Author Archives: Sally Snyder

ALA Announces the 2023 Youth Media Awards!

The Newbery Award winner is Freewater by Amina Luqman-Dawson and three titles were named Newbery Honor Books.  This year Freewater also won the Coretta Scott King Author Book Award. The Coretta Scott King Illustrator Book Award is Standing in the Need of Prayer: A Modern Retelling of the Classic Spiritual illustrated by Frank Morrison and written by Carole Boston Weatherford.

The Caldecott Award winner is Hot Dog, illustrated and written by Doug Salati.  Four titles were named Caldecott Honor Books. I have not seen Hot Dog yet, but one of the Caldecott Honor Books is Knight Owl illustrated and written by Christopher Denise.  This book was the subject of one of my “Friday Reads” posts.  Take a look here if you would like to know more about it.

To learn all the titles that were recognized on January 30th during the ALA Youth Media Awards webcast, just visit this news release.

I hope you find a title on this awards list that you just have to read!

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What’s Sally Reading?

Meg Medina has been named the 2023-2024 National Ambassador For Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.   As it says on the website, “The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”

She is the eighth individual to hold this position.  Former Ambassadors are:

Jason Reynolds, 2020-2022
Jacqueline Woodson, 2018-2019
Gene Luen Yang, 2016-2017
Kate DiCamillo, 2014-2015
Walter Dean Myers, 2012-2013
Katherine Paterson, 2010-2011
Jon Scieszka, 2008-2009

I have read several of Medina’s books, including Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away.  In this picture book, on the morning of the move, Daniela and Evelyn play among the moving boxes until they must say goodbye. They are número uno to each other and their friendship will never be forgotten.

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Friday Reads: Four for the Road by K. J. Reilly

Asher (17) lost his mother a year ago in a car accident.  The semi driver was drunk and ran her off the road.  He did not receive the punishment Asher thinks he deserved, due to a technicality. 

Over the course of the book certain facts and Asher’s plans are revealed to the reader. Asher has started group therapy, in 2 different groups, since he has made no progress in accepting his loss.  He befriends an older gentleman, Henry, from his first group, and then he befriends Sloane and Will, close to his own age, from the second.

All three agree to travel with him from New Jersey to Memphis, so he can take his long-distance girlfriend to the prom.  That’s what he tells them but he really is planning to kill the man who killed his mother.

Believe it or not, this is an upbeat book, with the final plan lurking in the distance.  They accept and bond with each other as they travel.  There are jokes, laughing, supporting each other when needed.

They have fun.  Ultimately, what will Asher do?

This book was on my mind for several days after I finished reading it.  Something about how the characters interact and how they express themselves made it hard to forget.

Reilly, K. J. Four for the Road. Atheneum, 2022.

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Friday Reads: The Well by Jake Wyatt

What would you wish for? 

The Well is a full color graphic novel published for high school readers.  Li-Zhen, called Lizzy, lives with her grandfather and for the first time she will travel to town by herself with some goats to sell, riding in a sailboat in which her friend Eli now rows.  While in town, she snitches some coins from a sacred fountain to pay for her return trip. After returning home she is visited that night in her sleep.  The well demands repayment, not in coins but in wishes.  Lizzy must find a way to provide what has been wished for, or she will be drowned.  The well’s servant says it is the wishes connected to each of the three coins that are valuable, not the coins.  She has to talk friends and strangers into helping her and she only has a day to accomplish each task.  Each task is different, and the last task may kill her.   

One of the things that appealed to me about this book is the care put into wishing.  Little children wish for candy or toys, they said, but wishing should be more thoughtful.  Eli tells Lizzy that her mother explained it this way: “…first you’re supposed to think about what you have, what you are grateful for.  Then think about what you want out of life.”

For the first task she asks for help from Eli, and they end up kidnapping a woman who has wished to return to her island, but now no longer wants to go there.  The island was destroyed by the leviathan.  The well doesn’t care about current wants or changes in wishes.  It wants her to give what was wished for on the stolen coin, however long ago the wish was made.

This past summer I saw the movie “Three Thousand Years of Longing” with Idris Elba playing a genie.  Wishes are a big part of his existence.  That movie and this graphic novel made me think more about wishes.  Fairy tales often have wishes involved, almost always tricking the wisher.  I liked what Eli said in the book about wishing.  It can be done too quickly with little contemplation as to the likely result of the wish.  Maybe wishes should stay in our hearts and not be spoken out loud.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

Wyatt, Jake. The Well. First Second, 2022.

