Bulldog Library

The School for Good and Evil

JF Chainani    •    Fairy Tale & Friendship

school-for-good-and-evil

Every year two children are taken by the School Master.  One is sent to the School for Good to become a princess or prince.  The other is sent to the School for Evil to become a villain.  When best friends Sophie and Agatha are taken, they could not have guessed what destiny had in store for them.  Now they are on opposite sides of good and evil.  One will become a princess.  The other will become a witch.  Can their friendship survive?

The School for Good and Evil is an engrossing story of friendship and destiny.  Fans of fantasy books like The Sister’s GrimmFablehaven, and Harry Potter will very likely enjoy this magical fantasy adventure.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 830L  •  AR: 5.2

Chainani, S. (2013). School for Good and Evil.  New York, NY : Harper.

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Cinder

YA F Meyer    •    Sci-Fi & Fairy Tale

cinderCyborg Cinder.  Mechanic to the Prince.  Ward of an evil stepmother.

While all other girls her age are preparing for the Prince’s ball, Cinder has much bigger concerns.  Cinder’s beloved step-sister has grown deathly ill, and her evil step-mother blames her for the illness.  To punish Cinder, her stepmother volunteers her as a research subject to be deliberately infected with the deadly disease and experimented on.  Now Cinder’s life is on the line.  If a cure cannot be found, both Cinder and her sister will die.

Set in the distant future amidst a backdrop of a devastating global pandemic, political intrigue, and the ever looming threat of interplanetary war, Cinder is an retelling of the classic fairy tale, Cinderella, with an exciting sci-fi twist.  Readers will delight in the budding romance between Cinder and the charming Prince, but it is the secret hidden deep in Cinder’s past and the looming threat of the Prince’s forced marriage that will keep the reader turning pages.

Cinder is the first in the Lunar Chronicals series.

Interest Level: grades 6-12  •  Lexile: 790L  •  AR: 5.8

Meyer, M. (2012). Cinder.  New York, NY : Feiwel & Friends.

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The Fourteenth Goldfish

JF Holm    •    Sci-Fi

fourteenth-goldfishEllie’s grandfather is a famous scientist, and he has just made his biggest breakthrough ever!  He has discovered a way to cure aging!  Now he looks like a thirteen year old boy and is going to middle school with Ellie.

Through the course of this story, Ellie learns about the history of science and the beauty of life.  The Fourteenth Goldfish is a fairly short book that is well worth reading, especially for kids who love science.

The author, Jennifer L. Holm, is likely familiar to readers as the Newberry Honor-Winning author of the delightful historical fiction novel Turtle in Paradise as well as the extraordinarily popular graphic novel series Babymouse.

Interest Level: grades 3-5  •  Lexile: 550   •  AR: 4.1

Holm, J. (2015). The Fourtenth Goldfish. New York, NY : Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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Fluff Dragon

JF Clark    •    Fantasy Adventure & Humor

fluff-dragon

Max Spencer, reader of the Codex of Infinite Knowability and defeater of the evil Robo-Princes, is back.  This time Max must save all dragons from the evil wizard Rezomoor Dreadbringer.  The only problem is that the Codex isn’t working.  Can Max reboot the Codex and save the dragons?

Fluff Dragon is the second in the Bad Unicorn trilogy.  Where as the first book in the series starts strong, Fluff Dragon starts a bit slowly.  However, the story it tells is worth reading if you enjoyed the first book, and the ending is incredibly exciting!  After finishing Fluff Dragon, readers will want to pick up the next volume in the series.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 770L  •  AR: 5.4

Clark, P. (2013). Fluff Dragon.  New York, NY : Aladdin.

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Billy’s Booger

JE Joyce    •    Memoir & Humor

billys-booger

Billy is unique.  He is immensely creative, but his creativity is often unappreciated.  When the school librarian announces a creative writing contest, Billy knows that this is his time to shine.  He works tirelessly on his mucus-y masterpiece, but can his humorous tale win the creative writing contest?

Billy’s Booger is the memoir of author William Joyce.  It is filled with humor that any kid will enjoy, but it is also an inspirational tale of a kid who followed his dream, dared to be himself, and found his passion in life.

This wonderful story is brought to life with illustrations that are worth lingering over.

Interest Level: grades 1-5  •  Lexile: AD750L  •  AR: 3.5

Joyce, W. (2015). Billy’s Booger: a memoir (sorta). New York, NY : Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

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Dorothy Must Die

YA F Paige    •    Fantasy Adventure

dorothy-must-die

Amy Gumm is a Kansas girl who’s has been carried into Oz by a tornado.  Amy can hardly believe that she has landed in Oz.  Oz is in turmoil.  It looks nothing like she imagined it would.  The land is being drained of magic and the citizens of Oz are in constant fear of the tyranny of Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, the Lion, and Glinda.  Can Amy survive in this terrible place?  Can she find a way to save it?

In the introduction to The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum wrote:

“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” [is] a modernized fairy tale, in which the wonderment and joy are retained and the heartaches and nightmares are left out.

Dorothy Must Die is a dark re-imaging of the Oz lore.  Baum’s heroes have been turned into nightmares who drain joy and wonderment from the land of Oz.  Fans of Baum’s original Oz stories might want to avoid Dorothy Must Die.  However, if a reader is looking for a dark fantasy adventure, than this might be a good choice.  The story is engrossing.  It will keep you turning pages.

Interest Level: grades 9-12  •  Lexile: HL720L  •  AR: 5.1

Paige, D. (2014). Dorothy Must Die. New York, NY: Harper an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers.

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Deep Blue

YA F Donnelly    •    Fantasy Adventure

deep-blue

When Serafina’s home is attacked, she is forced to flee for her life.  Now the run from her attackers, Serafina begins a perilous journey to not only save herself and defend her home, but protect the ocean itself from an ancient evil about to be unleashed.

Deep Blue is the first book in the Waterfire Saga.  It starts slow, but readers who can persevere will find themselves engrossed in an exciting mermaid adventure.  This is a wonderful read-a-like for Rick Riordan’s popular Percy Jackson series and a must read for all mermaid aficionados.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: HL580  •  AR: 4.4

Donnelly, J. (2014). Deep Blue.  Los Angeles, CA : Disney-Hyperion.

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Rump

JF Shurtliff    •    Fairytale/Fantasy

rump

Have you ever wondered how Rumpelstiltskin learned to spin straw into gold?  Or why he wanted the firstborn child of the miller’s daughter?

Rump retells the classic fairytale Rumpelstiltskin from Rumplestitlskin’s perspective.

This is a fun book to read.  Fairytale lovers will enjoy this modern reimagining of the classic tale.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 660L  •  AR: 4.4

Shurtliff, L. (2013). Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin.  New York, NY : Alfred A. Knoph.

