Poignant and perceptive, this gender-bending novel introduces young readers to Obayda, a young girl, who becomes Obayd, a boy, to bring her family good luck after her father is wounded by a car bombing. In their Afghan society, boys are prized over girls, and it’s not unheard of for boyless families to have a daughter dress and behave as a son would in order to obtain some social currency. There’s even a name for the experience: bacha posh.
As Obayda embraces her short hair and the newfound friends and freedom of boyhood, she (and the reader) are left to ponder important questions about gender. What really separates boys from girls? Anatomy? Dress? Rules? Expectations? Self-belief?
And those questions become even more urgent and compelling as Obayd’s return to Obayda nears. Coming of age as a bacha posh is fraught with uncertainty yet rich with fresh perspective. The experience is only temporarily and the children must return to girlhood prior to puberty or risk bringing shame to their families.
Obayda won’t relinquish her newfound privileges–better food, fewer chores, greater independence–without a fight. Readers will enjoy this girl’s quest to live fully despite the perilous constraints of her family and society.
by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, illustrated by Sarah Watts
Christy Ottaviano Books, 2016
Middle grade, fiction
Ages 9-14, grades 4-9, mystery
Honors: Pennsylvania Readers Choice Award Nominee, Magnolia Award Nominee
Twelve-year-old Emily moves to a new state every year. Her parents think this is a great family learning adventure, but because of the constant moves, Emily never gets to really make friends. Her only outlet is through an online community called Book Scavenger. It’s a game where people hide books then make clues and puzzles for others to solve and find the book. Emily has become a master at deciphering codes and solving puzzles. Now Emily’s family is moving to San Francisco—home of Garrison Griswald—creator of Book Scavenger. Emily is so excited to have a chance to meet her idol and participate in his newest game. Unfortunately, Mr. Griswald is attacked and his new game is in trouble.
In comes James, Emily’s new neighbor. James is just as much, if not more, of a puzzle fiend as Emily. A great friendship and partnership forms as they try to play Mr. Griswald’s new game while figuring out who attacked him. Emily gets so caught up in the problem, she doesn’t realize she is bullying her new friend with demands. She’s never had a good friend before and doesn’t understand why he won’t drop everything else in his life to do what she says.
The journey Emily and James embark on is filled with interactive puzzles to solve, codes to decipher, and a lesson in friendship that we have all had to face. Emily has to learn that sometimes helping a friend with their problems is more important that playing a game.
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2016
Middle grade, historical fiction
Ages 10 and up, grades 5 +
Additional formats: Kindle, paperback
Honors: Newbery honor * NPR Best Book of the Year * Booklist Best Book of the Year * Entertainment Weekly Best Middle Grade Book of the Year * Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year *Shelf Awareness Best Book of the Year * School Library Journal Best Book of the Year
Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of the Year * ALA Notable Children’s Book * Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award nominee * Goodreads Choice Award nominee * Carnegie Medal nominee
There’s a lasting sting to the first time we learn about hate, pain, and dishonesty. Wolf Hollow captures that sting in a compelling work of historical fiction set in rural Pennsylvania in 1943. In this story Annabelle, must find the moral courage to face down Betty, an “incorrigible” girl who has come to live in their town with her grandparents. Betty threatens people with sticks, kills birds by breaking their necks, and will create a terrible and believable lie about a man in their town who is suffering from PTSD, as a result of his service in the war. This novel is a page-turner and a lovely look at rural Pennsylvania, a place of beautiful landscape, hardworking people, and simmering bigotry. This is historical fiction and beautiful writing about people, the sorrow they carry, and how it reveals itself to the world. It is the story of a girl learning about how complicated morality can be – for her, for her friends, and for the greater community she has always called home.
“The year I turned twelve, I learned how to lie, the book begins.”
by Grace Ellis and Nicole Stevenson, illustrated by Brooke Adams
Boom! Box, 2014
Middle grade, graphic novel
Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best New Series * Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Publication for Teens * Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Graphic Novels & Comics
Just like Girls of Summer is not your school’s summer reading list, Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s summer camp is not your mom’s summer camp. Unless, of course, your mom is a “hardcore lady type”!
