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Salt to the Sea

51p7+rEf+TL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_by Ruta Sepetys, 391 pages, Grades 8 and up

CYRM MOMINEE

Joana, Emilia and Florian are all escaping the Russian invasion of east Prussia toward the end of World War 2. Each refugee narrates their own story and the stories weave together as their lives intertwine on their journey toward the sea. They are all hoping to secure passage on the ship, the Wilhelm Gustloff, which will take them away from the Russians, but the ship is not the safe refuge they thought it would be.

 

If you like reading sad stories or stories about war you might also like Sepetys’ book Between Shades of Gray, or Private Peaceful, by Michael Morpurgo, or Invasion, by Walter Dean Myers.  This book also reminds me of another written for adults and told in multiple points of view called All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

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All Rise for the Honorable Perry T. Cook

25817074by Leslie Connor, 381 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE

Perry has always lived at the Blue River Co-ed Correctional Facility; he does attend the local public school, but the rest of the day he lives with the inmates at Blue River. This might seem like an unusual arrangement, and it is, but Perry has never known anything different. He was born while his mother was in prison, and the warden made special arrangements to allow Perry to stay with his mother. Some things about this life are not easy for Perry; he can’t invite friends over to play, he gets teased at school because his mother is a convicted inmate, but mostly Perry loves Blue River. His friends are other inmates and no one in the correctional facility teases him; they are the most supportive family he can imagine. Of course, he and his mom can’t wait until they can live on the outside; they have all kinds of plans and dreams for what that will look like one day. They are counting the days until his mom’s parole hearing, and everything seems on track, but, as Perry has learned growing up in a prison, some things are not as easy or straight-forward as they might seem.

If you enjoy realistic fiction, you might also like another book by this author called: Waiting for Normal, or if you are interested in books about unusual family situations you might also like Wild Things, by Clay Carmichael, or The Higher Power of Lucky, by Susan Patron.

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The Reader

readerby Traci Chee, 442 pages, Grades 8 and up

Sefia and her aunt Nin have just escaped into the wilderness because her father was murdered. Aunt Nin teaches Sefia survival skills while Sefia tries to understand the object her father left in her care. It is a book, but no one in Sefia’s world knows what books are because, for the most part, they no longer exist, and neither does the art of reading. Sefia and her aunt are running from her father’s murderers, trying to stay clear of pirates and ninja assassins all while Sefia tries to teach herself to read so she can uncover the mystery of her father’s murder.

 

If you enjoy adventures set in fantastical locations, you might also like: Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, or Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

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Family Game Night

family game nightby Mary E. Lambert, 245 pages, Grades 6 and up

Annabelle has a ritual. She enters her room and walks from corner to corner to corner to make sure that nothing is out of place and nothing has been added to her belongings. Annabelle’s mother is a hoarder which means she loves to keep everything and is always looking for more places to put her treasures since the entire house is filled top to bottom with the million things: newspapers piled as high as the ceiling, empty cracker boxes, sheets and pillows and other bedding. This clutter causes everyone in the family a lot of stress; Annabelle mostly wants to escape it and tries to spend as much time at her friends’ houses as she can. This escape strategy is almost allowing her to live a “normal” life, but then her grandma arrives and tries to bring order back into their lives. Everyone knows that sometimes when you really want to get something clean it has to get a lot messier first; the question is can Annabelle survive the chaos?

If you like books about family challenges, you might also like: Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Nest, by Esther Erlich, or Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

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Speed of Life

speed of lifeby Carol Weston, 329 pages, Grades 7 and up

Sofia’s mom died almost a year ago, but it is still hurts. Everyone would expect losing a parent to hurt for a long time, but Sofia also feels like this event has re-written her whole identity. She is “the girl whose mom died” to everyone around her and that makes it even harder to move through the world. She finally finds some help when she writes to the Fifteen Magazine advice column “Dear Kate” and gets an immediate answer. Sofia really values Kate’s advice and the anonymity makes it easy for her to bare her soul, but then one day she finds her sitting at her kitchen table and finds out she’s dating her dad!

If you like realistic fiction about coming-of-age, or family issues, you might also like: Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom, by Susin Nielsen-Ferlund, or Family Game Night, by Mary E. Lambert.

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The Nest

nestby Kenneth Oppel, 244 pages, Grades 7 and up

Wasps – yes the flying insects – keep talking to Steve in his dreams which makes it hard to get a good night’s sleep. His baby brother is very sick and so sleep does not come easy to anyone in the family, and because everyone is so preoccupied Steve is reluctant to tell anyone about the creepy nightmares. The dreams feel so real that Steve begins to wonder if the wasps building a nest outside his window have somehow found a way to speak to him while he is sleeping. At first the wasps whisper messages that make Steve think they are his friends, but when their messages become more threatening he is filled with terror and the lines between dreams and reality begin to disappear.

 

If you enjoy creepy horror stories, you might also like: Coraline or The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. If you enjoy books about families struggling with health issues you might also try: A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, Nest, by Esther Ehrlich, or Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie, by Jordan Sonnenblick

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Forget Me Not

61U2MLqKgTL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_by Ellie Terry, 330 pages, Grades 6 and up

Calliope June has an egg carton where she keeps a special rock from each place she has lived since her father died. Her mother is determined to find a new husband, and when things don’t work out she moves to a new town for a fresh start. This is especially hard on Calli who has a hard time fitting in in school. She has Tourette syndrome which means sometimes her face twitches or she keeps tapping her head because something itches there and she cannot make it stop. She knows she cannot control her tics so she wears clothes that are too big and very loose hoping that no one will notice, but instead of helping her fit in the other kids think she is strange and are not sure what to make of her. Her mom told her not to tell anyone about her Tourettes “…because it is a very misunderstood disorder. If people know, they’ll treat you differently,” so she keeps her struggles secret. On her first day in the apartment a boy named Jinsong introduces himself. He is the student body president at her new school and seems really nice, maybe this new start will be better than the others after all.

If you enjoy realistic fiction about school or struggling to fit in, you might also like: Anything But Typical, by Raleigh Baskin, Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, or Counting By 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan.

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As Brave As You

26875552by Jason Reynolds, 410 pages, Grades 6 and up

Genie wants to know things, and when he doesn’t know something he can tend to worry about it. He absolutely loves Google because he can ask it all the things he is curious about and he usually gets an answer, but this summer he and his brother are staying with their grandparents where there is no internet. He went from Brooklyn to rural Virginia where everything is a mystery and he doesn’t even have Google! Genie is not having any trouble keeping busy, though. He has personal mysteries to investigate – he keeps track of questions in his notebook , a new landscape to navigate, and, of course, chores, like scooping poop and taking care of birds – things you don’t have to do growing up in the city.

If you enjoy books about summertime or visiting grandparents you might also like: A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Watsons Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis.

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Outrun The Moon

by Stacey Lee, 391 pages, Grade 7 and up26192915

Mercy is a Chinese American growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Luckily she is resourceful and industrious because getting ahead as a Chinese American girl is not easy in the early 1900s. She knows if she can get a good education she will be able to own and run a successful business one day, but the good schools will not admit her. Mercy uses her intelligence and cleverness to get admitted to the private school called St. Clare’s – albeit for one year only at first – but she has to hide her true identity from the other girls. Fitting in and finding friends and allies is problematic to say the least, and in the midst of all this tension and deception, the 1906 San Francisco earthquake strikes. Will Mercy’s resourcefulness be enough to overcome even this devastation?

If you enjoy books about surviving natural disasters you might also like: Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere, by Julie Lamana or Zane and the Hurricane, by W. R. Philbrick. Books that have earthquakes in their plot include: Night of the Howling Dogs, by Graham Salisbury, and Dragonwings, by Laurence Yep.

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Killer of Enemies

by Joseph Bruchac, 361 pages. Grades 8 and up

17946249In the not too distant future people had relied on technology for everything. Anyone with money and power has so much faith in tech that they use it to enhance not only their homes and their world but also augment themselves physically. Those with the most power were called the “Ones.” But then the cloud came and all tech ceased to function. Some of the Ones survived and became leaders of walled communities where all people had to live to stay alive; Lozen lives in a walled city called Haven and she is the Killer of Enemies. People in pre-cloud times had also done a lot of genetic splicing and engineering to create incredible zoos, and personal collections of invented creatures. Now that the tech no longer keeps their cages locked and now that their owners have hidden themselves in walled cities and no longer feed their pets, giant alligator-sharks, sabertooth-lion-apes and other giant, hungry creatures roam the earth looking for food. Lozen’s job is to clear an area of these beasts for the Ones that control Haven. It is not only dangerous outside the walls; people die every day inside Haven. The Ones are harsh rulers and they are using the safety of her family to coerce her into working for them. She is just hoping she can stay alive long enough to get her family out of Haven.

If you enjoy science fiction adventure you might also like: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, or Shipbreaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi. If you enjoy science fiction with strong female characters you might also like: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, or Illuminae, by Jay Kristoff.

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The Leaving

by Tara Altebrando,   pages, Grades 8 and up

leavingEleven years ago Avery’s brother and 5 other 5-year-olds went missing after their first day of kindergarten. Today five of them mysteriously returned, but Max still has not come home. Stranger still, all the returned teenagers don’t remember anything of the last 11 years of their lives. They all have particular talents and skills and have basic knowledge as though someone has been educating them consistently. They pass aptitude tests, one can draw, one knows how to use a camera, a couple can drive, but none remember how they learned these things. This mystery and the fact that Max has not returned has left the whole town suspended in a state of relief – because some children have returned – and tension – because no one knows where they have been, what has gone on for 11 years. Many wonder who these children have become, but Avery mostly wants to know what has become of her brother, Max.

If you enjoy suspenseful stories and don’t mind them a little creepy you might also like: Break My Heart 1,000 Times, by Daniel Waters, Ink and Ashes, by Valynne E. Maetani, or The Reader, by Traci Chee.

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CYRM Middle School WINNER 2017

Keeper of the Lost Cities

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Ghost

ghost-9781481450157_hrby Jason Reynolds, 181 pages, Grades 6 and up

Castle, or Ghost, is a great runner. He is so good that he gets recruited for an elite team just by showing up and showing off one day while they were training which is pretty amazing. The challenge is he has to keep his act together, no more “altercations” at school. Fights just seem to happen to Ghost – anger boils up inside and he can’t stop himself – but now he has to make sure he stays out of trouble or Coach will kick him off the team.

Try some other books by Jason Reynolds: Boy in the Black Suit and As Brave as You!

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On The Edge of Gone

51+fV4a0zOL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_by Corinne Duyvis, 456 pages

Everyone knows a comet is going to collide with earth. Even though time is short, Denise’s mom is taking her sweet time getting ready to go as if it was any normal day. Some of earth’s people have been selected to board generation ships; these ships will have to spend time away from the earth while the planet heals and becomes habitable again. These ships will spend generations away from earth; only a select few get to escape on one of these. Some people have been lucky enough to find a place in a permanent shelter on earth where they will live and wait out the time. Some of the less fortunate could only secure a place that should be safe for the comet’s impact, but where they cannot stay long term; this is where Denise and her mom are headed. Denise’s mom is a bit of a mess; she uses drugs and is not the most responsible of parents, but she is patient with Denise and is also kind. In fact, when they see someone stranded on the side of the road her mom decides to stop and help even though a comet is fast approaching. This act of generosity might just be the thing that saves Denise’s family.

 

If you enjoy science fiction stories about surviving the end of the world Life as We Knew It, by Susan Pfeffer, Divergent, by Veronica Roth, or In The After, by Demitria Lunetta.

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Scythe

scythe-9781442472426_lgby Neal Shusterman, 433 pages, Grades 8 and up

In the future medical technology has advanced so much that humans are basically immortal. People can heal from almost any injury even those that would be fatal today; people can also “turn the corner” when they decide they would rather be younger again, and if they choose to be a lot younger they can start another family. Clearly this presents problems when it comes to population. This is how the Scythes are devised. Scythes are an honorable organization of people who swear a sacred oath, live modestly, do not accept an income, vow to never marry or have children, and also murder a certain number of people each year to keep the population in check. Of course, it seems like a good solution, but things are never as simple in life as they might seem on paper especially when it involves killing people. As Citra and Rowan train to become Scythes they see the true lives of the Scythes; are they living up to their forefathers guidelines and intentions?

 

If you like suspenseful page-turners and you don’t mind books that are creepy, you might also enjoy Unwind, by Neal Shusterman, Break My Heart 1000 Times, by Daniel Waters, or Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins.

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Illuminae

23395680by Amie Kaufman, 599 pages, Grades 7 and up

Ezra and Kady are stationed on the same planet when it is attacked by BeiTech Industries. In the chaos of people fleeing they find themselves on different ships in the escaping fleet. Just as they are leaving they see one ship being hit with a mysterious biological weapon cloud which turns out to be a lethal biotech that turns its victims into violent zombie-like aggressors and the virus is contagious! The escaping fleet is trying to contain the biological attack, escape BeiTech and on top of all that one of the ship’s Artifical Intelligence systems has taken on a life of its own. Al says he is working for the good of the fleet, but it’s hard to tell if what Al thinks is good is really best for the human’s relying on his help.

This book is also interesting because of its format. It feels like reading a novel, a graphic fiction book and a magazine all rolled into one. Some pages are formatted like reports, some are formatted artistically to add to the context of the text.

If you enjoy books that use format to help tell their story you might also like Revolution, or Countdown, by Wiles.

If you enjoy books about space travel you might also like the Ender’s series by Orson Scott Card.

 

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Zeroes

24885636by Scott Westerfeld, 546 pages, Grades 8 and up.

Scam has an amazing ability to convince people by using a special power he calls his “voice.” The voice knows things and is wise and wily beyond what most adults are capable of let alone a teenager. Crash can bring down technology, Glorious Leader can unite a crowd behind his idea, Anon can disappear from people’s consciousness, and Flicker can see the world through other people’s eyes. These teens had banded together to make up a sort-of superhero club called the Zeroes until the day Scam’s voice got out of control and disrespected every one of his friends. Trying to manage on his own his voice gets him in trouble, of course. Will the team let go of the past and step up to save him?

If you enjoyed other series by Scott Westerfeld like Uglies, and Leviathan then Zeroes should appeal.  If you enjoy books about teens with special gifts or powers you might also enjoy Graceling, by  Kristin Cashore.

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The Sun Is Also a Star

28763485by Yoon, 348 pages, Grades 8 and up

Natasha, Daniel and the Universe all come together to tell this story. Natasha is having a bad day; her parents brought her to the United States from Jamaica when she was just 8. They immigrated illegally and now it looks like they are being deported. The thing is, Natasha can’t remember anything but being American, and she has goals and aspirations that she has worked hard to put in place here in the U.S. She didn’t choose to move without the proper authority, and she has no idea what being Jamaican even looks like. Daniel has always been the good son; his brother is the trouble-maker. His family appreciates the fact that he studies hard and follows the rules, but his family also has plans for his future that don’t fit with Daniel’s own dreams for himself. How can he reconcile these two sides of himself: the good kid and the passionate artist?  He is a poet and a dreamer; Natasha is a scientist and a realist. It would seem like their two life paths are too separate to ever intersect, but the Universe has another plan in mind.

 

If you enjoy realistic fiction books about teens you might also like The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, or I’ll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or Every Day, by David Levithan.

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Serafina and the Black Cloak

51cpfz1ul-_sy344_bo1204203200_by Robert Beatty, 292 pages, Grades 6 and up

Serafina has grown up happily with her father in the basement of the big mansion learning her place in the world. Her father fixes things and Serafina, as it turns out, is really good at catching rats. She has never spoken to the guests of the Biltmore Estate or even the family to whom the mansion belongs; she is a secret. No one at Biltmore knows she exists until one day she witnesses a young guest disappear and fights a terrible monster in a black cloak. She can’t help herself; she has to warn the others. She decides to tell Braedden Vanderbilt, nephew of the Biltmore owners, and luckily he turns out to be a reliable ally because there is a great force of evil they must combat, and Serafina needs all the help she can get.

 

If you enjoy mysterious stories you might also like Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy, by Karen Foxlee, or The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman.

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Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere

51azmwdlx8l-_sy344_bo1204203200_by Julie T. Lamans, 321 pages, Grades 6 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2016

Armani was so excited about celebrating her birthday with her friends and family. First the storm keeps her friends away and cancels her party, then the storm forces them into the attic and onto the roof. Hurricane Katrina turns her world is turned upside down and inside out. Houses are filled with water, cars are upside down on top of roofs, people are being pulled away by the water and heat. Armani is forced to grow up a lot more quickly than she imagined, and she wonders how she and her family and friends will make it through.

If you would like to read more about Hurricane Katrina you might like: Zane and the Hurricane, by W.R. Philbrick, or Zeitoun a biography by David Eggers.

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You Are My Only

you-are-my-only-beth-kephart-book-coverby Beth Kephart, 240 pages, Grades 7 and up

Emmy is a young first time mother when her baby is stolen. She is blamed and forced into an asylum as a result of the kidnapping where she grieves the loss of Baby and tries to understand her new circumstances and how to survive them.

Sophie has grown up home-schooled by her mother; they have lived in many different houses in many different cities in the effort to avoid the “No Good” her mother fears. Sophie has never really known anyone but her mother, but now that she is 14 she has become curious about people around her. The friends she makes next door empower her to investigate her mother’s past and give her strength to come to terms with what she discovers.

The two girls each narrate alternating chapters until their stories come together.

If you enjoy books about teenagers in trouble or complicated family situations you might also enjoy: Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary Schmidt, or Waiting for Normal, Leslie Connor.

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CYRM NOMINEES 2017

California Young Reader Medal winners are chosen by students. Students all over the state are reading these books and voting for their favorite.

Read all three of the titles and cast your vote for the best of the group!

screen-shot-2016-10-31-at-9-21-32-am

Nominees: Hold Fast, by Blue Balliett, Upside Down and In the Middle of Nowhere, by Julie T. Lamana, Keeper of Lost Cities, by Shannon Messenger

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CYRM WINNERS 2016

California Young Reader’s Medal winners are chosen by students. Students voted after reading all three of the titles in a section and cast their votes for the best of the group!

Here are 2016 Middle School and Young Adult Winners!

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-12-09-46-pm

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Drama

13436373by Raina Telgemeier, 233 pages, Graphic Novel for Grades 6 and up

Callie loves being on the stage crew of the drama productions at her school. Her head is always full of a million creative ideas, but lately her head has been full of thoughts about the handsome older brother of her friend and fellow stage crew member, Matt. Callie is looking forward to this year’s production which is new kids, crushes, heartbreak, true friendship and, as usual, a lot of drama.
If you enjoy Raina Telgemeier you might also like her Graphic Biography called Smile.  If you enjoy graphic fiction like this one you might also like: Rollergirl, by Victoria Jaieson, or Awkward, by Svetlana Chmakova.

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The Infinite In Between

23870836by Carolyn Mackler, 462 pages, Grades 7 and up

On the first day of high school, freshmen are put into orientation groups. Each group is tasked with doing a collaborative project together so they bond with one another, and this group decides to write letters to their future selves. Then they decide to hide the letters until graduation when they will find each other and read them aloud. Each of the students in this group have their own path through high school; some of their stories overlap but some of the group never cross paths again until graduation. Some stories are full of heartache, some are frustrating and some joyful; just like a real high school experience most stories are full of a little of everything. Getting the group together after graduation might be more challenging than they ever could have suspected as naive freshmen, and it might not be possible to revisit the letters after all.  Time will tell.
If you enjoy books about high school kids you might also like I’ll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson, or The Fault In Our Stars, by John Green, or Every Day, by David Levithan

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Roller Girl

51VWEvDVrkL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Graphic Novel by Victoria Jamieson, 240 pages, Grades 6 and up

Astrid’s mom takes her and her best friend, Nicole, to see the Roller Derby and Astrid is instantly hooked! She has it all planned out: Nicole and she will go to derby camp in the summer and become the best jammers in the club, but life has a way of not always turning out the way you think. Next thing you know Astrid is signed up for the camp alone, can hardly skate to save her life, and has to walk a long way to get home every day by herself in the hot sun. The whole thing is a lot more work than she had bargained for, but she is tough and soon learns that in life just like in roller derby you have to learn to be strong and pick yourself up when you find you have been knocked down.

If you enjoy graphic fiction, you might also like: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Deutsch, or Drama, by Raina Telgemeier.

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The Boy in the Black Suit

21490991by Jason Reynolds, 255 pages, Grades 7 and up

Matt’s mom just passed away; it is a difficult time. His dad is struggling so much that he cannot offer Matt any support. Mr. Ray offers him a job at the funeral home, but he is sure this is the last thing he wants to do. The $15 an hour is hard to pass up, though, and soon enough he is wearing a suit to school so he is ready for work at the funeral home right after. One day while helping out, Matt finds himself sitting at the back of the room during someone’s funeral. Somehow listening to the people share what they loved about the person who had died, and what they will miss and how they experience grief, helps Matt process his own grief. He begins to make a habit of secretly listening to other people’s memorials and this is how he meets Lovey. She has had a hard go of it herself, but her positive nature inspires Matt and helps him heal.

If you like books about overcoming adversity, you might also like: Guitar Boy, by Mary Jane Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, Ghetto Cowboy, by Greg Neri.

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Carry On

51aT-+HwVqL._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_by Rainbow Rowell, 522 pages, Grades 8 and up

Simon’s roommate, Baz, is probably a vampire, but Simon figures if he had wanted to bite him he has had plenty of opportunities to do it, so Simon probably doesn’t need have anything to worry about. He is more concerned about being able to use his wand; he is supposedly the most powerful magician in centuries, but he can’t even manage the simplest spells, so he is sure they have somehow made a terrible mistake and he will be found out as a fraud at any moment. To make matters worse there is a darkness that is spreading across England and sucking up all the magic in its path called the Mysterious Hum Drum. Simon feels like he is cursed or something because the Hum Drum seems to find Simon wherever he is. Turns out Simon has a lot to worry about in addition to the vampire roommate and the Hum Drum and being terrible at magic he also worries he’s not a very good boyfriend, and that he will most certainly disappoint the Mage who has made his education possible. Luckily he has Agatha to confide in; she is a formidable magician and a solid friend too, but even though she has Simon’s back he is not sure he will be able to survive this year at the Watford School of Magicks.

If you enjoy this book, you might also like Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell.

If you enjoy edgy books about magic and supernatural creatures you might also like: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride.

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Fuzzy Mud

61NMkpecIoL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_by Louis Sachar, 181 pages, Grades 6 and up

Tamaya and Marshall have been walking to and from school together since they were in elementary school even though they are two years apart. This year Marshall is having some trouble with a bully in his grade, and Tamaya is feeling for him. One day Marshall takes a strange route home to avoid the bully, Chad, and they find some strange mud in the woods. They think it looks weird but figure mud is mud until Tamaya’s skin starts burning and tingling where she touched it. What is this fuzzy mud? Is Tamaya allergic? Is it contagious? It turns out it is something a lot more sinister than poison oak or stinging nettle and now the whole town, or maybe the whole world might be at risk.

If you like stories about biotechnology or genetic science, you might also enjoy: Eve and Adam, by Michael Grant, Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or even Leviathan, a steam-punk historical fantasy, by Scott Westerfeld or Jurassic Park, by Michael Crichton.

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Dream On, Amber

25965546by Emma Shevah, 266 pages, Grades 6 and up

Amber’s mom is Italian and her father is Japanese, but she lives in England with her grandmother, mom and little sister. This year she is about to start middle school in a new neighborhood which gets her contemplating her identity. She looks Japanese, but her father hasn’t been in contact since she was a little kid so she doesn’t really feel connected to that part of her heritage. She is not the only thinking about their dad, her little sister is convinced she can get him to come to her birthday party and Amber feels like she needs to help set her sister straight; their dad is not coming home for that or anything else anytime soon.

If you like epistolary novels (novels written like journals or a series of documents) you might also enjoy: Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, or Regarding the Fountains, by Kate Klise.  If you enjoy books about identity, you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzva, by Paula Freedman, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

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A Year Without Mom

without momGraphic Novel by Dasha Tolstikova, 167 pages, Grades 6 and up

Dasha’s mom is moving to the United States for one year and leaving her behind in Russia with her grandparents. Dasha is plenty responsible and independent and she gets along fine with her grandma and grandpa but there are some things 12 year olds just can’t discuss with their grandparents. Dasha’s year is full of hard decisions and some heartache and Dasha has to brave it all on her own.

If you enjoy graphic novels you might also like:  The Memory Bank, by Coman & Shepperson, or Little White Duck, by Liu and Martinez.

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Echo

echoby Pam Munoz Ryan, 585 pages, Grades 6-8

Echo is a book of connected stories all following a particular musical instrument through time. The first takes place in Germany at the beginning of World War 2, 1933. Friedrich’s family is worried he might be noticed and persecuted by the Nazi’s because he is such an unique child. Even though they are unable to disentangle Friedrich’s sister from the Nazi youth, they know they must escape what Germany is becoming. The next story takes place in 1935 in an orphanage in Pennsylvania; Mike and his brother Frankie are hoping to get adopted, but are planning a daring escape in the event that they don’t get adopted before its time to send the older brother to an institution for teens that would separate the boys. The final story takes place in California in 1942; Ivy Maria’s family are farmers.  A neighboring family has asked them to oversee their farm in trade for partial ownership. Their neighbors are Japanese and have been forced to move to internment camps after Pearl Harbor was attacked and leave their farm unattended. Ivy’s father wants to help, and sees it could be a good opportunity for his family, but there are some who would like to ransack the Yamamoto’s house while they are away. Will the family be safe there? All the stories are folded together in the last section’s satisfying conclusion; it is a long read, but such a hard one to put down once you have started.

If you enjoy historical fiction books you might also like: Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, Jefferson’s Sons, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, or Rodzina, by Karen Cushman.

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The Hired Girl

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by Laura Amy Schlitz, 387 pages, Grades 6-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2017

Joan is basically treated like a house slave by her brothers and her father. She cleans, cooks and tends to their animals all day everyday for not a penny. When her mother was alive her father at least allowed the egg money to be hers, but Joan is only 14 and her father cannot see why she would need money of her own. Joan doesn’t really need the money, what she really wants is books to read. She has read the three she owns over and over. One day her teacher comes by to see why she no longer attends school. When she sees her father will not be persuaded to send her back she tries to lend Joan a book or two, but Joan’s father does not allow; he says reading will make her lazy. Next, Joan tries to demand the egg money without success, and then she decides to go on strike to show her father how hard she works and that they really need her. This plan backfires because instead of learning to appreciate her more, her father burns her books to teach her a lesson; the only thing in her life that bring her joy are gone. That is the last straw; Joan decides to run away and try to become a hired girl in Baltimore. Hired girls make as much as $6.00 a week and certainly she can work as hard as any city girl!
If you enjoy historical fiction with female protagonists you might also enjoy: Oh Pioneers, by Willa Cather, Lyddie, by Katherine Patterson, or , Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

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The Thing About Jellyfish

24396876by Ali Benjamin, 343 pages, Grades 6-8

You know that moment when you and the best friend you have had all the way through elementary school just don’t seem to be seeing eye to eye anymore? This had just happened to Suzy at the end of the school year last June. Suzy was fed up with Franny and her clique and they had not seen each other all summer. Sometimes friends just grow apart, sometimes friends just need a little break; Suzy knew that. But then her mother got the phone call; Franny drowned. Her best friend was dead, really dead. And, now Suzy cannot understand how this can be true; Franny knows how to swim after all. Suzy is convinced it must have been some kind of freak Jellyfish sting accident, and she is determined to prove it.

If you enjoy sad books that are also about friendship you might also enjoy: Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Fish in a Tree, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt.

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Orbiting Jupiter

41uZrunxtKL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_by Gary Schmidt, 183 pages, Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE – 2017

Everyone at Jack’s school thinks his new foster brother, Joseph, is trouble. They say he got kicked out of his last school for beating up a teacher. They also say he is angry, mean and prone to violence, but Jack sees him differently. At Jack’s family farm Joseph has to help with all the chores since he is a new member of the household. Joseph doesn’t know much, but he seems to be trying and he never gives up or complains. Jack is patient with Joseph and eventually Joseph opens up and shares his secret; he is a father, and all he can think about is getting back to see his baby, Jupiter.

If you like books about kids persevering despite challenging family situations you might also enjoy: Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor,Guitar Boy, by Mary Jane Auch, or Hold Fast, by Blue Balliet.

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All The Light We Cannot See

51MfO0a70ZL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Anthony Doerr, pages, adult fiction

In Paris a little girl named Marie Laure becomes blind, and her father creates a miniature city for her, a replica of their neighborhood, so that she can learn to navigate their neighborhood even without sight. In this way her father keeps her safe so he can continue to go to work at the Museum of Natural History, but when the Nazis occupy Paris, Marie Laure’s father decides someone blind might not be safe and he takes her to the sea to live with her great-uncle. Her father is building her a new miniature that represents the town by the sea when he is captured and taken away.

In Germany Werner is growing up in an orphanage. Life is not easy, but he and his sister manage and at least they have one another. Werner soon discovers that he enjoys taking things apart; one of the first things he dissembled and rebuilt was a radio. As it turns out, Werner has a special talent for radios and is soon fixing things at the orphanage, in fact, he is so good that the Hitler Youth hear about him. Werner is not really old enough to join, but they want him so much that they add a couple of years to his age so that they can recruit him. Werner is happy to be appreciated, but finds himself working among some of the most despicable people in the Nazi army, luckily he keeps his sister in his heart writing her as often as he can; this may be what keeps him human in the midst of the terrible violence of World War II.

This novel is told by these two narrators whose stories alternate and eventually collide in a nail biting conclusion.

If you enjoy historical fiction about World War 2, you might also like: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, Invasion, by Walter Dean Myers, or Hero on a Bicycle, by Shirley Hughes.

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The Paper Cowboy

20821303by Kristin Levine, 341 pages, Grades 6 and up

At school Tommy is a smart and popular kid that gets away with a lot; he is handsome and charming and these qualities seem to allow him to get forgiven more often than held responsible for his misbehavior. At home, though, it is a different story. Anytime his mother experiences stress or embarrassment, she takes it out on Tommy, and viciously. Tommy’s dad has a lot of other things to worry about, and it seems like Tommy just keeps making bad choices and deserves the trouble he is in. It is the 1950s and no one really knows how to talk about domestic abuse. In addition to Tommy’s home stress, the community is up in arms over potential communists living among them; the country is following Senator McCarthy’s lead as he persecutes and bullies anyone he thinks is a communist sympathizer. In the midst of this tension Tommy’s older sister, the one person he can rely on in his family, ends up in the hospital, and her jobs including: delivering newspapers, bathing the baby, playing with the toddler, burning the trash, and on and on, fall to Tommy. Life is tough, but luckily so is Tommy.

If you enjoy historical fiction you might also like: Twerp, by Mark Goldblat, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Under the Blood Red Sun, by Graham Sallisbury.

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Nest

20170580by Esther Ehrlich, 329 pages, Grades 6 and up

Naomi, or Chirp as everyone calls her, is living a life full of dancing and laughter with her sister and parents in Cape Cod around 1970. Chirp’s mom has always seemed happy and unflappable until one day she comes down with a mysterious illness. Chirp’s mom is a dancer so when the illness makes movement and even everyday things difficult and unpredictable her mom becomes very depressed. Chirp and her sister take on more and more responsibilities to keep their lives going as their mom sinks into deeper and deeper sadness. Luckily Chirp has a good friend, a real friend, Joey. Joey has troubles of his own so he can relate to Chirp’s personal struggles. Sometimes helping someone else up when you are down yourself brings you personal strength you never knew you had.

If you enjoy realistic fiction about kids overcoming adversity, you might also enjoy: Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, Counting By Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.

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Paper Hearts

Paper-Hearts-Meg-Wiviottby Meg Wiviott, 332 pages, Grades 7 and up

Zlata and Fania are both imprisoned in Auschwitz during World War 2. Each girl has come from a loving family and each has been through a lot even before arriving at the death camp.  Some of their family are dead, some remain a mystery, but hope is a dangerous thing in a death camp. Hope might keep you alive, but maybe it could be your weakness, and there is no room for weakness. Zlata and Fania’s story was based on a lot of real true accounts of Auschwitz. In fact, the real paper heart is on display in the Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre in Canada.

If you are interested in stories of the holocaust you might also enjoy: Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, The Devil’s Arithmetic, by Jane Yolen, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne, or Berlin Boxing Club, by Riob Sharenow.

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The Lighning Dreamer

lightningby Margarita Engle, 244 pages, Grades 7 and up

This novel in verse is based on the true story of a young woman who speaks up for the poor enslaved and mistreated people of her country, Cuba. She is inspired by a rebel poet and moved by those living without freedom all around her. She risks her own life and freedom to speak out about these inequities.