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Thrones and Bones: Frostborn

JF Anders    •    Fantasy

Thrones and Bones Frostborn

Karn is destined to take over the family farm.  But Karn has no interest in farming.  He would rather play Thrones and Bones than learn how to manage the family estate.

Thianna’s father is a frost giant.  Her mother was a human.

Their fates intersect when both are forced to flee their homes and embark on an epic journey.

This is a fast-paced fantasy that readers won’t want to put down.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 660L  •  AR: 4.6

Anders, L. (2014). Thrones and Bones: Frostborn.  New York, NY : Crown.

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The Castle Behind Thorns

JF Haskell    •    Fairytale

Castle Behind Thorns

After praying at a sacred spring, Sand awakens in a sundered castle.  Everything in the castle has been torn and broken by a powerful curse.  He is held captive in this cursed castle by an impenetrable wall of thorns.  To survive he must repair the castle.  Day-by-day, bit-by-bit, Sand slowly rights the sundered castle.

The Castle Behind Thorns is a remarkable re-imaging of the classic tale of Sleeping Beauty.  Rather than a love story or a fairytale, this is a story about friendship.  It is a simple, quite story that is remarkably engrossing.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 790L   •  AR: 5.6

Haskell, M. (2014). The Castle Behind Thorns.  New York, NY : Katherine Tegen Books.

 

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Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble

JF Bruel    •    Humor/How-to

bad kitty drawn to trouble

Have you ever wanted to write a book?  If so, Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble is a book you will want to read!

In Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble, Nick Bruel uses his trademark humor to help young authors create stories of their own.  There are two really great reasons to read this book.  First, it introduces readers to elements of writing like characters, plot, setting and more.  Second, this writing guide is presented in an awesome Bad Kitty story!  Why read a how-to-write textbook that gives exhaustive-but-dry definitions of the elements of a story, when you could read Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble that introduces all of the major elements of a story through explanation and example?  It is a wonderful bonus that the examples are expertly woven into a hilarious power struggle between Nick Bruel (the author) and Bad Kitty (the strong-willed star) to determine Bad Kitty’s fate.  Who will win?  Will Bad Kitty bully Bruel into giving her a big bowl of kitty food?  Or Nick Bruel doom Bad Kitty to a diet of turnips?

This laugh-out-loud-funny book is a must read for both aspiring young writers and Bad Kitty fans alike!

Interest Level: grades 3-5  •  Lexile: 570L   •  AR: 3.5

Bruel, N. (2014). Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble.  New York, NY: Roaring Press Books.

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The Feral Child

JF Golden    •    Horror/Fantasy

Feral Child

Maddy has been sent to live with her grandparents in Ireland.  Angry and willful, Maddy defies her Granda’s entreaty not to sneak onto the Blarney Castle grounds. A decision she will soon regret.

The cover art of The Feral Child leads readers to believe that this is a horror story, and indeed the first 100 pages read like a horror story.  The terrifying figure on the cover stalks and torments Maddy.  But then, the story change with little warning into a fantasy adventure.  With this change in both story and setting, Maddy changes too.  Readers begin to see the vulnerabilities that she has been hiding behind her gruff attitude and defiant behavior.

The Feral Child is an interesting story that centers around Irish lore.  Readers who enjoy fairy stories and folk lore will likely find it enjoyable.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

Golden, C. (2014). The Feral Child. New York, NY: Quercus.

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Steelheart

YA F Sanderson    •    Sci-fi

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad,” – Sir John Dalbert-Acton, British Historian

Steelheart

Epics, humans with superpowers, have seized control of what used to be the United States of America.  They are above the law.  They kill on a whim.  They cause destruction and chaos.  Regular people are powerless to stop them.

Steelheart is the among the most powerful  epics on earth.  He can transmute anything into solid steel.  He has super strength.  He is impervious to harm.   He is feared above all other epics, but David has seen him bleed.  David has seen him wounded.  David is determined to see him bleed again.

In Steelheart, Brandon Sanderson, author of the Alcatraz series, has created a though-provoking thrill ride, a supervillian distopia, and a science fiction adventure that readers won’t be able to put down.  Simply read the prologue and you will be hooked!

Steelheart‘s exceptional story is filled with enough action to keep pages turning with great rapidity and ideas that will keep readers thinking long after they have finished the book.

Interest Level: grades 8 and up  •  Lexile: HL680L  •  AR: 5.0

Sanderson, B. (2013). Steelheart.  New York, NY: Delacourt Press.

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Ninja Red Riding Hood

JE Schwartz    •    Fairytale/Humor

Ninja Red Riding Hood

The big bad wolf is hungry.  He can’t catch any dinner because his prey knows Karate.  So the big bad wolf decides to become a ninja master.

You know a book is going to be good when it begins “Once upon a ninja-filled time”!  Ninja Red Riding Hood does not disappoint.  It is a wonderful, ninja-filled twist to the time-worn tale of Little Red Riding Hood.  If you love ninjas, or twisted fairytales, like Cinderella SkeletonThe True Story of the Three Little Pigs, or The Frog Prince Continued, than you are sure to enjoy this off-beat and cleaver retelling.

Interest Level: Grades 2-5  •  Lexile: AD570L  •  AR: 3.4

Schwartz, C. R. (2014). Ninja Red Riding Hood. New York , NY: Putnam Juvenile.

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The Good Neighbors: Kin

YA F Black    •    Fantasy/Mystery

good neighbors

Rue’s mother left three weeks ago.  No one knows where she is or if she is coming back.  No one knows if she is even still alive.

Rue’s father has been arrested for murder.

Rue is now alone.

Can Rue find her mother?  Can she absolve her father?

The Good Neighbors: Kin is a dark fantasy presented in the form of a beautifully drawn graphic novel.  Holly Black, co-author of the wildly popular Spiderwick Chronicles, has created a rich fantasy world that weaves together the myth and lore of traditional folk tales with a suspenseful and intriguing mystery.  If you are looking for a good mystery, a dark fantasy, or a great graphic novel, than The Good Neighbors is a book you have to try.

Interest Level: grades 8 & up •  Lexile: GN310L  •  AR: 2.7

Black, H. (2009).  The Good Neighbors: Kin. Ted Naifeh (Illustrator).  New York, NY: Graphix.

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The Ice Dragon

JF Martin    •    Fantasy

Ice DragonAdara is a winter child.  They say that when she was born, a winter chill entered her very soul leaving her cold and distant.  It is true that Adara is different from other children.  The cold does not bother her.  She loves the winter.  Her greatest joy is the Ice Dragon that visits her every year.

Then, one summer, Adara’s village is beset by an invading hoard of vicious dragons.  Adara’s family must flee from the only home they have ever known, but how will the Ice Dragon find Adara if she leaves her family’s farm?

