Book Reviews for Kids And Young Adults

 By Carol Kennedy

Here are some more recommended books for kids of varying ages who are looking for a good read!

Families by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly. In this book, photographs of many different kinds of families accompany descriptions of these families … two-parent ones, single-parent ones, large ones, small ones, extended families and nuclear families. Adoption is discussed and blended families are hinted at. This picture book would be appropriate to be read by an adult with a child, or group of children, from pre-school to early elementary ages.

2-26 Carol Kennedy

Dear Hank Williams by Kimberly Willis Holt. In a series of letters to the up-and-coming country star Hank Williams, a young girl in 1948 tells the story of her family. Holt is an award-winning author, and she hits the mark in this poignant tale of a Louisiana pre-teenager. Readers who liked Beverly Cleary’s Dear Mr. Henshaw will like this one as well. It is recommended for readers of ages 8-13 who enjoy reading about kids like themselves.

Three Pickled Herrings by Sally Gardner. “Whimsical” is the word that best sums up this story, a fantasy/mystery featuring a detective agency made up of fairies and humans. It is the second in the series Wings & Company. Suddenly, three separate cases appear for the agency to solve, consisting of one murder and two cases of stolen luck, and it turns out that the three are all connected. Slowly, the detectives peel away the layers of mystery to solve all of them. There is lots of magic, lots of word play, and quite a bit of silliness, as well as goblins, elves, a living magic lamp, a six-foot talking cat, keys and houses with minds of their own, and plenty of fairies. This is a good one to read to younger children, but will also appeal to reluctant readers at the middle-school level.

Can’t Look Away by Donna Cooner will find its readership with teenage girls who like realistic fiction. Torrey is a 15-year-old whose younger sister has just died tragically in a hit-and-run auto accident. Her family has moved to Texas from Colorado, largely to get away from the bad memories. Torrey is vain and is obsessed with a video blog she broadcasts on beauty and fashion, but her sister’s death has her very upset and filled with guilt. The realistic unfolding of her story as she learns to cope with being the “new girl” and navigating the social scene at her new school while dealing with her grief makes for a very satisfying read. Teenage girls will recognize her as a believable character and identify with her feelings of loss and confusion.

The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz. In this excellent historical story, Joan is a 14-year-old girl who works on her father’s farm and is treated cruelly by him and her three brothers. Being headstrong and intelligent, she takes the first opportunity to run away from home and get to Baltimore, where she seeks employment in hopes of bettering her chances for continuing her education. Joan’s combination of youthful innocence and strong determination ring true for a teenager of 1910, and the reader is by turns sympathetic, triumphant, and embarrassed on her behalf, as she finds a position in the home of a prominent Jewish businessman and his family and tries to make it work. This is a great read for teens who are interested in historical fiction, as well as historical facts of early 20th-century America!

The Next Wave: The Quest to Harness the Power of the Oceans by Elizabeth Rusch is a recent title in the excellent series Scientists in the Field. It presents a vivid picture of what it is like to be an experimental engineer, demonstrating that even with cutting-edge technology available, it is sometimes possible to build and test prototypes of new inventions using materials from the hardware store. The book profiles engineers whose early life experiences have developed their interests in harnessing wave energy to produce electricity, and gives the young reader a feel for the roller-coaster ride of successes and setbacks experienced by teams of researchers. It also discusses the critical role of funding. These are all great lessons for a kid (of elementary-school age through high school) considering a career in technology.

Carol Kennedy of Swarthmore is a retired school librarian and a member of the TriState Young Adult Review Committee (

Leave a Reply