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August 2017 Back-to-School Horn Book Herald: Middle School

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life by Kwame Alexander
Alexander turns motivational speaker in this collection organized like a basketball game, with four quarters and rules. Alexander’s narrative of his early life in sports weaves its way through a lively display of colorful graphics, black-and-white photographs, short poems, and inspirational quotations by famous people. The uplifting volume reads like a locker-room pep talk by a coach with stories to tell and advice to give.

Posted by John David Anderson (Walden Pond/HarperCollins)
After cell phones are banned at Branton Middle School, students begin communicating via Post-it notes. As it turns out, Post-its work just as well for insults and anonymous cruelty. Narrator Frost is a perfect guide to this underworld of middle-school hell. Acute observations about social media and school life and a smart, engaging protagonist make this a journey worth taking.

Mission to Pluto: The First Visit to an Ice Dwarf and the Kuiper Belt [Scientists in the Field] by Mary Kay Carson; photos by Tom Uhlman (Houghton)
In 2015, the New Horizons spacecraft successfully flew past the dwarf planet Pluto. The data sent back has opened a new window onto the science of the outer solar system. Carson’s description of the mission, crafted from firsthand accounts, explains the decades-long process of a multi-million-dollar NASA mission. Photographs throughout the book capture the emotional moment when the first data arrived. Bib., glos., ind.

Eye of the Storm: NASA, Drones, and the Race to Crack the Hurricane Code [Scientists in the Field] by Amy Cherrix (Houghton)

Cherrix introduces and personalizes the work of scientists on Wallops Island, Virginia, trying to understand and forecast a storm’s intensity to offer maximum time for residents to evacuate. The text provides clear and informative background; biographical information on a variety of scientists, ranging from meteorologists to aeronautical engineers, creates a number of entry points for potential readers. Reading list, websites. Bib., glos., ind.

The Pants Project by Cat Clarke (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky)
At eleven-year-old Liv’s new school, boys can wear pants, but “girls must wear a black, pleated, knee-length skirt.” And while narrator Liv might “look like a girl…on the inside, I’m a boy.” Strong-willed, introspective Liv is a likable and relatable protagonist navigating friendships, identity, and relationships at home with his two supportive moms. A touching novel on a timely subject.

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson; illus. by the author (Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins)
In this clever tale, super-shy seventh grader Emmie rarely speaks to a soul at school but loves to draw. Occasional comic-style sections follow super-popular, impossibly perfect “Katie.” After a classmate shares Emmie’s note about her crush with everyone, Emmie goes from feeling invisible to feeling embarrassingly visible. But as Emmie becomes more satisfyingly confident, Katie gradually disappears — a no-longer-needed coping mechanism that existed only in Emmie’s drawings.

From the August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Herald: Back to School.

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