The Horn Book http://www.hbook.com Publications about books for children and young adults Tue, 23 Aug 2016 21:36:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.9 From the Editor – August 2016 http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/opinion/editorials/from-the-editor-august-2016-2/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/opinion/editorials/from-the-editor-august-2016-2/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:16:16 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64654 What Makes a Good...?Perhaps it was only ever a fantasy of mine that every child in America started the school year on the same day I always did (the Tuesday after Labor Day) but now, all over the map, it’s all over the map. And for those unfortunates who attend “year-round school” — do they still get a First Day? It seems a shame to forgo that rite of passage, however fraught with anxiety and loaded with good intentions it always seemed to be. The school stories recommended below offer solace, empathy, and pranking advice for negotiating not just that First Day but the 180-or-so that follow. In On Learning to Read, Bruno Bettelheim proposed that reading about school (and reading about reading) was the surest path to educational success, but for me the value in school stories lies in the respect they give to the importance of this formidable arena of child society. Playground, my foot.

roger_signature

Roger Sutton
Editor in Chief

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Books mentioned in the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…? http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/books-mentioned-in-the-august-2016-issue-of-what-makes-a-good/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/books-mentioned-in-the-august-2016-issue-of-what-makes-a-good/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 19:48:38 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64643 What Makes a Good School Story?

Picture Books

Bean, Jonathan This Is My Home, This Is My School
48 pp.     Farrar     2015     ISBN 978-0-374-38020-5

Bell, Cece Chuck and Woodchuck
32 pp.     Candlewick     2016     ISBN 978-0-7636-7524-0

Bottner, Barbara Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t)
Illustrated by Michael Emberley
32 pp.     Knopf     2010     ISBN 978-0-375-84682-3
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-94682-0

Holub, Joan Little Red Writing
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
32 pp.     Chronicle     2013     ISBN 978-0-8118-7869-2

Kay, Verla Hornbooks and Inkwells
Illustrated by S. D. Schindler
32 pp.     Putnam     2011     ISBN 978-0-399-23870-3

McNamara, Margaret The Apple Orchard Riddle
Illustrated by G. Brian Karas
40 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2013     ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4

Miller, Pat Zietlow Sophie’s Squash Go to School
Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf
32 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2016     ISBN 978-0-553-50944-1
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-50945-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-50946-5

Murray, Laura The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
Illustrated by Mike Lowery
32 pp.     Putnam     2011     ISBN 978-0-399-25052-1

Perkins, Lynne Rae Frank and Lucky Get Schooled
32 pp.     Greenwillow     2016     ISBN 978-0-06-237345-8

Rex, Adam School’s First Day of School
Illustrated by Christian Robinson
40 pp.     Roaring Brook/Porter     2016     ISBN 978-1-59643-964-1

Vernick, Audrey First Grade Dropout
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell
32 pp.     Clarion     2015     ISBN 978-0-544-12985-6

Yum, Hyewon Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!
40 pp.     Farrar/Foster     2012      ISBN 978-0-374-35004-8

 

Easy Readers and Chapter Books

Cheng, Andrea The Year of the Book
Illustrated by Abigail Halpin
148 pp.     Houghton     2012     ISBN 978-0-547-68463-5

English, Karen Skateboard Party
Illustrated by Laura Freeman
117 pp.      Clarion     2014      ISBN 978-0-544-28306-0

Fleischman, Paul The Dunderheads
Illustrated by David Roberts
56 pp.     Candlewick     2009      ISBN 978-0-7636-2498-9

Henkes, Kevin The Year of Billy Miller
229 pp.      Greenwillow     2013     ISBN 978-0-06-226812-9
Library binding ISBN 978-0-06-226813-6

Jamieson, Victoria The Great Pet Escape
64 pp.     Holt     2016     ISBN 978-1-62779-105-2
Paperback ISBN 978-1-62779-106-9

Lagercrantz, Rose My Heart Is Laughing
Illustrated by Eva Eriksson
120 pp.     Gecko     2014     ISBN 978-1-877579-52-3

Look, Lenore Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night
Illustrated by LeUyen Pham
185 pp.     Random/Schwartz & Wade     2013     ISBN 978-0-375-87033-0
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-97033-7

McKay, Hilary Lulu and the Duck in the Park
Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont
93 pp.     Whitman     2012     ISBN 978-0-8075-4808-0

McMullan, Kate Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer [Penguin Young Readers]
Illustrated by R. W. Alley
48 pp.     Penguin     2012     ISBN 978-0-8037-3589-7

Michalak, Jamie Joe and Sparky Go to School
Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz
42 pp.     Candlewick     2013     ISBN 978-0-7636-6278-3

Mills, Claudia Izzy Barr, Running Star [Franklin School Friends]
Illustrated by Rob Shepperson
136 pp.     Farrar/Ferguson      2015      ISBN 978-0-374-33578-6
Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-33579-3

Pennypacker, Sara Completely Clementine
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
181 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2015     ISBN 978-1-4231-2358-3

Spinelli, Jerry Third Grade Angels
Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
137 pp.      Scholastic/Levine     2012      ISBN 978-0-545-38772-9

 

 

Intermediate

Barnett, Mac and John, Jory The Terrible Two
Illustrated by Kevin Cornell
220 pp.     Abrams/Amulet     2015     ISBN 978-1-4197-1491-7
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61312-763-6

Beasley, Kate Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki
250 pp.     Farrar     2016     ISBN 978-0-374-30261-0

Burg, Ann E. Serafina’s Promise
298 pp.       Scholastic      2013     ISBN 978-0-545-53564-9

Clements, Andrew Troublemaker
Illustrated by Mark Elliott
143 pp.     Atheneum     2011     ISBN 978-1-4169-4930-5

Fleming, David The Saturday Boy
263 pp.     Viking      2013     ISBN 978-0-670-78551-3

Hahn, Mary Downing Where I Belong
226 pp.      Clarion     2014     ISBN 978-0-544-23020-0

Humphrey, Anna Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
131 pp.      Simon     2013     ISBN 978-1-4424-8027-0
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-8031-5

Jukes, Mavis The New Kid
277 pp.     Knopf      2011      ISBN 978-0-375-85879-6
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-95879-3

Mlynowski, Sarah, Myracle, Lauren and Jenkins, Emily Upside-Down Magic
200 pp.     Scholastic     2015       ISBN 978-0-545-80045-7
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-80047-1

Pennypacker, Sara Waylon!: One Awesome Thing
Illustrated by Marla Frazee
197 pp.     Disney/Hyperion     2016     ISBN 978-1-4847-0152-2

Shovan, Laura The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
247 pp.     Random/Lamb     2016     ISBN 978-0-553-52137-5
Library binding ISBN 978-0-553-52138-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-52139-9

Weeks, Sarah and Varadarajan, Gita Save Me a Seat
232 pp.     Scholastic     2016     ISBN 978-0-545-84660-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-84662-2

Yep, Laurence and Ryder, Joanne A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter
Illustrated by Mary GrandPré
294 pp.     Crown     2016     ISBN 978-0-385-39232-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-39233-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-39234-1

Middle School

Alexander, Kwame Booked
314 pp.     Houghton     2016     ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6

Baker, Kim Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School
Illustrated by Tim Probert
236 pp.     Roaring Brook     2012     ISBN 978-1-59643-765-4

Berry, Julie The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
354 pp.     Roaring Brook     2014     ISBN 978-1-59643-956-6
Ebook ISBN 978-1-59643-957-3

Grimes, Nikki Planet Middle School
155 pp.     Bloomsbury     2011     ISBN 978-1-59990-284-5

Johnson, Varian To Catch a Cheat
248 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2016     ISBN 978-0-545-72239-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-72241-4