Sometimes novels in verse can make stories even more powerful and moving. If you enjoy novels in verse you might also like: The Aleutian Sparrow, by Karen Hesse, or The Surrender Tree, by Margarita Engle, or Paper Hearts, by Meg Wiviott.

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Doll Bones

Black_doll1by Holly Black, 244 pages, Grades 6 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Zach, Poppy and Alice have known each other a long time. They created a game together and they continue to add to its imaginative story every time they get together, each one taking on the point of view of a particular character. There is one character they never allow in the game, the queen. This china doll stays locked in Poppy’s family cabinet; she is too powerful and too frightening to bring out. One day Zach refuses to join Poppy and Alice in the game, so Poppy decides to release the queen to lure him back, but the nightmares that follow are more than she bargained for! Zach, Poppy and Alice are soon propelled into a frightening adventure to try to put the doll bones to rest and stop her from haunting their dreams.

If you like scary adventure books, you might also enjoy The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, The Long Lankin, Lindsey Barraclough, or Cirque du Freak series, by Darren Shan.

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The Red Pencil

20454083by Andrea Davis Pinkney, 308 pages, Grades 6 and up

Amira lives in Sudan and though she loves to create stories and draw in the sand she is not encouraged to go to school. Girls, her mother says, must become good wives and mothers. Luckily her father and grandfather see Amira’s passion for learning and want to help her fulfill her dreams. Just when she thinks her life might be looking up their village is invaded and her father is brutally killed. She and her mother and grandfather struggle to find a safe place to live while they also try to find the courage to survive their grief. The sadness consumes Amira; it even swallows her voice and she can no longer speak out loud. What will give Amira strength to go on? Will she ever be able to speak again? What about her passion for learning; is that lost forever?

If you like stories of overcoming difficult circumstances, you might also enjoy: Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan, The Lightning Dreamer, by Margarita Engle, or if you want to read more stories about refugees of war you might also like Now Is the Time For Running, by Michael Williams.

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How I Became a Ghost

51L2Lg+T8bL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Tim Tingle, 139 pages, Grades 6 and up

There was a time when Isaac’s life was happy and peaceful with his Choctaw family and his dog, Jumper. But this is not the story of that part of Isaac’s life; this story is actually told by his ghost, so right away you see things are not going to end well for Isaac. Isaac becomes a ghost during the Trail of Tears, but that doesn’t stop him from helping his family and friends survive their harrowing journey.

If you enjoy stories about the Native American experience you might also enjoy:  The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie, Ghost Hawk, by Susan Cooper, House of Purple Cedar, by Tim Tingle, or The Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich.

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CYRM 2016 Nominees

California Young Reader’s Medal winners are chosen by students.  Read all three of the titles in a section and cast your vote for the best of the group!

CYRM 2015-16

Middle School Titles are: Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge, Doll Bones, by Holly Black, and Ghosthawk, by Susan Cooper.

Young Adult Titles are: Cinder, by Marissa Meyer, Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell, and Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs.

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Hold Tight, Don’t Let Go

hold tightby Laura Rose Wagner, 263 pages, Grades 8 and up

One moment, Magdalie is living an ordinary life in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; she goes to school, spends time with her best friend and cousin Nadine, and helps her auntie with chores around the house. The next moment her world is turned upside down; she has no home, no school, no family and maybe no best friend. When the earthquake hit Haiti in 2010 it caused devastation throughout the region. Magdalie survives the quake but is challenged with surviving the new chaotic world.  How can she embrace her future now that everything is different?

P.S. The author is a former student of Piedmont Middle School

If you enjoy books about persevering after a disaster, you might also enjoy: The Red Pencil, by Pinkney, or Mockingbird, by Erksine.

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What if?

what ifby Randall Munroe, 295 pages, All ages

“What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?”

“If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?”

“What would happen if you made a periodic table out of cube-shaped bricks, where each brick was made of the corresponding element?”

These questions and many more are scientifically considered and answered using diagrams and line drawings by Randall Munroe, the creator of xkcd.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction books that answer curiosity, you might also enjoy: Cool Stuff 2.0 and How It Works, by Woodford and Woodcock, Unbored: The Essential Field Guide to Serious Fun, by Glenn and Larsen, or Pick Me Up, by Roberts and Leslie.

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Darius & Twig

dariusby Walter Dean Myers, 201 pages, Grades 6 and up

Darius and Twig are best friends. Twig is a runner; he is so good that he just might get a scholarship right out of Harlem. Darius wants this for his friend more than anything. Darius is a writer, but he can’t imagine how that will help him make a better life for himself. Their lives are not easy.  Bullies, gangs, dirty sports dealings and abusive relatives make navigating their Harlem neighborhood a challenge; good thing they have each other.

 

If you like stories about friends supporting each other you might also enjoy: The London Eye Mystery, by Dowd, or Bluefish, by Schmatz, or Lions of Little Rock, by Levine.

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Proxy

proxyby Alex London, 379 pages, Grades 8 and up

Syd is a proxy which is basically a futuristic whipping boy. Any time his patron makes a mistake or does something illegal he gets punished. The punishment is brutal; Guardians use a nerve weapon that causes pain throughout your body. In this future society patrons have all the wealth and power and the poor often have to go into debt to survive thus becoming proxies. Some proxies have decent patrons; they are mostly law abiding citizens, but Syd’s patron is prone to getting himself in trouble and Syd has suffered the consequences his entire life. When one of his patron’s antics adds years to Syd’s debt, he decides he has to escape, but he is only one guy against an entire world.

 

If you enjoy dystopian adventures, you might also like: Hunger Games, by Collins, Shipbreaker, by Bacigalupi, Mazerunner, by Dashner, or The Testing, by Charbonneau.

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CYRM Winners 2015!

Middle School Winner is False Prince, by Nielsen, and YA Winner is The Fault in Our Stars, by Green. Screen shot 2015-05-04 at 8.09.55 AMAnother book we own won for upper elementary! Wonder, by Palacio.121009_DX_WonderBook.jpg.CROP.article250-medium

 

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Revolution

18527498by Deborah Wiles, 495 pages, Grades 6-8

This is book 2 in the Sixties Trilogy by Deborah Wiles.

 

It is 1964 and Sunny’s life has been taken over by a stepmother, her children, her mother and a dog. She feels like starting a revolution or at least participating in a protest like her mother might have done. Sunny’s life really isn’t that bad, at least she go where she wants. Raymond is African American living near Sunny but in very different circumstances. He can’t even swim in the “public” pool just because he is Black. That, at least, is about to change because Sunny and Raymond are in the middle of Freedom Summer when desegregation advocates flocked to Mississippi to register African Americans to vote. Jo Ellen (the older sister character in the book Countdown, by Wiles) is part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee that comes to Sunny’s town to register voters and Sunny admires her right away. The three characters’ stories overlap during one of the most memorable time in the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. Wiles makes the book especially interesting to read by scattering news articles, radio transcriptions, and other elements of popular culture of 1964 throughout grounding the story in the historical time frame.

 

If you enjoy books about the Civil Rights Movement in American history you might also enjoy: One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine, or the non-ficiton book called Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, or the biography called Warriors Don’t Cry by Beals

 

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Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

51+6PD7wcQL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Katherine Rundell, 248 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Will (Wilhelmina) is growing up free to roam and run wildly on the farm her father manages in Zimbabwe. She is happy and healthy and life has never been better until the day her father dies and she cannot stay on the farm anymore.  Will is sent to boarding school in England and her life abruptly makes a complete about face. The boarding school is nothing but rules, the students make fun of Will for being uneducated and not properly groomed, the clothes required are uncomfortable and confining, and the weather, food and people are cold, awful and mean. Will cannot stand it, and no one understands her or even seems to want to. She decides she will make her way back to Zimbabwe somehow; she can live in the wild around the farm where she grew up, after all, she knows people there; her first step is escaping the school.

 

If you like stories taking place in countries other than the U.S. you might also like: A Time to Dance, by Padma Venkatraman, Words in the Dust, by Trent Reedy, or A Million Shades of Gray, by Cynthia Kadohata, Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

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The Clockwork Scarab

17084242by Colleen Gleason, 350 pages, Grades 7 and up

 

Sherlock Holmes’ niece, Mina and Bram Stoker’s (author of the novel Dracula) sister Evaline are cajoled into allying to uncover the mystery behind the death of young upper-class ladies in London.  Mina is a methodical detective, brilliant like her uncle, and calculating. Evaline comes from a family of vampire slayers; she is a tenacious fighter trained in various martial arts as well as an expert wielder of weaponry. The two have distinctly different approaches to crime fighting and have some trouble understanding each other, but they may come to find out that each one has something to offer that the other one desperately needs because this is a case of a lifetime.

 

If you like good detective stories or take-offs on Sherlock Holmes mysteries you might also like: Death Cloud, by Andy Lane, The Screaming Staircase or The Whispering Skull, by Jonathan Stroud.

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Fish in a Tree

fish in a tree - final coverby Lynda Mullaly Hunt, 276 pages, Grades 6

 

Ally has a lot of ideas; she loves to draw and loves to create stories in her mind, but she cannot put her stories into words on paper. Because of her struggle with words she finds herself in embarrassing situations at school. Sometimes her mistakes make other people laugh and rather than admitting she really doesn’t understand, she pretends that she makes mistakes on purpose; she plays the class clown. This is how she makes it to middle school before anyone knows she has dyslexia, a learning difference that makes reading very challenging. Being the class clown has helped her escape embarrassment, but when you pretend to be someone you’re not it is hard to make real friends. This might be the year Ally decides to be strong and finally be herself.

 

If you enjoy books about kids overcoming obstacles at school, you might also enjoy: Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin,  Counting By Sevens, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.

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Rain, Reign

20575434by Ann Martin, 222 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Rose loves homonyms; she is obsessed with them, in fact. When she finds a new set of homonyms she adds it to her list written all by hand; her father doesn’t think they need computers at home. Sometimes when she finds a new set it is so exciting that her aide has to help her calm down outside the classroom, and sometimes other kids in her class don’t understand her because of this.  Some bad things that have happened to Rose are: her mother left, her father spends a lot of time at the neighborhood bar, and she is not allowed to ride the school bus anymore. The best thing that happened to Rose is that her dad gave her a dog. He found her one day after a big rainstorm and brought her home to Rose; she called her Rain. Rose wondered why anyone would let such a good dog go wandering around without a collar; her dad tells her whoever owner her before must not have cared very much. When Rain goes missing from their house, Rose understands that sometimes even dogs who are loved can get out without a collar and lose their way; it doesn’t mean the owner doesn’t care. Rose knows she cares about Rain more than anything, but it will take more than that to get her back.

 

If you like books about dogs and their owners you might also like: Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate di Camillo, A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews, or Cracker, by Cynthia Kadohata.

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The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

18079754by Brenda Woods, 222 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Violet is happy; she loves her family. She even loves her perfect sister, though she is a bit envious. Her sister is gorgeous and talented and fits in perfectly at home and in public; no one ever questions how she is a part of their family. Violet’s father was African American and her mom is white. Now that her dad is dead, she is growing up as the only person of color in a white family and just being seen as part of the family out in the world is not simple. No one can just see that she belongs, and even though she is close to her mom and sister she longs for somewhere to fit it without anyone questioning it. Her father’s mother is an artist and is doing a show nearby. Violet is determined to go to the show and convince her grandmother to be a part of her life; since her father died her grandmother has not contacted their family out of both grief and anger. It is time Violet finds a connection to the rest of her personal identity and her father’s family, but is this angry grandmother the way to find it?

If you like stories about personal identity you might also enjoy My Basmati Bat Mitzvah, by Paula J. Freedman, A Mango Shaped Space, by Wendy Mass, or My Name is Mina, by David Almond.

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I Kill The Mockingbird

51oaVjNtcUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Paul Acampora, 163 pages, Grades 6-7

 

Lucy loves reading, so when her English teacher assigns To Kill A Mockingbird as summer reading she is looking forward to it. Other students are not as enthusiastic, so Lucy and her friends concoct a scheme to get people talking and wondering about the book. Her group makes all of the copies of To Kill a Mockingbird “disappear” from every bookstore, and library, and in their place the group leaves a flyer that says: I kill the Mockingbird. Suddenly social media and the local TV news has picked up the story and their small time prank turns into something much larger than they imagined; will their idea really get people interested in reading To Kill a Mockingbird like they are hoping?

 

If you like stories about friends working together you might also like The Misfits, by James Howe,  Every Soul a Star, by Wendy Mass, or Chasing Vermeer, by Blue Balliett

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The Accidental Highwayman: being the tale of Kit Bristol, his horse Midnight, a mysterious princess, and sundry magical persons besides

20519011by Ben Tripp, 303 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Kit  Bristol is a gentleman’s assistant, or so he thinks. When his master is mortally wounded Kit learns that he is a highwayman, a robber in 18th century England, and a notorious one at that name of Whistling Jack. Kit’s first mistake is borrowing his master’s coat when he tries to sneak off to get help for the suffering man. Instead of finding help, Kit is mistaken for Whistling Jack and ends up saddled with his debt. Whistling Jack owes the magical kingdom something and now Kit is bound to taking up the task; he won’t have his life back until he completes the quest Whistling Jack had only just begun. Will he survive the treacherous adventure and please the fairy Whistling Jack had promised to help or is there some other way out of his predicament?

 

If you enjoy fantasy adventure stories you might also like: Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher or W.A.R.P.: The Reluctant Assasin, by Eoin Colfer.

 

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Sparkers

A1zxt5y5zxLby Eleanor Glewwe, 323 pages, Grades 5-8

 

Marah is on a race against time to find a cure for the dreaded Dark Eyes Disease; her brother and best friend are already sick. Unfortunately, Marah is a Sparker, the lowest class in her society, and even though she is extremely smart she will never be allowed to study or become as successful as anyone in the magician class. A chance encounter with a magician girl ends up providing her a partner in her quest for a cure; the little magician girl’s older brother is on a mission to find a cure as well. The two unlikely allies find themselves up against government officials, family members, the difficult translation of ancient texts and the general lack of information of their society’s past as they struggle for an answer. Will they make it in time to save the people they love?

 

If you like fantasy books that feel a little like historical fiction you might also enjoy: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, or Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman.

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Brown Girl Dreaming

 

ypl_woodson_Brown_Girl_Dreamingby Jacqueline Woodson, 336 pages, Grades 4-7

 

Jacqueline grew up in the 1960s living some of the time at her grandparents’ home in the south and later with her mother in New York City. Historic accounts of the civil rights movement run through her stories as these events impact her and her siblings’ lives. Jacqueline’s childhood is not easy; her mother leaves her father when she is still the baby of the family, living in the south makes her acutely aware of the racial divide in this country, and following her genius sister just a year behind in school makes her feel like a disappointment sometimes, but Jacqueline and her siblings are surrounded by people who love them and this lifts her spirit and warms her heart.  Jacqueline’s favorite gift growing up is a notebook, but it takes her some time to understand that writing will really be her occupation; people in those days thought of writing as a hobby. Jacqueline Woodson is an acclaimed author today, and this is her memoir in verse.

 

If you enjoy reading memoirs about the civil rights movement you might also like: Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, by Phillip M. Hoose, or  Warriors Don’t Cry: a Searing Memoir of the Battle to Integrate Little Rock’s Central High School, by Melba Beals.

 

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A Time to Dance

timetodanceby Padma Venkatraman, 305 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

To Veda, dancing is like breathing; it is a natural and necessary part of life. She is highly competitive and the star pupil of her Bharatanatyam dance school until the accident. When Veda loses part of her leg she has to learn to redefine what she knows about dancing, and what she thinks she understands about life itself.

 

If you like books about athletes overcoming adversity you might also enjoy: Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Curveball:The Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, and One Handed Catch, by M.J. Auch

 

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Caminar

18166935by Skila Brown, 193 pages, Grades 6 and up

 

Carlos lives in Guatemala during a civil war. When he is little his village is quiet and peaceful, but as the war comes closer things begin to get frightening. Soldiers make camp nearby and although they seem nice enough, there is a sense that trouble is lurking in their backyard. Eventually, the war separates Carlos from the rest of his family.  He is starving and alone when the soldiers find him. Should he trust them? Can he survive without them? When the soldiers were camped outside their village his mother told him he was not old enough to stand up to them, but has he grown up since then? If only he could ask his mother if he was ready, so he would know what to do to save his grandmother’s village.

 

Click here to see if this book is available.

If you like stories of war and courage, you might also like: A Long Walk To Water, by Barbara Parks, or Now is The Time for Running, by Michael Williams.

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The Fourteenth Goldfish

fourteenthgoldfishby Jennifer L. Holm, 195 pages, Grades 5-7

 

Life does not go on forever normally, though it seems like Ellie’s goldfish is hanging on a lot longer than her friends’ goldfishes. Her grandfather also has an aging problem; he has become an adolescent boy again. It is pretty weird watching a pimply 7th grader bossing around her mom, but it is kind of nice to have someone around to talk to about science. Melvin, Ellie’s grandfather, is a scientist. He is mostly concerned with retrieving his research from his office; he cannot very well waltz into the lab as a 13-year-old boy without arousing suspicion.

 

Click here to see if the book is available.

 

If you like science fiction with a little humor, you might also enjoy: Boom, by Mark Haddon or The Doom Machine, by Mark Teague. If you enjoy books about friendships between the young and old you might also enjoy: Curveball:The Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or The Cardturner, by Louis Sacher

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The Glass Sentence

glass-sentenceby S. Grove, 489 pages, Grades 6 and up.

 

Sophia is growing up in a very different world than you can read about in our history books. About 100 years ago in her world there was something called The Great Disruption which was a bit like a time earthquake; it shook the whole world and left its continents in different eras. Dinosaurs roam some parts of the earth, some parts are living in the Middle Ages, and some are living in a futuristic time; Sophia lives with her uncle, a cartographer, in New Occident where it is 1891. Sophia’s parents are explorers and have been out-of-touch for a long time. Sophia is anxious to learn about the new world in the hopes that she might find them. She has just begun to learn about cartography from her uncle, Shadrack, when he is kidnapped. Sophia begins an adventure; she has to escape those who kidnapped her uncle, try to find her parents, and possibly stop the destruction of the world they are just coming to know. Has she learned enough to be up to such a task?

 

Click here to see if this book is available.

 

If you like adventure fantasy stories, you might also enjoy Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, or Sabriel by Garth Nix, or Stardust, by Neil Gaiman.

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West of the Moon

westofthemoonby Margi Preus, 213 pages, Grades 5-8

 

Astri and her sister are waiting for their father to send for them. They live in Norway and he has gone to America leaving them with their terrible relatives. These relatives are so terrible that they sell Astri to a cruel goat farmer where she is expected to work from dawn until dusk. Astri is strong and brave, though, and she decides to make a plan to escape the evil goat man, rescue her sister and go to America to find their father. Of course, nothing is as easy as she hoped: knife wielding farmer, treaturous mountains, mysterious spinning girl and trolls make the journey a harrowing adventure.

 

If you enjoy fantasy reads that draw from folk and fairy tales you might also like Cinder, by Marissa Meyer or Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine.

 

Click here to see if the book is available.

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CYRM Nominees 2015

Middle School Nominees

Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz,The False Prince, by Jennifer A. Nielsen, Chained, by Lynne Kelly

Middle School CYRM

YA Nominees

The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green, Legend, by Marie Lu, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

YA CYRM

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Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

opheliaby Karen Foxlee, 228 pages, Grades 5-7

 

While wandering around alone, Ophelia hears something beyond a locked door in a remote room of the castle museum.  When she looks in the keyhole she sees there is a boy within. The boy is personable but sad; his purpose, he says, was to save the world, but he has not been able to accomplish it locked away as he is. Ophelia decides to help him and must overcome a series of harrowing adventures within the castle museum to do so. All the while her father and sister seem to be losing themselves to the museum’s caretaker who gives Ophelia the shivers. Suddenly the race to save the boy becomes a race to save her family as well. Can Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy destroy evil in time?

 

If you enjoy magical fantasies with a bit of creep-factor you might also like The Graveyard Book or The Ocean at the End of the Lane, both by Neil Gaiman, or for something even more creepy try Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

 

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Dreamwood

DREAMWOOD-coverby Heather Mackey, 328 pages, Grades 5-8

 

Lucy’s father, a once renowned ghost hunter, is a laughing stock.  People think he is a bit crazy, so when he hasn’t contacted Lucy for a while no one is worried but her. Lucy knows her father is a good scientist despite what people say, so she decides to leave her school and go after him. When she arrives in the Northwest where he has been doing his research she hears that he has gone after “dreamwood” and hasn’t been heard from since. Lucy begins an adventure of her own in which she meets native people, timber barons and others and is not sure who to trust. The tree plague is worrying everyone; it could be the end of trees on earth.  Everyone seems to be after a cure, as was her father, but some may have more devious motives than others. Will Lucy be able to save her father or find a cure for the tree sickness? Lost in the woods without food or water Lucy wonders if she can even make it out alive herself.

 

Other fantasy stories that you might enjoy include: The Mark of the Dragonfly, by Jaleigh Johnson, or The Great Unexpected, by Sharon Creech.

 

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Countdown

countdownby Deborah Wiles, 377 pages, Grade 6 and up

 

Franny is in crisis. Her best friend since forever is ignoring her, her big sister and confident has disappeared, her dad is called to the base more and more often, her mom seems perpetually angry, and her grandpa is crazy and embarrassing. What else could go wrong? If you know anything about U.S. history in 1962 you would know that Franny is about to be living during one of the scariest times in the U.S.: The Cuban Missile Crisis.  In the middle of all her personal chaos, the world around her seems to be in disarray as well. People are building bomb shelters, schools are doing duck-and-cover drills every day, and everyone is hoping President Kennedy can keep the country from going to war, or worse, being bombed by the Russians in their own homes!

 

If you enjoy historical fiction of the 1960s, you might also like the next book by Deborah Wiles called Revolution or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia, or The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristin Levine.

 

 

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One Man Guy

onemanguyby Michael Barakiva, 255 pages, Grades 6-10

 

Alex Khederian’s parents lied to him. They promised him he could go to tennis camp and instead he is going to summer school! This seems bad enough, but then his best friend and constant confident, Becky, decides to kiss him. Because he is not attracted to her, the whole thing goes badly; Alex unintentionally hurts Becky’s feelings. Has he lost his best friend too? Things are adding up to the worst summer ever when Alex meets a boy named Josh in his summer school class. Josh and Alex are very different in many ways; Josh is an expert about cool places in the city and Alex is a specialist of everything Armenian (having grown up in a very proud Armenian family). The boys relationship turns into something more than friendship.  Now, Alex needs a friend to talk to more than ever; he knows Becky could help him explain his relationship with Josh to his seemingly old-world parents, but will she ever forgive him for rejecting her?

 

If you like books about identity, you may also enjoy Every Day, by David Levithan, or Totally Joe, by James Howe, or The Fault in our Stars, by John Green.

 

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Code Name Verity

codenameverity__spanby Elizabeth Wein, 343 pages, Grades 8 and up / YA

 

During World War II the allied military employed women pilots to ferry planes and a few passengers between their airfields in the allied territories. Maddie is one of these brave civilian pilots. Her best friend is Julia Beaufort-Stewart; Julia says she is a wireless operator, but she is really a spy. Julia and Maddie end up in enemy territory in war time and they may not be able to make it out alive; the Nazi’s did not show mercy for anyone, women included, especially spies. The story is told from the two women’s points of view, but Julia is being forced by the Nazis to write a “confession.” Are they getting the real truth out of Julia or is she a good spy to the end?

 

Warning: This book has a YA sticker because of violence. The story takes place in wartime and some descriptions may be disturbing.

 

If you enjoy books about courage in times of war, you might also enjoy: Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein, or the books Fallen Angels and Invasion by Walter Dean Myers.

 

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Rose Under Fire

roseby Elizabeth Wein, 343 pages, Grades 8 and up / YA

 

A companion book to Code Name Verity; this main character is pilot alongside Maddie from the previous story, but this story is all about Rose.  She a female pilot ferrying planes during World War 2 when she is captured and sent to a concentration camp. There she faces terrible indignity and unbelievable hardship; her friendship with others and indomitable spirit are put to the test in one of the worst concentration camps of WWII.

 

Warning: This book has a YA sticker because of violence. The story takes place in wartime and some descriptions may be disturbing.

 

If you enjoy books about courage in times of war, you might also enjoy: Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein, or the books Fallen Angels and Invasion by Walter Dean Myers.

 

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My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

My Basmati Bat Mitzvahby Paula J. Freedman, 236 pages, Grades 6-7

Tara’s mother is from India but converted to Judaism when she married Tara’s father. They are one big culturally mixed happy family and Tara has always felt comfortable with her mixed heritage, but now that she is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah she is thinking a lot about her Indian grandparents and hoping that taking this step does not mean that she is denying the Indian part of her identity. How can she commit to Judaism without somehow denouncing all that is Hindu? Of course, Tara is also an adolescent dealing with all the awkward and challenging social situations of middle school: friends, boys, Hebrew study, robotics club and school work. How will she find time to make sense of who she really is when she is just trying to cope with the everyday crises of middle school existence?

If you enjoy stories about identity, you might also like: Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or Totally Joe, by James Howe.

 

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The Whispering Skull

skullby Jonathan Stroud, 435 pages, Grades 6-8

Lockwood and Co. face new ghosts and other mysteries in this sequel to The Screaming Staircase. You can read these mysteries in any order, but should know the main premise: Lockwood and Co. is a team of three paranormal investigators. The world since the Problem began is a dangerous place to roam around at night. Ghosts are everywhere and those who cannot see them or hear them are in danger of terrifying haunting, injury or even death from “ghost touch.” No adults can see the ghosts so children and young adults are relied upon to put these roaming souls to rest so that people can live in peace. Lockwood and Co. is a small team of teens competing for jobs with giant investigative firms in London; George is their researcher, Anthony Lockwood has great sight, and Lucy is gifted at hearing the dead. In fact, she is starting to wonder if this “gift” of hers might be driving her mad when an ancient skull starts talking directly to her; can she trust the ghost or is he trying to trick her into becoming just like him?

The first book in this series is The Screaming Staircase, also by Stroud and a fantastic read as well. If you like creepy ghost stories you might also enjoy Break My Heart 1000 Times, by Daniel Waters.

 

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Always Emily

Always Emily - FINAL Cover with Blurbby Michaela MacColl, 282 pages, Grades 7 and up

Emily and Charlotte Bronte are unusual women for their time: they are educated and head-strong and they love writing above most other things. Charlotte is a planner; she is at school and hopes to bring Emily along knowing that when their father eventually dies they will have to take care of themselves. Emily is more passionate and would prefer to spend her time wandering the moors at home than stuck in a classroom no matter the consequences. After Emily’s behavior gets her kicked out and Charlotte fired the sisters find themselves at the center of a mystery involving a lady held captive, a young man spying on a neighboring household, and a secret men’s organization that their brother, Branwell, has gotten himself mixed up in.

If you enjoy Victorian mysteries you might also enjoy: The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud or mysteries about Sherlock Holmes’ sister by Nancy Springer, or mysteries about the young Sherlock Holmes starting with the first book called Death Cloud, by Andy Lane.

 

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Love Letters to the Dead

love lettersby Ava Dellairra, 327 pages, Grades 7-10

Kurt Cobain, Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, Amy Winehouse. What do all of these people have in common? They are all dead, just like Laurel’s sister, May. When Laurel’s English teacher asks the class to write a letter to a dead person as an assignment she has no idea what it is going to do to the new student in her class.  Laurel writes her first letter to Kurt Cobain and then she writes to all the dead famous people that her sister admired, but these letters cannot be her assignment; she cannot bring herself to turn them in. She just writes and writes and writes; somehow writing keeps her feeling close to her sister even though her sister is so very far away from here.

It is hard to lose someone you care about. Some other books exploring this topic are: Frannie in Pieces, by Delia Ephron, Mick Hart Was Here, Barbara Park, Sun and Spoon, by Kevin Henkes, and My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitcher.

 

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The Geography of You and Me

the-geography-of-you-and-me-by-jennifer-e-smithby Jennifer Smith, 337 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Being caught in an elevator during a blackout seems like everyone’s worst nightmare, and, in fact, it was not a picnic for Lucy and Owen either. On the other hand, sometimes harrowing experiences like these can bring people together. Lucy and Owen are soul-mates, but their paths are not meant converge at this point in time; at this moment their paths are actually moving in opposite directions, but their hearts don’t know it. Lucy and Owen find themselves inexplicably drawn to one another right at the moment that their families are each leaving New York, Lucy’s for Europe and Owen’s for somewhere out west in the U.S. Will their heart’ desire or their geography win; can you really fall in love when you are so far apart?

If you like teenage love stories you might also enjoy: This is What Happy Looks Like also by Jennifer Smith, anything by Sarah Dessen especially The Truth About Forever, or To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, by Jenny Han.

 

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

51xgGEKd6oL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_by Ransom Riggs, 382 pages, Grades 8 and up.

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Jacob’s grandfather has been through a lot; he survived war and the holocaust, he raised and supported a family, but now he seems to be losing his mind just a little which is making Jacob very sad. Jacob loves his grandfather and especially loved all the stories he told, fanciful stories full of magical children with peculiar abilities. One child has bees living in his stomach, another has to wear shoes with weights because otherwise she will spontaneously float up to the ceiling, and another is completely invisible. Of course, as he grew older, the stories seemed silly to him, but when his grandfather tells him to go find Miss Peregrine Jacob begins to believe there might have been more truth to his grandpa’s stories than he thought possible.

If you enjoy fantasy books with unusual characters you might also like: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman, Incarceron by Catherine Fisher, or Eragon, by Christopher Paolini.

 

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A Dark Inheritance

dark inheritanceby Chris d’Lacey, 291 pages, Grades 6-8

On the way to school one morning Michael is looking out the car window and worrying about his father, who has been missing for some time. The traffic is stopped and Michael notices a dog off leash running around very close to the edge of a cliff; before he knows it he is saving the dog. The strange thing is, no one remembers him running out of the car or anything really before he is there with the scared pup. He is a bit of a hero which would have been life changing for some, but other things about his life changed in that instant as well and Michael knows there is something weird or supernatural going. Amadeus Kimt understands something extraordinary happened that day as well; in fact, he finds Michael and offers to help find his father too if he does Klimt a favor first, but is Kimt someone he can trust?

If you enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L’Engle or Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer then A Dark Inhertance should be a good fit as well.

 

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Since You’ve Been Gone

since goneby Morgan Matson, 449 pages, Grades 7 and up

Emily is quiet, but being friends with Sloane has been her ticket to popularity even though she has remained a wall-flower. When Sloane and her family go missing without a word, Emily is left to figure out how to enjoy her life this summer and find out how to have a life without Sloane around to help.

If you enjoy books about teen friendship, you might also like: The Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, or Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz, or The Lions of Little Rock, by Kristen Levine.

 

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The Invention of Wings

web1_Invention-of-Wingsby Sue Monk Kidd, 373 pages, Adult audience

Sarah, the daughter of a plantation owner and slave master, is unusual for her time and place. She believes the African Americans enslaved on her father’s plantation are people and should not be owned. Unfortunately the rest of her family does not feel the same way she does, in fact, her mother is determined to bring her around to the “correct” way of thinking and presents her with the “gift” of an enslaved girl she calls Hettie on her birthday. Sarah tries not to accept the gift without success.

Hettie is a slave name, but Handfull is what her people call her. Handfull’s mother is the cook for Sarah’s family and lives in the house as well. Handfull worries about her mother because, in Handfull’s opinion, she takes too many risks; these risks have ended in terrible physical abuse and Handfull can’t take seeing her mother suffer like that. Sarah learns Handfull’s real name and wants to teach her how to read; Handfull’s mother encourages this seeing that the benefits of knowledge outweigh the risks of getting caught. For enslaved people punishments are so violent and grave it is hard to imagine how anyone can be so brave; these women know that being enslaved in body and mind is far worse than any physical abuse that might befall them. Freedom is the goal at any cost.

If you enjoy historical fiction about American History you might also enjoy: Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson, or The Mighty Miss Malone, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix

 

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The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

The_Sweetness_at_the_Bottom_of_the_Pieby Alan Bradley, 385 pages, Adult audience

Flavia de Luce is a spunky 11 year old with a chemistry lab of her own. She lives with her father and sisters, in a large home in the English countryside in the 1950s. Most girls at that time, including Flavia’s sisters Ophelia and Daphne, are interested in dressing up and doing their hair, but Flavia is passionate about researching the nature of various poisons (in fact, she has been known to try out a few of her concoctions on her annoying sisters from time to time) and solving mysteries. When a dead bird with a postage stamp in its beak shows up on their front porch, Flavia decides to investigate. Working on her own might prove too dangerous even for the intrepid and intelligent Flavia de Luce.

