Book Talk: Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith

Image Credit

Watch the video here, or read the talk below.

Is there anything better than flying? Before the war broke out, Ida Mae learned to fly a crop-duster, and now she wants to join the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots). Ida Mae Jones is black, but she’s got the light skin – and the guts – to try to pass as white. She makes it into training, where the flying is dangerous – and so is her secret if it gets out. Will she make it as a WASP? And will she be able to keep both her white pilot friends and her black family in her life? Read Flygirl to find out.

If you want to hear more of the history behind the WASP, this article is a good one.


Book details: Smith, S. L. (2008). Flygirl. New York, NY: Penguin. ISBN 9780399247095; hardcover; $16.99.

Annotation: A black female pilot passes as white to join the WASP and fly for the US military in WWII.


  • 2014 ALA Popular Paperback selection in the category of Conflicted: Life During Wartime
  • 2012-2013 Maud Hart Lovelace Book Award in the Division II (Grades 6-8) Category
  • 2012-2013 Virginia Readers’ Choice Award
  • 79th California Book Awards Young Adult Gold Medal
  • 2010 ALA Best Books for Young People
  • 2010 Capitol Choice Noteworthy Books for Children
  • 2010 Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices Selection
  • 2010 Kansas State Reading Circle Catalog Selection
  • 2010 Amelia Bloomer Project Selection
  • 2010 Tayshas Reading List
  • 2009 Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
  • 2009 Washington Post Best Kids’ Books of the Year
  • Spring 2009 Indie Next Pick for Teen Readers

(Source: these awards, as well as other nominations, are found on the author’s website.)



Book Talk: Letters from a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs by Mary E. Lyons

Image Credit

Watch the video here, or read the transcript below:

Joseph’s mother has been evading capture for years, hiding in a tiny attic above his house, finding safe employment in free states, and moving whenever the slave catchers get too close. Joseph doesn’t quite have his freedom papers, either. Technically, a white man technically owns him, and he won’t sign the papers because then people might realize that he is Joseph’s father. Never fully at ease, Joseph must earn a fortune big enough to buy real freedom. His travels will take him from gambling halls to whaling ships, printing shops to gold mines, and even see him sometimes passing as white when he dares. Based on real people from history, this is the story of a boy who makes his own destiny, told in Letters from a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs.

Book details: Lyons, M. E. (2007). Letters from a Slave Boy: The Story of Joseph Jacobs. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780689878671; hardcover; $15.99.

Annotation: A young boy tries to earn his freedom as he travels from whaling ships to gold mines.


Bank Street Best Books of the Year

(Source here)

Book Talk: Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Audacity by Melanie Crowder

Image Credit

Watch the video here or read the transcript below:

Her brothers study Jewish texts, but she’s not supposed to learn to read. She’s not supposed to learn Russian, and once her family flees to New York City, she’s not supposed to learn English. And Clara is not supposed to talk back – not to her father, not to her bosses in the sweatshops where she has to work. Audacity is a gorgeous novel in verse [show pages], and it tells the story of the daring life that Clara lives. And I would almost find her courage hard to believe, but this story is true. And if you look in the back of the book [show p. 369], you can read about the real Clara Lemlich and an interview with her family members as well.

Read an excerpt here.

Book details: Crowder, M. (2015). Audacity. New York, NY: Penguin. ISBN 9780399168994; hardcover; $17.99.

Annotation: Clara Lemlich, a young Jewish immigrant woman helps organize labor reform in New York City garment sweatshops.


  • National Jewish Book Award Finalist
  • Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
  • YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Top 10 pick
  • Colorado Book Award Finalist
  • Nerdy Book Award
  • Amelia Bloomer List
  • Mighty Girl Book
  • Best Books of the Year, Bank Street College
  • Best Books of the Year, New York Public Library
  • Best Jewish Children’s Books of 2015, Tablet Magazine
  • Best Children’s Books for April, The Washington Post
  • Editor’s Choice,
  • Top Pick,


Book Talk: The Darkest Hour by Caroline Tung Richmond

Image Credit

Watch my video book talk here, or read the transcript below.

As a trainee in the covert ops, Blaise looks the part of an innocent girl, but is trained to spy, interrogate, and kill, offering undercover help to the French Resistance. She messed up her first big assignment, though, and she is afraid she’ll never become a real agent. Agent or not, everyone is needed in the field immediately. Rumor has it that a top-secret German weapon is almost complete, and one of their own agents has been captured. Blaise and the others prepare for action, here:

“… the truth is that I’m scared for her. Two lone agents against an entire city of Nazis? Those chances aren’t good… and neither are mine, when I think about it. So I focus on my alias instead, sweeping rouge over my cheekbones and painting my lips red. Though I make sure to use a light hand, because makeup is in short supply across France, and it’d look suspicious to wear too much of it.” (p. 64)

Her best disguises, code phrases, and plans will be put to the test in The Darkest Hour, an action-packed novel full of plot twists and suspense.