According to the handbook, being a Lumberjane scout is all about the “joy of cutting wood with an axe, about the stars, the birds, the quadrupeds, the fish, the insects, the plants telling their names; their hidden power or curious ways, about the camper’s life, the language of signs and even some of the secrets on the trail.”
To be sure, like campers everywhere, Lumberjanes do need to be mindful of poison ivy. And, yet, like the handbook says, there are secrets out there. Holy Joan Jett, so many secrets! The nooks and crannies and towers and caverns at this camp are filled with holy kittens, talking statues, magic foxes, river monsters, and a clutch of boys at the camp next door who are both dainty and devilish.
If you can persuade your folks to sign you up for Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, you will definitely want to bunk with April, Mal, Ripley, Molly, and Jo. Beware, though, if you dare to break enough rules to earn your Up All Night Badge, you’ll have to clean out the moose stalls. But, holy kitten, it will be worth it!
Sometimes you have to be willing to try something new to discover who you are meant to be.
Misty Copeland is compelling and heartwarming in this first-person telling of how she became the first African American female principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre.
Her unlikely path to making history began at thirteen, an age that made her a “late bloomer” in the world of serious dance. While most young ballerinas were concentrating on their pirouettes, she and her family were struggling with homelessness. Misty’s haven became the after-school program at her local Boys & Girls Club, and when she enrolled in a free ballet class on a whim, her life changed forever. Her love of dance helped her remain focused and firm through numerous family crises, personal struggles and periods of self-doubt. Though she dances beautifully and with much grace now, she openly shares how her life sometimes reflected the opposite, and how she used those circumstances to fuel her goals and dreams.
Though this book isn’t a cliffhanger, in the sense that readers already know how it will end, they still may find themselves gripped by Misty’s story and capable of learning some meaningful lessons that can serve them as well as they have served Misty.
Here We Are is whip-smart anthology of what it means to be a feminist and why it’s important, from voices teens will (or should, because they’re awesome!) recognize. Amandla Sternberg, Mindy Kaling, Michaela and Mia DePrince, Wendy Davis, and Matt Nathanson join well-known YA authors like Malinda Lo, Sarah McCarry, Nova Ren Suma, and many more writers to talk about the ins-and-outs of equality.
Perhaps the biggest draw of Here We Are is its scrapbook, mixed-media format. There are essays and poems, conversations between writers, Instagram images, comics, interviews, and illustrations (over forty pieces total), which prevent a book about a serious topic from seeming preachy, academic, or condescending to its intended audience. Here We Are isn’t just for teenagers; it’s about being a teenager, and the writers never forget it.
The book’s feminism considers what it means to be a girl, but it isn’t limited to what it is to be a straight, white, middle class American girl. There are perspectives from all kinds of backgrounds, and readers would be hard-pressed to not find something to relate to here. From the damaging effects of trying to be the “cool girl,” to accepting your own (and other people’s) bodies, to the use of sexual assault as a weapon, each aspect of girlhood and feminism is turned over and presented to the reader in a refreshing and relevant way.
Most teen romances are light and full of friendship and warmth; however, The Radius of Us is more gritty than syrupy sweet. This novel shares the story of two youths who are grappling with fear, worry, and challenges that are true-to-life in modern-day America: crime, trauma, immigration issues, and cultural differences.
The main characters are a white American girl named Gretchen and a Salvadoran boy named Phoenix. The two cross paths in an unlikely suburban setting and discover new worlds—each other’s—through their friendship and blossoming affection. They also learn how different doesn’t necessary mean dangerous and how developing empathy for others can be self-empowering.
This is a sobering, yet hopeful novel that will leave readers rooting for the characters to win and for the world around them to wake up and embrace the beauty in change.