Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Middle grade entrepreneurial books kids will want to read: From an Idea to…

I had a bit of business book success a few years ago when I put Notch’s – the creator of Minecraft – bio on the shelves at my first library, but books about successful businesses aren’t always easy to come by for a middle grade audience. This new series from Case Marketing founder Lowey Bundy Sichol tries to fill some of that gap, taking brands that are uber-popular with tweens and breaking down the companies’ histories, successes, and setbacks.

From an Idea to Disney: How Imagination Built a World of Magic, by Lowey Bundy Sichol/Illustrated by C.S. Jennings, (Feb. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-328-45361-7

Ages 10-12

From an Idea to Disney is part bio on Walt Disney, part bio on his empire, from Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie to Disneyland, Disney World, and all of Disney’s acquisitions. The chapters are quick, explain business practices in plain language and include callout boxes with definitions for specific business terms. Disney’s story focuses on the development of the family-friendly, inclusive brand, Walt Disney’s desire to create full experiences for families at his parks, and how the Disney family pushed back at what they perceived an over-merchandising of the brand in the 1990s, bringing about a management change that brought Disney back to Walt’s original vision.

Inspirational quotes from Walt himself run throughout the book, and black and white line drawings add visual interest. A Walt Disney Company timeline, bibliography, and source notes round out the volume.


From an Idea to NIKE: How Marketing Made Nike a Global Success, by Lowey Bundy Sichol/Illustrated by C.S. Jennings, (Feb. 2019, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $15.99, ISBN: 978-1-328-53062-2

Ages 10-12

Global athletic shoe giant NIKE began as high school athelete Phil Knight’s grad school project for an entrepreneurship class. Despite pushback from his critical father, he made a go of it, bringing his high school track coach, Bill Bowerman, into the fold. Bowerman would go on to create the “waffle iron soled” sneaker that would grip surfaces better – and ruined his wife’s waffle iron in the process. From an Idea to NIKE concentrates on the value of marketing in NIKE’s success, from athletic endorsements, to the Just Do It campaign, to running different sales channels, including NIKETown stores and the ability to order customized shoes online. The book mentions NIKE’s struggle to survive shortly after going public, when Reebok rose to popularity in the early ’80s; their quest to gain footing in Europe and the soccer market, and dealing with endorsed athlete scandal.

As with From an Idea to Disney, From an Idea to NIKE is loaded with fun facts, business term callouts, quotes from Phil Knight, and black and white line drawings. There’s a NIKE timeline, a list of the brand’s top endorsement deals, a bibliography, and source notes.

If you have nonfiction readers that have an interest in how business or brands work, stick a toe into the water and put a few of these into your collection. They’re quick reads and offer a beginning look into the business world. Focusing on entrepreneurs can be inspirational for readers – consider a book club or program where kids can come up with their own entrepreneurial idea? Have books like Jessie Janowitz’s The Doughnut Fix and Jacqueline Davies’s The Lemonade War handy. Other titles in the series include From an Idea to Lego and From an Idea to Google.



Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Goodbye Brings Hello gets kids ready for life’s big moments!

Goodbye Brings Hello, by Dianne White/Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman, (June 2018, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544798755

Recommended for readers 3-5

Goodbye Brings Hello is all about those little goodbyes we experience as kids: the favorite shirt that fit just fine over the summer is just a little snug in the winter; moving from crayons to pencils; going from Velcro to shoelaces; and the big one: going from a small pre-k to elementary school. The book comforts to kids who may be a little nervous, or stressed, about these new milestones by illustrating a valuable point: for every goodbye, there’s a new hello. For every snug shirt, there’s a new jacket waiting to grow into. Leaving crayons to the realm of coloring books means that you’re learning to write with a pencil. Those Velcro-covered toes are now rocking in a new pair of cool sneakers! And as you move from preschool or kindergarten to elementary school, you’re getting ready to meet new friends, have new experiences, and share many, many hellos.

Simple, colorful art shows children going through their “goodbyes” and “hellos”, with rhyming text leading the reader through each scenario. There are diverse faces, smiling faces, and pensive expressions, all mirroring kids’ emotions at growing up and out of the familiar. The text is encouraging and upbeat, and the digital artwork is joyful, light, almost childlike in its presentation, opening the door to invite kids to draw their own hello/goodbye. This is a great end-of-year read for graduating pre-k and kinders, and a wonderful way to welcome new students in September: a nice, new Hello.