If you enjoy historical fiction with strong female characters, you might also enjoy The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, or Deadly, by Julie Chibbaro.

 

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The Mark of the Dragonfly

the mark of the dragonflyby Jaleigh Johnson 388 pages, Grades 6-8

Piper is a scrapper. She knows how to live with very little and she makes her living by trading things left behind after the meteor showers for things that she needs to survive. It is a hard life, especially since she has to go it alone; her mother died long ago and her father was killed while trying to earn some money working in a factory in the capital city. Things might seem hopeless, but Piper has dreams for her future. She can fix almost anything she gets her hands on, and she hopes to one day move to a big city and make a living as a mechanic. Piper’s hope is that something she collects in a meteor storm will be her ticket out of town, but she never expected it to be a young girl marked with the Dragonfly tattoo of the king! It turns out that the girl is being chased by an evil man, and Piper cannot resist helping her.  When they board the train for the capital Piper thinks they are home free, but it is only the beginning.

If you enjoy fantasy adventure stories, you might also like: The Apothecary, by Maile Meloy, or Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman. If you like adventures that take place on trains you might also like The Boundless, by Kenneth Oppel, or Railsea, by China Mieville.

 

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The Here and Now

HereAndNow__140411190949by Ann Brasheres, 242 pages, Grades 7-10

In 2014 a “time-native” named Ethan witnesses a strange event that will impact the rest of his life; he sees a girl appear out of thin air. Prinna is a time-traveler from the future. She and a small community have come to the past as refugees. The future is polluted, and filled with disease and suffering; Prinna’ two younger brothers died of the plague. She  and her mother and father were supposed to travel with the community, but somehow her father goes missing before the immigration. The refugees are worried about being found out and about inadvertently changing history in any way, so they have to live by very strict rules, in fact, the elders seem to be spying on everyone; people are even punished for speaking badly about the community. Those who become too close to “time natives” are often relocated or accidents seem to befall them coincidentally, so when Ethan befriends Prinna she is worried about the consequences. But, there is something about Ethan that she cannot resist, and he seems to understand her, but how? Is it possible that he knows her secret?

If you enjoy dystopias you might also like: Divergent, by Veronica Roth, or Legend, by Marie Lu, or Ship Breaker, by Paolo Baciagalupi.

 

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The Boundless

17846771by Kenneth Oppel, 332 pages, Grades 6-8

Will’s father started his career as a brakeman, but when he saves the owner of the greatest railroad in the country from an avalanche he moves on to bigger things. When Will was young they barely had enough to eat, but now on the first voyage of the Boundless, the biggest train ever to cross the country, he is traveling in first class, at least until someone tries to kill him. Will manages to barely escape with his life but finds himself at the back of the train. He has to overcome a series of obstacles and life-threatening adventures while attempting to return to his father at the front of the train. Chased by murderous brakemen, pulled into a circus car by an elephant, grabbed by a sasquatch, disguised as an indian circus performer Will makes his way up the train with the help of his wire-walking friend, Meran, but can they make it in time to save his father and keep the Boundless on the track?

If you like adventure stories you might try other titles by Kenneth Oppel such as Airborn and Silverwing.  If you like action adventures with trains you might also enjoy Railsea, by China Mieville.

 

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To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

ToAllTheBoysI_veLovedBefore_FinalCoverby Jenny Han, 255 pages, Grades 7-12

Lara Jean and her sisters call themselves the Song Girls after their mother’s last name. When their mother dies that special bond and their loving daddy helps them keep them all close, but it is her big sister Margot that takes over all the big family responsibilities and the mommy role especially for their younger sister, Kitty. When Margot leaves for college Lara Jean finds herself stepping into some pretty big shoes; she is having a hard time measuring up. Lara Jean has never really had a boyfriend, but she has fallen in love before and she keeps a secret box of love letters written to her former crushes. In the midst of juggling school, finding her way socially, and all the new jobs she is taking over from Margot, somehow her secret letters are winding up in the hands of the boys she wrote them to! How did this happen? Could anything be more embarrassing? How can she recover from this, and keep things at home going in Margot’s absence?

If you enjoy realistic fiction about fitting in at school you might also like: The Misfits, Totally Joe, or Addie on the Inside by James Howe. If you like teen romance stories you might also like The Truth About Forever, by Sarah Dessen.

 

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Daughter of Smoke and Bone

smoke&boneby Lanini Taylor, 418 pages, Grades 8 and up / YA

CYRM NOMINEE 2014

Karou is an art student in Prague. Her friends think her notebook is full of fantastic creatures she imagines, but in reality she is drawing the creatures who brought her up. She was raised and still works in an in-between place, a place between the human world and a magical world of chimera. Brimstone, one of the chimera who raised her, sends her on errands, deliveries mostly, in faraway lands. Sometimes the errands are dangerous, but Karou is tough, she has been trained in martial arts, so she can take care of herself pretty effectively. When the serafin return, though, everything changes. They chase her and almost kill her in Marrakesh and then mysterious burning handprints appear on doors throughout the city. Suddenly she loses contact with her chimera family and is trapped in the human world. Are they hurt? Do they need her? Will the serafin come for her as well? Who is she and where does she fit in the two worlds she seems to be part of?

If you like rich fantasy adventure stories you might also enjoy Sabriel, by Gath Nix, or Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.

 

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Cinder

Cinder_Coverby Marissa Meyer, 390 pages, Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Cyborgs are second class citizens; technology is sophisticated enough to provide people with prosthetic limbs stronger than the limbs they lost, or eyes that do more than just see, but anyone who has to repair themselves this way is shunned and thought of as less than human. Cinder, who is a 67% cyborg, was adopted by a kind man, but his wife and daughters were not so understanding of her “deformities.” When he dies her life at home becomes almost unbearable. Luckily she is a talented mechanic and spends most of her time with her android friend at her shop in downtown New Beijing. She is counting the days until she will be able to leave home for good, when who should waltz into her shop but the prince himself, disguised, of course. This chance meeting changes the course of her life and begins a great adventure full of space travel, chivalrous fighting, high tech geeks, aliens, and Cyborgs, of course.

If you enjoy science fiction adventure you might also like The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, Divergent, by Veronica Roth, or Legend, by Marie Lu.

 

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One Came Home

Amysbookby Amy Timberlake, 257 pages, Grades 6-8

Georgie does not believe her sister, Agatha, is dead even when the sheriff shows her family a body wearing the dress her mother made for Agatha. Georgie and her sister don’t always see things the same way: Georgie is planning to take over the family store, and Agatha wants to go to college even though that is unusual for women in 1871, but Georgie knows her sister is too strong willed and smart to end up dead. The facts are that her sister did run off and no one has heard from her, the body has bright red hair just like Agatha’s, Georgie’s mother believes it is her daughter and proceeds to grieve and bury her accordingly, but Georgie is so convinced that cannot be her sister that she decides to investigate Agatha’s disappearance to see if she can scare up the truth and hopefully bring her sister home.

If you like historical fiction taking place in this time period you might also enjoy Lily, by Cindy Bonner, or Sunshine Rider: the First Vegetarian Western, by Ric Lynden Hardman.

 

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Serafina’s Promise

book.Serafinas-Promiseby Ann E. Burg, 295 pages, Grades 7-9

Serafina lives in Haiti with her family, her father, mother, and grandmother. She helps her mother, who is pregnant again, do chores around the house and helps her grandmother work in the garden, but what she really hopes to become is a doctor. School costs money in Haiti, though, so she has to think of a way to earn money and convince her parents to manage without her and let her go to school. Serafina is optimistic and strong, but she is going to need her strength for more than making a little extra money because a flood and an earthquake change the family’s landscape. Serafina has to find a way to keep her dream alive despite the devastation and hardship around her.

If you enjoy novels in verse you might also like Looking For Me, by Betsy R. Rosenthal, Out of the Dust, by Karen Hesse, or All the Broken Pieces, also by Ann E. Burg.

 

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Bluefish

bluefishby Pat Schmatz, 226 pages, Grades 7-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Travis’ parents died, his dog went missing, and his Grandpa just made him move from the house in the country he loved. Now he is starting at a new school and it is hard to find where he belongs. When Velveeta befriends him he is not clear what he has done to deserve it, but she explains that she observed a small act of kindness his first morning in the hallway that convinced her to like him. She is a talker and he is a listener, so it is a good match. The trouble begins when they are assigned to work on a project together. It is not that Travis doesn’t want to do a good job, he just never learned to read, and feels like it is too late to get help or admit it; he always figures out a way to slip by, and no one at home is really keeping track. This Velveeta, though, is hard to shake, and though he wants to just push her away it does feel good to have a friend.

If you enjoy realistic fiction about kids with difficult family situations you might also enjoy Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Scrawl, by Mark Shulman.

 

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Invasion

invasionby Walter Dean Myers, 212 pages, Grades 8 and up

It is springtime in 1944. Josiah, Marcus and countless other young men are trained and waiting. They practice getting in and out of boats over and over never knowing when their commanders call them if it is this time it will be the real thing. In a way, they are all sort of hoping the next time they get woken up to do the drill will actually be the real invasion. They all know their instructions backwards and forwards, but even that could not prepare them for what they encounter on the beach at Normandy; no one could prepare for the kind of devastation and terror that occurred on what came to be known as D-day during World War II.

If you enjoy war stories you might like other books by Walter Dean Myers, especially:  Fallen Angels, and Sunrise Over Fallujah.

 

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Ghost Hawk

ghost hawkby Susan Cooper, 328 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

It is time for Little Hawk to transition from a boy to a man so he must venture out into the wilderness and survive for a few months bringing along only his tomahawk, bow and arrow, and a knife. This harrowing survival story is only the beginning. When Little Hawk returns to his village ready to rest and visit with his family he finds his village empty; plague has taken everyone but his grandmother. Little Hawk’s life is an inspiration to a young white boy named John Wakely who suffers challenges of his own; his life would not follow the path it does without the influence of Little Hawk, and Little Hawk’s life is forever changed as well. Even though this is fiction, the story includes a historical timeline of the true events at the end of the book.

If you enjoy historical fiction that takes place in early American history you might also like: Sofia’s War, by Avi, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

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Picture Me Gone

picture me goneby Meg Rosoff, 239 pages, Grades 7 and up

Mila is one of those intuitive people; she can read people. She lives happily and uneventfully with her parents in London until her father’s old friend, Matthew, goes missing.  Mila and her dad, Gil, go to the United States to solve the mystery of Gil’s missing friend. It turns out Mila is not only helping her dad solve the puzzle of the moment, but also uncovering the details of an older mystery besides. Mila discovers no one is just good, or evil; people and relationships are complex and life can sometimes be pretty messy.

If you enjoy realistic fiction you might also like: Guitar Boy by M.J. Auch or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise. If you are interested in the complexity of life you might also enjoy: The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman, or Dirty Little Secrets, by C. J. Omololu.

 

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Hattie Big Sky

Hattie Big Sky cover 2by Kirby Larson, 289 pages, Grades6-8

* STUDENT REVIEW*

It’s 1918 and, sixteen year old Hattie Inez Brooks, has just gotten a letter that her mom’s brother, Chester, has died and is leaving his claim (a piece of land) for Hattie. Hattie no longer wants to be Hattie Here-and-There so she gets up and leaves Iowa for Montana. When Hattie gets to Montana she has to brave hard weather, a cantankerous cow, old horse, chickens, and try her hand at the cookstove. Also Hattie meets her new neighbors Perilee, Karl, Chase, Mattie, and Fern that turn out to be the best neighbors ever!

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If you enjoy historical fiction about strong young women you might also like: Our Only May Amelia, by Jennifer L. Holm, or Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpool.

 

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Ocean at the End of the Lane

ocean-at-end-of-lane-gaimanby Neil Gaiman, 250 pages, written for adults

When he returns to the lane where he grew up he recalls his childhood and the time he spent with the family at the end of the lane. As a boy his life was full of magic and danger, and adventures he barely survived; recalling those days explain why he feels the need to return to the ocean at the end of the lane. This is a modern fairy tale, and a magical adventure spun carefully to draw you in and keep you on the edge of your seat.

This is a hard book to compare to any others, but if you enjoy fantasy, you might also like Incarceron, by Catherine, Sabriel by Garth Nix, or Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke.

 

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Solstice

solsticeby P.J. Hoover, 381 pages, Grades 7 and up

Piper is lucky to live in the Botanical Gardens of her town where she is surrounded by beautiful and delicious plants and can keep cool. The world around is experiencing a Global Heating Crisis; temperatures soar to 115° and more. The city has a few things to protect its people from these “heat bubbles” like glass domes, and cooling gel, but the world is in crisis. Piper has her own challenges as well; she wants to be a normal teenager, but her mother is extraordinarily protective and she doesn’t even know who her dad is. Suddenly she is getting attention from two young men, from no one to two fighting for her attention, and each one is very interesting to say the least. One is the god of the underworld, Hades, and one is the god of war, Ares. Who is Piper, anyway, and why are these gods so determined to get her attention and affection, and what does all of this have to do with the high temperatures that seem to be killing the world?

If you enjoyed this and have not read the books by Rick Riordan, you might enjoy his fantasy take on Greek Mythology as well.  If you are looking for another dystopia romance you might enjoy Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

 

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Freakling

freaklingby Lana Krumwiede, 309 pages, Grades 5-7

Taemon lives in Deliverance in a telekinetic community. Future humans have developed an additional sense, so to speak; they have evolved to do everything with their minds. Their food seems to jump into their mouths, their clothes fasten themselves, and dishes seem to clean themselves on the other side of the room, but this is not magic, it is accomplished with psy, an energy source people of the future have learned to harness. Some knowledge of the past has been lost or hidden when psy became a human skill in order to protect people; for example, if you understand how the heart works and you had evil motives you might be able to stop someone’s heart with your psy. All books and knowledge about the human body and how it works is closely guarded. Because psy is such a potentially dangerous power, anyone with variations of psy are outcasts; Taemon has the ability to “mind wander” and his parents are worried people will find out, including his older brother, but, of course, “mind wandering” is so natural to Taemon it is hard to keep it a secret. His special psy could be his downfall, but it might also be the community’s only hope.

If you enjoy dystopian fantasies, you might also like:  Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi or Maze Runner, by James Dashner.

 

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The Lions of Little Rock

by Kristin Levine, 298 pages, Grades 6-8

lions of little rockMarlee is growing up in Little Rock, Arkansas the year after the famous Little Rock Nine integration. In the aftermath of that difficult year, the town is pushing back against the federal integration order, and the schools that are refusing to integrate are shut down.  Marlee is in middle school and has her own personal struggles. She is great with math, but speaking aloud is a real struggle, in fact to many she appears completely mute. This year there is a new girl in her class and when they are partnered up for a project Marlee finds herself able to talk to Liz; they become close friends. Liz is smart and confident and enjoys Marlee’s company as well. Unfortunately, Liz has a secret. A secret so big that she cannot even tell Marlee no matter how much she wants to trust her; a secret so big that it might endanger both girls lives.

If you enjoy reading historical fiction about the civil rights era in the United States, you might also enjoy: The Watson’s Go To Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, or One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia

 

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The Hypnotists

hypnotistsby Gordon Korman,  232 pages, Grades 6-8

Jackson Opus thinks he is a normal, albeit persuasive, twelve-year-old, but little does he know he is the descendant of two of the most famous hypnotists of all time. When the Sentia Institute shows interest in him, he begins to understand the power and scope of hypnotism in the world around him. But is it ok to use this power to control world events, or even people’s decisions? Jackson is learning how to control his gift, struggling with the ethics of hypnotism, and trying to escape the evil hypnotists who want to control him all at the same time. He really would prefer to return to the life of a normal kid, but when you have a gift like Jackson’s you have to grow up in a hurry.

Gordon Korman writes a lot of great books.  Comedies:  No More Dead Dogs, The Chicken Doesn’t Skate, Ungifted.  Adventures: Dive, Island, and Everest series. Mystery: Swindle series.

 

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Twerp

twerpby Mark Goldblatt,  275 pages,  Grades 6-8

As punishment for bullying Danly Dimmel, Julian Twerski is forced to write an explanation for his English teacher. Julian’s “explanation” meanders describing a series of funny and embarrassing events Julian and his friends get themselves into. Somehow Lonnie convinces Julian to write a love letter to the girl Lonnie likes, but when Julian delivers the note, she believes Julian is the real “secret admirer.” Another time, when Julian trades partners on the field trip to help out a friend from his block, he gets attacked by a kid who thinks he is trying to steal the girl he likes. Julian’s obliviousness makes each of the situations funnier and each of his mistakes are highlighted by his older sister’s explanations. Even though some of these situations are humiliating, Julian learns a lot and is grown up enough by the end of his writing-detention to come up with a way to pay for what he had done to Danly, and become a better person for it.

Another book about a kid doing detention is called Scrawl by Mark Shulman, and book about being an upstander is called The Misfits, by  James Howe.

 

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The Boy on the Porch

boy on the porchby Sharon Creech, 151 pages, Grade 6

John and Marta wake up one day to find a boy asleep on their porch. There is also a note that reads: Be back when we can, so John and Marta take care of the boy. It is not easy for them because they have never had children and this boy does not speak at all, so understanding his needs and how to help him is challenging. The boy on the porch teaches John and Marta a lot as well, and their lives are never the same again.

If you like stories about unusual family situations you might also enjoy: Deliver Us from Normal, by Kate Klise, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

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So B. It

sobitby Sarah Weeks, 245 pages, Grades 6-9

Lucky for Heidi and her mom their neighbor Bernadette helped raise Heidi and take care of her mother as well since Heidi was a tiny baby. Heidi’s mother loves her, but she really could not have taken care of Heidi by herself; she is mentally disabled to the point that she only has about 27 words in her vocabulary. One of those words, “soof,” drives Heidi crazy because she cannot figure out what it means! Heidi, at 12, is becoming more and more curious about her past; she wants to understand who she is and where she fits in the world. When an old camera turns up in the back of the closet and provides some photographic clues Heidi is off, determined to find herself and her past without any help from anyone!

If you enjoy books about kids who persevere and triumph despite the odds, you might also enjoy Counting by7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or Wonder, by R.J. Palacio.

 

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The Testing

testingby Joelle Charbonneau, 344 pages, Grades 7 and up

Sixteen-year-old Cia is graduating.  She has lived her whole life in the Lakes Colony, but her greatest hope is to be chosen to go to The Testing.  No one from her region has been chosen for this honor for years; it is a mystery why her colony has been neglected. Are their schools not preparing them appropriately, or is there something more mysterious afoot.  The testing itself, while prestigious, is also a harsh and dangerous way to select the most brave and bright of the country’s young people to be placed in job training programs; some students will stop at nothing to be selected.  Will Cia’s preparation and drive be enough to carry her safely through?

If you enjoy dystopias and don’t mind violence then you might also like The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, or Divergent, by Veronica Roth, or Insignia, by S.J. Kincaid

 

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The League

the leagueby Thatcher Heldring, 219 pages, Grades 6-9

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Wyatt Parker is tired of being picked on by all the bullies in his school. His brother, Aaron, tells him about a secret football league called the League of Pain. He decides to play football to toughen himself up. The only problem with this is that he had promised his good friend Francis that he would go to golf camp. Now he has to decide which is better, going to golf camp where his dad excpects him to be, or figuring out a way to skip golf and play football with the older kids. Which will he choose?

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If you like sports books try these authors: Mike Lupica, Carl Deuker, Thomas H, Dygard, or Dan Gutman.

 

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Heat

heatby Mike Lupica, 220 pages, Grades 6-8

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Michael, a star baseball player, and his brother Carlos are living alone without their parents. The boys came to the U.S, from Cuba with their father. Shortly after arriving, their father goes missing and the boys are trying to make it on their own. Michael is a very good baseball player;  in one game Michael strikes out a hot-headed player named Justin whose father is the coaches.  Justin and his father decide to try and kick Michael out of the league by getting all the coaches to believe Michael is over the age limit. All the coaches sign a form requesting the league to investigate Michael’s age. To keep playing baseball Michael has to show his birth certificate.  The boys cannot find Michael’s birth certificate and what’s worse is that it is drawing attention to the fact that they are living without a parent.

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If you enjoy books about children managing without their parents then you might also like:  Counting by 7s, by Holly Goldberg Sloan, or  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.  If you enjoy books about baseball, you might also like:  Under the Blood Red Sun, by Graham Sallisbury, or One Handed Catch, by Mary Jane Auch.

 

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Counting By 7s

counting by 7sby Holly Goldberg Sloan, 380 pages, Grades 6 and up

Willow Chance is a genius.  She meets a girl from Vietnam and spends the next 7 days studying Vietnamese.  She learns 85 phrases in addition to a number of verbs and their conjugations. Besides languages Willow also enjoys studying medical conditions and plants, but she has at twelve she has already had a pretty hard life.  She has been orphaned,  adopted, she has had problems in school – she has trouble making small talk and therefore making friends, and she is just about to start a new school which promises to be a challenge. That seems like enough, but besides all that her adoptive parents who love her and she loves so much suddenly die in a car accident. Willow, who likes to know how everything is going to work, finds herself in a place completely out of her control; it is the first time in her life that even counting by 7s has not helped her feel better.

If you enjoy books about kids in unusual circumstances you might also like:  Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

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Floors

floorsby Patrick Carman, 261 pages, Grades 5-7

* STUDENT REVIEW *

Leo is a maintenance boy at the fantastic Whippet Hotel, run by Merganzer Whippet. Mr. Whippet is a wacky inventor and lover of ducks. Leo spends every day surrounded by the robot room, the cake room, the pinball room, and many others. He caters to all the unique inhabitants of the whippet hotel, including a writer, a captain, and a former socialite, and even 6 ducks, but most of all, the dreaded Ms. Sparks. When Merganzer Whippet disappears, Ms. Sparks starts taking over the hotel. Leo heads off on a wild goose chase, or rather, a wild duck chase, all instrumented by Mr. Whippet himself. Can Leo save the hotel before it's too late?

If you enjoy books full of whimsy, you might also like The Candy Makers, by Wendy Mass or the Gollywhopper Games by Jody Feldman.

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Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase

screaming staircaseby Jonathan Stroud, 390 pages, Grades 6-9

London is crawling with ghosts and they are not friendly; they are, in fact, dangerous. Many people died because they were “ghost touched” until they discovered that adolescents and teens have a special ghost sensory ability that makes them particularly able when it comes to investigating hauntings.  Lucy Carlyle is one of these talented young people and she finds a job with Lockwood and Co., a private agency responsible for ghost eradication – a bit like the Sherlock Holmes agency for ghosts and hauntings. Of course, people who haunt generally have troubled pasts, so often Lockwood and Co. are not only extinguishing ghosts, but they are also uncovering murderers, which is a dangerous occupation indeed.

If you enjoy ghost stories you might also like Break My Heart 1,000 Times, by Daniel Waters, or if you enjoy a good mystery you might also like Death Cloud, by Andy Lane a young Sherlock Holmes story.

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Cuckoo’s Calling

cuckoo's callingby Robert Galbraith (really J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym), 455 pages, Adult Mystery

Lula Landry, gorgeous English supermodel, just fell from her penthouse balcony to her death. The media has no trouble believing the police’s verdict of suicide, after all, Lula lived in the fast lane, and everyone knows she has been on medication for mood swings as well.  That’s why when Lula’s brother shows up in Strike’s office, the veteran and struggling private investigator is taken by surprise. Strike is enduring a hard patch at the moment: the love of his life has just walked out, he is not only out of money, but overdue on shady loan payments, and is currently living in his office. Robin walks in to Strike’s office right before Lula’s brother; she has been sent there as a temporary secretary, and though Mr. Strike seems unprepared for her or for life in general, it has always been her secret dream to work for a private detective.

If you enjoy detective novels you might also like Heist Society, by Ally Carter, The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, or Death Cloud, by Andy Lane.

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Planet Thieves

planet thievesby Dan Krokos, 253 pages, Grades 6-8

Mason is studying at the Academy for Earth Space Command, but one of his favorite pastimes is tormenting his older sister who is an officer. This comes to an abrupt halt when he finds himself in the middle of an actual alien invasion during one of his little pranks. It turns out what was described as a simple mission was really something much more complicated. Another group of creatures is seeking an inhabitable planet because they are outgrowing their home world just like humans are.These aliens happen to need the same kind of atmospheric conditions that we do so Earth and the aliens are in competition for the same planet, in fact, it was his family’s mission to capture the planet and keep it from the aliens, but things have gone horribly wrong. His sister has been kidnapped with all the officers and it is up to a group of adolescents to save earth and the future of humanity.

If you enjoy space adventures you might also like:  Apollo’s Outcasts, by Allen Steele, or Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.

 

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Seraphina

seraphinaby Rachel Hartman, 499 pages, Grades 7 and up

Seraphina is born into a medieval world where dragons and humans have learned to live in peace following years of war. Dragons magical powers allow them to transform into Sars, dragons in human form.  These Sars live in the human world as ambassadors; they help maintain the peace and teach humans their advanced technology. They are also there to learn about human behavior, but they are not to become emotionally affected or invested in any way. Of course, much of human strength comes from our ability to love one another, and even though Sars are supposed to stay away from human emotion that is sometimes impossible, and Seraphina’s very existence is proof of just that.

If you enjoy fantasies about dragons you might also like:  Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke, or Dealing with Dragons, by Patricia Wrede.  If you like fantasy books with strong female protagonists you might also enjoy Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, or Sabriel, by Garth Nix.

 

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WARP: The Reluctant Assassin

Cover-WARP-Book-1-The-Reluctant-Assassinby Eoin Colfer, 341 pages, Grades 7 and up

The author of the Artemis Fowl book has created another sci fi page-turner.  Agent Savano (Chevy), a disgraced teenage FBI agent has been removed from her post and sent to a remote station in England where she cannot cause any more trouble.  Her current job consists of “watching the pod;” the FBI is using boredom to punish her.  Meanwhile 100 years before, in Victorian England an assassin’s apprentice (Riley) is getting a lesson from his terrible Master (Garrick) when something very strange happens.  Their victim pulls little Riley and himself through a wormhole to the 21st century right into the pod Agent Savano has been required to watch. It would seem that Riley has finally escaped his miserable fate and his evil master, but the thing about Garrick is that “he is the devil himself” and there is no stopping him, not even 100 years of time.

If you enjoy adventure stories with smart kid characters you might also like Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer as well, or The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.  If you like science fiction you might also like Planet Thieves, by Dan Krokos, or Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

 

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MILA 2.0

mila-2-0by Debra Driza, 470 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Mila is an average teenage girl struggling with fitting in a new school and grieving over the death of her father, at least that is what she thinks until the accident.

When Mila in almost completely uninjured after being thrown from a moving car, that seems pretty unbelievable and even scary (how can she not feel pain?), but what is revealed beneath her skin is even more creepy. Mila’s whole life spins out of control; everything is not as it seems. She has to figure out what is real: her friends, her family, her memories, her self.  Those who have the answers Mila wants, also want to destroy her.  Would you want to remain in the dark about your life to stay alive, or would you have to know where you came from and what was the truth?

If you enjoy science fiction books about futuristic humans you might also enjoy:  Eve and Adam, by Michael Grant, When We Wake, by Karen Healey , or Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

 

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The Bad Beginning

badbeginningby Lemony Snicket, 162 pages, Grades 6-8

*Student Review*

If you enjoy reading books with happy endings, or happy beginnings, or even a few happy bits in the middle, this is not the book for you. I'm sure there are plenty of books out there about cheerful little elves surrounded by unicorns and rainbows that you could read. This book, however, I am sad to report, is a very unpleasant story wrought with misfortune and despair, a word here meaning "extreme sadness" or "depression". This book details the struggles of the Baudelaire orphans, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny, an inventor, a reader, and a biter. We follow them on their journey through many unfortunate events as they try to escape Count Olaf's devious, a word here meaning "mischievous" or "evil", schemes. In this book, you will encounter a repulsive villain, a disastrous fire, spaghetti, itchy clothes, a troupe of actors, and a plot to steal a fortune.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket is one of my favorite books, and the Series of Unfortunate Events series gets better and better as you read on. I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a good, quick, read. Lemony Snicket never ceases to amaze, and this book is the start of an amazing series.

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Zeitoun

Zeitoun_loresby David Eggers, 337 pages, adult biography

Zeitoun is the biography of a man living in New Orleans at the time of Hurricane Katrina.  His full name is Abdulrahman Zeitoun, but everyone calls him Zeitoun for short.  He and his wife Kathy have been living in New Orleans for years raising their four kids and running their business, so when the threats of the hurricane come in at first they think the reports are exaggerated and that they will remain in the city and ride it out.  Eventually, though, they decide that Kathy will leave with the children for a few days, just to be safe.  Zeitoun wants to remain behind so that he can watch after all the different properties they own, and try to minimize the damage.

The hurricane, of course, does more damage than anyone can imagine and Zeitoun uses his canoe to row around the city helping those he can and keeping an eye on his property.  At least he does this until the Homeland Security police scoop him up and unlawfully throw him into a prison.  He is not given a call, or a lawyer and his family does not even know where he is. This frustrating and harrowing story reads like an adventure even though it is a true account of this family’s ordeal.

If you enjoy biographical adventure stories you might also like:  Into The Wild, by Krakauer, or Three Cups of Tea, by Mortenson, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Ralston.

 

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2014 CYRM Winners

 

Middle School: Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Young Adult:  Divergent by Veronica Roth

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Apothecary

apothecaryby Maile Meloy,  353 pages,  Grades 6-8

Janie’s parents are film-makers from Los Angeles, but in 1952 when fear of communism has Hollywood under the microscope, Janie’s family jumps at the chance to work in London, England. They trade luxury for safety, or so they think.

Benjamin, the apothecary’s son, is in school with Janie, thinks what his father does is pretty boring; he’d rather be a spy than learn how to brew cures, but his father will never understand.

While Janie helps Benjamin spy on a someone Benjamin suspects of working for the Russian government, they discover that Benjamin’s dad is a lot more than a dispenser of medicine. He is about to confront his father when the apothecary goes missing.  Now it is up to Janie and Benjamin to find his father and protect the magical book that apothecaries have been hiding for generations; suddenly, his father’s job doesn’t seem so boring after all.

If you enjoy stories about mystery and adventure you might also enjoy The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart, The London Eye Mystery, by Siobhan Dowd, or The Unknowns, by Benedict Carey.

 

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Liar & Spy

liar&spyby Rebecca Stead, 180 pages, Grades 6-8

Georges and his mom and dad have just downsized and are moving out of a house and into an apartment. He has been navigating bullying and his parents’ extra time working and away from home so when an opportunity to respond to a handwritten flyer for a spy club presents itself, his father encourages him to check it out.  Safer is a homeschooled kid living in the apartment complex and he allows Georges to help him spy on Mr. X, who he believes is a murderer. A new friend and the distraction of spying on Mr. X might be just what Georges needs to help him through this difficult time, but there is more than one mystery that needs unraveling in Georges’ life.  Who will turn out to be the liar and who the spy in the end?

If you enjoy this book, you might like others by Rebecca Stead like:  When You Reach Me (Newbery award winner 2010), and First Light.

 

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When We Wake

when we wakeby Karen Healey, 296 pages, Grade 8 and up

It was such a good day for Tegan until she died. On that day in 2027 it was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm. She was hanging out with the people she liked best, and she had finally kissed the boy she liked.  When she next wakes, 100 years later, all the people important to her are long gone.

Tegan is an experiment in cryogenics; her body was donated to science and frozen 100 years ago. Today she is the first successfully woken person, so she is being kept under tight supervision and hidden from the press. The fact is, the planet is pretty full 100 years in the future; there are not enough resources to go around as it is, so even though bringing important people back from the dead sounds appealing to the government – especially the military – the rest of the population is pretty upset their tax money is being used for this purpose; why bring people back, when we can’t even feed those who exist today?

Naturally, Tegan’s new life doesn’t stay a secret for long.  She is thrust into school and the public eye so that people can see she is a real human being, but Tegan never asked to be the spokesperson for waking the dead, and no matter how much money the military invested in her regeneration, she still has a mind of her own.

If you enjoy book about dystopian futures you might also enjoy: Matched by Ally Condie, Legend, by Marie Lu, or Eve & Adam, by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate.

 

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Eve & Adam

by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate, 291 pages, Grades 7 and up

eve&adamOne of Eve’s first memories after the accident is her mother’s voice insisting that her daughter needs more professional care and would be moving to The Lab immediately.  Typical mom, pushing people around and believing she always could do everything better. I guess she might have been right this time because Eve is recovering incredibly quickly considering the seriousness of her injuries, but recovery is still pretty boring for a teenager.  In an effort to keep Eve busy, her mother decides to let her test out her new genetics computer program, and Eve is playing in her free time creating a human from scratch – a human she believes is virtual. When Eve discovers another teen at the lab, a live-in assistant working for her mother, he tells her things that have her questioning a lot of things she has believed her whole life. What is really going on in the family lab? Why is Eve’s recovery so miraculous? Who, or what, is Adam and are there others like him?

