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Posts Tagged «suspense»

Salt to the Sea

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2017

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

CYRM MOMINEE

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

 

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

The Nest

Monday, September 25th, 2017

nestby Kenneth Oppel, 244 pages, Grades 7 and up

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

 

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

The Leaving

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017

by Tara Altebrando,   pages, Grades 8 and up

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

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

Scythe

Tuesday, March 14th, 2017

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

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

 

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

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Monday, November 21st, 2016

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

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

 

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

Fuzzy Mud

Wednesday, April 20th, 2016

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

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

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

The Boundless

Monday, June 2nd, 2014

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

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

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

 

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

Picture Me Gone

Monday, March 31st, 2014

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

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

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

 

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

Break My Heart 1,000 Times

Friday, March 29th, 2013

by Daniel Waters, 342 pages, Grades 7 and up

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Incarceron

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Earth Unaware: the First Formic War

Monday, August 13th, 2012

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

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

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

Divergent

Friday, June 8th, 2012

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

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.

Legend

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

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

CYRM NOMINEE 2014

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

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

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

Demonkeeper

Sunday, October 2nd, 2011

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

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

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

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

 

Airman

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

airman_book_coverby Eoin Colfer,   412 pages,   Grades 7-8

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

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

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

 

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

Heist Society

Friday, May 13th, 2011

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

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

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

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

 

Storm Mountain

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

storm mountainBy Tom Birdseye, 135 pages  Grades 5-8

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

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

The Maze Runner

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

The_Maze_Runner_coverby James Dashner        374 pages,  Grades 6-10

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

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

The Unknowns

Monday, February 7th, 2011

unknownsby Benedict Carey,    259 pages,   Grades 6-8

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

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

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.

Eye of the Whale

Monday, January 17th, 2011

eye of the whale*Green Team Recommends*

by Douglas Carlton Abrams, 365 pages  Adult Novel

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

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 Alchemyst

Friday, September 24th, 2010

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

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

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

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

Pastworld

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

pastworld-coverby Ian Beck   p. 353    Young Adult

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

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

Seer of Shadows

Friday, April 16th, 2010

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

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

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

The Brain Finds a Leg

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

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

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

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

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 Case of the Peculiar Pink Fan: An Enola Holmes Mystery

Sunday, November 15th, 2009

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11th, 2009

H_I_V_E_-_The_Higher_Institute_of_Villainous_Educationby Mark Walden.  p. 309  Grades 5-8

A school for bad kids?!  That’s what H.I.V.E., the Higher Institute for Villainous Education, purports to be.  Kids who appear to have special talents that could be used for evil are kidnapped and brought to this school located on a remote island where adults interested in world domination train the students in various nefarious skills.  The island appears to have no escape, but as soon as thirteen-year-old Otto arrives, he and three of his new classmates begin plotting their get away.  A counterpoint to Hogwarts, at H.I.V.E., technology and brains replace magic and wizardry.

Connections:  Other fast-paced adventures set in special schools include:  David Lubar’s Hidden Talents and its sequel True Talents; James Patterson’s Maximum Ride series; Trenton Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society; and Ally Carter’s I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You.  PMS Library also owns the sequel–H.I.V.E. : the Overlord Protocol .

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Kaleidoscope Eyes

Monday, September 14th, 2009

kaleidoscopeby Jen Bryant.  p. 257  Grades 5-8

It’s summer vacation and what could be better than sneaking out at night to look for buried treasure with your two best friends?!  After thirteen-year-old Lyza’s grandfather dies, she finds an envelope in his attic marked “For Lyza ONLY.”  It containis three maps, a key, and a letter with rather crypic directions which lead Lyza, Malcolm and Carolann on an adventure to find pirate William Kidd’s buried treasure.  Set in 1968, this novel is told in verse against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the cultural revolution of the sixties.

Connections:   The Voyage of the Arctic Tern by Hugh Montgomery is another pirate adventure in verse. For more books on pirates, try Sea Queens : Women Pirates Around the World by Jane Yolen, Piracy & Plunder : a Murderous Business by Milton Meltzer, Piratica by Tanith Lee, Bloody Jack by Carolyn Meyer, Voyage of Plunder by Michele Torrey, and Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Hunger Games

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

the-hunger-games1by Suzanne Collins, p. 374 – Grades 7 & Up

In this book, for mature readers, what was once the United States is destroyed by climate change and war and is replaced by Panem with its wealthy rulers in the Capitol controlling twelve neighboring districts.  Each year the districts must pay tribute to the Capitol by sending two of their teens (12-18) to fight to the death in the Hunger Games, which is televised and must be watched by everyone (think Survivor with weapons and a manipulated environment).  Sixteen year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to replace her younger sister as the tribute from District 12 (the poorest district) when her sister’s name is pulled in the lottery for the 74th Hunger Games.  Since her father’s death in a mining accident, Katniss has had to work hard so she and her family could survive, but in the Hunger Games she will be facing tributes who have spent their lives training for this event.

Connection:  Other examples of survival fiction that will keep the reader on edge are  Deathwatch by Robb White and The Dead & the Gone by Susan Beth Pfeffer.  –CRW

Highlight:  Watch this video interview with Suzanne Collins.