Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel by Nikki Grimes

dyamonde-daniel“Dyamonde liked even numbers. In fact, Dyamonde liked numbers, period.  Math made sense to her…Math was something you could always count on.  Well, mostly.

For a long time after her mom and dad got divorced, Dyamonde hated math because all she could see was subtraction.  Mom’s voice minus Dad’s.  Two for breakfast instead of three.  Monday night TV minus the football.  It just didn’t feel right, at first.  But things were a little better now.  Dyamonde plus her mom equaled two, and two was a nice even number and even numbers rule.”

Y’all, you are going to love Dyamonde Daniel.  She’s new in town, living in a different neighborhood than she did before her parents divorced, but she’s settling in lickety-split. She knows everybody in the neighborhood already!  Her big concern is Free, the new kid.  Why is he so grumpy?  Why does he say he can’t read when she knows very well that he can-in fact, she saw him reading on the playground?

Dyamonde’s determined to figure out Free.  She knows the little kids are scared of him, ’cause he seems so crabby, but she suspects that he’s not as grumpy as he looks.  They might even be friends!

Nikki Grimes has done it again-given us loveable, relatable, real-feeling characters with positive solutions to troubles they encounter.  Fans of Clementine, Junie B. Jones, and Babymouse should find a friend in Dyamonde.

If you liked this, why not try:

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs series by Crystal Allen

Ruby and the Booker Boys by Derrick Barnes

Sunny Holiday by Coleen Murtagh Paratore

Nikki and Deja by Karen English

Popular: Vintage Wisdom for a Modern Geek by Maya Van Wagenen

popular“And so, I embark on my grand experiment.  Every month of the school year I will follow Betty Cornell’s advice on one of the topics in her book: dieting, hair, makeup, posture, and attitude, among others-no matter how embarrassing or complicated.  I’ll start with the easiest chapters first, the challenges that people won’t notice right away.  And then, month by month, I’ll step it up, until I’m light-years away from my comfort zone.”

Maya was given a copy of Betty Cornell’s 1951 masterpiece: Betty Cornell’s Teen-Age Popularity Guide, chock full of advice about posture, making friends, skin care, and party-throwing.  Even though the book was more than sixty years old when Maya got her hands on it, she decided to give it a try herself.  See, Maya described her social position as “the Social Outcast group, the lowest level of people at school who aren’t paid to be there.”  She figures a popularity guide is just what she needs-and so, the Great Betty Cornell Popularity Experiment was born.

Every month, Maya tries a new challenge-from walking gracefully (“move the leg in one piece”, Cornell advises), to counteracting shyness (“It is important to remember that when you are shy it is possible for you to give people the impression that you are rude.”  She wears pearls and stands up straight, and tries to include everyone in her conversations.

Even though some of her schoolmates are mystified at her behavior, Maya finds that a lot of Betty Cornell’s advice still applies today!  After her experiment, Maya wrote up this whole book, with her own Popularity Tips included.  And the best part?  Maya is a real life fifteen-year-old.  So, all you teens out there-write your books! We’d love to read them!  In the meantime, check this one out.  I think you’ll love it.

Happy reading!

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

akatawitch“Let’s start from the start.  So there are Leopard People.  We’ve always been around, all over the world.  In some countries, we’re called witches, sorcerers, shamans, wizards–things like that, I guess…Anyway, being a Leopard Person is not genetic, really. It’s spiritual.  The spiritual affects the physical…It’s complicated. All you need to know is that Leopard People tend to keep in in the family.  But sometimes, it skips and jumps, like with you.  It sounds like your grandmother was of Leopard spirit.  By the way, all this is in that book I just helped you buy.  So read it.”

Sunny’s used to feeling different, no matter where she lives. She was born in New York City to Nigerian parents, but they moved back to Nigeria when she was nine. Sunny feels like she’s stuck between America and Nigeria.  She’s American, and looks West African, but even her Nigerian peers don’t accept her, because she was born with albinism.  Her skin doesn’t have pigment in it, which means that it is very sensitive to the sun.  She can’t even play soccer, even though she loves it, because she gets sunburned so easily.

One tense summer, when her classmates are reeling with the news of a serial killer targeting Nigerian children, Sunny learns why she’s always felt different: she has magical powers. Not only does she have very powerful magical skills, she also learns that two of her friends are similarly gifted.  Sunny soon develops a dual life: school and chores during the day, and frantic magical study and practice during the nights.  She learns shapeshifting, juju, and spells, trying all the while to keep her second life secret from her peers and family.

