Library staff have been reading some of this year’s Young Hoosier Books. Young Hoosier books are selected each school year by a committee of Indiana School Librarian Educators. There are approximately 20 books chosen for each of three age ranges. All three lists are available on the Indiana Library Federation web page. Our local elementary schools and middle school participate in this program by making the books available and letting students vote for their favorite. The Aurora Public Library District has most of these titles in at least one of our branches. Reviews for the books our staff members read are shown below.
Thanks to Amy for reviewing Dog Vs. Cat by Chris Gall. “I had the pleasure of reading Dog Vs. Cat. It’s a wonderful children’s book. It has all the learning elements, like not getting along with your siblings. Typically you fight and don’t get along until one day you realize how much you really have in common. At the end of the book, the Dog and Cat have to join forces to build the ultimate fort against the new baby, whom they both hate. Then Dog and Cat drink a class of lemonade together for all their hard work.”
The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig was reviewed by Mary Margaret. “This story shows how to be invisible without playing the game of Hide and Seek. Brian is invisible to the rest of his classmates just by being himself. When his classmates choose members for kickball teams, Brian is never noticed or chosen. Brian is never invited to other classmates’ parties or included at their lunch table. One day a new student named Justin joins Brian’s class. He is different because he likes to eat Korean food. He uses chopsticks instead of silverware. Brian was eating lunch by himself at a separate table when he noticed the other students laughing and making fun of Justin and his food. Brian wondered which was worse, having the class laugh at you or feeling like you were invisible. He understood how Justin felt. What happens that makes Brian no longer invisible? What makes the other classmates stop laughing at Justin and making fun of his food? You will have to read the story to find the answer.”
Another book from the Picture Book category was read and reviewed by Rose. “The book I choose was A Perfectly Messed-Up Story written and illustrated by Patrick McDonnell. Mr. McDonnell’s realistic illustrations keep young readers turning the pages to see what Louie will find wrong on the pages of his book. A humorous book to keep any young child entertained. I thoroughly enjoyed it and would love to see the look on a child’s face when they think that peanut butter or jelly has been spilled on the pages.”
The next set of books are for either chapter books or non-fiction readers and would be good choices for kids in elementary school.
I chose to read Stella by Starlight by Sharon Draper, a renowned writer and educator who lives in Cincinnati. On her web page, Ms. Draper states, “I learned to dream through reading, learned to create dreams through writing, and learned to develop dreamers through teaching.” Here’s my review for Stella by Starlight. “Stella is a character all kids can relate to. She has trouble in school, she dislikes doing chores, and she is trying to find her identity. She also witnessed activities by the KKK while out walking at night. Stella’s family and the other African-American families in town are alarmed that the Klan is resuming activities and struggle to keep their children safe. While not as gut-wrenching as Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor, this book also illuminates many of the problems of the Jim Crow South. What stands out is the humanity of the characters as Draper avoids easy stereotypes. Stories as a cultural touchstone is a primary theme and adds both humor and emotional depth. In particular, the teacher’s retelling of a “Flying African” folktale is exquisitely touching. The power of words is also shown as Stella struggles to put her thoughts on paper with a typewriter given to her by a neighbor. This needs to be shared with families and classrooms and provides many jumping off points for discussions on racism, voting rights, and community values. It might be interesting to pair the “Flying African” passage with the picture book Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold.
Patty thought that The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale was a fantastic read. “A young boy named Marlin who stutters and his older brother Tim live with their father who owns an exotic zoo at the edge of the world in Guiana. Wealthy people from all over the world come to visit the zoo. Marlin’s brother is a bully and is always tantalizing him and trying to outdo him. Marlin helps to tend the animals and when he gets a flesh wound, a black jaguar heals the wound and also gives Marlin the power to talk to and understand animals. When Marlin is talking to the animals, he does not stutter and this makes him feel better about himself, although he doesn’t understand how or why. The zoo is going through difficult financial situations and the father is forcing the animals to perform dangerous acts. Marlin takes it upon himself to protect the animals. This book has plenty of suspense and shows sensitive relationships between the animals and the humans.”
Kim chose to read The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier, because she is a big fan of horror books by Stephen King and John Saul. Kim found this title to have a very good story-line with lessons in courage and the ability to see yourself through an other’s eyes. However, she cautions that the plot is a bit grim at times. Her opinion matches perfectly with the Young Hoosier Committee who placed this book on the list for Middle Grades, making it most suitable for students in grades 6 and up.
The review of Greenglass House comes from Bobbie. Greenglass House is a smuggler’s inn where Milo is expecting to spend his holiday relaxing. Unexpected and odd guests keep showing up and then things start to go missing. With the help of Meddy, Milo finds the courage to go snooping around where he’s not supposed to, looking for the missing items. Well thought out characters in an exciting mystery with a few unexpected twists and turns. This book is great fun!
Jessica also selected The Selection, another book from the MiddleGrade Young Hoosier list. “The first book in Cass’s five-part series is set in a dystopian United States now titled Illéa. Illéa is ruled by a monarchy with its subjects being divided into castes. Right from page one, we are endeared by the main character’s honesty and teenage defiance. America, named after the former USA, enjoys her life as a Five, which means that her and her family make their money by being artisans or entertainers. America plays music or sings with her mother to entertain at parties for Threes and Fours, but every day she cannot wait for nightfall and her secret and illegal rendezvous with Aspen, a neighbor boy and a Six. For two years, the couple have kept their relationship hidden from their families because it is unseemly for a woman to marry down in caste. The certainty of their future is a question left unanswered, and when the royal family requests an entry into The Selection from all of the eligible maidens of Illéa, the young couple’s consistent relationship is disturbed. The Selection is a “Bachelor” style competition of 35 girls vying for the heart of Prince Maxon, the crown, and status as a One for the winner and her family. Kiera Cass creates a dynamic world of rules and betrayal, love and hatred, honor, and disgrace. America’s authentic voice and surprisingly sophisticated balance of altruism and selfishness keep the reader entrenched in the surreal reality of the fantastical Illéa. America’s narrative and the unpredictability of the tale make The Selection impossible to put down, and the anticipation for what unfolds in the following four books is palpable.”
We hope you will join the Library Staff in choosing a book from this year’s Young Hoosier list!