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 »

The Giver by Lois Lowry

Title: The Giver

Author: Lois Lowry

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books            Year: 2002

ISBN-13: 9780440237686

Genre: Fiction

Age: 12 and up

Awards: 1994 Newbery Medal, 1996 William Allen White Award,  American Library Association listings for “Best Book for Young Adults”, “ALA Notable Children’s Book“, and “100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990–2000”,  A Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, Winner of the Regina Medal, Booklist Editors’ Choice, A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year

Themes / Subjects: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Coming of Age, Classics, Dystopia, Survival, Social Situations

Plot Summary:

Jonas lives with no pain or worry, a place where our world’s issues have been eliminated. Everything in his community is orderly and perfect, but there is no love, until The Giver shares it with Jonas. Then life’s pleasure and pain become part of his own life, his truth. Jonas begins to question the perfection of the community and it is here that the story begins to unfold. Angered and confused by his imperfect and very intriguing past, Jonas must save himself and his community from the fantasy life that has been thrust upon them.

My Take:

Back before parents were complaining about Twilight, Harry Potter, or the Hunger Games, parents had issues with Lois Lowry’s The Giver. There are some pretty disturbing situations that Joans must go through to test his courage, strength, and heart in the story but it is not without reason. Like The Hunger Games this book brings up a multitude of emotions such as joy, anger, horror, love and desire. This read is an excellent part of a student’s curriculum because in the classroom there is an opportunity for discussion and further understanding. Parents should encourage their teens to discuss the consequences of the book and how that might look in our own society.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Similar read: Matched by Ally Condie

1 Comment »

Scene It? – Disney and Harry Potter Versions

Name: Scene It?Disney and Harry Potter Versions

Created by: Screenlife

Age: 6 and up (Disney) / 13 and up (Harry Potter)

Players: 2 or more


Scene It? is a DVD trivia game in which players have to answer questions either from trivia cards or viewed on the TV from the included DVD. More than just a trivia game, Scene It? also challenges you to use observation, memory, wordplay, and problem solving to decode the puzzles that you see on-screen. Designed for two or more players, this family-oriented trivia game will appeal to kids and adult fans alike.

Disney Version features clips, images, and characters from everyone’s favorite Disney and Pixar movies! While most of the questions are incredibly easy, players will find the game immensely satisfying.

Harry Potter version – includes questions, images, and challenges from all 8 of the movies! This game is the ultimate Harry Potter test for the HP fan and even includes some obscure questions that you would only get if you had read the book.

My Take:

Do you have teens who think they are know it alls? Well, I think it is time for them to prove it with the game Scene It?! Scene It? comes in a variety of versions but my two favorite ones are the Harry Potter and Disney Versions. Although you can play with two or more players, I prefer to play the game in teams with players of various ages. I found that some of the younger kids can help me out with the movies I have yet to see while I can help with the older stuff (well not too old).

The first couple of times you play the game it can be a bit completed trying to figure out the rules and what each category and roll of the dice means. I highly suggest keeping the rules handy. Also, this game can get pretty loud as people get excited and shout out answers so don’t expect to play this in a quiet area or to calm anyone down. The reason I like specific versions of Scene It? as opposed to the original is because it forces the game to focus on one topic, otherwise you’d have to be a know it all in everything (like my mom). The Disney and Harry Potter versions are definitely perfect for teens and the entire family.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars … the games have some technological glitches sometimes and I’ve found a couple wrong answers in the Harry Potter game

Similar Game: Pass the Popcorn by Wiggles 3D


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


Which Came First? Chicken or Egg? (Trivia Game)

Name: Which Came First? Chicken or Egg?

Created by: iPlay

Age: 8 and up

Players: 2-4 individuals or teams

Themes/Subjects: Educational, Trivia Game


Which Came First? Chicken or Egg? is a fascinating trivia game for everyone. Players compete by answering over 300 trivia questions with detailed answers in six different categories: Eat & Drink; Life & Style; Shows & Tunes; Games & Toys; Fact & Fiction; Odds & Ends.

My Take:

This game was so much fun even if I was horrible at it! We play this sometimes on Friday’s in the library and our special needs students really enjoy it. Most of our middle school students have never heard of some of the products mentioned but they still have a ton of fun guessing. Plus with the detailed answers they learn something and hold onto these random facts. An alternate way to play without the board would be to ask the questions to the group and see how it divides the group. The questions are great conversation starters and would be fun at any party or event.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Similar Game: Such & Such The Answers to the Clues Come in Twos! by Patch Products, Inc.

