All About Elections: Share These Books, Activities With Kids This Presidential Election Season

Catherine Stier is a San Antonio-based, award-winning author of children’s books including If I Were President, If I Ran For President, and Today On Election Day. She visits schools, libraries and other venues with her lively “If I Were President” Author Visit interactive program. Read on for Catherine’s suggestions of how to talk about the presidential election this fall.

 

Signs. Bumper stickers. TV commercials. Children may be naturally curious about the sights and sounds of the presidential election season. And often, the places youngsters frequent–libraries, community centers and even their schools–may serve as early voting sites or polling places on Election Day. All this activity may lead our young future voters to wonder–what is going on?

            As the author of three election/presidential themed books published by Albert Whitman & Company, I have noted how the election season hoopla, as well as our annual observation of Presidents’ Day, may pique youngsters’ curiosity about the POTUS and the whole electoral process. These goings-on may lead to all kinds of great questions (a really good thing!).  Children may wonder:

What is the job of the president?

Can a president do ANYTHING he or she wants?

Where does the president live?

Will the new president be president forever?

Just how does someone get to be president?

Can I be president someday?

 

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Artwork from If I Were President illustrated by Diane DiSalvo-Ryan

Parents and teachers can make the most of the teachable moments that arise during the next few months to address such questions and support children’s growing understanding of our country’s electoral process. The actions of candidates and reporting that kids see on the media may open up opportunities to discuss really important ideas about leadership, working for the good of a diverse body of people, and communicating ideas effectively through speeches, interviews, and debates.

Of course, kids might not always quite grasp the facts at first.  One of my favorite stories about a child’s electoral-related misunderstanding concerns a kindergartner who, following a certain historical Election Day, repeatedly heard the term “hanging Chad.”  Her own realm of experience led her to imagine that the fuss was about a boy showing off his acrobatic skills on the playground!

LOOK TO BOOKS

I believe books are a great way to begin exploring the complicated presidential election process, and to start building the foundation of knowledge that may help kids become informed and engaged citizens later in life.  In my own trio of presidential/election picture books–If I Were President, If I Ran For President, and Today On Election Day–I hope to illuminate the responsibilities of serving in the highest office in the land, and impart important information about the election process in a fun, informative and kid-friendly way.

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I also hope these books, with engaging illustrations by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan, Lynne Avril, and David Leonard, inspire some children to imagine serving one day as mayor, governor, senator, or even President of the United States.

But books are just the start.  Here are other kid-friendly presidential and election-themed activities to try out this election season.

ACTIVITIES: BEFORE ELECTION DAY

If I Were President

Young children may not understand what a president is or does. Take time to discuss how the president has the power to shape the laws of the country, is in charge of the armed forces, and addresses the American people during times of celebration as well as tragedy. You might also point out the perks of the position–such as how the President lives in a famous mansion, and may be invited to throw out the first pitch of the baseball season! Then invite your child to finish the sentence “If I Were President…” by writing and illustrating on a sheet of paper his or her own ideas on how to be the best ever Commander in Chief (a ready-made “If I Were President…” sheet is available for printing out at the activities page at www.catherinestier.com).

 

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Artwork from If I Were President by Diane DiSalvo-Ryan

Virtual White House Tour

Give your child a peek at one of the most famous addresses in the world: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Explain that this is where the president lives, and then embark on a virtual tour of the White House at the official White House website, www.whitehouse.gov. The current site offers a reminder that this is really “The People’s House” for all citizens of our country. It presents a look inside the famous mansion as well as link to an interactive tour with close-up peeks at White House treasures as part of the Google Arts Project at the White House.

Election Year Scavenger Hunt

Educator Leigh Courtney, Ph.D., who has created curriculum guides for children’s books (including my own), offers this pre-election activity idea: One of the ways that voters find out information about the candidates and their ideas is through newspapers and magazines. Go on a scavenger hunt through a newspaper to find examples of news articles, photographs, editorials, and editorial cartoons about the different candidates running for office. Make a scrapbook of your findings and include a description about the main points of information that you discovered about each candidate through the newspaper. For more ideas, see the curriculum guides for If I Were President and Today On Election Day.