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Friday Reads: Knight Owl by Christopher Denise

Don’t all of us have at least one heartfelt wish? So does a little owl.

Set in medieval times, a young owl’s fondest dream is to become a knight.  To his family’s great surprise, he is accepted to Knight School.  (A number of knights had been disappearing lately.)  

He was smart and dedicated – he just had a little trouble with wielding a sword, or using even the smallest shield available.  He also did have some trouble staying awake during the day

After two weeks, they all graduate with honors. The illustration of his graduating class is hilarious.  Owl only comes up to the knee of the huge knight standing behind him. 

He was assigned the perfect job – Knight Night Watch.  It was not a problem for him to stay awake all night.  All was well until one night when he heard a strange sound.  It turned out to be a dragon who thought the owl looked tasty.  He was scared, but knights are brave and clever.  He was sure he could find a way out of this predicament.

An entertaining look at someone realizing their dream, facing a challenge, and hoping to succeed.  Humorous, with wonderful illustrations, this is a delightful picture book for reading aloud.  

Denise, Christopher. Knight Owl. Christy Ottaviano Books, 2022.  

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Friday Reads, Out of My Heart, by Sharon M. Draper

A year after the events in the March 2010 title, Out of My Mind, we join Melody during summer vacation.  She wants to go to camp and has researched camps that are designed to provide experiences for children with disabilities.  The Green Glades Therapeutic Recreational Camp – here comes Melody!  Her experiences are believable, her apprehension as well as eagerness to go and to participate. The reader learns more about Melody and her feelings, hopes, and readiness for adventure. 

For the first time in her life, Melody has friends, though it takes just a little while for her campmates to gel into true friends.  Her parents, especially her mother, are reassured that each camper will have a camp counselor assigned to them all day (and night) every day.  Melody was thinking she didn’t want to be monitored all the time, like her younger sister, she is 12 after all. 

But then, during the week she is at camp, Melody faces several new situations.  She is scared to get into the pool – what if she sinks? Trinity, her counselor, is there for her.  They go for a ride around the lake on a pontoon boat – what if it takes on water? No problem, Trinity is there.  But horses, they are huge, and how can Melody ride one?  The camp has it all worked out and Trinity rides with her.

Some of the best things about this book are all the wonderful new experiences for Melody, the safety of the camp, and her new friends.  Also, there are no mean girls or bullies.  It may seem like a week of unbelievable opportunities – but there are camps like this around the country.  Readers who wanted to know what happened next for Melody, after the first book, will be surprised and happy for Melody’s first camp experience.


Draper, Sharon M. Out of My Heart. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2021. ISBN 978-1-6659-0216-8.

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ALA Announces the 2022 Youth Media Awards!

The Newbery Award winner is The Last Cuentista by Donna Barba Higuera, (I have put it on hold at the library).  Four titles were named Newbery Honor Books. The Newbery Award is celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year.

The Caldecott Award winner is Watercress, illustrated by Jason Chin and written by Andrea Wang, which also won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in the picture book category, and was named one of the Newbery Honor Books.  I just read it last week!  It was heartfelt with amazing illustrations.  Four titles were named Caldecott Honor Books.

Nikki Grimes was awarded the Coretta Scott King – Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement, and A. S. King was awarded the Margaret A. Edwards Award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

To learn all the titles that were recognized on January 24th during the ALA Youth Media Awards webcast, just visit this news release.

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Friday Reads: Garlic & the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

Since it is nearly Halloween, it seems appropriate to discuss a title that includes a vampire.  This is a full-color graphic novel aimed at the upper elementary school level.  A group of vegetables animated by a witch to help with the gardening and selling of vegetables has reached consciousness – they are aware of what they do and how it helps the townspeople.  The have distinct personalities.

Their peaceful life is completely thrown when Potato notices smoke rising from the formerly abandoned castle across the valley.  Could a vampire have moved in?  All are in a worried state.  At their meeting where they learn it is a vampire, thanks to the magic of the witch, Celery (who is miffed at Garlic) suggests Garlic should deal with him.  It does make sense, vampires are known to be put off by garlic, but this Garlic is a quiet, nonthreatening creature and she trembles at the idea of confronting a vampire.  Still, Garlic puts on a brave face and prepares for the mission.  Readers will delight in the idea that at the last minute the witch assigned Celery to accompany her on the mission.  Celery abandons Garlic at the castle door, immediately heading back home.  Garlic bravely goes in, and finds something quite unexpected.  Staking the vampire will not be necessary. 

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

Paulsen, Bree. Garlic & the Vampire. Quill Tree Books, 2021.

