I Survived the Great Chicago Fire, 1871
By Lauren Tarshis
Lauren Tarshis writes exciting fiction books about historical events. The topics in the books she writes range from natural disasters to acts of war. Whatever the event, there is always an eleven year old boy who tells about the event based on his experiences. In the Great Chicago Fire book, Oscar moves from rural Minnesota to Chicago. The day he arrives disaster escalates. He finds himself separated from his family in this unfamiliar city, fighting for survival. Just as in her other I Survived novels, there is lots of action, and the reader learns much about a historic event. In addition, Tarshis’ books are short and easy to read.
Walking on the Boundaries of Change
By Sara Holbrook
April is National Poetry Month, and there are many fine poetry books in your library. Walking on the Boundaries of Change is a short book of poems about teen-age life. The poems deal with a variety of teenage experiences. Some poems are about more universal topics such as friendship, teen relationships, self-esteem, and school. Other poems express more serious issues such as death, drugs, and gangs. The poet uses words sparingly as she constructs both rhyming and free verse poems which pack an emotional punch. In this short book of fifty-three poems, most teenagers will find at least one poem to which they make a connection.
By Roland Smith
Sometimes teenagers have to face that their lives are going to change because of parents moving due to a job change. It can be a challenge to adjust to a new home, start a new school, and make new friends. In Jack Osbourne’s case, the problem is compounded because his father is a criminal testifying against a drug cartel. For Jack and his family, a move means severing ties with the past and building an entire new identity in a new part of the country under the Witness Protection Program. In addition, Jack and his family must face the fear of being discovered by the drug cartel which is determined to prevent Jack’s father from testifying. In Jack’s Run, the sequel to Zach’s Lie the danger continues as the family is once again relocated and assigned new identities in an attempt to evade the drug cartel which tracked them down in their previous location.
The Adoration of Jessa Fox
Jessa Fox remembers little of her life before the accident. She doesn’t even really remember much about her parents. Her parents, who love their only child so much they would do anything to protect Jessa, are trying to jog her memory by having her watch video recordings of her life. As snippets of memory return, Jessa has more questions than answers. However, her parents seem mysterious and evasive when she makes inquiries about certain aspects of her life. Other things are equally confusing, such as why her father lives in Boston while her mother and grandmother live with Jessa in California. Also, why does Jessa’s grandmother seem to dislike Jessa and try to avoid her? As Jessa begins to investigate, she uncovers information that threatens to destroy her and her family.
The Adoration of Jessa Fox is science fiction and mystery rolled into one book. It raises a lot of questions about family and medical ethics.
By Michael Northrup
Given the snow theme in the library for January, and the recent record-breaking blizzards in the northeast part of the U.S., this seems to be a timely novel. Set in New England, seven students and one teacher find themselves trapped in their rural high school in what turns out to be the worst blizzard in New England’s history. It would seem that all should be well with them since they are safe inside their school building. However, no one could anticipate that the forces of nature would be so severe that what initially seemed to be an inconvenience would turn into a struggle for survival. Although this “man v. nature” conflict seems ideal to read in winter, it is an interesting read no matter what the season.
After the Snow
By S.D. Crockett
In keeping with the snow theme of January, one of the featured books for this month is After the Snow. This is a dystopian novel depicting a future society affected by a catastrophic climate condition that causes the majority of the year to be winter. The impact of this climate change has caused governmental and economic chaos. In trying to keep citizens under control, the government has become more regimented and corrupt. Those who live on the fringe of the government controlled cities either steal for a living or try to scrape out a living from hunting and trapping. In many ways life is primitive. The narrator of the novel, Willo, is a 15 year old boy living on the outskirts of a government controlled area. When he arrives home one day to find his family gone, Willo goes in search of them. His search leads him on a journey of survival across the frozen countryside and into the government controlled cities. Although this book is labeled a dystopian novel, it deals more with the main character trying to survive his environment rather than trying to change it.
The Raft, a 2014 Teen Award Book, is a tale of enduring hardship in an effort to survive. Roby, a 15 year old girl hops a flight on a cargo plane en route to Midway Atoll (a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean) which has been her home for several years. Her parents who are research biologists are unaware that Roby decided to cut short her vacation in Hawaii. Little does Roby realize that the information she has gleaned over the years from living on Midway will help her when tragedy strikes. Tragedy occurs when the cargo plane crashes out at sea during a storm. She is saved by Max, the copilot, who becomes her companion on the life raft. Roby learns a great deal about Max during the struggle to survive. Out on the ocean, Roby endures physical and psychological hardships. When the raft finally lands on an island, survival is not a guarantee since the island is abandoned. Throughout the ordeal Roby struggles and tries to remain strong as her hope wanes.
By Ingrid Lee
During the Christmas season there seems to be an abundance of people looking for happy endings in movies and books. If you are one of those people, you might enjoy Dog Lost. Although Dog Lost has a happy ending, the characters find themselves in tough situations throughout the book. Mack, a young boy lives with his dad who has a volatile temper. Mack is never sure when his Dad’s temper will reach the boiling point. Much to Mack’s surprise, his dad brings him a pit bull puppy one day. Mack and his puppy Cash form a strong bond. However, in a fit of rage, Mack’s dad decides to get rid of Cash one day. Although broken hearted, Mack never gives up on finding his canine friend. What makes this book interesting is the way the author makes you understand the dog’s hardships as well as the boy’s. Another thing the author does is weave the tale around a cast of characters who are all somehow connected to the dog as well as each other. In addition, the author seeks to educate the reader about pit bulls and the preconceived notions people have of them. This book is an easy read, ideally suited for someone who loves dog books.
Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story
By Gregg Lewis and Deborah Shaw Lewis
Since your library is celebrating nonfiction during November, it is fitting to blog about a nonfiction book. Gifted Hands is the biography of Ben Carson. Carson tells of growing up in a single parent household where they were so poor that their mother had to take on a second job and they moved in with relatives. In addition to being poor, Carson also had to deal with racism and being the class “dummy.”
Although Carson has no control over his economic status as a child, and he can’t control racism, he discovers he does have control over his academic status. Once Carson begins to challenge himself academically, he finds success. However, the challenges still are present in his life, as the book traces Carson’s medical school struggles, his toughest neurosurgical cases, and his own health problems. This is an inspirational book of a man who has overcome the odds. In addition, it is an easy read.
I love working in the middle school library because each day I get to work with wonderful students. In addition, I have access to lots of interesting books. It is always fun to help students connect to books they like, and to talk about what they are reading.