The Ice Dragon is a diminutive book.  With only 106 pages, large print, and many illustrations, The Ice Dragon reads more like a short story or fairy tale than a novel.  This is a book for readers who love fantasy and want a book that can be read quickly.

Interest Level: grades 3-5  •  Lexile: 960L  •  AR: 5.4

Martin, G. R. R. (2006). The Ice Dragon.  New York, NY: Starscape.

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Movie: The Giver

Rating: PG13

The Giver Movie

Eighteen-year-old Jonas is just about to graduate.  On graduation day he will be assigned a job.  His job will be chosen for him by the Elders, and it will be the position he holds for the rest of his life.  For Jonas, this assignment will change the way he sees the world.  It will open his eyes to the truth of the society he lives in and challenge everything he has ever known.

The Giver is beautifully filmed.  It begins in black-and-white.  The film then slowly adds color to Jonas’ world.  The more he learns, the more colorful the world becomes.  This follows the story in the book, but the visual beauty of this transformation is expressed through the movie in a way that the book simply cannot match.  This brilliant use of color adds depth to Jonas’ experience and allows the movie to convey Jonas’ growth and dawning understanding nearly as fully as the book.

This movie is based on Lois Lowry’s Newbery Award winning book The Giver.  While many of the details in the movie are different from the details in the book, the thought provoking ideas presented in the book are also present in the movie.  The movie is not exactly the same as the book, but it does the book justice.

Genre: Dystopia  •  Interest Level: grades 8 and up

Noyce, P. (Director). (2014). The Giver [Motion Picture]. USA: As Is Productions.

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Heaven is for Real

133.9013 Burpo   •   Biography

Heaven is for real

At just three years old, Colton Burpo became deathly ill.  After a long and painful recovery, Colton began to tell his parents of the remarkable journey to heaven he took while undergoing life-saving emergency surgery.

Heaven is for Real is a powerful true account of a young boy’s life.  Weather or not you believe in heaven, you will be deeply moved by this slim volume.  Readers will first weep with the Burpo’s as Colton suffers in the hospital.  Readers will then cry tears of joy at the beauty and love in heaven as described by this remarkable child.

Interest Level: grades 6 and up  •  AR: 6.3

Burpo, T. & Vincent, L. (2010). Heaven is for Real. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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Dog vs. Cat

JE Gall    •    Humor

Cat vs Dog

Cat and Dog are adopted on the same day.  When they are brought to their new home, they learn they must share a room together!  But Cat and Dog have nothing in common.  Cat detests Dog’s untidy habits, and Dog is utterly baffled by Cat’s weird ways.  Can these two ever learn to live together?

Dog vs. Cat is a very funny picture book.  In this brief story, Chris Gall has created a book with a lot of personality. While the odd couple premise of this book is a well worn theme, the well used premise does not diminish the reader’s enjoyment.  Dog vs. Cat is simply a fun book to read.

The illustrations are bright and expressive.  Not only do they bring this wonderful short story to life, but they expand the story and offer humorous moments to augment the humor in the text.  They are filled with little jokes and visual details that invite the reader to linger and explore the lovely illustrations before moving on to the next page.

This is a book that readers will want to read and enjoy at least twice.

Interest Level: grades 2-4  •  Lexile: AD480L  •  AR: 2.6

Gall, C. (2014). Dog vs. Cat. New York, NY: Little, Brown, and Company.

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Gathering Blue

YA F Lowry    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Gathering Blue

In Kira’s village, only the strong are allowed to live.  By tradition Kira, born with a twisted leg and barely able to walk, should have been sent to the field at birth, but her mother would not allow it.  Her mother saved her, but now her mother is gone.  Who will save Kira now from the villagers who want to take her land and send her to the field?

Gathering Blue is the second book in The Giver series.  It does not resume Jonas’ story.  Rather it begins a new story in another community far from Jonas’ home.  It follows Kira’s journey to find her place in a cruel world.

As with The Giver, Gathering Blue is a quite, contemplative story.  It is not action driven.  It is driven by ideas.  Kira is learning how her world works.  She is figuring out how she can use her talents to change her life and shape a better future for her village.

If you have previously enjoyed The Giver , or are looking for a beautifully written coming of age story, than you should try Gathering Blue.

Interest Level: grades 6 and up  •  Lexile: 680L  •  AR: 5.0

Lowry, L. (2000). Gathering Blue. New York, NY: Laurel-leaf Books.

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The People of Sparks

YA F DuPrau    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Books of Ember People of SparksThe People of Sparks is the sequal to The City of Ember.  It resumes the story of Lina and Doon answering all of the questions readers are left with at the end of The City of Ember.

The People of Sparks than continues far beyond the scope of The City of Ember. It discusses issues of conflict in human society.  Why do people fight each other?  What is the spark that turns irritation, fear, and uncertainty into hostility?  Once hostilities starts, can anyone stop it from escalating to all out war?

In The People of Sparks, Jeanne DuPrau explores the best and worst of human nature in an engrossing novel readers will devour from cover to cover.  Readers should be able to understand and enjoy the story even if they have not previously read The City of Ember.  However, the first book is so good, readers are advised to read The Books of Ember in order so as to enjoy the story in the order the author intended.

Genre: Dystopia  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile:  760L  •  AR: 4.9

DuPrau, J. (2004). The People of Sparks.  New York, NY: Random House.

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The Selection

YA F Cass    •    Romance & Sci-Fi/Dystopia

selection

Prince Maxon has come of age.  It is time for him to find a bride.  Tradition dictates that he choose his bride in the selection, a process were 35 young women are brought to the palace to vie for the affection of the the prince and a chance to win the crown.

When sixteen-year-old America Singer submitted her name for the selection, she never believed that she would be chosen, but she was.  Now she has become property of the royal family and must compete for the affection of a man she has never met.  Can she find happiness in her new life?

Set in a future where the United States of America has been destroyed by war and replaced with the monarchy of Illea, The Selection creates a world where people are divided into casts and have little chance to advance the lot they were born into.  For characters like America and Aspen, their lives are shaped by the low cast they were born into.  They live in poverty on the verge of starvation.  While these dystopian themes are presented in the book, they are not the focus of the book.

The focus is the love story. It is the love story that makes the reader keep turning pages.  The hard realities of poverty and violent rebels faced by the characters take a back seat to the romance and the fashion.

The Selection is a remarkably fast-paced page-turner.   It is a teen romance.  While it is rated for grades six and up, the gooey romance is better suited for older tweens and teens.  The Selection is a book for readers who enjoy a good love story,  adore beautiful ball gowns, or simply want a book that will keep them engrossed from page one.

Interest Level: grades 8 and up  •  HL680L  •  AR: 4.7

Cass, K. (2012). The Selection. New York, NY: HarperTeen.

