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Posts Tagged «adventure»

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy

Monday, November 24th, 2014

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.

 

Dreamwood

Monday, November 24th, 2014

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.

 
 

Code Name Verity

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

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.

Rose Under Fire

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

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.

 
 

The Whispering Skull

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

Always Emily

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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

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.

A Dark Inheritance

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

The Mark of the Dragonfly

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

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 one, 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! 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.

 

The Here and Now

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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.

 

The Boundless

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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

Nominated for CYRM 2015.

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.

 

Cinder

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Cinder_Coverby Marissa Meyer, 390 pages, Grades 7 and up

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.

 

One Came Home

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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.

Hattie Big Sky

Monday, March 31st, 2014

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.

Ocean at the End of the Lane

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

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.

 

Solstice

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

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.

Freakling

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

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.

The Hypnotists

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

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.

So B. It

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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.

 

The Testing

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014

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

 

Floors

Monday, December 16th, 2013

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

Monday, December 9th, 2013

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.

 

WARP: The Reluctant Assassin

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

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.

 

MILA 2.0

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

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.

 

Zeitoun

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

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.

 

Apothecary

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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

Apollo’s Outcasts

Thursday, October 17th, 2013

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.

Hero On A Bicycle

Sunday, October 6th, 2013

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

 

Hunger Games

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

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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Railsea

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

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.

Pathfinder

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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.

Incarceron

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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.

Ghost Knight

Monday, September 17th, 2012

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.

Insignia

Monday, September 17th, 2012

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.

 

Promise the Night

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

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.

Uprising

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

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.

 

Earth Unaware: the First Formic War

Monday, August 13th, 2012

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.

Divergent

Friday, June 8th, 2012

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

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.

Legend

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

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

Nominated for CYRM 2015!

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.

Wildwood

Friday, January 6th, 2012

wildwoodby Colin Meloy, 545 pages, Grades 4-7

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

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

 

A Long Walk To Water

Thursday, January 5th, 2012
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.

Demonkeeper

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

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.

 

Death Cloud

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

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.

 

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

Airman

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

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.

 

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

The Memory Bank

Friday, May 27th, 2011

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

 

Heist Society

Friday, May 13th, 2011

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.

 

Storm Mountain

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

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.

Leviathan

Monday, February 7th, 2011

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.

Boom

Monday, November 29th, 2010

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

As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

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.

The Danger Box

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

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.

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

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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.

The Alchemyst

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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

The Doom Machine

Monday, May 17th, 2010

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.

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

Friday, April 30th, 2010

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.

Found (and the sequel – Sent)

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

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.

Crows & Cards

Friday, February 26th, 2010

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.

Escape Under the Forever Sky

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

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.

Nation

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

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.

Blood on the River: James Town 1607

Monday, January 25th, 2010

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.

Operation Redwood

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

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.

The Graveyard Book [print and audio]

Friday, November 20th, 2009

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.

The City of Ember

Friday, October 16th, 2009

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.


 

The Entomological Tales of Augustus T. Percival: Petronella Saves Nearly Everyone

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

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.

H.I.V.E.: Higher Institute of Villainous Education

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

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

Savvy

Sunday, September 20th, 2009

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

Kaleidoscope Eyes

Monday, September 14th, 2009

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.

The Underneath

Monday, July 20th, 2009

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.

Ranger’s Apprentice series

Monday, July 20th, 2009

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

The True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

Wednesday, July 1st, 2009

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.

Hippie Chick

Monday, June 15th, 2009

 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.

Samuel Blink and the Forbidden Forest

Monday, April 27th, 2009

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

The Porcupine Year

Monday, April 27th, 2009

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

Seaborn

Saturday, April 25th, 2009

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