Book Club – Book of the Month – July

The Book Thief - Paperback

“She could smell the pages. She could almost taste the words as they stacked up around her.” — Markus Zusak, The Book Thief.

In case you’re still wondering, our tweens-teens’ book selection for July is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Here’s what one of our teens wrote about the book:

I love this book! It is about a girl named Liesel, who is sent to the home of her foster parents after her brother’s death. She is faced with all the Nazi’s horrors and struggles. During this time, her foster family, who is German, hides a Jewish man named Max in order to protect him from the danger of getting killed by the Nazi soldiers. Meanwhile, this action of hiding a Jewish person puts them at an even greater risk of getting killed themselves. This goes on for a while.

Over time, Liesel’s foster father, Hans Hubermann, begins secretly teaching her to read as books are being burned and destroyed by Nazi soldiers. Liesel then secretly shares all that she’s learning with Max, considering he’s unable to read. Liesel also begins stealing books from a library to get ideas and inspirations to create her own stories. As the war becomes more dangerous, Max decides to leave the family, as he feels that his staying would continue to keep them in great danger.

Only a few nights after Max leaves, Liesel’s city is bombed, leaving very few survivors. Liesel is the lone survivor in her family. Fast-forward to two years later Liesel and Max are reunited inside a shop owned by one of her friend’s father. They immediately greet each other with a hug, a somewhat happy ending following a series of tragic beginnings.

The book inspires me because it depicts the true value and meaning of friendship and kindness towards others. Leisel’s family is willing to risk their lives to protect Max (by keeping him in their home), and Max is willing to risk his life to protect theirs (by leaving their home). No one is thinking of the well-being of oneself but rather of the well-being of the other. I find that rather admirable and honorable.

Also, as Liesel is taught to read, she pays it forward by teaching Max to read. As a teen, I feel these are lessons that are much needed among teens today  — lessons of kindness, compassion, generosity, unselfishness, friendship, etc. I love the book and would highly recommend it to all tweens and teens.   —Gabe, 14 years old.

As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two on this book or other books you and your young readers are reading.

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids



Book Club – Book of the Month – June

Narnia - Image1

“Epic battles between good and evil, fantastic creatures, betrayals, heroic deeds, and friendships won and lost all come together in this unforgettable world, which has been enchanting readers of all ages for over sixty years.” What world? Narnia.


In the wake of the end-of-school-year burnout, following a series of heavy book club reads and school required readings, we’ve decided that it’s time for some fun and adventure. Thus, we’ve selected C. S. Lewis’ timeless classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia as our June tweens-teens’ book club selection.  Many of our young readers have read the entire series, others have read some. This is an opportunity for everyone to get through all the books together and have much fun in the process. In order to make this month’s reading a bit more interesting, exciting, adventurous, and educational, we’ve added a few extras.

1. Activity Guide (Courtesy of Ingram Content group). We recommend incorporating this activity guide into the reading discussions. This activity guide is an excellent resource, consisting of four major components: Setting the Scene, Questions for Group Discussions, Discuss Quotes, and Journal Writings. It also includes several independent projects for individuals. While this is designed for classroom use, it can be used in any group or individual setting. Teachers, parents, you’d want to bookmark this. Here’s the link

2. Narnia Movies. We recommend integrating the Narnia movies into the reading process for both entertainment and educational purposes. Our “Using Movies as a Motivational Tool to Get Kids Reading” offers greater insights on this topic. Here’s the link.

3. Narnia Board Games. You can almost never go wrong with board games. Kids and adults love them, they can be entertaining and educational, and they work well as great family or group activities. These are great supplements to the reading process. These can be found at toy stores, bookstores, and online.

4. Theatrical Productions. Depending on dates, times, locations, availability, and price, one may or may not be able to attend a Narnia theatrical production. Nonetheless, the idea is definitely worth considering. Kids and adults love theatrical productions, and watching one such as this could be nothing less than magical.

5. Theme Parks’ Narnia Attractions. This goes hand-in-hand with theatrical productions. Again depending on the aforementioned, this may or may not be practical at the moment. However, it is once again an idea worth exploring. Check your local or national listings of theme parks and attractions.