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Bad Unicorn

JF Clark    •    Fantasy & Humor

bad unicorn

Princess is a bad unicorn, and she has just made a deal with an evil wizard.  She has agreed to retrieve The Codex of Infinite Knowability, the most powerful book in all of the three realms.  Her reward if she succeeds?  An all-you-can-eat Texan buffet.

Max is a normal kid, chubby & nerdy, but otherwise normal.  He has a weird old book called The Codex of Infinite Knowability that he just found laying under his bed.  Little does he know that this is no ordinary book, nor could he ever imagine the epic adventure that would unfold after bringing it to school for show-and-tell.  If he had known, he would have undoubtedly left the book hidden safely under his bed.

Bad Unicorn is an uproariously funny fantasy book.  It has mint wielding frobbits, zombie ducks, and an army of squirrels bent of world domination.  If you enjoy over the top humor, like Monty Python and the Search for the Holy Grail, than you need to try Bad Unicorn.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 870L  •  AR: 6.1

Clark, P. (2013). Bad Unicorn. New York, NY: Aladdin.

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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

JF Angleberger    •    School Story    •    Graphic Hybrid

Origami YodaWhen Dwight (the weirdest kid in school) creates an origami finger-puppet that looks like Yoda, weird things start happening.  Origami Yoda starts giving advice, and Yoda’s advice actually turns out to be really good (much better than Dwight could ever give).  Some kids start to say that Origami Yoda can see the future, but others say that Origami Yoda is just Dwight doing a bad Yoda impression.  Which is true?

Tommy is determined to figure out if Origami Yoda is for real!  He has gathered several stories from kids who have gotten advice from Yoda, some good and some bad.  Will this evidence prove that Origami Yoda is true?  Or will it show that Dwight has the whole school fooled?

Despite the cover, reader’s should not expect a Star-Wars-like sci-fi story.  This is a middle school story.  It is very much a read-a-like for books like Diary of a Wimpy Kid or Big Nate, with the exception that Tommy, the slightly awkward protagonist of The Strange Case of Origami Yodais far more sympathetic and affable than the disturbingly selfish Greg Heffley.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is a fun graphic-hybrid and well worth reading if you enjoy a good middle school story.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 760L  •  AR: 4.7

Angleberger, T. (2010). The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. New York, NY: Amulet Books.

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The Neverending Story

FIC Ende    •    Fantasy

Jacket.aspxBastian Balthazar Bux is a pudgy young boy who is bullied at school and mostly ignored at home.  He finds solace from his hardships and escape from his troubles through reading.  Reading is his great joy.

One fortuitous day, Bastian takes shelter in bookstore.  In the store, he sees a book covered in copper silk and emblazoned with the symbol of two snakes biting each other’s tales.  He knows that he must read this book.  So, when the shop owner is not looking, Bastian steals the book.  Little does Bastian suspect that what he has taken is far more than a mere book.  Contained with in the covers of The Neverending Story, lays a whole world: Fantastica.

Fantastica is in dire trouble.  A great nothing is ravaging the land.  Atreyu, a young hunter is chosen by the Childlike Empress to embark on a dangerous mission to learn how to stop the nothing.  He is Fantastica’s only hope.

This book is a must read for anyone who has loved the classic movie adaptation of The Neverending Story.  It begins with the familiar story of Bastian and Atreyu, but it delves far deeper into Bastian’s adventures in Fantastica than the limited movie format allows.  The movie focuses on Atreyu’s journey through Fantastica and only briefly says that Bastian had many adventures in Fantastica.  The book also tells Atreyu’s story; however, the majority of the book focuses on Bastian’s adventures after he has saved the Childlike Empress.  If you have loved the movie, you owe it to yourself to read the rest of the story.  It is every bit as filled with fantasy and wonder as is Atreyu’s adventure.

As with Howl’s Moving CastleThe Neverending Story is a fantasy book that is rated for teen readers; however, there is no romance or violence, and there is only one swear word.  This is a more complex novel than most tween books, but a mature tween reader who loves the fantasy genre may find The Neverending Story to be a perfect fit.

Interest Level:  grades 9-12  •  Lexile: 930L  •  AR: 5.9

Ende, M. (1997). The Neverending Story.  New York, NY: Puffin Books.

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Rush Revere and the First Patriots

YA F Limbaugh    •    Historical Fiction

JacketLiberty is back!

In this new adventure, Liberty takes Rush, Tommy, and Freedom to visit several of the greatest patriots of the American Revolution (and one of the greatest villains in American history).  But what will happen when the Elizabeth (the biggest villain in Mr. Revere’s class) figures out Liberty’s secret and uses it to blackmail Rush Revere?

Rush Revere and the First Patriots is the second in the Time Traveling Adventures with Exceptional Americans series.  As with Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims, Liberty -the wisecracking, time-traveling, perpetually hungry, talking horse- steals the show.  He is the star of this series.  Readers will enjoy visiting patriots like Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry, and Paul Revere.  However, it is Liberty that will keep the reader hooked.

If you like quirky and humorous historical adventures, or have previously enjoyed the first Rush Revere book, than this might be a great book for you.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 750L  •  AR: 5.5

Limbauagh, R. (2014). Rush Revere and the First Patriots: Time-traveling adventures with exception Americans. New York, NY: Threshold Editions.

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The Alchemyst

YA F Scott    •    Fantasy

Jacket.aspxSophie and Josh live perfectly ordinary lives.  How could they ever guess that taking two summer jobs at the mall would shatter their ordinary lives and embroil them in an ancient battle for the survival of the human race?   With the immortal Nicholas Flamel as their guide and protector, Sophie and Josh will need to awaken their latent magical abilities in order to survive in this dangerous world of legend and myth.

Alchemysts.  Sorcerers.  Necromancers.  Golems.  Ancient deities.  Werewolves.  Vampires.  Ghosts.  Zombies.  The Alchemist has it all.

This is a fairly complex fantasy world populated with fierce and terrible denizens of ancient lore.  For that reason, it is recommended for older tween and teen readers.  If you have previously enjoyed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson or Kane Chronicles series, and you are looking for an engrossing fantasy adventure, Michael Scott’s The Alchemist just may be the perfect book for you.

Interest Level: grades 6-10  •  Lexile: 890L  •  AR: 6.4

Scott, M. (2007). The Alchemyst. New York, NY : Delacorte Press.

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Almost Super

JF Jensen    •    Sci-Fi & Humor

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Rafter and Benny Bailey come from a long line of super-heroes.  Fire-breathing.  Flying.  Super-strength.  Every Bailey has a super-power.  They use their extraordinary abilities to fight crime and save the world.

Now it is finally time for Rafter and Benny to get their super-powers.  They have been waiting for this day for a long time.  They have dreamed of the power they will receive.  Benny wants super-speed.  Rafter wants super-strength.  No one could have ever guessed they would receive totally useless super-powers.

Without any power to aid them, these two brothers must find the hero inside and stop the nefarious super-villians who stole their true super-powers.