Miller, Ashley Edward and Stentz, Zack Colin Fischer
235 pp.     Penguin/Razorbill     2012     ISBN 978-1-59514-578-9

Myers, Walter Dean The Cruisers
126 pp.     Scholastic     2010     ISBN 978-0-439-91626-4
Ebook 978-0-545-34755-6

Paulsen, Gary Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed
119 pp.     Random/Lamb     2011     ISBN 978-0-385-74002-9
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-90818-4

Stead, Rebecca Goodbye Stranger
289 pp.      Random/Lamb     2015     ISBN 978-0-385-74317-4
Library binding ISBN 978-0-375-99098-4
Ebook ISBN 978-0-307-98085-4

Telgemeier, Raina Drama
238 pp.     Scholastic/Graphix     2012     ISBN 978-0-545-32698-8
Paperback ISBN 978-0-545-32699-5

Yang, Gene Luen and Holmes, Mike Secret Coders
92 pp.     Roaring Brook/First Second     2015     ISBN 978-1-62672-276-7
Paperback ISBN 978-1-62672-075-6

Yoo, David The Detention Club
300 pp.     HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray     2011      ISBN 978-0-06-178378-4

High School

Alsenas, Linas Beyond Clueless
249 pp.     Abrams/Amulet      2015     ISBN 978-1-4197-1496-2

Carriger, Gail Etiquette & Espionage [Finishing School]
307 pp.      Little      2013     ISBN 978-0-316-19008-4

Cavallaro, Brittany A Study in Charlotte
324 pp.     HarperCollins/Tegen     2016     ISBN 978-0-06-239890-1

Hattemer, Kate The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
327 pp.     Knopf     2014     ISBN 978-0-385-75378-4
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-75379-1
Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-75380-7

Jocelyn, Marthe What We Hide
279 pp.     Random/Lamb     2014     ISBN 978-0-385-73847-7
Library binding ISBN 978-0-385-90732-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-375-89465-7

Juby, Susan The Truth Commission
314 pp.     Viking     2015     ISBN 978-0-451-46877-2

Knowles, Jo Read Between the Lines
330 pp.     Candlewick     2015     ISBN 978-0-7636-6387-2
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7421-2

Knudsen, Michelle Evil Librarian
346 pp.     Candlewick     2014     ISBN 978-0-7636-6038-3
Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7087-0

Konigsberg, Bill Openly Straight
328 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2013     ISBN 978-0-545-50989-3

Medina, Meg Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
263 pp.     Candlewick     2013     ISBN 978-0-7636-5859-5

Reynolds, Jason and Kiely, Brendan All American Boys
316 pp.     Atheneum     2015     ISBN 978-1-4814-6333-1
Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6335-5

Schreiber, Joe Con Academy
236 pp.     Houghton     2015     ISBN 978-0-544-32020-8

Wolitzer, Meg Belzhar
264 pp.     Dutton     2014     ISBN 978-0-525-42305-8

Wooding, Chris Silver
315 pp.     Scholastic     2014.     ISBN 978-0-545-60392-8
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-62191-5

Yee, Lisa The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days
266 pp.     Scholastic/Levine     2015     ISBN 978-0-545-23094-0
Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-63399-4

These titles were mentioned in the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?”

 

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Five Questions for Adam Rex and Christian Robinson http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/authors-illustrators/interviews/five-questions-for-adam-rex-and-christian-robinson/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/authors-illustrators/interviews/five-questions-for-adam-rex-and-christian-robinson/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:50:01 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64601 adam rexSchool’s First Day of School (Roaring Brook/Porter, 2016) by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson, provides a new perspective on the first day of school — that of the building itself. From worry and anticipation to excitement, jealousy, and, finally, contentment and eagerness for the next day, the school’s childlike reactions will be understood by first-day-ers everywhere.

1. What first day of school do you remember the best?

Adam Rex: Maybe it was the first day of junior high? It was a brand-new school, actually — a parallel to School’s First Day of School that I hadn’t thought about until just now. I wonder if it had any unconscious bearing on my text. Anyway, I was among the inaugural seventh grade class, none of whom had wanted to leave our elementary school which had, up until that year, been K–8. So my friends and I made nervous jokes about how the school looked, trying to mask our anxiety. We kept insisting it looked like an institution, because none of us knew what “institution” meant and we thought it was derogatory.

christian robinsonChristian Robinson: My first day of kindergarten was pretty memorable. I grew up in L.A. in a predominately Latino neighborhood and for some reason was placed in the ESL kindergarten class. I remember feeling like all my classmates were speaking a different language, because they were. Also I remember feeling very smart when I already knew that la uva is “the grape” and la manzana is “the apple.” It took three days before anyone noticed that I probably shouldn’t be in the class. LAUSD rocks!

2. What is your best trick for calming big-day nerves?

AR: I guess as a kid I used to misuse the word “institution”? Now I just drink.

CR: Whenever I’m nervous I focus on my breathing and recite a little mantra: In, out, deep, slow, present moment, wonderful moment. A glass of wine also works.

pb_rex_schoolsfirstday243x3003. Why is Janitor the only one who can communicate with the school?

AR: It was something that just fell into place. I wanted the school to have a confidante before all the teachers and students arrived. And after I added Janitor, all these parallels to parenting showed themselves: the janitor takes care of the school, cleans up after it. The janitor is the one who’s there before the school day begins and after the school day is over.

CR: Because black people are magic.

4. What was the joke told in the cafeteria that made milk come out of the boy’s nose?

AR: I asked my four-year-old what he thinks the joke was, and this is what he said:

Knock-knock!
(Who’s there?)
Toe.
(Toe who?)
Toe MOO!

So, there you go. It’s a pretty good joke.

CR: What did the bra say to the hat? You go on ahead and I’ll give these two a lift.

5. In school, were you more like the freckled girl (tentative and shy) or the puffy-haired boy (totally over it)?

AR: I wasn’t either. I was the funny, outgoing kid who didn’t understand how he could keep getting mistaken for a nerd nobody liked.

CR: I was the boy who was always drawing, didn’t play sports, and only hung out with girls.

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Recommended School Stories: High School http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-high-school/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-high-school/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:04:41 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64621 alsenas_beyondcluelessAlsenas, Linas Beyond Clueless
249 pp. Abrams/Amulet 2015. ISBN 978-1-4197-1496-2

Ever since fifth grade, Martha “Marty” Sullivan has been happy with just one friend: flamboyantly gay Jimmy. But now she’s attending an all-girls’ Catholic high school, which expands her social horizons both among girls (rebellious new friend Xiang) and guys. This mostly light comedy of errors is an honest portrayal of the cluelessness inherent in early high schoolers.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Schools—Catholic schools; Schools—High schools; Homosexuality; Theater; Music; Friendship

carriger_etiquette and espionage_170x257Carriger, Gail Etiquette & Espionage
307 pp. Little 2013. ISBN 978-0-316-19008-4

Finishing School series. In a parallel Victorian England, Sophronia is recruited by Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. Students aboard the academy dirigible learn “the fine arts of death, diversion, and the modern weaponries” from a faculty boasting a werewolf and a vampire. Blending intrigue and school story, Carriger introduces readers to a supernatural-meets-steampunk world full of action and wit.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Great Britain; Robots; Spies; Etiquette; Schools—Boarding schools; Victorian England; Science fiction; Supernatural

HS_cavallaro_astudyincharlotteCavallaro, Brittany A Study in Charlotte
324 pp. HarperCollins/Tegen 2016. ISBN 978-0-06-239890-1

