Sharon Reads: The Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry

The Odd Squad: Bully Bait by Michael Fry is a children’s chapter book. Nick is short, he thinks he must be the shortest seventh grader in history. He does not really fit in with any of the groups at school, so spends most of his time bully dodging. An enthusiastic guidance counsel teams Nick up with two other outcasts, and the team is mentored by the eccentric janitor. The team of oddballs  come together to a common goal, fighting a bully, and learn about themselves and the nature of bullies.

The Odd Squad: Bully Bait was a great read, and I think is accessible to both elementary and middle school students. It speaks to dealing with bullies, and how easy it can be to cross the line and act like a bully when feeling powerless. Some tough questions are dealt with, while still being funny. Nick is short but smart, stuck spending a good portion of his school day crammed in his locker. His family is a little different, and add to the quirkiness of the story. The other oddballs, Molly and Karl, have their own troubles and quirks. The bully, Roy, is as well developed as the three oddballs, as are the janitor and Nick’s grandmother. rumors of a school ghost, and mentions of other interesting kids at the school, left me wanting to read more about what happens in those halls.

I highly recommend The Odd Squad: Bully Bait to middle grade readers, particularly those that have ever felt like an oddball or on the receiving end of the bully effect. There is some cute, awkward romance in the story, and a collection of unforgettable characters that will keep readers turning the pages. Fry includes some illustrations, which only further enhance the heart, humor, and truth of the story. The sequel, the Odd Squad: Zero Tolerance is scheduled for release in September 2013. I gave this book 4 out of five stars on Goodreads.

This review was originally published on Sharon the Librarian.

Short Story Book List for Young Adults

Summer is coming to a close, and we are running out of extra reading time. If you are looking for something that you can read in short bursts or get through rather quickly, but is still touching or highly entertaining you might want to check out one (or more) of these titles. Just remember, just because these books are in our young adult section, it does not mean that readers without a ‘teen’ in their age cannot get just as much out of these titles as the age group the publishers market them towards.

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Zombies Vs. Unicorns

Zombies VS. Unicorns  is a selection of short stories compiled by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier that deals with a question as old as time itself: What is better, strong, more awesome; the zombie or the unicorn? Stories in this anthology offer strong arguments for both sides of the debate. Contributing authors include Cassandra Clare, Libba Bray, Maureen Johnson, Meg Cabot, Scott Westerfeld, and Margo Lanagan. Are you Team Zombie or Team Unicorn?

Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd is another anthology with Holly Black on the editing team. This anthology covers all things geeky, from Klingons and Jedi Knights to fan fiction, theater geeks, and cosplayers. No matter what kind of geek you are, or want to be, Geektastic can help you get your geek on! Contributing authors are M.T. Anderson, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, John Green, Tracy Lynn, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith, David Levithan, Kelly Link, Barry Lyga, Wendy Mass, Garth Nix, Scott Westerfield, Lisa Yee, and Sara Zarr.

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Athletic Shorts

Athletic Shorts: Six Short Stories by Chris Crutcher are stories about athletes, including some you might recognize from Crutcher’s longer works. Despite the title, while the stories are all about athletes they are not necessarily about sports. They are tales of love and death, bigotry and heroism, of real people doing their best even when that best is not all that good. This collection is suitable for younger readers as well.

M Is for Magic by Neil Gaiman and Teddy Kristiansen is a collection of eleven stories that involve strange and fantastical events. Humpty Dumpty’s sister hires a private detective to investigate her brother’s death, a teenage boy who has trouble talking to girls finds himself at a rather unusual party, and a boy you might recognize from The Graveyard Book makes a discovery, and confronts the much more troubling world of the living. This collection is also suitable for younger readers.

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Cloaked in Red

Let It Snow: Three Holiday Romances by John Green, Lauren Myracle, and Maureen Johnson offers readers three intertwining short stories. In the tales several high school couples experience the trials and tribulations along with the joys of romance during a Christmas Eve snowstorm in a small town.

Cloaked in Red by Vivian Vande Velde offers eight different twists on the familiar tale of Little Red Riding Hood. The author uses the stories, and a highly entertaining introduction, to question the original tales and to exploring issues including why most characters seem dim-witted.

On the Day I Died: Stories from the Grave by Candace Fleming offers readers ten ghost stories set in White Cemetery, an actual graveyard outside Chicago. Each story takes place during a different time period from the 1860’s to the present, and ends with the narrator’s death. Some teens die heroically, others ironically, but all due to supernatural causes.

