Books Inc. Kids Blog

PEANUT by Ayun Halliday and Paul Hoppe

If you have readers who are looking for more graphic novels like Raina Telgemeier's SMILE and DRAMA, then PEANUT is a perfect choice. Set in high school, but can be read by 12-13 year-olds as well- just be advised there are a few sexual conversations that take place. This realistic graphic novel focuses on Sadie and her doomed quest to become popular by faking a peanut allergy. Everyone can relate to the feeling of starting in a new place and hoping to become a new person too, cooler and smarter and without any former hang-ups. Sadie is no different. But she actually tries to make it work, by faking an extreme peanut allergy. She even orders a special ID bracelet and makes a point of telling everyone at her new school. It works, at first, and she even meets a super cute guy who has his own way of standing out-he doesn't have a cell phone! Sadie starts to settle into her new world, but her lies get harder to keep up with, and when she causes a major event at school because everyone thinks she ate a peanut, everything finally comes spilling out and Sadie has to start all over, but this time she can't hide her past from anyone. Sweet and relatable, Ayun Halliday's text is authentic and engaging. Ultimately, like many graphic novels, this one feels rather slight, but girls will still gobble up this story of a girl just like them. Paul Hoppe's spot-on illustrations are rendered in grey-blue with pops of hot pink on Sadie's outfit. With dynamic panels and tons of teenage expressiveness, each character comes to life as a unique and memorable friend. Here's hoping we'll be seeing more strong graphic novels like this for middle grade readers!

--Reviewed by Julie of Books Inc. Laurel Village

Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Ah, traveling. You are always absolutely at the right age for it. But let's face it -- sometimes, you go traveling and you're not entirely sure if you're "good" at it. Enter sheltered Jewish-American, introverted good girl Allyson, traveling Europe with a group of other high school seniors. It should be an excellent time for an 18-year-old girl about to embark upon her college years when she gets back home. But Allyson isn't actually having fun. She's doing her best to make everything "worth it", but it's difficult when it feels like she's on this trip to keep her parents happy.

Everything changes when she goes to an underground performance of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in London, where she meets the handsome Willem, and sparks fly. Taking a huge leap of faith, Allyson becomes "Lulu" and does things she'd never do as Allyson -- including going off to Paris with Willem for one day. In what becomes the most perfect day of her life, everything works out for best...except for the part where she wakes up the next morning and Willem is gone, leaving her alone in Paris. She spends the next year feeling listless, and her once-excellent grades take the hit. Eventually, she finds that to mend the hole in her heart, she must return to Paris to break free of the shackles of her scripted life. She goes back looking for Willem, but in the end, as cheesy as it is, she finds herself. A surprisingly excellent bildungsroman showing a different type of growth that many of the quiet young adults could be afraid of, this is something I'd recommend to those traveling or studying abroad and are unsure if they're doing the right thing. (John Green himself recommended this, so if you don't believe me, believe him!)
 
To be followed by Just One Year, detailing Willem's events after he and Allyson are separated. And I am so excited that I want to cry.

--Reviewed by Robbin of Compass Books in SFO Terminal 2.

Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgewick-

A stranger comes to a remote island to try and discover the truth about a mysterious flower that may be keeping the world's rich young. Instead, he finds himself regressing through the history of the island; stories and people somehow cropping up time and time again. With shades of Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner, to Oscar Wilde's more melancholy fairy stories, to Nordic sagas, this book is beautifully sparce. A great quick read! Ages 14+
--reviewed by Steven of Books Inc. Palo Alto

The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash

Talking birds with hats! Air pirates! Sword fights!

This very handsome hardcover edition with engaging ink and watercolor illustrations by the author will make a fine gift for a backyard naturalist who loves stories of swashbuckling derring-do. Comparable to Brian Jaques' Redwall series with language accessible for a 9 year old, or strong 8. The coming-of-age/ bird-out-of-the-nest aspects of the story will appeal to older kids and the whole family will enjoy the high adventure. There is a clever balance between imaginative, unique world-building and accurate ornithological details. As an lifelong scholar of fantasy literature and an avid birdwatcher, this book seemed especially written for me, but I hope other readers will share my appreciation of this cunning blend of Roger Tory Petersen and Robert Louis Stevenson.

--Reviewed by Chris of Compass Books in SFO

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