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Artwork from If I Ran for President by Lynne Avril

Vote for Me Campaign Buttons

Explain how presidential candidates run campaigns with workers and volunteers who believe in them and want their candidate to be the next president. Discuss how candidates’ names and faces may appear on signs, bumper stickers, t-shirts, and campaign buttons. Point out examples when you see them on walks around the neighborhood or while running errands.

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Encourage your child to pretend he or she is running for President of the United States or another office, and invite your child to create a campaign button. Cute, eye-catching buttons may be fashioned with a few basic materials–a bit of poster board, a cupcake paper, glue, and markers or stickers. Simply cut out for your child a poster board circle about 2½ inches around. Slightly flatten the cupcake liner and glue the circle in the middle (this will create a frilly border around the button). Your child can decorate the poster board circle with stickers, markers, and perhaps add a motto (Bailey is the Best!) or even a small photo. Add double-stick tape on back so your child can wear it on a t-shirt or sweater. For inspiration, check out the campaign buttons at the Duke University Presidential Memorabilia Collection.

Letter to a Voter: Me!

Ask your child to calculate how many years until he or she is 18 years old and can vote. Then ask your child to imagine that he or she could vote. What issues are important to your future voter? Invite your child to write a letter to a voter who has the power to shape the world–his or her 18-year-old self! The letter might begin “Dear Me, I am writing to you because I am not old enough to vote yet, but you can.” In the letter, your child can share hopes and concerns about the community, country and world, and remind a future self to exercise the right to make a difference by learning about issues and candidates, and registering to vote. Tuck the letter away to share on your child’s 18th birthday–or just before his or her first election as a registered voter

ACTIVITIES: ON ELECTION DAY

Vote Today Signs

Invite your child to promote voting on Election Day by creating colorful (and perhaps persuasive) “Vote Today” signs. There are lots of possibilities for decorating a sign: paints, markers, glitter, and stickers. Post it on your front door as a bold reminder to passersby of the importance of this day.

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Artwork from Today on Election Day by David Leonard

 

Future Voter Badge

If possible, bring you child to the polling place for a glimpse of all that goes on.  In preparation, invite your child to create a “Future Voter” badge to wear. This may be as simple as a peel-off nametag sticker, decorated by your child with markers and stickers and, of course, the words FUTURE VOTER.

By showing your enthusiasm for the democratic process and Election Day, you may instill in your children or students a recognition and appreciation of this most important freedom–our right to choose our leaders by voting.

 

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Artwork from If I Ran for President by Lynne Avril

Thanks, Catherine! For more information about election themed titles, including links for purchasing the books, check out our website. Find out more about Catherine on her website.

All About Elections: Share These Books, Activities With Kids This Presidential Election Season

Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

In Freddie Ramos Rules New York, the sixth book in the early reader Zapatos Power series, Freddie tests out his new super-power sneakers while on a trip to the city to visit his uncle.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with author Jacqueline Jules to chat about Freddie Ramos Rules New York, her inspiration, and a wish for a zapato power herself.

Q: Where did you get the idea for Freddie’s latest adventure?

 A: Whenever I do a school assembly, I always tell my audience how the plot for Zapato Power #4: Freddie Ramos Makes a Splash and Zapato Power #5: Freddie Ramos Stomps the Snow came from student ideas. This generates lots of suggestions for other books in the series. I always listen carefully, because I am looking for inspiration. At a school in Atlanta, Georgia, a boy walked up to me and said: “Freddie should visit his Uncle Jorge in New York.” It was a brilliant idea and something that had not occurred to me before. I am indebted to that boy. After that, I considered situations in New York City where Freddie would naturally need to use his special sneakers. Running up the stairs in walk-up apartments came to mind. Also, New York City traffic jams. That’s when I came upon the plan to have Freddie use his special sneakers to deliver an important letter for Uncle Jorge.

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Artwork by Miguel Benitez

Q: Why did you decide to give Freddie new sneakers in Zapato Power #6?

