Expand Your Collection with These Diverse and Inclusive YA Titles (Part One)

Last semester, I had the opportunity to teach a diverse literature for children and young adult graduate class, which I absolutely enjoyed.  After having made a booklist for the grad students to choose from, I realized how much more focused my view became for diverse and inclusive literature and the amount of excellent books that are available.  Looking back (and a little forward) here is a list of what I feel are must-haves for both your TBR and young adult collections:

baobab tree

2018, Katherine Tegen Books.

Based on true-life events of the Boko Haram and the kidnapping of young girls in 2014 in Nigeria, the author weaves a tale of wishes, hatred, heartbreak and survival through one girl’s life from getting into the school where she can learn and move forward to being brainwashed and tortured by the Boko Haram.  What’s most beautiful about this book is the different forms of narration.  Recommended for HS.



words on bathroom walls2017, Random House

Adam has had to start life over in a new school and with an experimental drug to help with his schizophrenia.  He doesn’t believe he can live a “normal” life, but slowly, the treatment begins to work and he finds himself living in a world with real people.  The real world can be a wonderful but tough place to inhabit, and he sees both sides of this.  But when the drug treatment begins to fail, he desperately tries to hold on…if he can.

Recommended for HS.


Sweep2018, Puffin Books

Nan Sparrow has only known the life of a chimney sweep.  When she was little, her Sweeper would tell her wonderful stories, but when he left her all alone, the only things she had left of him was his hat and an old piece of char.  But an accident one day brings the char to life, as a golem, and Nan’s world becomes larger when she learns about the history of the golem in Jewish culture and what exactly is Charlie’s role in her life.

Recommended: JH


Darius the great2018, Dial Books

Darius is Persian by culture but has been living in an American culture all of his life.  He battles depression, a father who seems to want to best for him in an ill-concealed way, and has no friends or social life.  But his life is turned upside down when he travels to Iran with his family to meet his ailing grandfather and along the way finds his first true friendship with an Iranian teen, Sohrab.  One of the best books I’ve read this year.

Recommended: HS


speak a graphic novel2018, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux

Adapted from her best-selling novel, this story becomes more powerful with images.  Melinda, is a survivor, but surviving what she went through is difficult at best, especially when she doesn’t want to let anyone know what truly happened.  It’s interesting to see how things have changed since this was first written in 199 and how cultural movements like #metoo have changed the landscape.

Recommended: HS; upper JH


unpunished murder2018, Scholastic

Many times, facts in history don’t show up in what students study in schools.  This is one such incident that has had multiple impacts on our society today, even though it happened in the 1870s.  When a freedmen’s town was surrounded by the KKK hate group, and hundreds of innocent lives were taken, not one person was convicted for this horrific crime.  Even worse, it was upheld by the Supreme Court.  The author details the history behind it and its implications on human rights

Recommended: HS; JH


sam wu2018, Egmont UK

Sam is a lover of science fiction, but one day at the science museum will alter his life.  Now, he’s determined to show that he’s a fearless adventurer.  Things get even stickier when he believes his house is haunted, but with the help of his friends, they find out just exactly what is happening.  This is a great inside look at Chinese family culture and how he introduces his friends into this part of his life.


Recommended: JH


past and other things2019, Simon Pulse

Dino is working the worst day of his life as an employee of his parents funeral home business.  Not only does he have to work with the best friend, July, who is now deceased, but also having to deal with the feelings of a relationship that’s still new to him.  But things get even crazier when his best friend suddenly comes back to life and his boyfriend decides he wants more than Dino is willing to give.  Things get even crazier when more dead don’t die and his relationship begins to fall apart.  What’s a young mortician to do?

Recommended: HS/upper JH


I'm not dying with you tonight2019, Sourcebooks Fire

Lena and Campbell go to the same high school, but they don’t even know each other.  But one Friday night football game will change their lives separately and together.  When a fights erupts between the two schools, it slowly begins to build momentum to total chaos in a town divided by race.  Both girls need to get home, and the only way they can do it is to rely on each other and think beyond the stereotypes both girls have.  Told is alternating voices.