Connecticut boarding-school students Charlotte Holmes and James Watson, descendants of Sherlock and Dr. Watson, are framed for a murder that’s staged with clues straight out of their ancestors’ “Speckled Band” case. The teens navigate their own muddled relationship while racing to find the real killer. Complex characters and a dark, twisty-turny plot (involving drugs, rape, revenge, and Moriartys) make for an above-average Holmes-Watson reboot.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Mystery and detective stories; Schools—Boarding schools; Connecticut; Holmes, Sherlock; Murder; Detectives; Behavior—Revenge; Rape; Substance abuse—Drugs; Family

The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn AcademyHattemer, Kate The Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy
327 pp. Knopf 2014. ISBN 978-0-385-75378-4 LE ISBN 978-0-385-75379-1 Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-75380-7

When teen reality show For Art’s Sake comes to Ethan’s bohemian high school, his charismatic best friend Luke proposes a “folk uprising”: a scathing long poem, inspired by Ezra Pound, distributed to the student body through guerilla tactics. But the poem lands Luke a spot on the show (his apparent objective all along). Ethan’s self-deprecating and witty voice makes him an appealing narrator.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Art; Artists; Television; Schools—High schools; Poets; Poetry; Minnesota; Pound, Ezra

HS_jocelyn-whatwehideJocelyn, Marthe What We Hide
279 pp. Random/Lamb 2014. ISBN 978-0-385-73847-7 LE ISBN 978-0-385-90732-3 Ebook ISBN 978-0-375-89465-7

This story set at an English boarding school during the Vietnam War is told from alternating viewpoints. Each classmate reveals to the reader what he or she is hiding from the others. Jocelyn makes each character distinctly believable — differently flawed yet sympathetic. There’s a satisfying arc of discovery for each individual — some of whom keep their secrets, others who let them go.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Schools—Boarding schools; Secrets; History, Modern—Vietnam War; England; Behavior—Truthfulness and falsehood

juby_truth commissionJuby, Susan The Truth Commission
314 pp. Viking 2015. ISBN 978-0-451-46877-2

This story recounts the excavation of truth — and its unanticipated after-effects — by three students at a super-artsy Vancouver high school. When the Truth Commission is born, dynamics shift both at school and home. Narrator Normandy’s wry, detailed observations range from funny to painfully honest. Bright dialogue and vivid characters draw readers along as the three artists navigate truths both light and dark.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Artists; Family—Siblings; Behavior—Truthfulness and falsehood; Family; Schools—High schools; Vancouver (BC)

HS_Knowles_read_between_the_linesKnowles, Jo Read Between the Lines
330 pp. Candlewick 2015. ISBN 978-0-7636-6387-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7421-2

Nine teens and one teacher each tell a story about a seemingly ordinary school day in November. Each story reveals more about the characters — their secrets, troubled family lives, crushes, and friendships — and how they relate to one another. (Often, it’s through someone giving someone else the finger, a gesture appearing in each story.) These interconnected stories create a powerful, complex whole.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Short stories

knudsen_evil librarianKnudsen, Michelle Evil Librarian
346 pp. Candlewick 2014. ISBN 978-0-7636-6038-3 Ebook ISBN 978-0-7636-7087-0

Cynthia is an ordinary sixteen-year-old. She has a BFF, Annie; a crush on musical theater prodigy, Ryan; and a job tech-directing the school’s Sweeney Todd production. But ordinariness goes to hell — literally — when new librarian Mr. Gabriel seems to be mesmerizing students. A Buffy-esque blend of supernatural-baddie confrontation, school story, and dark comedy, with a sweet romance thrown in for good measure.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Supernatural; Theater; Schools—High schools; Libraries

openly straightKonigsberg, Bill Openly Straight
328 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2013. ISBN 978-0-545-50989-3

Rafe is sick of being the poster child for all things gay at his uber-liberal Colorado high school, so when he gets into a Massachusetts boarding school for his junior year, he decides to reboot himself as “openly straight.” Konigsberg slyly demonstrates how thoroughly assumptions of straightness are embedded in everyday interactions. For a thought-provoking take on the coming-out story, look no further.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Colorado; Massachusetts; Schools—Boarding schools; Homosexuality; Identity

medina_yaqui delgadoMedina, Meg Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
263 pp. Candlewick 2013. ISBN 978-0-7636-5859-5

New to a Queens high school, Piddy Sanchez gets word that a girl she doesn’t know has it in for her. As the bullying intensifies, so do Piddy’s fear and lack of self-worth; she’s soon retreating from life more than living it. Is it easier to give up and become a “nobody” or fight back? Teens will identify with Piddy’s struggle to decide.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Behavior—Bullying; Schools—High schools; Queens (New York, NY); New York (NY); Latino Americans; Gossip; Self-esteem; Family—Mother and daughter

reynolds_all american boysReynolds, Jason and Kiely, Brendan All American Boys
316 pp. Atheneum/Dlouhy 2015. ISBN 978-1-4814-6333-1 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4814-6335-5

When a quick stop at the corner store suddenly escalates into police brutality, high school classmates Rashad (who is African American) and Quinn (who is white) are linked and altered by the violence — Rashad as victim and Quinn as witness. This nuanced novel explores issues of racism, power, and justice with a diverse (ethnically and philosophically) cast and two remarkable protagonists.
Subjects: Older Fiction; African Americans; Police officers; Race relations; Prejudices; Schools—High schools; Violence

schreiber_con academySchreiber, Joe Con Academy
236 pp. Houghton 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-32020-8

Will Shea and Andrea Dufresne faked identities to win scholarships to New England’s elite Connaughton Academy. Wary of detection, they develop a high-stakes contest: whoever cons a classmate out of ten thousand dollars stays. Enter Brandt Rush, a wheeler-dealer who practically runs Connaughton, and the trio of unlikable characters is in place. Schreiber’s plot is pure fun, deliciously convoluted, and full of surprises.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Schools—Boarding schools; Swindlers and swindling

wolitzer_belzharWolitzer, Meg Belzhar
264 pp. Dutton 2014. ISBN 978-0-525-42305-8

After her boyfriend’s death, Jam is shipped to a boarding school for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent” teens. She’s placed in a course for which the only materials are Sylvia Plath’s poems, The Bell Jar, and a journal to write in. Much of this powerful book straddles the real and the supernatural, but it’s ultimately about the otherworldly things the mind is capable of.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Plath, Sylvia; Writing; Death; Emotions—Grief; Emotional problems; Diaries; Schools—Boarding schools; Dating; Vermont; Supernatural

wooding_silver2Wooding, Chris Silver
315 pp. Scholastic 2014. ISBN 978-0-545-60392-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-62191-5

Loner Paul, bully Adam, golden girl Erika, wannabe Caitlyn, and geeky Mark each struggle to survive when a virulent and predatory nanovirus turns Mortingham Boarding Academy into a steampunk-flavored hunting ground of zombie-like machine hybrids. A maestro of atmosphere and primal fear, Wooding uses high-school dynamics, personal growth, and a touch of heroism to humanize this apocalyptic slasher-thriller.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Epidemics; Schools—Boarding schools; Science fiction; Zombies; Emotions—Fear; Survival; Diseases

HS_Yee_KidneyYee, Lisa The Kidney Hypothetical: Or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days
266 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2015. ISBN 978-0-545-23094-0 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-63399-4

High-school senior Higgs Boson Bing loses his girlfriend, his best friend, his popularity, and his future at Harvard all in one week. Higgs wins readers over with his genuine surprise at discovering he’s a self-centered jerk; flashbacks hint that deep down he’s a decent guy. The satisfying ending, in which Higgs quickly makes amends, is a fitting whirlwind of a conclusion.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Schools—High schools; California; Family; Friendship; Family—Siblings

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Review of School’s First Day of School http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/review-of-schools-first-day-of-school/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/review-of-schools-first-day-of-school/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:59:56 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64623 pb_rex_schoolsfirstday243x300star2 School’s First Day of School
by Adam Rex; 
illus. by Christian Robinson
Primary    Porter/Roaring Brook    40 pp.
6/16    978-1-59643-964-1    $17.99    g

