Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

By Meg Medina

ISBN: 978-0763671648

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Reading Level: 5th grade

Interest Level: 9th-12th grade

Awards: Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2014), Pura Belpré Award for Narrative (2014)

Teaser: Piddy is just a young Latina teen struggling to cope with a new school, a new house, and her best friend moving away. The last thing she needs is another problem, but Yaqui Delgado just won’t leave her alone!

Summary: Piedad “Piddy” Sanchez is a teen who’s experiencing a crisis. Her mom insists on moving to a new house and a new neighborhood, even to a new school. To make things worse, her best friend Mitzi has moved away. Not long after starting at her new school, Piddy is told that Yaqui Delgado wants to kick her ass. The problem is that Piddy does not even know who Yaqui Delgado is, let alone what she did to her to make her dislike her so much. Yaqui begins to terrorize Piddy at school and Piddy is too afraid to stop her. The bullying begins to affect other parts of Piddy’s life. Her mother and “auntie” Lila fear that she is losing herself and they cannot figure out why she is acting so drastically. Piddy finds solace in a guy that she never thought of romantically, but her anxiety also causes her to sabotage her friendship with Mitzi. When Yaqui and her friends finally do beat Piddy up, Piddy begins the painful rollercoaster ride of deciding what kind of woman she wants to be. Will she report Yaqui or will she stay silent?

Information about the Author: On Medina’s official website, her bio says, “Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction.  She is the 2016 recipient of the Pura Belpré honor medal for her picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me, and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award winner for her young adult novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass , which was also the winner of the 2013 CYBILS Fiction award and the International Latino Book Award. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book Tía Isa Wants a Car.  Meg’s other books are The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind , a 2012 Bank Street Best Book and CBI Recommended Read in the UK; and Milagros: Girl from Away.  Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect, as seen through the eyes of young people. She brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls. In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.”

Critical Evaluation: Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass immediately grabbed my attention. From the title, I thought that the main character was going to be Yaqui, but I was not disappointed in Piddy as a character. Medina is an amazing writer. Piddy’s tone of voice and feelings were easily understood through Medina’s writing. She expertly weaves Latin culture into Piddy’s personality without taking away her individuality. One line that stuck out for me was when Piddy describes her mother as, “Ma is too tired to remember. It’s like Lila can still hear the rhythm in a salsa on the radio and not just complain about the noise” (13). Medina does a very good job at creating Piddy’s story, but I think it would have been interesting to hear from some different perspectives. Medina backs up her decision to focus on Piddy though when she talks about wanting Piddy to be the focus so that people could understand the psychological trauma that bullying has on the victim.

Curriculum Ties: Culture, Bullying, Psychology

Booktalk Ideas: Write a paragraph about how Piddy handled the situation. Would you have done the same thing? What would you have done differently?

Challenge Issues: Violence, Bullying, Language

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights, Challenge Resources from the American Library Association, Educator’s Guide to Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because Piddy offers a perspective of someone who goes through the psychological and physical damage of bullying. The book discusses critical topics such as fear, race, and academic pressure. Young adults will benefit from reading a story about character who they can easily relate to.

Medina, Meg. (2013). Yaqui Delgado Wants To Kick Your Ass. Massachusetts: Candlewick Press.

Watership Down

By Richard Adams

ISBN: 978-0743277709

Genre: Fantasy

Reading Level: 7th grade

Interest Level: 9th-12th grade

Awards: Mythopoeic Fantasy Award Nominee (1975), Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize (1973), Boston Globe-Horn Book Award (1975), California Young Readers Medal for Young Adult (1977), Carnegie Medal (1972)

Teaser: Fiver has a vision that will change the lives of the warren forever! He and his brother, Hazel, have a long journey ahead full of danger and heartbreak. Will they accomplish their greatest dream?

Summary: Before their journey began, Fiver had a vision. Their home warren and all of their fellow rabbits would be destroyed. Sick with worry, Fiver and his brother, Hazel, attempt to take their warnings to the Threarah. He does not listen. Hazel and Fiver convince eight other rabbits to leave the warren with them and they begin their journey to find a new home. Along the way, they experience several adventures that most rabbits never dream of. They come to a field where a warren already lives. The warren is strong and has a lot of food, but something does not feel right to Fiver and Hazel. They find out the warren is being fed by a farmer. Narrowly escaping with their lives, they make it to Watership Down. It is everything that they hoped for in a new home. Before they can even settle in, they are battling another warren who wants to take it away from them out of revenge.

