Season 4, Episode 16
The Best Books No One Has Heard of
April 28, 2022
We're talking about the best back-listed middle grade and YA titles you've probably never heard of. Book recommendations for young adult and middle grade readers.
Titles Mentioned in This Episode
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Charity 0:02 This is Planet Book with Charity and Jen, on this show, we talk about the stories that mean the most to us. If you love books, you've come to the right place. Planet book is made possible by the Springfield Greene County Library District. Welcome to the planet. Welcome, Jen. Hello. Today we're talking about the best books no one has heard of. And obviously people have heard of these books because they got published. And but I think at this point, they're, they're obscure. And so I can't wait to see what's on your list. So one of my favorite books that is pretty old now is The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson. Have you ever read that one?
Jen 0:42 No. I have not.
Charity 0:45 Well, faithful listeners, you have heard me talk about how much I love a dystopian story. And this is a middle grade dystopia. There has been like a plague. How timely, right? That kills all the adults. And so the only people left are kids. Like, I think they're kind of young. Like maybe 15 and younger or something like, and it all happens in this one community. So, you know, you don't know if this has happened all over the world, or is it limited to one country. But anyway, so of course, like the kids have to figure out how to keep their city going, like the food and the water and all this stuff. And anytime society falls apart, you're gonna have your bad actors who want to take over. And so kind of the underdog in the story is this girl who somehow is able to get people on her side. And she puts the bad actors in their place and kind of becomes the leader among this group of kids who are trying to figure out society again, after all of the adults are gone. And it is just so well written and so fascinating. And for those readers who like action and adventure, you like strong characters. Like that's such a good one. But what is so interesting to me about the story came out in 1975.
Jen 2:12 1975?
Charity 2:14 1975. You read this book, when I got to the end, it really felt like there could be a sequel, because now this girl has fought to kind of, you know, take care of her people and establish some order in the city. And well then what happens? And apparently O.T. Nelson seems like this is the only book that he ever wrote.
Jen 2:37 Oh, wow.
Charity 2:38 I even looked it up right before I got on here just to see if that was still true. There are no other books that I can find that he's written but The Girl Who Owned a City. It is a great story.
Jen 2:51 Well, I'm going to. My middle school are both, they both are not, they're not older titles. They're newer titles that when I looked on Goodreads, they only had a couple of 100 or a couple of 1000 reviews, like ratings, not even reviews. So I feel like they needed some love this year. So we're going to talk about or we've already talked about our favorite reads. This was just one of them. Both of these that I'm going to mention were some of the most fun reads I've had this year. And the title I'm talking about is Katie the Catsitter. It's a graphic novel by Colleen AF Venable and Stephanie Yue does the pictures. And what would you think a book Katie the Catsitter was about you. You would think it's about a little girl babysitting cats, right? It's actually about a girl that's in an apartment. All of her friends are a little bit social status wise, maybe a little bit more upper class and she is so she's got to work to pay for just one week of summer camp. So she puts an ad out in the apartment complex to do XY and Z and as she tries to do each job she's failing because she can't like she realizes she doesn't quite have the skills to follow through with these jobs. So one of the jobs she gets is watching the cats. This lady is like will you watch my cat? And like when you hear that you're like, Okay, two cats. Well, no, she literally has hundreds of cat. Okay, and then as the night progresses all these cats are like super, like super smart. They can do all these crazy things like operate computers. They keep stealing the landlord's couch and just silly things like that. But in the meantime, she's like is my, is my neighbor this supervillain? Because there's a super villain in the city and the kid starts to think Is this my neighbor? And so you get this commentary on superheroes and villains and it's just so much fun. And the illustrations are really cute. And it's light hearted, but it's also it's making a couple of points about like factory farming and animal abuse and that kind of thing, because of course, if you're a person that owns 100 animals you might have have a opinion about such matters.
Charity 5:32 That sounds wild. And when you started talking about it, I did not see that going where you took it. And I'm intrigued. Once again, I'm gonna have to put this on my list. You have recommended another great one.
Jennifer 5:46 For example, I read it the same week I read Allergic, which is also a really cute graphic novel, but that's about like a girl who's allergic to pets. You know, you get exactly what you think you're gonna get. Whereas when I picked up Katie the Catsitter, I just thought it was gonna, like, Oh, she can't catsit because she's gonna be allergic. But no, no, it's a super hero-super villain.
Charity 6:08 That sounds great. Jen, here's what, here's what I'm gonna need you to, I'm gonna need you to send me your weekly digest. Because, gosh, you read like so widely. And honestly, I feel kind of outclassed. But anyway,
Jen 6:24 Not at all. No, no, no.
Charity 6:27 So my next, whatever, my next title is another Middle Grade title. It came out in 2016. And it's by Joan Wolf, and it's called Runs with Courage. And it is, I will say, it's kind of a hard story, it's set in the late 1800s. And it's about a Lakota girl who is faced with the struggles of her people being forced onto the reservation. And so it's covering a dark chapter in our history. And so there are some parts that are hard, because she's got a hard life. And she's not treated very well, she's forced into schooling. And so she's not treated very well by the, like, teachers at that school. And
Jen 7:18 Was this American or Canadian?
Charity 7:20 I believe American.
Jen 7:23 because this is the point I would be talking to the kid I was doing readers advisory with and be like, Hey, do you follow? Do you follow news? Because just in the past year, year and a half, past two years, so if it was written in 2016, the atrocities that had been reported on that they did the schools in Canada, and I'm sure they did them in America as well.
Charity 7:47 Yeah. So you know, it's not, it's not going to be a feel good story. But the main character is such a strong, brave character, and you see her, like, go through these situations. And you think, Gosh, I don't know if I'd be able to do that. And it's just written so beautifully, and so, so gracefully. So anyone who's like maybe a fan of historical fiction, this would be a great one. And I know some readers, like hard stories or stories, maybe that have a little sadness. And um, and this does too but it does have a good ending. But I liked it so much. When it came out, I thought for sure that it was going to win the Newbery because it just felt like that kind of book. Like this is literary fiction. For, you know, the middle grade set. It did not. And Newberry committee, like you dropped the ball on that one. But it is a great title.
Jen 8:50 And what was that one called, again?
Charity 8:52 Runs with Courage by Joan Wolf.
Jen 8:55 I'll definitely have to check that out. Because if anything has happened in the past, like two or three years that I've really noticed, it's that we are getting a lot of variety in our Native publishing. Mm hmm. Especially in the adult end. And then it seems like just in the past couple of years they're also publishing Children's, Middle Grade, and High School. Because it used to just be Sherman Alexie, you know, Sherman Alexie filled that void. There's your option. There you go. But now we're having like, variety, age range, it's so I will definitely check that one out.
Charity 9:32 Well, and I did love that. Yeah, it's, you know, it's it's great representation for First Nation people. And the author does that without ever I felt like without ever having to get into anything stereotypical. There are no tropes. I mean, it is just good, solid, authentic writing, and just mad respect for that.
Jen 9:55 Yeah. And these, listen, this is our history. This happened. It's a story that needs to be told. I don't know why we have to say that now. But I'm not being political here. I'm just saying that when this stuff happens, it can be written about in an authentic way. And we'll have to grapple with that. Because yeah, we haven't. Always, well, I'm going to go really light hearted, comparatively, I'm going to suggest. Now we were trying to get the author on. It didn't quite work out with the scheduling. But Cullen Bunn, who is my goodness. Adult comics, he is so prolific. He has so many series. He's worked, I want to say Marvel and DC, some of the top characters, but this year, we get our first Middle Grade novel from him. And it's a graphic novel. It's called The Ghoul Next Door, he does the story part, and Cat Ferris does the pictures. And it's about a boy that befriends a ghoul in the cemetery, after he drops his school project of a cemetery reconstruction into a freshly dug grave, and the ghoul steals it and then the ghoul starts like leaving him little trinkets. And it's that balance of like, it's legitimately kind of creepy, especially when the ghoul is sneaking in like teeth and human bones.
Charity 11:29 Yeah, I read that one. Yeah, it gets a little creepy. And I hope we can still manage to get him on here because I'd love to talk to him about this one.
Jen 11:38 I really hope there will be a sequel.
Charity 11:40 Yeah. And I thought the text and the pictures worked really well together. And I thought it was good.
Jen 11:49 It also kind of has a link. not to, like you can tell it's not the Salem witch trials. But it's very much like the Salem witch trials. Like there's a dark, historical past that it's kind of toying with as well. So I thought it was a lot of fun. Mm hmm.
Charity 12:06 Yeah, I'd agree with that. Well, my last title that I was going to share for this episode, Best Books No One Has Heard Of is a title from 2011. This is YA and it's a little more fun and light hearted. Not Exactly a Love Story by Audrey Couloumbis. I'm not sure how you pronounce her last name. But actually, I'm looking at Goodreads right now. And they have it tagged as young adult, romance, historical fiction. It's set in 1977. So there's your historical part. But I thought this book was really cute. When I read it. I don't know. I don't know if teens want to read a book that's cute. But I thought it was cute. And so it's about 15 year old Vinny and, you know, dealing with the normal teenage struggles. You know, he's got the worst case of acne of any teen that's ever lived, he's sure of and his girlfriend moves away, and his parents get divorced, and his mom wants to move them away. So it's like a lot of a lot of things happening in his life. Well, they end up moving next door to a girl named Patsy. And, you know, she's literally the girl next door, and he falls for her. But he doesn't have the, you know, the guts to approach her in person. And so he starts making anonymous phone calls to her, like, late at night, you know, and so in a way, this is kind of something that you don't have anymore, like prank calls, like, that's not really a thing. But back then that was because there was no caller ID. So you could just randomly call someone they wouldn't know who it was. And so that's what he does. And at first, he's like, he's just so nervous. And he just ends up breathing on the phone. And she's like, what's going on, but he keeps calling, they end up actually chatting. And so she never, you know, doesn't know who it is. But there's something about them talking in the middle of the night and not really knowing each other where they're actually able to kind of get to know each other and reveal a side of themselves that they don't show to all of their friends that they go to school with. And, you know, it's just cute and funny, and you know, and the title is exactly what it is: not exactly a love story, but it's pretty close. And you know, it's a little angsty, it's witty, it's, it's a good read for sure.
Jen 14:37 Well, and it kind of goes back to that, and I can't think of the specific quote by Oscar Wilde. But it's kind of like, you really kind of are your true self when you can wear a mask. Like by masking your true identity you can sometimes be more authentic than you want to be because no one really knows who you are.
Charity 14:57 Mm hmm. Yeah,yeah. So that's basically what happens here. So it's still out there, you can still get it Not Exactly a Love Story.
Jen 15:05 Not Exactly a Love Story. Well, I'm gonna go with. Well, I had read this as it came out in 2010. And then I had only gotten to the third one. I didn't realize there have been two others published since then. It's a French graphic novel called Zombillenium by Arthur de Pins.
Charity 15:26 I'm intrigued. I mean, yes, yes. It is French and zombies. Tell me more.
Jen 15:30 And like, I think we have shelved it as Adult because it kind of has that Superstore sense of humor, because it is about an amusement park, where the monsters are actually monsters, but nobody knows that. So it's like when there's a werewolf character, they're actually a werewolf. So it's also kind of about, like, if you had to work in an amusement park like Disney, like the little jabs you would make. Or dealing with, like human resources issues. Like the second, the first first novel was Gretchen and the second one was Human Resources. So that tells you, it's kind of like, well, this is a summer job that's not so great. And are they going to figure out, somebody's actually going to throw up? Is this really a monster? And for a long time, it was supposed to be adapted into a movie. I was looking it up today, and it has been adapted. Now, I don't know if it's available in English, but it is like an 80 minute movie that you can stream and pay like three bucks to watch. But it is really cute. It's funny, and it only had like 1400 ratings on Goodreads. So I thought maybe it could use some love. Zombillenium.
Charity 16:51 That sounds great. I like to think of myself as somewhat of a Francophile and I love zombie stories. And so this is bringing those two things together. So once again, I will be adding some things to my growing to read list after we get off of here. And you know, maybe we need to do just a whole episode on what Jen reads and how she finds her recommendation. Gosh, Jen.
Jen 17:17 Thank you. Well, no. And I have one more teen title because the author visited. Speaking of how I came across it. Actually one of my teen, when I was in children's and my coworker was in teen, she's like, Oh, have you read this? Because you like horror. You've got to read this. This was before I read any YA horror. This is the book that made me think, wow, YA horror is the real deal now. It's Daniel Kraus. Scowler.
Charity 17:49 I've never even heard of it.
Jen 17:53 Okay, so Scowler. This teenager's father is in prison, and he is, like, the worst human being. Abusive to the kids. Abusive to the mom. And then this, like, is it a satellite or a comet or something, like, hits the prison and the guy gets out. And so it's just like, tension of Is this dad gonna come back and like murder the family? And you get into some of the past abuse and it is so scary. I mean, it's like the real monsters are humans, right? Like, it's one of those books. So then he's also written like he helped with the adaptation of the Shape of Water. He is yeah, he's got. He took over the book for George Romero The Night Of The Living Dead that just came out. So he's well known in adult horror. But he's also does Troll Hunters. So he's, he's very, anyway. Scowler. Okay, give it a look. If you want something terrifying.
Charity 19:01 Well, this has been amazing. You know, it might give most books only two or three stars, but it gives your book recommendations. A solid five stars.
Jen 19:15 Well, I've got some books to look up as well from your recommendations. They sound really good.
Charity 19:19 Well, you know, I'm just trying to keep up with you.
Jen 19:20 Especially that 70s gem. Oh my goodness, that one sounds so cool.
Charity 19:26 I mean, when I saw it was 2011. Like that almost feels ancient by today's standards, you know, but hey, there's some good things on the back list. Well, Jen, until next time, see you later. Thanks for joining us for another episode. Send your book and show suggestions or comments to imagine@the library.org We'd love to hear from you. Follow us on Facebook for the latest news and events. This has been a production of the Springfield Creek County Library District. Thanks for listening.