A: I needed to answer a question that students asked me at just about every school visit. What happens when Freddie outgrows his special shoes? It was a question I had not worried about when I first began the series. As an adult, I don’t outgrow my shoes anymore. But young readers reminded me how this is an important consideration for a growing boy like Freddie. It was fun to address it in Freddie Ramos Rules New York because it also gave me a chance to give Freddie an extra power.

Q: What was your inspiration for your title?

A:  As a rule, I struggle with titles for my stories. But for this book, I knew I wanted a title with three elements: alliteration, an action verb, and an indication that Freddie was on an adventure outside of his home in Starwood Park. Freddie Ramos Rules New York provided all three items and fortunately came to me right away.

Q: What do you like the most about Freddie Ramos?

A: Freddie reminds me of the students I taught while I worked as an elementary school librarian in Falls Church, Virginia. He is good natured, caring, and fun to be around. While his life includes some economic and personal challenges, he has a positive, often humorous outlook. I admire Freddie. He was originally based on a Latino student of mine named Freddie. When I began the first book, Freddie Ramos Takes Off, I had a picture in my mind of this student’s very winning smile. But as the story grew in the pages of my book, Freddie Ramos became a person in his own right. I hear Freddie’s voice in my head when I write. I know exactly how Freddie would view something or describe it.

Q: If you had Zapato Power, what would you want to do with it?

A: I would do all my errands and housework superfast so I would have more time for writing and my family.

Q: What is your favorite thing to do in New York City?

A: I love the High Line. It is an amazing elevated park, where you can admire plants and artwork while also enjoying a view of the city.

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Artwork by Miguel Benitez

Q:  Do you have a regular routine while creating a book?

A: If I don’t have an appointment or a presentation, I am usually at the computer writing. I start around 8:30 in the morning and work till about ten in the evening. Of course, I take breaks. Around 11 a.m., I ride an exercise bicycle. In the afternoon, I like to take a walk or do errands. I eat dinner with my husband but I eat both my breakfast and lunch at the computer. I will admit to being a bit of a workaholic.

Q: What books did you like to read as a kid? What type of books do you like to read now?

A: As a kid, I was a voracious reader. I remember enjoying The Borrowers, The Jungle Book, Secret Garden, Ben and Me, and that blue biography series, Childhood of Famous Americans. I still read every day for a half hour or more on my exercise bicycle. As an elementary school librarian, I became hooked on children’s books and they are still my favorite type of literature.

At the moment, I am devouring a pile of advanced reading copies (all children’s books) I picked up at the American Library Association conference. I don’t have a strong genre preference. I read fantasy, historical fiction, realistic fiction, verse, nonfiction—anything that has a compelling narrative.

 

Thanks, Jacqueline! Catch the latest title in the Zapato Power series before it zooms away. For more from Jacqueline, check out her website.

Q&A with Jacqueline Jules

Welcome Back to School

There is a certain type of excitement in the air in September unlike any other time of year. It’s full of dreams and promise, new and old friendships, fun classes and activities. What do you want to accomplish this year? Who will you become? What will you learn?

 

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To welcome you back to a fun, rewarding, and educational school year we wanted to share a few fun activities for kids based on our titles—and discussion guides for their dedicated teachers and librarians.

 

For Kids

Keep the back to school fun going with fun downloadable activities staring Chloe Zoe, the adorable yellow elephant. There are activities like word searches, mazes, and spot the difference to go along with both preschool- and kindergarten-aged titles.

 

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Take out the new boxes of crayons and markers! Have fun coloring dogs from The Buddy Files series, dinosaurs (plus many other craft projects!) from One More Dino on the Floor, kids from Janine and the My Emotions and Me series, or plants from First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

For older students learning to read independently, there is no better series than The Boxcar Children series, a classic that will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2017. Read about the adventures of the Alden children—and once you’ve finished a book, you can take a quiz to see which kid you’re most like or even get in touch with them to ask a question!

