A secret note hidden in a favorite book in the school library. A bookish girl looking for a new best friend. A restless prankster who doesn’t like to read. These are the ingredients of Colleen Nelson’s The list of books under cover, an engaging novel for middle-level students about friendship, love for books and the will to change.
The Hidden Note invites another book lover to participate in an anonymous exchange of favorite books in the school library. Tyson, who likes to challenge authority and play tricks on his fellow students, finds the note and responds to it like a joke. However, stuck with nothing to do when his mother cuts him off from video games, he reluctantly begins to read and soon finds it more stimulating than disrupting class and being sent to the office.
Meanwhile, the book lover Jane misses her father, who has been posted overseas, and is also terribly upset over her best friend’s move to a new city. She desperately wants a new friend, and as the correspondence with Tyson grows, she believes she has found one. The couple exchange ideas for books to read as well as confidences, with Jane completely unaware that she is befriending the class troublemaker. As new challenges emerge in their lives, they each rise up to take them on, strengthened by their love of books and their mysterious friendship.
The list of books under cover, like Nelson’s Harvey novels, take an honest look at the emotional lives of tweens. Jane faces loss, fear, and loneliness, while Tyson struggles to shed her reputation to allow her true space to develop. Nelson approaches their inner lives with respect and empathy, using the books as a healing agent that brings them together.
The plot continues, alternating between Jane’s and Tyson’s perspectives in each successive chapter. Jane’s chapters are in the first person, while Tyson’s are in the third person, which has the effect of making Tyson’s character distant from Jane.
The list of books under cover will resonate with children who feel invisible, who dream of a friend who understands them or who wonder what kind of person to be. It’s a captivating, entertaining and sensitive story that champions reading and the love of books.