In 1990, inspired by the success that its Bluebonnet list had in suggesting great recreational reading titles for upper elementary students, the Texas Library Association published a pilot list for middle schools. This Lone Star Reading List was hailed as a fantastic idea, and beginning in 1992, a standing committee was set up to oversee the development of the list each year.
Represented by its distinctive student-crafted logo, the Texas Lone Star list is an annotated series of reading recommendations complied by public and school librarians from the Young Adult Round Table. Its purpose is to foster the exploration of a variety of current titles by kids in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, books intended more for recreational reading than actual instruction. Each title has been previously given a favorable review in a professional periodical.
The list is arguably not perfect, of course. The committee is occasionally criticized for not selecting more Texan or Hispanic authors, for example. But for the most part it serves as an appreciated overview of some of the best in current middle-grades literature. School librarians find it invaluable.
The latest list was just released, and it features a wide variety of books. I was especially pleased to see the work of two Latina authors from Texas featured in the 2014 suggestions: Guadalupe García McCall’s Summer of the Mariposas (which I reviewed in 2012 for this column) and Ask My Mood Ring How I Feel by Diana López, a terrific title, especially for young Mexican-American girls.
Ask My Mood Ring follows the 8th-grade trials and tribulations of Erica “Chia” Montenegro as she grapples not only with jealousy of her genius sister and a string of unrequited crushes, but also with her mother’s cancer. Chia makes a promesa or sacred promise to the Virgin Mary in hopes of securing a recovery for her mother, and the lengths to which she goes to keep her oath (and her family together as a functioning unit) are a focal point.
Refreshingly, the novel explores the importance of family and faith in a positive, moving way. Chia’s struggles to shoulder greater responsibility also help to highlight the importance of cancer awareness and community activism for young readers.
Other titles on the Lone Star List for 2014 include Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Sasquatch in the Paint, Eoin Colfer’s The Reluctant Assassin, Gordon Korman’s Ungifted, Steve Sheinkin’s Lincoln’s Grave Robbers and Bridget Zinn’s Poison.
For the complete list, head to the Texas Library Association’s website: http://www.txla.org