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What’s Sally Reading?

Nominees for YALSA’s 2022 Lists Are Updated Weekly 

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association), a section of the American Library Association (ALA), has a schedule of updates of nominees for several of their lists for 2022.  Check their blog, The Hub, each week or month to learn what titles are being considered for their Best Fiction for Young Adults (Mondays), Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (Tuesdays), Amazing Audiobooks (Wednesday), and Great Graphic Novels (Thursday).  You see a copy of the cover and a review of the book, usually one title with a review and one or more additional titles merely listed per posting. 

At the bottom of each posting there is occasionally a place to click to see all the postings referring to that list.   A quarterly compilation of each list is available, the first ones were posted on The Hub in early April, the second list was posted in early July.

You and your teens are also welcome to submit titles for consideration for any of the lists.  Also at the bottom of each posting is a link to the information and form to suggest a title for that list.

Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney and illustrated by Robyn Smith is a graphic novel included on two nominees’ lists: Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers and Great Graphic Novels. 

Nubia is fast and strong – really strong.  She is black and her two mothers constantly remind her not to use her strength, it will only get her in trouble; they DO want the best for her.  Her two best friends (LaQuisha and Jason) want her to enjoy her summer, but that seems unlikely.   She is in a convenience store for a refill when two robbers enter.  She stays low, as her mothers would want, until a guy she likes is threatened – and she throws the ATM at the robber and then runs.  No surprise to Nubia, a policeman finds her part way home and handcuffs her, until he learns the two robbers were men.  Then he releases her and tells her to stay out of trouble.

Dealing with many things common in high school – liking a guy and being awkward around him – Nubia must also deal with racism; and keep in mind that if people learn of her abilities, they will likely be afraid of her, they will not see her as Wonder Woman.  But when her best friend Quisha, is threatened by her former boyfriend, Nubia finds a way to catch him out without violence.  And… it turns out Nubia is related to Wonder Woman.

As School Library Journal said, “No superhero collection is complete without Nubia.”

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers.  After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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2022 ARPA Youth Grants for Excellence Now Available

The Nebraska Library Commission (NLC) is pleased to announce the availability of Youth Grants for Excellence to legally-established public libraries, tribal libraries, and institutional libraries in Nebraska, through a competitive grant process. The purpose of the Youth Grants for Excellence is to make funding available specifically for innovative projects for children and young adults in Nebraska communities.

This year’s funding is provided from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), as administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). ARPA is the result of the federal stimulus bill passed by Congress. Nebraska has received a one-time award of $2,422,166. A portion of that amount will be available via these competitive grants.

Some of the usual rules and requirements for Youth Grants for Excellence will be suspended for this year only:

  • No local match is required.
  • All legally established public libraries are eligible, both accredited and unaccredited, as well as tribal libraries and State run institutions.
  • Libraries will be able to use the grant funds for improving their collection (buy any books you feel you need), and to purchase AWE workstations or an equivalent item, Playaway Launchpad, computers, and furniture for the children’s or teen areas.

Online applications will be accepted through 11:59 PM (CT) on October 7, 2021 and recipients will be notified of funding by October 29, 2021.

Visit the grant webpage for the full grant details and the online application form.

And to learn more, sign up for the September 1 NCompass Live webinar, NLC Grants for 2022.

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Connected Learning and Teens : What’s it all about? A four-week Canvas workshop

Dates: September 8 – 29

Join Sally Snyder and Laura England-Biggs as we explore content from the T3 grant program sponsored by YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) and COSLA (Chief Officers of State Library Agencies). You’ll learn more about Connected Learning, how to apply it in your library and get a chance to think about next steps. Connected Learning helps us engage our teens with topics that already interest them. That in turn can drive programming numbers, which is what we all want, right?

This free online workshop will last four weeks (September 8 – 29). Zoom Sessions will be held on Wednesdays in Canvas, an online learning platform, starting with the optional introductory session on September 1 at 2 pm Central. This introductory session will explore how Canvas is structured, the content we will cover and answer any logistical questions.

Our first week’s content will kick off Thursday, September 2, and we will meet by Zoom Wednesday September 8 at 2 pm (Central) to check in on everyone’s progress, answer questions, and network. The course cycle repeats through the closing session September 29. Wednesday Zoom Sessions are planned to last from 2 – 3 pm (Central).

This workshop will be limited to 15 participants with another session offered in November 2021. Those who complete the workshop will be eligible to receive 4 hours of CE credit from the Nebraska Library Commission. For more information and registration details, please visit the Nebraska Library Commission’s event calendar.