Our recently relaunched website also has a slew of activities that keeps the fun going from classroom to home to backyard. Try your skill at word puzzles, your hand at crafts, or even bake up a delicious treat inspired by the books!

For Teachers and Librarians

Teachers get to have fun going back to school, too: meeting new students, sharing favorite books, and opening up a world of possibilities.

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General Info:

Did you know all of Albert Whitman’s books are leveled with Accelerated Reader, Guided Reading, Scholastic Reading Counts, and Reading Recovery? We also provide Common Core Curriculum Connections for our most recent titles. All this information can be downloaded on our School and Libraries page.

Picture Books:

Bring history alive with books about notable historical figures. Start with guides on The Original Cowgirl, The William Hoy Story, and Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. During this year’s election season, don’t miss the guides for Heart on Fire and If I Were President.

Plus, continue discussions about the natural world, science, and math with creative classroom activities based on the Wells of Knowledge or These Things Count series or the books Dig Those Dinosaurs, First Peas to the Table, and In the Garden with Dr. Carver.

Early Readers and Chapter Books:

Start classroom discussions for titles included in The Buddy Files series, Lulu series, and Zapato Power series with these engaging guides.

The Boxcar Children series:

The Boxcar Children have been a teacher-favorite since the very first book, which Gertrude Chandler Warner wrote for her students. She knew the vocabulary and content were appropriate for young readers—and that they would relish the Boxcar Children’s independence and opportunities for adventure. Today, teachers and librarians love the series for the message of teamwork and empathy, because even when the Boxcar Children uncover the villain of the mystery they’re solving, it’s more than just that: they care about the person and situation, and they work hard to set things right again. It’s easy to tie The Boxcar Children into your classroom with a Common Core-aligned guide. Plus, the same Boxcar activities mentioned above for kids are also available in easy-to-download themed packets.

AW Teen:

Bolster dialogues about young adult titles including Being Henry David, Down From the Mountain, Guantanamo Boy, Promise Me Something, and This Is How I Find Her.

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As the months of the year fly by, don’t forget to check our site frequently for more fun activities and helpful guides. Upcoming titles that will soon have these materials include the picture books From Here to There, Swimming with Sharks, Where Are the Words?, and The Nian Monster; and the early reader title Freddie Ramos Rules New York (Zapato Power #6).

Happy school year from the Albert Whitman & Company team!

Welcome Back to School

Thanks for Participating!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge! You all are great readers—and reviewers!

The Summer I Found You  A Different Me  Girl Last Seen copy  The Opposite of Love

We have one lucky winner…Penny O.

Penny will receive a prize pack of six AW Teen titles!

 

Future Shock (hardcover)

9780807526828 FutureShock

Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life—or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporations selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future, and she’ll be set for life. Elena travels with four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy. Soon they find themselves running out of time, and deadly secrets are uncovered. Can Elena and her new friends figure out how to change their futures?

Resurrecting Sunshine (ARC)

9780807569436_ResurrectingSunshine

Seventeen-year-old Adam Rhodes is famous, but he’s been in a downward spiral since he lost the girl he loved, Marybeth, who went by the stage name Sunshine. Then, Adam is approached by Dr. Elloran with Project Orpheus, who wants to resurrect Sunshine. As the process sweeps Adam and Marybeth ever closer to reliving the tragedy that destroyed them, Adam must decide how far he’ll go to save her.

Until I Break (ARC)

Until I Break_CVR web

Two boys: One is a star athlete and top student with a deep-seated need to prove himself. The other is a chip-on-his-shoulder quarterback who will never settle for second best. When gunshots echo through the halls of Broadmeadow High School, whose finger is on the trigger? This unforgettable novel counts down the twelve months leading up to an explosive moment.

Biggie (paperback)

Biggie in paperback

At an obese 300+ pounds, Henry “Biggie” Abbott prefers classroom success to sports. As Biggie’s junior year begins, the girl of his dreams, Annabelle Rivers, starts flirting with him. He’s been told to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play baseball, but Annabelle might be the one to actually convince him to try.

