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Young Adult Books for Tweens


Parents, we hear you. Your tween wants Young Adult (“YA”) books, but you don’t want them diving into the mature topics that those books may present. Not yet. We totally get it.

The good news is two-fold:

  1. We get this question frequently here in Youth & Family Services. We are prepared to help you find just the right book for your tween!

  2. There are many excellent, engaging books geared toward those in grades 5-8.

Here are seven of my personal favorites to get you started:

The Girl Who Drank the Moon - Kelly Barnhill
"Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule--but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her--even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.” -

Fallout - Todd Strasser
"What if the bomb had actually been dropped? What if your family was the only one with a shelter? In the summer of 1962, the possibility of nuclear war is all anyone talks about. But Scott’s dad is the only one in the neighborhood who actually prepares for the worst. As the neighbors scoff, he builds a bomb shelter to hold his family and stocks it with just enough supplies to keep the four of them alive for two critical weeks. In the middle of the night in late October, when the unthinkable happens, those same neighbors force their way into the shelter before Scott’s dad can shut the door. With not enough room, not enough food, and not enough air, life inside the shelter is filthy, physically draining, and emotionally fraught. But even worse is the question of what will -- and won’t -- remain when the door is opened again.” - 

The Mighty Heart of Sunny St. James - Ashley Herring Blake
"When Sunny St. James receives a new heart, she decides to set off on a New Life Plan: 1) do awesome amazing things she could never do before; 2) find a new best friend; and 3) kiss a boy for the first time. Her "New Life Plan" seems to be racing forward, but when she meets her new best friend Quinn, Sunny questions whether she really wants to kiss a boy at all. With the reemergence of her mother, Sunny begins a journey to becoming the new Sunny St. James.” - Junior Library Guild

The Screaming Staircase - Jonathan Stroud
"For more than fifty years, the country has been affected by a horrifying epidemic of ghosts. A number of Psychic Investigations Agencies have sprung up to destroy the dangerous apparitions. Lucy Carlyle, a talented young agent, arrives in London hoping for a notable career. Instead she finds herself joining the smallest, most ramshackle agency in the city, run by the charismatic Anthony Lockwood. When one of their cases goes horribly wrong, Lockwood & Co. have one last chance of redemption. Unfortunately this involves spending the night in one of the most haunted houses in England, and trying to escape alive. Set in a city stalked by spectres, The Screaming Staircase is the first in a chilling new series full of suspense, humour and truly terrifying ghosts. Your nights will never be the same again…” -

The Giver - Lois Lowry
"Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear of pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the community. December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man -- the man only called The Giver -- he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.” -

Among the Hidden - Margaret Peterson Haddix
"Luke has never been to school. He’s never had a birthday party, or gone to a friend’s house for an overnight. In fact, Luke has never had a friend. Luke is one of the shadow children, a third child forbidden by the Population Police. He’s lived his entire life in hiding, and now, with a new housing development replacing the woods next to his family’s farm, he is no longer even allowed to go outside. Then, one day Luke sees a girl’s face in the window of a house where he knows two other children already live. Finally, he’s met a shadow child like himself. Jen is willing to risk everything to come out of the shadows. Does Luke dare to become involved in her dangerous plan? Can he afford not to?” -

The Crossover - Kwame Alexander
"With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering," announces dread-locked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court. But Josh has more than basketball in his blood, he's got mad beats, too, that tell his family's story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander. Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story's heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.” -

Heather Thompson
Head of Youth and Family Services
Kenosha Public Library

Interview with an Avid Reader

Everybody Reads! And to encourage and inspire your reading this summer, we have pinned down an avid year-round reader to tell us about her lifelong love for books. Many of us like to know how others organize their busy lives, and with that in mind, we asked retired English teacher and librarian Cindy B. about her reading habits and preferences. Even if you don’t share Cindy’s intensity for the written word—her sheer enthusiasm will have you comparing your own reading habits with hers—and appreciating what a lifetime of reading can bring.

