina Telgemeier

DramaDrama by Raina Telgemeier

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am so thrilled that there is a female protagonist who loves theatre and isn’t dying to be onstage. Callie is a great role model for pre-teens and teens alike as she is the master of her own learning of stagecraft in order to help put on the school production of Moon over Mississippi. She encounters some very mature problems of how to work through her own limitations. She is also introduced to a couple of brothers who are new at the school and they teach her about making new friends. Telgemeier is able to call attention to the young character’s budding sexuality, openly recognizing that one of these characters are gay, without making it dominate the rest of Callie’s own story. The struggle she experiences is emphasized through the organziation of the novel into Acts, mimicking the structure of a play. I would recommend this book for students as young as grade 5 as long as they understand that it essentially explores ideas of romance. As a teacher, I think it could lead to some very real discussions with students who are confronted with the ideas of homosexuality for the first time in a school situation. I applaud Telgemeier’s bravery for writing this book. It’s not just a brave book…it’s a funny, endearing book about the awkwardness of first love.

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Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

SkimSkim by Mariko Tamaki

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was actually first turned on to Mariko and Jillian Tamaki when I read Hiromi Goto’s young adult novel Half World, which was nominated in Ontario for a White Pine award. I just can’t get enough of Tamaki’s style of elegance and simplicity in her drawings. There are subtleties in her writing and art that let my imagination fill in the blanks and I like that. I feel like the Tamakis treat me as an intelligent reader rather than being explicit.

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City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can totally see why this is a young adult hit….female protagonist who is struggling with identity as she discovers some deep dark family secrets all the while learning that she has some new magical powers. I will definitely put it in my secondary school library collection and will continue buying the series the moment I get a request to do so.

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Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

Kiss of the Fur QueenKiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure why I never read this book when it first came out, but I just found it this year. It is an incredibly moving story of what it was like to attend a residential school. More importantly, it made me feel much more in touch with the complicated issues surrounding native Canadians and the displacement of their culture. A must read for Can Lit fans. This book would be an excellent complement to a reading of The Rez Sisters, also by Tomson Highway.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

Book title: Divergent

Author: Veronica Roth

Bibliographic entry Roth, V. (2011). Divergent. Harper Collins.
Description On Choosing Day, Triss chooses to leave her faction and join another where she is faced with challenges of physical and mental limits to be ranked amongst her peers. Her training is immediately put to use after graduation, as a conspiracy threatens her friends, family and whole way of life.
Reaction  This book is filled with adventure, romance and the quest for personal best and is sure to thrill teen readers.  It needs to belong in every secondary school library.
Recommended age level  Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes Survival, relationships, identity quest
Curriculum connections Learning Skills: analyse the importance of personal management skills in school, work, and daily life (e.g., dealing with stress related to test taking, managing time to accomplish multiple tasks, persisting with work-related tasks until completion) and their impact on success
Awards  Goodreads Choice Awards 2012
Miscellaneous  Divergent is currently being translated to film and is scheduled to be released in 2014

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Book title: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Author: Stephen Chbosky

Bibliographic entry Chbosky, S. (1999). The perks of being a wallflower. New York, NY: MTV Books.
Description Charlie is a freshman in high school.  He is dealing with the recent suicide of his friend Michael and changes in his family as his brother has left home to play college football.  Charlie befriends a new group including Sam, a girl who Charlie quickly develops a crush on.
Reaction Chbosky’s style is poetic and authentic as Charlie tells stories through letter writing.  Charlie’s charming voice is honest to a fault and his tales of his teenage experimentation show his vulnerability.  This is a must read.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes Identity quest, mental health, coming of age
Curriculum connections Health and Physical Education: demonstrate the skills that enhance personal mental health
Miscellaneous A feature film of hte book is being released in 2012.


Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Book title: Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane

Author: Suzanne Collins

Bibliographic entry Collins, S. (2004). Underland Chronicles: Gregor and the prophecy of bane. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Description In this 2nd book of the Underland Chronicles series Gregor reunites with his bat, Ares, and together they must overcome a new quest together.  Gregor is more greatly accepted by the Underlanders but this new alliance puts him in even greater danger.
Reaction Collins is a master storyteller.  This junior fantasy fiction series manages to be both heartwarming and suspenseful.  The roaches in particular are characterized so well since they have very little verbal communication yet their behaviour speaks volumes.
Recommended age level Junior/Intermediate
Subjects/themes Identity quest, family, friendship
Curriculum connections English: identify several different characteristics of literary, informational, and graphic text forms and explain how they help communicate meaning
Miscellaneous The Underland Chronicles series has five books in it.  Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane is the second.