The serial killings escalate, and the magical authorities appeal to the young trio for help: can they use their powers to track down the killer?  He’s not just a mortal; he’s Black Hat, the worst of the worst, a wizard who went terribly wrong.  Can Sunny and her friends defeat the evil Black Hat?  Or are his powers so strong that he cannot be stopped?  The fate of Nigeria rests in the hands of a twelve-year-old.  We’re lucky she’s one as awesome as Sunny.

Since I read Harry Potter in the seventh grade, I’ve been looking for books like it.  Lots of books have similar themes and plots, but none of them feel as original and creative as Good Old HP…except Akata Witch!  This is a definite must for those of you who love Harry Potter.  Sunny will be everyone’s new favorite underdog, and we’ll all be wishing we knew juju like she does. I can’t wait to read more of Nnedi Okorafor’s books! The second in this series, Breaking Kola, is due out in 2015.

Happy reading!

If you like this book, be sure to try these:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones(who reportedly loves Nnedi Okorafor’s books)

Andromeda Klein by Frank Portman

The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

the name of the star“Keep calm and carry on.
Also, stay in and hide because the Ripper is coming.”

Rory is way out of her element:  she’s from Middle-of-Nowhere, Louisiana, suddenly transplanted to a prestigious boarding school in London.  Nothing’s the same, and she’s starting to wonder when she’ll ever fit in. To make matters worse, Rory arrives in London just as the city is plagued by a series of horrific murders.  Strangely, the murders seem to be copies of those committed by Jack the Ripper, over a hundred years before.  Stranger still, the police have little evidence and no suspects.

Strangest of all, Rory saw the killer and no one else did. She’s not even sure that others can see him.  When Rory becomes the killer’s next target, she knows she has to take the matter in her own hands.  What she uncovers will surprise everyone-even me, a librarian who’s probably read every young adult ghost story out there.

Happy Reading!

If you like this book, you’ll love The Diviners by Libba Bray, and you’ll especially love Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington.

Liv, Forever by Amy Talkington

Livforever“‘I will hold u again,’ I wrote on the glass. He smiled sadly, knowing that will never happen.  He would never hold me-the real me, the physical me, the complete me-in his arms.  He’d never hear me speak.”

When Liv is awarded a scholarship to attend the ultra-prestigious boarding school, Wickham Hall, she thinks it is the answer to her future. At Wickham, she can become an artist and leave her foster care background behind. Wickham Hall is full of rich, snobby students, but Liv doesn’t even mind; she’s happy just to be able to work on her art. She even strikes up an unlikely romance with Malcolm, son of one of the school’s oldest families-even if other students warn her that it’s dangerous to get involved with a “Wicky” . Indeed, it is dangerous. When Liv is brutally murdered, her spirit remains trapped at Wickham Hall-and she discovers that she is not alone. Other young women have been murdered throughout the school’s history. Only Gabe, another student, has the ability to see and hear ghosts, and he is their only hope for justice. Malcolm, Gabe, and Liv are determined to expose the diabolical happenings at Wickham, but as they uncover more facts, they place themselves in danger. Liv and Malcolm’s love for each other is as touching as it is unlikely-even as a ghost, Malcolm is devoted. You’ll love the characters, and the mystery will keep you reading.

Happy Reading!

If you like this book, you’ll love The Diviners by Libba Bray, and The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson.



“What are you?” I whispered.

He shrugged again.

“Something,” he said. “Something like you, something like a beast, something like a bird, something like an angel.”

He laughed. “Something like that.”

Michael’s baby sister is desperately ill, clinging to life in a hospital and facing the prospect of heart surgery.  Michael’s parents are distraught, and Michael feels like his world is falling apart.  After all, isn’t moving to a new house supposed to be exciting and fun?  But there’s not really any point in fun when your family is heartbroken, Michael supposes.

As he explores the decrepit garage behind their new home, Michael discovers the most extraordinary creature.  Weak, frail, and covered in dead bugs and spiderwebs, the strange being creakily requests food-he’s on death’s door, you see. Michael befriends him, feeds him, and helps him grow stronger.  Michael also confides in his new companion, this dusty, broken angel-like creature with a fondness for take-out Chinese food.  It may be strange, but he’s the only one Michael has to talk to.

This is a beautiful, mysterious little fairy tale about a lonely boy and a frightened family.  The words feel like poetry, and the story will carry you along.  For anyone whose ever worried about a family member, found something mysterious, or felt alone-this book is what you need.  Plus, you know it’s a great one because it’s a Printz honor book-you can’t go wrong with the award winners!