We’ve had many books about kids getting ready for the first day of school, but now we have another perspective: the school’s itself. The title page shows the finishing touches being added to a brand-new building. By the time the story starts, Frederick Douglass Elementary is ready, its door a smile, waiting for the first day. It quickly makes friends with Janitor but is worried about meeting the students (Janitor says: “‘Don’t worry — you’ll like the children.’ But the school thought that Janitor was probably wrong about that”). Turns out, Janitor is right about many things. As the day goes on, the school learns to appreciate the kids and hopes Janitor will invite them back. Rex’s droll telling is fun to read aloud, especially when the school is talking. Adults, who will no doubt be reading this over and over, will appreciate little jokes. “At three o’clock, the parents came to pick up the children. At three-thirty Janitor came to pick up the school.” Robinson’s naively styled paintings are the perfect complement to a warm, welcoming story. This diverse group of children is all circles: round heads, black-dot eyes, curly or bowl-shaped hairstyles. Even when they are acting silly (milk shooting out of a boy’s nose, for instance), they are likable and engaging, with each child depicted as a friendly-looking individual. Sure to become a staple for first days of school everywhere.

From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Recommended School Stories: Middle School http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-middle-school/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-middle-school/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:43:40 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64619 alexander_bookedAlexander, Kwame Booked
314 pp. Houghton 2016. ISBN 978-0-544-57098-6

Nick is a wordsmith, thanks to his linguistics-professor father, but he would rather be shining on the soccer field. He’s blindsided when his parents separate; things worsen at school, too, as he and best friend Coby are targeted by the racist Eggleston twins. With accessible forms and appealing formatting, this novel in verse offers sports action combined with spot-on portrayals of middle-school life.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Books and reading; Sports—Soccer; Behavior—Bullying; Friendship; Schools—Middle schools; Poetry; English language; Divorce; Race relations

MS_Baker_PickleBaker, Kim Pickle: The (Formerly) Anonymous Prank Club of Fountain Point Middle School
236 pp. Roaring Brook 2012. ISBN 978-1-59643-765-4

Illustrated by Tim Probert. Using a pickle-making club as cover, narrator Ben handpicks his crew for the P.T.A. (Prank and Trick Association). The elation everyone feels after a successful trick is balanced by the stress of keeping a secret, especially when the pranks don’t turn out as planned. Baker writes with a light, lively hand, depicting a realistic urban setting peopled with engaging characters from various ethnic backgrounds.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Jokes; Clubs; Schools—Middle schools

berry_scandalous sisterhood of prickwillow placeBerry, Julie The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
354 pp. Roaring Brook 2014. ISBN 978-1-59643-956-6 Ebook ISBN 978-1-59643-957-3

This airy confection is part murder mystery, part girls’-school story, part dark drawing-room comedy. In 1890 England, seven students — our heroines — attempt to solve the murder of their headmistress and her ne’er-do-well brother while concealing the deaths to remain together at the school. Berry takes her madcap seriously, never breaking character when it comes to the old-timey setting or details. An entertaining, smart, and frothy diversion.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Murder; Schools—Boarding schools; Mystery and detective stories; Humorous stories; England; Victorian England

MS_Grimes_PlanetMiddleSchoolGrimes, Nikki Planet Middle School
155 pp. Bloomsbury 2011. ISBN 978-1-59990-284-5

Upon starting middle school, twelve-year-old Joy feels self-conscious about being thought of as a tomboy. She and her best friend are also growing apart. Through breezy prose poems Grimes explores the tension between individuality and gender-role conformity and takes on concerns such as changing friendships and the shift in boy/girl relationships. Her realistic novel has solid middle-school appeal and avoids preaching.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Friendship; Family—Siblings; Sports—Basketball; Poetry; Schools—Middle schools; Self-perception; Gender roles

johnson_to catch a cheatJohnson, Varian To Catch a Cheat
248 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-72239-1 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-72241-4

Jackson Greene (The Great Greene Heist) has retired from his con-man antics. Until…someone floods Maplewood Middle School, and a video surfaces incriminating Jackson and his diverse set of friends. Blackmail? Revenge? To clear their names, Jackson and “Gang Greene” are back in action. The smart, complicated mystery caper is reminiscent of Ocean’s Eleven, Mission: Impossible, and The Westing Game. Sheer fun.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Mystery and detective stories; Schools—Middle schools; Adventure and adventurers; African Americans

MS_Miller_ColinFischerMiller, Ashley Edward and Stentz, Zack Colin Fischer
235 pp. Penguin/Razorbill 2012. ISBN 978-1-59514-578-9

After a gun goes off in the cafeteria, fourteen-year-old Colin Fischer is determined to figure out who brought the gun to school; having an autism spectrum disorder proves both help and hindrance to the young detective. Readers will appreciate the snappy dialogue, Colin’s notebook entries, and the footnotes describing the kind of details that fascinate him in this smart and humorous mystery.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Disabilities, Mental—Autism; Guns; Schools—High schools; Mystery and detective stories

MS_Myers_cruisersMyers, Walter Dean The Cruisers
126 pp. Scholastic 2010. ISBN 978-0-439-91626-4
Ebook 978-0-545-34755-6

The “Cruisers,” a group of friends at a gifted and talented middle school in Harlem, are assigned the task of negotiating peace in a school-wide historical re-enactment of the Civil War — before the war starts. Protagonist Zander’s breezy narration lends accessibility to Myers’s consistently solid writing and thought-provoking themes.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Harlem (New York, NY); Schools—Middle schools; African Americans; Peace; History, American—Civil War; Newspapers

MS_Paulsen_flat_brokePaulsen, Gary Flat Broke: The Theory, Practice and Destructive Properties of Greed
119 pp. Random/Lamb 2011. ISBN 978-0-385-74002-9 LE ISBN 978-0-385-90818-4

His allowance discontinued, middle-school entrepreneur Kevin (Liar, Liar) is desperate for money (mostly to impress a girl). Kevin sees himself as kingmaker: he’ll create projects for others and take a cut of the profits; his enthusiasm for fame, fortune, and free enterprise is infectious. This is an undemanding read with a nicely underplayed moral, a solid investment for reluctant readers.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Moneymaking projects; Friendship; Family; Humorous stories; Behavior—Honesty; Dating; Schools—Middle schools

stead_goodbye-stranger_170x255Stead, Rebecca Goodbye Stranger
289 pp. Random/Lamb 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-74317-4 LE ISBN 978-0-375-99098-4 Ebook ISBN 978-0-307-98085-4

Seventh grader Bridget nearly died in an accident when she was eight. A nurse’s comment that she “must have been put on this earth for a reason” confounds her still; Bridget’s eventual, happy discovery of that reason is believable and moving. Stead’s intricately crafted story explores various configurations of love and friendship. This astonishingly profound novel is not your average middle-school friendship tale.
Subjects: Older Fiction; Friendship; Schools—Middle schools; Family; Accidents; New York (NY)

telgemeier_drama_205x299Telgemeier, Raina Drama
238 pp. Scholastic/Graphix 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-32698-8 PE ISBN 978-0-545-32699-5

Seventh grader Callie loves musical theater, but she isn’t much of a singer, so she works as a set designer for the school drama club. Her second year on stage crew is fraught with drama, on and off the set. Telgemeier gets her middle-school characters just right, and her graphic artist skills make this novel a pleasure to read and re-read.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Graphic novels; Cartoons and comics; Theater; Dating; Schools—Middle schools; Clubs

MS_Yang_Secret-CodersYang, Gene Luen and Holmes, Mike Secret Coders
92 pp. Roaring Brook/First Second 2015. ISBN 978-1-62672-276-7 PE ISBN 978-1-62672-075-6