Almost Super is a super fun book to read.  It is a comic riff on the super-hero genre, however it far more than a simple spoof.  Almost Super creates a rich world of heroes populated by characters who prove that a hero is made through bravery, courage, and determination.

In the beginning, readers will delight at the humor of the absurd super-powers.  By the end, readers will be on the edge of their seats, unable to tear themselves away from the page-turning adventure that this book becomes.

Almost Super is a very promising start to what will most certainly be a funny and exciting super-series.

Interest Level: grades 4-6  •  Lexile: 590L  •  AR: 4.2

Jensen, M. (2014). Almost Super. HarperCollins.

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

JF Grabenstein    •    Mystery & Adventure

Jacket.aspxKyle loves to play games.  He loves board games and video games, especially the ones created by the famous Luigi Lemoncello.  So when Kyle finds out that the town’s new library was created by Mr. Lemoncello himself, Kyle knows that he must be one of the lucky kids to win a ticket to the opening of Mr. Lemoncello’s library.

Kyle thinks that he knows every game ever created by the famous Luigi Lemonchello.  Little does he suspect that the opening of the town’s new library will be far more than a simple party.  It will be Mr. Lemonchello’s greatest game, and the prize will bring the winner both fame and fortune.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library should be required reading for library users wanting to learn about Dewey Decimal Classification.  Chris Grabenstein has transformed the Dewey Decimal System into a truly engaging adventure with plenty of mystery and more than a few puzzles.  Readers will learn about how to find books in a library in a way that is both memorable and entertaining.  Once Mr. Lemoncello’s game begins, readers will not want to put this book down.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 720L  •  AR: 4.5

Grabenstein, C. (2013). Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library. New York, NY: Random House.

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Wonder

JF Palacio    •    Award Winning Juvenile Fiction

Jacket.aspxAuggie is a normal kid with an abnormal face.  Auggie won’t tell you what he looks like, but “whatever your thinking, it’s probably worse”.

Auggie has been home schooled his whole life, but his parents think that he is ready to go to fifth grade in a regular school.  How will the other kids treat Auggie?  Will he make any friends?  Will they be able to see past his face and get to know the real Auggie?

Wonder tells Auggie’s story through the eyes of all of the people in Auggie’s life.  Each character’s unique point of view gives the reader a richer view of Auggie’s life and the lives of the people who love him.

There are humorous moments.  There are heart-breaking moments.  Readers rejoice with Auggie in his triumphs and weep with him in his tragedies.

Wonder is simply a wonderful book.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 790L  •  AR: 4.8

2013 ALA Notable Children’s Book

2015 California Young Reader Winner

Palacio, R.J. (2012). Wonder. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

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I Funny

JF Patterson    •    Humor    •    Graphic Hybrid

Jacket.aspxJamie loves comedy!  He has studied all the greats.  He knows all of their jokes, and he has even come up with several jokes of his own.

Now Jamie has the opportunity to prove to the world that he is funny.  In fact, Jamie has the opportunity to prove that he is the Funniest Kid on the Planet!  But are his jokes good enough?  Can he make an audience laugh?  Can he win the title of Funniest Kid on the Planet?

I Funny is a very funny book!  Jamie gives the reader joke after joke after joke.  You will laugh out loud more than once while reading this book.

But don’t think that humor is all that this book has to offer.  Jamie’s story has moments of insight that give this funny book unexpected depth and heart.

There is something in this book for just about every reader, but it is a must read if you are looking for a good laugh!

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 610L  •  AR: 3.9

Patterson, J. & Grabenstein, C. (2012). I Funny: A middle school story. New York, NY: Little, Brown/Hachette Book Group USA.

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The Light Princess

FIC MacDonald    •    Fairy-tale & Classic Literature

A good king and a wise queen are overjoyed at the birth of their first child, a baby princess.  In the king’s excitement, he makes one very big mistake: he forgets to invite his sister to the princess’ christening.  Enraged at this slight, the kings sister (who happens to be a wicked witch), curses the infant princess.  She steals the princess’ gravity.  From that day forward, the princess is light in body and mind.

Even 150 years after it was originally published, The Light Princess remains remarkably engrossing.  It is a classic of children’s literature.  While it is a short book, and does not take very long to read, it is highly enjoyable and highly recommended.  If you are a fan of fairy-tales or of the Oz books, than you will almost certainly enjoy George MacDonald’s The Light Princess.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 880L  •  AR: 6.3

MacDonald, G. (1864).  The Light Princess.  Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/697

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Wonderstruck

JF Selznick    •    Historical Fiction    •    Graphic Hybrid

Jacket.aspxMinnesota, 1977:  Following his mother’s death in a tragic car accident, Ben has been sent to live with his aunt and uncle.  Despite the fact that his aunt’s cabin is only 83 steps away from the home that he lived in with his mother, this new house is a world away from the life he once knew.  Then one fateful stormy night, Ben sees a light in his mother’s room.  Following this light becomes the first step in a journey to find the home where he truly belongs.

Hoboken, 1925:  Alone, with no one who she can talk to, Rose feels trapped in her tiny bedroom.  She looks out across the river to the lights of New York City and longs for someone to save her from the oppressive solitude.  Following these lights becomes the first step in a journey to find the home where she truly belongs.

Wonderstruck is told using the same innovative graphic-hybrid format and stunning rendering skill as Selznick’s award winning book The Invention of Hugo Cabret.  It tells two intertwining stories.  Ben’s story, told entirely through text, is brilliantly paralleled by Rose’s story, told entirely through images.  As Ben is trapped in a thunderstorm, Rose watches a thunderstorm in a silent movie.  As Ben journeys through the natural history museaum, so too does Rose.  The exhibits being described in Ben’s story are seen in Rose’s.

In addition to being a poignant novel about two children’s search for love and family, Wonderstruck  introduces readers to deaf history and culture.  Wonderstruck is innovative and brilliantly told.  This is a book that is highly recommended for all readers!

Interest Level: grades 5-8  •  Lexile: 830L  •  AR: 5.4

2014 California Young Reader Winner

Selznick, B. (2011).  Wonderstruck.  New York, NY: Scholastic.

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Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

YA F Naylor

Jacket.aspxCatherine comes from an affluent home.  She lives in a large house and wants for nothing.

Ivy June is a coal-miner’s granddaughter.  Her family is far from wealthy.  She lives in a small house and does not even have indoor plumbing.

