Tween Picks July 2016
Best Books for Tweens July 2016 Picks


As discussed in this month’s post for fourth to sixth graders, July’s been kind of a light month for children’s book releases.  Still, a handful of great new tween books were released this month, plus this list includes several great tween nonfiction books published earlier this year.  There are three historical biographies about amazing women who made a big impact in their day.  There is an outstanding book about bees and a book about a samurai, which received amazing critical reviews and that readers are beginning to discover.

Sticks & Stones is about 12-year-old Elyse who suffers from a condition that causes the words spoken about her to appear on her skin.  The kind things that people say feel pleasant; the mean things itch like crazy.  Elyse has always been sheltered from mean comments by her good friends, but now that she’s started middle school, those friends are starting to drift away.  Elyse must navigate the world of cliques and crushes, all while a new and disturbing symptom of her condition has emerged – now her own thoughts about herself are showing up as rashes on her skin.  Elyse’s journey to find friendship and self-acceptance is not an easy one, but through humor, a bit of mystery, and a fun writing style, real-life issues are highlighted in this lighthearted story.  Sticks & Stones was released just a week ago, and is already receiving high praise from readers.

The Voyage to the Magical North is another book that sounds excellent – magic, monsters, and adventure on the high seas is a perfect blend for a fun summer read.  The book’s about Brine, who was found in a rowboat as a child, clutching a piece of a rare seashell typically used for spells, though she can’t remember her past.  Now at age 12, she’s landed herself in trouble with the cranky magician she’s been working for.  She and the magician’s annoying apprentice, Peter, flee, and are soon on their way to the Magical North, a place of myth and mystery, but also rumored to be full of riches.  Their journey, however, will be complicated by the pirates they’ve taken up with, deceptively cute piranha-like penguins, and possibly sea monsters. 

I also cannot wait to read The Gallery.  Full of mystery and suspense, it sounds totally engrossing.  It’s set in the roaring 1920’s and is about Martha, a girl who is forced to take a position as a maid in a wealthy New York household.  The Sewell family maintains an image of success, but mystery surrounds Mrs. Sewell, who is confined to her bedroom and is apparently infirm.  Also locked away in the bedroom is Mrs. Sewell’s collection of fine art, though she selects a few paintings to be sent downstairs to the gallery.  Young maid Martha begins to suspect that all is not as it appears and that the lady of the house is trying to communicate some secret message through the gallery paintings.  As Martha sets out to investigate, she discovers that the household is hiding more secrets than she imagined. 

Samurai Rising is a book that I held off on sharing because the initial reader reviews were mixed.  There are times when professional book reviewers go nuts about a book and with readers, it just falls flat.  It seems, though, that readers are starting to pick up on this book.  Please be aware that the book contains violence and many libraries are placing Samurai Rising in their teen area.  Most professional reviewers suggest that the book is suitable for 5th to 8th grade, which is why the book appears in this tween list.  You know your tween best, so you’ll be in the best position to decide the appropriate age for introducing the book. 

Samurai Rising is a work of narrative nonfiction about the Japanese warrior Minamoto Yoshitsune.  After his samurai father made a play for power and was killed, a young Yoshitsune was sent to be raised at a monastery.  He escaped as a teen and sought out a life as a samurai.  Over the years his skill in battle and his fame grew, so that he is remembered as the greatest samurai in Japanese history.  The book has been praised by critics for being exciting and action-packed in addition to be meticulously researched.  I’ve run across several librarian and educator discussions suggesting that Samurai Rising could be a contender for the 2017 Newbery Medal.

 Seeing stars?  Professional book reviewers only award a star to exceptional books.  More than one star means experts from multiple organizations felt the book was outstanding. 