On Our Shelves: New Picturebooks

Are you running out of picturebooks to share with your youngest book lovers, or just sick and tired of re-reading the same story over and over again?  Well, here are some of the most recent arrivals in our collection that you may want to check out.

That is NOT a Good Idea!

That is NOT a Good Idea!, written and illustrated by Mo Willems is reminiscent of silent movies, with the classic damsel in distress. The story starts with a hungry fox inviting a plump goose for dinner and as the story continues in a familiar fable-like arc, a young chick (and young readers and listeners) repeat in growing volumes that they think the choices made are NOT a Good Idea. Full-color illustrations, the repeated phrase, and the unexpected ending will make this a fast favorite and a requested re-read.

Little Mouse

Little Mouse by Alison Murray is a picturebook about a young girl who has the nickname of ‘Little Mouse”. However, sometimes she is annoyed by the nickname and wishes it was not hers. Sometimes she likes to be as loud as an elephant, waddle like a penguin, or be as fierce as a lion. But then again, sometimes, like when she wants to cuddle with her mother, the nickname is just fine.

Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom

Super Hair-o and the Barber of Doom by John Rocco is a fun picturebook about a boy and his friends that play superhero a lot. Rocco believes that his super powers come from his hair, and that the crazier his hair gets, the more powerful he becomes. One day Rocco is dragged to the barber and gets a haircut. In his despair about the loss of hair, and possibly his powers, he discovers that the rest of his crew and their crazy hair, have all met similar fates. In the end, Rocco discovers that he is just as super as ever.

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The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot

The Boy Who Cried Bigfoot! by Scott Magoon is a clever twist on “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. It is told from the point of view of an unexpected narrator and, through snappy text and lighthearted illustrations, demonstrates the value of telling the truth, the importance of establishing trust, and (of course!) the possibility that a beast you created to get attention can become a real-life friend.

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf by Mark Teague Three pigs spend their money on different things: potato chips, sody-pop, and building supplies. It comes as no surprise that a wolf is able to blow down the first two pigs’ houses. When the wolf can’t blow down the third pig’s brick house, everyone comes together and the fun begins. The first two pigs give him potato chips and sody-pop, and the third pig makes everyone a healthy meal. Since only one pig has a house left, the other two pigs and the wolf move in with her. The somewhat bad wolf is no longer hungry.

Some of my other new favorites include Cheetah Can’t Lose by Bob Shea, Are the Dinosaurs Dead, Dad? by Julie Middleton and Russell Ayto, Sleep Like a Tiger by Mary Logue, If You Want to See a Whale by Julie Fogliano and Erin Stead, The Day My Mom Came to Kindergarten by Maureen Fergus, and Ribbit! by Rodrigo Folgueira and Poly Bernatene.

Do you have a new favorite or discovery that you want to share?

Sharon Reads: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

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Darkest Minds

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult novel about a world in which the children and teens of the world have either died from a strange illness or developed mental powers. The adults are both scared for their children and, in some cases, of them. Ruby was only ten when her parents locked her in the garage and she was sent to a camp for the newly ‘gifted’ children. Six years later, Ruby is still struggling with her abilities, the conditions she has survived, and the idea of freedom. On the run, Ruby discovers that there are multiple faction and dangers working in the world. Much has changed since she was last outside a fence, and discovering who she can trust is more challenging than surviving in the camp ever was. Can Ruby survive on the outside, and can she protect those that help her from her uncontrolled abilities?

The Darkest Minds is a highly entertaining and engaging read. It is however, not easy emotionally. It is very highly charged.  Just for starters, they round up kids and send them to ‘rehabilitation’ camps and fear them. The world building is so well done that you could believe that the scenario could happen anywhere at any time. The fear, mob mentality, and power plays in the world are something I could honestly see playing out.

I highly recommend The Darkest Minds to young adult and adult readers. This dystopian novel has rich characters, a world to fear, and deep set conspiracies and plots that will have you looking over your shoulder long after putting it down. There are significant amounts of death, violence, and cruelty in the book- so I do not recommend it for younger or more sensitive readers. I am looking forward to reading the sequel(s) that I have been told are coming.

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Brightly Woven

Alexandra Bracken’s other book in our collection, Brightly Woven which is about sixteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabel, an unusually talented weaver, must master her mysterious power and join a young wizard in stopping an imminent war in land. I also recommend a reading this book, perhaps while waiting for sequels of either to be released.