Information about the Author: According to Wikipedia, “Adams was born on 9 May 1920 in Wash Common near Newbury, Berkshire, England. He attended Horris Hill School from 1926 to 1933, and then Bradfield College from 1933 to 1938. In 1938, he went to Worcester College, Oxford, to read Modern History. In July 1940, shortly after the declaration of war between Britain and Germany, Adams was called up to join the British Army, He was posted to the Royal Army Service Corps and was selected for the Airborne Company, where he worked as a brigade liaison. He served in Palestine, Europe and the Far East but saw no direct action against either the Germans or the Japanese. After being released from the army in 1946, Adams returned to Worcester College to continue his studies for a further two years. He took the degrees of Bachelor of Arts in 1948 and Master of Arts in 1953. After his BA graduation in 1948, Adams joined the British Civil Service and held the rank of Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, later part of the Department of the Environment. It was during this period that he began writing fiction in his spare time.

Critical Evaluation: In Watership Down, Adams spends a great deal of time creating the setting. The vivid imagery and attention to detail bring the English landscape to life. Most of the time I loved this aspect of the story, but there were moments of scene description that ended up slowing down the progression of the plot considerably. There were several characters in this story. At first, I did not like having to keep track of all the different rabbits. I would mix them up or forget who did what action earlier on in the book. I struggled to keep track of who was who. However, I think that the number of characters can also be considered an anthropomorphizing tool. Having a large amount of characters who know and act out this rabbit culture creates a history that humans can relate to. The story is fuller and as a reader I start to identify with the emotions and the relationships that these rabbits are experiencing.

Curriculum Ties: British Literature, Animals

Booktalk Ideas: Compare and contrast the different characters (some have distinct personalities). Create a poster for the book.

Challenge Issues: Supernatural, Violence, Death

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: I picked this book because it is written from a unique perspective. Despite the fact that all of these characters are rabbits, the reader follows a very emotional tale about war. The book  has very memorable characters that displays acts of courage and honor.

Adams, R. (2005). Watership Down. New York City, NY: Scribner.


Things Fall Apart

By Chinua Achebe

ISBN: 978-0385474542

Genre: Cultural, Postcolonialism, Historical Drama

Reading Level: 5th grade

Interest Level: 9th-12th grade

Awards: TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005

Teaser: Okonkwo is an important man of the Ibo people. But when differences arise because of the new visitors to Umuofia, Okonkwo struggles with his place in his community.

Summary: Okonkwo is a warrior and wrestling champion of the Ibo people. He tries to compensate for his shameful father by being a very respectable warrior, husband, and farmer. Okonkwo has a son and a daughter. He adopts a fifteen-year-old boy that Umuofia won in a settlement against a neighboring tribe. Okonkwo, in anger, accuses his wife of carelessness and fears that she is negatively influencing their daughter into being too casual and careless around males. He beats his wife during the Week of Peace, causing his fellow community members to look down on him. Later, Okonkwo does a terrible thing to someone he loves. He believes he is cursed for what he has done. When missionaries come to Umuofia, Okonkwo is unable to contain himself. He kills a fellow clansman and is banned for seven years. When he comes back to a whitewashed Umuofia, Okonkwo tries to spur his people into war against the white man. He is unsuccessful and his story comes to a very tragic end.

Information about the Author: writes, “Born in Nigeria in 1930, Chinua Achebe attended the University of Ibadan. In 1958, his groundbreaking novel Things Fall Apart was published. It went on to sell more than 12 million copies and been translated into more than 50 languages. Achebe later served as the David and Marianna Fisher University professor and professor of Africana Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. He died on March 21, 2013, at age 82, in Boston, Massachusetts.”

Critical Evaluation: I liked the structure of the storytelling in this book. Okonkwo is the main character and it follows him from his childhood to his end. Each section of the book is a step forward in his (d)evolution. The stark portrayal of gender roles is a little demoralizing, but that does not mean that they did not exist. Despite these strict gender roles, I think that Ojiugo is actually a strong female character. The reason why Okonkwo gets so angry at her is because he is afraid that her casualness with him has rubbed off on his daughter. I enjoyed the chapter that followed Ojiugo because Okonkwo’s perspective can be irritating at times. His pride causes him so many problems. In the end, it is hard for the reader to decide if Okonkwo was a bad guy or just a product of his upbringing and circumstances. Achebe tells an unpredictable story that focuses in on the effects of colonialism.

Curriculum Ties: History of Africa, Postcolonialism

Booktalk Ideas: Discuss the traits of Okonkwo. Honor is such an important part of his culture, is Okonkwo honorable? Discuss the gender roles portrayed in the books.

