Tag Archives: realistic fiction

Theme: Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is always a concept that is fuzzy to our teens. As much as we try and relate it to their lives (imagine someone stole your project…), sometimes it’s good for them to see an example in a nonschool setting. Lately, I’ve been reading some great books that hit on intellectual property, copyright, and plagiarism in a way that isn’t preachy.

Girl versus Boy Band by Harmony Jones

girl v boy band

Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens in 2016.

Lark has been dealing with her parent’s divorce, but her mother makes life more painful. Her mother is an agent trying to discover the next big music group. She’s convinced it’s this boy band from the UK named Abbey Road and invites them to move in with her and Lark as they try to make it in the music business. Lark loves music and writing, but is crippled by stage fright. She and her friends are trying to help her overcome that when one of the boys steal her lyrics!

Sasquatch in the Paint by Kareem Abdul-Jabar


Published by Disney-Hyperion in 2015

Theo is a quiet, smart kid who enjoys the “Acalympics” with his friends. In 8th grade, he has a growth spurt and everyone wants him to join the basketball team. The problem is something that many teens face, it’s fun to be involved in many different things, but it’s hard to do something extremely well when you are stretched thin. In addition, Theo also has to deal with his father beginning online dating after the death of his mother. Even though some teens would assume this is just a sports book, there’s a lot of subplots with Theo’s friends and family. The part that stuck with me was about Theo’s cousin, Gavin. His cousin had a mixtape stolen and leaked online by another artist. Gavin is not a likeable character, but everyone admitted that he was good at music. How will our characters set things right?

Slacker for Gordon Korman


Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Cameron is has one dream…to make it to the East Coast Gaming Championships and defeat his nemesis Evil McKillPeople. He doesn’t care about anything else, and that gets to be a problem when he almost burns his parent’s house down. Now, he is grounded from video games until he can prove that he is doing good for the community. So he and his buddies Pavel and Chuck make a fake page on the school website called the “Positive Action Club” and put themselves as the club’s leaders. Unfortunately, the school and community think it’s a real club and they have to start doing community service to keep up the ruse. Then things get really out of hand when someone else starts editing the page and making the boys do more and more community service. Who could have possibly outwitted our heroes? Then the high school students want to compete with our middle school heroes to see who helps the community more!  This book isn’t as directly related to copyright and intellectual freedom, but it does have a hilarious way of informing that you can’t get credit without doing the work.


Book Review: Free Verse

Free Verse by Sarah Dooley

Free Verse.jpg

Published by G. P. Putnam and sons in 2016

Sasha has experienced more loss than most 8th graders should. Her mother left her years ago. She and her brother were raised by their father, Ben until a mining accident claimed his life. Then her brother puts off college to raise her until he his killed fighting a fire in a bakery. She is moved in to foster care with a lady named Phyllis. Phyllis is patient as Sasha is dealing with all her trauma. Then Sasha discovers that a cousin of her’s is Phyllis’ neighbor. She befriends the cousin’s son, Mikey.

School is a challenge. Meeting with the guidance councelor, having the school bully watch a meltdown, getting invited to join poetry club (which happens to be run by the school bully), and making a friend on the bus.

Since this book is called “free verse” it would be a let down for it not to have poetry in it. The third section is told in poetry as Sasha explores different formats. She also uses it as a coping mechanism when trauma makes speaking too much to bear. These poems are beautiful and move the story along smoothly.

Sasha has a tendancy to run. When an accident causes them to no know if Mikey’s dad is alive or dead, she decides to take Mikey with her. She gets a few towns over, until she’s picked up by the cops, but Mikey stays on the run. Will Mikey be found? Will Sasha have a family that will stay?

This book does a good job of being realistic and making each character 3 dimensional. They are responsive to trauma in their situations. Almost everyone that Sasha gets to know has a backstory and a reason/motivation for their actions. In this polarizing time, this book does a good job of imaging a part of the country complexly without being patronizing or focused on a handful of issues. Mining accidents are mentioned multiple time in this book, but Sasha points out that miners are people with lives outside of work. They are parents, artists, adventurers, and many other things. Huebert, Sasha’s cousin mentions the “smarts” that are necessary to work the incredibly delicate/dangerous machinery involved in mining.

FTC disclosure. I recieved this book from the publisher, I recieved no monetary compensation for this review.


“Wake me…Before you go running off again…just wake me. Then if you run, I’ll run with you.” (p. 69)

“It’s like haiku opened a door inside me that I’m trying with all my might to shove closed again.” (p. 98)

“You can’t understand what makes a good story if you’ve never starred in one, or at least been a particularly memorable (sometimes tragic) supporting character.” (p. 258)

“I’m secretly awful.” (p. 264)


Book Review: The Girl in the Well is Me

The Girl in the Well is Me by Karen Rivers


Published by Scholastic in 2016.

Kammie is new in town, attempting to fit in. She tried to be accepted by The Girls, a group of popular kids. After they convince her to cut her hair, she sings for them on a rotting wooden cover over a well. She falls through and is now stuck in the well. The Girls don’t seem to be moving to quickly to get help.

As her situation goes on, she is forced to reflect on why she has to be in Nowheresville, Texas. Her father embezzled from a charity, and is in jail. She is forced to face the fallout that her father caused her. Wondering if anyone would care enough to come find her, she is guided by hallucinations to help her cope.

This story is incredibly layered and beautiful! Middle grade readers will enjoy this!


“We left a lot of things behind, but not enough. It turns out you cna’t get away from yourself. The museum of you is inside you.” (p. 180)

Book Review: The Thing About Jellyfish

The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

the thing about jellyfish.jpg

Published by Little, Brown and Company in 2015

Middle school is hard, but it’s harder when you lost your best friend. Suzanne is starting 7th grade, and is hurting from the loss of her best friend Franny. In addition to dealing with her grief, she’s haunted by the memories of her 6th grade year when she and Franny started to drift apart.

