Skip to main content
Cover of The Undercover Book List

The Undercover Book List

By Colleen Nelson. Pajama Press, 2021. 224 pages, $21.95.
Rebecca Ryan

The Undercover Book List is the story of Grade 7 students Jane and Tyson, who foster an unlikely friendship through an anonymous book club. As their paths move closer, both discover their abilities to overcome obstacles and be self-reliant.

Tyson has a reputation for being a kid who doesn’t behave. When getting a book from the library at the secretary’s request, he notices Jane leaving a note in a book on the shelf. Upon snooping in the book, he reads the note and starts anonymously writing notes back to Jane. They give each other book recommendations through these secret notes, which is the beginning of the undercover book club.

Jane runs a school club called the Kid Lit Quiz Team – a competitive group in which students answer book trivia questions. Since her best friend Sienna moved away, the team needs another member to go to an upcoming competition, and Tyson volunteers. Although the odds are against him, with the support of his new friends, Tyson perseveres and rises above the stereotypes that have been bestowed upon him.

All of the topics covered in this novel can be lessons incorporated into your classroom (perseverance, friendship, antibullying, etc.). You could even have your own version of a Kid Lit Quiz. Publisher Pajama Press has created a reading guide for teachers that includes applicable overall and specific curriculum expectations. These include (but aren’t limited to) reading, oral communication and media literacy. There’s also a guide to help foster discussions about the book, as well as questions that students can answer in whole-group or small-group discussions, or on their own in reading response journals.

This is a great story to read with your class, not only because of the numerous curriculum connections that can be made, but also because of the connection that the students can make to the experiences of Jane, Tyson and the secondary characters. Told in the alternating voices of Jane and Tyson, this novel is suitable for students in grades 4 to 8 as either a read-aloud or small-group, student-led reading.

Rebecca Ryan is a member of the Greater Essex County Occasional Teacher Local.