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February 15, 2018 BOOKLIST
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Twelve-year-old Mac can’t believe her luck when she gets to go on tour with her all-time favorite band, Perfect Storm, in Jen Calonita’s VIP: I’m with the Band. Getting a look behind the music is unassailably cool, but it also turns out to be an eye-opening experience. However, if there’s one thing better than hanging with a band, it’s being in one yourself. The following middle-grade novels feature characters who make their mark by rocking out to their own tunes.
Breakout. By Kevin Emerson. 2015. Crown, $17.99 (9780385391122). Gr. 7–10.
Life has got eighth-grader Anthony Castillo down, but all he wants is to rock the Fall Arts Night with his band, the Rusty Soles. When he writes an anthem about his frustrations, the song goes viral and sets up a chain of events that just might reinvent him as a student-body hero. Anthony’s honest narration, battles with the Man, and responsibilities that come with the spotlight will resonate with readers.
Dunces Rock. By Kate Jaimet. 2014. Orca, paper, $9.95 (9781459805859). Gr. 4–7.
After Wilmot’s school cuts drama and music, he obtains a secondhand guitar from his teen neighbor Headcase, who attempts to induct Wilmot and the other Dunces members into the mysteries of rock ’n’ roll. Fast-paced and funny, the Dunces work together to bring drama and music back to their school, proving that friends can accomplish anything as long as they’ve got one another’s backs.
My Misadventures as a Teenage Rock Star. By Joyce Raskin. Illus. by Carol Chu. 2011. Houghton, paper, $8.99 (9780547393117). Gr. 7–10.
Shy 14-year-old Alex joins her brother’s punk-rock band but soon grows disgusted by the rock-and-roll lifestyle. After she quits, she takes her bass to the straight-edge girl-power-act All Right and starts playing to sold-out crowds. Their popularity sparks a European tour, but Alex’s mom isn’t keen to let her go. Raskin’s concluding personal experiences, as well as tips on playing the guitar and songwriting, will strike just the right chord.
My Year of Epic Rock. By Andrea Pyros. 2014. Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, paper, $7.99 (9781402293009). Gr. 5–8.
Bummed that her peanut intolerance has put her at the “allergy table” at lunch, seventh-grader Nina is also upset over being dropped by her best friend. When her lunch mates ask her to join their band, the EpiPens, for the school talent show, however, Nina finds some new friends and learns to rock self-confidence.
Tales from a Not-So-Glam TV Star. By Rachel Renee Russell. 2014. illus. Aladdin, $13.99 (9781442487673). Gr. 4–7.
When a TV producer asks Nikki Maxwell if she’d like to record her band’s song “Dorks Rule!,” all she can say is “SQUEEEE!” But will she be able to juggle school, her crush, her nemesis, and a “ridonkulous” new schedule centered on her own reality show? In this seventh entry in the Dork Diaries series, Nikki’s dramatic tween personality shines through via diary entries filled with reflections, confessions, and comic drawings.
Tom Gates: Excellent Excuses (and Other Good Stuff). By L. Pichon. Illus. by the author. 2015. Candlewick, $12.99 (9780763674748). Gr. 3–6.
This second installment in the Tom Gates series put Tom’s band, DogZombies, in the limelight. He and his best friend, Derek, are holding auditions for a drummer and scheduled to play their very first show! Middle-school high jinks and humorous drawings, plus Derek’s embarrassing ‘60s-rock-obsessed dad, fill in the gaps between band practice.
VIP: I’m with the Band. By Jen Calonita. Illus. by Kristen Gudsnuk. 2015. Little, Brown, $17 (9780316259729). Gr. 3–6.
Calonita captures squealing tween-girl excitement perfectly in this diary-style novel, but she makes sure being a fangirl isn’t Mac’s only M.O. Her ambitions to be an artist not only feature in the plot but also in its illustrations, as spreads from her comic book Mac Attack (home to her cool, confident alter ego) join the book’s spot illustrations. Middle-schoolers won’t likely identify with being on tour, but Mac’s crushes and obsessions will strike a familiar chord.
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