These emotions push Suzanne to avoid talking. She’s realized how quickly you can become invisible when you are quiet. At her class trip to the aquarium, she breaks away from the group and becomes transfixed by the jellyfish. She starts researching them. She doesn’t want to believe that her friend drowned. Franny was a good swimmer. Maybe a jellyfish stung her and that led to her death. This leads Suzanne on a mission to find a jellyfish expert!

When they were little, Franny made Suzanne promise that to tell her if she changed. Sixth grade brought many changes to Franny. Inside jokes go by the wayside, Franny gets a new friend group, she becomes disinterested in Suzanne’s sciency facts. Suzanne has a large prank planned to reconnect Franny with her inner child, but it turns out this prank is one of the last time the two girls interact.

This story weaves Suzanne’s grief and her research on jellyfish into a beautiful story of moving forward in that face of tragedy. Middle school is a time of transition, and it is hard to embrace changes. This tale reminds the reader of a time when we were in tune with our inner child and were passionate and unafraid of social conventions. It reminds the reader of a time when anything was possible.


“A jellyfish, if you watch it long enough,  begins to look like a heart beating…a heart you can see right through, right into some other world where everything you ever lost has gone to hide.” (p. 1)

“All this time, I ‘d thought that our story was just that: OUR story. But it turns out you had your own story, and I had mine. Our stories might have overlapped for a while-long enough that they even looked like the same story. But they were different. And that made me realize this: Everyone’s story is different, all the time. No one is ever really together, even if it looks for a while they are.” (p. 18)

“Jellyfish are survivors. They are survivors of everything that ever happened to everyone else.” (p. 49)

“If people were silent, they could hear the noise of their own lives better. If people were silent, it would make what they did say, whenever they chose to say, whenever they chose to say it more important.” (p. 134)

“Somehow, that fact — that sometimes things do just happen — seemed like it might be the scariest and saddest truth of all.” (p. 302)

“Wat if we could return to the feeling we had when we were little, that sense that anything is possible?” (p. 311)


Book Review: Gracefully, Grayson

Gracefully Grayson, by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson.jpg

Published by Hyperion in 2014.

Grayson Sender is a girl trapped in a boy’s body. Entering 6th grade, Grayson has never felt like he belonged. Living with has Aunt and Uncle after his parents died when he was in preschool, Grayson has struggled.

Everything changes after he makes a friend with a new girl named Amelia. Grayson starts visiting a thrift shop with her. This small positive change sparks confidence in Grayson and more positive changes, and Grayson goes out for the school play. This is where things get interesting. After all his thoughts about not belonging, and wishing he was a girl, he asks to audition for the female lead. He completes his audition and wows the directors.

Over spring break the directors pick parts, and Grayson’s aunt and uncle get a phone call. If he still wants the part, he can have it.

This story of a transgender middle school tugs at the emotional heartstrings. Fans of Wonder will love it. This story adds nuance to the lgbt conversation that our country is going through. This story is realisitic, and readers will understand Grayson and the story. In addition to navigating the dramas of the middle school social scene, there are loyal friends, and kids who struggle to understand Grayson.

Sometimes people get focused on the biological aspects of the transgender conversation. This story focuses on the emotional aspect and  reminds readers to have empathy for Grayson.

“Well, I think to be brave, you have to be scared at the same time. To be brave means there’s something important you have to do and you’re scared, but you do it anyway.” (p 234)

“An old acting teacher of mine in college used to say that ‘risk taking is free.’ He was so wrong, it’s not free. You took a risk, and now I’m sure you’re contending with everything in its wake. Risk taking is not free, but I can assure you, it’s worth it.” (p.239)

Book Review: Woof

Woof by Spencer Quinn


Published by Scholastic in 2015

 The story begins with Birdie Gaux and her grandmother getting a new dog. Bowser, the dog, provides us with a variety of details about the dog pound he’s in. The beginning of the story is a little tricky, because it’s told from Bowser’s perspective. Although as the story goes on, it adds an extra layer of detail because of the unique things that Bower notices.

Birdie’s grandmother is not the warmest and fuzziest human being on the planet. She runs a bait and tackle shop where Birdie helps out. They walk in and the employee working at the moment is asleep. Grammy notices that her prized stuffed marlin is missing. It seems all is lost, but Bowser and Birdie are on the case!

Birdie first wants to find out why this Marlin is so special. Grammy is being suspicously quiet, so Birdie begins poking around town. It turns out might be a treasure map hidden in the fish’s eye.

In a fast paced adventure, Bowser and Birdie try and get to the bottom of this mystery!

Book Review: Ellie’s Story: A Dog’s Purpose Novel

Ellie’s Story: A Dog’s Purpose Novel by W. Bruce Cameron

a dog's purpose

Published by Tom Doherty Associates in 2015.

This story chronicles Ellie’s life from puppy to old age. Ellie is adopted by Jakob, a widower who trains her as a service dog. Ellie loves her purpose doing “work” with Jakob. He tells her to “find” and “show” him various people who hide from her. She is very good at finding all the people. Jakob challenges her more by having her find people without a scent.

Eventually, after she goes through training, she goes to the police station where she works as a search and rescue dog with Jakob. After Jakob is injured helping rescuing a small girl, she gets a new handler named Maya. Maya is different than Jakob. Ellie has to help Maya get in shape to be a dog handler.

This story does a great job of using the dog’s limited perspective to allow readers to make their own connections. Cameron also does a good job of describing the handler’s emotions and personalities. These distinct personalities shape their interactions with the dog. The dog even compares the two handlers and how they would work. This is an adorable book that all kids will love!