Girl Last Seen (hardcover)

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YouTube stars and best friends Kadence and Lauren recently had a major falling-out over Kadence’s boyfriend. Kadence launched her solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal cords. And she knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. But nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with Kady’s disappearance.

Hurricane Kiss (hardcover)

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For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors—including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he’s now silent and angry. But their evacuation route is soon gridlocked. As the teens wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is more than just staying alive—it’s about fighting for yourself.

 

Thanks again to everyone who participated! Check back here for more news about AW Teen, contests, and even a chance to get to know your favorite authors better!

 

 

Thanks for Participating!

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

In Goodnight Bob by husband-and-wife team Ann and John Hassett, little Bob uses his flashlight when he sees mysterious eyes in the dark at bedtime. With a whimsical twist, this is a bedtime book unlike any you’ve read before.

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We were lucky enough to sit down with Ann and John to chat about Goodnight Bob, their creative process, and favorite bedtime reads.

Q: Which comes first: the text or art?

A: Ann and John: The idea for Goodnight Bob began with a small drawing of a little boy in his bed. Somehow a story grew from that drawing. Finding the words was a little like putting together a puzzle. Every word had to fit just right. That was the hope anyway. Then came days of sketching, doodling, erasing, scribbling, paper-crumpling, and lots and lots of looking out the window. Artwork was finished three hours before deadline. Not really, but close.

Q: Were you ever afraid of the dark?

A: John:  I grew up in a house full of mice, and most of them lived in the attic above my bed. Late at night, a few scurrying mice can sound like a gorilla throwing furniture around up there. My brothers and I never got much sleep.

A: Ann: Yes, I’m still afraid of the dark. We don’t have mice in the attic; we have squirrels.

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Q: What’s the easiest and hardest part of creating a book?  

A: Ann and John: Sometimes a story idea will almost write itself and need very few changes till completion. But those are rare as Bigfoot sightings. Most stories need to be tinkered with over and over till they feel right. Even then, we always find something we wish we could change. Same with the pictures.

Q: What are your hopes for Goodnight Bob?

A: Ann: We hope readers find Goodnight Bob slightly spooky, but also safe and reassuring and fun to read. And if it’s read at bedtime, we hope no one goes to sleep before the last page is turned. Yawning is fine, but no sleeping till the end.

Q: Could you see a sequel in Bob’s future?

A: Ann: Yes! The next book has the working title Bob’s Rock.

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Q: What creature would you want to wish you goodnight?

A: John: The famous Cow that Jumped Over the Moon. That cow is amazing. The cows I know couldn’t jump a glass of milk.

A: Ann: I’d like an owl to wish me goodnight with lots of wild hooting right outside my window.

Q: What book do you like to read at bedtime?     

A: Ann: I love to read mysteries, but not at bedtime or I’ll have nightmares, so I usually read nonfiction that puts me to sleep.

A: John: Go Dog, Go, by PD Eastman was my favorite bedtime book as a boy, and I still keep it close by. It’s absurdly funny and the pictures are just right. A perfect book, though it may bother cats. Best to read this story while your cat is busy somewhere else.

Thanks, Ann and John! Love Goodnight Bob already? Don’t miss the adorable book trailer! And to find out more about Bob, including links for purchasing the book, check out our website.

Q&A with Ann and John Hassett

Beep Beep: Make Way for Big Trucks and Ducks

With sunny skies and warm breezes filling the day, kids, ducks, and dump trucks alike are now out to play. With a “Beep, beep” there and a “crash, crash” there, construction noise fills the air like pollen. Children welcome this noise as if it is an orchestral composition, and adults everywhere are left curious as to what is so special about construction sites.

Adults are still puzzled as to why children find big trucks so fascinating. Perhaps it’s the mess, the noise, or the size, but kids everywhere are drawn to dump trucks. Maybe it is because little hands can only move little handfuls of sand, or dirt. Yet trucks can move loads because trucks are tough. There’s just something about a construction site that pulls at the heartstrings of children. One thing is certain though that this construction magic is captured in the bright book, Dump Truck Duck.

