Books and News to Give You Paws

Youth Yak

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Jen Jen

Jen’s favorite young adult books for 2001 include:

book cover   Everything Sad Is Untrue
Daniel Nayeri

The middle grade novel Everything Sad Is Untrue is a book I have been championing. (And I’m not the only one—it just won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature!) I read it by listening to it on It’s narrated by the author, who does an excellent job. Everything Sad is about a kid from Iran who is growing up in Oklahoma. Daniel, actually Khosrou, but everyone calls him Daniel, is overweight and self-conscious about his family, appearance, and culture. He shares all kinds of Middle Eastern folklore as well as his own family’s history, which his classmates dismiss as made-up. Daniel’s family is complicated—his dad still lives in Iran, and his mom has married a man named Ray, who has been abusive in the past. One of the funniest passages I’ve ever read is in this book. Daniel and his dad are on the phone and his dad is trying to explain why a particular Iranian pun is funny. Much of this novel is in fact autobiographical. You get the feeling that the author poured his whole heart into this book and it shows. We recommend reading and discussing juvenile literature periodically in book groups for several reasons. One of the best is that if you have a young person in your life, a grandchild, niece or nephew, neighbor, whatever—sharing a book with that kid is a great connection.

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The Firekeeper’s Daughter
Angeline Boulley

Right now, I’m listening to this young adult coming of age/mystery about a young Anishinaabe woman who goes undercover to help investigate some local deaths, tied to drug activity. My daughter Megan and my mom Sally have also been reading (actually Megan is done and recently said to me HURRY UP MOM SO WE CAN TALK) which has been fun. All three of us agree that the story is slow in the beginning, and then holy smokes does it get interesting. The book is set in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, but feels very familiar, as though it could be Minnesota (and Minnesota is periodically mentioned in the book.) I’m learning a fair bit about Anishinaabe culture while intrigued by the investigation happening in the story.

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Gordon Korman

I’m listening to and LOVING this middle grade book on

The fictional town of Chokecherry, Colorado has a problem. Swastikas keep appearing at the middle school. No one knows who did it or why. It also reminds the community of an ugly mark on the town’s history from the 1970s with a KKK incident. The book has seven narrators: Michael, leader of the art club; Link, the most popular boy/star athlete/chronic prankster of the school; Dana, the only Jewish girl in the school; Adam Tok, host of Reeltok on YouTube and pot-stirrer; Jordie, friend of Link’s and son of the town’s roofing company owner (suspicious since one of the swastikas was inked with roofing tar); Caroline, 7th grade president and overly-enthusiastic about student government; and “Pouncey,” a boy from a family with a racist reputation. If this sounds like a lot of narrators, believe me, these kids are so distinctive that it’s easy to keep them all straight. The initial reaction of the school to the swastikas is several weeks of tolerance education, which, as you can imagine, is not a big hit with the students. However, the students do learn about another school in which the students collected 6 million paper clips to have a physical idea of how many people died in the Holocaust, which leads them to do their own project as a protest against the person(s) responsible for the swastikas. While this is a middle grade novel, I think a lot of teachers and parents will enjoy this as well. The author captures the personality of each narrator expertly, and a very important piece of history is explored in a way that doesn’t feel like a book about a very important piece of history. Despite all the swastikas, the kids are still middle school kids. I’m going to recommend this to a friend of mine who leads a middle school book club, I think it’ll be a perfect read for the group.



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Billy Miller Makes a Wish
Kevin Henkes

"When Billy Miller blew out the eight candles on his birthday cake, he made a wish. He wished that something exciting would happen." Billy lives with his Papa, Mama, and little sister, Sal. The story follows the Miller family through one week, a slice of summer filled with exciting events. Some were good, and some were not. When exciting things happened, Billy wondered if his wish caused them. Billy Miller Makes a Wish is a funny and touching story. It would be an excellent choice as a read-aloud for children in the primary grades or for those just beginning to read chapter books independently.



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Ten Ways to Hear Snow
Cathy Camper, Illustrated by Kenard Pak

This thoughtful, lovely book will set you up for “listening walks” with the children in your life.


Gail Gail

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The Haymeadow
Gary Paulsen

Recently there was an article by Mary Ann Grossman in the Generations Newspaper about the death of bestselling children's author, Gary Paulsen. It was published for the November 2021 issue. You'll enjoy reading about this fascinating man's life and adventures. Gary and his sled dogs ran the Iditerod twice. Some of us remember meeting him when he lived in Becida. Paulsen won the Newberry Honor for Dogsong, Hatchett, and The Window Room.

My favorite story was The Haymeadow, which is about 14 year- old John Barran, who was sent out alone by his father to tend sheep for the summer. He had only 2 horses, 4 dogs, and 6,000 sheep! Disaster strikes. The river floods and coyotes attack. John must rely on his own ingenuity to solve his problems (no cell phone to call for help) and prove to his father he is able to survive and bring the flock home. This is a super book for boys, as are many of Paulsen's other titles.

Lee Lee



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When Stars Are Scattered
Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed

This is an excellent graphic novel, and it’s very clear why it was a finalist in the 2020 National Book Awards for Young People's Literature.

This is a memoir that provides a first-person perspective on the world's refugee crisis. The narrator, Omar, and his younger brother Hassan are 4 and 2 when they first arrive at the Dadaab refugee camp. (The camp currently houses over 200,000 refugees but is scheduled to close in June.) They fled Somalia with neighbors after their father was killed by gunmen as he worked in his fields and their mother and sisters were not to be found after the brothers had rushed home.

Hassan is non-verbal and suffers seizures. When he would wander off, gangs of other boys would take his clothes. He needed Omar’s constant attention.

Eventually, arrangements are made for Hassan to be watched over so that Omar can attend school.

This book is exceptionally well done, and it provides us with a good reminder for the Holiday season that there are good people in the world who have far less than we do.

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The Tiger Rising
Kate De Camillo

The movie The Tiger Rising, based on the book by beloved author Kate De Camillo, will be released January 21.

Here's a link to the trailer.

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