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Posts Tagged «coming of age»

A Year Without Mom

Monday, April 18th, 2016

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.

Orbiting Jupiter

Friday, January 29th, 2016

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.

Revolution

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

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

 

Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

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.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Friday, January 9th, 2015

 

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.

 

A Time to Dance

Friday, January 9th, 2015

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

 

Caminar

Monday, January 5th, 2015

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.

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Since You’ve Been Gone

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Planet Thieves

Monday, December 9th, 2013

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Seraphina

Saturday, November 16th, 2013

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.

 

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Homesick

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

 

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

The Mighty Miss Malone

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

See You At Harry’s

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Monkey Town

Friday, December 14th, 2012

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Wild Things

Friday, December 14th, 2012

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

Unforgettable

Sunday, October 28th, 2012

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.  

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

 

My Name is Mina

Monday, September 24th, 2012

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

A World Away

Monday, September 17th, 2012

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

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.

 

Click here to see if the book is in the library.

Looking For Me

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

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.
 

Ghetto Cowboy

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

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.
 

Curveball: the Year I Lost My Grip

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012

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
 

Moon Over Manifest

Monday, August 13th, 2012

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.
 

Divergent

Friday, June 8th, 2012

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.

Dead End In Norvelt

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

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.

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

Small Acts of Amazing Courage

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

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.

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

Elijah of Buxton

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

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.

Guitar Boy

Friday, May 13th, 2011
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.

 

Matched

Friday, March 25th, 2011

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.

Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom

Monday, February 7th, 2011

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.

Unwind

Monday, November 29th, 2010

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.

The Gollywhopper Games

Friday, November 26th, 2010

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.

Scrawl

Friday, November 19th, 2010

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.

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.

Exodus

Monday, October 25th, 2010

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.

Crunch

Monday, October 11th, 2010

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.

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.

Totally Joe

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

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.

Imperfections

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

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.

When the Whistle Blows

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

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.

War Games: a Novel Based on a True Story

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

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.

Runaway Twin

Sunday, February 21st, 2010

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.

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.

Wild Girl

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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

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 Unnameables

Friday, November 13th, 2009

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

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

Way Down Deep

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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.

Anything but Typical

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

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.

Antsy Does Time

Monday, June 15th, 2009

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.

Thirteenth Child

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

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.

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