These two girls might never have met if it had not been for an exchange program that both girls won the opportunity to participate in.  For two weeks, Ivy June will live with Kathryn in the city.  Then Catherine will go to Ivy June’s home in the mountains for two week.  During this time, each girl will experience a life that she has never know before.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June offers readers a very interesting premise, but this alone does not make the book such a delight to read.  What makes this book truly intriguing, is the way in which Naylor has chosen to present the story.  Naylor allows the reader to see the story from three different points of view.  The story is first told in a third person narrative.  Through this readers experience the days events along side Cathrine and Ivy June.  The author then allows readers to glimpse the day’s events through the eyes of Cathrin and Ivy June by including journal entries written by each of the girls.  The inclusion of these journal articles adds a depth and complexity to the story that would not be possible without these inclusions.  They also  allow for stronger emotional connection for readers who are able to experience the emotional highs and lows that the girls go through on this once-on-a-lifetime experience.

Faith, Hope, and Ivy June is a book that readers won’t want to put down.

Interest Level: grades 5-8  • Lexile: 900L  • AR: 5.8

2014 California Young Reader Nominee

Naylor, P. R. (2009). Faith, Hope, and Ivy June. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

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Uglies

YA F Westerfeld    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Jacket.aspxTally cannot wait to turn 16 and get the surgery that will transform her from an Ugly into a Pretty.  Pretties live in fabulous towers.  They attend fabulous parties.  They are loved by all who see them.  This is the life that Tally longs for.

Not long before Tally turns 16, she meets a independent and adventurous Ugly named Shea.  Tally cannot believe that anyone would not want to turn Pretty, but just a few days before her scheduled surgery Shea runs away.  Now, the authorities refuse to give Tally the operation that she longs for until she agrees to help them find Shea and the mysterious group of dissidents to whom she has run to for asylum.

Uglies playes on our desires to be both beautiful and loved.  It asks the question: is beauty at any cost worth the price?  Is fitting in worth losing yourself, your individuality, and your freedom?

A perfect book for the older tween reader, Uglies is a futuristic sci-fi dystopia.  If you have previously enjoyed books like The Giver, The Hunger Games, or City of Ember, than Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies may be a good book for you.  Just beware, Uglies ends abruptly.  As soon as you finish this volume, you will want to move on to Pretties, book number 2 in this series.

Interest Level: grades 6 and up  • Lexile: 770L  • AR: 5.2

2004 ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Westerfeld, S. (2005). Uglies.  New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

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A Nest for Celeste

JF Cole    •    Historical Fiction

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Celeste, a mouse, lives in a big plantation house under the dining room floor boards.  She spends her days weaving baskets and her nights foraging for food.  She lives a comfortable life until the day that the cat discovers her nest and she must flee from her home.

A Nest for Celeste is a story with touches of sadness at times, but overall it is a heart-warming tale about home and friendship.   The simple story is augmented with with numerous detailed illustrations that bring Celeste and her friends to life for the reader.  If you have previous enjoyed books like Because of Winn Dixie or Tale of Despereaux , than you may enjoy A Nest for Celeste.

Interest Level: grades 4- 6  • Lexile: 730L  • AR: 5.1

2014 California Young Reader Nominee

Cole, H. (2010).  A Nest for Celeste.  New York, NY: Katherine Tegen Books.

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Peter and the Starcatchers

JF Barry    •    Fantasy

Jacket.aspxPeter and a group of young orphan boys have boarded a rickety old ship called the Never Land.  They are being shipped to a far away country to spend their lives in the service of an notoriously wicked king.  Little do they suspect that aboard this dreary and dilapidated vessel is stored the greatest treasure ever sent to sea.  Nor do they know that the fearsome pirate Black Stash is hot in the pursuit of their tiny vessel determined to steal the treasure and kill anyone who stands in his way.  Can Peter defeat the pirates and save the treasure?

Peter and the Starcatchers is an action-packed fantasy novel.  It is a prequel to the classic story Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.  It seeks to answer the questions of how Peter Pan learned to fly, stays young forever, and has a fairy friend.  It is a good adventure and quite a fun book to read.

While Peter and the Starcatchers is an interesting re-boot of Peter Pan lore, readers who love Peter Pan should be aware that J.M. Barrie himself answers the question of how Peter learned to fly and why he has fairy friends in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a book which tells the adventures of the infant Peter.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  • Lexile: 770L  • AR: 5.2

Barry, D. & Pearson, R. (2004). Peter and the Starcatchers. New York, NY: Disney Editions/Hyperion Books for Children.

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Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims

YA F Limbaugh    •    Historical Fiction/Fantasy

Jacket.aspxTalking.  Time traveling.  Horse.  Need I say more?

Substitute history teacher Rush Revere has a few surprises in store for his new class.  First he brings a horse named Liberty to class.  Even more surprising, the horse says “bless you” to a student when he sneezes.  Mr. Revere’s students soon find out that Liberty can say more than just “bless you”, a lot more . . . and very often does.  The class is delighted by Liberty, but little do they suspect that talking is not the only unique ability that Liberty has.  Soon two of Mr. Revere’s students will find out just how special Liberty really is.

Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims is a quirky book.  Part historical fiction, part fantasy, readers get a sampling of history with a huge side of comedy.  It is a fun book to read and includes many full color illustrations and diagrams which both add to the readers enjoyment and historical understanding.

The only small disappointment is that the story of the pilgrims presented in this books represents only ‘greatest hits’ of the Pilgrims (so to speak).  Liberty takes Rush and his students back and forward in time frequently so as to “fast-forward” through the pilgrims story.  Each stop allows the reader to briefly glimpse a snapshot in the pilgrims’ story: sea-sickness on the Mayflower; meeting Squanto; the first Thanksgiving. Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims introduces readers to the trials and triumphs of the Pilgrims; however, novels have the power to create an emotional connection in the readers  who feel the hardship and rejoice in the success of the characters.  Sadly, this empathy and emotional connection is not made in Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.  Readers learn the facts but fail to experience the heart-pounding, heart-breaking adventures of history.  (The one exception is Liberty.  Readers cannot help but fall in love with Liberty!)

Overall, this book introduces a unique premise and a very promising start to what could become an exciting series of historical adventures.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  • Lexile: 740L  • AR: 5.4

Limbaugh, R. (2013).  Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims.  New York, NY: Threshold Editions.

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The Unwanteds

YA F McMann    •    Fantasy & Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Jacket.aspxIn Quill, every thirteen year old must learn his fate.  Those chosen as Wanted will be educated in the ways of the Quillitary.  They will become the elite of Quill and rule the citizens with an iron hand.  Those condemned as Unwanteds will be executed.

Twins Alex and Aaron have long known their fate.  Alex has broken many rules.  Aaron has broken none.  It is no surprise when Aaron is chosen as a Wanted and Alex as an Unwanted.

Resigned to his doom, Alex is lead away from the Purge with the other Unwanteds expecting this to be his last day on earth.  Little could he ever imagine the adventure that awaits him outside the walls of Quill.

The Unwanteds tells the story of Alex and Aaron’s education.  It is the story of the great heights Aaron achieves in the Quillitary, and of the lengths he must go to propel his meteoric rise.   It is the story of Alex’s creative education in art and magic.