Book details: Richmond, C.T. (2016). The Darkest Hour. New York, NY: Scholastic. ISBN 9780545801270; hardcover; $17.99.

Annotation: A teenage girl goes undercover on a secret mission to bring down the Nazis in organized France.

Book Talk: The Hired Girl by Laura Amy Schlitz

The Hired Girl

Image Credit

Watch the book talk video here, or read it below:
Can a tough farm girl realize her dreams of refinement? Joan is fourteen and she’s not allowed to go to school anymore, because she has to do the drudge work on the family farm. She writes in her diary and reads in order to better herself, but when even her novels are taken from her, she runs away. She is lucky enough to find work in a modern household in Baltimore, working for a Jewish family that owns a department store. She is in love with the books in the family’s library, especially a big book of art, and she is a little smitten by some of the family members, too. But can Joan keep her job long enough to save up for her dreams, or will her flights of fancy and her well-meant attempts to meddle in the family’s lives be too much? Read the Hired Girl to find out.

Read a sample chapter.

Book details: Schlitz, L. A. (2015). The Hired Girl. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. ISBN 9780763678180; hardcover; $17.99.

Annotation: A farm girl’s eyes are opened to the wider world when she becomes a servant for a Jewish family in Baltimore.


  • WSRA Just One More Page! List
  • Tayshas High School Reading List (Texas)
  • Grateful American Book Prize Honorable Mention
  • ALA-CBC Building a Home Library List selection
  • Boston Globe–Horn Book Honor Book
  • TriState YA Review Group Books of Note
  • L. A. Times Book Award (nominee)
  • Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
  • Kansas State Reading Circle Catalog Senior High Level
  • Sydney Taylor Book Award for Teen Readers
  • National Jewish Book Award
  • ALSC Notables List: Middle Grade Category
  • ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction
  • Booklist Editor’s Choice, Books for Youth
  • Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Books of 2015
  • Chicago Public Library Best of the Best Books
  • New York Public Library Best Books for the Teen Age
  • New York Times Notable Children’s Book
  • Horn Book Fanfare List
  • Junior Library Guild Selection



Book Talk: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cvr9780689848919 9780689848919 hr

Image Credit

Watch my book talk video here, or read the transcript below:

Who will die next? That’s the question that everyone in Philadelphia is secretly asking themselves.  It’s the summer of 1793, and although no one wanted to believe it at first, the fever cases are turning into an epidemic. Mattie and her mother, her veteran grandfather, and the cook, Eliza, keep their coffeehouse open as long as they can – but it isn’t long before fever strikes closer to home. As the city falls apart, with fever victims dying unattended, empty houses and businesses being looted, and mass burials in the square, is there anything Mattie can do to help her loved ones – and herself – survive? Read Fever 1793 to find out.

Book details: Anderson, L. H. (2000). Fever 1793. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9780689838583; hardcover; $17.99.

Annotation: A young girl finds herself in the middle of a fever epidemic in Philadelphia in 1793.


  • ALA Best Books For Young Adults
  • Amelia Bloomer List
  • Bank Street Best Books of the Year
  • CBC/NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book
  • California Young Reader Medal Nominee
  • Children’s Literature Choice List
  • Garden State Teen Book Award Nominee (NJ)
  • Georgia Children’s Book Award Nominee
  • Golden Sower Masterlist (NE)
  • Great Lakes Great Books Master List (MI)
  • ILA Teachers’ Choices
  • Jefferson Cup Honor Book
  • Kentucky Bluegrass Award Master List
  • Mark Twain Award Master List (MO)
  • Massachusetts Children’s Book Award
  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award Master List (MN)
  • NYPL 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing
  • NYPL Best Books for Teens
  • Nevada Young Reader’s Award Nominee
  • Nutmeg Children’s Book Award Nominee (CT)
  • Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults
  • Rebecca Caudill Young Reader’s Book Award (IL)
  • South Dakota Young Adult Reading Program
  • Storytelling World Award
  • Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Master List (FL)
  • Texas Tayshas High School Reading List
  • Utah Beehive Award Master List
  • Volunteer State Book Award Master List (TN)
  • Young Hoosier Book Award Master List (IN)


Book Talk: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson

Cvr9781416905868 9781416905868 hr

Image Credit

Watch my booktalk or read the transcript below:

How did everything go wrong? They were supposed to be freed by their mistress’s will, but instead Isabel and her five-year-old sister Ruth are hastily sold to a nasty, rich couple who live miles away in New York City. As the Revolutionary War rages, Chains describes New York City as dangerous. There are soldiers in the streets. There are cannons firing. There are people being hung for treason. Her new owners are loyal to the King of England. There are rumors that the rebelling Patriots might help Isabel in exchange for information, and rumors that maybe the British will free some slaves. Who can Isabel trust – and what risks she must take –  to be free?