 

If you enjoy science fiction stories about genetics you might also enjoy Double Identity, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or When We Wake, by Karen Healey.

 

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Apollo’s Outcasts

ApolllosOutcastsby Allen Steele,  311 pages,  Grades 7 and up

Jamey was born on the moon; his bones did not develop to support his weight in earth’s gravity so since he came home to earth as a toddler he has not been able to walk without assistive technology.  Life is not always easy for Jamey, his two sisters and their dad coping without their mother who died on the moon when Jamey was just a baby, but the family is hanging in there sticking together, until they day they have to make their escape.  One early morning before the sun has risen, Jamey’s sister wakes him and tells him to pack an overnight bag, and do it fast!  The family piles into their SUV and speeds through the dark military patrolled streets to the launching pad on the outskirts of town.  The next thing Jamey knows he is on a space shuttle with a bunch of other teens headed for the moon and one sister and his father are being left behind where the danger or world wide war looks inevitable.

If you enjoy science fiction war stories you might also enjoy Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, or Legend, by Marie Lu.  Or, if you like stories about kids moving to a new home, you might also like Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise.

 

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Hero On A Bicycle

hero on a bikeby Shirley Hughes,   213 pages,  Grades 6-8

Paolo lives with his sister and parents in a village outside of Florence, Italy during the second world war.  The city is occupied with Nazi soldiers, and the Partisans (Italians organizing on the side of the allies) roam the hills in hiding waiting for the allied war to come to Italy.  Paolo’s family has always been considered good citizens even though his mother is English, but when Paolo’s father disappears and is suspected of joining the Partisans many of their friends are not allowed to spend time with them. Between this, the curfew, the rations and all the other wartime constraints that Paolo feels cooped up and wants something exciting to do; he begins to sneak out of the house at night on his bicycle to ride into Florence. Soon enough Paolo does not need to go looking for adventure and he realizes boredom was just the calm before the storm.

 

The author, Shirley Hughes, is British and grew up in Liverpool, but she spent time living in Florence and was inspired by the stories of a family she came to know who had helped escaped Allied soldiers get protection from the Partisans. This is a link to her website: http://www.heroonabicycle.co.uk/p/author.html

 

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Hunger Games

by Suzanne Collins, 374 pages, Grades 8 and up.

Student review!

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins is set in the post-apacolyptic society of Panem. The society is split into 12 districts controlled by the richest and most powerful place: The Capitol. The Capitol holds an annual “Hunger Games” in order to keep the districts from rebelling. The games are a fight to the death; two people from each district, a boy and a girl, are chosen from each district and placed in an arena to fight.  The show is projected to all of Panem.  The twelfth district is a very poor district that provides coal for the capitol; families there struggle to survive as it is.  This is where Katniss and Primrose Everdeen live with their mother.  Katniss hunts forages for food illegally just to keep from her family from starving. When the annual draw of names comes around ensions are high within the district, and Katniss is nervous because Prim has to put her name in for the first time.  As a massive crowd gathers around to watch the “reaping,” everyone wonders who will have to fight in the Hunger Games this year.

Next in the series: Catching Fire, and Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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Year of Wonders

by Geraldine Brooks, 308 pages, adult fiction, but great for adolsecents.

Anna Frith’s is a story of survival during the years of plague beginning in 1666 in Europe.  Her life was already filled with hardship even before the plague arrived to their village.  Her mother died when Anna was very young, her dad remarried, but the woman was not much of a mother and her father became more and more verbally and physically abusive to his children.  Anna got out of the house by marrying young, but even before their second child reached one year old, her husband died in the mines.  Anna’s tough and optimistic spirit helps her meet all of these challenges and it might be just these qualities that give her the strength to survive the horrors that the Black Plague brings.

If you enjoy historical fiction you might also like:  Now is The Time for Running, by Michael Williams, or Looking for Me, by Betsy R. Rosenthal.   Also, Fever 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson is another historical fiction novel of survival in a time of devastating disease.

 

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CYRM Winners 2013!

Did you read the CYRM nominees this year?

Announcing the WINNERS!
Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper  for Middle Grade & Matched, by Ally Condie for Young Adult

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Railsea

by China Mieville, 424 pages, adult fiction, but great for adolescents

Railsea is a dystopian future society where the earth is covered in rails; there are islands of rubble scattered around the earth’s surface between the rails where people have built up towns, but any actual earth is uninhabitable.  Underground creatures have grown to gigantic size and anyone walking upon the natural ground is in danger of being swallowed up by huge moles, or giant insects.  The rails are home to a lot of different occupations: there are traders, thrill seekers, soldiers, and pirates, but Railsea’s central character, Sham, is a medic in training on a Moler vessel. The Molers are on a quest to finish off the mole that stole the captain’s arm, but Sham may have another destiny in his future adventures on the Railsea.

If you enjoy dystopian adventures you might also enjoy Maze Runner, by James Dashner,  Ship Breaker, by Paolo Bacigalupi or Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher.

 

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Hold Fast

by Blue Balliett, 274 pages, Grades 6-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2016

Early lives with her father, Dash, her mother, Summer, and her little brother, Jubilation.  They are a happy family hoping to live in a cute little house one day.  They play word games, and read books together in their little apartment while Dash tries to save up enough money for their dream house. To make extra money he has a new night job sorting books; his day job is at the local library.  He and Al go through boxes of old books to send to a second-hand bookseller somewhere.  The job seems a little strange to Early, but she never expected it to be dangerous.  One day her father goes missing and the next their apartment is invaded and ransacked and they are out on the street.  The little family of three struggles to “hold fast” living in a shelter while they wait for Dash to return, but when the police prove less than helpful Early is compelled to solve the mystery behind her father’s disappearance herself.

 

Blue Balliett has written a lot of terrific mysteries:  Chasing Vermeer, The Wright Three, The Calder Game, and The Danger Box; if you enjoy Hold Fast, you might like those as well.

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Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass

by Russell Freedman, 119 pages, Grades 5-9

“‘He was the architect of his own fortune, a self-made man,’ Douglass wrote of Lincoln.  He had ‘ascended high but with hard hands and honest work build the ladder on which he climbed’ –  words that Douglass, as he was aware, could easily have applied to himself” (Freedman 103).

 

Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln had a lot in common:  they both grew up poor and uneducated, they both taught themselves because they greatly desired knowledge, and they both wanted to end the practice of slavery in the United States.  They were also very different men: Douglass was born a slave, Lincoln was born free, Douglass had to spend the first part of his life tortured and enslaved, and though Lincoln’s family was poor and he had to work hard he was never tortured.  Douglass and Lincoln also had different approaches to the problem of slavery, but they respected one another greatly even when they did not agree.

 

Freedman’s book is not only interesting, but also an easy read; you feel compelled to continue reading every word as though it were a suspenseful novel keeping you on the edge of your seat.

 

If you enjoy nonfiction, you might also like other books by Russell Freedman like:  The War to End All Wars, Who Was First:  Discovering the Americas, or The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights.  

 

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Break My Heart 1,000 Times

by Daniel Waters, 342 pages, Grades 7 and up

 

In Veronica’s world there are ghosts among the living.  Since “the Event” people from the past inhabit the world of the living; they look like solid people for the moments they visit, but then they fade away kind of like a short hologram of the person playing the same piece of film over and over.  Veronica’s dad sits at the breakfast table every day and Mary, a teenage girl who was murdered, climbs the front steps of a neighbor every morning as Veronica is walking to school. You get used to it, until it feels like the dead might actually be able to affect the living.  Kirk and Veronica have been asked to research the local ghosts by one of their teachers, and this sometimes means visiting the places where people have died – ghosts often appear to replay their death scene.  Just that seems creepy enough, but Veronica and Kirk might  be stumbling into the path of a murderer unprepared.  

 

If you enjoy suspenseful books you might also like Girl Stolen, by April Henry, or if you like ghost stories you might like Ghosts of the Titanic, by Julie Lawson.

 

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Outcasts United

by Warren St. John, 226 pages, Grades 7 and up

This is a book of many true stories beginning with Luma Mufleh.  She is a Jordanian exchange student and avid soccer player, who decided to remain in the United States after completing her education at Smith University in Massachusetts.  She made her way to the suburbs of Atlanta Georgia and stumbled upon a very interesting city called Clarkston.  

The U.S. government had been relocating refugees since the 1980s and this little town had become extremely cosmopolitan.  People fleeing wars in their homelands of Bosnia, Afghanistan, Liberia, Ethiopia and many other countries all ended up thrown together in the town of Clarkston.  Mufleh was drawn to the place when she noticed their grocery store carried food she missed from home, but the thing that really grabbed her attention was the groups of young boys playing soccer on every available field she saw.  All of them were playing in bare feet, but they showed more passion for the game than any of the kids she was coaching in the suburbs.  She decided to bring a soccer program to Clarkston.  Mufleh coaches three teams of boys called the Fugees; this book is a collection of their stories and the teams’ stories.  

To watch a video about the team go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ItUYQhQ_CHg#!

 

 

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Kids of Kabul

 

by Deborah Ellis, 137 pages, Grades 6-8

This is a nonfiction collection of stories from the perspective of different kids living through the wars of Afghanistan. These children have lived through the violence of war and the challenges of survival in war’s aftermath.  Each chapter is a heartwrenching story of survival; the characters are pragmatic and realistic, and most unbelievably remain hopeful as they look toward the future.  

If you enjoy reading nonfiction books about kids your age you might also enjoy Girl, 13, by Starla Griffin, From Jazz Babies to Generation Next: The history of the American teenager, by Laura B. Edge, or Claudet Colvin: Twice toward justice, by Phillip Hoose.

 

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Homesick

 

by Kate Klise, 180 pages, Grades 6-8

Poor Benny is homesick in his own house. Benny’s dad is a junk expert, but when his shop gets closed down and he brings all his stuff home – he cannot part with even a tiny bit – Benny’s mom just can take the clutter and she moves back to her hometown by herself. It doesn’t feel like home to Benny anymore because the kitchen is full of empty pizza boxes and nothing to eat, the house is stacked with random stuff, his dad seems lost in his own worries, and, of course, his mom isn’t there.

Now that the town has won “The Most Charming Town” contest more people than just Benny and his mom want to see their house cleaned out; no one is sure that their town can live up to expectations since Miss Turnipson embellished quite a bit when she wrote her entrance essay nominating the town.  The contest officials are due in town any day and pulling the town together might take more than is humanly possible.

If you enjoy books about quirky towns and interesting characters you might also like:  Deliver Us From Normal by Kate Klise, A Long Way from Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Ruby Holler, by Sharon Creech.

 

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The Mighty Miss Malone

miss maloneby Christopher Paul Curtis, 307 pages, Grades 5-7

Deza lives with her parents and her older brother, Jimmie, in Gary, Indiana.  It is 1936, and even though her parents are both hardworking people, the Depression has taken its toll on their family.  Her father lost his job a while back and even though he is always looking for work there is just nothing to be found.  

Deza makes her family proud because she is the gets the highest marks in her class and does her best to keep her brother in line as well; this is how she earns her nickname, “the Mighty Miss Malone.”  It is a good thing she is mighty, because their family is put through the wringer; it seems like whatever can go wrong does go wrong, and the question is: is Deza tough enough to help her family make through the terrible trials of the Depression?

If you like historical fiction you might like other titles by Christopher Paul Curtis such as: Bud Not Buddy, Elijah of Buxton, or The Watson’s Go To Birmingham.

 

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My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece

mantepieceby Annabel Pitcher, 211 pages, Grades 7-10

Jamie is an optimistic soul whose life is crumbling around him.  Five years ago one of his twin sisters was killed in a terrorist attack in London.  Her ashes are a constant reminder of the family’s loss.  Jamie was only five when this happened, so he has no real memories of this sister alive and does not understand the reason the urn is such a central part of their current lives. Their father gives the urn offerings of food, and they string up a stocking for it at Christmas time.  

Jamie and his other sister, Jas, are trying to get by on their own as each of their parents falls into despair.  Their mother abandons them, and their father moves them to the country to try to start again, but can’t pull himself together to get to work, or even to put the beer down, get off the couch and take care of his children.  

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece is a harrowing story of a troubled family trying to move forward in the wake of great disaster, but it is also the story of personal courage, friendship, and love that breaks all the rules and helps us carry on.

If you enjoy sad stories you might also like:  See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles, or Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine.  

If you appreciate books whose main characters have a challenging parental situation, you might also like Guitar Boy, by M.C. Auchs, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

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The Great Unexpected

great unexpectedby Sharon Creech, 226 pages, Grades 6-7

Naomi and Lizzie are two orphan girls living in a small American town with many albeit distant connections to Ireland.  One day boy called Finn falls out of a tree practically onto Naomi’s head, and this begins the magical mystery.  Who is “this Finn boy” and who is the Dingle Dangle man who has been seen around town, and what do they have to do with the orphan girls?   The girls’ story is told alternating with a tale of others who live across the ocean in the old country, and, of course, they are somehow all connected.  

The Great Unexpected reads like a modern Irish fairy tale; if you enjoy fairy tales, or realistic fantasy you might also like:  A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews or My Name is Mina and I Love the Night, by David Almond.

 

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See You At Harry’s

seeyouhby Johanna Knowles, 310 pages, Grades 6-9

Fern’s father owns a diner called Harry’s and he is always coming up with publicity schemes that he hopes will bring in more customers.  In this family you never know what kind of crazy t-shirt you’ll have to pose in to advertise the restaurant.  

The only one who is ever enthusiastic about these nutty ideas is Fern’s little brother, Charlie, who is only 3 years old.  Her teenaged older siblings are even more disgusted than Fern is with their dad’s TV ads and trucks plastered with family photos inviting you to come down to Harry’s.  

Life is pretty busy with both parents working at the restaurant, and four kids to keep track of, but even though the older kids often feel neglected and taken for granted, everyone seems to love one another. One day a tragic event changes their lives forever; can their love weather such a brutal storm?

If  you enjoy sad stories you might also like Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, by Annabel Pitchner.

 

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eBooks in Our Library Collection!

Click the link below for directions for accessing the ebooks we have in our catalog.

 

You can also download the Follett app onto your iPad, iPod, or Android and download ebooks from our library to read on your device!  

 

They will automatically come off your device after 8 days.

goo.gl/RdT00

 

Happy Reading!

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A Mango Shaped Space

mangoby Wendy Mass, 270 pages, Grades 5-8

Mia has been seeing colors for as long as she can remember, but she hasn’t told anyone about it since fourth grade when she tried to explain that numbers and letters come in certain colors.  The entire class burst into laughter; this was not only humiliating, it also made Mia feel like a freak.  Until then, she thought everyone saw colors the way she did.  She even named her grey and white cat Mango after the color he leaves in the air when he moves.  Finally, she is diagnosed with synesthesia, a condition that affects many people, and she begins to explore her identity trying to connect with others like her.

It is a relief for Mia to find people who see the world the way she does, but unfortunately this self-discovery alienates her from her friends and family just when she really needs them most.

If you enjoy reading about people who see the world differently, you might also like Anything But Typical, by Raleigh Baskin, Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper, Kissing Doorknobs, by  Terry Spencer Hesser or Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key, by Jack Gantos.

 

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Monkey Town

monkeytownby Ronald Kidd, 259 pages, Grades 6 and up

Fifteen year old Frances’s biology teacher is absolutely dreamy, so when she sees her dad talking to him in their family coffee shop, she fantasizes about getting to know him better.  Frances’s dad and his friends are scheming to get business to pick up; they decide to organize a publicity stunt involving the handsome science teacher, Johnny Scopes.  They create a case against Scopes who is teaching evolution in his science classes, and get the religious creationists rallying against him.  

The whole thing ends up in one of the biggest trials in American history right in the center of Frances’s world, and her beloved Johnny, or Mr. Scopes, is being framed by her own father!

If you enjoy historical fiction about United States history, you might also like Uprising, by Margaret Peterson Haddix, or The Minister's Daughter, by Julie Hearn, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.

 

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Wild Things

wildthingsby Clay Carmichael, 241 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Zoe, who is eleven years old, has had a hard life already.  She hasn’t grown up with a lot of motherly affection or concern, and she has had to deal with a number of her mother’s boyfriends stealing her mother’s attention over the years as well.  

When Zoe’s mother dies, her Uncle Henry takes her in, but Zoe is not sure what she thinks about the arrangement.  Having been left to her own devices all her life has made Zoe very independent and capable; she knows how to take care of herself, but she is not sure if she can ever bring herself to trust anyone else.

Adults in her life have not really panned out, is Uncle Henry up for the challenge of a wild thing like Zoe? 

If you enjoy books with characters facing a challenging family situation, you might also like Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

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Things a Brother Knows

brother knowsby Dana Reinhardt     242 pages     Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Student Review

Levi Katznelson’s older brother, Boaz, has just returned from three years in the marines, years that were very difficult for Levi and his family. The whole town is excited he’s back. Everyone is calling Boaz a hero. But Boaz has changed since the last time Levi saw him. He stays shut in his room and refuses to open up to Levi. Unfortunately, Levi’s attempts to get Boaz back to his old self are shut down by Boaz’s unwillingness. When Levi discovers that Boaz is planning on leaving again, on a trip that will last all summer, he decides to go with him.

This young adult novel by Dana Reinhardt is not too long, but delivers a powerful message. It is a book is for people who are comfortable with adult humour and, at times, emotional situations. Narrated by Levi, a high schooler who has lived in his older brother’s shadow all his life, the story frequently reflects back to before Boaz left for the army when he was a high school star.  The best kind of novel is the kind that makes you reflect back, and thats exactly what Reinhardt has done. Through her writing you can feel the emotions of Levi whom, even though he is physically back, tries to bring his older brother home. AH

If you enjoy books that have to do with family in the army and finding yourself you might also like: Greetings from Planet Earth, by Barbara Kerley and Dogtag Summer, by Elizabeth Partridge.

 

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Pathfinder

pathfinderby Orson Scott Card,  662 pages, Grades 7 and up

Rigg is a pathfinder; he sees the paths of all living creatures.  To him these paths look like signature brush strokes left on the ground where people walked, and these paths stretch back through time for thousands of years.  His father has helped him cultivate this unique ability his whole life; his father also made sure he was skilled in logic and reasoning.  Rigg cannot see a use for some of his education; he and his father are hunters and trappers in the forest after all, when will he ever need to know the language of the nobility?  

When Rigg’s father dies in an accident on one of their hunting trips, his life suddenly changes.  Rigg’s past is not as simple as he believed, in fact the world itself might not be what everyone thinks.  Rigg and a friend from the village find themselves on a journey full of danger and mystery where time does not always behave the way we are accustomed.

If you enjoy science fiction stories about other worlds or alternate realities you will also enjoy the Ender's Game series by Orson Scott Card.  You might also like Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher, or Insignia, by S.J. Kincaid.

 

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Middle of Nowhere

Middle-of-Nowhere-cover-81-140x206by Caroline Anderson, 214 pages, Grades 5-8

Curtis has been a foster kid before the last time his mother disappeared.  That time he was only six, the same age Artie is now, and his foster brother was a bully who made his life miserable.  

That is why this time when his mom doesn’t come home Curtis takes care of things himself.  He is convinced if they let someone know she is missing, they will be separated and sent to terrible foster families.  It seems possible Curtis might manage it when Mom is only gone for a few days, but as those days stretch into weeks and weeks into months, it is too much for a 12-year-old boy to handle.  

Luckily when a neighbor lady asks Curtis for a hand, they realize they can help each other and the boys manage a little longer on their own, but Mrs. Burt decides they all need a summer vacation, so she takes them to “the middle of nowhere” and Curtis starts to worry he will never see his mother again. 

If you enjoy books about kids trying to make the best of a bad situation, you might also like:  Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch.

 

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Incarceron

incarceronby Catherine Fisher, 442 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Claudia is living a nobel life, like a princess in a castle, but to her home feels like a prison.  

Finn’s home really is a prison, but a prison like no other.  This place is so vast it feels like a kingdom full of villages, and cities, forests, and swamps, beggars, thieves and people with power and influence; this is Incarceron.  The place itself seems to have a mind of its own, it shifts and transforms itself to make life difficult for its inmates; escape feels so impossible that most are making the best of their life within the walls.  

Finn is new to Incarceron; most believe he was born there, but he has glimpses of another life, another place, that make him wonder, and so he seeks to escape this dark metalic world.

A crystal key brings Claudia and Finn together, but the prison does not give up its people easily, even if it is to the warden’s daughter.

If you enjoy books about dystopian future world, or fantasy kingdoms, you might also enjoy:  Maze Runner, by James Dashner, or Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.

 

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The Other Wes Moore

the_other_wes_moore_bookcoverby Wes Moore, 239 pages, Adult Biography

READMONT BOOK OF 2012-13!

The author Wes Moore had a challenging childhood.  His father died when he was very young, his mom had to work multiple jobs to support their family after his death, and they had to live in neighborhoods plagued with drugs and gangs.  

Moore survived his turbulent youth, however, and went on to become a decorated war veteran, college graduate, and Rhodes scholar.  It was when he was in South Africa on his Rhodes fellowship that his mother told him about another young man, about his age, and from his home town, who had just been arrested for robbing a jewelry store; the robbers had killed a security guard. This young man’s name was also Wes Moore, and this Wes Moore was convicted to a life sentence in prison.  

The shock that there could be another person, with his identical name, growing up in a very similar situation who ended up in such a different place made the author want to understand the other Wes Moore, and how their lives had diverged so significantly.  This is the biography and autobiography of the two Wes Moores.

If you enjoy reading biographies of contemporary people, you might also enjoy The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, by William Kamkwamba, or Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different, by Karen Blumenthal, or Aung San Suu Kyi, by Sherry O'Keefe.

 

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Unforgettable

Unforgettableby Loretta Ellsworth, 256 pages, Grades 6-9

Baxter can remember what his mom was wearing when she came to pick him up from kindergarten ten years ago including what her voice smelled like to him.  It seems like it would be a cool trick, like photographic memory, but Baxter also cannot get rid of these memories or any information, and they can be a burden.  Also, this kind of gift can be used for evil, and, in fact, his mom’s last boyfriend thought of an illegal way to profit from Baxter’s gift. This criminal boyfriend is just about to be released from jail for those crimes; Baxter had been a key witness, so he and his mother are moving to a small town across the country to escape his anger.  It is hard to be new in a strange town, but Baxter has found someone from his past to connect with, and even though she can’t remember their kindergarten days together, of course, Baxter can.

If you enjoy books about kids with unusual abilities, you might also enjoy Bruiser, by Neal Shusterman.  

 

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My Name is Mina

minaby David Almond, 300 pages, Grades 6-8

Mina lives with her mother and she loves sitting in the tree in her front yard.  The view from her tree is “extra-ordinary”!  Sometimes there are baby birds and other beautiful and amazing things she can see from the tree, but most of all, Mina loves the night.  

Even though Mina bubbles with optimism and joy, her life has not been easy.  Her grandfather who used to send her treasures from his travels has given her his last gift, she has a lot of trouble fitting in at school; finding friends and living up to teachers’ expectations, and she misses her dear dad who died.  Mina is trying to figure out how to be herself and still find a place in the world around her; luckily her surroundings are brimming with surprising possibilities.

If you like books about young people who have trouble fitting in, you might also enjoy Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise, or  Anything but Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli.

This is the companion book to Skellig, by David Almond, if you are home you can watch this youtube book trailer about Skellig.

 

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Wonder

121009_DX_WonderBook.jpg.CROP.article250-mediumby R.J. Palacio, 315 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2014

Going to a new school is always hard, especially if you have to be the new kid in a middle school, but for Augie it is even more difficult than that.  August has never attended school before; he has been home-schooled because he could not attend consistently since he was busy having so many surgeries.  

He had to have surgeries because he was born with several different facial malformations.  His face does not look like everyone else’s; he is used to being around people who know him and love him, but to suddenly find himself in a school with a bunch of adolescents he doesn’t know is pretty scary.  He is not sure if he will find a place to fit in, and if everyone will get to know who he is beyond his outward appearance.  

Who is the real Augie and can he manage to get known for something other than his unusual face?

If you enjoy reading books about kids who overcome obstacles, you might also enjoy Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erksine,  Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Out of My Mind, by Sharon Draper.

 

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Ghost Knight

ghostknightby Cornelia Funke, 330 pages, Grades 6-8

Jon’s mother sends him to a boarding school just because Jon doesn’t think her new boyfriend, The Beard, is a good addition to the family.  His sisters think The Beard is wonderful, so they get to stay, but Jon’s being kicked out and sent away; fine, who needs them anyway.  

The Popplewell boarding house will be Jon’s new home and Stu and Angus are his new roommates; they seem nice enough, but the ghosts that corner Jon on the way home from class are another matter entirely.  He does not know Stu and Angus well enough to tell them he might be seeing things, and he is not sure who to ask about these frightening apparitions.  Can they really do him harm?  Is there anyone to help Jon, sad and far from home?

If you enjoy ghost stories that are not that scary, and even a little funny, you might also like The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman, or Ghostgirl by Tonya Hurley.

 

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Beautiful Creatures

beautiful creaturesby Kami Garcia, 563 pages, Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Everything always stays the same in Gaitlin County, so when new girl – and not just any new girl, but someone really dark and different – comes to school, Ethan notices.  Of course, there is also the fact that she has been in his dreams all summer, and that he can hear her voice in his head, even when they are not in the same room.  

Turns out the new girl, Lena, is not just different, she is a caster; people in her family all have extraordinary talents like the ability to change the weather, or spy on people through the eyes of your dog.  In the south, the worlds of darkness and light have always lived closely together, but it is not something the good people of Gaitlin County talk about aloud.  Until the day that one of their people (Ethan) befriends one of the people of the night (Lena).  These two worlds are about to collide and Ethan and Lena are right in the middle of it.

 

If you enjoy stories about other worlds, or enchanted love stories or ghost stories, you might also like Everlost, by Neal Shusterman, or Beastly, by Alex Flinn, or A Greyhound of a Girl, by Roddy Doyle.

 

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Insignia

insigniaby S.J. Kincaid, 446 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Literally, Tom’s world is pretty small; it amounts to him and his dad moving casino to casino trying to win enough to make ends meet.  Virtually, though, Tom has a larger life.  He is an expert gamer, so good, in fact, that the folks at the Pentagonal Spire – future earth’s version of the current Pentagon, national military headquarters –  are seeking out his expertise.  

He has always wanted to be somebody, or at least something more than a street urchin conning people to earn a place to sleep and eat, so when the Spire offers him a place in their Academy he is eager to join.  His dad would not approve, but this time his dad’s lack of parenting skills make it easy for Tom to make his own decisions and he takes it upon himself to join the Academy.  

In this future, all war is fought virtually by teenagers; the actual battles occur remotely on other planets, so no one gets hurt.  Of course, there is more going on than meets the eye.  Tom will have to figure how who the good guys really are, who he should trust, and how he can use his skills to help himself and protect everyone in the world besides.  

If you like dystopian science fiction you might also enjoy:  Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card, or Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

 

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A World Away

world awayby Nancy Grossman, 394 pages, Grades 7 and up

Eliza has lived her whole life sheltered from modern technology, and she has also lived a life free of modern problems like materialism, consumerism and deceit.  Eliza and her family are Amish and she has never left the Amish community where they do not have telephones, movie theatres, or shopping malls.  They do not listen to music, and the girls do not wear pants.  

Once in their lives Amish adolescents are offered an opportunity to see what it is like to live among “the English” – as they call people living outside the Amish community. During this important year, called Rumspringa, Amish teens are allowed to explore the world outside and decide which life they prefer.  Once they promise themselves to the Amish, they cannot leave without shame, so the decision is made very thoughtfully.  

A World Away is the story of Eliza’s Rumspringa year.  The magic of technology in all its forms is exciting, but there are things about her home she misses terribly.  Which life will she choose?

If you enjoy reading about adolescents challenged to make difficult decisions, you might also like reading:  The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Chol, or Small Acts of Amazing Courage, by Gloria Whelan.

 

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Promise the Night

promise the nightby Michaela MacColl, 262 pages, grades 6 & up

When Beryl's dog was dragged away from her mud hut by a leopard in the middle of the night because she forgot to secure the door flap, Beryl vows to find him… then does.  When people start refering to her as a "wild child" and Beryl's dad tries to get her a British nanny, Beryl seeks education alongside the boys from the local Nandi tribe.  When she is told that girls don't get to go on lion hunts…

Beryl Markham was the first pilot to fly solo from England to North America.  She spent her life defying the rules that society placed on her and other women of the time.  Promise the Night is a novel based on Beryl's remarkable childhood in Africa.

If you would like to read Beryl's own story of her life as a pilot, you could read her autobiography, West with the Night.

 

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CYRM 2012-13 Nominees

Have you read the California Young Reader Medal nominees this year?

Middle School

Invisible Lines by Mary AmatoWild Things by Clay CarmichaelOut of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Invisible Lines by Mary Amato, Wild Things by Clay Charmichael, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper

Young Adult

Matched by Ally CondieBeautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret StohlThe Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

Matched by Ally Condie, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt

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Looking For Me

looking.for.meby Betsy R. Rosentahl, 165 pages, Grades 6-8

 
Edith is number four in a family with 12 children. They call her the good little mother because everyone counts on her to take care of the smaller children, but she is not sure this label really fits her. The novel is written in verse, each poem illustrating a piece of Edith’s life and coming together to form a complete coming-of-age story full of challenges.  She has to overcome bigoted teasing, her family’s financial hardships, and personal loss as she learns to understand who she among the chaotic comings and goings in this big huge family.
 
If you enjoy stories of kids who overcome against the odds you might also like: Elijah of Buxton, by Christopher Paul Curtis, Small Acts of Amaing Courage, by Gloria Whelan, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.
 

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Uprising

uprisingMargaret Peterson Haddix, 346 pages, Grades 6-8

 
Uprising is told from the point of view of three young women living in New York City in 1911.  Two are immigrants, one from Russia, Yetta, one recently arrived from Italy, Bella; both are factory girls living downtown, working long hours, and saving every penny possible to send home to their families in the old country. The other girl, Jane, has grown up privileged; she has a closet full of fancy dresses, servants to dress, feed and drive her.
The immigrant girls work for a shirtwaist factory where bosses force girls to work in dangerous conditions, for long grueling hours, and then cheat them when payday rolls around.  Jane finds herself moved by the factory workers plight and circumstances bring these women together.  It soon becomes clear they are really not so different; all are trapped and powerless as are most women of that time.
The suspenseful conclusion brings vivid detail to the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that took the lives of so many young girls on March 25, 1911.
 
If you enjoy suspensful historical fiction you might also like Across the Nightengale Floor, by Lian Hearn, or Chains, by Laurie Halse Anderson.
 

 

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Ghetto Cowboy

ghetto_cowboy_coverby G. Neri, 218 pages, Grades 5-8

 
Cole has caused his mom so much trouble that she has decided to deliver him to his father’s in the hopes that Cole’s dad can shape up her 12 year old before it is too late.  Cole has never met his father, so he’s unsure what to expect, but when he finds out his father lives like a cowboy in the middle of the city racing horses and teaching city kids to ride, he is beyond shocked.  He cannot believe his mom is leaving him in this crazy place; his father doesn’t even have an extra bedroom for him, and his idea of helping out around the house has Cole shoveling horse manure!  Who is this ghetto cowboy, and how could his mom trust him to take care of Cole, when everything around here seems to be falling apart?
 
If you enjoy reading books about different cultures right here in our country, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch. If you like books about families dealing with troubled teens you might also enjoy Watson's Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech.
 

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Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip

curveballby Jordan Sonnenblick, 285 pages, Grades 7-9

 
Peter and his best friend are the dynamic duo on the baseball field until Peter severely injures his elbow at the end of eighth grade.  Peter begins high school trying to figure out who he is, if  he is no longer a pitcher, and how he can fit in. On top of that something strange is happening to his grandfather, who is his best friend, and he can’t talk to his parents about it.  Luckily his photography teacher partners him with a cute girl who is actually pretty hilarious, so maybe he won’t have to figure it all out on his own.
 