The Unwanteds is a creative fantasy story with elements of the dystopian genre.  Readers who have previously enjoyed series like Harry Potter, Charlie Bone, or Percy Jackson and the Olympians are likely to enjoy The Unwanted.

Interest Level: grades 5-8  •  Lexile: 880L  •  AR: 5.7

2014 California Young Reader Winner

McMann, L. (2011).  The Unwanteds.  New York, NY: Aladdin.

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Howl’s Moving Castle

YA F Jones    •    Fantasy

Jacket.aspxEighteen year old Sophie lives in a land where magic is real.  Anything can happen … and very often does.  This magic transforms Sophie’s life on the day that, without warning or reason, the Witch of the Waste enters Sophie’s hat shop.  In the blink of an eye, Sophie’s youth is stolen.

Now unrecognizable in the body of an 80 year old woman, Sophie must leave the only home she has every known  and create a new life.  How will Sophie survive now that she is old and alone?  Will she find a new home?  Can she find a way to reverse the witch’s curse?

Howl’s Moving Castle is a captivating and unique fantasy novel.  Readers will genuinely come to care for the characters throughout the course of their long and winding journey through this rich world of magic, secrets, and surprises.

Bulldogs should beware that Howl’s Moving Castle is not technically a tween book.  While this book is available at our school library, it is a book intended for teen readers.  The plot of Howl’s Moving Castle is more complex than most tween fiction; however, advanced tween readers with a love of fantasy may find that this wonderful book is just the right fit.

(For anime fans … this book is a definite must read if you have seen and enjoyed the Studio Ghibli movie Howl’s Moving Castle.  The movie is awesome, but – as is so often the case – book is even better!)

Interest Level: grades 9-12  •  Lexile: 800L  •  AR: 5.4

Jones, D. W. (1986). Howl’s Moving Castle. New York, NY: Greenwillow Books.

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The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

JF Baum    •    Fantasy

JacketAs an infant, Claus is adopted by the beautiful wood-nymph Necile.  He is raised in the magical forest of Burzee and grows to become a friend of all the immortals.

When Claus comes of age, the great woodsman of the forest, Ak, takes him on a journey that will change his life.  Ak shows Claus the plight of mankind, the struggle to eek out a meager living through toil and strife.  Ak shows Claus the plight of the children, dejected and neglected  little ones unable to bear the hardships of life.  At the conclusion of this journey, Claus knows that he must leave Burzee and share in the hardships of mankind.

Claus moves to the laughing valley.  It is in this new home that Claus finds his life’s work in making toys that delight the children of the world.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus was written by L. Frank Baum, the Royal Historian of Oz, in 1902.  This book not a history of the life of the real Saint Nicholas.  This is a fairy adventure, as readers would expect from Baum.  There are Wood Nymphs to guard the trees of Burzee, Ryls to guard the flowers, Knooks to guard the animals, and Fairies to guard mankind.  There is even a race of invisible giants who cause mischief and hate Claus.  While this story provides some fictional explanations for Christmas traditions, such as stockings and trees, a very large portion of the book focuses on the fairy creatures.  This focus on fantasy detracts from the Christmas spirit readers might expect.

While this book is recommended for readers who love the work of L. Frank Baum, the true story of the life and adventures of the real Saint Nicholas is even more interesting than Baum’s fairy tale account.  Readers interested in the real life and adventures of Santa Claus might prefer a biography of Saint Nicholas.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  AR: 7.0

Baum, L. F. (1902). The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus.  Indianapolis, IN: The Bowen-Merril Company.

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Anne of Green Gables

YA F Montgomery    •    Classic Literature

Jacket.aspxMatthew and Marillia Cuthbert have decide to adopt a boy to help Matthew around the farm.  However, the Cuthberts receive a serendipitous surprise when a talkative orphan girl named Anne arrives at Green Gables rather than boy they expected.

Anne is full of life and imagination.  She is overcome with the beauty of Green Gables and longs to make it her home, but can she win the love of Matthew and Marilla?  Has Anne found her home?  Or will the Cuthberts send Anne away to get a boy instead?

Anne of Green Gables tells the story of Anne’s life at Green Gables.  It tells of her great joys and of her unforgettable mistakes.  This is a classic of tween literature and is a book that all young girls should have the opportunity to read and fall in love with.

Joyful.  Humorous.  Hugely imaginative.  Anne will capture the hearts of all kindred spirits who read her story.

Interest Level: grades 4 and up  •  Lexile: 970L  •  AR: 7.3

Montgomery, L.M. (2013). Anne of Green Gables. London, England: Vintage Books.

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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

JF Lin    •    Fantasy/Fairy-tale

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Minli lives in a poor village in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain.  According to the old stories, Fruitless Mountain is the broken heart of Jade Dragon and nothing will grow on it until Jade Dragon is reunited with her children.

Minli’s family ekes out a meager living of rice, but there is not even enough food to feed Minli’s goldfish, so Minli must release her goldfish into the river.  When Minli releases her goldfish she is very supprised when her goldfish speaks to her.

The goldfish thanks Minli for her freedom and in thanks she tells Minli how to find the Old Man of the Moon.  According to the old stories, the Old Man of the Moon can answer any question.  Minli decides to journey to the Old Man of the Moon to ask how she can change her family’s fortune.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon tells the story of Minli’s amazing journey, but within this story are many ‘folk-tales’.  These ‘folk-tales’ are told to Minli by nearly everyone that she meets on her quest.  They explain the history and magic of the land and the background of the people that she meets.  These ‘folk-tales’ are as engrossing as the main story.

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon is beautifully told and a delight to read.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 810L  •  AR: 5.5

2010 Newbery Honor Book

2013 California Young Reader Nominee

Lin, G. (2009). Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Co.

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Magic Pickle

JF Morse    •    Sci-Fi/Superhero    •    Graphic Novel

Jacket.aspxFifty years ago, in the heart of the Cold War, a mad scientist accidentally irradiated the pickle from his lunch.  To the scientists shock the pickle comes to life.  Seeking to capitalize on his amazing new discovery, the scientist attempts to repeat the happy accident by irradiating more produce.  Sadly, no other produce is as good, just, or morally upright as the pickle.  The other produce soon turn rotten and begin living wicked lives of crime.  Now it is up to the pickle to find and stop the wicked gang of rotten produce.

Magic Pickle is a crazy spoof on the superhero genre that is both action packed and full of outrageous humor.  It is a fun graphic novel that will leave you wanting more.  Thankfully, the author has provided a five more Magic Pickle adventures to delight young readers longing for more heroic pickles and rotten produce!

Interest Level: grades 3-5  • Lexile: GN401L  •  AR: 2.6

ALA Core Collection of Graphic Novels

Morse, S. (2008). Magic Pickle. New York, NY: Graphix.