Challenge Issues: Racism, Polygamy, Violence

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: This book follows a conflicted protagonist who struggles with his place in his society. Young adult readers will be able to relate to the imperfect narrator and get a glimpse of the affects that colonialism can have on a culture.

Achebe, C. (1994). Things Fall Apart. New York City, NY: Anchor Publishing.

Their Eyes Were Watching God

By Zora Neale Hurston

ISBN: 978-0060838676

Genre: Fiction

Reading Level: 7th grade

Interest Level: 9th-12th grade

Awards: Audie Award for Solo Narration – Female (2001)

Teaser: Janie is a woman who is just trying to find love. As we follow her different relationships, she learns that maybe she was looking for love in all the wrong places!

Summary: Their Eyes Were Watching God follows the story of Janie, a young African American woman who readers see learn and grow through her relationships with men. Janie’s grandmother, Nanny, wants what is best for Janie. She is so afraid that Janie will run off like her mother. After catching Janie kissing a local boy, Nanny arranges for Janie to marry an older farmer who is looking for a marriage, Logan Killicks. Sad and uninterested in a life with Killicks, Janie is charmed away by a man named Joe Starks and runs away with him to Eatonville. Starks becomes mayor and Janie finds out that he is not the man that she thought he was. He is controlling and demeaning towards her and eventually hits her. Starks gets very sick and passes away. All of his estate goes to Janie and she finds herself surrounded by eligible bachelors. After a long courtship, Janie falls in love and marries a younger man named Tea Cake. The couple moves to “the muck” to plant beans for work. One day a terrible hurricane strikes and Tea Cake ends up getting bit by a rabid dog while saving Janie’s life. He slowly loses himself to rabies and experiences extreme anger and jealousy towards Janie. He tries to shoot her with his pistol, but she kills him with her rifle instead. Then Janie moves back to Eatonville where she tells her friend the whole story of her life. She talks about what she has learned about love and what she has learned about herself.

Information about the Authors: Wikipedia says, “Zora Neale Hurston (January 7, 1891 – January 28, 1960) was an American novelist, short story writer, folklorist, and anthropologist. Of Hurston’s four novels and more than 50 published short stories, plays, and essays, she is best known for her 1937 novel Their Eyes Were Watching God. In addition to new editions of her work being published after a revival of interest in her in 1975, her manuscript Every Tongue Got to Confess (2001), a collection of folktales gathered in the 1920s, was published posthumously after being discovered in the Smithsonian archives.”

Critical Evaluation: I like how the book is broken up into three parts that correspond to Janie’s three marriages and the different stages of her life. In her first marriage, Janie learns that she does not just want to marry for a domestic relationship; she wants to marry for love. This causes her to choose to marry Joe Starks. With Starks, she comes to the realization she wants to have control of her own life. After he dies, she marries Tea Cake. She finds love with Tea Cake and feels like she has more control of her own life. When Tea Cake dies, Janie learns that she can survive the loss and that she has come to love herself. Hurston is a genius at writing dialogue. She effectively communicates a person’s entire personality through their words and interactions with Janie. Additionally, the dialogue plays a huge role in creating the setting and time period for this story.

Curriculum Ties: Feminism, African-American History

Booktalk Ideas: Compare and contrast Janie’s relationships with male and female characters during her story.

Challenge Issues: Spousal abuse, Religious Overtones

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: This book follows a young woman’s journey into love and relationships. Janie learns and grows from every relationship she’s had and she finally finds herself along the way. This is an empowering book for young women written in a different cultural perspective.

Hurston, Z.N. (1937). Their Eyes Were Watching God. Philidelphia: J.B. Lippincott.

The Sandman Vol. 1: Precludes & Nocturnes (New Edition)

By Neil Gaiman & Art by Mike Dringenberg & Sam Keith

ISBN: 978-1401225759

Genre: Graphic Novel, Horror, Fantasy, Supernatural

Reading Level: 9th grade

Interest Level: 11th grade +

Awards: New York Times Best Seller list,  Entertainment Weekly’s “100 best reads from 1983 to 2008

Teaser: The Sandman has finally escaped and he is going to take back what is his!

Summary: Dream is one of the seven endless beings. The six other beings are Death, Destiny, Desire, Despair, Delirium, and Destruction. Dream is the Sandman. He controls the dream world and has the power of sand. A magician attempts to capture Death in order to make himself immortal, but instead he captures Dream. The magician keeps Dream in captivity for fear of vengeance. Eventually the magician dies and Dream is left in the hands of the magician’s son, Alex. Dream tricks Alex and escapes. He curses Alex to have never-ending dreams. When he returns to his home, he finds everything destroyed and his items of power gone. He then begins his long journey into finding his powerful objects.