Another class is scheduled for November, if that month will work better for you, see the calendar. Sign-up will open for it in mid-September.

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Friday Reads: Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood by Gary Paulsen

A memoir in five parts. There is a reason Gary Paulsen is so popular: his writing – both his stories and his words.  The author’s method of storytelling creates a smooth transition that enables the reader to evolve from observer to active participant.

Many librarians have read or heard Paulsen say that the library saved his life.  Here, along with other tales of his childhood and young adulthood, the reader learns much more about the story behind his statement.  Part Four, titled “Thirteen,” contains this story.  It begins,

“Because it was safe there.

In the library. Only three places safe. The library, moving through the alleys at night after hard dark and, best of all, the woods.”

Part One starts the book with his mother putting him (at five years old) on a train, alone, in Chicago, for a total trip of about 800 miles to his relatives’ farm in Minnesota.  We join Paulsen as he encounters security with his aunt and uncle, then the opposite as his life changes on another person’s whim, with no consideration for his preferences or choices.  Throughout his life, he found security, safety, and peace in the woods, on his own. This book is for anyone who has loved any of Gary Paulsen’s books, from middle school age through high school and adulthood.  Readers of his other memoir, Guts, will find different stories of his life here.

Paulsen, Gary. Gone to the Woods: Surviving a Lost Childhood. (New York) Farrar Straus Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, LLC, 2021.

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Friday Reads: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

Nora (17) (not her real name) was rescued from her con-artist mother five years ago by her older half-sister, Lee.  Nora was part of each con her mother planned and carried out. She was Rebecca, Samantha, Haley, Katie, and Ashley.  Being each one taught her things that she will soon need.  Five years of living with her sister, going to therapy, going to school, her boyfriend Wes, who is now her ex-boyfriend, may have taken some of her edge off, or not.

Nora, Wes, and Nora’s new love Iris (Nora is bisexual) meet at the bank to deposit the money their fund-raiser collected.  Once in the bank they find themselves in the middle of a bank robbery, and things are not going well.  There are two robbers, one the brains and the other is always quick to panic.  Nora will need all of her skills to keep everyone safe: her friends, the teller, the guard, and a girl who was waiting for her father.

Each chapter heading notes the time, how long they have been captive, and what “weapons” they have.  Some gruesome things happen, both in the past and in the present.  Nora, Wes, and Iris were each abused as children and this situation brings out some of that.  They each have found a way to survive and heal.

Tension is strong throughout the book.  Nora maintains her cool and manipulates the robbers when she can.  When one tactic doesn’t work, she changes to another.  It is clear that everyone is in danger.  She exudes confidence, but inside she knows everything can quickly go wrong.

Flashbacks occur regularly, filling the reader in on what Nora did with her mother, as she was each of the girls her mother created for her.  These pages are slightly gray to stand out from the rest of the book.

This book will pull you in and not let go.  It has continued to be on my mind since I read it earlier this month.  It received a starred review from Booklist and Kirkus.  It is written for grades 9 and up, and new adults might also pick it up off the shelf.

Sharpe, Tess. The Girls I’ve Been. G. P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, 2021.

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What’s Sally Reading?

ALA Youth Media Awards Were Announced January 25, 2921!

The American Library Association (ALA) announced the 2021 Youth Media Awards on Monday.  You can see the lists on their press release.  Or you may choose to visit the ALA’s site for this page that lists each award, to click on the one you are interested in to see the award winner and honor books listed.  This year I did poorly in the number of awarded books I have read, so I already have a few that I missed on reserve at the library. 

The Coretta Scott King Author Book Award was given to Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson.  It is told in free verse.  ZJ’s (Zacharias Johnson, J.) father is a professional football star.  A loving husband and father who would play with ZJ and his friends and loved music and laughter.  That was Before. 

Now his father is experiencing painful headaches and memory loss.  Set in the early 2000s, when the study of the effects of many hits in football was just underway and we were beginning to realize concussions are dangerous. The reality of the father’s injuries is tough to see.  Damage done cannot be changed.  The resultant effects upon family and friends is both poignant and heartfelt.

This book is a good choice for grades 5 – 8.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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What’s Sally Reading?

ALA Upcoming Youth Awards and Newly Announced Lists

The American Library Association (ALA) will announce the Youth Media Awards (think Caldecott, Newbery, Coretta Scott King Awards and more) starting at 8 am CT next Monday, January 25.  For the first time that I am aware of, they also have released several annual booklists early.  They are:

Best Fiction for Young Adults

Great Graphic Novels for Teens

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers

Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults

Check these lists out to see what you may already have in your collection.