Stately Academy looks more like a haunted house than a school — at least to twelve-year-old newcomer and narrator Hopper. But she finds a like-minded ally in basketball star Eni. Nosing around campus, the two find programmable robots and pages of code. This graphic novel is an inspired mash-up of computer science and mystery, thanks in part to well-thought-out explanations and, more importantly, visuals.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Cartoons and comics; Graphic novels; Computers; Schools; Friendship; Robots; Mystery and detective stories

MS_Yoo_DetentionClubYoo, David The Detention Club
300 pp. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray 2011. ISBN 978-0-06-178378-4

On their first day of middle school, sixth-grader Peter Lee and his best pal Drew discover their popular elementary-school antics (e.g., speaking in robot voices) are “so fifth grade.” Determined to be among the “kings of the school” again, Peter brainstorms a series of schemes. Yoo adds diverting subplots and realistic conflict to his laugh-out-loud, spot-on portrayal of middle-school life.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Family—Siblings; Behavior; Schools—Middle schools; Korean Americans; Humorous stories

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Recommended School Stories: Intermediate http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-intermediate/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-intermediate/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:36:43 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64610 barnett and john_terrible twoBarnett, Mac and John, Jory The Terrible Two
220 pp. Abrams/Amulet 2015. ISBN 978-1-4197-1491-7 Ebook ISBN 978-1-61312-763-6

Illustrated by Kevin Cornell. Forced to leave behind his proud reputation as class prankster, Miles Murphy dreads starting over in a new town. Miles finds himself paired up with do-gooder Niles at Yawnee Valley Science and Letters Academy and is disappointed to discover that an impressive, anonymous prankster already attends the school. Miles must either out-prank this character…or join forces. Punchy line drawings magnify the text’s well-timed comedy and clever details.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Humorous stories; Moving, Household; Jokes; Schools; Practical jokes

adpreview_beasleyBeasley, Kate Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
250 pp. Farrar 2016. ISBN 978-0-374-30261-0

Illustrated by Jillian Tamaki. Gertie lives with her great-aunt in coastal Alabama while her father works on an oil rig. Gertie wants to become the “greatest fifth grader in the whole…universe” in order to prove something to her absentee mother and herself. Standing in her way is the prissy new girl at school. Slice-of-life fans should enjoy the homespun humor. Personality-rich illustrations help set the scene.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Alabama; Family—Mother and daughter; Family—Father and daughter; Family—Great-aunts; Schools—Elementary schools; Self-perception

serafinaBurg, Ann E. Serafina’s Promise
298 pp. Scholastic 2013. ISBN 978-0-545-53564-9

Serafina lives in modern rural Haiti. Food is scarce, and her mother is pregnant again. Serafina longs to attend school and become a doctor like Antoinette Solaine, who tried unsuccessfully to save Serafina’s baby brother, Pierre. Woven into the spare first-person free-verse poems is the history of Haiti and Serafina’s family. Rich details of everyday life add texture to this emotional, fast-moving tale. Glos.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Haiti; Poetry; Family; Natural disasters—Earthquakes

clements_troublemakerClements, Andrew Troublemaker
143 pp. Atheneum 2011. ISBN 978-1-4169-4930-5

Illustrated by Mark Elliott. Clay can’t wait to tell his older brother Mitch — a troublemaker in his day — about his latest trip to the principal’s office. But Mitch has just gotten out of jail, and he doesn’t want Clay following in his footsteps. How does Clay go about reinventing himself? Clements has fashioned another fine school story, this time about second chances and the possibility of change.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Behavior; Family—Siblings; Drawing; Schools—Elementary schools; Self-perception

saturday boyFleming, David The Saturday Boy
263 pp. Viking 2013. ISBN 978-0-670-78551-3

Fifth grader Derek is having a hard time. His former best friend now bullies him, his mother is moody, and his beloved father is serving in Afghanistan. A role in a school play introduces Derek to a supportive group. When Derek learns devastating news, he garners comfort and strength from unlikely sources. Readers whose lives are similar to Derek’s will find a comrade here.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Plays; Family—Mother and son; Family—Father and son; Behavior—Bullying; Friendship; Letters; History, Modern—War in Afghanistan

hahn_where i belongHahn, Mary Downing Where I Belong
226 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-23020-0

Foster kid Brendan finds refuge in a tree house he builds. He also builds tentative friendships with Shea, a fellow outsider at school, and with an old man whom Brendan believes has supernatural abilities. This is quintessential middle-grade realistic fiction, with an unvarnished depiction of the miseries that can be visited upon a quiet sixth grader and the succor that can be found in hard-won friendships.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Foster homes; Friendship; Behavior—Bullying; Schools—Middle schools; Tree houses

humphrey_ruby goldbergHumphrey, Anna Ruby Goldberg’s Bright Idea
131 pp. Simon 2013. ISBN 978-1-4424-8027-0 Ebook ISBN 978-1-4424-8031-5

Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton. Ten-year-old Ruby Goldberg sets her sights on finally winning the gold medal at her school science fair, which has gone to her rival, Dominic, two years running. She eventually joins ideas with Dominic and learns the value of teamwork. Ruby’s growing pains feel consistently authentic. Newton’s black-and-white illustrations capture the playful energy of the narrative.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Behavior—Teamwork; Family—Grandfathers; Inventions and inventors; Science projects; Competition; Science

jukes_new kidJukes, Mavis The New Kid
277 pp. Knopf 2011. ISBN 978-0-375-85879-6 LE ISBN 978-0-375-95879-3

Jukes crafts a moving, hilarious, and artful story of nine-year-old Carson, the new kid at school. Carson is adopted and his dad is single, but there is nary an issue in this story, just real, kind, hugely likable people in situations that ring funny and true. Jukes captures perfectly the loopy, borderline-absurd perceptions of a third-grade boy.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Moving, Household; Schools—Elementary schools; Friendship; Family—Single-parent families

mlynowski_upside-down magicMlynowski, Sarah, Myracle, Lauren and Jenkins, Emily Upside-Down Magic
200 pp. Scholastic 2015. ISBN 978-0-545-80045-7 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-80047-1

Nory’s father, a Flicker (he turns things invisible), is headmaster of Sage Academy of Magic and Performance. Nory’s own magic is wonky, and after a disastrous showing at her Sage Academy entrance exam, Dad sends her to a school that offers a special program. This seamless collaboration is light but not inconsequential; its multicultural and differently-abled cast will be welcomed by a broad audience.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Magic; Schools; Family—Aunts; Fantasy

new readers_pennypacker_waylonPennypacker, Sara Waylon!: One Awesome Thing
197 pp. Disney/Hyperion 2016. ISBN 978-1-4847-0152-2

Illustrated by Marla Frazee. The boys in Waylon’s fourth-grade class are being divided into two teams by king-bee Arlo. Waylon is relieved to be selected for Arlo’s team but worries what will happen if he is kicked off. Using heart and brain, aspiring scientist Waylon tries to make sense of the situation while staying true to himself. This Clementine series spinoff features another likable kid with lots of heart.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Family—Siblings; Schools—Elementary schools

shovan_last fifth gradeShovan, Laura The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary
247 pp. Random/Lamb 2016. ISBN 978-0-553-52137-5 LE ISBN 978-0-553-52138-2 Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-52139-9

Eighteen students will be in Ms. Hill’s last fifth-grade class, before bulldozers destroy Emerson Elementary to make room for a grocery store. The kids in her racially diverse classroom voice their opinions about their beloved school’s closing through poems in a range of styles. The poems are easy to read, in authentic-sounding language capturing the poets’ personalities. A helpful guide to poetic forms is appended.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Poetry; Schools—Elementary schools

weeks_save me a seatWeeks, Sarah and Varadarajan, Gita Save Me a Seat
232 pp. Scholastic 2016. ISBN 978-0-545-84660-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-545-84662-2

