The Horn Book Publications about books for children and young adults Thu, 25 Aug 2016 19:20:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sago Mini Boats app review Thu, 25 Aug 2016 15:00:07 +0000 sago mini boats titleI took Harvey the dog out in a pickle boat and made him seasick. And how was your day?

At the beginning of Sago Mini Boats (2015), you choose a destination for Harvey — and a friend to welcome him — and get packing. You can choose to put clothes and snacks into the suitcase or drag them off the screen. (Everyone needs underpants, even a dog.) There’s some degree of figuring things out for yourself; for instance, you don’t tap an arrow or anything to indicate that you’re done with the packing screen, you drag the lid onto the suitcase. But hey, that’s logical!

Next, pick a boat for Harvey’s journey from a fleet of options, ranging from a pirate ship to a buoyant bathtub to the aforementioned pickle boat. Then you’re on your way! Drag the boat over the water, through the air (splash!), or even under the water; Harvey will hold his breath for a reasonable time and then bounce back up.

sago mini boats underwater

I kept finding myself moving Harvey forward too fast and getting him seasick even when he wasn’t traveling through choppy waters. I have to admit that his hangdog (heh) look whenever that happened was pretty adorable, as were many of his other reaction faces. (Did you know a dog can look bored? This one can, if you leave him floating for too long.) But I did try to slow my fingers down to make the voyage easier on the poor canine. The need to slow down, combined with the gentle music and little splashy noises, made for a fairly soothing experience.

Along the way, there are items to find in the water, including lots of treats to drop into the boat — dogs don’t mind if their cupcakes are a little soggy. There are also island stops, like one with an octopus giving out ice cream and another with a pirate fish offering items from a treasure chest. The scenery, obstacles (including a whirlpool and a giant faucet/waterfall), and interactive surprises change slightly from play to play.

sago mini boats faucet

When you get Harvey to his destination, the friend you chose to visit at the beginning welcomes him and the two snap a photo together. And then you can start again!

sago mini boats photo

Sago Mini apps aren’t about racing the clock or beating a level. They’re about creating space to play and, in this case, splash. Have fun! But you may want to pack some seasickness pills.

Available for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch (requires iOS 7.0 or later) and Android devices; $2.99. Recommended for preschool users.

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School’s first day and yours Thu, 25 Aug 2016 14:03:27 +0000 schoolThe first day of school is coming soon! Here are some resources from The Horn Book to make it a great one.

August 2016: “What Makes a Good School Story?”

pb_rex_schoolsfirstday243x300School Story Resources

Starred review of School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex; illus. by Christian Robinson. From the March/April 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

“From the Guide: First-Day-of-School Picture Books.” From the September/October 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

“Field Notes: Loud in the Library: Creating Social Activists at School” by Liz Phipps Soeiro. From the May/June 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

“Independence Day: What Makes a Good First-Day-of-School Book?” by Betty Carter. From the September/October 2009 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

And don’t forget to check out The Horn Book’s teacher blog, Lolly’s Classroom: Children, Books, and School: Reading for Education.

Lolly's Classroom

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The Maine event Wed, 24 Aug 2016 16:00:07 +0000 vacationland

The September/October 2016 Horn Book Magazine book review section features four books set in and around Maine:

Creech_Moo giff_jubilee
sweet_somewriter sherman_evilwizard
A quick Horn Book Guide Online keyword search on “Maine” showed that some other recent favorites are set in Vacationland.

schmidt_orbiting jupiter whole stupid way
The Romeo and Juliet Code agosin_i lived on butterfly hill

And there are many more! There must be something in the water. Sal would be proud.


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I think I made this one too easy. Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:58:52 +0000 madgeA mostly-forgotten book I love presented itself to my imagination twice yesterday. Can you guess what it is?

Clue # 1 and #2: I was talking to Holiday House’s Mary Cash while she was with my buddy Elizabeth Law on Fire Island, and she mentioned her plan to go “swimming in the ocean” later in the day.

Clue #3: I was out for a run after work and crossed paths with a handsome but rather rigid-looking young man accompanied by a pair of beautifully trained young keeshonds.

Clue #4: You’re soaking in it!

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Review of Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science Wed, 24 Aug 2016 14:00:48 +0000 atkins_finding wondersFinding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science
by Jeannine Atkins
Intermediate, Middle School    Atheneum    198 pp.
9/16    978-1-4814-6565-6    $16.99    g
e-book ed.  978-1-4814-6567-0    $10.99

Atkins (Borrowed Names: Poems About Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madam C. J. Walker, Marie Curie, and Their Daughters, rev. 5/10) here tells the stories, again in poetry, of three real-life self-taught female scientists and the challenges they face in pursuing their passions. In seventeenth-century Germany, Maria Sibylla Merian assists her painter father, secretly observing and studying silkworm metamorphosis and challenging both folk wisdom and social norms. A century later, in England, Mary Anning develops paleontological skills out of necessity, selling fossils to keep her siblings fed and clothed and deferring to wealthy patrons who credit her brother with her discoveries. On nineteenth-century Nantucket, Maria Mitchell joins her father at his rooftop telescope, sharing a curiosity about stars that extends beyond whale ship navigation, and pursuing recognition despite the humility encouraged by her Quaker upbringing. Although the work of these three women is now part of the scientific canon, the book allows readers to share in the initial drama through slow reveals that give emotional weight to the importance of their discoveries. Atkins guides readers through the themes that connect the women’s scientific quests, from a boundary-pushing desire for knowledge (“Questions aren’t like maidens’ ankles, / meant to be covered by long skirts”) to the satisfaction they find in their work (“She weighs old theories, draws new conclusions. / Claiming this world, Mary claims herself”). The verse format allows Atkins to zero in on small but telling moments in her characters’ lives without being heavy-handed in drawing parallels to the scientific process or to broader cultural shifts. Back matter includes information on Atkins’s research and a bibliography of relevant sources.

From the July/August 2016 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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From the Editor – August 2016 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 20:16:16 +0000 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 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…? Tue, 23 Aug 2016 19:48:38 +0000 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




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 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:50:01 +0000 adam rex

Adam Rex

School’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 robinson

Christian Robinson

Christian 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:

(Who’s there?)
(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 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 18:04:41 +0000 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 Tue, 23 Aug 2016 17:59:56 +0000 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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