Story of a Girl by Sara Zarr (audiobook)

Book title: Story of a Girl (audiobook)

Author: Sara Zarr

Bibliographic entry Zarr, S. (2008). Story of a girl. New York, NY: Random House.
Description 16 year old Deanna can’t get her life back on track after an incident at 13 when she was caught by her Dad naked with her boyfriend Tommy.  The story is about Deanna making peace with herself and learning to move on.
Reaction There’s so much about this protagonist, Deanna, that is relatable. This story was so realistic, that I was sure it was biographical. I would recommend that to any girl past the age of 11.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes identity quest, sexuality, coming of age
Curriculum connections Health and Physical Education: demonstrate understanding of the pressures on teens to be sexually active

Learning Skills: analyse the importance of personalmanagement skills in school, work, and daily life (e.g., dealing with stress related to test taking, managing time to accomplish multiple tasks, persisting with work-related tasks until completion) and their impact on success

Awards 2009 American Library Association Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults, 2007 National Book Award finalist; 2008 American Library Association Best Books for Young Adults
Miscellaneous Read by the author, this audiobook is very engaging.  Sara Zarr has written four other books.

The Witch’s Boy by Michael Gruber (audiobook)

Book title: The Witch’s Boy (audiobook)

Author: Michael Gruber

Bibliographic entry Gruber, M., & O’Hare, D. P. (2005). The witch’s boy. New York: Harper Children’s Audio.
Description Long long ago a boy named Lump is born to a witch.  The prejudice he experiences his whole life, because of his facial deformity and strange behaviour, turn him into an angry young man.  His envy drives him to violence and he loses what he loves most.
Reaction  A fantastic tale that weaves pieces of well-known fairytales together while following the journey of the unknown character, Lump.  The themes and topics are universally human and this book would appeal to any fantasy lover.  Denis O’Hare, the performer on the audiobook, is a wizard as he vocally masters dozens of identities in the book.
Recommended age level  Junior/Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes  Identity quest, fantasy, prejudice
Curriculum connections  English: extend understanding of both simple and complex texts by making connections between the ideas in them and personal knowledge, experience, and insights; other texts; and the world around them
Awards 2006 Scandiuzzi Children’s Book Award for Middle Grades/Young Adults
Miscellaneous  Michael Gruber blogs at http://michaelgruberbooks.blogspot.ca/

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Book title: Beauty Queens

Author: Libba Bray

Bibliographic entry  Bray, L. (2011). Beauty Queens. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Description  50 contestants for the Miss Teen Dream beauty pageant are heading towards their first tropical photo shoot, when the plane crashes.  The survivors bond together to survive learning how to be smart, deal with pirates and exfoliate with only sand and salt water.  A scathing satire of gender stereotypes.
Reaction  Each of the survivors has a very different background, each hiding their true selves and each with different ambitions.  Their stories are every girls stories and this book will relate to every young woman.  The satire happens on many different levels so weak readers and strong readers alike should find something here.
Recommended age level Intermediate/Senior
Subjects/themes  Identity quest, gender roles, media portrayal, sexuality
Curriculum connections  Health and Physical Education: describe the factors that lead to responsible sexual relationshipsSocial Science: explain the role of socialization in the development of the individual
Awards 2012 Audie Award for Teens and Best Narration by the Author; 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Young Adult Literature; 2011 Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Book Books of the Year
Miscellaneous Exploration of budding sexuality is a common theme so younger readers should be cautioned.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Book title: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Author: Sherman Alexie

Bibliographic entry Alexie, S. (2007). The absolutely true diary of a part-time Indian. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company.
Description A book about hard choices as the main character Junior tries to escape his depressing circumstances. He takes a huge risk of going to school off of his reservation in order to test his strengths in academics and basketball at a more challenging level.  Filled with Junior’s often satirical cartoons about his life.
Reaction Although it’s explicit in some areas, Junior’s exploration of his budding sexuality would be fine for any student or class from puberty and above. It’s an excellent example of the difficulties facing many teenagers who are branching out from their traditional culture to make their own choices.
Recommended age level  Grades 7 to 12
Subjects/themes  Identity quest, friendship, breaking away from tradition, art expression
Curriculum connections English: Read student- and teacher-selected texts from diverse cultures and historical periods, identifying specific purposes for readingGuidance and Career Education: Use problem-solving strategies to reduce internal barriers (e.g., skill gaps, health problems) and/or external barriers (e.g., financial constraints, lack of local opportunities, cultural differences) that could interfere with the achievement of their work, learning, and personal goals.
Awards  Many awards including National Book Award Winner, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Miscellaneous  Described by Publishers Weekly as “A Native American equivalent of Angela’s Ashes

from page 57 of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian