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New Moon with Jan Feb 2014 Cover copy

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Our Favorite Reads: Tweens

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate
A review by Terry Numa, Librarian

Fans of animal stories will truly love The One and Only Ivan. And if you are looking for a quick read, with short chapters that pack a punch, then The One and Only Ivan is definitely a perfect choice for your next read.  I will admit this Newbery Award Winner  is a sad story and I used lots of tissues. Yet, the author infused humor and hope through Ivan as the narrator, which was good because I could read to the end without too many tears. Ivan is a silverback gorilla who lives in a cement and glass cage in the Big Top Mall.  Often bored, he watches T.V. and is a great artist.  He occasionally throws, “me balls,” (don’t ask) at visitors. His best friend is an elephant named Stella lives next door, along with other friends, both human and animal. Stella isn’t well cared for and a foot infection is threatening her life. The zookeeper is unsympathetic to Stella’s injury.  Stella however is overjoyed when a new baby elephant arrives and Ivan befriends her as well. Stella is a thinker and Ivan is a doer and together they plan an unexpected way to escape the Big Top Mall. This story is based on the life of a gorilla who now lives at Zoo Atlanta. This heartwarming story is also an ALA Notable Children’s Book.

Read Alike:  A Dog’s Life by Ann M. Martin. Follow the dangerous journey of a stray pup while she tells her life story. Will she survive, freezing temperatures and busy streets?

Three Times Lucky
by Sheila Turnage
A review by Terry Numa, Librarian

An enjoyable read filled with suspense, mystery and adventure. The story takes place in North Carolina and is narrated Mo LeBeau, who is 11 years old. As a baby, she was washed downstream during a flood and picked up by Colonel, a café owner and Miss Lana, the café hostess, two mysterious, zany characters. Mo gets involved in a murder mystery with many twists and turns. There are challenging situations in this story which are kept light by the author’s humor. You will fear for Mo, laugh with Mo and be in awe of her courage and bravado in the face of many scary moments. Many readers are hoping for a sequel.

Read alike:  Savvy by Ingrid Law.

Cuba 15
by Nancy Osa; Delacorte Press, 2003
A review by Terry Numa, Librarian

Charismatic and feisty 15 year old Violet, a Chicago high school student, narrates this story with wit and humor.  Immediately, readers discover Violet is faced with a dilemma, two actually.  Her grandmother has suggested a quinceañera, now that Violet is turning 16.  She feels conflicted and wonders, will it really be worth dressing up in a “pepto bismol” colored dress, parade in front of friends at some party in order to celebrate a heritage, Cuban in her case, that she knows very little about?  In fact, it is her father’s silence about his home country that keeps the mystery alive and sends Violet searching for answers.  She joins a speech team, who performs “the Loco Family”, taking cues from her own.  She also becomes intrigued with Cuban protests much to the chagrin of her father.  Will she appease her grandmother and take part in the quinceañera?  Will her father ever share his Cuban roots with Violet?  Oh, did I mention she loves to act in school plays, has a great best friend and discovers that a boy in the class really likes her, I mean really “likes”, her!  A lighthearted read you won’t want to miss.

Return to Sender
by Julia Alvarez; Knopf, 2009
A review by Terry Numa, Librarian

Tyler feels lost in the shuffle of all things family.  He has just lost his grandfather, whom he was very close to.  His older brother has left for college and his father’s recent injury leaves the fate of their Vermont dairy farm and their livelihood in jeopardy.  Tyler discovers his parents have hired illegal immigrants from Mexico to work the farm, when Mari and her family without a mother move into the trailer on the farm.  For Tyler this is too much to deal with.  Tyler spends time watching the stars with the telescope he received as a present from his grandfather.  He begins to worry that they will be displaced from the farm.  He can relate to his grandmother’s fear that she too will be displaced to an old folks home.   Return to Sender is based on a real life sting by the same name, set up by the government to raid farms and incarcerate illegal immigrants.  This story is filled with suspense, mystery and adventure centered around Tyler’s  coping with all the family changes and Mari’s longing for her mother, who disappeared across the Mexican border and appears to be in the hands of the coyote.  Tyler finds courage in his friendship with Mari, while Mari struggles with longing to be reunited with her mother.   The plot intensifies when a mysterious phone caller repeatedly phones Mari’s home and hangs up.  The fear of deportation also climaxes when the town hall meeting reveals anti-immigrant sentiment.  At the town meeting, Mr. Rosetti lays claim that all illegal Mexican workers in their communities should be deported and those who hire them held to the letter of the law.  Mari and Tyler embark on a dangerous attempt to rescue her mother.  Meanwhile the threat of a farm raid by immigration officials seems evident.  Will Mari’s family be imprisoned?  What will happen to Tyler’s parents, the farm and the Cruz family?  A Pura Belpre 2010 award winner.

Dead End in Norvelt
by Jack Gantos; Farrar Straus Giroux, 2011

A review by Terry Numa, Librarian


Tweens on the younger side will enjoy the gross, zany humor of this book as well as relate to the dysfunction of the narrator Jack’s parents. Mom grounds him unfairly “for life” at the beginning of the summer, assigning him to spend his time with old Mrs. Volker who has Jack typing up obituaries which she dictates. Thirteen year-old Jack keeps busy driving Mrs. Volker around town (every tween’s dream to drive a car before he is old enough to get a license), helping his father build a runway in their back yard and visiting the local funeral parlor more times than he cares to. The 1960’s setting will not deter from the story. Tweens will empathize with Jack as he experiences and obsesses over his nosebleeds, understand the illogic of the adults that Jack deals with, relate to the secret adventures Jack takes without his parents’ knowledge and enjoy the friends who often dare or double-dare him. The quirky characters, the mystery of the old people in town dropping dead within days of one another and the adventure of it all will appeal to both boys and girls. The only downside may be the often long obituaries. There is even a story within the story as Gantos shares Jack’s interest in history.This story is replete with the entire gross hilarity author Jack Gantos is known for and the book is the recipient of the 2011 Newbery Award.To learn more, visit the author’s website

Inside Out & Back Again
by Thanhha Lai; Harper Collins, 2011

A review by Terry Numa, Librarian


The free verse style of the story, Inside Out & Back Again, will attract tweens who enjoy a short read. It is a semi-autobiographical story about Hà, a ten year old girl who flees from communist Saigon with her family. As the narrator, she tells her assimilation story in a few selected punchy, funny and sometimes exasperated words; tween readers will definitely relate to how she feels. There is the appeal of a family trying to assimilate, as every American family has an immigrant story. Readers will relate to the rejection Hà feels in her new hometown, the bully at school and her desire to be understood. Hà’s voice is strong, believable and so real that tweens will find her unforgettable.
A 2012 Newbery Honor Book and National Book Award Winner.

A 2012 Newbery Honor Book and National Book Award Winner.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice
by Philip Hoose; Square Fish, 2010

A review by Terry Numa, Librarian


Before there was Rosa Parks, there was fifteen year-old Claudette Colvin who took a stand and refused to move to the back of the bus. She was arrested long before the Rosa Park boycott, a fact not revealed in many history books. Readers will learn about her role in the Civil Rights movement and her relationship to other prominent civil rights leaders. This book is suitable for older tweens and teens. Teens will relate to Claudette’s courage in standing up for personal rights, the issues of our times and the role they can play in promoting justice today. The primary resources will appeal to teens and the inclusion of first person accounts in newspaper articles and photographs will visually take the reader back to the civil rights movement. Teens will gain insight into some of the consequences of her other choices as a teenager and how they shaped her life. The author conducted numerous interviews with Claudette Colvin. The book is well researched. At this writing, “69-year-old retiree, Colvin lives in the Bronx. She remembers taking the bus home from high school on March 2, 1955, as clear as if it were yesterday.” (NPR news). Click to hear her interview.