1. Since you describe yourself as an avid reader, you must enjoy it—what does reading mean to you?
Reading serves every area of my life. It is my education, my entertainment, my security, my spiritual experience, and most of all, my one lasting passion.

2. Do you collect books or curate an online personal library?
I seem to go through phases with collecting books—at one time it was science fiction, then graphic novels, then books about books. I am currently collecting books about WWII and the Holocaust. I don’t necessarily save the books I read on a device.

3. Do you set reading goals for yourself? Do you keep lists of the books you’ve read, or books you want to read? Do you use Goodreads?
I’ve kept a list of books I have read for more than 20 years. I am transferring the list into Goodreads—it’s an excellent resource. I also keep a list of “to be read” books. I set reading goals each year—usually from 100-150 titles. This summer I will be keeping track by enrolling in KPL’s summer reading program.

4. How have your reading tastes and habits changed over time? Have you grown into or out of different genres?
My reading tastes change as my life changes. When I worked full time while attending school, I read mysteries and popular fiction to give my mind a break from professional or required reading. Since retiring, I have made for time for “serious” reading, such as history and the classics. However I still find time for a few mystery and science fiction titles every month.

5. How do you generally discover books you might want to read?
I read as many book reviews as I can find. I also get recommendations from friends and library staff. But I also just like to browse the library and used books stores.

6. Do you have a preference for fiction or non-fiction? If you read both, under what circumstances do you read each?
I have always preferred fiction because, as English major, I was introduced to such great storytellers. When I was young, I escaped an “only child” existence with stories of horror and adventure. Lately I have begun to delve more into non-fiction as I explore areas of life that interest me, but which I don’t have the time or money to actually experience. Reading makes those worlds come alive.

7. Do you read more for information or entertainment?
Both! But I lean more toward using reading as entertainment and distraction.

8. Do you read physical books, newspapers, etc. or digital editions? Or both? Does your format preference change with the kind of material you are reading?
I read physical books primarily, though I own several digital devices to use for travel and convenience. I also listen to books from on my phone. I keep updated with the news on digital media.

9. Do you purchase books?
I buy lots of used books, rarely new ones. New books I get from the library.

10. Do you make use the library?

11. When do you read most?
I read in every spare moment. I read during meals, in the evening, during nights when I can’t sleep, and anytime I sit down!

12. Where do you feel most comfortable reading?
I particularly like reading AT the library. I love sitting among books, holding a book.

13. Do you read “socially”—that is, do you participate in book clubs or book discussion

Yes, I belong to 4 books clubs—3 of which are offered at the Kenosha Public Library.

14. So do you find that you gravitate to other readers as friends?
Yes, I most enjoy friendships which include book discussions and recommendations—even when their reading preferences are not my own. Advice from friends often launches me into new reading experiments and adventures.

15. Describe your perfect book-related day.
My perfect book-related day would have to include a visit to at least one used book store. I would take my time browsing and sampling several dozen books before making my choices. Afterwards, I would have a meal with my “bookish’ friends and then retire to my home for a bookish “night-cap”. Such a day is a real treat. However, for my everyday book needs—there’s nothing like the library!

Thanks to Cindy for sharing her love of reading with us. She is a perfect example of how we can all benefit from the information and entertainment that is found on so many reading platforms and how it can be a fulfilling constant on our lives. The library is proud to serve as a resource for much of the information and enjoyment so vital to our community.

Cathy Polovina
Research and Technology Guide
Adult and Digital Services
Kenosha Public Library

Literacy App-y Hour


What’s ‘appening Kenosha?!
Are you working on literacy skills with your child?
Or would you like their screen time to be a bit more educational?
Try some of the following apps yourself, or with your child, to help improve their literacy skills!

You may have heard of our Grow a Reader program at the Kenosha Public Library. It’s based on the 1000 Books Before Kindergarten model that encourages parents and children to read together. Studies have shown that reading to and with your child is great bonding time and creates lifelong memories. Also, children who develop their literacy skills early in life have a much easier time learning in school. As you read to your child, their vocabulary expands, their visual literacy improves when they look at the pictures, and you instill a love of reading. 