I’m adding this to my school year collection, and will make sure to booktalk this one to the teachers when they look for books to read to their new classes in September. This would be cute, paired with Adam Rex and and Christian Robinson’s School’s First Day of School.


When she was five, Dianne White said goodbye to her house and her teacher, Mrs. Dunlap, and hello to a new school, and her newest favorite teacher, Mr. Loop. She has an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is the award-winning author of Blue on Blue. She lives in Arizona, where she writes full-time. For more information, and to download a free activity kit, visit
Twitter @diannewrites


Daniel Wiseman remembers saying goodbye to the training wheels on his bike, and saying a great big hello to skinned knees and elbows. But the freedom of rolling on two wheels was well worth the bumps and bruises. He still rides his (slightly larger) bike almost every day. Daniel loves to draw, and has illustrated several books for children. He lives in St. Louis, Missouri. Visit him at
Instagram @d_wiseman
Want a chance to win your own copy of Goodbye Brings Hello? Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway! U.S. addresses only, please.
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Last Minute Shopping? No worries, find a bookstore!

I saw a piece on the news today that said today – December 23rd – is the second biggest holiday shopping day of the year.


If you still have kids and teens on your shopping list, I humbly offer a few more suggestions to make the season bright.

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me, by Carrie Ann DiRisio and Broody McHottiepants/Illustrated by Linnea Gear,
(Oct. 2017, Sky Pony Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781510726666

Recommended for readers 13-17

You know him. You may have loved him. He’s the EveryBroody – that dark, brooding bad boy main character that shows up in darned near every YA novel. He’s got a deep, dark history; he has trust issues; he may be an intergalactic prince, a scoundrel smuggler, or… dare I say? a sparkly vampire. Here, we get the scoop – straight from the Broody’s mouth – on what it’s like to be a Brooding YA Hero. It’s a writing guide with a wink and a nudge to YA tropes, with some straight talk – in the form of nemesis Mean Girl Blondi DeMeani – about smashing the patriarchy and recognizing the value of diverse characters. Give this to your fanfic writer, your feminists, and anyone who loved Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie. And if you’re not already following the @broodingYAhero account on Twitter, you are doing yourself a disservice.


Hey, Baby! A Collection of Pictures, Poems, and Stories from Nature’s Nursery, by Stephanie Drimmer,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329319

Recommended for ages 4-12 and beyond

It’s an entire book of baby animal pictures. The cutest, funniest, littlest baby animals. This is a win-win for everyone! Added to the pictures are the sweetest companion folktales, stories, and poems, to make this a great gift for new moms and moms-to-be, kids who love their baby animals, and middle-aged librarians who follow accounts like @emergencykittens and @fluffsociety on Twitter. Add a copy of NatGeo’s Animal Ark, for more beautiful photos and poetry by Newbery award winner Kwame Alexander.


A World of Cookies for Santa, by M.E. Furman/Illustrated by Susan Gal,
(Oct. 2017, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt),$16.99, ISBN: 9780544226203

Recommended for readers 7-10

Take a tasty sleigh ride around the world and find out how children across the globe celebrate Christmas, from the different names Santa goes by (Papai Noel, Father Christmas, Christmas Baba, to name a few) to the tasty treats left out for Santa and his reindeer to enjoy on their journey. Try your hand at a multicultural Christmas with nine recipes for holiday cookies, included at the end! Pair with a copy of Clement Moore’s classic The Night Before Christmas and add a few cookies.


Top Elf, by Caleb Zane Huett, (Sept. 2017, Scholastic Press),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-05212-1

Recommended for readers 9-12

Santa’s ready to pass on the Big Red Suit. The call to competition goes out across the North Pole, and Ollie the Elf decides to go for it. Thing is, he’s up against Santa’s kids, a bullying elf named Buzz, Ramp, who swears he’s a kid, but looks and smells suspiciously grown-up, and even his best friend, Celia. How’s Ollie going to prove he’s the Top Elf for the job? This middle grade story is pure Christmas fun and adventure with a touch of Christmas magic. Stick this in a stocking for readers who love a good giggle, and add a couple of candy canes and some hot cocoa mix – maybe with a Minecraft or Lego mug. 


