Related Articles and Essays by Melissa Hart

"The Owl and I" from High Country News

​"Helping Hands to Injured Birds of Prey" from The Christian Science Monitor

"Adopt a Raptor?" fromOrion

Related Articles and Essays by Melissa Hart

"How One Mother Used a Little Free Library to Teach her Daughter Empathy" from Real Simple

"10 Books to Help Build Self-Confidence in your Tweens and Teens" from Working Mother

"How to Use Diverse Books in Your In-Home Learning" fromWe Need Diverse Books 

"Want to Raise Secure, Loving Children? Give them Books" from The Register Guard​​

Melissa Hart


​Needed now more than ever: a guide that includes 500 diverse contemporary fiction and memoir recommendations for preteens and teens with the goal of inspiring greater empathy for themselves, their peers, and the world around them.
As young people are diagnosed with anxiety and depression in increasing numbers, or dealing with other issues that can isolate them from family and friends–such as bullying, learning disabilities, racism, or homophobia–characters in books can help them feel less alone. And just as important, reading books that feature a diverse range of real-life topics helps generate openness, empathy, and compassion in all kids. Better with Books is a valuable resource for parents, teachers, librarians, therapists, and all caregivers who recognize the power of literature to improve young readers’ lives.
Each chapter explores a particular issue affecting preteens and teens today and includes a list of recommended related books–all published within the last decade. Recommendations are grouped by age: those appropriate for middle-grade readers and those for teens.
Reading lists are organized around:

Adoption and foster care              Body Image               Immigration                Learning challenges
LGBTQIA+ youth                          Mental health            Environmentalism      Physical disability
Poverty and homelessness          Race and ethnicity    Religion and Spirituality

Purchase Better with Bookat your favorite brick-and-mortar or online bookstore.

​"“This collection of themed book lists is a valuable resource for educators, librarians, parents, and other adults who recognize the power of literature in the lives of young people.”—Publishers Weekly

“This exceptionally useful text offers well-curated annotated bibliographies on subjects such as immigration, race and ethnicity, LGBTQIA+ identities,  adoption, religion, and poverty, framed by brief and engaging essays on why each topic matters to readers today...[Melissa] Hart writes with an intersectional lens, considering within-group difference. Interviews with children’s authors, including An Na, Chris Crutcher, Donna Gephart, Beth Vrabel, and Eric Gansworth, are seamlessly integrated and add insight, as do anecdotes from teachers and librarians...Offering valuable reading lists, this beautifully organized work should become a go-to resource for parents, students of young adult literature, teachers, and librarians.”—School Library Journal

“Buttressed by insightful opening essays based on the compiler's own experiences, this guide covers approximately 500 books in 11 categories...The annotations give major plot points and are concisely and engagingly written...An excellent resource...”—Booklist


A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, Han Solo avenged the destruction of an innocent planet by helping Luke Skywalker blow up the Death Star. Han walked away with a gold medal and the love of his life. But when Solo Hahn—named in honor of the beloved action hero—tries to avenge the death of his gray-and-white kitten, he gets eight months of community service. Eight months of working at the local raptor center helping owls—his now sworn enemies.

For the first time in his life, Solo is labeled a troubled kid, an at-risk youth. When his parents uproot him and move the family from California to backwoods Oregon, Solo starts to lose track of the person he was. Everything is upside down, and he finds himself dealing with his father's clinical depression and his mother's anxiety and fear He’s the new kid in town, and he’s got a bad reputation. The question is: What will he do next?

This is a story about staying true to yourself when things get tough and finding your bliss. It won’t be easy, but the wild beauty of Oregon, its cold, empty beaches and captivating wildlife, may be just what Solo and his family need to help them start over. Avenging the Owl was a 2018-2019
Oregon Battle of the Booksselection.

Purchase Avenging the Owl from your favorite brick-and-mortar or online bookstore.

"A good action-adventure story compelling enough for reluctant readers. Hand to fans of books about the great outdoors and the wilderness."--School Library Journal

"With a cast of wonderful supporting characters—including the wildlife, Avenging the Owl will appeal to parents, teachers and children alike. I would even recommend this book as required reading in schools."--YA Books Central

"The cast of characters is filled with diverse, fully-rounded people who readers can relate to and care about. Melissa Hart’s writing is crisp and polished and her story is very compelling. The story will engage the middle-grade set, but really deserves readers beyond that group as it is so well written and full of universal themes."--San Francisco Book Review

"Hart's one-of-a-kind hero's tale is instructive, original, and completely unputdownable." --Karen Karbo, author of Minerva Gets a Clue

"Avenging the Owl doesn't squint at the sometimes painful pursuit of happiness and the awkwardness that can go hand-and-hand with loyalty. But it also, with poignancy and clarity, proves sometimes the bravest thing a person can do is simply stand still when everything in him screams to run away." --Beth Vrabel, A Blind Guide to Stinkville and the Pack of Dorks series