Used to being the top student, fifth grader Ravi (“fresh off the boat” from Bangalore) is furious when he’s sent to the resource room with Joe (whose auditory processing disorder makes school challenging). Determined to prove his superiority, Ravi befriends bully Dillon, while Joe hopes to get through the day without humiliation at Dillon’s hands. Short chapters alternate between Joe’s and Ravi’s distinctive, engaging voices. Glos.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Behavior—Bullying; Schools—Elementary schools; Immigration; East Indian Americans

yep_dragon's guide to making your human smarterYep, Laurence and Ryder, Joanne A Dragon’s Guide to Making Your Human Smarter
294 pp. Crown 2016. ISBN 978-0-385-39232-7 LE ISBN 978-0-385-39233-4 Ebook ISBN 978-0-385-39234-1

Illustrated by Mary GrandPré. Winnie (A Dragon’s Guide to the Care and Feeding of Humans) is newly enrolled in a magic academy. But Nanette, niece of Winnie’s dragon-caretaker’s “self-proclaimed rival,” is also attending—and proclaims herself Winnie’s rival. Lighthearted episodes of unusual lessons and field trips, illustrated by winsome spot art, are grounded by more serious encounters with Winnie’s grandfather’s goons in this buoyant second entry.
Subjects: Intermediate Fiction; Schools; Dragons; Magic

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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Recommended School Stories: Easy Readers and Chapter Books http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/recommended-school-stories-easy-readers-and-chapter-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/recommended-school-stories-easy-readers-and-chapter-books/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:11:15 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64607 cheng_year of the bookCheng, Andrea The Year of the Book
148 pp. Houghton 2012. ISBN 978-0-547-68463-5

Illustrated by Abigail Halpin. Nine-year-old Anna, who always has her head stuck in a book, sometimes uses reading as a shield against social exclusion (of the specialized fourth-grade-girl kind) and her own lack of confidence. Cheng’s telling is as straightforward yet sympathetic as her self-contained main character; Halpin’s often lighthearted pencil-and-wash sketches both decorate and enrich this perceptive novel.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Chinese Americans; Books and reading; Friendship; Schools—Elementary schools; Chapter books

english_skateboard partyEnglish, Karen Skateboard Party
117 pp. Clarion 2014. ISBN 978-0-544-28306-0

Illustrated by Laura Freeman. Carver Chronicles series. Skateboarder Richard spends so much time mastering a flat-ground Ollie that other things fall by the wayside. After blowing off his report on howler monkeys — again — Richard finds himself staying in for recess; readers will cheer when he finally tackles the report. Kids will recognize themselves in this series entry (including the occasional black-and-white illustrations) starring a realistic, likable boy of color.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Chapter books; Sports—Skateboarding; Schools—Elementary schools; African Americans

Y_Fleischman_DunderheadsFleischman, Paul The Dunderheads
56 pp. Candlewick 2009. ISBN 978-0-7636-2498-9

Illustrated by David Roberts. Miss Breakbone is a piratical confiscator of treasures brought to class. Led by self-possessed narrator “Einstein,” her students set out to retrieve Miss Breakbone’s latest plunder — a one-eared cat statue. Roberts caricatures the formidable teacher and the amiably wide-eyed kids with a witty, agile pen and judicious splashes of color, an excellent foil for Fleischman’s terse and comical, action-packed private-eye send-up.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Humorous stories; Teachers; Schools—Elementary schools; Chapter books

year of billy millerHenkes, Kevin The Year of Billy Miller
229 pp. Greenwillow 2013. ISBN 978-0-06-226812-9 LE ISBN 978-0-06-226813-6

Billy Miller starts off on the wrong foot with his second-grade teacher; his seat isn’t next to his best friend; and he worries he may not be smart enough for school. Henkes divides his nuanced novel into four parts, each with a focus on someone in Billy’s life: Teacher, Father, Sister, Mother. Together they offer a vivid portrait of a boy coming into his confidence.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Schools—Elementary schools; Family; Wisconsin; Humorous stories

jamieson_great pet escapeJamieson, Victoria The Great Pet Escape
64 pp. Holt 2016. ISBN 978-1-62779-105-2 PE ISBN 978-1-62779-106-9

Feisty class hamster GW completes his Hairy Houdini Escape-O-Matic invention and races to release bunny Barry and guinea pig Biter — but his friends aren’t eager to abandon their comfy lives as class pets. Jailbreaks, a food fight, and other hijinks ensue in this laugh-out-loud graphic novel. Pen-and-ink panels in a bright palette have a tidy feel, in neat contrast to the mischief and mayhem.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Graphic novels; Cartoons and comics; Animals—Hamsters; Schools—Elementary schools; Pets; Humorous stories

lagercrantz_my heart is laughingLagercrantz, Rose My Heart Is Laughing
120 pp. Gecko 2014. ISBN 978-1-877579-52-3

Illustrated by Eva Eriksson. First grader Dani (My Happy Life) is still sad about best friend Ella moving away, but she’s a sturdy kid. Then things get sticky at school: classmates Mickey and Vicky both like the same boy, but he likes Dani. Lagercrantz’s text is funny and real; Eriksson’s line drawings brilliantly portray expressions and body language. Salty and sweet, this is umami for the emerging reader.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Chapter books; Schools—Elementary schools; Friendship; Books in translation

Y_Look_AlvinHoLook, Lenore Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night
185 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-87033-0 LE ISBN 978-0-375-97033-7

Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. In this fifth book, Alvin’s current anxieties include two that will resonate with lots of kids: burglars and babies (his mom is expecting). Though there’s one fear that only Alvin could come up with: he thinks he’s pregnant, too. Alvin is sure to come up with more worries for future installments; as usual, Pham’s illustrations capture both the highs and the lows.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Chapter books; Emotions—Fear; Pregnancy; Schools—Elementary schools; Chinese Americans; Massachusetts; Family; Babies; Robbers and outlaws; Emotions—Worry

Y_McKay_Lulu-duckMcKay, Hilary Lulu and the Duck in the Park
93 pp. Whitman 2012. ISBN 978-0-8075-4808-0

Illustrated by Priscilla Lamont. Bringing outside animals into Lulu’s class is verboten. But when Class Three witnesses two dogs destroy ducks’ nests, Lulu keeps the remaining egg safe, and it begins to hatch — while at school. Animal-loving Lulu’s dilemma rings true, and no-nonsense Mrs. Holiday’s speech is humorously natural. Though all ends well in this fine beginning chapter book, gratifyingly the resolution is not pat.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Family—Cousins; Eggs; African Americans; Animals—Ducks; Humorous stories; Chapter books; Schools—Elementary schools; Animals; Friendship; Pets

Y_McMullan_Pearl-SummerMcMullan, Kate Pearl and Wagner: Five Days Till Summer
48 pp. Penguin 2012. ISBN 978-0-8037-3589-7

Illustrated by R. W. Alley. Penguin Young Readers series. Pearl gets a glimpse of next year’s teacher, Ms. Bean, and thinks she resembles a “mean green bean.” Illustrations vary in placement and capture the myriad expressions on the characters’ faces. The language begins to bridge that territory between easy readers and chapter books, but the real beauty of this book is its own connection from one school year to the next.
Subjects: Easy Readers; Schools—Elementary schools; Emotions—Fear; Teachers

michalak_joe and sparky go to schoolMichalak, Jamie Joe and Sparky Go to School
42 pp. Candlewick 2013. ISBN 978-0-7636-6278-3