If you enjoy books about personal struggle and identity you might also enjoy Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, The Cardturner, by Louis Sacher, Scrawl, by Mark Shulman, or Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
 

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Moon Over Manifest

PDF Creation in Quark 7by Clare Vanderpool, 351 pages, Grades 5-8

 
Abilene is used to moving from place to place in 1936.  She and her dad never stay too long anywhere so she has seen a lot of different towns in her 12 years.  Unstable as life on the road might seem to an outsider, Abilene’s dad has been the one constant in her life; they always stick together.  This summer, though, things are different; her dad just drops her in his hometown of Manifest with complete strangers (his father’s good friends) and leaves her there alone.  He says it is just for the summer, but Pastor Shady makes her attend the last day of school anyway.  At first she thinks she’ll be quietly counting the days until her stay in Manifest is over, but then she discovers a loose floorboard with treasures beneath:  letters and mementos about the town in 1918 and a notorious WWII spy called the Rattler.  Abilene is surrounded by mysteries and is determined to discover how these characters fit together and what they can teach her about her father’s personal history as well.
 
If you enjoy stories about kids overcoming family hardship, you might also enjoy Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor, or Absolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, or A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews.
 

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Elsewhere

elsewhereby Gabrielle Zevin, 276 pages, Grades 7-10

 
Lizzie’s end begins on a boat on its way to Elsewhere, but Lizzie doesn’t understand how she got there or where she is going.  The last thing she remembers was her bike ride to the mall; she was supposed to meet Zooey to pick out prom dresses.  This must be a dream:  a boat full of old people, no one almost 16 like Lizzie, and a rock star who says that he is dead.  But Lizzie can’t wake up.  Elsewhere is a backwards world of young grandparents, tattoos that grow brighter and disappear instead of fading, auto accidents that do not cause pain, and pets who communicate with people.  Why does Lizzie find herself in Elsewhere and how can she get back home?  Will she get her driver’s license as planned? Will prom happen without her?
 
Other books for those who enjoy alternate realities and after-death possibilities include Everlost, by Neal Shusterman, or The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
 

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Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual

food-rules-cover-484by Michael Pollan, Illustrated by Maira Kalman, 207 pages, all ages

Eating healthy food has become complicated in the modern western world.  According to Michael Pollan many of us have grown up eating “edible foodlike substances” instead of, or in addition to real food.  The food industry’s advertising and marketing has made finding healthy food very complicated.  Pollan has a simple message:  “Eat food, mostly plants, not too much.”  He breaks into some clever and easy-to-follow rules for healthy eating including:  “Avoid food products containing ingredients that no ordinary person would keep in the pantry,” “Eat animals that have themselves eaten well,” and “Eat when you are hungry, not when you are bored.”
If you enjoy reading about the food we eat you might also enjoy Man Eating Bugs: the Art and Science of Eating Insects, by Peter Menzel.

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Earth Unaware: the First Formic War

earth unawareby Orson Scott Card and Aaron Johnston, 368 pages, Grades 7 and up.

Before the earth began preparing for the inevitability of alien contact, before they had faster than light speed communication capabilities, before they had Ender to pin their hopes on, earth was caught unaware.  This is the story of the world before the first Bugger invasion.  It is the first book of a new trilogy that tells what happened before Ender’s Game began; it is the story of earth’s incredible survival in a war they were unprepared for, and staggeringly unequipped to participate in, but when aliens attack people of earth do anything and everything to protect their homeland.

If you enjoyed the Ender’s Game series this new trilogy will not disappoint, but better read after Ender’s Game itself.

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Out of My Mind

OutOfMyMindby Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

Melody has an amazing memory for detail; she is extremely observant and intelligent.  The only problem is, no one around her can tell how much she understands because her cerebral palsy makes it almost impossible for her to communicate.  Her parents believe she is smart and her caretakers can see she has a good brain, in fact, one of her caretakers comes up with a system that helps Melody communicate simple things, but Melody craves so much more. All of her ideas, thoughts, jokes and insights are trapped inside her.  How can she get the recognition she deserves for her brilliant mind if no one can really tell what is going on in there?

If you enjoy books about kids who overcome adversity you might also enjoy Anything But Typical, by Nora Raleigh Baskin, or Waiting for Normal, by Leslie Connor.

 

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Jefferson’s Sons

Jeffersons-Sons-Coverby Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, 360 pages, Grades 6-9

History shows that Thomas Jefferson had a second family with one of the women enslaved on his plantation.  Sally Hemings was the mother of four of Thomas Jefferson’s children:  Beverly, Harriet, Madison and Eston.  
Bradley’s work of historical fiction uses the president’s sons, Beverly, Madison and Eston, as narrators.  Each eleven year old boy tells his part of the story, so the novel, in three parts, is an adolescent’s point of view.
There are many things that happen on the plantation that are scary and frustrating for the enslaved people who live there; almost nothing is in their control. It is clear that Jefferson’s children are given special privileges for enslaved people: music lessons, work in the house instead of in the field, etc, but, in the end, they are still trapped and controlled by their white master.  The children are never allowed to refer to Jefferson as daddy or papa, but he has promised each of them freedom when they come of age.  Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings hope that those children who are light complected can pass into white society and improve their situations.  This would mean never seeing their mother again; whites and blacks did not freely associate in those days. And what about the children who cannot pass for white?  Will Jefferson’s sons find freedom and find better lives off the plantation?
If you enjoy historical fiction books about people struggling for justice you might also enjoy Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson, Esperanza Rising, by Pam Munoz Ryan, or Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan.

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Divergent

divergent-book-cover-image-396x600by Veronica Roth, 487 pages, Grades 8 and up (YA)

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

In future Chicago there are five factions Abnegation (known for selflessness), Amity (known for keeping the peace), Candor (known for honesty), Dauntless (known for courage), and Erudite (known for their intelligence); everyone is born into one of these, but at age 16 each person chooses which faction they will become and live with for the rest of their lives.  Beatrice, born into Abnegation, goes to the faction assessment designed to help sixteen-year-olds determine which faction they are most suited to. Beatrice gets an unusual result.  In fact, her outcome is such an anomaly that her test administrator has to cover up the results. Beatrice must keep a secret from everyone, even her family; she is Divergent.  How can she choose a faction; should she go with her heart, or try to be safe, and how will she be able to keep her strange status a secret?

If you enjoy dystopian fiction you might also like Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, Matched, by Ally Condie, Legend, by Marie Lu, or Maze Runner by James Dashner.

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After Ever After

after-ever-afterby Jordan Sonnenblick, 260 pages, Grades 6-9

Jeff is a cancer survivor.  When he was five he was diagnosed with Leukemia, but he has been cancer free for years now.  Still, the has to deal with repercussions from the experience. He has a bit of a limp, but that just means he bikes instead of going out for track, and it doesn’t keep Lindsey from thinking he’s cute, so that’s not a big deal.  He also finds math challenging because one of the cancer drugs messed with that part of his brain, but he is not too worried about that either until the state institute an exit exam for the eighth grade.  Normally, this is something that his big brother Steven could have helped Jeff figure out, but he was off finding himself drumming his way through Africa.  Jeff doesn’t want to worry his mom; he feels like she has worried enough about him.  He also doesn’t want to upset his accountant dad who cannot understand why Jeff doesn’t get math the way he does, so he decides to keep them both in the dark.  Luckily his best friend Tad, a cancer survivor himself with after effects of his own, agrees to tutor him in math.  In exchange, Jeff promises that he will help Tad build the strength to walk across the stage at their graduation; Tad uses a wheelchair because his cancer treatment affected the strength in his legs.  Naturally, nothing is as simple or straightforward as it seems, which anyone who has had to battle cancer at five should have realized.

After Ever After is a companion book to Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie.  Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie is told from Jeff’s brother’s point of view when he is first diagnosed with cancer as a little kid.  

If you enjoy books about overcoming adversity, and challenge you might also enjoy:  Running Dream, by Wendelin Van Draanen, or Waiting For Normal, by Leslie Connor.

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Dead End In Norvelt

Dead-End-in-Norvelt-Coverby Jack Gantos, 341 pages, Grades 5-8

“School was finally out and I was standing on a picnic table in our backyard getting ready for a great summer vacation when my mother walked up to me and ruined it.”  

Isn’t that a great way to start a book?  

The surprise Jack’s mom has in store for him is that he will be working this summer for the old lady next door.  It seems like that might be boring, but this is no ordinary old lady. When he arrives his first day Miss Volker is boiling her hands in a pot on the stove, next thing you know Jack’s breaking-and-entering in a neighbor’s house on her orders.  Miss Volker is an expert on the town’s history; it was founded by Eleanor Roosevelt.  She needs Jack’s help to write obituaries for all the town’s original residents who are suddenly “dropping like flies.”

Poor Jack.  Between covering for his dad who wants to build an airport in their yard for the plane he is hiding in the garage, trying to avoid arrest for polluting, spying on the Hell’s Angels, and working for his crazy neighbor, his summer is not delivering the fun and games he had hoped for.

If you like funny fiction with a bit of history you might also enjoy:  A Long Way From Chicago, by Richard Peck, or Walking Across Egypt, by Clyde Edgerton, or The Worst/Best School Year Ever, by Barbara Robinson.

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A Monster Calls

monstercallsby Patrick Ness, 204 pages.  Grades 7 and up.

Connor has been making his own dinner, and putting himself to bed for a while now.  His mom has been sick a long time. The treatments seem never-ending.  There is always something new to try; something that will surely work this time.  It is hard for him, but he has it under control, and he is managing just fine, until some bullies start bothering him at school, and a monster moves into his backyard and starts waking him up in the middle of the night trying to scare him.

The monster takes Connor on a journey of stories, each more unexpected than the next. On the way he learns that things are not always what they seem and he finds the strength to face his worst fear of all.  

The combination of the illustrations and the writing is so powerful that it brings the reader along on Connor’s emotional journey in a way that feels tangibly genuine and raw.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like sad stories you might also enjoy:  After Ever After, by Jordan Sonnenblick, or The Poet Slave of Cuba, by Margarita Engle.

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Now Is The Time For Running

nowisthetimeforrunning__spanby Michael Williams, 233 pages, Grades 7 and up

Deo is playing soccer when the soldiers arrive.  At first they hope that they will shout and shoot into the sky and then move on to the next village to show their power, but the soldiers are serious about violence this time.  Deo and Innocent narrowly escape the massacre and run from their home with only a few possessions. Deo is the younger brother, but Innocent is disabled and suffers from emotional fits when he isn’t able to calm himself with his radio, so it is Deo who has to make all the decisions to make sure they are safe.

The teens face immense difficulties as they make their way to the border, but it is when they get there that the real challenge begins. Deo and Innocent have to make their way across a raging river and through a wild animal preserve just to escape the war, but even away from the war safety is very hard to find.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading stories about real places and situations that are very different from your own, you might also like:  No Ordinary Day, Breadwinner, or I Am A Taxi, by Deborah Ellis, or Crossing the Wire, by Will Hobbs.

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No Ordinary Day

noordinarydayby Deborah Ellis, 155 pages, Grade 5-7

The day Valli leaves her miserable coal mining village and sets off on an adventure is no ordinary day; it is her happiest day so far.  Valli is a clever survivor; she ends up in Kolkata, India and lives alone on the streets borrowing and begging to fill her belly, and sleeping in the cemetery when she can sneak by the guards.  Life is hard, but she is stubbornly optimistic.  Valli approaches strangers to ask for food, dives to the bottom of the river to collect change; she has a gift for getting what she requires and when she is finished with something she makes sure to give it to someone else in need.   

One day she meets a lady doctor whom she is sure will give her a few rupees (Indian money), but while they are talking Valli steps on some burning coals.  The doctor is alarmed, but Valli doesn’t feel a thing; she tells the doctor that she has magic feet, nothing can hurt her.

Leprosy is one of the most feared and misunderstood diseases probably because of the way it disfigures its victims.  Even today people with the disease are considered outcasts of their societies.  In reality, leprosy is hard to get, and, in fact, can be cured if diagnosed and treated.  Unfortunately, often those who contract it are not in a position to get assistance.  

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy reading about social situations much different from our lucky circumstances here in Piedmont, then you might also enjoy The Breadwinner, by Deborah Ellis, Homeless Bird, by Gloria Whelan, or Now is the Time for Running, by Michael Williams.

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The Absolute Value of Mike

absoluteby Kathryn Erskine, 247 pages, Grades 6-9

Mike is not into math, in fact it is his very worst subject even though his dad is practically a math genius.  Mike cannot get his dad to understand that, but Mike’s dad is pretty tuned out when it comes to his son.  It is not a big surprise when he decides to send Mike off to some long lost relative instead of taking him along to an engineering conference in Europe over the summer.

Mike winds up in a crazy town with his great Aunt Moo who has no Internet, a cell phone that she cannot work which is lost somewhere in her purse anyhow, and a car named Tyrone that she drives like a maniac.  When he arrives the whole town is on a mission to raise money to help adopt a little boy from Romania: a shy gorgeous singer named Gladys, some guys who make Porch Pals, Moo and her famous vinegar, and homeless guy named Past are all trying to raise $40,000.  Mike’s great uncle, Poppy, is supposed to be helping too, but he just sits on his recliner and eats Spam sandwiches watching a blank TV screen.  Somehow Mike finds himself leading this crazy team of fundrasisers.  Wait, won’t there be math involved here?

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like books with quirky characters you might also enjoy: Grounded by Kate Klise, Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, or Deliver Us From Normal, by Kate Klise.

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Legend

20121230015234!Legend_Marie_Lu_Book_coverby Marie Lu, 305 pages, Grades 7-12

CYRM NOMINEE 2014

In a dystopian future society, the western United States has become the Republic, a military dictatorship in a constant war with the surrounding Colonies.  Student trials determine where you will be placed in the social order, but Day lives outside the law; he is the Republic’s most infamous criminal.  June, on the other hand, was raised in a wealthy family; her parents and her brother held high positions in the Republic; she scored the highest ever on the Trials and attends one of the Republic’s best military academies.  An accident throws these two opposites together.  They should be instant enemies, but maybe what brought them together was not an accident after all, but what they are up against might be too big for the greatest outlaw and the smartest citizen even if they are working together.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like dystopian fiction, you might also enjoy:  The Hunger Games, by Susanne Collins,  The Maze Runner, by James Dashner, or Matched, by Ally Condie.

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Half Brother

half brotherby Kenneth Oppel, 375 pages, Grades 7-11

Ben had always hoped for a sibling, but he never expected that his parents would adopt a little brother like Zan.  His father is a behavioral psychologist who has transplanted the family to Canada to study chimpanzees, so it wasn’t so unexpected that his parents would bring a chimp into their home.  But, in 1973 on Ben’s thirteenth birthday they surprise him with “a little brother.” Zan is a chimpanzee that they expect Ben to treat like a sibling.  It is all part of his father’s study, but it soon becomes difficult to distinguish experiment from genuine feelings, and the thing is what is cute when the chimp is a baby might be a real problem when Zan is stronger than everyone he lives with.

If you enjoy speculative fiction, you might also like Airborn, also by Kenneth Oppel, or Crunch by Leslie Connor, or A Dog For Life, by L.S. Matthews; these books have a realistic feel, but a fantasy twist.

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Every Soul A Star

Every_Soul_a_Star_book_coverby Wendy Mass, 322 pages, Grades 5-9

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Student Review

Three lives are about to be changed forever.  Thousands of people gather on a tiny isolated campground to watch something unforgettable: a total eclipse of the sun.
Ally’s family has owned Moon Shadow Campground ever since she was born. She likes simple things like stargazing and comet hunting. And she refuses to imagine it any other way.
Bree is popular, gorgeous and is perfectly happy until her parents ruin everything. She can’t imaging herself camping or hiking. For Bree, fun means putting on makeup, checking out the latest fashions, modeling and being popular – the exact opposite of her parents. What is Bree trying to hide?
Jack is overweight, and a lost cause in school. He is used to sitting alone in his treehouse reading or drawing aliens. When his science teacher offers him a deal that gets him out of summer school,  Jack finds himself in a place he would have never even dreamed of. MC

 

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy books about groups of friends you might also like:  The View From Saturday by E.L. Koningsburg, The Misfits, by James Howe, or The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.

 

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Wildwood

wildwoodby Colin Meloy, 545 pages, Grades 4-7

CYRM NOMINEE 2015

Student Review

        Prue McKeel’s life is ordinary until a murder of crows kidnaps her baby brother Mac. They take him into a place called “Impassable Wilderness.” This place is a big green area labeled “I.W” on every map of Portland, Oregon. Prue and her friend Curtis have to venture into this wilderness from which no one has ever returned alive. They travel through forests finding not only warring creatures,  and menacing figures, but friendship, as they struggle for the freedom from this wilderness. Prue and Curtis uncover a whole new secret world hidden within the trees; a wilderness called Wildwood. From talking coyotes and birds to bandit camps and an evil governess, Wildwood is packed with mysteries. Can they save Prue’s brother and get out alive? You’ll have to find out.  MC

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Waiting For Normal

waiting-for-normalby Leslie Connor,  290 pages, Grades 6-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Addie’s life has a lot of “twists and turns” that she doesn’t expect.  She used to live with her Mommers, Dwight and her two little sisters, but after what she calls her big mistake everything changes.  Now, she and Mommers are moving into a trailer home and “the littles” (her sisters) are moving away with their dad, Dwight.  

Addie is good at making the best of almost every situation; her mom calls the trailer a piece of junk in the middle of no where, but Addie calls it an adventure and sees her new loft-room as cozy, not cramped.  Even when there is no food in the house, she can create a delicious meal, in fact, she has invented a repertoire of toast-dinner recipes.  

Addie’s winning personality makes her a lot of friends, but her life is far from normal; she might need more than optimism to get her to out of danger in the end.

Other stories about challenging family situations are:  Guitar Boy, by M.J. Auch, Grounded, by Kate Klise, and Ruby Holler, or Bloomability, by Sharon Creech.

 

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Revolution Is Not A Dinner Party

revolutionby Ying Chang Compestine, 249 pages, Grades 5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Ling is nine, her parents are both doctors and they live in China surrounded by neighbors who are their friends.  Little by little the China they know begins to change around them.  The young people call themselves revolutionaries and say they value equality for all, but soon their chants “Down with the bourgeois!” and actions turn against people like Ling’s parents who have been educated.  Ling faces challenges of school bullies, the disappearance of friends and family, the lack of food and necessities as well as the abuse of loved ones as the China she knew transforms into a different place entirely.

If you would like to read more about this time period you might also enjoy a biography called:  Red Scarf Girl, by Ji-ling Jiang, or Little Green: Growing Up During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, by Chun Yu

 

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Small Acts of Amazing Courage

small actsby Gloria Whelan, 209 pages, Grades 6 and up

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Rosalind, an English girl growing up in India, prefers to spend her days exploring the city streets and bazaar with her friend Isha, but her parents don’t know that.  Her father is away at war and her mother is still grieving over Rosalind’s brother who died while he was away at school in England.  It is her brother’s death that made it possible for Rosalind to remain in India – her mother cannot bare to part with her only child now even though most British children are educated in England – but her father is becoming concerned about Rosalind’s education and behavior; her disobedient, unconventional ways might get her sent to England after all, and just as she is becoming interested in Indian politics, in particular a dynamic leader working for India’s independence through peaceful protest named Ghandi.

If you enjoy this book you may also like other titles by Gloria Whelan including:  Parade of Shadows, Homeless Bird, or Angel on the Square.  They are all historical fiction novels with strong female characters.

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A Long Walk To Water

alongwalktowaterby Linda Sue Park, 120 pages, Grades 5-8
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Salva is at school when they attack.  The teacher sends the boys running out the back door and into the forest to get away from the invading rebel soldiers.  

This is the beginning of Salva’s journey through southern Sudan into Ethiopia on the run from the war sweeping his country, and he is on his own; he was separated from his family when their village was attacked.  

This novel is based on the true life of Salva Dut who now lives in the United States and has started an organization that digs wells to help people in the country where he grew up.

Salva Dut’s website:  http://www.waterforsouthsudan.org/salvas-story/

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you enjoy stories about ingenuity and survival you might also like the biography by William Kamkwamba called:  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.

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The Cardturner

the_cardturnerby Louis Sachar,  336 pages,   Grades 7-adult

At first Alton thought being forced to visit his elderly uncle was going to be pretty boring.  He was pretty sure his uncle didn’t even know who he was, even though his mother had been making him call Uncle Lester, a.k.a. Trap,  his “favorite uncle” ever since he was little.

He was even more certain that this was going to be boring when his uncle explained that what he needed was a cardturner for his bridge games each week since he could no longer see the cards; Trap had recently lost his eyesight.   Alton could only remember old people playing bridge, and the game seemed to include a lot of complicated rules, not particularly, but he agreed to help his “favorite uncle.”

His “favorite uncle” also turned out to be pretty crabby at first, and was not a man to give compliments very often, but everyone has a story; there is a lot more to Trap’s story than Alton ever could have guessed. The mystery of Trap’s past is entertaining, bridge is intriguing, and when a pretty girl enters the picture Alton’s boring summer turns into one of the best of his life.

Connections:  If you enjoy Louis Sachar, you might also like Holes. Another great read about younger and older generations connecting is called The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

 

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Demonkeeper

demonkeeper-coverby Royce Buckingham, 216 pages  Grades 6-7

After his mentor disappeared, Nat was left alone to care for all of the demons in their run-down, old house in Seattle.  Most of the demons aren’t too much trouble, just a little pesky.  But, the Beast in the basement is a different story.  Nat has never seen the Beast; the terrifying creature must be kept locked away to protect runaway and orphan children, its chosen prey.  Of course, on the one night that Nat decides to leave the house to go on a date with Sandy, the girl he met at the library, two boys break into the house and release the chaos that Nat, and all of the previous demonkeepers before him, have so carefully kept in check.  At the same time, another less honorable demonkeeper has slipped into town intending to use the demons, especially the Beast, for his own dastardly plans.  Can Nat control the chaos and defeat the destructive demonkeeper?

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Connections:  For other stories of kids left to battle monsters, check out Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, and The Shadow Thieves by Anne Ursu.

 

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Death Cloud

Death-Cloud-HCby Andrew Lane,    311 pages,     Grades 6-9

Maybe you have heard of Sherlock Holmes the grown man who solved impossible crimes with his sidekick Watson, but did you ever wonder what he was like as a teenager?

Death Cloud is the first adventure of the teenage Sherlock.  He is not yet officially the mastermind he will become, but you can see his mind already has those keen sensibilities that make him the superior detective he is as an adult.

“‘You came in Father’s carriage,’” the young Sherlock tells his older brother when he sees him.

“‘How on earth did you deduce that, young man?’

Sherlock shrugged. ‘I noticed the parallel creases in your trousers where the upholstery pressed them, … Father’s carriage has a tear in the upholstery that was repaired rather clumsily a few years ago.  The impression of that repair is pressed into your trousers…’”

Brilliant deduction!  But can he solve the mysterious murders taking people around him in a cloud of death while being pursued by the criminals themselves?  Is the teenager up to the task?

Connections:  If you like a good mystery you might also enjoy Heist Society, by Ally Carter, or Montmorency:  Thief, Liar Gentleman?, by Eleanor Updale.

 

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Airman

airman_book_coverby Eoin Colfer,   412 pages,   Grades 7-8

Conor Broekhart was born in the air.  His parents took a ride in a hot air balloon at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair, and that is the moment Conor decided to arrive.  It is no wonder he is determined to fly; he is a brilliant engineer from very young and is lucky enough to work with another brilliant man, Victor Vigny, advisor to the king.  The king’s daughter admires Conor’s talent as well, and all seems to be perfect for the Broekhart family.

Unfortunately, his life takes a dramatic turn.  The good king has placed his trust in the wrong man; one of his confidants, Marshall Bonvilain, kills the king and frames Conor for the murder!  Conor is thrown into a high security prison on an island, and his parents believe him to be dead.  He is subjected a brutal life in the prison, but also makes some allies that help him attempt to save the kingdom, and his family as well as seek revenge on the evil Bonvilain.

Connections:  If you enjoy steam punk fiction, you might also like: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, or Airborn by Kenneth Oppel. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas is the first novel about a man being mistakenly imprisoned and escaping to seek his revenge.

 

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Elijah of Buxton

elijahofbuxtonby Christopher Paul Curtis,  341 pages,   Grades 6-8

Elijah wishes he was not quite so fragile.  He can take off running when he sees a snake, or might feel like crying when someone tells the sad story of escaping from slavery in America.  His parents worry that his fragile nature might make his life difficult, but it is that very nature that turns him into a hero.

Buxton was a real town established in 1849 by an American abolitionist who hoped to give people escaping American slavery a place to live as free human beings. The story of Elijah is fictional, but things that happen are realistic for the time and place.

Even though his family thinks he is a delicate soul, Elijah finds courage deep inside himself and takes a lot of risks to do the right thing.  It is a dangerous time to be African American; Elijah’s adventure is truly heroic.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

Connections:  Christopher Paul Curtis is gifted at creating exciting stories that happen to be set in realistic times in history.  If you like Elijah of Buxton, you might also like Bud Not Buddy, or The Watson’s Go to Birmingham, both by Curtis as well.

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The Education of Hailey Kendrick

Hailey Final Coverby Eileen Cook 256 pages     grades 7 and up

Hailey Kendrick got the whole school on probation; no one can leave campus because of her.  She has gone from popular to outcast in one night.

Hailey attends a fancy boarding, so fancy, in fact, children of movie stars, and teen stars themselves, are her classmates.  She has no money worries, obviously, she is popular and is dating one of the most handsome guys in the school.  Her life seemed pretty perfect until she got everyone on probation.

What is going on?  Has Hailey lost her mind, or was there something already boiling beneath the surface that just had to burst free?  And, how is she going to manage life when everyone she knows has dumped her?

Other fun realistic fiction with teen girl central characters are: Heist Society, by  Ally Carter, Rules of the Road, by Joan Bauer, and a fantasy with a teen girl central character is Matched, by Ally Condie.

 

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The Poison Diaries

poison diariesby Maryrose Wood,    278 pages,   Grades 7 and up. Even Jesamine, who is the daughter of the apothecary and a skilled gardener,  is not allowed beyond the locked gate of the poison garden. Jesamine lives with her father, who heals the sick in and around London, in a country house in the mid 1800s.

One day the man in charge of the local home for the insane delivers a mysterious young man he calls Weed to their doorstep.  Jesamine’s father agrees to take him in even though he seems dangerous; he might be to blame for curing those in the asylum, and creating an epidemic of insanity in town.

The arrival of Weed reveals things to Jesamine that she has not realized about herself, about her father, and about the nature of poisons. Her life will never be the same.

If you like romance, mystery and fantasy you might also like Graceling, by Kristin Cashore, Goose Girl by Shannon Hale, or Matched by Allie Condie.

 

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The Memory Bank

memory_bankby Carolyn Coman 263 pages  Grades 6-8

Hope watches her sister get smaller and smaller as her parents drive their car away.  “Forget her!” they tell Hope, but she loves Honey, how can her parents abandon her on the side of the road. The Memory Bank is told in two ways from two points of view.  Honey is quickly picked up and handed a lollipop by a smiling lady and a bunch of laughing kids; her story is told in pictures, while Hope’s is described in words.

 

Hope cannot forget her sister, of course, and ends up being investigated by the World Wide Memory Bank for delinquent memory creation; instead of creating new memories, all Hope can do is think about her sister.  Maybe the bank will hold the key to finding her.

The authors  flash back and forth between these two adventures until they come together for a smashing finish.

Click here to see if it’s available for check out.

If you like graphic novels you might also enjoy: Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, by Barry Deutsch, or The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures, by  Brian Selznick

 

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Heist Society

heist societyby Ally Carter, 287 pages,  Grades 6-10

Kat knows a lot about famous works of art, she is an expert when it comes to museums, but she is not a museum curator or an art history major; she is a teenager.  Kat was raised surrounded some of the greatest criminal masterminds in history; her mom died when she was young, but her dad and her Uncle Eddie taught her everything she knows, and she knows a lot!

Kat thinks she is taking a break from the family business; she is enrolled in a private boarding school, but then her dad is in trouble and she has to pull a heist herself to save him.

If you liked any of the Oceans movies you’ll enjoy Heist Society; it is Oceans Eleven with teen criminals and a female in charge.

 

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Guitar Boy

guitar boyby M. J. Auch      260 pages        Grades 6-9
Travis is out on the street.  His father, at his wits end after his mother’s accident, lost his temper and kicked him out of the house with nothing but the clothes on his back and his mom’s old guitar. Not only does Travis have to worry about how to survive on the street,  he is also worried about the rest of his family. His younger sister had to give up going to school to take care of their three younger siblings; the three little ones are missing their mom, and don’t really understand what has happened to her; his father is so distraught he has lost one job and cannot find another; his mother, rather than being helped to recover, has been housed in a convalescent home with a lot of people not expected to get any better.

Travis has his hands full, and his pockets empty. Guitar Boy is a different kind of survival story.

Other stories about difficult family situations are Bloomability, by Sharon Creech, and If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period, by Gennifer Choldenko.

 

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Grounded

Groundedby Kate Klise 196 pages Grades 6-7Daralynn’s father, brother and baby sister died in a plane accident, and Daralynn is only alive because she was grounded that day and had been forced to remain behind.

After the tragedy, her mother becomes the hairdresser for the dead at the local mortuary to make ends meet, but it is not easy to recover from such a shattering loss.  Daralynn’s mother is not only over-protective of her, but also seems to be angry about everything, and kind to no one.

Even Daralynn’s Aunt Josie, her father’s sister, is often the victim of Mother’s attacks.  When Josie starts dating Daralynn’s mother’s competition, things really heat up.  But, there is something suspicious about “Uncle Clem,” Josie’s new beaux, and Daralynn’s investigation might just prove to be the thing her family needs to pull them back together.

If you enjoyed Regarding the Fountain by Klise, you won’t be disappointed by this sweet narration.  Another great book about family perseverance in the face of tragedy is Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine

 

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Storm Mountain

storm mountainBy Tom Birdseye, 135 pages  Grades 5-8

Somehow… one thing led to another, and before Cat knew what what was going on, she and her cousin, Ty, were stuck in a winter storm on Storm Mountain… just like the one their fathers had died in two years before.  Cat knew it was crazy when Ty showed up at their door and suggested they climb the mountain to spread their fathers’ ashes, but she didn’t think Ty was insane enough to take off on his own when she said she wouldn’t go.  Challenge after challenge leave Cat wondering if her limited mountaineering skills can save them both.

Connections:  For other high adventure mountaineering books, try reading Peak by Roland Smith, the Everest series by Gordon Korman, or Climb or Die by Edward Myers.

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Slick

slick 116 pages  Grades 5-8

Thirteen year-old Liza’s parents are divorced, and she has found that one way to take away the sadness is through DIY (Do It Yourself) projects like making things from recycled items and stuff she finds thrifting (shopping at thrift stores).  She doesn’t like her mom’s new boyfriend and becomes convinced he is up to no good when she finds out how the oil company he works for is ruining the environment in Guatemala.  Liza decides to take action and forms a group called GRRR! (Girls for Renewable Resources Really!) to expose the company.

Connections:  For other stories of activism, try reading Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French or Hoot and Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

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Prisoner in the Palace: How Victoria Became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel

prisoner in the palaceBy Michaela MacColl, 367 pages  Grades 7 & Up

Seventeen year-old Liza’s circumstances changed suddenly and for the worse.  One day she was living a life of luxury in a fancy hotel with her parents and the next she is destitute, after her parents die in a carriage accident.  Liza considers herself fortunate when she is hired to be the maid for the young princess (and soon to be queen), Victoria.  She quickly finds herself caught up in the intrigue, with the previous maid mysteriously dismissed and the princess’s mother and confidante trying to take away control from the soon to be queen.

Connections: For other tales of enterprising orphans from other eras, try reading Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Crispin: the Cross of Lead by Avi, and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.  If none of those appeal, a subject search in our OPAC would reveal 190 books with the tracing of “orphan.”

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The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place

mysterious howlingThe Mysterious Howling (Book 1)

by Maryrose Wood

The book begins with Penelope Lumley, a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, on a train headed to her first job.  Miss Lumley is a teacher and governess; she is especially excited (and nervous) about this first job at Ashton Place.  Her interview with the lady of the house goes quite well and she is hired on the spot, even though they were often interrupted by some mysterious howling from outside. The noise, she is surprised to find out, was being made by the children she has been hired to teach.  It turns out the master of the house had found these children while hunting and until now they had literally been raised by wolves.  Many would run away from such a daunting task, but Miss Lumley is not only optimistic, she is determined to do a good job for these “three waifs;”  their predicaments are often funny, and their story is sweetly told.

Incorrigible-210x300The Hidden Gallery (Book 2)

by Maryrose Wood

This sequel is even more exciting than the first book.  Miss Lumley suggests that she might take the children, who had been raised by wolves until Miss Lumley arrived, to London to visit Miss Mortimer, her former headmistress from the Swanburne Academy.  Lady Constance, who has been terribly bored and out-of-sorts because the house at Ashton Place has still not been completely repaired after the children destroyed it while chasing a squirrel in the previous story, is delighted and decides to move the entire household to London for a spell.  A number of suspicious adventures follow, and Miss Lumley and the children narrowly escape danger while trying to unravel the mystery of the children’s condition and other strange goings on about London.
Another difficult-to-put-down sequel is sure to follow.