Recommended: HS



good enough2019, Fiewel and Friends

Junior high can be a defining time for anyone, and this is especially true for Riley.  Before she heard what they said, she was an athlete, and artist, and a great sister and daughter.  But what she overheard in the cafeteria has impacted her very life, and she’s now in treatment for anorexia nervosa.  Treatment is painful, but more for for Riley, who wants to get better but is slowly being sabotaged by her roommate.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is believe in yourself


Recommended: JH



Narrative Non Fiction/Fiction book pairs

Last week, I was fortunate to attend and present at a library conference in North Texas, #ntxlibcamp (check out the hashtag and see all the great stuff/presentations that happened by amazing librarians!) One of the sessions I did was great narrative non-fiction for young adults 6-12.  And when I had more time, I also presented and shared a fiction/non-fiction booklist with everyone too!  So, if you’re looking for great non-fiction, try out these titles!!  And if you want to display them with fiction, here are some great pairs!
Here are some great non-fiction titles:

Here are some great fiction/non-fiction pairs:

Charged up Narrative Non-Fiction 90 Second Book Review! The Electric War by Mike Winchell

29540346Sometimes, it never occurs to me until after I’ve read a really good narrative non-fiction how impactful our history is to our present day.  I’m sure many kids and teens have heard about Thomas Edison, but do they know anything about George Westinghouse and Nicola Tesla?  This novel allows the reader to peek into their lives and how different in personalities each were.  And while many revere Thomas Edison for his inventiveness, he had a dark side too, which is revealed in this novel.  I loved it from beginning to end!  Watch my 90 second book review to learn more, including tie-ins to curriculum!


Add these to your TBR list NOW!

First of all, I remember the first time I saw those three letters in email conversations and always wondered, “What does TBR mean?”  So I asked 🙂  And if you, like me, don’t know what it is, here’s the answer –  “To Be Read.”  We ALL have that list, be it by our bedside, our coffee table, or our desk (hey, even the dining room table or your device!)  and I wanted to share a few titles I’ve recently read that should be on that list!

grim loveliesGrim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd.  2018, HMH Books for Young Readers

Modern day Paris is filled with witches, goblins, Pretties, and beasties.  But these witches wear Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Prada.  Ruled by the Royal Court, they have been given designated parts of Paris, including the humans (Pretties) living in them.  Mada Vittora is the most powerful and influential of the witches and she has made beasties to serve her, including Anouk her servant, Cricket the thief, Luc the apothecary, Beau the chauffeur and  Hunter Black, the mercenary.

But after one evening spent with the royals, Mada Vittora is found dead, and the beasties only have 48 hours until they turn back to their original forms.  But news of the death gets out through scryboards, crows, and the Haute (magical community), and Viggo, Mada Vittora’s boy, is set on revenge.  The only thing left for the beasties to do is seek asylum and help from Vittora’s enemy, Mada Zola.  But can she be trusted?  She is a witch…

This is a beautiful, dark, and fantastical book that creates a Paris that is dangerous, alluring, and grim.  The main character, Anouk, juxtaposes the setting with her purity and naivete, which the reader sees slowly dissolves as reality sets in.  The author left nothing and everything to the imagination from the spells cast to the tongues the witches use to cast the spells, to the history of the Haute and more.  Read this NOW, or at least put it at the top of your TBR pile!  Highly recommended for JH/HS

new kid

New Kid by Jerry Craft. 2019, Harper Collins

There is nothing Jordan loves more than drawing.  What he wants is to go to an art school, but his parents decide he needs to go to an Riverdale Academy Day School, which is a far cry from his Washington Heights neighborhood.  His first day there as a sixth grader, Jordan sees that he’s one of very few students of color and feels more out of place that ever.  He wants out.

But his parents tell him that time and patience can change things and so he must stick out the bus rides that have five stops before he gets to school, the bully who won’t stop bothering him, the teacher who seems biased, and trying to understand why pink shorts are so cool.

Eventually,  Jordan finds himself enjoying his new school and friends, but now doesn’t know where he fits in – is he Washington Heights Jordan or Riverdale Day School Jordan?

Jerry Craft does an amazing job presenting, in graphic novel format, a struggle that many kids find themselves in.  This is such a perfect book for junior high (and high school!) not only for its content and graphic novel popularity, but also in the characters, which are highly relatable.  Highly recommended for JH/HS.




shadow stateShadow State by Elyse Brayden.  2018, MacMillan.  