Illustrated by Frank Remkiewicz. Giraffe Joe and best friend Sparky the turtle, who live at Safari Land, take an unexpected field trip to a school when they accidentally board a departing bus full of “noisy short people.” Limited but lively vocabulary, a large font, and carefully placed illustrations—all in a humorous, high-interest package — will make this a hit.
Subjects: Easy Readers; School field trips; Schools; Animals—Turtles; Animals—Giraffes; Humorous stories; Friendship

mills_izzy barr running starMills, Claudia Izzy Barr, Running Star
136 pp. Farrar/Ferguson 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-33578-6 Ebook ISBN 978-0-374-33579-3

Illustrated by Rob Shepperson. Franklin School Friends series. This third installment focuses on Izzy Barr, the fastest runner in the third grade — until classmate Skipper beats her. Izzy desperately wants to beat her rival, first at the school field day and then at the citywide 10K. Mills presents and resolves problems in a winning story; Shepperson’s depiction of Izzy as African American adds welcome diversity to this group of friends.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Friendship; Family—Father and daughter; Contests; Chapter books; Schools—Elementary schools; Sports—Running; Sports—Track and field; Competition; Family—Siblings; African Americans

pennypacker_completely clementinePennypacker, Sara Completely Clementine
181 pp. Disney/Hyperion 2015. ISBN 978-1-4231-2358-3

Illustrated by Marla Frazee. In this series-ender, third grade is almost over, but Clementine isn’t ready to say goodbye. Meanwhile, she’s not speaking to her father, her new baby sibling is due any day, and her friend Margaret’s mother is getting married. All this change is handled with the series’ signature light touch. Breezy pen-and-ink illustrations capture Clementine’s goofy panache. A bittersweet sendoff for a beloved literary friend.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Chapter books; Schools—Elementary schools; Family; Babies; Humorous stories

Y_Spinelli_third-gradeSpinelli, Jerry Third Grade Angels
137 pp. Scholastic/Levine 2012. ISBN 978-0-545-38772-9

Illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell. In this Fourth Grade Rats prequel, Suds is becoming a “third grade angel.” One member of Mrs. Simms’s class per week will be the “boss angel” and Suds decides that he’ll be the first. Spinelli has his finger on the pulse of notoriously competitive third graders, and Suds’s first-person account rings true. Black-and-white illustrations move the story along while supporting unsure readers.
Subjects: Younger Fiction; Behavior—Determination; Behavior—Obedience; Competition; Schools—Elementary schools; Family—Siblings; Friendship; Chapter books

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/from-the-guide-first-day-of-school-picture-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/recommended-books/from-the-guide-first-day-of-school-picture-books/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:09:48 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64147 pb_rex_schoolsfirstday243x300The first day of school is a momentous event, one often anticipated with a mix of worry and excitement. School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex, illustrated by Christian Robinson, is one of our recent favorites and received a starred review in the March/April 2016 Magazine. The following picture books, recommended in the spring and fall 2016 issues of The Horn Book Guide, are also great choices to prepare kids for the Big Day. For more, check your inboxes or hbook.com for our August 2016 “What Makes a Good School Story?” e-newsletter.

—Katrina Hedeen
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide

Brown, Marc  Monkey: Not Ready for Kindergarten
32 pp.    Knopf 2015    ISBN 978-0-553-49658-1
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-553-49659-8
e-book ISBN 978-0-553-49660-4

PS  With a long list of “What ifs?” concerning everything from making friends to learning the alphabet to finding the bathroom, Monkey feels uneasy about starting kindergarten. His family, however, rallies to soothe his worries. Handwritten text and colorful illustrations emphasize the child-centered psyche at work while providing a calming model for addressing children’s anxieties.

Chapman, Jared  Steve, Raised by Wolves
40 pp.   Little, Brown 2015    ISBN 978-0-316-23590-1

Gr. K–3  Steve was raised by wolves and enjoys howling, wrestling, and pouncing — all things that don’t go over too well when you begin school. Despite a rough start, Steve learns how to use his wolfish traits to help his classmates and be part of the “pack at school.” Chapman’s bold illustrations and understated text will have readers giggling at Steve and his humorous missteps. A fresh twist on the new-to-school book.

Katz, Karen  Rosie Goes to Preschool
40 pp.    Random/Schwartz & Wade 2015    ISBN 978-0-385-37917-5
Library ed. ISBN 978-0-385-37918-2
e-book ISBN 978-0-385-37919-9

PS  Lively patterns, vibrant colors, and an adorable tour guide make for a warm introduction to preschool. Rosie brings readers along as she stows her belongings in her cubby, says goodbye to Daddy, joins circle time (sitting crisscross applesauce, of course), and so forth. “Rosie Tips” sidebars offer extra tidbits: “When everybody works together, cleanup goes faster.” A solid choice for easing first-day jitters.

Parr, Todd  Teachers Rock!
32 pp.    Little Brown/Tingley 2016    ISBN 978-0-316-26512-6
e-book ISBN 978-0-316-26511-9

PS  “I love my teachers because…” Twenty solid reasons follow, from “Teachers encourage you to be creative” to “Teachers read to you” to “Teachers have lots of celebrations.” In his trademark bold-hued, cartoony art, Parr’s cast of characters features kids and adults with skin colors well off the human spectrum.

Rabe, Tish  On the First Day of Kindergarten
32 pp.   HarperCollins/Harper 2016   ISBN 978-0-06-234834-0

PS  Illustrated by Laura Hughes. This “Twelve Days of Christmas” takeoff details a kindergartner’s first days in her diversely populated class. The cumulative verses (sans cardinal numbers: “On the first day of kindergarten / I thought it was so cool / riding the bus to my school!”) don’t scan exactly like the original’s, but this gleefully illustrated intro to school-day activities should make a rollicking read-aloud.

Staub, Leslie  Time for (Earth) School, Dewey Dew
32 pp.   Boyds 2016  ISBN 978-1-59078-958-2

Gr. K–3  Illustrated by Jeff Mack. One-eyed extraterrestrial Dewey dreads starting school — especially on Earth. He feels out of place (“there were lots of kids in lots of different colors but none of them were…blue”) until an Earth friend makes everything “ootay.” This new-to-school story explores diversity and inclusion through a kid-friendly space-alien lens. Mack’s expressive illustrations help translate Dewey’s alien-speak (e.g., green tears fall as “he dorfled”).

Wohnoutka, Mike Dad’s First Day
32 pp.   Bloomsbury 2015   ISBN 978-1-61963-473-2
e-book ISBN 978-1-61963-745-0

Gr. K–3  Summer is over and it’s time for Oliver to start school, but there’s a problem: his dad isn’t ready (“It’s okay, Daddy, you’re just a little nervous”). Happily, the book’s wink to adult readers (yes, sometimes it’s hard to let go) won’t impede young readers’ pleasure in the story, derived largely from Wohnoutka’s comical art, in which Daddy acts like a big baby.

Yoon, Salina  Bear’s Big Day
40 pp.   Bloomsbury 2016   ISBN 978-0-8027-3832-5
e-book ISBN 978-0-8027-3834-9

PS  In Bear and Floppy’s latest (Found; Stormy Night), Bear tells his stuffed bunny, “You need to stay home…Big bears go to school.” But when Bear gets to school, he misses Floppy. This sweetly instructive story, featuring right-for-the-job, clean Photoshop illustrations, has Bear modeling problem-solving (he devises a solution) and asking for help (he and his teacher craft a Floppy-size pocket for Bear’s backpack).

From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.