The Calgary Public Library and Mid-Continent Public Library have taken this program and translated it into an app that helps you explore the Five Practices of Early Literacy: Talking, Singing, Reading, Writing, and Playing. In the app, you can find books broken down by those categories (both picture and board books) that you can check out at your local library. The app is linked to the Mid-Continent Public Library’s catalog, but you can use the title and author’s name to find them at the Kenosha Public Library. You can also watch videos that teach lap bounces, face and body rhymes, lullabies, and more, explaining why each are important for literacy development and how you can use them to bond with your child. This app is great for parents and is available on iOS and Android.

"The Monster At the End of This Book” is an animated storybook app that parents can use to help teach their child literacy skills. It is also good for teaching emotions and emotional expression. Sesame Street’s Grover is the narrator of the app who tries to prevent the reader from getting to the end of the “book.” As Grover tries to stop the reader, your child makes decisions, uses their listening skills, and roams through the app, trying to get to the monster at the end of the book. Your child may mistake this as playtime, but it is jam-packed with educational experiences. It does cost $4.99, but is well worth the investment. Available for iOS and Android. Best for Ages 3+. There is a sequel app, “Another Monster at the End of this Book.”

"Duck, Duck, Moose Reading” is a literacy app focused on beginning phonics skills. The game focuses heavily on letter sounds and recognizing letter-sound correspondence. It works with a lot of consonant-vowel-consonant words (ex: had, mad, bat), and teaches beginning readers to isolate and pronounce those sounds. The app was developed with educational researchers and teachers, and was tested extensively in schools. Also, it was made so it is difficult to randomly push buttons to get the correct answers (thanks, developers who understand children!). Users feed the different animals letter sounds, words that begin with them, or words that sound like pictures of objects that start with the sound/letter to complete each level. After completing levels, parents can review which sounds their child has completed. Available on both iOS and Android. Best for ages 3-8.

Have any apps you love and want to shout out? Tell us at any of our Youth Service desks!

Jake Bowen
Youth Services Programming Librarian
Youth and Family Services
Kenosha Public Library

Summer Book Sale Blow Out

Get the best deals of the summer at the Friends of the Library Summer Book Sale Blow Out!

$5 bag sale on all three days! Indoors and outdoors so you get access to the most merchandise!

Southwest Library (7979 38th Avenue)

Friday, June 28th - Members Only - Join at the door for the first peek at all the goods! 5-7PM

Saturday, June 29th - 9AM-5PM

Sunday, June 30th - 12-4PM Come after the parade for a bit more summer family fun!

Not Your Typical Travel Stories



“Wherever I am, if I've got a book with me, I have a place I can go and be happy." - Harry Potter Beyond the Page: A Virtual Author Visit with J.K. Rowling


Let your summer vacations begin!  I love to read a story that takes me on a journey, and my absolute favorites are a good old fashioned road trip.  There are many popular travel novels, but I wanted to highlight a few that are maybe just obscure enough that they didn’t hit the popular radar.  

Alvin Ho: allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and other tourist attractions by Lenore Look
(Chapter book series for kids)

As the Ho family departs for a visit to China, Alvin’s trademark PDK (personal disaster kit) causes an actual disaster in the airport’s security line. Alvin’s loving and long-suffering dad is left to explain the forbidden contents in the first of many mishaps Alvin causes while dealing with his anxieties, this time over travel, ominous clay soldiers, and dragons! Readers will get an introduction to famous Chinese sites—perhaps maybe even more than Alvin’s family does, since each outing ends up disrupted. This travel story was written for youth readers grades 2-4 but is pretty funny for all ages.  Look’s humorous and sympathetic characters combined with Pham’s delightful illustrations create a fun and successful chapter-book series.

