By Pam Smy

New York: Roaring Book Press, 2017.

Genre: Graphic Novel/Thriller      Grades: 6 and Up    Pages: 520


This was an unbelievable book!  When I opened my Junior Library Guild box this week –I found this intriguing black and white book with the title of Thornhill—I opened the book to find it similar to Brian Selznick’s Wonderstruck—two stories being told; one in text and one in black and white pictures. The story of Mary Baines takes place in 1982 and thirty five years later in 2017 the story of Ella Clarke.  Both girls have lost parents, both girls struggling to find themselves and both looking for someone to care about them.

33163379Ella moves into her new house next to the old Thornhill Orphanage in March of 2017 and looks out her window at the boarded up orphanage.  There she thinks she sees a girl in the window.

Mary Baines lived at the orphanage in 1982 where she had been waiting for adoption but her forever family never comes. Perhaps because she mute—selective mutism. She is also a loner—only comes out of her room for school.  But Mary holds some very deep and dark secrets of being abused by a girl in her school.  This bully does unspeakable things that will keep you turning the pages of this thriller right up to the time when Mary and Ella’s lives intersect!  A great thriller!


Love, Ish

Love, Ish

By Karen Rivers

New York: Algonquin Young Readers, 2017.

Genre: Realistic Fiction      Grades: 5 and Up    Pages: 279


Mischa is twelve years old, has two older “normal” sisters and her parents might just call her peculiar.  Ish, as she is known by family and friends, wants nothing more than to be the first human to live on Mars. She is okay with being up their alone and can deal with the possibility of never coming back as long as she can be the first.  First is important to Ish because  she has always felt slightly inferior—even when she was adopted she felt her sister was chosen (because she is so adorable) and Ish was just the plain looking little love-ishsister who was just part of the package.  Ish does not make friends easily; she does not have a sense of humor, often has headaches and is not materialistic. She had a best friend named Tig, who said they would always be friends no matter what but he moved away and she has not heard from him since. Now a nerdy kid has moved into his house; she is hopeful that he might be a friend until the first day of school when he makes fun of her! Then her headaches get worse until one day when she has a seizure and wets her pants right at school. All the kids laugh at her wetting herself. It was that time she is whisked off to the hospital and Ish’s life changes forever. Karen Rivers writes a heart wrenching story about friends, family and making sure you always stay right with the world.  Never let a day pass when you do not right all your wrongs.



By Svetlana Chmakova

New York: Yen Press, 2017.

Genre: Graphic Novel Realistic Fiction  Grades: 5 and Up  Pages: 239

This is a great realistic fiction, graphic novel from the author who brought us Awkward. Yes, middle school students are very awkward but they are also brave!  Author Chmakova likens middle school to one of the Top 10 Natural Disasters! Not only does main character Jensen agree but also he thinks he is in a video game where his mission is just to make it through each day… “without getting eaten by the game monsters…” Just who are those monsters? The math teacher who has no mercy for mediocre, the girls brave_hc-cvrwho laugh at him and the boys who bully him for being overweight. Therefore, each day he runs “the gauntlet” where the only safe spots are art club and the school newspaper. Jensen is the boy at school who sits alone at lunch and the one not picked for a group in class.  However, today when the teacher asks for a volunteer to partner with Jensen, Jorge raises his hand and volunteers! Jorge is a big jock with a soft spot for those who get bullied and so Jensen begins to have some allies in school. This is a great book to help students establish some empathy as you feel the pain of being laughed at, being used and finally cheering as Jensen becomes brave enough to speak up for himself!

Catching a Story Fish

Catching a Story Fish

By Janice N. Harrington

Wordsong, 2016.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Grades: 4-6

This story has been told many times before—girl/boy moves and becomes 51m1ft2a5al-_sx301_bo1204203200_the new kid in school and does not fit in or gets bullied. This story has been given unique voice of Katharen who moves from Alabama to Illinois and who tells her story in verse.  It is beautifully written story about a girl who was known as Keet-Keet, because she loved to talk and tell stories like a “parakeet.” But her love of words comes abruptly to a halt when the kids in her class make fun of her southern accent. Although missing her friends she is now lives near her grandfather who not only loves to fish but loves to share life stories.  Stories of how catching fish parallels life.  The author note at the end of the book shares with the reader the different types of poems contained in the book.

Rhyme Schemer

Rhyme Schemer

By K.A. Holt

San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2014.

Grades 6 and Up  Pages:

Genre: Realistic Fiction Themes:  Bullying, Friendship,   

       Family and Librarian

 Kevin is the baby of the family and he is a seventh grade bully! He bullies other kids, under his breath he bullies teachers and he just is a mixed up kid.rhymeschemer-708x1024

Kevin’s only outlet is his poetry.  There he expresses his inner most feelings and thoughts! Then disaster strikes and he has lost his journal—then the bullied begin to bully Kevin. He becomes known as Poetry Boy. Kevin is sentenced to library duty for his past deeds and that is when he becomes connected to his school librarian, although he will never admit to it!  His life begins to turn around as he embraces his poetry.