Happy Reading!

If you liked this book, you might want to try these:

My Name is Mina (the sequel!)

A Monster Calls

The Book of Lost Things

The Giver


Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral

chopsticks“Two days ago, the famous concert pianist Gloria ‘Glory’ Fleming disappeared from Golden Hands Rest Facility, an institution for musical prodigies here in the Bronx.

Praised by critics as ‘The Brecht of the Piano,’ Ms. Fleming is known for her modern innovations on classical repertoire.  The young pianist received rave reviews until six months ago, when exhaustion caused an infamous performance at Carnegie Hall.  Fellow patients at Golden Hands recall the seventeen-year-old regularly playing the whimsical children’s waltz ‘Chopsticks,’ an obsession which worsened during her tenure at Golden Hands.

The evening she went missing, Gloria Fleming had apparently played the waltz for over seven hours.”

This book probably has less than two thousand words in it, but it tells a complete story through drawings, photos, screenshots, texted conversations, and musical scores.  It’s the story of a young romance-piano prodigy Gloria and her next-door neighbor Francisco.  The book follows the pair through Francisco’s banishment to boarding school, through Gloria’s breakdown and disappearance, and other events in their lives.

I loved the format of this interesting book! Not only is the story captivating, but it’s just so wonderful to look at.  Francisco is an artist, and the book is peppered with his beautiful drawings and paintings, as well as things like the admittance letter to the rest facility Gloria goes to, ticket stubs, and snapshots.  If you like John Green-type stories, about teenage romances, with a little mystery and philosophy mixed in, this one’s for you.

Happy Reading!

Book’s website:

If you like this one, you might try:

Why We Broke Up “This novel tells the story of Min Green and how she and Ed Slaterton met at a party, saw a movie, followed an old woman, shared a hotel room, and broke each other’s hearts.” (From the website)

The Fault in Our Stars A tragic, tragic, love story-heavy on the philosophy.  Somehow, it has the same feel as Chopsticks to me.

Looking for Alaska  A boarding school romance-mystery-philosophy book.  I promise. You’ll love it!

Boy vs. Girl by Na’ima B. Robert

boyvsgirl“Farhana’s  hijab felt heavy now, heavier than it had ever been.  Heaver than when her mum questioned her about it, making her feel as if she had done the wrong thing, that she was on her way to becoming an ‘extremist’.  Heaver than when she found that she was no longer the centre of attention at school.  Heaver than when, after the initial honeymoon period when her wearing the hijab was a novelty and a number of the girls had admired her brave decision, the hype moved elsewhere.”

Farhana and her twin brother Faraz are struggling with life-changing decisions this Ramadan season.  Farhana is trying to decide whether she wants to wear the hijab full-time, even if it probably means losing the attentions a handsome classmate.  Faraz is conflicted, as well:  he’s so bullied at school, for being sensitive and artistic, that he can’t stand it anymore.  Does he pursue his art, or join the gang that promises protection?  During the holiday month, the two struggle with their feelings about religion, freedom, and doing what’s right for themselves.  For Farhana, this means going against her parents’ wishes for her, and for Faraz, it means something far more dangerous.  Ramadan bring change and self-awareness to both twins.

This novel is reminiscent of The Outsiders, with its devoted siblings, clear (to the point of preachiness) distinction between right and wrong, and hey-I’ll say it- the street gangs.   The central conflict is one of identity: what role does faith and religion play in the lives of the twins?  What role would they like it to play?  Farhana’s mother is firmly against her covering herself-she doesn’t want her daughter to lose opportunities or be discriminated against.  Farhana must decide whether she wishes to defy her parents and wear the hijab, or if she’d rather not make such a public declaration of her beliefs.  Faraz knows what Allah says he should do, but it’s so hard to resist the brotherhood and protection of the neighborhood gang.  When a tragedy threatens Farhana’s life, Faraz understands what he must do, even if it feels impossible.

The exploration of identity, religion, and the social universe of the high schoolers makes for fascinating, if not entirely original, reading.  Na’ima Robert brings us a traditional coming-of-age story, but viewed through a different cultural lens.  While the story occasionally veers into a cautionary tale-style narrative, the exploration of deep belief is worth reading.  Robert portrays Farhana’s religious self-searching skillfully and sensitively.  I’d like to know what you think of this one!  It’s a relatively recent book with a very fifties’ feel to it, that’s for sure.