Leave a comment »

It Gets Better

Name: It Gets Better


Description: The It Gets Better project first began in September 2010 when syndicated columnist and author Dan Savage created a YouTube video with his partner Terry Miller to inspire hope for young people facing harassment. The project reminds young people in the LGBT community that they are not alone, and things will get better if they can just get through their teen years. contains more than 40,000 user-created videos from around the world including submissions from politicians, celebrities, activists, media personalities, and everyday people. The videos show young people who are gay, bi, or transgender how love and happiness is in their future and a whole community (both gay and straight) of support.

Review: It Gets Better is an amazing site that sends LGBT teens a very important message: You are not alone and things will get better. This site offers teen a space where they can go and watch/listen to inspirational stories from successful LGBT adults who are now leading fulfilling and happy lives. Not only are their testimonials from LGBT members, but also the straight community creating a community of acceptance and support for those teens struggling with acceptance and hopelessness.

My only concern with the site, is that immediately upon visiting the site, users are prompted to “Take the Pledge.” This requires users to provide their first and last name, email address and zip code. Beneath the pledge is an option to skip this step and proceed to videos. Users can engage in the blog or upload their own videos, however, this information becomes property of the website and is stored online indefinitely. Users need to be aware of privacy and safety issues before releasing any information.

Educational Application: The website can be a means of opening up discussions either at school or with families regarding accepting diversity, bullying and cyberbullying, and what the appropriate actions are to handle similar situations.

Similar/Related Sites of Interest: This site is specifically designed with LGBT youth in mind and really focuses on what teens are going through now.

Leave a comment »

Sex, Etc.

Name:Sex, ETC.


Description: Sex, Etc. is part of the Teen-to-Teen Sexuality Education Project developed by Answer, a national organization dedicated to providing and promoting comprehensive sexuality education to young people and the adults in their lives. It includes frank, fact-based information about anatomy, safer sex, resisting sexual pressure, pregnancy options, sexual orientation, and a range of other issues related to sexual health and relationships.

Review: This site is both colorful and engaging and goes way beyond what is simply discussed in schools. One of my favorite features of Sex, Etc. is that it focuses on first-person stories and contains many articles written by teen contributors and edited by staff. Hearing from peers reassures teens that they are not alone when it comes to questions regarding their bodies and sexual health. The site also recognizes the myths and misinformation delivered through media and encourages teens to think critically about what they see and hear. One of the best features of the site is how much interaction there is! After reading articles, users can play games which demonstrate their understanding of what they have learned.

Educational Application: Teens are absorbing information about sex almost on a daily basis. It’s on almost all the magazine covers at the checkout lines of stores, the radio, in music, on TV, and in movies. So how do they know what is a trustworthy source of information? Many teens are afraid of approaching their parents about sex and even “the talk” at school can be a bit unsettling. Teachers and parents can rest assured that the information provided on the Sex, Etc. website is accurate and up-to-date. Although the website is touted as “Sex education by teens, for teens” there is quite a bit of professional moderation to ensure that teens are not given the wrong information.  This is an excellent site for health classes to visit because of the fun, educational games that accompany the articles. The design is engaging without being childish and easy to navigate. The parents and educators link provides training and resources which can accompany the Sex, Etc. site and help parents and educators navigate teens through the topic of sexual health.

Similar/Related Sites of Interest: The design of this site is not as cool or teen friendly as Sex, Etc. but it has really great resources and actually links to Sex, Etc!

1 Comment »


Name: WatchKnow


Description: Launched by Larry Sanger, the cofounder of Wikipedia, and promoted as “YouTube for kids” WatchKnow is a safe and educational wiki hosting more than a thousand educational videos and other media for kids. The majority of the video clips are reposted from kid-friendly sites such as National Geographic and TeacherTube. The site is geared towards kids ages 3-18 so parents do not need to worry about inappropriate content or ads.

Review: This site is supposed to contain videos for ages 3-18 years old, yet I found many of the videos to be geared towards little kids. Explain to me, how can one video be for ages 3-18? The page itself is very basic but also extremely easy to navigate. I found videos the fasted by simply typing in the subject/topic I was looking for in the search box. The videos I did find were of great quality and easy to load on the computer. Although it is geared for kids, I don’t think teens would come to this site on their own.

Educational Application: This site is free and has thousands of videos on a variety of subjects/topics which makes it a beneficial resource to any teacher. The categories and subcategories are easy to navigate, yet the quickest method of searching is by using the search engine. Registered users can edit video descriptions and ratings which would help improve the site.

Similar/Related Sites of Interest: A site of educational links provides users with information covering almost every topic that comes to mind.

Leave a comment »