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Recommended School Stories: Picture Books http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-picture-books/ http://www.hbook.com/2016/08/choosing-books/reviews/recommended-school-stories-picture-books/#respond Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:00:21 +0000 http://www.hbook.com/?p=64603 pb_bean_thisismyhome215x300Bean, Jonathan This Is My Home, This Is My School
48 pp. Farrar 2015. ISBN 978-0-374-38020-5

The boy from Building Our House welcomes readers back into his home — and school. Our narrator — the author/illustrator’s stand-in — gives a whirlwind tour of homeschooling life, and the warmhearted, cheerfully cluttered illustrations show how home and school alternate and merge. Text and illustrations play off each other to develop meaning and humor. An appended note includes family photographs and further entertaining details about Bean’s own homeschooling experience.
Subjects: Picture Books; Family; Schools—Homeschooling

bell_chuck and woodchuckBell, Cece Chuck and Woodchuck
32 pp. Candlewick 2016. ISBN 978-0-7636-7524-0

A woodchuck at school for show-and-tell brings together a shy first grader named Chuck and his classmate Caroline. Caroline describes the ways Woodchuck goes out of his way to get her attention on Chuck’s behalf. Chuck eventually finds his voice, in a sweet and satisfying way, and a three-way friendship is formed. Clear, unfussy ink and digital pictures illustrate the humorously fantastical story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Woodchucks; Friendship; Show-and-tell; Schools—Elementary schools; Behavior—Bashfulness

pb_bottner_missbrooks233x300Bottner, Barbara Miss Brooks Loves Books! (and I don’t)
32 pp. Knopf 2010. ISBN 978-0-375-84682-3 LE ISBN 978-0-375-94682-0

Illustrated by Michael Emberley. A first grader finds her school librarian’s passion for books “vexing,” to say the least. She also dismisses her classmates’ book choices: “Too flowery”; “Too clickety.” But when her mother brings out Shrek! she finally meets a book she can love. In Emberley’s ebullient pencil and watercolor pictures, the little girl’s stubbornness is reflected in her wearing the same outfit day after day.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Libraries; Books and reading; Behavior—Stubbornness; Behavior—Individuality

pb_holub_littleredwriting318x351Holub, Joan Little Red Writing
32 pp. Chronicle 2013. ISBN 978-0-8118-7869-2

Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. In Pencilvania School, Ms. 2 (looking very much like a Ticonderoga yellow pencil) sets out to teach her sharp students — pencils all, including Little Red — a thing or 2 about writing. Using every available inch of the book, including cover, endpapers, and title page, this energetic volume is full of fun and information. Teachers and aspiring young writers will embrace this lively story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Pencils; Authors; Writing; Humorous stories; Creativity

hornbooksinkwellsKay, Verla Hornbooks and Inkwells
32 pp. Putnam 2011. ISBN 978-0-399-23870-3

Illustrated by S. D. Schindler. A portrait of a mid-eighteenth-century one-room school is animated by the ongoing feud between brothers Peter and John Paul. Kay’s text is minimal, consisting of staccato quatrains: “Girls’ side, boys’ side, / John in front. / Peter snickers, / ‘Yer a runt!'” Schindler’s well-composed scenes evoke the period through the characters’ dress, the school’s minimal appurtenances, and students helping one another learn.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools; Education; History, American—Frontier and pioneer life; Stories in rhyme

pb_mcnamara_appleorchard244x300McNamara, Margaret The Apple Orchard Riddle
40 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-84744-8 LE ISBN 978-0-375-95744-4

Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. Mr. Tiffin’s class (How Many Seeds in a Pumpkin?) takes a field trip to the apple orchard. The story focuses on Tara, whose daydreaming causes her to lag behind the group but helps her solve Mr. Tiffin’s apple-themed riddle. Gouache, acrylic, and pencil illustrations combine crisp lines and hazy colors to call forth a perfect apple-picking day. Summarizing apple orchard facts are appended.
Subjects: Picture Books; School field trips; Trees; Fruits and vegetables—Apples; Riddles; Seasons—Autumn

pb_miller_sophiessquashMiller, Pat Zietlow Sophie’s Squash Go to School
32 pp. Random/Schwartz & Wade 2016. ISBN 978-0-553-50944-1 LE ISBN 978-0-553-50945-8 Ebook ISBN 978-0-553-50946-5

Illustrated by Anne Wilsdorf. Unhappy about starting school, Sophie (Sophie’s Squash) insists her squash Bonnie and Baxter are “all the friends I need.” Over time, cracks appear in Sophie’s resolve to keep all nonsquash at arm’s length, to the benefit of tenacious Steven Green. The text and loose-lined watercolor and ink illustrations treat quirky-kid behavior respectfully, rooting the story firmly in a child’s world.
Subjects: Picture Books; Behavior—Bashfulness; Fruits and vegetables—Squash; Friendship; Seeds; Schools

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the SchoolMurray, Laura The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School
32 pp. Putnam 2011. ISBN 978-0-399-25052-1

Illustrated by Mike Lowery. Elementary schoolers stir up ingredients and bake. Gingerbread Man springs out…into an empty classroom. The cookie then embarks on a voyage to find the kids (they’re at recess). Murray’s rhyming text features some great cookie-centric lines, and the refrain offers enough variation to keep readers on their toes. Lowery’s cartoon-panel illustrations imbue the highly sympathetic cookie with an abundance of personality.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Stories in rhyme; Humorous stories; Bakers and baking

perkins_frank and lucky get schooledPerkins, Lynne Rae Frank and Lucky Get Schooled
32 pp. Greenwillow 2016. ISBN 978-0-06-237345-8

Frank is having a terrible, horrible, etc. day, but then he gets pooch Lucky, who becomes Frank’s faithful companion in learning about the world. How Perkins manages to include so many actual, useful facts in the story is an education in itself, especially in the way text and pictures so thoroughly trust the obligation of one to complete the other. Who needs the Core Standards?
Subjects: Picture Books; Animals—Dogs; Pets; Humorous stories; Education

pb_rex_schoolsfirstday243x300Rex, Adam School’s First Day of School
40 pp. Roaring Brook/Porter 2016. ISBN 978-1-59643-964-1

Illustrated by Christian Robinson. We’ve had many books about kids getting ready for school, but now we have another perspective: the school’s itself. Frederick Douglass Elementary is worried about meeting the students (Janitor says: “Don’t worry — you’ll like the children.”). Rex’s droll telling is fun to read aloud, especially when the school is talking. Robinson’s naively styled paintings are the perfect complement to a warm, welcoming story.
Subjects: Picture Books; Schools—Elementary schools; Janitors; Emotions—Worry

vernick_first grade dropout2Vernick, Audrey First Grade Dropout
32 pp. Clarion 2015. ISBN 978-0-544-12985-6

Illustrated by Matthew Cordell. Having suffered landmark mortification (“I. Called. My. Teacher. MOMMY!!!”), the narrator concludes his only option is dropping out of school. Later, friend Tyler’s grace at his own derision-worthy slip-up is a revelation for the age-appropriately self-absorbed narrator. Young readers will relate and also get that he’s overdoing it. Loose pen-and-ink and watercolor drawings capture the narrator’s downward thought-spiral.
Subjects: Picture Books; Humorous stories; Schools—Elementary schools; Emotions—Embarrassment

mom, it's my first day of kindergarten!Yum, Hyewon Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten!
40 pp. Farrar/Foster 2012. ISBN 978-0-374-35004-8

A young boy entering kindergarten looms large, while his mom appears small and blue (as in “sad”). Turns out she’s worried. Youngsters will giggle when she asks, “Will you be okay…? You’re still so little” — the illustration shows a big, robust boy and his tiny mom. Kids will get right away that the roles are reversed and that this is mightily amusing. Yum’s breezy illustrations are spot on.
Subjects: Preschool; Schools—Kindergartens; Family—Mother and son; Emotions—Fear; Emotions—Worry

From the August 2016 issue of What Makes a Good…?: “What Makes a Good School Story?” For more recommended school stories, see “From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books” from the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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