One of the Top Ten titles for the “Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers” Continue reading

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Friday Reads: Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This novel is told in free verse and in the alternating voices of two almost 17-year-olds, who find out about each other and that they are half-sisters only after their father dies in a plane crash.  Yahaira lives in New York with her parents and misses her father when he travels to the Dominican Republic every summer, she thinks it is for business.  Camino lives with her aunt in the Dominican Republic and loves the summer since that is when her father is with her.

It includes their shock and grief at the loss of their father. The pain of overcoming the disappointment & betrayal they feel as they learn about his secret families; and realizing their futures are now at risk too.

It is also a celebration of family, and of the path to a hopefully better future for both daughters.

The author explains that it is a Dominican custom to clap when the plane lands the passengers back in the Dominican Republic.

Acevedo, Elizabeth. (2020). Clap When You Land. Quill Tree Books.

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Youth Grants for Excellence now available

Applications for the Youth Grants for Excellence are now available for accredited public libraries and state-run institutional libraries in Nebraska. The program is designed to encourage innovative projects for children and teens via creative thinking, risk-taking, expanding current programs, and new approaches to address problems and needs of children and young adults in your community. Grant applications are due October 7, 2020. Applications must be received by the Nebraska Library Commission submitted electronically by 11:59 p.m. CT. You will be notified by November 13, 2020 if you are awarded a grant.  Find the application form here, near the bottom of the page.

Join us on September 23, 2020 for the NCompass Live program that will address recommendations for your application for this and other grants from the Library Commission.

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Friday Reads: Shine! by J.J. and Chris Grabenstein

Piper (7th grade) considers herself a “blender,” one who would rather blend in with the crowd than stand out.  When her father is hired as the music teacher at the exclusive Chumley Prep, she is thrust into a new school where, it seems, everyone excels.  The quintessential mean girl is there, Ainsley, and she is almost nonstop mean.   Still, Piper finds some good friends and things are looking up. 

Then a new competition is announced: The Excelsior Prize, and everyone is determined to win it, though no one is quite sure what accomplishments it celebrates.  Piper manages to continue being herself, helping others and working hard in her classes.  She also would like to win the new prize, and the Science Fair seems to be the first step.  Piper is feeling good about her entry, and then she is blindsided by Ainsley, who uses a technicality to exclude Piper from the Science Fair, taking first place for herself, hoping it will help ensure that she, Ainsley, wins the new Excelsior Prize. 

This is a positive book about being true to yourself and caring about others. It is for upper elementary and early middle school readers. 

Grabenstein, J.J. and Chris. Shine! Random House Books for Young Readers, 2019.

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What’s Sally Reading?

More Book Awards Announced!

The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature announced, on May 6, 2020, the winners and honor books for two prestigious awards.  The Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award  went to The Crayon Man: The Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons written by Natascha Biebow and illustrated by Steven Salerno. This award is for “an outstanding book for young children,” with text and illustrations working together, and is selected by children.  Given since 1973 (where have I been?  I just now heard about this award!) the award also has three honor books.

The Cook Prize has been awarded since 2012, and acknowledges excellence in picture books addressing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in its content.  Also selected by children, the 2020 winner is Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Teresa Martinez.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry is one of the Honor Books for the Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award.  Zuri’s hair is hard to control. Since today is a special day, Daddy is up to the task.  They try several hairstyles with poor results.  Then, just the right approach works for them. Everything is ready when Mommy gets home! There is a welcome banner up for her, but we do not know where she has been.  A wonderful story of family care and love.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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Friday Reads: Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Flint, 13 and in 6th grade, is losing his eyesight.  It has been deteriorating for a while and now he sits alone at lunch working on his entry for the “Find a Comic Book Star” contest – hoping to finish it before his eyesight is completely gone.   His former best friend now bullies him, since Flint can no longer play on the football team as he used to, and now they call him “Squint.”

Then one day the new girl, McKell, sits with him at lunch.  He first thinks it must be some kind of a trick, since she is friends with the popular group. When he realizes it is not a trick, Flint and McKell begin to develop a friendship – focused on McKell’s brother Danny’s, challenges on YouTube.  She needs help to keep her promise to him – to complete certain challenges. 

Hitting topics such as: bullying, empathy, loss, and friendship, as SLJ says, “Recommend for any library serving middle grade readers.”

Set in Lincoln , NE, this title is the 2019 winner of the Nebraska Center for the Book, Teen Novel Award.

Morris, Chad & Shelly Brown. Squint. Shadow Mountain, 2018.

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