9780807517369_DumpTruckDuckNot only does this adorable book convey the coolness of the construction site, but it also speaks volumes about teamwork. Dump Truck Duck’s use of furry ducklings and construction vehicles as a way to express a tale of consideration and helping others is nothing short of special. This book demonstrates the power of working together to get the task at hand completed, and the book also acknowledges that mistakes happen. It is a gentle reminder for children to act with kindness and showcase a positive attitude.

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Host a quacktastic party!

After a long day of sandbox play, there is nothing quite as special as reading about the strength of a truck. Dump Truck Duck, comparable to Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, is a heartwarming tale. It is certainly fit as a bedtime story to cap off a day spent playing in the playground, or an at-home remedy when rain clouds move in. Dump Truck Duck is really the perfect companion to any kind of day, filled with any kind of play, and a reminder of how much can be accomplished when everyone works together.

Beep Beep: Make Way for Big Trucks and Ducks

AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge

AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge

Who: Everyone who loves reading YA!

What: Read any AW Teen title (full list here: http://www.albertwhitman.com/teen/) and review it anywhere (your blog, Goodreads, Instagram, YouTube—wherever!).

The Summer I Found You  A Different Me  Girl Last Seen copy  The Opposite of Love

When: June 15-August 31, 2016

How: Submit the link to your review here.

You will receive 1 entry for every AW Teen Book you review.

You will receive extra entries for sharing that review on Goodreads, Netgalley, Edelweiss, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or other review sites.

You will receive even more extra entries for following us on our Albert Whitman and AW Teen social media sites!

Albert Whitman Social Media accounts:

AW Teen Facebook

Albert Whitman Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

AW Teen Youtube

Prize: Six AW Teen ’16 titles!

Future Shock (hardcover)

9780807526828 FutureShock

Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life—or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporations selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future, and she’ll be set for life. Elena travels with four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy. Soon they find themselves running out of time, and deadly secrets are uncovered. Can Elena and her new friends figure out how to change their futures?

Resurrecting Sunshine (ARC)

Seventeen-year-old Adam Rhodes is famous, but he’s been in a downward spiral since he lost the girl he loved, Marybeth, who went by the stage name Sunshine. Then, Adam is approached by Dr. Elloran with Project Orpheus, who wants to resurrect Sunshine. As the process sweeps Adam and Marybeth ever closer to reliving the tragedy that destroyed them, Adam must decide how far he’ll go to save her.

Until I Break (ARC)

Two boys: One is a star athlete and top student with a deep-seated need to prove himself. The other is a chip-on-his-shoulder quarterback who will never settle for second best. When gunshots echo through the halls of Broadmeadow High School, whose finger is on the trigger? This unforgettable novel counts down the twelve months leading up to an explosive moment.

Biggie (paperback)

Biggie in paperback

At an obese 300+ pounds, Henry “Biggie” Abbott prefers classroom success to sports. As Biggie’s junior year begins, the girl of his dreams, Annabelle Rivers, starts flirting with him. He’s been told to follow in his dad’s footsteps and play baseball, but Annabelle might be the one to actually convince him to try.

Girl Last Seen (hardcover)

9780807581414_GirlLastSeenPB

YouTube stars and best friends Kadence and Lauren recently had a major falling-out over Kadence’s boyfriend. Kadence launched her solo career when a nasty throat infection paralyzed Lauren’s vocal cords. And she knows how deceptive Kadence could be sometimes. But nobody believes Lauren when she claims she had nothing to do with Kady’s disappearance.

Hurricane Kiss (hardcover)

9780807534502_HurricaneKissPB

For sixteen-year-old Jillian McKay, the threat of Hurricane Danielle means a long car ride with her neighbors—including River Daughtry, the former star quarterback of Harrison High. The guy who was headed to glory until suddenly he disappeared to a West Texas juvenile detention center. Once cocky and flirtatious, he’s now silent and angry. But their evacuation route is soon gridlocked. As the teens wait out the storm, they confront the past and realize survival is more than just staying alive—it’s about fighting for yourself.

AW Teen Summer Reading Challenge