Ultimate Dinopedia, Second Edition, by “Dino” Don Lessem/Illustrated by Franco Tempesta,
(Oct. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1426329050

Recommended for readers 8-13

It’s the ULTIMATE dinosaur encyclopedia! This updated edition is one of the most comprehensive dinosaur references going, with profiles on favorite dinos like the T-Rex and Velociratpr, to new finds like the Anzu, Kosmoceratops, and Yi. There are maps, comparison renderings to show kids how they stack up against different dinos, and descriptions of dino diets, geographic areas, and eras. There are over 600 dinosaurs in this volume, with profiles for 10 newly discovered dinos, and a comprehensive dino dictionary. Full-color illustrations from dinosaur artist Franco Tempesta come right off the page – look at that T-Rex on the cover! – and “Dino” Don Lessem – a world-renowned dinosaur presenter who also happened to be the dinosaur adviser for the first Jurassic Park movie – writes in a language that respects, but never speaks down, to readers. Kids love dinos. They’ll love this book. Tuck a tube of dino toys in the stocking and call it a holiday.


The Witch Boy, by Molly Ostertag, (Oct. 2017, Scholastic Graphix),
$12.99, ISBN: 978-1-338-08951-6

Recommended for readers 8-13

Aster is a 13-year-old, raised in a society of of supernatural beings. The girls are raised to be witches, the boys, to be shapeshifters. That’s the way it is, and anyone who falls outside those lines faces exile. Aster waits for his ability to shift to kick in, but is fascinated by magic, despite the disciplinary action and ridicule he faces. Aster befriends a non-magic neighbor named Charlotte, who goes by Charlie, who has her own frustrations with gender lines at her school; neither can figure out what the big deal is, saying, “You should just be allowed to do it!” Charlie discovers Aster’s magic abilities, and tries encouraging him to continue practicing magic; Aster will need that support when a mysterious force threatens his community; he may be the only one able to save them. A brilliant story about smashing gender expectations, The Witch Boy is a brilliant, compelling story about finding one’s place and speaks volumes to every kid out there who feels, at some point, like she or he doesn’t fit in. Molly Ostertag is the writer/artist on Shattered Warrior and the webcomic Strong Female Protagonist. The Witch Boy has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal, and Fox Animation has feature film rights. Bundle this one up with Victoria Jamieson’s All’s Faire in Middle School.


Bet You Didn’t Know!, by National Geographic Kids, (Aug. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$19.99, ISBN: 978-1426328374

Recommended for readers 8-13

Kids love fact books; when they’re accompanied by amazing photos and include facts like, “A storm on Neptune was a wide as THE ENTIRE EARTH”, “Chewing gum can make your heart beat faster”, or “The Bahamas once had an undersea post office”, this becomes GOLD. Pair this one with NatGeo’s Weird But True Christmas, and you’re set.


The World of the Bible: Biblical Stories and the Archaeology Behind Them, by Jill Rubalcaba,
(Nov. 2017, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1426328817

Recommended for readers 9-13

More than a book of Bible stories, The World of the Bible is a great reference for budding history buffs and archaeologists, going deeper into the text to study the time periods and geographic locations where these stories took place, to learn more about human history. Stories like Moses and the Ten Commandments and the Garden of Eden get a closer look, accompanied by classic paintings, photos, and illustrations of the lands where the events in the Bible took shape. Give to your budding young Indiana Jones or Lara Croft.


1,000 Facts About the White House, by Sarah Wassner Flynn, (Sept. 2017, National Geographic Kids),
$14.99, ISBN: 978-1-4263-2873-2

Recommended for readers 8-13

Wild and crazy facts about the most famous house in America: The White House. Learn about White House ghosts, events like the Easter Egg Roll, and presidential pets. Check out photos of the interiors and exteriors of the White House and grounds, and view some of the history-making moments that took place there. Learn about the different people who live and work there, those who keep it safe, and those who built it. There are groups of fun lists, like 25 Rooms That Rock, and there are loads of cutouts and info bits throughout. It’s a fun reference on American History for history fans. Pair with a copy of Weird But True! US Presidents and you’re set.

Posted in Horror, Humor, Teen, Tween Reads

Gina Damico’s Wax: You’ll never look at a candle the same way again.

waxWax, by Gina Daminco, (Aug. 2016, HMH Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544633155

Recommended for ages 12+

Welcome to Paraffin, Vermont, home of the Grosholtz Candle Factory. The town stinks. No, really, it does; imagine all those different scents in the air all the time, and what they must smell like when combined? Seventeen year-old Poppy is so tired of Paraffin and their candle tourism, but she and her bestie end up touring the factory one day, for giggles. She ends up discovering some batty old woman talking about living wax, and gives Poppy a candle that will protect her. When gets home, there’s a naked teenage boy in her trunk. A boy who looks suspiciously like a wax figure that she saw in the batty old woman’s workshop. He doesn’t really know much about who or what he is, but he answers to the name, Dud. A fire destroys the workshop, and with it, any chance for Poppy to talk to the woman and discover more, but no worry: she’s going to find out what’s really happening in the town of Paraffin soon enough. People are starting to act a little odd. A little… waxy.