This is just scratching the surface. There are many ways to make book club readings exciting and adventurous while still maintaining their educational aspect. These are just a few hand-picked suggestions to apply to this particular series. We welcome you to read along as we explore the world of Narnia. And as always, we love hearing your thoughts on books. You may leave a comment or two on this series or other books you are currently reading. Happy reading!

By Dawn Hoff, Book Kids














Book Club – Book of the Month – May


Our tweens-teens’ book selection for May is Nest by Esther Ehrlich. I must say, this was one of the toughest book club decisions thus far, and I’ll explain why in a minute.

When I started our tweens-teens’ book club, our approach to selecting books was simple ― we read it, we like it, we share it. That seemed simple enough … until we actually started diving deeper and deeper into the books. Now, we read it, we like it, we then wonder whether to share it. Liking a book is one thing, recommending it is another.

While we love to recommend every book we read and like, we sometimes wrestle with whether the theme is too dark or heavy for teens, let alone tweens. Nest is one of those books we wrestled with. The book tackles many deep and dark topics such as terminal illness, depression, and ultimately death. While trying not give too much away, I feeI the need to give parents the heads up.

Ultimately, our decision was influenced by the fact that the book raises awareness of these issues, real life situations.  Life doesn’t always have fairytale beginnings, middles, or endings. In fact, life rarely does, and children ought to be aware of that. This reminds me of a quote I came across recently: “One thing we shouldn’t do is shield kids from everyday frustrations. They need to experience everyday failures and challenges. It’s the kids who never feel frustrated who are vulnerable later.” And I feel this book coveys this message quite well.

Having said all this, I should mention that this is a book we read, we liked, and we shared. Nonetheless, parental guidance and discretion are advised. I think it’s a great book. I will, however, suggest parents read it either before or with your tweens or teens, as it will open doors to a whole lot of challenging questions and interesting discussions. After all, isn’t that what we want anyway? Thoughts?

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Synopsis: For fans of Jennifer Holm (Penny from Heaven, Turtle in Paradise), a heartfelt and unforgettable middle-grade novel about an irresistible girl and her family, tragic change, and the healing power of love and friendship. In 1972 home is a cozy nest on Cape Cod for eleven-year-old Naomi “Chirp” Orenstein, her older sister, Rachel; her psychiatrist father; and her dancer mother. But then Chirp’s mom develops symptoms of a serious disease, and everything changes.

Chirp finds comfort in watching her beloved wild birds. She also finds a true friend in Joey, the mysterious boy who lives across the street. Together they create their own private world and come up with the perfect plan: Escape. Adventure. Discovery.

Nest is Esther Ehrlich’s stunning debut novel. Her lyrical writing is honest, humorous, and deeply affecting. Chirp and Joey will steal your heart. Long after you finish Nest, the spirit of Chirp and her loving family will stay with you.

Book Club – Book of the Month – April

A Long Walk To Water

One of our teens suggested A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park as our tweens-teens’ book club selection for April. Having read this book several times, I was a little hesitant about this choice; not because it isn’t a great book, but rather because I was uncertain about how our tweens and teens would handle some of what I would consider heart-rending, gut-wrenching, tear-jerking scenes and an overall melancholic theme. 

Almost immediately, I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes by A. B. Curtiss, author of The Little Chapel That Stood (which, by the way, is an awesome read for 4-8 year-olds).

Quote: “A children’s book about 9-11 presents a difficult task. We want to shield children from violence and fear, but we don’t want to shield them from courage and heroism. We want to protect them, but we also want them to grow up brave and strong.”

Well, let’s just say we’ve chosen A Long Walk to Water as our April book selection. I believe our young readers will handle the story quite well once they connect the life struggles with the life lessons, the gloom with the glory, the trials and tribulations with the triumphs. I think the hardship has a purpose and place in this book just as much as the victory does. The problems are there to teach the lessons and the lessons are there to explain the problems. They both are essential to the overall telling of the story.

That leads to this question: Do you find yourself second-guessing book choices for your kids due to unsettling themes or do you consider such themes essential to the overall telling of the story? As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. Please leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are reading.

Book Synopsis: The New York Times bestseller A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day.