Information about the Author: Wikipedia says, “Neil Richard MacKinnon Gaiman born Neil Richard Gaiman; 10 November 1960) is an English author of short fiction, novels, comic books, graphic novels, audio theatre, and films. His notable works include the comic book series The Sandman and novels Stardust, American GodsCoraline, and The Graveyard Book. He has won numerous awards, including the Hugo, Nebula, and Bram Stoker awards, as well as the Newbery and Carnegie medals. He is the first author to win both the Newbery and the Carnegie medals for the same work, The Graveyard Book (2008). In 2013, The Ocean at the End of the Lane was voted Book of the Year in the British National Book Awards.”

Critical Evaluation: I have read other work by Neil Gaiman (My favorite was American Gods). I was surprised when reading the graphic novel at how much I could tell this was Gaiman story. His writing is distinct enough that even the short dialogue he does in this comic is noticeable. The pictures in this graphic novel are more suited to the horror genre. The figures all look very pointy and gaunt. The coloring is very saturated and dark, which totally enhances the horror aspect of the comic. I like how the Endless Beings are not all good. At this point, it is questionable if Dream really is a good guy. That ambiguity is what makes these characters so interesting because their actions are unpredictable. 

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalk Ideas: Draw a picture and write your own description of one of the seven Endless metaphysical entities.

Challenge Issues: Violence, Sexual Content, Language

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: I picked this graphic novel because it is a fun, adventurous story that made a huge impact on the fantasy graphic novel genre. The illustrations are dark and a little twisted and I think that some teens are drawn to the horror genre.   

Gaiman, N. (2010). The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes (New Edition). New York City, NY: Vertigo.

The Maze Runner

By James Dashner

ISBN: 978-0385737951

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

Reading Level: 7th grade

Interest Level: 9th grade +

Awards: Georgia Peach Book Award (2011), Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award (RT Award) Nominee for Best Young Adult Paranormal/Fantasy Novel (2009), Charlotte Award (2012),Pennsylvania Young Readers’ Choice Award Nominee (2011),Evergreen Teen Book Award (2012), Milwaukee County Teen Book Award Nominee (2011), Kentucky Bluegrass Award for grades 9-12 (2011), Abraham Lincoln Award (2012), Missouri Truman Readers Award (2012)

Teaser: What if you woke and had no memory of anything? And the only way to the truth was through the world’s deadliest maze?

Summary: Thomas wakes up and finds himself in a place called “The Glade.” He cannot remember who he is or how he got into the elevator that brought him here. A group of guys stand around him; some older, some younger. Their leaders, Alby and Newt, step forward and explain the situation to Thomas. They are surrounded by a maze of concrete that shifts and moves and seems to never stay the same. The maze is full of deadly creatures who have a toxin that can kill you, but can also give you memories. The elevator brings up supplies and more guys. One day, a girl comes up from the elevator with a message that she is the last person that will be sent to them. The girl, Teresa, ends up remembering Thomas from before she woke up in the Glade. From there, everything starts going wrong and Thomas and the rest of the Gladers have to find a way out of the maze. Will they discover the truth of why they were put there?   

Information about the Author: On the Georgia Center for Books websiteJames Dashner is described as, “an award-winning author of books for young adult readers who is a native of Georgia now living in the Rocky Mountains of Utah. In 2010, his novel “The Maze Runner” was chosen for inclusion on the Georgia Center for the Book’s list of “25 Books All Young Georgians Should Read.” James Dashner was born in 1972 in Austell and moved to Duluth when he was two years old. He was graduated from Duluth High School in 1991 and attended college in Brigham Young University in Utah where he met his wife and where he now lives. He initially worked in the field of finance before becoming a full-time writer. He has published books in three series beginning with a quartet of mid-grade reader novels: “The Jimmy Fincher Saga.” The novels are “A Door in the Woods” (2003), “A Gift of Ice” (2004), “The Tower of Air” (2004) and “War of the Black Curtain” (2005). His “13th Reality” trilogy features “The Journal of Curious Letters” (2009), “The Hunt for Dark Infinity” (2010) and “The Blade of Shattered Hope” (2010). His latest series, “The Maze Runner” trilogy, has been featured nationally by his publisher, Random House, which produced an award-winning video to promote the book. “The Maze Runner,” the first in the series, was published in 2009 to critical acclaim. It was a Barnes and Noble Discovery Pick, a Junior Literary Guild selection, and made many year-end best-of lists including those compiled by Kirkus, B&N and Indiebound.”

