Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Title: One Crazy Summer

Author: Rita Williams-Garcia

Publisher: Amistad    Year: 2011

ISBN-13: 978-0060760908

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: 2011 Coretta Scott King Award Winner, 2011 Newbery Honor Book, 2011 Scott O’Dell Prize for Historical Fiction, 2010 National Book Award Finalist, Junior Library Guild Selection, Texas Library Association Best Book for 2010

Themes / Subjects: Juvenile Fiction, Historical Fiction, Prejudice & Racism, Family Life, Travel & Culture, African American, Black Panther Party, 20th century issues, Civil Rights Movement

Plot Summary:

It’s the summer of 1968 and sisters, 11-year-old Delphine, 9-year-old Vonetta, and 7-year-old Fern embark on an adventure that takes them from Brooklyn, New York to Oakland, California to meet the mother that abandoned them many years ago. The girls have no idea what to expect, but they certainly didn’t expect to participate in a day camp run by members of the Black Panther Party. Cecile Johnson, their mother, “mammal birth giver,” is secretive about her work behind the closed kitchen doors and wants nothing to do with them. Set during one of the most tumultuous years in American history, One Crazy Summer explores the civil rights movement through the eyes of children.

My Take:

I actually walked away from this book with a better knowledge of the civil rights movement and Black Panther Party. The reader sees the historical changes through the eyes of Delphine, the oldest sister. Although she is just 11 going on 12, Delphine is extremely wise for her age and carries the added weight of being responsible for her sisters. I love how conscious she is of the differences between blacks and whites, yet she doesn’t allow her views or opinions to be mandated by others especially the Black Panther party.

Throughout the book, I kept hoping for Cecile Johnson to change and finally become the mother the little girls so desperately wanted/needed. However, through Delphine’s, Vonetta’s, and Fern’s journey I grew to feel sorry for Cecile and had a better understanding of her relationship with her children (or lack of one). This book is both excellent for teens and adults because the impact of that summer continues to affect us today.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: The Watson’s Go to Birmingham1963  by Christopher Paul Curtis

Leave a comment »

Apples to Apples Junior – The Game of Crazy Comparisons!

Name: Apples to Apples Junior – The Game of Crazy Comparisons

Created by: Mattel

Age: 9 and up

Players: 4 – 10


Apples to Apples Junior is a hilarious card game with crazy comparisons that is not only fun to play but also helps players expand their vocabulary and thinking skills. “The game is as easy as comparing apples to apples – just open the box, deal the RED APPLE cards to each player, and you’re ready to go!” (from the manufacturer).  Players take turns being the judge and the judge starts the game by playing a GREEN APPLE card featuring a one-word characteristic such as Amazing or Scary. The rest of the players must then pick one of their own RED APPLE cards in their hands that they think is best described by the judge’s card. When everyone has put their cards on the table, you must try to convince the judge that yours is the best match. If your card is picked, then you win that round! The first player to win four rounds wins the game!

My Take:

I first played this game at Christmas time with my family (that was the Disney version) and am an Apples to Apples addict! The game and rules are very easy to follow and the discussions it causes people to get into are hilarious! I would suggest the junior version for younger kids because I’ve found that they did not understand some of the words on the original version. Winning is entirely based on the opinion of the dealer and everyone gets a turn of being the dealer so this game is perfect for everyone. There is really no way to cheat in this game although I have been a part of some pretty heated discussions over whose card is the best match. I think this game also offers insight into how people think and was really impressed by the thought the dealers put into selecting a card.

Rating: 5 out of 5 apples … I’ve played quite a few versions of Apples to Apples and loved each and every one of them!

Similar Game: Headbanz Game by Spin Master Games


Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli

Title: Maniac Magee

Author: Jerry Spinelli

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers      Year: 1990

ISBN-10: 0316807222

Genre: Fiction

Age: 9 and up

Awards: Newbery Medal (1991), Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (1993), Nene Award (1996), Massachusetts Children’s Book Award (1993), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Flicker Tale Children’s Book Award (1992), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children’s Book Award (1992), Pacific Northwest Library Association Young Reader’s Choice Award (1993), New Mexico Land of Enchantment Award (1993)

Themes / Subjects: Social issues, prejudice & racism, runaways, orphans, relationships, family relationships

Plot Summary:

All Maniac Magee wants is an address with numbers that he can tell people is where he lives and a loving family to come home to. Before he became Maniac Magee, Jeffrey Magee was orphaned as a baby when his parents died in a trolley accident. Sent to live with an unloving/feuding aunt and uncle who refuse to divorce because they are Catholic, Jeffrey finally decides to run away at age 8. Eventually he makes his way to the highly segregated town of Two Mills where through his amazing feats, Maniac (as the townspeople will call him) transforms the town forever.

My Take:

I love action and stories that don’t spend too much time building the story up. Within the first three pages, Maniac is orphaned and living with his feuding Catholic aunt and uncle. This is going to be good!