Happy Reading!

Robert, Na’ima. Boy vs. Girl. Francis Lincoln Books: London, 2010.

If you’re interested in reading more books like this one, you might like:

Does My Head Look Big in This? 

The Garden of My Imaan

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever.

I’d like to invite you to read a blog post on this book written by someone who was displeased with this book, as she felt it didn’t realistically address teenagers’ problems, while at the same time it was upholding a “pure” Islam.  Hop on over and see what Sara Yasin at Muslim Media Watch has to say about Boy vs. Girl.

Squish: Super Amoeba by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

squish“In the battle between good and evil, there’s only one who has the courage to do what’s right…Squish! Saving the world…one cell at a time!”

He’s squishy, he’s blobby, he’s got no arms…introducing Squish: Super Amoeba, here for your world-saving needs!  When scary Lynwood, the bully amoeba from detention, makes plans to eat Peggy Paramecium, Squish has to muster up his courage and stand up for his friend!

Brought to you by the creators of Babymouse, this children’s graphic novel is full ofPeggy imagination, bright illustrations, and is sure to appeal to the elementary school crowd.  I couldn’t help myself-he’s so adorable, and the captions and illustrations are so funny; this kind of book is just irresistible to me.

There is plenty of elementary school goofy humor, real-life problems (bullying) handled with equal parts lightness and compassion, AND a huge bonus-my alter ego in a graphic novel.  That’s right, everyone-I found her.  Peggy Paremecium.  SHE’S SUPER CHEERFUL, FOLKS!

Squish21-540x732Extra bonus: this is an awesome series, so you can read all of Squish’s adventures!  Look for the changing expression on his hat, and the SUPER COOL science experiment and amoeba-drawing pages in the back of each book! You’ll love this one, I’m sure of it. Better still, even those kiddos who struggle a bit with reading will be able to progress with this book.  It’s a great sense of accomplishment to finish an entire book, and the Squish series has all the ingredients for a crowd-pleaser, even a crowd that is not too sure about all this reading business.  I waited foreeeeeeveeeeer for Squish No. 1 to make it back on the library shelves before I could check it out!

Happy Reading!

Holm, Jennifer H. And Matthew. Squish: Super Amoeba. New York: Random House, 2011. 90 pp.

Want more?  Let’s read our way through!

Squish 2: Brave New Pond

Squish 3: The Power of the Parasite

Squish 4: Captain Disaster

Squish 5: Game On!

If you’re all Squished out, you’d probably like the Babymouse and Lunch Lady graphic novel series.

The Garden of My Imaan by Farhana Zia


“‘When exactly does Ramadan start, anyway?’ I asked.

‘The second week in November,’ Amal said.  ‘How could you not know that?

‘I haven’t been thinking about it yet,’ I replied.  ‘I suppose I’ll fast on weekends like last yea-Hey, wait a minute! Isn’t Thanksgiving a couple of weeks later?’

‘Oh…school.’ I stammered.  “You know…’

‘My little sister already fasts on school days and she’s only ten,’ Sehr said.

Nafees pointed at me. ‘Let me guess. You don’t want to fast on school days because you don’t want to stick out, right? Fraidy cat!’

Aliya is trying to sort herself out: she wants to practice her faith, but she’s worried about how her classmates will react.  Will they think she is weird for wearing the hijab?  What about fasting for Ramadan?   Aliya’s not sure that she is brave enough to take those big steps at school, but when Marwa, a new student from Morocco, joins the school, things change. Marwa isn’t ashamed of wearing her hijab, nor is she shy about doing bold things like running in the student elections.  With Marwa’s help, Aliya learns about the importance of standing up for your beliefs.

This gentle story explores the intersections of family, faith, and identity, and is a welcome addition to any collection or classroom.  Zia focuses on the diversity of beliefs within Islam-not every Muslim expresses her faith in the same way!   With a tone similar to other home/classroom dramas for the middle grades, this story evokes the warmth of Zia’s close family, while at the same time remaining true to the very real concerns that young people often have when trying to express and explore their own beliefs. I’d like to see many more books like this out there.

Happy Reading!

Zia, Farhana. The Garden of My Imaan. Peachtree: Atlanta, 2013. 192 pp. Ages 11 and up.

Author’s website

If you liked this book, you should try these other books that explore similar themes of religion, identity, and prejudice.

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. by Medeia Sharif

Where I Belong by Gillian Cross

Boy vs. Girl by Na’ima B. Robert