Critical Evaluation: The Maze Runner was an action-heavy story that kept me interested until the end. Because the plot was so action-heavy, it felt very fast-paced. There was always something new happening that made it hard for me to stop reading on to the next chapter. At the same time though, I think it would have been more interesting if all of the guys were involved in figuring out what was going on instead of just Thomas. There were moments that the other guys assisted, namely Alby, Newt, Minho, and Chuck. But the entire plot line is reliant on Thomas and I guess it bugs me a little that he is the sole reason that they get out. If he had not been there, there is no way that they would have found their way out of the maze.  

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalk Ideas: Write a 1-page story of you waking up in the Glade.

Challenge Issues: Violence, Death

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: The Maze Runner is an action-packed story that is really fast-paced. Teen readers will empathize with the characters as they try to stay together and uncover the truth about their captivity. I think this is a great book for reluctant readers.

Dashner, J. (2009). The Maze Runner. New York City, NY: Delacorte Press.

The Golden Compass

By Philip Pullman

ISBN: 9780679879244

Genre: Steampunk, Fantasy, Science Fiction

Reading Level: 6th grade

Interest Level: 7th-12th grade

Awards: Audie Award for Children’s Titles (2000), Listen Up Award for Young Adults Young Adult Library Services Association, Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2005), Carnegie Medal (1995)

Teaser: There’s another world like ours, well, mostly like ours. Everything is the same except for one thing: everyone in this world has their own personal daemon.

Summary: Lyra is a twelve-year-old girl who lives at Jordan College, Oxford. She has a daemon named Pantalaimon who has not stopped shifting shapes. Daemons are reflections of an individual’s soul. Once a person reaches puberty, their daemon usually settles into a shape (typically an animal form). Lyra sneaks into a meeting one day and saves her uncle Lord Asriel from being poisoned. She also learns about “dust.” Soon after kidnappings start occurring near Jordan College. Lyra’s best friend, Roger, has gone missing. She vows to save him from the Gobblers. Charmed by a woman named Mrs. Coulter, Lyra agrees to leave Jordan College and the Master secretly gives her an alethiometer. Lyra’s journey is just beginning. She learns that Mrs. Coulter is not the woman she had hoped for. She runs away and ends up with the Gyptians who are on their way to save the kidnapped children in the north.

Information about the Author: Philip Pullman writes on his website, “I was born in Norwich in 1946, and educated in England, Zimbabwe, and Australia, before my family settled in North Wales. I received my secondary education at the excellent Ysgol Ardudwy, Harlech, and then went to Exeter College, Oxford, to read English, though I never learned to read it very well. I found my way into the teaching profession at the age of 25, and taught at various Oxford Middle Schools before moving to Westminster College in 1986, where I spent eight years involved in teaching students on the B.Ed. course. I have maintained a passionate interest in education, which leads me occasionally to make foolish and ill-considered remarks alleging that not everything is well in our schools. My main concern is that an over-emphasis on testing and league tables has led to a lack of time and freedom for a true, imaginative and humane engagement with literature. My views on education are eccentric and unimportant, however. My only real claim to anyone’s attention lies in my writing. I’ve published nearly twenty books, mostly of the sort that are read by children, though I’m happy to say that the natural audience for my work seems to be a mixed one – mixed in age, that is, though the more mixed in every other way as well, the better.”

Critical Evaluation: This book began very slowly, but once Lyra leaves Jordan with Mrs. Coulter the plot picks back up. My favorite part about the book is the dialect that Pullman created for Lyra. Her voice is so unique because of how brave and prideful she is. She was the coolest character ever and I hope that I have a kid like her someday. I thought the way the story ended was annoying because all of the sudden there was all this new, unbelievable information about a parallel world. They had been talking about the city in the lights and the city in the dust, but I did not think it was a parallel universe, I thought it was just another magical world.

Curriculum Ties: N/A

Booktalk Ideas: What kind of daemon would you have? Why? Write a paragraph.

Challenge Issues: (Anti) Religious Themes, Supernatural

Challenge Resources: Rationale for choosing this book (see “Why Did I Pick This”), Engage students and parents in discussions about intellectual freedom, ALA Library Bill of Rights,Challenge Resources from the American Library Association

Why Did I Pick This: The Golden Compass is about a girl whose destiny is to end destiny. This book challenges ideas of religion and creates a beautiful, fantastic universe that will enthrall young readers.

Pullman, P. (1995). The Golden Compass. New York City, NY: Scholastic Point.