Wax, like Damico’s previous book, Hellhole, combines horror with humor, with laugh-out-loud results. If you’re like me and love horror comedies like Evil Dead: Dead by Dawn and Return of the Living Dead, with a little less gore, you’re going to enjoy Wax. There’s something really horrific going on in the town of Paraffin, but with a sarcastic lead character like Poppy and a sweet, but dense sidekick named Dud, just sit back and enjoy the ride. There’s some true creepiness here; it’s not all snorts and giggles, so horror fans, if you want a break from gore and just want some good storytelling, pick up this book.

I loved Wax because there’s a good story and good characters, and it reminded me a little bit of Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets one of my favorite cult films from the late ’80s. Does anyone remember Waxwork? I have such great memories of being in college, staying up all night, and watching movies like Waxwork and the Puppet Master movies from Full Moon Entertainment. If you haven’t treated yourself to a viewing of Waxwork, I highly encourage it. Here’s the trailer.

But back to the book. Give this to your morbid humor fans who enjoy a little chuckle with their scares. Please booktalk this one with Damico’s Hellhole, because I feel like that book doesn’t get the love it deserves. Quirk Books has a great list of horror comedies that you can display, too, and don’t discount the tried and true work horses, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters. Have teens who love movies? Have a horror fest with the cheesiest of cheese! My teen and I bonded over Evil Dead 2, and my tween understands the power behind the phrase, “Hail to the King, baby”.

Shop Smart, shop S-mart, and consider adding Gina Damico to your horror collection if you’re a fan or have fans in your patronage.


Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

Took – You’ll never look at your dolls the same way again

tookTook, by Mary Downing Hahn (Sept. 2015, Clarion Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9780544551534

Recommended for ages 10-14

Local legend says that Old Auntie takes a new girl every 50 years to slave for the old witch. Once she’s worn out, she lets her go and takes another. And the girl let go never lives for long after.

Daniel and his sister Erica are new to West Virginia when they hear this story. It sounds ridiculous, right? And Daniel has more on his mind than worrying about some crazy old fairy tale. His family has relocated from Connecticut to this ramshackle house with a history in West Virginia after his father’s layoff. The kids at school are awful, and Erica withdraws further into herself and her doll, Little Erica. But when Erica disappears one night, word is that she’s been “took” – especially when a girl who looks like the one who disappeared 50 years before shows up wearing Erica’s clothes. His family is falling apart, and Daniel knows it’s up to him to get his sister back and make things right.

This book wraps itself around you like a fall chill. You can feel it creeping through you, but you can’t quite get it out of your bones until you finish it. Ms. Hahn creates a tale that had me searching the Web to find out if this was an actual local legend, it’s so fleshed out and believable. She gives us solid characters with issues we can certainly understand, possibly even empathize with – unemployment, underemployment, being bullied for being the new kid at school, and watching the cracks in one family threaten to tear it apart. It’s a very human story set within a paranormal thriller, and it’s a great read for kids who have aged out of Goosebumps and are ready for a little something more.

Mary Downing Hahn is an award-winning children’s book author and former children’s librarian (whoo hoo!). You can check out her author page and see a complete list of her books and read an FAQ with Ms. Hahn.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Realistic Fiction

The Carver Chronicles-Don’t Feed the Geckos! examines family frustration

geckosThe Carver Chronicles: Don’t Feed the Geckos!, by Karen English/Illus. by Laura Freeman (Dec. 2015, Clarion Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9780544575295

Recommended for ages 7-11

The latest Carver Chronicle features Carlos, who keeps his grades up so his parents will reward him by letting him keep the coolest pets in his room – he’s got an ant farm, and he’s got geckos. He’s creating the greatest room in the world, a place that’s just his, until his mom announces that his cousin, Bernardo, will be coming to live with them while his mother works out some difficulties. Overnight, Carlos’ family expects Carlos to accommodate Bernardo in every way – Bernardo get Carlos’ top bunk, a spot on the soccer team (where he outshines Carlos in a big way), and dad’s affection and attention. Now, Bernardo wants to take over feeding Carlos’ geckos and his ants! Maybe if he weren’t so rude about everything, Carlos would feel better, but between Bernardo’s attitude and his mother and father making him feel like he has to give up everything in his world to Bernardo, Carlos is miserable.