Maniac Magee is a truly wonderful character and young hero. Although much of the time he is sleeping on the streets or with other down-and-outs like himself, he continues to amaze everyone he meets with his friendly nature, athletic feats, and complete color-blindness. This book is part of the 6th grade curriculum at the school where I work. Although the targeted audience of this book is ages 9-12, a few of the teachers agree with me that older kids would benefit from reading (or re-reading) this book. The issues or prejudice & racism and how Maniac handles the situations would make for an awesome in-depth discussion and debate.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars. I couldn’t give it a full 5 stars because there were a couple scenes that made me feel a little weird. Why didn’t anyone call the authorities when this kid wouldn’t go to school or go home? Then again it was a different time when this book was written.

Similar read: The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson

1 Comment »

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

 Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid

 Author: Jeff Kinney

 Publisher: Amulet Books      Year: 2007

 ISBN-13: 978-0810993136

 Genre: Fiction

Age:9 and up

 Awards: #1 New York Times Best Seller for 114 weeks, 2008-2012 Nominated and  Won a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards for Favorite Book (did not win in 2009 and 2012 is pending), 2010 Most Favorite Book Around the World, ALA Notable Book

 Themes/Subjects: Realistic fiction, humor, family life, social situations, middle school, friendship

Plot summary:

“First of all, let me get something straight: This is a JOURNAL, not a diary. I know what it says on the cover, but when Mom went out to buy this thing I SPECIFICALLY told her to get one that didn’t say “diary” on it. Great. All I need is for some jerk to catch me carrying this book around and get the wrong idea. The other thing I want to clear up right away is that this was MOM’s idea, not mine.”

Middle school is a strange and complicated world. Little weaklings are expected to share the halls with oversized gorillas who are already shaving. Friendships from elementary school are shifting and ideas of what makes certain kids popular are a mystery to Greg Heffley. In his diary, sorry journal, Greg’s thoughts, memories and experiences are poured out every day and accompanied by simple yet funny illustrations. Between dealing with dweeby parents, a mean older brother, annoying younger brother and goofy friends, Greg a wimpy kid himself is just trying to navigate the awkward world of middle school. Add in haunted houses, forbidden cheese, safety patrols, singing trees, and just plain family weirdness and you’ve got one heck of a first year of middle school!

My take:

I began reading this book in bed and let me tell you my sides hurt from trying to stifle my laughing! Before I knew it, it was after midnight and I had finished the book. I COULD NOT put this book down, it’s that funny! Working in a middle school, I saw so many of my students in this book and even a bit of myself from that age. Greg Heffley can honestly be described as a typical tween. He is oblivious of his faults and although he tends to get into trouble, he really does have good intentions. Unlike Nikki Maxwell from dork diaries, Greg isn’t an intentionally mean kid and almost always experiences consequences for his actions. I would highly recommend Diary of a Wimpy Kid to boys AND girls of all ages, especially to reluctant readers. For additional fun check out where Jeff Kinney originally posted Greg Heffley’s story. On there you will find additional illustrations and stories that did not make it into the published book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 – Every new middle school kid should read this!

Similar read: School is a Nightmare #1 First Week, Worst Week by Raymond Bean

Leave a comment »

Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life By Rachel Renee Russell

 Title: Dork Diaries: Tales From A Not-So-Fabulous Life

 Author: Rachel Renee Russell

 Publisher: Aladdin     Year: 2009

 ISBN -13: 978-1416980063

 Genre: Fiction

 Age: 9 and up

 Themes / Subjects: junior high, popularity, comics, middle school, cliques, humor

 Awards:  New York Times Bestseller list for 42 weeks; USA Today Best Sellers list for 7   weeks; 2010 Children’s Choice Book of the Year Award for the 5th/6th grade division; nominated as Book of the Year by the Nickelodeon Kid’s Choice

Plot Summary:

Fourteen-year-old Nikki Maxwell is a self proclaimed dork. This school year she has been awarded a scholarship to a prestigious private middle school, thanks in part to her dad’s contract with the school as their bug exterminator.  Nikki believes that a new iPhone will help her cinch a spot in the school’s  CCP (cute, cool & popular) group so when her mom returns home from the mall with a “special back-to-school”  present she is pretty ecstatic. What does her mother purchase for her? A stupid little diary. Nikki swears not to write in it but soon the pages are filled with sketches and stories of drama with the school’s resident mean girl, her embarrassing parents, new friends and hot crushes.

My Take:

For being a self-proclaimed dork, Nikki Maxwell is a pretty mean girl herself. Her character is shallow and self-centered and changes very little by the end of the book. While some of the situations she finds herself in are humorous there were twice as many situations where I felt like cringing with things that she had said or done.  This book is recommended for ages 9 and up, but some of the humor and situations would be much more appropriate for older girls. How would you like to explain to your 9 year old why “…hordes of celebrity party girls regularly FORGET to wear undies, not a single one would be caught dead without her cell phone” (p.4)? Hopefully we see some sort of character development in the next book, but I won’t be rushing off to read it.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars – Girls are probably better off reading “Diary of a Wimpy Kid

Similar Read: Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney

1 Comment »