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Posts Tagged «identity»

As Brave As You

Monday, August 28th, 2017

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

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

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

Ghost

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

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

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

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

Drama

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

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

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

Dream On, Amber

Monday, April 18th, 2016

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

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

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

Doll Bones

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

Black_doll1by Holly Black, 244 pages, Grades 6 and up

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

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

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015

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

 

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

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

One Man Guy

Saturday, November 22nd, 2014

onemanguyby Michael Barakiva, 255 pages, Grades 6-10

 

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

 

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

 

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

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.

 

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

Serafina’s Promise

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Mango Shaped Space

Friday, December 14th, 2012

mangoby Wendy Mass, 270 pages, Grades 5-8

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

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

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

 

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

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.

 

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.

Wonder

Monday, September 17th, 2012

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

Nominated for CYRM 2015!

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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.
 

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
 

Elsewhere

Monday, August 13th, 2012

elsewhereby Gabrielle Zevin, 276 pages, Grades 7-10

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

Out of My Mind

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

OutOfMyMindby Sharon Draper, 295 pages, Grades 5-8

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

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

 

No Ordinary Day

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

noordinarydayby Deborah Ellis, 155 pages, Grade 5-7

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

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

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

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

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

The Absolute Value of Mike

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

absoluteby Kathryn Erskine, 247 pages, Grades 6-9

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

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

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

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

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.

Waiting For Normal

Friday, January 6th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

The Education of Hailey Kendrick

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Hailey Final Coverby Eileen Cook 256 pages     grades 7 and up

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

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

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

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

 

Grounded

Thursday, May 12th, 2011
Groundedby Kate Klise 196 pages Grades 6-7Daralynn’s father, brother and baby sister died in a plane accident, and Daralynn is only alive because she was grounded that day and had been forced to remain behind.

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

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

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

 

The Running Dream

Friday, March 25th, 2011
running dreamby Wendelin Van Draanen,  336 pages,  Grades 7 and up“‘Fifty-five flat!’ Kyro shouts, ‘Fifty-five flat!’

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

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

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

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

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

Matched

Friday, March 25th, 2011

matched_book_coverby Ally Condie,    366 pages, Grades 7 and up

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.

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.

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.

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.

Mockingbird

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

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

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

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

The Poet Slave of Cuba

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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

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

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

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.

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.

Graceling

Monday, May 4th, 2009

graceling__spanby Kristin Cashore, p. 471 – Grades 8 & Up

This  award winning first novel by Kristin Cashore will have mature readers begging for a sequel.  The king of Middluns first identified Lady Katsa’s “grace” when she killed a man at age 8, and he has been using her special talent to keep the people of his kingdom and the surrounding six kingdoms in line ever since.  Lady Katsa rebels against the bullying king by secretly forming a council to protect those who have been treated unfairly throughout the seven kingdoms.  The rescue of a neighboring king’s kidnapped father leads Katsa on a quest to find his captor, with the help of his grandson, who has an interesting “grace” of his own.

Connection:  This book might appeal to those who enjoyed the combination of fantasy and romance in Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight books or the strong female protagonist in Garth Nix’s Sabriel series.  — CRW

Suck It Up

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009

suck it upby Brian Meehl, p. 318 – Grades 7 & Up

After graduating from the IVLeague (International Vampire League), Morning McCobb gets the opportunity to be the hero he had always hoped to be… rather than just the skinny, awkward teen he will eternally be.  The president of the IVLeague offered Morning the chance to be the first vampire to reveal himself to “lifers” (humans) in the hopes that humans and vampires can live together in harmony.  Morning is thought to be the perfect canidate since he only drinks a soy-based blood substitute rather than the farmed animal blood that most Leaguer vampires drink.  A potential love interest and an angry “loner” (non-league vampires that still drink human blood) make the challenge of convincing humans that vampires are friends even more difficult.

Connection:  This book is a good choice for those interested a lighter version of Twilight, told from the vampires point of view.  –CRW