Brynn Caldwell is  an excellent student.  She excels in academics, paticularly science, which isn’t so unusual because her mother is a top science in a major pharmaceutical company and her father sits on the National Symphony Orchestra, a genius in his own right. But all it took was one bad semester….

Brynn suffered from acute depression and her grades, and friends, and her boyfriend abandoned her.  She is also having unusual flashbacks of being tied up in a room, a man’s voice…something she swears she’s never experienced before.

And now, her mother is being feted at a gala for creating a breakthrough medication, Cortexia, that allows soldiers coming back  from war with PTSD, to deal with their symptoms better through altering memories, feelings and emotions in a suggestive state.  But someone is out to sabotage the company and the drug, and it all involves Brynn…

Fast-paced YA action thriller at its best!  The premise for the novel lends itself to a mystery, although readers may be able to piece together the clues, but it still has an explosive ending.  Highly recommended for HS.


soul keepersThe Soul Keepers by Devon Taylor.  2018, Swoon Reads.

Rhett just watched himself die.  At first he was in a state of shock and confusion, but then Basil Winthrop shows up and tells him the Harbinger is about to pick them up and not to dawdle.

And what is the Harbinger?  It is a massive sea vessel that contains the souls of the dead that need to be ferried as well as place to protect them.  The crew members, known as syllektors, are VERY aware of psychons, who eat souls to stay alive.  The most dangerous missions are when Rhett and his small group of crewmates must collect souls, and possibly run into these monsters.

But Rhett is different, he was told by Urcena, the most dangerous leader of the psychons, that he is the Twice-Born Son.  And she wants him to find his power.  Once he does, she will come for it and him.  And the battle for the protection of souls begins.

This fantasy relies heavily on good vs. evil, but the best thing about it are that these aren’t angels and demons.  There is no heaven or hell.  There is the Harbinger and there is nothing.  The author did an amazing job of creating a world based on age old theme of good v. evil in such a fantastic, phantasmagoric way.  Recommended for HS.

Top Middle Grade Books for 2018

As a librarian, I wear many hats. Not only am I simply the librarian at a junior high campus with 500 seventh and eighth graders, but I am also the iPad guru, the keeper of the 3D printer, the administrator of the district’s Accelerated Reader, the Canvas chaos coordinator, and I still find time to teach research and conduct daily book talks! On top of my campus duties, I also present at Region XI and TLA annual conference; and I’m a member of the Texas Library Associations Lone Star Reading Committee.

book stack

For those of you not from Texas, the Lone Star list is a list of twenty books chosen by librarians for students in grades 6-8. I have been reading the books on the Lone  Star list for over ten years, as long as I have taught in a middle school setting. I think the best way to get students to read is to talk about books that they would read. So in this post, I’m going to give a quick rundown/my personal opinion of my Top Ten from this year’s list. Because even if you don’t live in Texas, or promote the Lone Star list, it is still a good place to get ideas for good books to purchase for your school library!

City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab

Scary story about a girl who had a near-death experience and can now cross the “veil” between the living and the dead.

This book is perfect for guys and girls and I read an article that says the CW is planning a new series based on the book (loosely based, they’ve made Cassidy a college graduate). Book two is called Tunnel of Bones and will be released September 2019.


Letters to the Lost
by Brigid Kemmerer
Romance that takes place through letters between strangers that are left at a grave.

It is a really great romance  that will have you falling in love with the characters and shedding tears over them as well. There is a sequel called More Than We Can Tell about Declan’s best friend, Rev.


Not if I Save You First
by Ally Carter

An action adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat. The story involves the president’s son, Russian kidnappers, a snowstorm, and a kick-butt heroine to save the day!

I might be a little biased because I received a signed copy and personal note from the author, but my students absolutely love this book!


In the Shadow of the Sun
by Anne Sibley O’Brien

Adventure story that takes place in North Korea, where an American brother and sister must escape after their father, an aid-worker, is arrested.

This book is so eye-opening to the real life oppression that is currently taking place in North Korea. Just Book Talking this title in my library led to so many great discussions!


Ghost Boys
by Jewell Rhodes Parker

When twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer while playing with a toy gun, he comes back as a ghost and the only person who can see him is the daughter of the officer that killed him.