The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay. Enduring every hardship from loneliness to attack by armed rebels to contact with killer lions and crocodiles, Salva is a survivor, and his story goes on to intersect with Nya’s in an astonishing and moving way.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids













I Am Malala

“One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”  -Malala Yousafzai

We’ve been glued to Malala’s story even before the publication of her book, I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World (Young Readers Edition). We’ve followed her story from her tragic near-death experience, to her remarkable recovery, to her heroic efforts and stance for education, to her notable honor as the youngest ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize. We’ve been greatly inspired by her story of bravery, courage, and compassion, so much so that we’ve decided to select her book as our tweens/ teens’ book club pick for March. Our selection of this book was also influenced by the fact that March is Women’s History Month.

While most of our book kids and adults have read it, some haven’t. In any case, we are looking forward to having you join us in reading or rereading the story of and by a little girl with a BIG vision to change the world. As always, we love to hear your thoughts on books. Please leave a comment or two about this book or other books you are currently reading. Happy Reading!

About This Book: Malala Yousafzai was only ten years old when the Taliban took control of her region. They said music was a crime. They said women weren’t allowed to go to the market. They said girls couldn’t go to school.

Raised in a once-peaceful area of Pakistan transformed by terrorism, Malala was taught to stand up for what she believes. So she fought for her right to be educated. And on October 9, 2012, she nearly lost her life for her cause: She was shot point-blank while riding the bus on her way home from school.

No one expected her to survive

Now Malala is an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest ever Nobel Peace Prize winner. In this Young Readers Edition of her bestselling memoir, which has been reimagined specifically for a younger audience and includes exclusive photos and material, we hear firsthand the remarkable story of a girl who knew from a young age that she wanted to change the world — and did.

Malala’s powerful story will open your eyes to another world and will make you believe in hope, truth, miracles and the possibility that one person — one young person — can inspire change in her community and beyond.

About Malala: Malala Yousafzai was born in 1997 in the Swat Valley of Pakistan. In her short lifetime, she has already experienced devastating changes in her country, which has been transformed from a once peaceful land to a hotbed of terrorism. Malala, who now lives in Birmingham, England, says she has been given a second life, which she intends to devote to the good of the people and her belief that all girls everywhere deserve an education. The fund she started can be found at

About Malala’s Fund: visit >>

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids

Book Club – Book of the Month – February

Brown Girl Dreaming2

Our February tween/ teen book club selection should come as little to no surprise. We’ve highlighted this book in the past and hinted that it would be a future book club selection. The future is now, and we’ve selected the award-winning Brown Girl Dreaming (ages 10 and up) by Jacqueline Woodson as our February book club book of the month. 

We’ve chosen this book because it ties in well with our Black History Month theme . . . with an added bonus. The book does an excellent job delivering a very descriptive view of Woodson’s life experiences, growing up in the South and the North during the 1960’s and 1970’s, through a very unique, childlike perspective; one that has the tendency to grip young readers. 

Additionally, there’s an underlying, added dose of inspiration depicted through Woodson’s zeal for writing and storytelling, despite the fact that she has struggled in and through school. We find that particularly uplifting and empowering to young aspiring and/or struggling readers and writers (as well as adults). Hope you’ll enjoy reading this brilliant piece of children’s literature as much as we have.

As always, we’d love to hear from you. Be sure to share your thoughts about this book or other books you are currently reading. Happy Reading!

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids



Book Club – Book of the Month – January

Esperanza Rising1


During the Great Depression, Esperanza is compelled to abandon her comfortable lifestyle in Mexico and enter into one filled with physical, emotional, social, and financial hardships and challenges in America. How does she cope and overcome?

In case you haven’t already guessed, our January tween/ teen book club selection is Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. We’ve highlighted this book in the past, during National Hispanic American Heritage Month as a “highly recommended read.” Moreover, due to positive responses, we’ve decided to select it as our book club pick.

This book is a fitting selection for January because it ties in so well with the general themes of a new year; themes that reflect new beginnings, fresh start, triumphs over trials, victory over obstacles, overcoming challenges, rising above, moving forward, leaving the past behind, etc. -themes of inspiration and aspiration you’re bound to find throughout the book.   

Hope you’ll enjoy reading this book with your tweens and teens. Let me leave you with a very profound proverb, reflecting one of the many great messages found in Esperanza Rising, “The rich person is richer when he becomes poor, than the poor person when he becomes rich.”  Marinate on it as you dive into this inspiring read. Happy Reading!

We would love to hear from you. What books are you reading this New Year? Please leave a comment or two below.

By: Dawn Hoff, Book Kids