Archive for Contemporary

Pink & Green is the New Black

Written by Lisa Greenwald

13-year-old Lucy Desberg is back in the third book of the Pink & Green series, and, on the outside, things couldn’t be better. Her initiative to have the school cafeteria go green is a success, her family’s pharmacy and spa are thriving, and she has a boyfriend in high school. What she’s not telling everyone, however, is that Yamir hasn’t called or texted her in weeks, and she has no idea why. To take her mind off him, she and her best friend, Sunny (Yamir’s sister), agree to help plan the upcoming school dance, the Eighth-Grade Masquerade, even though mean-girl Erica Crane is in charge. At least Erica has been acting like a normal human being lately, but Lucy wonders if that will last.

Like everything else she does, Lucy puts her heart and soul into making the masquerade perfect. She offers to do everyone’s makeup at the spa and works hard to make sure all her friends have dates. But as hard as she tries to ignore the Yamir problem, the more frustrated she becomes. To make matters more complicated, a cute boy named Travis, who’s new to the school, shows interest in her. Lucy puts on a happy face and pretends like she can handle it all, but it doesn’t take long until the cracks in her armor begin to show.

In this coming-of-age novel, Greenwald creates a realistic depiction of middle school girl drama, where saving face and fitting in sometimes makes it challenging to do the right thing. Sixth graders will identify with winsome Lucy and her friends as they navigate the turbulent waters of balancing friends, crushes, family and school.

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  • Pink & GreenTitle: Pink & Green is the New Black
  • Author: Lisa Greenwald
  • Publisher: Amulet Books / Abrams
  • Reviewer: Lauren Abbey Greenberg
  • Format: Paperback, 272 pages
  • ISBN: 978-1-4197-1225-8
  • Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary Fiction
  • Release Date: October 2014

Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles

Written and illustrated by Douglas Florian

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Belly laughs and snickers will be heard from the fourth grade readers, fifth grade readers and sixth grade readers that carry this book on the bus or anywhere else they like to read. The poems are short, simple and catchy. They talk about the things kids enjoy: getting swallowed by an alligator, being hungry enough to eat the whole world or getting stuck in an overstuffed chair.

Douglas Florian clearly knows his readers and how to engage them with his words and his art.

Students will be using his sketches as models for learning how to make new drawings of their own.

Some of his poems start with the beginning lines of well-known nursery rhymes or often repeated poems, but he takes them off in a new, often humorous direction.

Teachers and librarians can use this fun example of poetry in meeting core curriculum goals and literacy skills. Art teachers can have students design their own sketches to go along with the poems. Students can use their favorite poems for their public speaking requirements and have fun doing them. Many of these will become often repeated verses learned by those pesky little brothers and sisters that we all love to make giggle.

  • Poem DepotTitle: Poem Depot: Aisles of Smiles
  • Author/Illustrator: Douglas Florian
  • Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 154 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-8037-4042-6
  • Genre: Poetry
  • Grade level: 4 to 6
  • Extras: Index of Titles/ Index of First Lines


Written by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

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Most people have experienced that feeling of being unwanted at the “popular kids” table in the school lunch room. But some people are faced with difficult episodes like that daily. One such girl, Kiara, is the main character in this excellent newly released middle grade contemporary novel.

Kiara is afflicted with Asperger’s syndrome. She is confused by things she doesn’t understand, and turns to Mr. Internet for answers to all of her questions. The largest one being, how do people make friends?

She tries everything, but just is not accepted by the other students. Her father cares for her deeply, but is no help to her because of his loneliness and sorrow over his wife’s decision to go to work for several months in a distant state. So when a new family moves in down the street Kiara decides to try her new friend-making techniques on Chad and his little brother.

Things go pretty well as they play together and ride bikes around town until she learns the secret of what goes on in their home. It is a home she is not allowed to enter.

Amid adventures, dangers and rescues Kiara learns that everyone has a special gift or talent that makes them unique. Through the eyes of her new found friends, she is finally able to see her own unique gift.

This present day experience story is a fantastic read for a sixth grade student and beyond. They will find it full of issues they face every day. For the same reason, it would be a great read aloud in any literacy program by a teacher or librarian. It will strengthen all literacy skills while also introducing empathy and understanding for people with differing needs. A discussion about what to do when faced with illegal issues or worries about what friends might be experiencing at home could also grow out of reading this book in a book club situation.

  • RogueTitle: Rogue
  • Author: Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  • Publisher: Nancy Paulson Books/ Penguin Books, 2014
  • Reviewer: Elizabeth Swartz
  • Format: Hardcover, 240 pages
  • ISBN:  978-0-399-16225-1
  • Genre: Contemporary Fiction
  • Grade Level: 5 and above