 


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The Maze Runner

The_Maze_Runner_coverby James Dashner        374 pages,  Grades 6-10

Tom wakes up in a box without windows or doors.  He fumbles around and cannot find a way out until the top opens up and beyond the glare of the bright light he hears kids voices.
“Look at that shank.”
“How old is he?”
“Looks like a klunk in a T-shirt.” (p.3)
Tom cannot remember who he is or where he came from, but he is pulled up into the Glade by a bunch of other teenage boys. All the kids there arrived in about the same state: confused, some sense of the way things work, but no clear memories of the details of their lives before the dark box that delivered them. The Glade is a bit like a working farm and a bit like a prison.  Each of the teens has a job to keep the place functioning:  cook, farmer, slopper, runner, etc., but there is no way out. They all believe their one hope to get home is to decipher the maze that surrounds the Glade, but the maze changes shape every night, and there are frightening things that roam its halls.

Connections: Those who enjoyed Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins or Unwind, by Neal Shusterman will like the Maze Runner too!

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The Running Dream

running dreamby Wendelin Van Draanen,  336 pages,  Grades 7 and up“‘Fifty-five flat!’ Kyro shouts, ‘Fifty-five flat!’

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s a new personal best for me.
A new record for the league.” (11)

At sixteen Jessica is on top of her game, about to take league, maybe even go to state, when the track team’s bus is hit by an out-of-control car.  One of the team loses her life, and Jessica’s right leg is crushed.

Jessica is a runner; running is not just something she likes to do, it is woven into her identity, so the accident takes more than her leg, it makes her question who she is.

Personal strength, friendship, family, and courage pull Jessica forward on her journey to discover who she is and who she can become.  It is as inspirational a journey as the many true journeys of people in similar situations.

The following is a link to a TED talk with Aimee Mullens, also a runner, called “Aimee Mullans and Her 12 Pair of Legs.” http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/aimee_mullins_prosthetic_aesthetics.html

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Matched

matched_book_coverby Ally Condie,    366 pages, Grades 7 and up

CYRM NOMINEE 2012

In a future world where no one has to fear disease, malnutrition, crime, or other problems of past cultures, people trust The Society to make the best decisions about everything: the food you should be eating, the clothes you wear and even who is best suited to be your partner for life.

Cassia has reached the age of her matching, and at the ceremony while others are paired with people from other cities far away Cassia is surprised and grateful to find her match is Xander, her best friend from childhood.  She leaves the ceremony feeling confident this is her ideal mate, but when she uses the computer to find out more about her match the face of another boy she knows flashes on the screen!

This little “mistake” opens Cassia’s eyes to the possibility that The Society might not really be as perfect as she has been brought up to believe; could this doubt put everyone she knows in danger?  And, who is her real match?

If you enjoy dystopian fantasy, fiction that takes place in a future that is the opposite of an ideal world,  you might also like: Unwind by Neal Shusterman, or Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

Crossed, the sequel to Matched will come out in 2011.

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Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom

george clooneyBy Susin Nielsen,  229 pages,  Grades 6-8

Violet is having a hard year.She almost poisons her step-sisters (unintentionally, of course), she breaks a classmate’s nose (less than unintentionally), she crashes into a movie star’s car (honestly by mistake), only to name a few of the mishaps of her seventh grade year.Really, Violet is only tying to make it through middle school, survive visits with her dad and Jennica (her dad’s new wife, who is fake in more ways than one), and make sure her mom doesn’t fall for the wrong guy again, but somehow nothing seems to go as planned.If only she could get George Clooney to write her back, she is sure he will love her mom and make her real sister’s and her life much better.

If you enjoy realistic fiction with a bit of humor like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging, by Louise Rennison, orAbsolutely Normal Chaos, by Sharon Creech, then Dear George Clooney… might be for you.

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The Unknowns

unknownsby Benedict Carey,    259 pages,   Grades 6-8

Until now living in Folsom Adjacent, a trailer park bordering the Folsom Power Plant on a circular island, has been pretty boring. In fact, Diaphanta, a.k.a. Lady Di, and Tamir al-Khwarizmi, a.ka. Tom Jones, had nothing to do but work on trying to pass math and stay out of the way of the bullies until people in their community start to disappear.The Crotona police don’t seem to be doing anything, so when their friend and math tutor vanishes from her trailer leaving behind a clue Lady Di and Tom Jones decide to see if they can solve the puzzle and save their teacher.Di and Tom, and eventually a few other allies, follow a series of math clues through the tunnels under Adjacent and battle adolescent and grown-up bullies trying to save their friend and the dirty little town that is their home.

This book will satisfy fans of Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, Trenton Lee Stewart’s Mysterious Benedict Society, or anyone who enjoys puzzling out math problems from different points of view.

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Leviathan

leviathan2By Scott Westerfeld, 44o pages,  Grades 7 and up

Westerfeld has created an alternative history of  World War I and filled it with Clanker and Darwinist war machines.The Clankers use mechanical transports that remind readers of the Empire’s AT-AT walkers in Star Wars while the Darwinists use flying machines that live, breathe and eat.In fact, one of their greatest living machines called Leviathan is really an entire ecosystem; whale DNA, bat, and bird all mixed together to create a huge flying zeppelin manned by the military.Daryn, a girl disguised as a young soldier, joins the Darwinist army and is aboard the Leviathan when the war begins.Alek, the Austrian prince, escapes his country after his parents’ assassination in a Clanker contraption.A near fatal crash, and a famous scientist seeking to save her precious cargo bring Daryn and Alek’s worlds and missions together in the chaos of the beginning of an alternate first World War.

This book’s sequel Behemouth has recently arrived and promises to be another thrilling adventure.  Another exciting adventure including a zeppelin and an alternative past is called: Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel.Oppel’s story is less of war and more like an adventure on the high seas with pirates and mysterious creatures.

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Keeper

keeperBy Kathi Appelt, 399 pages  Grades 5-7

Keeper has messed up… really messed up, and she needs to fix things.  During the blue moon, she plans to visit the sandbar where mermaids gather, to find her mother who disappeared when Keeper was 3 years-old.  Keeper has a plan and is sure that her A to A plan will work.

Check out the book trailer at the author’s website.

Connections:  For another story that make you question a character’s reality, try reading Signal by Cynthia DeFelice.  Another magical story by Kathi Appelt is The Underneath.

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Closed for the Season

closed for the seasonMary Downing Hahn, 182 pages  Grades 5-8

Logan is unhappy to have to move to a new city.  He knows his family’s new house is a fixer-upper, but he isn’t prepared for the wreck they find or the annoying kid next door.  Logan also finds that his parents were hiding the fact that the previous owner died in the house.  It turns out that his parents weren’t informed of the whole story…  Her murder remains a mystery and it seems that the answer might be found in the creepy, over-grown, abandoned amusement park nearby.

Check out the author’s video trailer – Closed for the Season

Connections:  For other recent, creepy tales by the same author, try reading All the Lovely Bad Ones, Deep and Dark and Dangerous, and The Old Willis Place.  Other favorite scary, mystery writers include: Lois Duncan, Joan Lowry Nixon and Barbara Brooks Wallace.

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Eye of the Whale

eye of the whale*Green Team Recommends*

by Douglas Carlton Abrams, 365 pages  Adult Novel

Though not strictly written as young adult fiction, this book will appeal to Middle Schoolers interested in the natural world, especially in marine life.  Eye of the Whale is an eco-thriller set primarily in the greater Bay Area, bringing together whale researchers, whalers, corporate lobbyists, activists, and government agents.  One central character is actually a humpback whale, nicknamed Apollo, who swims up the Sacramento River to deliver a message, but to whom?  And what is the message?  And who is it that doesn’t want the message to get delivered?  This thriller uses fascinating and startling facts and theories– about whales and about the impact of chemical pollutants accumulating in the natural world and eventually in our own bodies (body burden)– to tell a story that is both a page turner and a cutting commentary on the destruction, waste and poisoning that has flowed out from our modern industrial civilization into the natural world.

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Unwind

UnwindBookCoverBy Neil Shusterman, 335 pages.         Grades 7-9

It is the future, and if you are between the ages of thirteen and eighteen you worry every day about becoming an “unwind.”

When no one won the terrible civil war between the Pro-Choice and Pro-Life groups there was a compromise.It was decided that all babies would be born, that children would be untouchable from birth to 13, and that between 13 and 18 any child could be unwound. Every single body part goes on living in another body, so it is not considered death.The unwound teen continues to live in different places.

In this version of the future there are no doctors, only surgeons.There is a transplanting process that works so well, people just replace parts that are damaged or diseased instead of trying to cure them.The technology is great for people who lose a limb, but you can also “correct” things like baldness with a transplanted scalp full of hair, or replace your crooked teeth with a brand new set.

Connor is trouble, and his parents have had enough.Risa has no parents, and the state homes need to make space for the new babies being “storked,” left on their doorstep.Lev is a “tithe;” he has been raised since birth to be unwound as a sacrifice to god. “Unwinds” are outcasts whom no one wants to help, so how can they escape their fate?

Connections:  For other survival stories full of adventure try:  The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, or Graceling, by Kristin Cashore.  Another edgy science fiction adventure is Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

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Boom

boom cover UKby Mark Haddon, 195 pages.                   Science-Fiction Mystery.

Jimbo’s sister, Becky,  tries to scare him into thinking he is about to be kicked out of school, so Jimbo and Charlie bug the teachers’ room with walkie talkies to find out if it could be true.  Instead of finding anything out about Jimbo,  they catch two of their teachers speaking a strange language, and it isn’t a human language!

The boys are determined to solve the mystery, and when none of their other tactics yield answers, the boys decide to sneak into Mrs. Pearse’s house. This a big mistake; now they know too much.  They are sure aliens are after them, but their families think they are crazy, and then Charlie disappears!

What would you do if your best friend might have been abducted by aliens?  Go after him, of course.  Jimbo and his sister Becky are on their own in the wilds of Scotland trying to save Charlie, and maybe a lot more than that!

For other crazy alien stories try:  Nosepickers from Outer Space by Gordon Korman, or The Doom Machine, by Mark Teague

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Smile

smileBy Raina Telgemeier, 213 pages  Grades 5-8

The author, Raina Telgemeier, was just racing her friends to the front door after a Girl Scout meeting when she tripped, fell and knocked out her two front teeth.  From that moment, middle school became a blur of surgeries and dentist/orthodontist appointments mixed with the more typical crushes, teasing and embarrassments.  This graphic memoir vividly depicts the mixed bag of middle school.  Will high school be better?

Connections:  For other humorous autobiographies/memoirs, try reading John Sciezka’s Knucklehead or How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen.  For other graphic memoirs/biographies with a much more serious tone, check out Maus by Art Spiegelman or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

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As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

as-easy-as-falling-off-the-face-of-the-earthBy Lynne Rae Perkins, 352 pages  Grades 7 Up

Do you believe in Murphy’s Law?  Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.  Fifteen year-old Ry seems to be living Murphy’s Law, starting with his train to camp pulling away as he stands at the top of a nearby hill in the middle of nowhere Montana, trying to get cell phone reception.  The next thing you know, Ry is on a cross-country road trip trying to get home, and each of his missteps leads to a new adventure in this humorous and absurd quest.

Connections:  If you enjoy the combination of adventure and humor, you might try reading The Adventures of the Blue Avenger by Norma Howe, The Neddiad by Daniel Pinkwater, Backwater by Joan Bauer, or Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen.

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Stuck On Earth

stuck_on_earthBy David Klass, 227 pages  Grades 6-9

In a tale that is not always what it seems, Ketchvar III is an alien, snail-like creature who is charged with the important task of evaluating human beings’ worthiness before possible extermination (vaporization by Gagnerian Death Ray).  In order to get close to the humans, he inhabits the body of 14 year-old Tom Filber by crawling in through Tom’s nose.  As it turns out, seemingly ordinary Tom’s life is not so typical.  Ketchvar questions the value of humanity when he finds himself dealing with a dysfunctional family and bullies at school (“voluntary daily incarceration”).

Connections:  For other humorous tales of alien/human interaction, try reading The Doom Machine by Mark Teague, Boom! by Mark Haddon or Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.

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The Gollywhopper Games

gollywhopperBy Jody Feldman, 332 pages Grades 5-8

What is as exciting as a candy company that hides a few golden tickets offering a lifetime supply of candy and a tour of the mysterious factory?  How about a toy factory with a puzzle and stunt contest where the winner receives untold riches and fame?  The Gollywhopper Games starts with a stadium full of children and teens answering questions and brainteasers, in hopes of becoming one of the ten semifinalists.  To twelve year-old Gil, the contest is also a chance for his family to have the money they need to leave town and find a fresh start.  Once inside the magical world of the toy company, the contestants are faced with life-sized mind games and physical challenges, initially requiring teamwork but eventually singling out a winner.  Are you ready for a few brain teasers?

Connections:  The magical toy company setting and contest will appeal to those who enjoyed Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  For those who enjoy the puzzling mind games, try reading the Puzzling World of Winston Breen series by Eric Berlin, The Mysterious Benedict Society books by Trenton Lee Stewart or Blue Balliett’s art mystery books that start with Chasing Vermeer.  Be sure to check out the Jody Feldman’s fun website.

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Scrawl

ShulmanScrawlv2Finalby Mark Shulman  p.  230   Grades 7 and up.

Tod Munn has a bad reputation; he has been known to steal the wimps’ lunch money, push his way into the front of the  lunch line and shove people into the lockers when they least expect it.  He is not someone you want to mess with if you don’t want to get hurt.  Naturally Tod has landed himself in detention, and this time it is for something really bad, but he is not outside raking leaves with his “droogs,” instead he is spending time one-on-one with the school counselor, Mrs. Woodrow.

For detention he has  to write in a journal every day after school.   He spends weeks with the counselor in a hot school room writing and writing until it feels like his hand might fall off.  Tod thinks the counselor is trying to “fix the bad guy,” and he doesn’t think it is going to work, either. Who do you think is right; is the bully really a bad guy, or is there more to the story than meets the eye?

Connections:  If you like books about tough kids you might like Small Steps by Louis Sachar or if you enjoy books written in journal form you might also enjoy Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech.

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The Danger Box

danger boxBy Blue Balliett, 306 pages  mystery for Grades 5-8

Zoomy is legally blind, but he can see things if he holds them close up.  He loves to read  and play games on the computer, and he also loves to investigate and collect things.

He arrived on his grandparents’ front step when he was a newborn baby.  They love him and take him in;  they know their son, Zoomy’s father, can’t take care of a baby, because he is running wild; an alcoholic who is always in a lot of trouble with the law.

Zoomy’s life is going along just fine until the summer his dad shows up in a stolen truck and dumps a stolen box in their garage.  His father’s mysterious  appearance is the beginning of Zoomy’s life spiraling out of control.  First, his grandparents let him investigate the contents of the stolen box, then his dangerous dad threatens Zoomy while he is alone at the library,  then his grandparents are visited by a mysterious stranger, and finally there is a big fire at his grandparents’ shop that doesn’t seem like an accident.

What will happen to Zoomy? Could it all come down to the contents of the stolen box?

If you enjoy this book you might also like:  A Dog for Life, by L.S. Matthews, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, by Mark Haddon, or  The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly.

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Mockingbird

mockingbird-by-kathyrn-erskine-book-cover-1By Kathryn Erskine, 235 pages, Grade 6-8

Caitlin and her father are feeling broken after tragedy strikes their family a second time.  Caitlin’s mother died of cancer three years before and now her brother, Devon, is dead after a violent incident at school.   On “the day their lives fell apart”, as Caitlin calls it, Devon’s door was slammed shut and Caitlin doesn’t feel like she can open it.  She misses her brother, and his  room and all it holds especially a special place next to his bed where she used go for comfort.  It was Devon who used to help her cope with the worlds of the town, the classroom and the playground.   He  always said Caitlin was brave; he even liked to call her Scout after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Now that Caitlin’s dad spends a lot of time crying  and Caitlin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, has to be especially brave.  She would like to help her family put the pieces back together, but she is not sure how to do that.  After talking to the school counselor one day, she decides what they need is  “closure” and she is on a mission to get it.  But, first she has to find out what it is and how you get a hold of  it.

For other stories about how families find closure try Mick Harte Was Here by Barbara Park, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

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Exodus

exodus-julie-bertagna-book-cover-artBy Julie Bertagna, 345 pages  Grades 7 and up

Sometime in the not-to-distant future, the world as we know it has mostly drowned under the rising ocean from the melting ice caps.  Fifteen year-old Mara’s island home is just about to disappear under the waves when her vision of sky cities prompts the village to sail off on dangerous seas in search of a safe haven.  When they reach the high-tech city, they find that they and the thousands of other refugees aren’t welcome.  Instead, they must fight for their lives and for scraps from the city in the sky.

Connections:  For another story of a society threatened by global warming, try reading First Light by Rebecca Stead or read the sequel to Exodus called Zenith.  To read about the author’s inspiration for the story, check out her website.

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Crunch

crunch-leslie-connor-book-cover-artby Leslie Connor, 330 pages – Grades 5-8

A sudden oil crisis leaves Dewey and his older sister to run the family’s bike shop and care for their younger siblings while their parents are stranded up north.  The crunch has made the bike shop incredibly busy, and to make matters worse, a thief is stealing precious precious parts, but Dewey has a plan to identify the culprit.

Connections:  Check out the author’s website.  If you like mysteries with an environmental theme, try reading Gloria Shurzynski’s National Park series.

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The Poet Slave of Cuba

poet slaveBy Margarita Engle, Art by Sean Qualls    p. 183  – Grades 7-12 – biography

Trapped as a slave in a wealthy home in Cuba, Juan Francisco Manzano lived his life in fear of the cruel punishments of his masters.  This sad and harrowing story was uncovered because the young slave,  Manzano, wrote vivid poetry that describes his time as a slave.   In Cuba poetry is like television; many people perform poetry for others and stories are often carried across the country because people repeat the poems they have heard.  It is for this reason that the author, Margarita Engle, was inspired to write this biography in verse, paying tribute to Manzano’s work.  While enslaved Manzano could not stop creating poems in his head; sometimes his owners praised him for his creativity and other times he was severely punished.  The poems were part of Manzano and came to him as naturally as breathing; no punishment, no matter how harsh, could stop him from being himself.

Connections:  For other serious stories in verse try Aleutian Sparrow or Out of the Dust, both by Karen Hesse.  For stories about people escaping oppression try 5,000 Miles to Freedom: Ellen and William Craft’s Flight From Slavery, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin, or The Year of Impossible Goodbyes, by Sook Nyul Choi.

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Across the Nightingale Floor: Tales of the Otori (Book One)

nightingale floorBy Lian Hearn, p. 305 – adult fiction

Takeo has never known his father, who died many years before, and he has been growing up in a remote and peaceful Japanese village surrounded by the rest of his loving family.  The rest of Japan is not so;  it is a time of warlords, and secret societies in the middle ages, and Takeo’s home is attacked and destroyed by a warlord named Iida who is threatening to take over the whole country.  When Takeo returns from a walk in the woods and  sees his village burning, something inside him takes over.  He scares the warlord’s horse and causes Iida to fall to the ground.  Understanding his fatal blunder, he runs back into the woods chased by the warlord’s soldiers.  They all run into a man on horseback who fights for Takeo, cutting off the arm of one of Iida’s best warriors.  This mysterious man turns out to be a lord of the Otori clan, another of the powerful families of Japan.

Takeo’s life changes completely from this day forward.  He is adopted by the Otori and  he discovers his father was a famous assassin.  He also finds out his real heritage is the Tribe, a kind of secret ninja society; he possesses some of the Tribe’s extraordinary abilities.  He can hear details across a crowded courtyard, or through a wooden door, he can make himself “go invisible” and become as silent as a ghost.

In these turbulent times, talents like these are desired by many, and Takeo finds himself pulled in different directions, but he is determined to complete the final task for his adopted father:  kill Iida, the same  lord who burned his village and killed his family.  The trouble is the only way to reach the warlord in his palace is to cross the nightingale floor, a huge room covered in a floor that sings whenever anyone touches it.  How can he  cross the nightingale floor and avenge his family?

Connections: For other stories taking place in medieval Japan try The Samurai’s Tale, by Erik Christian Haugaard, or The Sword that Cut the Burning Grass: A Samurai Mystery, by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler.

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The Alchemyst

the-alchemyst-book-coverBy Michael Scott – p. 375  – Grade 6-9 – fantasy

Michael Scott is a professor of mythology and was inspired by the TRUE  story of Nicholas Flamel.  He was actually a real person!  He was born in Paris on September 28, 1330, and buried 1418, but the tomb is empty! Thus begins the myth, or history, of the alchemyst, Nicholas Flamel, immortal and still alive in today?

The Alchemyst begins in modern day New York City; teenage twins Sophie and Josh have moved there  for the summer.   The brother works in a bookstore  for Nick Flemming (name sound familiar?) and the sister works at a cafe across the street.  Right away the bookstore is blown up by mud people and a menacing character named Dr. John Dee.  When Dee and his muddy henchmen storm into the bookstore, Josh is watching from a hiding place.  Dee grabs Flamel’s wife, Perry, and almost makes off with the most powerful book of magic, but Josh manages to grab a few key pages before he and Mr. Flemming have to escape the explosion.   Flamel believes Josh and Sophie might be the twins of the prophecy, so he wants to keep them close in the hopes of finding his precious wife and the stopping Dee from destroying the world as we know it.   From the moment the bookstore explodes Josh and Sophie are on a roller coaster adventure, full of magical, mythical creatures and frightening beasts.  Sequels The Magician and The Sorceress continue the perilous adventure.

Connections:  Other adventure fantasies The Lightning Thief series, by Rick Riordan, Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling, The Alchemist’s Cat, by Robin Jarvis

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CYRM 2011-12 Winners

Have you read the California Young Reader Medal winners?

 

Middle School Winner: Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass  &  Young Adult Winner:  Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Every_Soul_a_Star_book_cover

graceling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind

the boy who harnessedBy William Kamkwamba,   p. 273 – adult autobiography

When William was a kid he loved to take thing apart.  He dissembled his parents radios and spent hours investigating a neighbor’s bike light, spinning the wheel to turn it on and stopping the wheel to turn it off.  Sometimes this experimenting drove his parents crazy, but it was this kind of thinking that would save his village.  When he was 13 Malawi experienced a two year famine; his family survived, but were left nearly penniless.  It was this struggle that was the spark igniting William’s creative thinking; he just knew that power was the answer to his village’s troubles.  If they could somehow control energy, they could work later into the night, pump water to their crops, farm more efficiently, and farm enough crops to save some for hard times.  He used his local library, a one-room building about a quarter of  our library reference room) and the town junk yard to build a working windmill.  The people of the village thought he was crazy until his house was filled with light.  He was finally recognized by the wider world and was honored at TED (Technology, Entertainment, and Design): Ideas Worth Sharing. Check out – William Kamkwamba:  How I Harnessed the Wind. This incredible teenage journey is a compelling read for middle school students and adults as well.

Connection:  For other true stories about overcoming astonishing odds try Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, Of Beetles and Angels, by Mawi Asgedom, or 5,000 Miles to Freedom, by Judith Bloom Fradin and Dennis Brindell Fradin.

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Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie

Drums1by Jordan Sonnenblick.    p. 273    Grades 6-8

Most younger brothers can be a pain, but 8th grader Steven Alper’s five-year-old brother Jeffrey really takes the cake or pie, that is.  He borrows Steven’s prized pair of drumsticks to stir his dangerous pie, a “zesty blend of coffee grounds, raw eggs and their smashed shells, Coke, uncooked bacon, and three Matchbox racing cars.”   When he’s not trying to keep his mischievous brother from being a pest, Steven is pretty much preoccupied by his two passions–drums and beautiful 8th grader Renee–that is, until his little brother is diagnosed with leukemia.  The diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization of Jeffrey turn Steven’s life upside down.  He’s trying to keep his family’s situation a secret from friends and adults at school but having a difficult time coping on his own–which he is because his mom’s staying at the hospital and his dad is lost in his own world.   Torn between resentment toward his parents for neglect and compassion for  his little brother, Steven loses himself in his music, taking refuge in the basement with his drum set.  He’s feeling pretty hopeless until he takes the school counselor’s suggestion and focuses on what he can change.

Although the story is sad in parts, Steven narrates it with sarcasm and humor and what comes through strongest are the love these brothers feel for each othe and their resilience.  This is a story that will pull at your heart strings.

Connections:  The sequel is After Ever After.   If you enjoy Drums, Girls, & Dangerous Pie, you would probably also like Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar.  The library also owns nonfiction on leukemia and coping with serious illnesses.

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The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate

calpurniaby Jacqueline Kelly   p. 340  Grades 5-8

All twelve-year old Calpurnia Tate wants is to become a scientist.  She’s spent the long hot summer of 1899 in the small town of Fentress, Texas,  as an amateur naturalist recording her observations of and questions about nature in a notebook–questions such as, ” Why don’t caterpillars have eyelids?”  She finally thinks her parents understand her and acknowledge her dream when she begins to unwrap her birthday present from them.  It’s a book, and the first word of the title is Science. Unfortunately, the whole title is The Science of Housewifery!

Calpurnia is the only daughter in a family of seven children.  She has no interest in the traditional home arts a young girl at the turn of the century should be learning to make a good wife.  Instead, she develops a close relationship with her reclusive grandfather, who encourages her to use the scientific method in her quest for answers about the natural world and his own quest for a new species.

This is a very entertaining read with an intelligent, spunky protagonist, family humor, sibling rivalry, and good science.  Let’s hope for a sequel.

Connections:  Each chapter of this novel begins with a quote from Darwin’s Origin of Species, so you may also want to read Charles Darwin : Naturalist by Margaret J. Anderson or Darwin’s Ghost: the Origin of Species updated by Steve Jones.  Other good novels dealing with the theory of evolution are The True Adventures of Charley Darwin by Carolyn Meyer and Monkey Town by Ronald Kidd.

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The Firefly Letters: A Suffragette’s Journey to Cuba

firefly lettersBy Margarita Engle, 151 pages  Grades 6 Up

In this novel-in-verse told in three voices, inspired by the diaries and letters of 19th century suffragette, Frederika Bremer, we learn about the many barriers women faced in Cuba.  Frederika visits Cuba from Sweden and stays with a wealthy family whose daughter, Elena seems more confined by her society’s expectations for women than the family’s slave, Cecilia who travels with Frederika as her interpreter.

Connections:  For other novels in verse, try reading Love that Dog by Sharon Creech or Out of the Dust or Witness by Karen Hesse.

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Salt

salt-maurice-gee-book-cover-artBy Maurice Gee, 252 pages  Grades 7-10

When Hari’s father is captured by soldiers from the Company and sent to Deep Salt as punishment, Hari vows to save him even though no one ever returns from these dangerous mines.  Simultaneously, Pearl, the daughter in a high-ranking Company family escapes her arranged marriage by fleeing with her maid, Tealeaf, a mystical Dweller.  Both Hari and Pearl have the ability to communicate telepathically, and they work together to try and save Hari’s father and their world from the dangerous weapon found in the mine.

Connections:  Another fantasy title where the main character is helped by her ability to communicate with animals is Goose Girl by Shannon Hale.  For other mature titles where male and female characters fight to save their community from evil, try reading The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins or Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

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Blessing’s Bead

blessings-bead-debby-dahl-edwardson-book-cover-artBy Debby Dahl Edwardson, 178 pages  Grades 6-9

The mysterious blue bead in her grandmother’s sewing basket and the stories of her Inupiaq ancestors provide the grounding Blessing needs when she is forced to live with her grandmother in a remote village in northern Alaska while her alcoholic mother is in treatment.  This novel, in two parts, starts in 1917 with the story of Blessing’s great-grandmother’s experiences with the arrival of Siberian traders and survival of the Spanish influenza epidemic.

Connections:  Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George is another story of a girl caught between worlds in Alaska.  For a story that focuses on the effect of influenza on a small Alaskan village, read The Great Death byJohn Smelcer.

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The Doom Machine

doom machineBy Mark Teague, 376 pages.  Grades 5-7

When Isadora Shumway and her mother get stuck in a small town after their car breaks down, the last thing they expect is to be abducted by aliens.  Soon logical, studious Isadora finds herself allied with the local juvenile delinquent, Jack, in an interstellar fight to keep the spider-like alien Skreeps from finding and using the space travel machine that Jack’s uncle invented.

Connections:  For other titles with space/time traveling students, try reading Alan Mendelsohn, The Boy From Mars by Daniel M. Pinkwater or I was a Sixth Grade Alien by Bruce Coville.

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Flawed Dogs

flawed-dogs-book-cover-01by Berkeley Breathed  p. 216  Grades 6-8

Cartoonist Berkeley Breathed of Bloom County and Opus fame has now written a very dark but funny novel and illustrated it with pictures as bizarre as the premise of his story.  After fourteen-year-old Heidi McCloud liberates a highly prized breed of dachsund from his crate at the airport, she takes him to live with her at her uncle’s estate and names him Sam the Lion.  Soon a jealous poodle in the household frames Sam and leaves  him for dead, but Sam survives this ordeal plus a stint in an abusive animal laboratory.  Then he and a group of disabled and disfigured mutts from the National Last Ditch Dog Depository come up with a hilarious plan to get revenge on the prestigious Westminster kennel club dog show.  Lots of slapstick humor.

Connections:  Other humorous dog stories include Uncle Boris in the Yukon : and Other Shaggy Dog Stories by Daniel Pinkwater, Wanted.. Mud Blossom by Betsy Byars, Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck, and My Life in Dog Years by Gary Paulsen.

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Science Fair: a Story of Mystery, Danger, International Suspense, and a Very Nervous Frog

science fiarBy Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson ,  p. 394  Grades 5-8

Okay, we all know that some parents help their kids with their science fair projects and maybe a little too much, but at Toby’s middle school in the suburban Washington, D. C. area, the parents of the rich kids are going too far.  Not only is the competition unfair, but it may also endanger the security of the United States government!    For several years, these parents have been giving their kids a lot of money to have a scientist actually build the projects, and one of these kids always wins the competition.  This year, the leaders of a small foreign country have designed a terrorist plot against the U.S. and are using the unwitting eighth graders to build a superweapon to be used against America.  Only Toby realizes what is going on, and he gets suspended from school on suspicion of cheating when he tries to let the adults know about the real cheating and the devious plot. If you can suspend disbelief, you are sure to enjoy the over-the-top, very silly humor and fast-paced action.

Connections:  Here are some other titles with science project plots:  The Chicken Doesn’t Skate by Gordon Korman, The Mulberry Project by Sue Park,  and Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo  by Greg Leitich Smith.  Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have also collaborated on the humorous Peter and the Starcatchers series.

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Fat Cat

fat catby Robin Brande   p. 327   Young adult

No exploding volcanoes for seventeen-year-old Cat (Catherine) Locke’s science fair project!  Instead, the smart, competitive overweight teen makes herself the guinea pig for her project.  Her goal is to live for seven months as a Homo erectus, an early prehistoric human, which means no technology (cars, cell phones, computers except for school work) and no processed foods including sugar.  Cat is determined to win the science fair, mostly to get revenge on her former best friend and rival Matt McKinney, whom she believes betrayed her most terribly in seventh grade.  All the walking and healthy eating causes her to lose weight and feel better, and after her best friend Amanda takes her shopping for stylish clothes, Cat starts drawing a lot of male attention.  This young adult novel is filled with funny, clever teen conversation and portrays friendship at its best.

Connections:  These young adult novels also deal with weight and weighty issues:  Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen, Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher and Dough Boy by Peter Marino.

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One Crazy Summer

one crazy summerby Rita Williams-Garcia  p. 218  Grades:  5-8

CYRM NOMINEE 2013

It’s the summer of 1968, and eleven-year-old Delphine flies from New York to Oakland with her two younger sisters to spend the summer, uninvited, with the mother who walked out on them when Delphine was seven and Fern was just a few days old.  Her father feels the girls need to get to know their mother, but that does not make Cecile any more welcoming.  In fact, she won’t even let the girls into her kitchen.  Dinners are take-out food on the living room floor and breakfast is at the Black Panther summer camp.   The girls are on their own, but each comes into her  own that summer.   Told from Delphine’s perspective, this is a lively, often humorous, story of resilience with characters you will come to know and love.

Connections:  A novel about the Black Panther Party for older readers  is The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon.  Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers is set during the Harlem Renaissance, another significant period in African American history, and tells the story of another crazy summer.