I loved this book. When I was a kid, my aunt and cousin came to live with us for a few weeks while they were going through a transition. They took over my room. My cousin became the apple of my dad’s eye, and I was expected to jump through metaphorical hoops to make sure they were happy and comfortable.  It’s a hard position for a young kid to be put into, and Karen English captures this perfectly in Don’t Feed the Geckos! I really felt for poor Carlos, and wanted to give his parents a talking-to. She takes the time to create a pretty unflattering portrait of Bernardo, too, and with one page, makes Bernardo a sympathetic figure that moves Carlos – and the reader – to forgive and understand where he’s coming from.

Karen English also writes the hugely popular Nikki and Deja series – and they make a brief appearance in this book! She’s a Coretta Scott King Honor Award-winner whose books give us realistic characters to connect with and stories that everyone can relate to. The Carver Chronicles is a great entry into the #WeNeedDiverseBooks canon. You can check out the first two books, Dog Days and Skateboard Party, while you’re waiting for Don’t Feed the Geckos! to come out in December.


Posted in Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Our Moon gives us a new look at an old friend

our moonOur Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion, by Elaine Scott (Feb. 2016, Clarion Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9780547483948

Recommended for ages 10-13

You may have heard the old myth about the man in the moon, or even that the moon was made of green cheese. Did you hear about a Chinese princess named Chang-o or a rabbit, though? Those ancient Chinese stories are only the beginning of what I learned from Elaine Scott’s Our Moon: New Discoveries About Earth’s Closest Companion.


Our Moon is a great biography about our one and only satellite, Luna. The Moon. We get her all of her numbers: size, speed, temperature; we learn in depth about her phases, and her origin story. Ms. Scott gives us a history of lunar research and exploration, from the Turkish philosopher Anaxagoras’ ideas about moonlight being a reflection of the sun’s light back in the 5th century B.C.E. to the modern lunar landings and space travel. The book is loaded with photographs and quick facts that make for easy reading. A glossary breaks down terms used in the book, and there are resources for further reading, both on- and offline.

This is the book I’d have wanted in my astronomy library when I was a kid. It’s a great library purchase and a great home library purchase. Our Moon will be available in February, 2016, but you can pre-order it from Amazon.

Elaine Scott is an award-winning nonfiction author of children’s books. Her author website includes information about her books, honors, and school visits.

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

What do you NEED and what are you willing to do to have it?

needNeed, by Joelle Charbonneau (Nov. 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544416697

Recommended for ages 13+

A social network promises you whatever you need – but nothing comes for free, and the teens at Wisconsin’s Nottawa High School discover just how far they are willing to go for concert tickets, gym equipment, or just the thrill of a mission. Kaylee Dunham, social outcast at Nottawa, needs a kidney for her sick brother, but she discovers pretty quickly that the site is causing havoc around her. When things turn deadly, Kaylee starts digging to find out who’s behind NEED, but what happens when you’re up against a social network that can send someone to kill you in exchange for someone’s greatest wish?

NEED is a fast-paced thriller that teens – boys and girls – will enjoy. Everyone’s life seems to revolve around a multitude of social networks, so joining one more – that promises to give you free stuff for just one little task – will click. The tasks start off almost innocuously – more like pranks, really – but as the situations escalate and everything starts falling into place, the book becomes tense and unputdownable. The pervasiveness of social media and a seemingly invisible antagonist who can contact you anywhere, anytime – and can assemble your own classmates against you – is truly unsettling.

NEED is a good addition to collections for fans of tech fiction and a good thriller. It also lends itself to a good discussion on wants versus needs.

Joelle Charbonneau is a New York Times bestselling author of the Testing trilogy. Her author website offers links to social media, information about her books and appearances, and a section dedicated to authors united in support of Ferguson, Missouri’s youth by supporting their library, which stayed open and provided a safe space for the community during the riots. NEED will be available in November 2015, but you can pre-order a signed copy from Ms. Charbonneau’s site.

Possible booktalk: Kaylee signs up for NEED because she wants a kidney for her sick brother. Other classmates sign up for NEED because they want material possessions like concert tickets and gym equipment. What is a want versus a need? If someone offered you the chance to have something you really wanted, but you had to complete an anonymous task, would you blindly do it? Would you question it at all? Is there always a price to pay for something that appears to be free?