Book details: Anderson, L. H. (2008). Chains. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 9781416905851; hardcover; $16.99.

Annotation: An enslaved girl in New York City will try anything to earn her freedom as the Revolutionary War rages.


  • 2009 Notable Books for a Global Society
  • 2009 Scott O ‘Dell Award
  • 2008 National Book Award
  • Young People’s Literature Finalist
  • 2008 Booklist Editors ‘ Choice: Books for Youth
  • 2008 Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Children ‘s Fiction
  • 2009 ALA Best Books for Young Adults
  • NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People 2009, History/Life and Culture in the Americas


Book Talk: Mare’s War by Tanita S. Davis

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

Image credit here

Watch my book talk video or read the transcript below:

When their cranky grandma Mare decides to take Octavia and Tali on a summer road trip, she won’t say exactly where they are headed. Tali and Mare clash wills over smoking, music, and driving speeds, and Octavia worries it is going to be a long, miserable trip. But then Mare starts telling the girls about her life – how she escaped from a dead-end future in Alabama to join the Women’s Army Corps in World War II. Based on the real history of African-American women who served in the army, this story brings to life marching, wearing gas masks, peeling potatoes, sorting mail, dealing with segregation, falling in love, or not, and writing letters home. As Octavia and Tali argue their way through diners and hotels, they can’t help but see their grandma in a new light as they learn what really happened in Mare’s War.

Mare's War by Tanita S. Davis

I love the paperback cover art, too! Image credit here.

Read an excerpt here.

Book details: Davis, T. S.(2009). Mare’s War. New York, NY: Random House. ISBN 9780375957147; Hardcover; $16.99.

Annotation: Two girls go on a road trip with their grandmother and hear her stories of joining the military as a black woman in WWII.

Award: Coretta Scott King Book Award, 2010. (Source)

Book Talk: A Tyranny of Petticoats edited by Jessica Spotswood

A Tyranny of Petticoats

Image credit

Enjoy this video book talk on an anthology of historical fiction! Or, read the transcript below:

Think fast! Short stories from fifteen authors fill this book with brave teenage girls – girls who sink pirate ships, survive attacks, operate saloons, tell fortunes, consider proposals, catch spies, rob banks, leave home, and hop trains. This is a diverse and lively look at American history through fiction. Some of the stories are based on real people, others involve warlocks and magic, or spirits and ghosts. Lots of action, a little romance, and huge variety make a Tyranny of Petticoats a great read.

Book details: Spotswood, J., ed. (2015). A Tyranny of Petticoats. Somerville, MA: Candlewick Press. ISBN 9780763678487; Hardcover; $17.99.

Annotation: Short stories show strong teenage girls in different times and places in American history.

Award:  YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults (nominee)  (source)

Mini-review of Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork angel 9781481456029 hr

Image Credit

Clare, Cassandra. (2010). Clockwork angel. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4814-5602-9; Paperback; $13.99.

Nothing is at it seems from the moment Tessa steps off the ship from New York to London to meet her brother. A pair of sinister sisters whisk her away in a carriage, and soon Tessa learns that she has unique shape-shifting powers. Never sure who to trust, she finds herself at the center of a plot involving all the supernatural forces hidden in plain sight on London’s streets. Shadow-hunters, vampires, demons, automatons, and the mysterious magister are soon embattled, and Tessa’s mysterious powers are at the center of it all.

The story is riveting, full of thrills and twists, but not at the expense of believable, likable, intriguing characters. The blend of fantasy with the real fashions, poems, streets, and smells of Victorian London gives the story further depth. This promising first book in the series opens up a frightening and familiar world to explore. It is recommended for collections in libraries that serve teens or adults who like YA fiction.

Annotation: A teenage girl discovers she is a shapeshifter who can help fight supernatural forces in Victorian London.



  • ALA/YALSA Readers/ Choice
  • Arkansas Teen Book Award Master list
  • CA Westchester Fiction Award Winner
  • CBC Children’s Choice Book Award Finalist
  • Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee (AZ)
  • Louisiana Young Readers’ Choice Master List
  • North Carolina Young Adult Book Award Nominee
  • RITA Award Finalist