History Books We Wish Were Taught in School - Part 2

Bookseller Jennifer has many great recommendations for books that she wishes were taught in school. 

(And all of them are by author Rex Ogle!) 


Ogle uses his remarkable storytelling skills to chronicle his time in Middle School and High School, as part of a family trapped by poverty and with parents who channeled their feelings of failure into abuse.

Ogle also illuminates what life is like for a child struggling with hunger and with the humiliation of daily having to state that he’s on the school’s free lunch program, dealing with bullying, and trying to navigate the already difficult teen years as a child of poverty.

And yet for all the grim reality, Ogle also shows young readers that there are reasons to keep hope alive.


Free Lunch by Rex Ogle book cover


Free Lunch 

Instead of giving him lunch money, Rex's mom has signed him up for free meals.

As a poor kid in a wealthy school district, better-off kids crowd impatiently behind him as he tries to explain to the cashier that he's on the free meal program.

The lunch lady is hard of hearing, so Rex has to shout.

Free Lunch is the story of Rex's efforts to navigate his first semester of sixth grade--who to sit with, not being able to join the football team, Halloween in a handmade costume, classmates and a teacher who take one look at him and decide he's trouble--all while wearing secondhand clothes and being hungry.

His mom and her boyfriend are out of work, and life at home is punctuated by outbursts of violence. Halfway through the semester, his family is evicted and ends up in government-subsidized housing in view of the school. Rex lingers at the end of last period every day until the buses have left, so no one will see where he lives.

Unsparing and realistic, Free Lunch is a story of hardship threaded with hope and moments of grace.

Rex's voice is compelling and authentic, and Free Lunch is a true, timely, and essential work that illuminates the lived experience of poverty in America.


Punching Bag by Rex Ogle book cover


Punching Bag

Punching Bag is the compelling true story of a high school career defined by poverty and punctuated by outbreaks of domestic abuse.

Rex Ogle, who brilliantly mapped his experience of hunger in Free Lunch, here describes his struggle to survive; reflects on his complex, often paradoxical relationship with his passionate, fierce mother; and charts the trajectory of his stepdad's anger.

Hovering over Rex's story is the talismanic presence of his unborn baby sister.

Through it all, Rex threads moments of grace and humor that act as beacons of light in the darkness.

Compulsively readable, beautifully crafted, and authentically told, Punching Bag is a remarkable memoir about one teenager's cycle of violence, blame, and attempts to forgive his parents--and himself.


Abuela, Don't Forget Me by Rex Ogle book cover


Abuela Don't Forget Me

Rex Ogle has a way of reaching your heart with every word he writes, and Abuela, Don't Forget Me is one of his best.  

This autobiographical book in verse reaches out and tells you a story of growing up America that is full of hardship and anger that is foundation of love between Rex and his Abuela.  

Read it, love it, and share it.  AND call your Abuela, right now. - Laura


Four Eyes: A Graphic Novel by Rex Ogle and Dave Valeza


Four Eyes

Rex Ogle does it again.

This middle grade graphic novel addresses what it means to be the "weird" kid in a new school who gets glasses.

But this book is so much more than just a story of a kid that feels like an outcast, it is a beautiful and haunting rendition of how hard this age can be when trying to fit it means so much.

It is a telling story about finding oneself, understanding poverty, finding friends, and simply surviving another day in Middle School. - Rebecca



About the Author:

Rex Ogle is an award-winning author and the writer of nearly a hundred children’s books, comics, graphic novels, and memoirs—most notably Free Lunch, which won the ALA/YALSA award for Excellence in Non-Fiction.  

Born and raised (mostly) in Texas, he moved to New York City after college to intern at Marvel Comics before moving over to DC Comics, Scholastic, and Little Brown Young Readers.  

As an editor, he championed over a dozen NY Times Bestsellers and worked on (and often wrote) major brands such as X-MenJustice LeagueStar WarsLEGOPower RangersTransformersMinecraftAssassin’s CreedBuffy the Vampire Slayer, and Neil Patrick Harris’s Magic Misfits.  

Rex has written under a lot of pen names, including Trey King, Honest Lee, and Rey Terciero (a nickname given by his Abuela, being Español for “third king”, which is apt since Rex is Latin for “king”, and he is the third “Rex” in his family). 

Now, Rex lives in Los Angeles where he writes in his spare time—that is, when he’s not outdoors hiking with his dog Toby, playing MarioKart with friends, or reading.