Kevin’s voice is told in verse—so it is a quick read that guys should love!





By Nora Raleigh Baskin

New York:  Simon & Shuster, 2013.runt

Grades 5-7

What is it really like going to Middle School? For many students it is exciting, fun, an opportunity to meet new friends, and of course to learn a lot of new things!  But what many students won’t talk about is how tough and challenging the social relationships are!  Runt is that story!  Meet Miss Robinson’s sixth grade class—at least most of them anyways.  The story begins being told from Elizabeth, whose single mom, boards animals inside their home to make ends meet.  Elizabeth has a good heart but most kids can’t get past the “animal smell” and Elizabeth’s need to boost her self-esteem at any given moment in class—which often turns out offending others.  So Elizabeth is often on the end of being bullied.  But she is not alone in her struggles of insecurity and awkwardness.  Listen closely as each chapter gives voice to different class members as they tell their story of how they became either a bully, bystander or victim.  Nora Baskin has a unique twist in this book as she often compares middle school students to the likes of the dogs and cats Elizabeth’s mom takes in! 

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By Morris Gleitzman

New York: Henry Holt, 2010.imagesCA8KGQNP

Pages: 184  Grades 6 and Up

 Could not wait for the 2nd book, Then, when I found the final book, Now, was available.  Snow days are great for reading books from start to finish!!

Now, could be a standalone read but it was a great conclusion to a powerful series by Morris Gleitzman.  Felix is now eighty, a well-respected pediatric surgeon, who is retired and looking after his granddaughter Zelda. Zelda’s parents are working in Africa for three months and Zelda has moved in with him and started in a new school with not so nice classmates.  Bullying seems to be the theme to pull the past horrors of the holocaust together with injustices of today.  Zelda tells the story in this book and often reflects on the courage and fortitude that her grandpa and his friend Zelda must have had in order to survive.  This book is set in present day Australia where a disastrous event sends Zelda on a treacherous journey of her own.  Don’t miss this commanding finale to a wonderful historical fiction series. 


Author Website: Morris Gleitzman

Scrawl by Mark Shulman

New York:  Roaring Brook Press, 2010.

234 pages   Grades 5-8

Scrawl gives Tod Munn a compelling and very real voice  of an 8th grader heading down the wrong path.  The book starts off with Tod in detention hall where the guidance counselor has him writing in a notebook for the entire detention time; while his partners in crime are outside with the janitor picking up trash.  Tod is given no direction on what to write only that he has to write the entire time.  Tod sees himself as a first class loser but he is able to see that he has a lot more going for him than his friends.  Tod is smart, he won the school wide spelling bee (sort of), he gets great grades and loves to read.  But there are a lot of factors working against Tod a poor home life, friends that have a lot of bad habits and school that is less than accepting of someone who is different.  Mrs. W, the guidance counselor, sees something in Tod that is redeeming and has given this detention for a reason.  We don’t know what the crime was but Tod gives us hints throughout the book and this keeps the reader riveted to his journal.  You have an opportunity to get into the head of a bully and why he does what he does.  A great read! 


Destroying Avalon

Destroying Avalon   By Kate McCaffrey

Australia      Fremantle Press   2006


TAGS:  Realistic Fiction, Bullying


This is a realistic and tragic story that shows the dark side of technology.  The technology that is meant to allow us to communicate better with anyone, anywhere and anytime can swiftly destroy a person.  This Australian author tells this first person narrative of Avalon, a fourteen year old girl moving from the country to an urban school, a school that almost has more students in it than her last town did.  She was popular, captain of her hockey team and in the swim club in her old school but this new school it was a whole different ballgame!  Somehow Avalon manages to cross a popular clique on the very first day of school and her life become a living hell!  McCaffrey uses text messages and computer messages woven into the narrative to show the struggles and heartache that teens have to deal with today.  This style of writing will be appealing to young adults.  Once Avalon finally finds three friends she finds that they too are often plagued by bullies.  The reader will agonize with the struggles and will hopefully be outraged that this type of behavior exists in the young adult world.  McCaffrey does a wonderful job of throwing the reader right in the middle of this issue, elicits emotions and bares the scars of bullying behavior.  It uses the f- word five times in this book so that I would caution the teen reader before they check this book out.


5Q    5P    Grade:  JS    




 Read-alikes:  The Clique series by Lisi Harrison, Defying the Diva by D. Anne Love, Poison Ivy by Amy Goldman Koss, Kissing the Rain by Kevin Brooks and White Girl by Sylvia Olsen.