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Michael Buckley’s Undertow – We are definitely NOT alone.

undertowUndertow, by Michael Buckley (2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Group), $18.99, ISBN: 9780544348257

Recommended for ages 13+

Set in present-day Coney Island, Undertow presents us with a New York under siege. An aquatic warrior race, The Alpha, has arrived on the beach, and despite constant skirmishes with the police, military, and the local populace, they’re camping out on Coney Island beach. A tense agreement has the Alpha’s teenage children attending the local high school, causing riots, protests, and tension. Coney Island is a war zone. In the middle of this is Lyric Walker, a high school student with secrets of her own. When she’s chosen to help the Alpha prince assimilate, she never expects to develop feelings for him – or powder keg this will set off.

The first thing that caught me about Undertow was this amazing cover. Look at this artwork – if you’re a New Yorker, like me, seeing a refugee camp sprout up with a broken down Demo’s Wonder Wheel and a busted Cyclone in the background is already reason enough to pick this book up, but this cover is gorgeous, eerie, and demands your attention.



The plot reads like District 9 meets Escape from New York, with a dash of romance thrown in. I couldn’t put this book down. I like Michael Buckley’s writing to begin with- I enjoyed The Sisters Grimm and the N.E.R.D.S. series, so I was happy to jump into another one of his worlds. I’m so glad I did. Mr. Buckley creates a deep, multilayered narrative with complex characters and motivations. We’ve got a warrior race reduced to living in squalor on the beaches of Coney Island while humans join street gangs to answer the perceived threat in their own vigilante fashion. Why are they here? If they’re a warrior race, where’s the invasion? Are they playing at something? Added subplots include a domestic violence story, a principal with his own agenda, and a governor who’s willing to hand the city over to street justice, to create an intense story that will leave you not-so-patiently waiting for the sequel.

Make this a beach read this summer – but just keep an eye on the water while you read.

Posted in Fiction, Teen

Material Girls: Pop Culture Gone Wild!

material girlsMaterial Girls, by Elaine Dimopoulos (May 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s Group), $17.99, ISBN: 9780544388505

Recommended for ages 12-18

Imagine a world where teenagers’ tastes drive commerce. Fashion trends? Voted on my teen judges. Tween programming and music stars rule the day, setting trends and acting out carefully crafted roles and personas. But guess what? A handful of adults are still running the show, sitting behind the scenes, letting this new version of child labor run society.

Material Girls takes place in a not too-distant future, where popularity drives everything. Young tweens are picked, after crafting online portfolios, to be called to creative careers in fashion or entertainment; “adequates” are left to do the boring stuff that holds society up – doctors, accountants, that sort of thing. Fashion is paramount, and trends are fast, furious, and make tons of money. People have trendcheckers that scan clothing labels and let you know whether or not you’re still on trend; teenage judges decide what clothes get made. There are no more superstar fashion designers; designers and drafters are relegated to the less glamorous, lower levels of the operation. “Stay Young!” has replaced “See ya!” as a well-wish greeting.

Two narratives make up Material Girls. Marla is a teen judge who finds herself demoted to drafter after disagreeing with her fellow judges’ outrageous tastes one too many times. Told in the first person, we see Marla slowly gaining awareness of society around her, and work with her fellow drafters and adequates to bring about change, through revolution, if necessary.

Ivy is a teen queen pop star who begins questioning her place in society and society in general. Through a third person narrative, we see her growing discomfort with people spending money they can’t afford on outrageous and uncomfortable trends that she, and other teen pop stars like her, seemingly dictate. Her brother’s “tapping” – the process by which kids are called to special careers – doesn’t go as well as planned. She’s tired of living a scheduled, scripted life and just wants to be free, but does she have the courage to see it through?

Material Girls is a brilliant indictment of today’s pop-culture and youth-obsessed society. Blending shades of Brave New World with reality television, this is as much a cautionary tale as it is a parody of today’s society. I loved this story; it provides great topics to discuss in a tween or teen book club setting, and can be read as a sociological text to generate discussion on youth culture, pop culture, and how it affects society as a whole.

This is author Elaine Dimopoulos‘ first book. She’ll be having a book release party at Boston Public Library on May 5, which sounds great for anyone in the area. There’s going to be a slide show with fashion trends that influenced the book and eco-chic swag to win. Weigh in if you get to go!

Material Girls Release Party!
Tuesday, May 5, 7 p.m.
Abbey Room, Boston Public Library