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Pastworld

pastworld-coverby Ian Beck   p. 353    Young Adult

In 2050, central London has been transformed into a theme park for modern day tourists to visit.   These “gawkers”  fly in on an airship  for a day or two to experience what life was like in Victorian London, including dangerous street crime and hangings.  When seventeen-year-old Caleb flies in with his father, one of the originators of Pastworld, his father is kidnapped and Caleb is accused of murder.  He meets beautiful and innocent Eve, a teenage inhabitant of Pastworld, and they become embroiled in a ScotlandYard investigation of a series of gruesome murders by the mysterious Fantom.  This story is a compelling mix of science and historical fiction.

Connections:  Another suspense novel with people living in an  historical amusement park  is Running Out of  Time by Margaret Haddix.     Other great mysteries set in Victorian London are Montmorency by Eleanor Updale,  Smith by John Garfield, and the Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side

jessicasguidetodatingonthedarksideby Beth Fantaskey     p. 351  Young Adult

More vampires anyone?   Jessica’s adoptive parents wait until she’s a high school senior before telling her that her birth parents were vampires in Romania!  They’ve also neglected to tell her that she was betrothed at birth to a vampire prince who has just shown up in her hometown to claim her as his fiance.  Of course, this very rational mathlete doesn’t believe in vampires and so is having a very difficult time dealing with the arrogant, but very good looking, stranger who is posing as a foreign exchange student at her high school and living in the apartment above her garage.  Filled with suspense, drama, romance, and humor this is a great read for Twilight fans.

Connections:  Here are some other young adult vampire novels you might enjoy:  Suck It Up by Brian Meehl, Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer, and The Silver Kiss by Annette Curtis Klause.   Though not about vampires, Beastly by Alex Flinn is a good romance with the beauty and the beast theme.

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Found (and the sequel – Sent)

found-margaret-peterson-haddixBy Margaret Peterson Haddix, 314 pages  Grades 4-8

When a mysterious plane suddenly appears at the gate, the gate agent gets the surprise of her life as she finds only 36 babies onboard the plane.  Thirteen years later, the Skidmore’s adopted son Jonah (from the belly of the whale) and his friend Chip receive the same creepy letter, “YOU ARE ONE OF THE MISSING.”  With the help of Jonah’s sister Katherine, the two boys search to find out more about their true identities.

sent-book-coverThe sequel called Sent is a great window into the difficulties of living in medieval England.

 

 

 

 

Connections:  Other great stories of time travel include:  Nick of Time by Ted Bell, the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer, Archer’s Quest by Linda Sue Park, the Baseball Card Adventure series by Dan Gutman, and The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen.

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Totally Joe

totallyjoeBy James Howe, 189 pages  Grades 6-8

<!–[if gte mso 9]> <![endif]–>“Being who you are isn’t a choice.”Although he had always lived this life lesson, it wasn’t until his favorite aunt gave him a button printed with these words that thirteen, year-old Joe really thought about what it meant for him, as a gay 7th grader, as well as for his schoolmates.Joe’s family and friends have always encouraged him to be himself (including dressing-up in dresses, playing with Barbies and cooking in an Easy-Bake oven) and he has always embraced his originality even when it led to teasing. Through an alphabiography project for his teacher, Joe shares his growing awareness of himself and his friends.

Connection:  Joe and the other characters were first introduced in Howe’s novel, The Misfits.  For other stories where characters share their life experiences through school writing assignments, try reading Love That Dog or Absolutely Normal Chaos by Sharon Creech, Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge, or Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.

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Seer of Shadows

seer-shadows-avi-paperback-cover-artby Avi    p. 202  Grades:  5-8

Do photographs reveal the truth?  In our age of Photoshop, we know that photos can be altered to give a different version of reality, but what about photographs taken in 1872?  In Seer of Shadows, Horace Carpetine is apprenticed to a photographer who alters a photograph to make his wealthy customer believe the spirit of her adopted daughter is watching over the woman.  Horace realizes that this is no photographic trick.  The ghost of the daughter has actually returned to wreak revenge on her cruel parents.

Connections:  For other good ghost stories, consider these authors:  Cynthia DeFelice and Betty Ren Wright.  The library also has good nonfiction on photography and biogrpahies of famous photographers such as Ansel Adams, Margaret Bourke-White, and Dorothea Lange.

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Pop

pop-gordon-korman-book-cover-artby Gordon Korman  p. 260  Grades:  6-9

Pop!  That’s the feeling and imagined sound that comes from taking the hit in tackle football and that sixteen-year old Marcus has come to love.  Before this summer, Marcus had always held back as quarterback, fearful of being injured.  New in town and hanging out in the park to practice his football maneuvers, he meets Charlie, an eccentric older man who challenges Marcus and teaches him to play rough and tumble football fearlessly.  Disappointed that Troy Popovich gets to start as quarterback, Marcus takes on his role as lineman with a vengeance, winning him not only the acceptance of his teammates but also Troy’s former girlfriend.  The tension grows between Marcus and Troy when Marcus learns that Charlie is Troy’s father and discovers the reason behind Charlie’s increasingly odd behavior.  Korman delivers lots of football action as well as a thoughful story.

Connections:  Here are some other good football novels for teens:  Crackback by John Coy, Necessary Roughness by Marie Lee, and Gym Candy by Carl Deuker.  Matt Christopher writes football stories for younger readers.

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Imperfections

imperfection_by_lynda_durrantBy Lynda Durrant   p. 171   Grades 5-8

What is perfection?  When Rosemary Elizabeth arrives at the Shaker community of Pleasant Hill, she has plenty of delicious food to eat, spotlessly clean, white clothes to wear and beautiful surroundings.  She also gets to leave her drunk, abusive father and knows that her younger brother and sister are safe, too.  But, can Rosemary Elizabeth live up to the Shaker ideal of perfection with all of the rules about eating, sleeping, dressing, working, praying and talking?  Even if she can, does she want to?

Connections – Other stories that depict the impact of the Civil War on the youth is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick.

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When the Whistle Blows

whistle blowsBy Fran Cannon Slayton, 162 pages  Grades 6-10

The B&O Railroad passes just outside Jimmy Cannon’s window, and since his dad is the foreman, the engineers hit the whistle every time they pass.  Jimmy has learned to sleep with a pillow over his head, but on Halloween night in 1943, his brother Mike snatches away the pillow so they can sneak out and follow the Society to learn their secrets.  On Halloween night, 1944, and Jimmy and his buddies (the Platoon) are planning to use some rotten cabbages to get  revenge against the local bully, Stubby Mars.  On Halloween night, 1946, Jimmy and the team are playing in the championship game of the first undefeated season in Rowlesburg High school history.  Halloween happens to be Jimmy’s dad’s birthday and through Jimmy’s teen years the day (and night) always bring him something, including mysteries, antics, and heartache.

Connections:  Another historical fiction book about working on the railroad is Dragon’s Gate by Laurence Yep.  For another book set in the country, try reading Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech. Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone is another historical fiction title with a complicated father and son relationship.  To learn more about the book, the author or the railroad, check out the author’s website.

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War Games: a Novel Based on a True Story

war gamesBy Audrey Couloumbis & Akila Couloumbis, 229 pages  Grades 5-8

Before the Germans invaded their village in Greece, Petros fought with his brother, played marbles with his buddies and loved hearing stories about his heroic cousin fighting in the war.  Now, people have left the village, neighbors can’t be trusted, and friends need help.  In these trying times, twelve year-old Petros finds that even his services are essential to the war effort.

Connections:  Hitler’s Canary by Sandy Toksvig and Number the Stars by Lois Lowry are other stories of kids involvement in the resistance during World War II.

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The Potato Chip Puzzles

potatochippuzzlesby Eric Berlin   p. 227  Grades 6-8

Want a puzzling puzzler?!  Seventh grader Winston Breen and his two best friends enter a contest at the local pototo chip factory to win $50,000 for their school.  All they have to do is be first to solve all six puzzles which take them and their obnoxious chaperone all over town and beyond.  The biggest puzzle, however, turns out to be figuring out who is cheating.  Someone has been sabotaging some of the teams by causing flat tires, locking people in bathrooms, and stopping the ferris wheel.  The reader is expected to solve puzzles as well as solve the mystery.

Connections:  Another Winston Breen title is The Puzzling World of Winston BreenThe Westing Game by Ellen Raskin and Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliet are other good puzzle mysteries.

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The Brain Finds a Leg

Brain-Finds-a-Leg-Coverby Martin Chatterton    p. 212    Grades: 6-8

Farfetched but fun!   The Brain does find a leg.  It used to belong to Biff Manly, a seventeen-year-old surfer, who has been found dead at the bottom of a quarry.  Theophilus Brain, a thirteen-year-old self-described genius and Sherlock Holmes disciple, has figured out that a saltwater crocodile (who thinks he’s a dog) severed the leg and hid it underwater.  The crocodile is just the first of list of bizarre-behaving Australian wildlife who show up in this zany science fiction mystery which includes koalas that attack in gangs, possums  that steal SUVs, kangaroos that rob supermarkets and whales that toss tourist boats.  The Brain enlists Sheldon McGlone as his sidekick, and the two are fast on the trail of the murderer and the secret to what’s making the animals act so strangely.

Connections:  Other creepy creature stories include The Cryptid Hunters, The Underneath, and Loch.

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Crows & Cards

crows and cardsby Joseph Helgerson   p. 279   Grades:  6-8

Twelve-year-old Zebulon Crabtree is angry with his father for shipping  him off on a Mississippi riverboat to St. Louis to become a tanner’s apprentice.  He quickly decides to disobey his dad when  Chilly Larpenteur, a cardshark and con man, tricks him out of his money and convinces Zeb to join his racket.   Zeb pretty much becomes Chilly’s prisoner, being locked in the cupboard of the gambling house each evening and forced to work the wire that signals Chilly about his opponent’s cards, so he can cheat.   Zeb’s only hope is to escape, and with the help and friendship of a slave and a Hidasta Indian chief and his daughter, he may succeed.  This is a humorous, rollicking adventure reminiscent of Mark Twain’s novels.

Connections:  The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventues of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by W. R. Philbrick.

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Runaway Twin

runaway twinBy Peg Kehret, 197 pages  Grades 5-8

“Most people who have a life-changing experience survive a terrible injury or disease.  My life was transformed by a craving for Twinkies.”

Twinkies remind Sunny Skyland of her twin sister who she hasn’t seen since their mother and grandmother died in car accident when they were 3 years-old.  A sudden windfall provides the funding for Sunny to set off, alone, on a cross-country journey to find her sister, Starr, with only an old photograph to guide her.  Along the way, she picks up a four-legged traveling companion and braves challenges from both man and nature.

Connections:  For other stories about kids in foster care, try reading The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson or Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson.

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The Big Game of Everything

The Big Game of EverythingBy Chris Lynch, 275 pages  Grades 6-10

“You have to love your family.  You do, even if you don’t right?  You don’t have to agree with them or appreciate them or go to concerts with them, but you have to love them.”  Twelve year-old Jock’s “hippy-frippy” parents named him Union Jack after their stay in England, and they run a barbershop where they try to convince their customers not to get haircuts.  Jock is constantly jousting verbally with his money-obsessed brother who is a year younger and 30 pounds heavier. His grandfather owns an unfinished golf complex with 13 holes, where customers must replay their favorite 5 holes to golf a full game.  Jock is looking forward to spending the summer at the golf complex, but he and his brother need to avoid the town bullies and help their grandfather get back on course after a visit from two of his old buddies.

Connections:  For other golf fiction, try reading The Million Dollar Putt by Dan Gutman.

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Escape Under the Forever Sky

escapeBy Eve Yohalem  220 pages  Grades 5-8

Wouldn’t it be exciting to be the daughter of American ambassador to Ethiopia?  Thirteen year-old Lucy Hoffman dreams of staying out overnight in the bush watching the animals or just visiting the marketplace and exploring with friends, but instead she spends her days at school or stuck inside their home within their walled community in the capital city of Addis Ababa.  When she and a friend sneak out and go to the city, Lucy is kidnapped.  When it looks like rescue isn’t coming, she has to decide whether escaping into the Ethiopian bush is going to improve her odds of survival.

Connection:  For other survival tales set in Ethiopia, try reading The Return by Sonia Levitin or The Storyteller’s Beads by Jane Kurtz.  To read about Eve Yohalem’s inspiration for writing this book, check out her website.

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Nation

Terry_Pratchett_NationBy Terry Pratchett  367 pages  Grades 7-10

The tsunami seemingly washed away their distinctly different worlds and left them both stranded.  After the wave, Mau returns by dugout canoe from his coming of age quest to his village (the Nation) gone, and the trail of destruction leads him to the grounded wreck of the Sweet Judy, the ship that was to bring Daphne from her home in Victorian England to join her father in the “South Pelagic.”  With supplies from the wrecked ship and Mau’s knowledge of the land, the two start to rebuild the Nation as wounded survivors start arriving from other islands and as Daphne holds out hope that her father will come find her.  Daphne (known as the ghost girl), with her curious customs, strange clothes and white skin, struggles to communicate and fit in with her new community while Mau, the very young chief of this new Nation, is called the demon boy for having no soul without the completion of his manhood ceremony.  As this group struggles to survive, they live in fear of the inevitable arrival of the Raiders.

Connections:  For other tales of shipwrecks or deserted island survival, try reading Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss, Overboard by Elizabeth Fama or Seaborn by Craig Moodie.  For more background on the book and the process of writing it, watch this video interview with the Terry Pratchett.

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Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice

claudette-colvin-twice-toward-justice-phillip-hoose-book-cover-artby Phillip Hoose   p. 104  Grades 6-8

I bet you know who Rosa Parks is and what she’s famous for, but have you ever  heard of Claudette Colvin?  She was a fifteen year old girl who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama bus nine months before Rosa Parks became famous for the same thing.

On March 2, 1955, fifteen year-old Claudette Colvin courageously refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white woman.  Two white police officers came onto the bus and ordered her to give up her seat.  When she refused, stating that it was her Constitutional right to sit there, they dragged  her off the bus, shoved her into a police car and handcuffed her.  On the way to the police station, they called her names and made disparaging comments about her as Claudette sat terrified in the backseat next to one of the officers.  She was charged with violating the segregation  law, disturbing the peace, and assaulting the policemen who had pulled her off the bus.

Why is it that Rosa Parks became the symbol of the Montgomery bus boycott and  is considered one of the people who started the Civil Rights Movement, but most of us have never heard of Claudette Colvin?  At first she was a heroine to the Black community for standing up to the unfair practice of segregated seating, but then she became viewed as a troublemaker, and even her classmates shunned her.   Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement felt it was too risky to have a teenager represent them.   Hurt and isolated, Claudette still summoned the courage to testify at the trial that ended bus segregation in Montgomery.

Connections:  Other good nonfiction books about teenagers active in the Civil Rights Movement include Marching for Freedom : Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary by Elizabeth Partridge, Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals, and Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

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Blood on the River: James Town 1607

bloodontheriverby Elisa Carbone    p. 224   Grades 5-8

Barely escaping the gallows in London, orphan Sam Collier finds himself the page to Captain John Smith and on his way to the New World to help settle the Jamestown colony.  Smith believes the survival skills Sam has honed on the streets of London and even his violent temper will make him a successful settler in this challenging new frontier.  Captain Smith faces challenges of his own.  Although he has a good relationship with the Powhatan, the British aristocrats resent the leadership role he’s taken and do everything in their power to undermine and even arrest him.  This is gripping historical fiction, based on primary source documents, that presents the Indian perspective as well as the colonial.

Connections:  The Winter People by Joseph Bruchac, A Pickpocket’s Tale by Karen Schwabach, and The light in the Forest by Conrad Richter are other good novels about the Colonial Period in America.

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The Rock and the River

rockriverby Kekla Magoon   p. 283   Grades:  7-10

Fourteen-year-old Sam is caught between a rock and a hard place.  It’s Chicago 1968.  His father, a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s,  is a lawyer and Civil Rights leader who has been organizing nonviolent protests and demonstrations most of Sam’s life.  His seventeen-year-old brother Stick is impatient with the nonviolent approach, and after King’s assassination, joins the militant Black Panther Party.  Sam’s life is thrown into further turmoil when he witnesses the brutal police beating and arrest of an innocent Black teenager and finds a gun hidden in the bedroom he shares with his brother.  This wrenching story propels the reader along with Sam toward his ultimate decision:  will he be the rock or the river? Through Sam’s personal story, the reader comes to understand how 1968 was the year that the Civil Rights Movement changed course.

Connections:  Freedom Songs by Yvette Moore is another novel about the Civil Rights Movement.  Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe tells the infamous story of Emmett Till, a fourteen year-old African American boy from Chicago who was kidnapped and murdered in Mississippi.  Our library owns many nonfiction books about the Civil Rights Movement.  One of special interest is Freedom’s Children : Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen Levine.

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Flygirl

flygirlby Sherri L. Smith  p. 271  Grades 6-8

It’s World War II, and the Japanese and Germans aren’t the only enemies.  On the homefront, Ida Mae Jones is fighting racism and sexism.  All she wants to do is become a pilot and to help in the war effort.  The U.S. government has formed the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots), but they won’t accept African Americans (“colored”) into what was still the segregated armed services.  Risking her life and disappointing her family, Ida Mae decides to pass for white by joining up and reporting for training in Texas, where enforcement of Jim Crow laws was especially harsh.  To avoid the constant threat of danger, Ida Mae must skillfully maneuver not only her airplane but also her relationships so that her true identity is not discovered.

Connections:  To learn more about women pilots in World War II, read Yankee Doodle Gals:   Women Pilots of World War II by Amy Nathan.

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Keeping Corner

Keeping Cornerby Kashmira Sheth    p. 272  Grades: 6-8

Twelve-year-old Leela, betrothed at age two and married at age nine,  suddenly becomes a widow when the husband whom she’s never lived with dies in a tragic accident.

It’s 1918 in Gujarat, India, and widows are not allowed to remarry nor to participate in community celebrations or activities.  They are viewed as bad luck and must shave their heads and spend the first year in their parents’  home “keeping corner.”  Life seems over for Leela until a tutor arrives to help her get an education.  Gandhi is not only working toward freeing India from British rule but also for women’s rights, especially rights for young widows.  This compelling story shows a young, self-absorbed girl growing into an accomplished, confident young woman against the backdrop of  India’s independence movement.

Connections:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelen also tells the story of a teenage widow, but in contemporary India.  Neela by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni tells the story of Gandhi and the Independence Movement.   Kashmira Sheth’s other novels are also excellent:  Blue Jasmine and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

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The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones

39-clues-coverby Rick Riordan  p. 220    Grades: 5-8

If you were offered a million dollars or the the first clue of 39 in a race to discover the most powerful secret treasure of the most powerful family in human history, which would you choose?  When Amy and Dan Cahill’s grandmother dies, they must make this decision.  They give up the million and choose the clue . . .  but so do a bunch of their backstabbing relatives.  So begins an action-packed, dangerous adventure that takes Dan and Amy and their teenage babysitter halfway around the world.  Warning:  This is the first of ten books to be written by different authors.  This book ends with a cliff hanger.

Connections:  Other good puzzle mysteries are The Westing Game and Chasing Vermeer.

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Wild Girl

wild girlBy Patricia Reilly Giff, 147 pages.  Grades 4-7

Who is Wild Girl?  Is she the skittish filly from South Carolina or Lidie, the twelve year-old girl from Brazil.  After being raised by her aunt and uncle for the past five years, Lidie moves  to New York to join her father and brother, who train race horses for a living.  Her dad and brother are expecting the pink and Disney loving seven year-old that they remember from back home in Brazil, and Lidie is having a hard time showing them the strong, capable young woman that she has become.  While Lidie struggles with her new life in a new home, new country, new school and new language, the filly is also having a hard time getting comfortable in her new home.

Connections:  For other stories sharing the immigrant experience, try reading Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan,  Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate, or Nory Ryan’s Song also by Giff.  For other horse stories, try reading Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan, The Georges and the Jewels by Jane Smiley, or Season of Ponies by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

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Operation Redwood

operation redwoodBy S. Terrell French, 353 pages.  Grades 5-7

While forced to stay with his wealthy, manners-obsessed aunt and uncle so  his mother can photograph temples in China, twelve year-old Julian Carter-Li discovers emails describing his uncle’s plan to level an old growth redwood forest and the even more horrifying plan to ship Julian off to math camp for the summer.  With the help of his buddy Danny and a new email buddy, Julian creates Operation Redwood in the hopes of foiling both plans.

Connections:  For other eco-minded adventure stories, try reading Gloria Skurzynski’s National Park Mystery series or Hoot or Flush by Carl Hiaasen.

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All About Sleep from A to Zzzz

about sleepBy Elaine Scott, 58 pages.  Grades 5-8

Have you ever wondered why you sometimes feel like you are falling as you go to sleep and wake with a jerk?  Did you ever wonder what would happen to you if you didn’t sleep?  Or, why we have nightmares?  The author explores the science behind sleep walking, dreams, sleeping disorders and the stages of sleep in this nonfiction title.

Connections:  For other books on sleep, try reading Sleep:  The Mysterious Third of Your Life by Jonathon Kastner, Dead on Their Feet:  Teen Sleep Deprivation and Its Consequences by Joan Esherick, and Sleep and Dreams by Alvin Silverstein.

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The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat

Omnivores-Dilemma-coverBy Michael Pollan and adapted by Richie Chevat, 298 pages.  Grades 6-10

Here is some food for thought. . .

The omnivore’s dilemma in the past: Since we can eat almost anything, how do we know what is safe to eat?

The modern omnivore’s dilemma: We have thousands of choices of food in our supermarkets, but we don’t really know what is in our food or where it comes from.  How do we decide what to have for dinner?

Richie Chevat has taken Michael Pollan’s 415 page answer to the modern question (The Omnivore’s Dilemma:  A Natural History of Four Meals) and cut it down to more bite-sized pieces without losing any of the flavor.  To help us omnivores decide what to eat, the book shows us food production from four points of view:  industrial (think McDonald’s), industrial organic (think Whole Foods), local sustainable (think farmer’s market), and hunter-gatherer (think hunting and gathering).  After you ingest this mouthful, you might never look at food the same way again.

Connections:  For other examinations of the food industry try reading Fast Food Nation or the young adult version called Chew on This by Eric Schlosser.  For a look at the horrors of the early nineteenth century meat packing business that  led to the first regulations in the food industry, read The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.

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Bystander

bystander-james-preller-paperback-cover-artby James Preller   p. 226   Grades 5-8

Bully?  Accomplice?  Bystander?  Victim? Upstander? Which will Eric be?  As a new student at Central Middle School, he quickly sizes up the situation and recognizes immediately that pudgy David is a victim and that good looking, charming Griffin is at the top of the pecking order.  At first, Eric is drawn in by Griffin’s charisma and attention but soon sees the creep beneath the smile.  When ulitmately Eric refuses to do what Griffin demands, he becomes the target.   Eric, however, is not a victim, and with the help of Griff’s ex-girlfriend, he devises a plan.

Connections:  Other books with this theme are Shredderman: Secret Identity by Wendelin Van Draanen, Schooled by Gordon Korman, and  Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn.  Young adult titles for mature readers include The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier, Don’t Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer, and Inventing Elliot  by Graham Gardner.  For nonfiction, try Bullying : How to Deal with Taunting, Teasing, and Tormenting  by Kathleen Winkler, Sticks and Stones by Karen L. Maudlin or Bullies Are a Pain in the Brain written and illustrated Trevor Romain.

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The Georges and the Jewels

the georges andby Jane Smiley   p. 232  Grades 5-8

If you own a horse or wish you did, this is the book for you.  Famous adult author Jane Smiley, who wrote Horse Heaven, seems to have written this book with middle school girls in mind.  Seventh grader Abby Lovitt lives on a horse ranch in California.  It sounds like a perfect situation for a girl who loves horses, but it isn’t.  Her father buys and trains horses to sell.  He doesn’t want the family, especially Abby to become attached to the horses, so he won’t allow her to name them.  The geldings are all called George and the mares are Jewel.   But each horse has its own personality, and Abby adds an adjective to each name.  Ornery George becomes her challenge.  Her dad can’t sell the horses until they are tame enough for a girl to ride them.  Ornery George has bucked Abby off so many times that she defies her strict father and refuses to ride him  . . . until one day when a stranger arrives at the ranch.

Connections:  Here are some other good horse stories:  Dairy Queeen by Catherine Murdock; Willow King by Chris Platt; and Hero by S. L. Rottman.  Two short story collections are Horse & Pony Stories compiled by Christine Pullein-Thompsonand Horse Stories edited by Felicity Trotman.  Classics include King of the Wind by Margerite Henry, National Velvet, and My Friend Flicka.

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The Graveyard Book [print and audio]

TheGraveyardBook_Hardcover_1218248432by Neil Gaiman, p. 312 – Grades 5-8

“There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife,” and so begins the story of orphan, Nobody (Bod) Owens, who has been raised by the inhabitants of the graveyard since the night his family was murdered when he was just 18 months old.  Given the freedom of the graveyard, Bod lives his life in the company of the dead, and finds adventures and dangers within its walls, involving ghouls, the undead and even a human playmate, Scarlet Amber Perkins.  As long as he stays in the graveyard he enjoys many non-earthly freedoms and remains safe from the man Jack who was still looking to kill him, but he longs to learn his story and explore the wide world beyond.

Connections:  For other great fantasy books dealing with the dead, try reading Sabriel by Garth Nix (in print and audio), The Seer of Shadows by Avi, and Ghost Girl by Tonya Hurly.  Watch “The Graveyard Book Video Tour” to see/listen to the author reading the book chapter by chapter while on his national tour.

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Cricket Man

cricket manby Phyllis Reynolds Naylor.  p. 196  Grade:  Young Adult

During the summer before eighth grade, Kenny Sykes has begun each morning rescuing the hundreds of crickets that keep jumping into his backyard swimming pool.  As an inside joke with his little brother, Kenny assumes the super-hero identity Cricket Man and creates a t-shirt that he wears to school concealed under his regular shirt.  The rest of his time he spends skateboarding or spying on and trying to get the attention of his beautiful sixteen-year-old neighbor, Jodie Poindexter.  When Jodie appears to have fallen into a deep depression, it’s Cricket Man to the rescue.

Connections:  These novels for young adults also focus on special and unusual friendships:  Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes; The Wild Kid; Stoner and Spaz and Define Normal.

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The Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: An Enola Holmes Mystery

peculiar pink fanby Nancy Springer.  p. 181  Grades 6-8

Fans of feisty, nonconformist Enola Holmes will enjoy this fourth installment in the Victorian mystery series.  Sixteen-year-old Lady Cecily has been kidnapped and is being forced into an arranged marriage.  Enola, the fourteen-year-old much younger sister of Sherlock Holmes, is trying to locate and rescue the poor girl while avoiding being captured herself by  older brothers Sherlock and Mycroft, who do not approve of her independent ways.  Disguises, humor, and high jinks abound.

Connections:  The Case of the Missing Marquess; The Case of the Cryptic Crinoline are titles in this series by Nancy Springer.  Other mystery series with strong female sleuths include:  Grace Cavendish by Patricia Finney; Herculeah Jones by Betsy Byars; Sammy Keyes by Wendelin Van Draanen;  and Gilda Joyce by Armstrong.  For a more challenging read, try The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie King, which introduces fourteen-year-old Mary Russell and another great series based on Sherlock Holmes or read the Arthur Conan Doyle short stories featuring Sherlock Holmes himself.

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Dairy Queen

Diary-Queenby Catherine Gilbert Murdock.  p.  274  Grades 7-8

What a summer!  Fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, works dawn to dusk on her family’s dairy farm after her father has hip surgery.  Life is pretty dismal until the coach from her high school’s rival team asks D.J to coach his budding quarterback, the gorgeous Brian Nelson.  While training and doing farm chores, the two teenagers become friends, but things get complicated when D.J. tries out for her high school’s football team.

Connections:  The sequel is Off SeasonRunning Loose by Chris Crutcher is another football romance.

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Adam Canfield Watch Your Back

adam canfieldby Michael Winerip.  p. 329  Grades 6-8

Adam Canfield is literally shoveling in the money on a Snow Day by clearing his neighbors’ walks–when older bullies pull up in a van and mug him.  Not only is he a victim of a crime, but he also becomes the embarrassing focus of a media campaign by The Slash to stop bullying.  This sequel to Adam Canfield of the Slash is as good as its predecessor.  While Jennifer and the other Slash staff take on bullies, saving a tree, and discrimination, Adam launches an undercover operation to expose the fact that parents are doing their kids’ science fair projects.

Connections:  If you enjoy the Adam Canfield books, try these other novels based on school newspapers:  The Landry News by Andrew Clements and Thou Shalt Not Dump the Skater Dude and Other Commandments I Have Broken by Rosemary Graham.  The Watergate Scandal in American History by David K. Fremon describes how Washington Post investigative journalists broke the Watergate case.

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The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West

trouble beginsby Sid Fleischman.  p. 224  Grades 5-9

Like his famous character Tom Sawyer, Samuel Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) sought adventure and often found trouble in his early life.  His experiences in the small town of Hannibal, Missouri on the banks of the Mississippi River, getting lost in a cave and painting a fence, would become Tom’s experiences.  He worked a printing press, became a steamboat captain and took the stagecoach out West to earn his fortune during the Gold Rush. While he eventually struck gold, it wasn’t from digging in the hills.

Connections:  Other books by this author that help illuminate an individual or a time period in history include:  Escape! The Story of the Great Houdini, The Entertainer and the Dybbuk, Jim Ugly, Bandit’s Moon, and The Whipping Boy.

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The Unnameables

unnameablesby Ellen Booraem.  p. 318  Grades 6-9

In a world where things and places are simply named for what they are and people are named for what they do, how would you expect a boy named Medford Runyuin to fit in?  He doesn’t.  Instead the people of Island are wary of him and the children teasingly call him Raggedy or Plank Baby because of his messy look and his arrival on the island tied to a plank when he was a baby.  To make matters worse, Medford has a secret that he is trying keep hidden from the people of Island, and the mysterious arrival of the stinky Goatman is likely to blow his cover, literally.

For other stories of characters fighting the unfair rules/laws of their world, try reading The Giver by Lois Lowry, Maximum Ride:  The Angel Experiment by James Patterson, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Among the Hidden or Running out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

To learn the story around the creation of the crazy character the Goatman, check out the author’s website http://www.ellenbooraem.com/evolution.html

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Beastly

beastlyby Alex Flinn.  p. 304  Young Adult

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

Attention Twilight fans!   This compelling romance puts a contemporary spin on the Beauty and the Beast tale.  Popular fourteen-year-old Kyle Kingsbury is incredibly good looking, charming, rich, and really mean.  After playing an especially cruel trick on a homely girl,at a dance, a witch casts a spell on Kyle turning him into a beast–making him as ugly on the outside as he has been on the inside.  He only has two years to break the spell or live as a beast forever.  In order to do so, he must fall in true love with someone who will love him back and give him, of course, a kiss!

Connections:  Here are some other excellent versions of the Beauty and the Beast story:  Beast by Donna Jo Napoli; Rose Daughter and Beauty by Robin McKinley.

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The City of Ember

city of ember  p.270  Grades 5-8

What if the only light in your world came from an electric bulb?  And what if your society was running out of those light bulbs?  This is the situation that faces twelve-year-olds Lina Mayfleet and Doon Harrow.  Lina discovers a set of instructions that she believes will help her people get out of Ember into a world of light.  Unfortunately, her baby sister has chewed on the paper and only certain words are readable.  Will they provide enough clues for Lina and Doon to find the escape route through the underground pipeworks.  And why are the city officials trying to arrest them?

Connections:  The Books of Ember series also includes People of SparksProphet of Yonwood and The Diamond of Darkhold.


 

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The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone

6277972by Dene Low.  p. 196    Grades 5-8

What a funny, frothy farce!  Set in Victorian England, this improbable mystery concerns sixteen-year-old Petronella who is about to have her London debut when her guardian Uncle Augustus swallows a giant beetle and develops an insatiable hunger for all insects.  The story begins at Petronella’s sixteenth birthday party on her large country estate where her uncle swallows the bug, two of her celebrity guests disappear, and we meet the romantic Lord James Sinclair.  Filled with Petronella’s witty observations and banter, lots of slapstick, luscious language,and some romantic possibilities, this books is a delight to read.

Connections:  If you enjoy this book, try the short stories and novels by P.G. Wodehouse such as How Right You Are, Jeeves, Carry on, Jeeves, and Leave It to Psmith.

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H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education

H_I_V_E_-_The_Higher_Institute_of_Villainous_Educationby Mark Walden.  p. 309  Grades 5-8

A school for bad kids?!  That’s what H.I.V.E., the Higher Institute for Villainous Education, purports to be.  Kids who appear to have special talents that could be used for evil are kidnapped and brought to this school located on a remote island where adults interested in world domination train the students in various nefarious skills.  The island appears to have no escape, but as soon as thirteen-year-old Otto arrives, he and three of his new classmates begin plotting their get away.  A counterpoint to Hogwarts, at H.I.V.E., technology and brains replace magic and wizardry.