Sticks & Stones Book Cover
Sticks & Stones
by Abby Cooper
published July 12, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Kirkus Reviews  

Ever since she was a baby, the words people use to describe Elyse have instantly appeared on her arms and legs. At first it was just "cute" and "adorable," but as she's gotten older and kids have gotten meaner, words like "loser" and "pathetic" appear, and those words bubble up...READ MORE

The Voyage to Magical North Book Cover
The Voyage to Magical North
by Claire Fayers
published July 5, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Kirkus Reviews  

Twelve-year-old Brine Seaborne is a girl with a past--if only she could remember what it is. Found alone in a rowboat as a child, clutching a shard of the rare starshell needed for spell-casting, she's spent the past years keeping house for an irritable magician and his obnoxious apprentice, Peter.

The Crimson Skew Book Cover
The Crimson Skew (The Mapmakers Trilogy Book 3)
by S. E. Grove
published July 12, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star ImageThe Bulletin for the Center of Children's Books  

The stunning conclusion to S. E. Grove's New York Times–bestselling Mapmakers trilogy—a historical, fantastical adventure perfect for fans of Philip Pullman!

It is late August 1892, and Sophia Tims is coming home from a foreign Age, having risked her life in search of her missing parents. Now she is aboard...READ MORE

The Gallery Book Cover
The Gallery
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
published June 14, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Booklist

A riveting historical art mystery for fans of Chasing Vermeer and The Westing Game, set in the Roaring Twenties!

It's 1929, and twelve-year-old Martha has no choice but to work as a maid in the New York City mansion of the wealthy Sewell family. But, despite the Gatsby-like parties and trimmings of...READ MORE

The Girl in the Well is Me
The Girl in the Well Is Me
by Karen Rivers
published March 15, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Kirkus Reviews

Longing to be one of the popular girls in her new town, Kammie Summers has fallen into a well during a (fake) initiation into their club. Now Kammie’s trapped in the dark, counting the hours, waiting to be rescued. (The Girls have gone for help, haven’t they?)

As hours...READ MORE

Samurai Rising Book Cover
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
by Pamela S. Turner
published February 2, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Booklist Star Image Kirkus Reviews Star Image Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

Minamoto Yoshitsune should not have been a samurai. But his story is legend in this real-life saga. 

This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history. 

When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to...READ MORE

The Bee Book Cover
The Bee Book
by DK
published March 1, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal  

The Bee Book shows you step-by-step how to create a bee-friendly garden, get started in beekeeping, and harness the power of honey for well-being.

Fully illustrated with full-color photographs throughout, this beautiful guide covers everything you need to know to start your own backyard hive, from setup to harvest. Practical beekeeping...READ MORE

The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier Book Cover
The Extraordinary Suzy Wright: A Colonial Woman on the Frontier
by Teri Kanefield
published March 15, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal Star Image Kirkus Reviews


Children are taught much about the men who shaped early America, but history-shaping colonial women remain largely unknown and undiscussed. The Extraordinary Suzy Wright sets about to change that, telling the little-known story of Quaker Susanna (Suzy) Wright (1697–1784), a renowned poet and political activist. Suzy helped settle the Pennsylvania frontier,...READ MORE

Ten Days a Madwoman Book Cover
Ten Days a Madwoman: The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original "Girl" Reporter, Nellie Bly
by Deborah Noyes
published February 23, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image School Library Journal

Work for a New York newspaper
Fall in love
Marry a millionaire
Change the world
Young Nellie Bly had ambitious goals, especially for a woman at the end of the nineteenth century, when the few female journalists were relegated to writing columns about cleaning or fashion. But fresh off...READ MORE

A Girl Called Vincent Book Cover
A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay
by Krystyna Poray Goddu
published April 1, 2016
Starred Reviews:
Star Image Booklist

There was never anything calm about Vincent. Her sisters used to say that she had a bee chasing her. Edna St. Vincent Millay (1892–1950), known as Vincent, was an acclaimed American poet who came to embody the modern, liberated woman of the Jazz Age. From the fiery energy of her...READ MORE

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Hello there!

Hi!  I'm Sarah.  I'm a former librarian and mother of two -- a teen daughter and a preschooler son.  We love to play outdoors... and read.  :)

This site is all about discovering great books to share with kids and teens. ...Read more

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