Wednesday, November 30, 2016

YA Favorites: Top 10 Fall Term Reads 2016

It's time for the annual tradition - get into the swing of the school year, and realize you've been so excited about reading and learning and tweeting you forgot about posting to your blog! :) 

So without further to do - here are my list of favorite fall reads from Sept.-Nov (find my whole list on my Goodreads challenge shelf), These selections I would highly recommend checking out for your clasroom library and your own pleasure too! What have been your favorite reads this fall?


Ghost by Jason Reynolds

I think I would read anything Reynolds writes. A menu, directions to make a PB & J, his to-do lists - his writing is what writing should be. Ghost is a beautiful portrait of Ghost (Castle Cranshaw) as he struggles to navigate his identity, self-worth and belonging. Despite a challenging family situation, he with the help of his mom, coach, and teammates, learns to grow beyond what he ever saw possible. Beautiful tribute to running, healing, and most importantly, the students to whom this book is dedicated “to all the young people who are running… may this book be breath.”
Grade Level: Upper Elementary & Early Middle School

Nine, Ten by Nora Raleigh Baskin 
Nine, Ten beautifully and movingly tackles the events of September 11 through the eyes of four young adults. Beginning the story two days before allows us to get to know the characters, and really feel what it was like to be a child on that day. For the generation now who was born after 2001, this book could not be more important, or timely. Baskin does a great job of highlighting 4 diverse lives - young adults Sergio, Naheed, Aimee, and Will, from the east to west coast, of varying religions, races and backgrounds. A captivating read you won’t be able to put down, and your students will benefit from. Great work with point of view, and great mentor text of a braided narrative and characterization.
Grade Level: Upper Elementary & Early Middle School 

Save Me a  Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
This is a heartwarming, perfectly adolescent story of two classmates, Joe and Ravi, who both feel misunderstood and out of place. Joe is a special education student, who lives on sequence, routine, and quiet focus. Unfortuantely, all his friends have moved away. Ravi, a new student in school, has just moved from India where was at the top of his class, but isn't having a very easy transition to his American classroom. These two learn through who they can depend on, and find their way to friendship as they seek justice from their common enemy, the class bully, Dillon. You'll feel every emotion in this book. The combined brilliance of Weeks and Varadarajan truly shows through the spot-on voices and characterization of Joe and Ravi. The sequencing is beautiful, the plot precise and suspense building, and the themes immortal.
Grade Level: Upper Elementary & Early Middle School 

 This Side of Home by Renee Watson 
What do you do when home doesn’t feel like home? In this novel - Maya, a high school senior, her twin sister Nikki, and their mix of old and new friends struggle with the effects of gentrification in their Northwestern suburban neighborhood. Despite plans that have set for an entirety, that Nikki, Maya, and their best friend Essence would attend Spelman together while their boyfriends, Ronnie, Davin, and Malachi attend Morehouse - they begin to learn that each has a separate path calling their name, and have to adjust to be able to grow up both together and apart. With old friends moving out, new friends moving in, and a neighborhood ever-changing - this novel grapples with how gentrification affects teens, families, schools, and the entire community. What makes this novel stand out is the depth of engagement with the subject. Gentrification is not just a background topic but instead a driving force - empathy, equity, and justice are thematic pulses throughout this incredibly timely novel
Grade Level: High School 

A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls Edited by Jessica Spotswood
This collection is an absolutely brilliant repository of what it means to have female writers #leanin both to their craft, and to the collective history of our humanity. With tales from 1710-1960, this curated collection of tales from 15 leading young adult writers spans the fantasy-historical realm to what is so realistic it nearly seems to be true historical narrative. From the civil war spy tales inside “The Red Raven Ball” to the independent heroine of “Pearls” who forthrightly declares “I am done with men owning me,” (137) as she packs her bags, to sparks of activism being awakened in “Pulse of the Panthers,” every single story has something magical to offer. Some language and sexual references, so read and recommend carefully.
Grade Level: Upper High School, with caution & specific pre-selection


The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden & The Trial of the Century by Sarah Miller

The Borden Murders is an absolutely fascinating piece. Could sweet darling Lizzie have possibly murdered her father and step-mother? This books delves head-first into trying to answer that long-debated question. This text will leave you captivated, speeding page to page to find out! The mix of narration, historical analysis and primary sources (photographs, newspaper articles) leads to a spirit of investigation and discovery that will persist long beyond closing the covers of this text.
Grade Level: Upper Middle School & High School

Really Professional Internet Person by Jenn McAllister

The story of JennxPenn, a youtuber whose journey began where most students are at - feeling awkward and like they don’t fit in. Her solace was the camera, and she filmed from a young age with her parents support. In a easy to relate to, conversational book - any child who has ever felt out of place will easily connect to her journey. This book full of her stories, top ten lists, pictures, and screenshots would be a huge hit with any fans, or aspiring youtubers, but also a great read for any adolescent as a reminder they, too, are not alone, and this, too, shall pass!
Grade Level: Upper Middle School (8th & Up) & High School

Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews
In a world full of bigotry, discrimination, and intolerance - we all need a heavy dose of empathy, understanding, and listening. In Arin’s memoir, Some Assembly Required, we can begin to understand, for those of us cis-gendered folks, what it may be like to be in a body you feel trapped in, in one you feel like is a mistake. This memoir from childhood to high school chronicling his doubts, fears, heartaches and victories could not be more valuable to our national and international dialogue on LGBTQ rights. He discusses coming out to his family, and the long process to advocate for himself and begin gender reassignment. A frank, honest, and open memoir - giving all of us much to listen and learn from. Does reference some sexual activity - so use passages with caution.
Grade Level: Upper High School

Ten Days a Madwoman by Deborah Noyes
This informative, thorough, riveting book takes the reader on a journey with Nellie Bly, be it the Ten Days in an asylum, 72 day race around the world, or any other fascinating day of her life. For a period of history often inaccessible and impersonal - getting us into Nellie’s life, her family, friends, daily routine, workplace occurrences, successes and rejections - the detail in this book is incredible, and Nellie’s life's work creating suspense and captivating audiences in her writing is similarly well captured by Noyes. Whether in the main narrative, background interludes, images, or quotes from Nellie herself - a well done, invaluable piece of historical record.
Grade Level: Middle & High School 

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky
An incredibly easy-to-digest anthology of women, this text is one that leaves you mesmerized by these women’s achievements, from modern day to early history! From Hypatia, a Greek astronomer, mathematician, and philosopher, to Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian mathematician, this books gives a voice and fills in gaps left untold by most history books. With words of wisdom, trivia, amazing illustrations by this graphic artist, and short 1 page biographies on each woman, this is a wonderful way to read non-fiction. As one of the women, astronomer, poet and mathematician Wang Zhenyi wrote, “It’s made to believe/women are the same as men;/are you not convinced/daughters can also be heroic?”
Grade Level: Upper Middle School & High School