This book is a great middle-grade substitution for fans of The Hate U Give or All-American Boys. It also brings in a historical element because the ghost of Emmett Till helps Jerome cope with the afterlife.


Nevermoor: Trials of Morrigan Crow 
by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crowe is doomed to die on her eleventh birthday. That is until a stranger rescues her from the hell hounds and whisks her off to the strange world of Nevermoor, where Morrigan will endure trials to be allowed into the prestigious Wundrous Society.

Have that student who loves Harry Potter and thinks no other book will ever compare? Give them the Nevermoor series! There are a lot of parallels, but I will admit, I love them both. Book two: Wundersmith is already out!


Time Bomb
by Joelle Charbonneau

A bomb has gone off in the high school and the six students trapped inside need to survive long enough to figure out which one of them is the bomber.

Even though this book is about high school students, it is appropriate for middle school. It is a fast-paced thriller, but also delves into real-life drama like prejudice, stereotypes, suicide, and LGBT.

by Gordon Korman

Chase falls off his roof and loses his memory. When he returns to school, he doesn’t exactly like the person he used to be, and tries to make up for it by joining the AV Club.

A great book for middle grade about bullying and it never being too late for a restart.


After Zero
by Christina Collins

Elise has always been homeschooled and sheltered, but now that she is starting public school, she can’t seem to do anything right. It gets tot he point where maybe it’s better to not to speak at all. But when her silence begins to affect her friendships, can she really go back?

Mental illness is an important topic for students to be exposed to, but hardly ever is there a book written at a middle grade level on the topic. Christina Collins does an amazing job of showing how bullying and social awkwardness can lead to more serious problems.

by Sara Holland

In a world where time is currency and your blood is taken straight for your veins to pay the kingdom’s taxes, the rich can live for centuries, while the poor can drain their lives just making rent.

Great fantasy novel for fans of Red Queen and it also reminds me a little bit of that Justin Timberlake movie, In Time . Book two: Evermore was just released!

There are so many amazing books on this list, that I could Book Talk every single one of them, but I really made myself stick with my Top Ten only. If you would like to see the entire list, and all of the resources that the committee has to offer, visit TLA’s Lone Star website.

Want to see more of my book recommendations? Follow me on Goodreads and Happy Reading!
Bitmoji Image



PG Rated Romances

swoonWhen I was in middle school (back when JNCOS were popular) if you said you were “going out” with a boy it meant you wrote his name all over your binder with little hearts, held hands in the hallway, and maybe you even passed notes between classes; but you never actually went out anywhere. Middle school kids today are about ten years more experienced than I was at that same age. Kids today are exposed to so much more language, violence, and sex in their lives through television, the Internet, and yes… books! It’s difficult to know where the line is for students in middle school because they think they’re too mature for some age-appropriate books and not old enough for some YA books. I’m a full supporter of giving students the right to choose their own books, but I will draw a line at books with sex scenes that will make even this librarian blush. So here is my list of middle school appropriate romances, if you know of good books that I might have missed, please let me know so I can make sure to add them to my library collection. I’ve included age ratings from School Library Journal (SLJ) and Common Sense Media (CSM) and book summaries from Follett.


To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before series by Jenny Han

“Lara Jean writes love letters to all the boys she has loved and then hides them in a hatbox until one day those letters are accidentally sent.” Netflix movie available 8/19/2018. SLJ: grades 7-10    CSM: ages 13+ 


P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

“Every day in chemistry class, high school student and aspiring songwriter Lily Abbott is finding notes left to her by a mystery boy, love letters really, and she hopes they are from Lucas, a boy she is attracted to–so when she finds out who they are really from, she is shocked and unsure about how to respond.” I recommend all of Kasie West’s books. SLJ: grades 7-10    CSM: ages 12+


The Selection series by Kiera Cass

“Sixteen-year-old America Singer is living in the caste-divided nation of Illea, which formed after the war that destroyed the United States. America is chosen to compete in the Selection–a contest to see which girl can win the heart of Illea’s prince–but all she really wants is a chance for a future with her secret love, Aspen, who is a caste below her.” Also check out The Siren by Kiera Cass SLJ: grades 8+    CSM: ages 13+ 


Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith

“Hadley and Oliver fall in love on the flight from New York to London, but after a cinematic kiss they lose track of each other at the airport until fate brings them back together on a very momentous day.” SLJ: grades 8-11    CSM: N/A 


Well, that Was Awkward by Rachel Vail

“There are unexpected consequences when thirteen-year-old Gracie sends texts pretending to be her bashful best friend, Sienna, and their friend Emmett starts texting back pretending to be shy A.J.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: 11+ 


Project (Un)popular series by Kristen Tracy

“Sixth-graders Perry and Venice, photographers for their middle-school yearbook, are frustrated to learn that only pictures of popular students are welcome, but when Venice gets involved with a boy Perry doesn’t like, Perry puts their friendship at risk by siding with Anya, the editor-in-chief.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: N/A

The Summer I Turned Pretty (Summer, #1)

The Summer I Turned Pretty series by Jenny Han

“Belly spends the summer she turns sixteen at the beach just like every other summer of her life, but this time things are very different as she finds herself falling for a boy she has known since childhood.” SLJ: grades 5-8    CSM: N/A

Gimme More Middle School Titles!

I have been thinking about expanding what I read.  As you may know, I absolutely LOVE young adult literature, especially targeting teens.  But then I thought, “Hey!  Wait a minute!!  Young adults aren’t just in high school!”  So middle school, here I come!  And here are two titles I read that made me REALLY enjoy reading middle school titles (and they made me laugh too!!)

24 hours24 Hours in Nowhere by Dusti Bowling.  2018, Sterling Children’s Books

The town of Nowhere is exactly located where it says it is in the state of Arizona.  It’s a town where “no” precedes a lot of things.  No one wants to visit it.  No thing really exciting ever happens.  But at the start of the day, Gus finds himself in a spectacular situation.  He is about to eat a cholla cactus.  No because he wants to, but because Bo Taylor is making him.  And it’s about to happen until Rossi saves him the only way she can.  She gives Bo her dirt bike in exchange for a life.  And the day keeps getting better.

Gus wants so badly to get that dirt bike back for Rossi.  The reason why is because he wants HER to win the next race with a huge prize involved and knows if Rossi isn’t it in, Bo will win.  In order to do that, he decides to find hidden gold currently found only in tales in the Dead Frenchmen Mine (emphasis on dead.)  Bo decides to send one of his buddies with him, and along the way Rossi decides to join.

And what happens in the mine in the rest of the 24 hours of that day….

Bowling writes a novel that contains both humor and the hard parts of life teens go through.  Readers will connect with Gus and his travails with bullying, his life situation without his parents, and his determination to make things right.  And that’s the beauty of this novel that will make you laugh out loud.  Everyone can find themselves in it.  HIGHLY recommended for junior high/middle school libraries.


sam wu

Sam Wu is Not Afraid of Ghosts by Katie and Kevin Tsang.  2018, Egmont, UK

Sam is ready to go visit the Space Center.  He has his Space Blasters suit on and can’t wait to be part of the fun.  Unbeknownst to him, the “fun” is already beginning to percolate for some of his classmates, especially with Ralph Zinkerman.  Once they get there, he dares Sam to take a ride in the Astro Blaster. And Sam, not wanting to look scared, does it.  But he comes out of the situation humiliated and with a new name – Scaredy Cat Sam.

Undaunted (well, a little), Sam decides to channel his inner space hero to prove he’s not scared.  That means getting a side-kick of the most unusual variety.  But it takes more than that, and Sam takes the big step of inviting his best friends over to help him achieve his goal (and show off his side-kick!)  He asks his family to make his favorite dishes for dinner when Zoe and Bernard show up.  And when they do, the humor is amped up!  Enter Sam’s sister Lucy, his grandmother, and the introduction of an Asian family’s culture to his friends who have never experienced it before.

And then add the ghosts!!

Katie and Kevin Tsang write such a gloriously wonderful book for middle graders by creating characters of all kinds and best of all, from all different kinds of backgrounds.  Add a great storyline with some equally great images, and you have the type of book that readers will flock to because who doesn’t like books with pictures AND humor.  This is going to be a great new series!! HIGHLY recommended for middle/junior high school libraries.