Connections:  Other fast-paced adventures set in special schools include:  David Lubar’s Hidden Talents and its sequel True Talents; James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series; Trenton Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society; and Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.  PMS Library also owns the sequel–H.I.V.E. : the Overlord Protocol .

hive2

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CYRM Winners for 2009

Have you read the California Young Reader Medal winners for 2009?

 

alabama moonMiddle School – Alabama Moon by Watt Key

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

absolutely-true-diaryYoung AdultThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

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The London Eye Mystery

londoneyeby Siobhan Dowd,  p. 323  Grades 5-8

Ted loves the weather, listening to forecasts and tracking changes, but he wasn’t sure that he was going to like having his aunt (called Hurricane Glo by his father) and his cousin come for a visit.When Ted’s cousin, Salim, disappeared from the ferris wheel-like London Eye, Ted initially came up with 8 theories about what could have happened to him, including the more mundane, we missed him getting out, to the outrageous possibilities of a time-warp or Salim spontaneously combusting (Ted’s favorite).Salim’s mother and Ted’s parents are frantic with worry, and don’t listen to Ted’s ideas about where he could have gone.His older sister, Kat, does listen, and together they try to use the available clues (pictures in Salim’s camera and a souvenir photo) to solve the mystery.

Connections:  Other books that have characters with Asperger’s syndrome or Autism include:  Rules by Cynthia Lord, The Very ordered existence of Merilee Marvelous by Suzanne Crowley, and Al Capone does my shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.

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Savvy

savvyby Ingrid Law, p. 342  Grades: 5-7

Change can be scary, but as Mississippi Beaumont (aka Mib) approaches her thirteenth birthday, she can’t wait to see what special savvy (magic power) she will possess.Her oldest brother Rocket’s electric savvy keeps the car going and the lights on, but blows light bulbs and causes blackouts when he can’t scumble (control it).Her other brother Fish’s savvy caused a hurricane on his 13th birthday that forced the whole family to move to the Kansas/Nebraska border from their coastal home in Mississippi to avoid large bodies of water.The other changes that come with turning 13 (changing feelings, friends, fashion, etc.) prove to be more challenging for Mib.When her father ends up in the hospital after a car accident, Mib is determined to get to him and prove that her savvy will save the day.

Connections:  Other books with seemingly normal kids having magical talents or in magical situations include:  The Thirteenth Child by Patricia Wrede, Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, The Anybodies by N.E. Bode, Five Children and It by E. Nesbit, and Half Magic by Edward Eager

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The Entertainer and the Dybbuk

enterainerby Sid Fleischman, p. 180  Grades 6-9

The Great Freddie is a washed-up ventriloquist (he can’t speak without moving his lips) living in Europe following WWII until one night in Vienna, Austria he opens the closet in his hotel room and finds a dybbuk or Jewish spirit of a boy (Avrom Amos Poliakov) killed by Nazi soldiers during the war.To repay a debt he owes the boy for an incident that happened during the war, Freddie allows Avrom to possess his body and speak through him for the purpose of tracking down the boy’s killer and becoming a bar mitzvah.In the process, Avrom turns The Great Freddie’s ventriloquism act into a smash success and finds a platform for speaking out about the atrocities against Jews by the Nazis during the war, but Freddie finds himself in some awkward situations with his girlfriend.

Connections:  Some other great fiction titles that illustrate the treatment of Jews during World War II try reading Number the Stars by Lois Lowry, The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen, or Hitler’s Canary by Sandy Toksvig.  Check out this video interview with the author.

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Kaleidoscope Eyes

kaleidoscopeby Jen Bryant.  p. 257  Grades 5-8

It’s summer vacation and what could be better than sneaking out at night to look for buried treasure with your two best friends?!  After thirteen-year-old Lyza’s grandfather dies, she finds an envelope in his attic marked “For Lyza ONLY.”  It containis three maps, a key, and a letter with rather crypic directions which lead Lyza, Malcolm and Carolann on an adventure to find pirate William Kidd’s buried treasure.  Set in 1968, this novel is told in verse against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution of the sixties.

Connections:   The Voyage of the Arctic Tern by Hugh Montgomery is another pirate adventure in verse. For more books on pirates, try Sea Queens : Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen, Piracy & Plunder : a Murderous Business by Milton Meltzer, Piratica by Tanith Lee, Bloody Jack by Carolyn Meyer, Voyage of Plunder by Michele Torrey, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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One-Handed Catch

one-handed-catch-mary-jane-auch-paperback-cover-artby M. J. Auch  p. 246  Grades: 5-8

The summer before sixth grade,  Norm loses his left hand when it gets caught in a meat grinder.  Poor kid!  His mom’s not cutting him any slack, and his dreams of making the baseball team seem hopeless–until he hears about a one-handed major league baseball player and a customer gives him a right-handed baseball mitt.  Now it’s up to Norm.

Connections:  Here’s some other great baseball fiction:  Hang Tough Paul Mather by Alfred Slote;  Some Kind of Pride by Maria Testa; Choosing Up Sides by John Ritter; High Heat by Carl Deuker; and Hard Ball byWill Weaver.  Browse 796.357 for baseball nonfiction and search baseball biography in the catalog for famous players.

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Lang Lang: Playing with Flying Fingers

lang langby Lang Lang with Michael French.  p. 215  Grades 5-8

Would you think that watching Tom and Jerry cartoons could inspire you to become one of the world’s greatest pianists?  Well, that’s what happened to famous pianist Lang Lang.  When he was three years old, he loved watching cartoons, especially Tom and Jerry.  In one cartoon episode, Tom, the cat, is dressed up in a tuxedo and playing a concert piano.  He awakens little Jerry, the mouse, who has been sleeping on the strings, and then the mischief begins with Jerry jumping out of the piano and onto the keys.   The cartoon made young Lang Lang realize how much fun playing the piano could be, and in his imagination, he was Tom one minute and Jerry the next.  By the time he was five years old, he was winning major competitions.   His memoir not only tells of his passion for music, but also of the very long hours of practice and work.  He was born in Shenyang, China to poor parents.  His father was determined that Lang Lang would be a famous pianist and put tremendous pressure on his son to excel.  At times heartbreaking, this memoir is a must read for any aspiring musician.

Connections:  You might also enjoy these music biographies:  John Lennon:  All I Want Is the Truth; The Voice that Changed a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights; Lives of the Musicians:  Good Times, Bad Times (And What the Neighbors Thought); and Johann Sebastian Bach:  And the Art of Baroque Music.   To see a video of Lang Lang performing, check out this link.  We apologize for the brief commercial.

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Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World

sea queensby Jane Yolen, p. 92  Grades 4-7

Ahoy matey!  Pirates bring to mind Blackbeard, peg legs, eye patches, the Jolly Roger, stolen treasure, and not women.  Women were generally considered bad luck on a ship.  Yet, Yolen shares the history and legend of several infamous female pirates.  The beautiful Alfhild from Denmark was protected from unwanted suitors by a pet viper.  The fierce Grania O’Malley from Ireland gave birth to her son aboard ship and climbed out of bed the next day to shoot at the leaders of a Turkish ship that had attacked.  Madam Ching of China “commanded a total of two thousand boats and seventy thousand men, the most any pirate in the world ever led.”  So hop on board and enjoy the tales.

Connection:  For another title telling tales of women in a role typically held by men, check out I’ll Pass for Your Comrade:  Women Soldiers in the Civil War by Anita Silvey.  Check out this video interview with Jane Yolen.

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Child of Dandelions

child of dandelionsby Shenaaz Nanji, p. 210  Grades: 7-10

What do you do when your whole world seems to be falling down around you?  Do you deny that it is happening?  In 1972, when President Idi Amin of Uganda gave all foreign Indians 90 days to leave the country, fifteen year-old Sabine didn’t think that included her family, as they were all Ugandan citizens.  When her uncle disappears mysteriously, she convinces herself that he will turn up soon.  When her best friend, Zena turns against her, Sabine hopes she will come around eventually.  But, when the soldiers come looking for her father . . .

Connections:  Some other stories that deal with conflict between different groups within one country include Girl of Kosovo by Alice Mead, Weedflower by Cynthia Kadohata, or Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi.

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Zen and the Art of Faking It

zen and the art of faking itby Jordan Sonnenblick.   p. 264   Grades 6-8

It’s tough being the new kid especially in January of the eighth grade.  San Lee has moved around and changed schools a lot, and this time it’s because his dad has gone to prison for fraud.  His mom’s short on money because of his dad’s legal fees, and even though it’s the middle of the winter in Pennsylvania, San heads off for his new middle school in sandals and the light windbreaker that were fine in Texas.  Adopted from China as a baby, San is the only Asian American at his new school.  When he discovers that his social studies class is studying Buddhism, which he studied last year, he pretends to be  a Zen master.   This deception wins him the attention of a beautiful girl but spins out of control in both serious and comical ways as more and more kids believe he’s the real thing.

Connections:  Books where a new kid makes a big impact on the other students in a school are Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, The Gypsies Never Came by Stephen Roos, Schooled by Gordon Korman and, for mature readers, Jake Reinvented by Gordon Korman as well as Inventing Elliot by Graham Gardner.  If you’d like to know more about Zen Buddhism, try browsing the 294.3 section of the library.

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The Underneath

The Underneath by Kathi Appeltby Kathi Appelt    p. 313    Grades 6-8

This amazing book has it all–chills, thrills, tears, fears; strangers and dangers; monsters and heroes; prehistoric and modern times; dogs and cats, love and hate; cruelty and compassion; animals and humans; magic and realism, shape-shifters and kittens; revenge and redemption; loneliness and friendship.  This strange and magical story begins in a Texas bayou  when a calico cat about to have kittens hears the lonely howls of a chained up dog.  She and her kittens take up residence with him underneath the shack where the hound’s cruel master, Gar Face, has chained him.  They are safe until one of the kittens ventures out from the underneath and is caught by Gar-Face.

Connections:  If you like sad animal stories, try these titles: Old Yeller by Fred Gipson, Sounder by William Armstrong, Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.  The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert O’Brien, and Watership Down by Richard Adams are other wonderful fantasies where animals form communities to help each other.

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Ranger’s Apprentice series

ranger's 1by John Flanagan   p. 250 (about)  Grades 5-8

If you like fast-paced, exciting adventure series, here’s an excellent one.  In The Ruins of Gorlan, book one of the series, fifteen-year old Will becomes apprenticed to Halt, a senior member of the Rangers, a group of dark-cloaked, mysterious spies whose espionage protects the kingdom.  His training–rigorous, often grueling–prepares Will to face the challenges to the kingdom by Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, including gigantic, ferocious wild boars and the Kalkara, ape-like creatures that use their piercing stares to paralyze their opponents.

Connections:  Here are other fast-paced adventure series:  Maximum Ride by James Patterson, Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer, and Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz.

 

 

ranger's 3

ranger's 2

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Word Nerd

word-nerdby Susin Nielsen.  p. 248   Grades:  7-8

What do a 7th grade misfit with a severe peanut allergy and a twenty-five-year-old ex-convict, former drug addict have in common?  SCRABBLE!!!  After Ambrose nearly dies when three bullies slip a peanut into his sandwich, his overly protective mother removes Ambrose from school and has him do a correspondence course from home.  While she is at work, Ambrose secretly forges a friendship with his landlords’ son, Cosmos, who has just gotten out of prison. He cons Cosmos into taking him to the West Side Scrabble Club.  While Ambrose becomes hooked on Scrabble competition, Cosmos becomes hooked on beautiful Amanda, who runs the club.  This moving book is filled with lots of humor, word play, interesting characters and even danger.

Connection:  Other good reads with clever, outsider characters are Schooled by Gordon Korman, the Shredderman series by Wendelin Van Draanen, Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick, and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of the Tree by Lauren Tarshis.

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Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree and Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell in Love

Emma-jean-lazarus-fell-out-tree-lauren-tarshisby Lauren Tarshis.  p. 169 Grades 5-8

Emma-Jean Lazarus is different from the other seventh graders at William Gladstone Middle School.  She’s super smart and super logical and finds the social interactions among her peers interesting but totally irrational.  Yet she is drawn to use her super problem solving skills to help sweet, hypersensitive Colleen when Emma-Jean discovers her crying in the girls’ bathroom.  Emma-Jean’s meddling not only leads to some hilarious situations but also to her beginning to make friends.  In the sequel, Emma Jean Lazarus Fell in Love, Emma Jean develops a crush herself while trying to help Colleen discover the secret admirer who left a note in Colleen’s locker.  If you enjoy quick, humourous reads about quirky characters, you’ll love Emma Jean Lazaus!

emma-jean

 

 

 

Connection:  Other good novels with quirky characters include The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd, Word Nerd by Susin Nielsen, Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky, Way Down Deep by Ruth White and the adult novel The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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Way Down Deep

way down deepby Ruth White, p. 197 – Grades 4-7

In Way Down Deep, WV during the summer of 1944, a cute, red-headed toddler was found on the courthouse steps.  Raised by Miss Arbus, the owner of the local boarding house, Ruby Jane spends the next ten years living a comfortable life in the quiet little town filled with lots of quirky, loveable characters.  When a bank robber and his family are taken in under the collective wings of the townspeople, Ruby Jane starts to piece together the puzzle of her mysterious past.

Connection:  For other books with quirky characters set in a small town, try reading Richard Peck’s A Long Way from Chicago and A Year Down Yonder or Susan Patron’s Higher Power of Lucky.

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Anything but Typical

ANYTHING BUT TYPICAL JACKET COVERBy Nora Raleigh Baskin, p. 195 – Grades 4-7

Twelve year-old Jason, a creative writing whiz, is easily able to point out the differences between his “neurotypical” peers and autistic self but struggles with filtering out the noises, sensations and smells that distract him and make it hard to behave the way people expect him to.  He is most comfortable when logged into his favorite story sharing website, Storyboard.  Through the site, Jason starts a friendship with a girl, Rebecca, who admired one of his stories.  He even goes so far as to describe her as his girlfriend.  Jason gets the opportunity of a lifetime when his father offers to take him to the Storyboard conference but panics when he realizes that he might meet Rebecca in person.

Connection:  For other stories with a protagonists on the autism spectrum, try reading Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery or Suzanne Crowley’s The Very Ordered Existence Merilee Marvelous.

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Partly Cloudy: Poems of Love and Longing

partly-cloudy-poems-love-longing-gary-soto-hardcover-cover-artby Gary Soto, p. 100 – Grades 6-9

Told from the point of view of both teen boys and girls, these poems capture the sweetness, heartache and confusion of young love.  This meaty yet easy to read collection is divided into two sections: “A Girl’s Tears, Her Songs” and “A Boy’s Body, His Words.”

Consequence
When a stone bridge fails,
you can rebuild it with your hands.
With love, when it falls,
The rocks shoot sparks.  Gossips
Gather at the river’s edge,
Skipping stones across the water,
Asking intently, “Who brought it down?”

Connection:  For another book of poetry dealing with teenagers try Paul B. Janeczko’s Proposterous; Poems of Youth.

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Knucklehead

KnuckleheadBy Jon Scieszka.  p. 106 – Grades 4-7

Have you ever wondered where the author of the Stinky Cheese Man gets his wildly hilarious ideas?  Well, this very funny autobiography of Jon Scieszka will answer that question.  Scieszka grew up in a family of six boys, and the stories he tells about his childhood include listing all the swear words he knows for his parochial school nun, charging the neighbor kids money to watch his little brother eat cigarette butts, and playing a game called Slaughterball.  Caution:  includes some bathroom humor.

Connections:  Other humorous memoirs include How Angel Peterson Got His Name by Gary Paulsen, Chicago Days and Hoboken Nights by Daniel Pinkwater, Living Up the Street by Gary Soto, Oddballs by William Sleator, The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan, and the country vet books by James Herriot.  Check out this video of Jon Scieszka.

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The True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

homerfiggby Rodman Philbrick.  p. 244 – Grades 5-8

Like adventure?Enjoy humor?Interested in American history, especially the Civil War?Then this is the book for you because it has lots of all three.Orphan Homer P. Figg runs away from the cruel uncle who is raising him after this guardian illegally sells Homer’s older brother Harold into the Union Army.In his quest to rescue his brother, Homer has many dangerous, but also hilarious, adventures along the way.Homer is a chronic liar and his ability to stretch the truth gets him both into and out of some very tight spots.This is a fast-moving tale filled with interesting characters, many surprises, and lots of twists and turns.

Connection:  For other humorous adventures with historical American settings, try Sid Fleischman’s Bandit Moon and Jim Ugly, Walter Dean Myers’ The Righteous Revenge of Artemis Bonner, and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

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Antsy Does Time

antsy does timeBy Neal Shusterman, p. 247 – Grades 6-9. 

If you enjoyed meeting Antsy (Anthony Bonano) in the Schwa Was Here, you’ll love encountering him again in this humorous teen novel in which he gives Gunnar Umlaut a month of his life.  When classmate Gunnar tells Antsy that he only has six months to live, Antsy draws up a contract giving Gunnar a month of his life, which earns him the attention and a kiss from Gunnar’s gorgeous older sister.  Soon other kids and even the principal want to donate months of their lives to Gunnar.  Time passes, and Gunnar isn’t showing symptoms.  What’s up?

 

Connection:  Other humorous novels where schemes get out of hand are The Schwa Was Here by Neal Schusterman, The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian, and Peeled by Joan Bauer.

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Hippie Chick

 hippie chickBy Joseph Monninger, p. 156 – Grades 7-10.  

 Independent, free-spirited Lolly runs into serious trouble when she takes her little sailboat out one evening in the Florida Keys.  Her boat capsizes, and as the sun sets, she realizes that no one knows where she is and that her chances of survival are slim.  Terrified of sharks, she nearly freaks out when something smooth and large bumps up against her legs.  It turns out to be a manatee.  Clinging to its back, Lolly travels with the manatee and its companions to a mangrove swamp.

 

Connection:  Other novels about special human-animal relationships include The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse, Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allen Eckert, and Eva by Peter Dickison.

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The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had

Best bad luckby Kristin Levine, p. 264 – Grades 6-9

While many of the townspeople in early 20th century Moundville, Alabama were shocked at the arrival of the new African-American postmaster, twelve-year old Dit was disappointed when he realized the postmaster’s child, Emma, was a girl rather than the playmate he had been hoping for.  Adventuresome Dit is sure that he will never enjoy spending time with bookish, refined Emma, but he grudgingly shows her around and eventually the two end up finding common ground in the digging of a fort in Dit’s favorite hill mound.  With the start of school in the fall, Dit comes to more fully understand the realities of the Jim Crow laws as Emma is forced to go to a different school and his buddies tease him about their friendship.  Racial tensions in the town really erupt when the the town’s African American barber is charged with a crime against the overtly racist sheriff, and as witnesses to the crime, Dit and Emma can’t help but get involved.

Connection:  For another story about a friendship challenged by racism, read Tony Johnston’s Bone by Bone by Bone.

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Alligator Bayou

alligator bayouby Donna Jo Napoli, p. 280 – Grades 7-10

Fourteen year-old Calogero lives with his four uncles and one cousin in the small town of Tallulah, Louisiana at the end of the 19th century.  He has left his four year-old brother behind in Sicily after the disappearance of his father and the death of his mother.  At a time of strong anti-immigrant sentiment and Jim Crow laws, the Sicilians are being forced to keep separate from not only the white but also the black members of the community.  Calo’s secret crush on an African American girl, Patricia, and the success of the family’s produce market provide the fuel to feed the flames of racism in this small town.

Connection:  The King of Mulberry Street is another novel, by Donna Jo Napoli,  that describes the experience of Italian American immigrants (in New York City).

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Thirteenth Child

Thirteenth-Childby Patricia C. Wrede, p. 344 – Grades 6 & Up

Eff and her twin brother Lan live in a magical, alternative version of the the western frontier.  Eff is born the thirteenth child, a position that is thought to bring bad luck to the family, while her brother is lucky 14 and the 7th son of the 7th son, a position that brings extraordinary magical power.  The family moves from the civilized and secure east  to the western frontier where a magical border keeps dangerous creatures like the dreaded steam dragons away from the settlements.  Despite her difficulties learning and controlling magic, Eff’s teacher Miss Ochiba teaches her not only Avrupan magic but also the Hijero-Cathayan and Aphrikan styles.  An expedition to the settlements outside the Great Barrier Magic tests her magical skills.

Connection:  For another story that brings a magical alternative to a historical setting, try reading The Water Mirror by Kai Meyer.

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Wintergirls

Wintergirlsby Laurie Halse Anderson, p. 278 – Grades 8 & Up

This novel, for mature readers, tells the story of Lia who has just found out about the death of her once best friend, Cassie. While they were friends, both girls suffered from eating disorders: Lia- anorexia and Cassie- bulimia. On the night of Cassie’s death, Lia received 33 phone calls and messages from Cassie… all of which Lia had left unanswered. Lia’s family (too busy mother, distant father and clueless stepmother) are concerned that the news will send Lia over the edge again and back to New Seasons the rehabilitation center she has already visited twice.

Connection:  For another story that shows a teen dealing with the death of another teen read Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why.

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Freefall

freefallby Anna Levine, p. 250 – Grades 8 & Up

As Israel and Lebanon engage in battle, eighteen year-old Aggie is simultaneously preparing for high school graduation and her two year, compulsory service in the Israeli army.  Thoughts of kisses and crushes compete with concerns over inadequacies.  She thinks she wants to be a member of the elite, women’s combat unit rather than be stuck in a desk job, but members of her family are making her question her capabilities.  Her best friend’s older brother, Noah (a combat soldier) is showing particular interest in her trials at the physically and mentally challenging boot camp.  Aggie gets a taste of the front line when she goes north to help one of her buddies from boot camp.

Connection:  Another love story with war as the backdrop (in this case the Civil War) is Red Moon at Sharpsburg by Rosemary Wells.

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The Hunger Games

the-hunger-games1by Suzanne Collins, p. 374 – Grades 7 & Up

In this book, for mature readers, what was once the United States is destroyed by climate change and war and is replaced by Panem with its wealthy rulers in the Capitol controlling twelve neighboring districts.  Each year the districts must pay tribute to the Capitol by sending two of their teens (12-18) to fight to the death in the Hunger Games, which is televised and must be watched by everyone (think Survivor with weapons and a manipulated environment).  Sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to replace her younger sister as the tribute from District 12 (the poorest district) when her sister’s name is pulled in the lottery for the 74th Hunger Games.  Since her father’s death in a mining accident, Katniss has had to work hard so she and her family could survive, but in the Hunger Games she will be facing tributes who have spent their lives training for this event.

Connection:  Other examples of survival fiction that will keep the reader on edge are  Deathwatch by Robb White and The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  –CRW

Highlight:  Watch this video interview with Suzanne Collins.

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Rules

Rulesby Cynthia Lord, p. 200 – Grades 4-7

Twelve-year-old Catherine’s brother (David) has autism and regularly does things that embarrass her, so she creates more and more rules for him to live by.  She also fiercely defends David from bullies like Ryan who lives on their street.  During the summer Catherine goes to her brother’s speech therapy appointments and meets Jason, a boy with cerebral palsy who uses a book of words and pictures to communicate.  Catherine’s friendship with Jason grows as she adds new (hip) words and pictures to his book.  A new girl, Kristi, moves in next-door, opening up the possibility of a new special friendship, but Catherine is not sure whether or not to trust her new friend when Kristi shows an interest in the bully, Ryan.

Connection:  The main character in Gennifer Choldenko’s novel Al Capone Does My Shirts also has a sibling with autism. — CRW

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Graceling

graceling__spanby Kristin Cashore, p. 471 – Grades 8 & Up

CYRM NOMINEE 2011

This  award winning first novel by Kristin Cashore will have mature readers begging for a sequel.  The king of Middluns first identified Lady Katsa’s “grace” when she killed a man at age 8, and he has been using her special talent to keep the people of his kingdom and the surrounding six kingdoms in line ever since.  Lady Katsa rebels against the bullying king by secretly forming a council to protect those who have been treated unfairly throughout the seven kingdoms.  The rescue of a neighboring king’s kidnapped father leads Katsa on a quest to find his captor, with the help of his grandson, who has an interesting “grace” of his own.

Connection:  This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the combination of fantasy and romance in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books or the strong female protagonist in Garth Nix’s Sabriel series.  — CRW

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Snow Falling in Spring

snow falling in springby Moying Li, p. 176 – Grades 6-9

At the start of her autobiography, Moying Li is living happily in Beijing with her well-educated, extended family in a large house surrounding an open courtyard.  During the transformation of the Great Leap Forward the courtyard contains a huge brick furnace and family and friends work endlessly to melt down scrap metal to produce steel.  The Cultural Revolution bring changes that the author first tries to embrace then needs to protect herself from.  The Red Guards attack her teachers, send her mother to the countryside to teach,  take her father off to a labor camp and destroy his library.  Throughout the book, Moying Li’s dedication to her family, friends and education is never compromised.

Connection:  For further reading on this time period in China’s history, read the memoir, The Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang or the fiction title, Revolution is Not a Dinner Party by Ying Chang Compestine.  –CRW

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Ghostgirl

ghostgirlby Tonya Hurley, p.328 – Grades 7 & Up

It is the first day of her junior year and Charlotte is geared up to shift from ignored wallflower to part of the in-crowd.  When she gets dream-guy Damen as her physics lab partner, she thinks that the stars have finally aligned. As they leave the classroom with Damen asking her to be his tutor, Charlotte chokes on a gummy bear and dies.  Caught in the world between life and eternity, Charlotte and her new Dead Ed. classmates find out that they have some unfinished business before they can really move on.

Connection:  For another book about high school and struggles with popularity try reading, She’s So Money by Cherry Cheva –CRW

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Cheater

cheater-michael-laser-hardcover-cover-artby Michael Laser, p. 231 – Grades 7 & Up

Karl always gets straight A+s and is tired of being labeled a geek. He is offered the chance to join the “in” crowd when super-popular, Blaine asks him if he would like to join their high-tech organization of cheaters. He flatly refuses until the super-strict vice principal sets up harsh new anti-cheating consequences and makes an example of one of Karl’s childhood friend.  Karl then sees joining the cheaters is his chance to be the hero.

Connection:  For another book that deals with the issue of peer pressure, try reading Jake, Reinvented by Gordon Koman –CRW

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Laurie Halse Anderson

chainsCheck out this new historical fiction title from a favorite author:

Chains, p. 316 – Grades 6-10

Highlight:  Watch this great interview (from Reading Rockets) with Laurie Halse Anderson talking about her life and her books.

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Gossamer

gossamerby Lois Lowry, p. 140 – Grades 4-7

This is the story of “Littlest One,” a young Giver learning how to bestow dreams.  She is trying to save an 8 year-old boy (a victim of abuse who is currently in foster care) from the nightmares brought on by the Sinisteeds.  The stories of the boy, his foster care mother, and his rehabilitating mother are all told through the gathering of fragments (short memories) collected by touching the objects of a person’s life.  This is a beautiful quiet story that looks at the fallout from child abuse and the challenges of foster care.

Connection:  Another great book by this author is The Willoughbys– a darkly humorous story about two children left with a nanny by their neglectful parents.

Highlight:  Check out this interview with Lois Lowry from Reading Rockets.   –CRW

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Hitler’s Canary

hitler's canaryby Sandy Toksvig, p. 191 – Grades 5-8

Bamse, just 10 when the Germans invaded Denmark, is coming of age during the occupation.  He must decide whether to follow his brother in working with the Danish Resistance or listen to his father and stay out of trouble.  His mother’s acting career and her theatrics provide the structure for the story as well as drama and comic relief.  Bamse comes to realize that not all German’s are bad nor all Danish good, and why his friend Anton’s participation in the resistance is particularly dangerous/courageous.  The author’s note explains what parts of this work of fiction come from her own family’s experiences.

Connection:  This book might appeal to those who enjoyed Number the Stars by Lois Lowry.  –CRW

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Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest

71YrBlUUGRL._SL1052_by Matt Haig, p. 316 – Grades 4-8

Twelve-year-old Samuel and his sister Martha (who has recently become selectively mute)  find themselves living on the edge of a mysterious forest in Norway after the sudden, tragic death of their parents.  Samuel is having trouble adapting to this new strange environment and his quirky aunt’s long list of rules, including the most important – “NEVER – UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES – GO INTO THE FOREST.”  The forest contains dark and dangerous creatures as well as a mystery surrounding the disappearance of Aunt Eda’s husband, Uncle Henrik.  Samuel is forced into unlocking the mysteries of the forest when he has to save his sister, who also inexplicably disappears into it one day.

Connection:  This story might appeal to those readers who enjoy spunky orphan stories like Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events.  –CRW

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The Porcupine Year

Porcupine Yearby Louise Erdrich, p. 193 – Grades 5-8

This third book in the series that started with the Birchbark House can stand alone.  Omakayas is twelve as her family is forced,  by increasing numbers of white settlers, to move westward through northern Minnesota from their original home on Madeline Island.  The story picks up quickly with Omakayas and her younger brother being swept far down river through raging rapids.  The family faces many dangers (human, nature and animal) while Omakayas moves through the uncharted territory of womanhood (changing relationships, responsibilities and romance).

Connection:  Another story of personal growth along with voyages and travel is Sharon Creech’s Ruby Holler.  –CRW

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Peace, Locomotion

peace locomotionby Jacqueline Woodson, p. 136 – Grades 4-7

In this companion to Locomotion, Lonnie Collins Motion (aka Locomotion) helps his sister Lili remember life before their separate foster care placements by sending her letters filled with memories of the past triggered by his day to day experiences.  Both Locomotion and Lili are happy with their foster care families, but miss their parents and being together.  The letters start to focus on the importance of peace and the realities of war as Locomotion becomes more aware of his foster brother who is in the army.

Connection:  This quick read might appeal to those who like Shooting the Moon by O’Rourke.  –CRW

Highlight:  Watch this great interview (from Reading Rockets) with Jacqueline Woodson talking about her life and her books.

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Masterpiece

masterpieceby Elise Broach, p.292 – Grades 4-8

Marvin (a beetle and the narrator of the story) lives under the sink in the house in NYC where James lives with his mother,  step-father and baby brother.  Marvin remains hidden with his family until one day he uses ink from James’ new pen and ink set to make the boy a birthday drawing.  Their growing friendship and Marvin’s drawing talent lead the two to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and into a mystery around some missing Albrecht Durer drawings.

Connection:  The talented bug is remniscent of The Cricket in Times Square, and the mystery surrounding the art brings a couple of books to mind: From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and  Chasing Vermeer.  –CRW

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Seaborn

Seaborn, p.201 – Grades 6-9

Sixteen-year-old Luke would rather stay home and fish than go on the annual trip with his family on their small, cramped sailboat.  Luke decides he has no choice but to go when his mother walks out out on them.  The two decide to explore the Gulf Stream rather than sticking to the islands off the coast of Massachussetts and run into trouble when an unexpected storm blows in.

Connection:  This quick read is a good choice for fans of Gordon Korman’s Dive, Everest & Island series.  –CRW

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Out of Reach

out-reach-v-m-jones-hardcover-cover-artby V.M. Jones, p. 264 – Grades 6-9

Thirteen-year-old Pip McLeod is tired of his father’s pacing, yelling and disappointment at his soccer games.  He is tired of being compared to his super-athletic, older brother.  He wishes that his best buddy, Katie, would start looking at him as something more than just a friend.  The construction of a new sports facility in the neighborhood provides the walls for Pip to climb to reach his true potential and find himself.  This import from New Zealand give a glimpse daily life in that distant land and is a good choice for readers looking for a different kind of sports book.  –CRW

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Suck It Up

suck it upby Brian Meehl, p. 318 – Grades 7 & Up

After graduating from the IVLeague (International Vampire League), Morning McCobb gets the opportunity to be the hero he had always hoped to be… rather than just the skinny, awkward teen he will eternally be.  The president of the IVLeague offered Morning the chance to be the first vampire to reveal himself to “lifers” (humans) in the hopes that humans and vampires can live together in harmony.  Morning is thought to be the perfect canidate since he only drinks a soy-based blood substitute rather than the farmed animal blood that most Leaguer vampires drink.  A potential love interest and an angry “loner” (non-league vampires that still drink human blood) make the challenge of convincing humans that vampires are friends even more difficult.

Connection:  This book is a good choice for those interested a lighter version of Twilight, told from the vampires point of view.  –CRW

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Book Return & Summer Reading

Please return all library books by June 7th. Beginning June 10th, sixth and seventh grade students may check out library books for the summer.  For lists of high interest books organized by genre, check out our Recreational Reading Suggestions.readingbeach

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