Annie Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish

Before dying from ovarian cancer, Annie planned her own "traveling funeral" with designated stops for the scattering of her remains, but leaves it to her best friend, Katherine, to assemble her closest friends.  Knowing that funerals are for the living, Annie intends for Katherine, Jill, Laura, Rebecca and her saintly hospice nurse Marie (who barely know each other) to take a break from their responsibilities to really celebrate life and get to know each other.
The road trip takes the ladies to the places that mattered most to Annie: the Florida Keys, rural New Mexico, New York City. The book is also something of a metaphysical detective story, as the women learn more about Annie in each location. They also face their own tragedies and realize that it is never too late to dramatically transform their lives for the better.

Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene

A favorite among Graham Greene fans and a classic published in 1969.  Greene stated this was "the only book I have written just for the fun of it."  Travels With My Aunt tells the story of a retired bank manager, Henry Pulling, whose dull suburban life is forever changed when he finally meets his elderly Aunt Augusta, who then convinces him to go travelling with her. An uproarious trip across Europe followed by South America ensues, but as the story progresses the belly laughs and hilarious moments give way to deeper thematic undertones.
At its core, the book poses an intriguing question: what does it mean to lead a good life? Whether you’ve read Greene’s work before or whether you’re new to his writings, I recommend giving this book some of your time – it might not be life changing, but at the very least it’ll cheer you up and leave a smile on your face.


Marcia Siehr
Circulation Services Manager
Circulation Services
Kenosha Public Library

KPL Book Drive

Now that those lockers and backpacks are empty and you have finally finished your spring cleaning - bring those piles of gently loved or nearly new kids books to your neighborhood library! We are collecting books for children (from birth to teen) to give away at summer programs and events. 

Boxes are available at all KPL locations. 

Tips for Reading to Children & Reading as a Family


It's summer. Kids are (almost!) out of school and there is time to relax and read!  

When children are little, we take the time to read to them. Did you know that it is just as important to keep reading to children, even though they are reading on their own?  

By reading aloud with children, you are lengthening their attention span, building their vocabulary and increasing their knowledge of the world. You are modeling the behavior that you want them to emulate.  

To make the book come alive, use your voice to show the emotions happening in the book. When you finish a chapter, talk and ask questions to increase their comprehension, curiosity, and background knowledge. Talk about how the characters could have handled something better or differently or ask your child what they would do in the same situation. Talk about the emotions and feelings happening in the book, or perhaps how it can relate to present day happenings.

The list of possible books to read aloud are endless. There are classics like Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web, and The Secret Garden. Visit the dark planet Camazotz in A Wrinkle In Time, or a young Laura Ingalls in the Little House books. Author Beverly Cleary has written so many wonderful timeless books such as The Mouse And The Motorcycle series and the Ramona Quimby series. There may be a movie made from the book you’ve read, so it would be fun to watch the movie after reading the book to note any differences. Also, don’t forget that reading non-fiction books together can be very enticing to a child.  Who doesn’t want to read about hero dogs, sharks, or planets? They will be learning, and they don’t even know it because of how you are presenting the topic. Please stop in to your neighborhood KPL branch; we’ll be glad to help you find the right book for your family.

Reading a book aloud together is the least expensive and most effective way to boost your child’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world. We never stop learning and growing, so why not do it as a family? Reading together will strengthen your family bond, and give your child great memories with an emotional connection to well-spent family time.




Donna Holmen
Early Literacy Specialist
Youth & Family Services
Kenosha Public Library

TONIGHT! Old Weird America: Devil at the Crossroads

For the 1st anniversary of Old Weird America –I hope you will enjoy this look into the stormy lives of two American musical icons.  By all accounts, Robert Johnson was an average guitar player in the juke joints of Mississippi in 1932 when he dropped out of sight for a time, only to return as the most arresting blues guitarist anyone had ever heard. Could his mysterious midnight trip to the crossroads outside of Clarksdale have anything to do with his miraculous turnaround?  Equally legendary is the story of convicted killer Huddie Ledbetter --known as Leadbelly, who literally sang his way out of prison and went on to introduce America to such folk standards as “Goodnight Irene’ and “Midnight Special.”

Please join me for our next program, The Devil at the Crossroads, on Thursday, June 13 at 6 pm at the Northside Library.



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