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Closed for the Season

JF Hahn    •    Mystery

Jacket.aspx Logan’s family has just moved to a new town.  His parents bought a rundown cottage with overgrown grass and peeling paint, a real fixer-upper.  Little do they know that they have just bought “the murder house”.

According to Arthur (Logan’s new next-door neighbor), Mrs. Donaldson was murdered in Logan’s new home more than three years ago . . . and her murderer was never caught!

Throughout the course of this book Arthur and Logan must unravel the mysteries surrounding Mrs. Donaldson’s death.  Alone against a myriad of unknown foes, these two boys must learn the truth.

Closed for the Season is a short, fast-paced mystery that readers will not want to put down!

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 670L  •  AR: 4.4

2010 Edgar Allen Poe Award for best Juvenile Mystery

Hahn, M.D. (2009). Closed for the Season. New York, NY: Clarion Books.

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Sky Island

FIC Baum    •    Fantasy/Classic Literature

Sky IslandIn Sky Island, Trot and Cap’n Bill are back for a second fairy adventure.  In this adventure they meet  Button-Bright (who readers might remember from The Road to Oz).

Button-Bright has found a magic umbrella that can take him anywhere he wants to go.  All he has to do is tell the umbrella where he wants to go and the umbrella will whisk him away in a flash.

It is on a trip to the Pacific Ocean that Button-Bright meets Trot and Cap’n Bill.  The three quickly become friends, and decide to go for a picnic using the magic umbrella.  Little do the three friends suspect that their picnic will lead to a fairy adventure fraught with peril.

Sky Island is the sequel to The Sea Fairies.  Where The Sea Fairies  is set deep under the sea, Sky Island takes place high in the sky.  In this adventure readers will meet memorable characters, like the evil Boolooroo of the Blues, and revisit favorites like Polychrome, Trot, and Button-Bright.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

Baum, L.F. (1912). Sky Island. Chicago, Il: The Reilly & Britton Co.

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Sea Fairies

FIC Baum  •  Fantasy/Classic Literature

Trot loves to hear Cap’n Bill’s stories about the sea.  Today he told her the story of the mermaids.  According to Cap’n Bill no one has ever seen a mermaid and lived.

When the mermaids hear this story, they decide to prove to Cap’n Bill and Trot that they are good natured and kind.  They do this by offering to use their fairy magic to turn Trot and Cap’n Bill into mer-people so that they can visit the palace of the Mermaid Queen.  Cap’n Bill and Trot accept their generous offer and embark on an unforgettable fairy adventure!

The Sea Fairies was written in 1911 by L. Frank Baum, the author of The Wizard of Oz.  While this book does not take place in Oz, nor include any of the residents of Oz, this underwater adventure is sure to delight readers who love L. Frank Baum.  It has all of the charm, magic, and adventure that characterize the Oz books, but the underwater setting allows Baum’s furtive imagination to create characters and creatures wholly unlike those who inhabit world of the  Oz.  The Sea Fairies is an enjoyable fantasy book.  It is recommended for readers who have previously enjoyed the Oz books, and for readers who love mermaid lore.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

Baum, L.F. (1911). Sea Fairies. Chicago, Il: The Reilly & Britton Co.

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Turtle in Paradise

JF Holm    •    Historical Fiction

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Turtle’s mother just got a new job as a live-in housekeeper.  Turtle cannot live with her mother at her new job.  So Turtle is on her way to the Florida Keys to move in with her aunt and cousins.  She has never been to Florida.  She has never met her family.  Will she fit in?  Will she like Florida?  When will she her mother again?

A historical fiction set in the Great Depression, Turtle in Paradise is the story of Turtle’s journey to find her home and family.  The author, Jennifer L. Holm, has done a brilliant job of melding historic people and places from the Florida Keys of the 1930 with cultural details that bring the setting to life for the reader.  Within this beautifully crafted setting, Jennifer L. Holm creates characters and adventures that the reader will not soon forget.  Turtle in Paradise is a thoughtful and poignant story that is highly recommended.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 610L  •  AR: 3.7

2014 California Young Reader Nominee

Holm, J. L. (2010). Turtle in Paradise. New York, NY: Random House.

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Among the Hidden

JF Haddix    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

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Luke is the youngest of three children.  In a world where it is unlawful to have more than two children, Luke is the illegal child.  If anyone were to find out he exists, he would be hunted by the Population Police and executed.  To keep him safe, his parents have kept him hidden, but this life of hiding is becoming increasingly intolerable.  Will Luke be forced to hide for the rest of his life?  How will he endure the loneliness?

Like Lois Lowry’s The Giver, Among the Hidden is a poignant dystopian novel.  Young readers will gain insight into the lives of people enslaved by a despotic Totalitarian government and will feel genuine empathy for the plight of the shadow children.  Among the Hidden is a book that will make readers think about freedom and cherish their own all the more by contrasting Luke’s life with their own.

This is a short novel, around 150 pages.  It is a quick read that you will not want to put down.

While this novel is rated for grades 4-8, there are tough topics presented in this novel may be difficult for younger readers.  More mature tweens and younger teens are the audience most likely to appreciate this book.

Among the Hidden is the first of seven books in the Shadow Children series.

Interest Level: grades 7 and above  •  Lexile: 800L  •  AR: 4.8

1999 ALA Best Books for Young Adults

Haddix, M.P. (200).  Among the Hidden. New York, NY: Aladdin Paperbacks.

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Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians

JF Sanderson    •    Sci-Fi/Adventure

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On the day that Alcatraz Smedry turned 13, he received a package from his long lost father.  The time-worn package contained his inheritance: a bag of sand.  A bag of sand ordinary-looking beach sand!  After that, things get worse.  He burns down his foster parents’ kitchen; his case worker steals his sand; and a loony old man in a Model-T crashes through his living-room wall claiming to be his Grandfather Smedry.

His crazy Grandpa Smedry tells him that Evil Librarians have enslaved America and will use his bag of sand to take over the world if they are not stopped!  Can any of this possibly be true?  And how could Alcatraz’s talent for breaking things and Grandpa Smedry’s tendency to be late possibly be of any use against the organized evil of Librarians bent on world domination?!

Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is humorous, exciting, and more than just a bit crazy.  It will keep readers turning pages until the very end.

It should be noted, Brandon Sanderson is a viciously cruel author!  He entices readers in the first sentence of the first chapter with an extremely exciting hook, but he does not make good on the promise to resolve the cliffhanger and end the reader’s suspense.  Rather, he delights in keeping the reader on his hook for as long as possible.  Will he ever tell us the rest of the story?  He says he will, but can he be trusted?  Probably not, but you have to read on to find out!  Despite this cruel taunt, Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians is a wickedly good, action-packed, exciting adventure story.

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 730L  •  AR: 4.9

Sanderson, B. (2007). Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

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