Bulldog Library

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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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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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

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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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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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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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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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Thief Lord

YA F Funke    •    Fantasy

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Prosper and Bo are orphans who have run away to Venice to escape their horrible Aunt Esther.  In Venice, the two brothers meet a group of street urchins lead by the notorious Thief Lord.  The Thief Lord takes the two orphans under his wing.  He gives them food and shelter, and the Thief Lord’s gang of orphans and run-aways quickly becomes a family for Prosper and Bo.

Not long after Prosper and Bo join the gang, the Thief Lord receives a very intriguing offer.  It seems that a wealthy Venetian Conte is looking for a thief to retrieve a very valuable object for him and he is willing to pay a princely sum to the thief who can get it for him.  Unable to refuse the captivating caper, the Thief Lord eagerly accepts the challenge.  But why is the Conte willing to pay so richly for an old wooden carving?  The answer to this question will change the Thief Lord’s life forever!

The Thief Lord, by Cornelia Funke author of Inkheart and Dragon Rideris a book with adventure, magic, and mystery.  It has many characters and a fairly intricate plot.  There are essentially two stories that are seamlessly intertwined, the story of Prosper and Bo seeking to escape separation at the hands of their Aunt Esther, and the story of the Thief Lord’s unexpected journey to find his place in the world apart from his overbearing father.  It is a lovely story and very entertaining.

This is a book that is rather hard to describe.  While it is an adventure, it is not a mile-a-minute, heart-pounding, edge-of-your-seat action-adventure book.  If that is the kind of book you are looking for, you might do better reading The 39 Clues or Stormbreaker.  Though it has plenty of mystery and a very fine detective, it is not exactly a mystery story or a detective novel.  If that is the kind of book you are looking for, please see The Sisters Grimm or Half-moon Investigations.  The Thief Lord incorporates elements of mystery, adventure, and fantasy to create a well-rounded, thoughtful novel.  The reader will enjoy the characters, and the story (especially Scipio’s story) is one that the reader will not soon forget!  While this book it difficult to adequately describe, it is whole-heartedly recommended.

(Readers should also note that there is also an excellent movie adaptation of this book.)

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  Lexile: 640L  •  AR: 4.8

2003 ALA Notable Children’s Book

Funke, C. (2002). The Thief Lord. (Oliver Latsch, Translator). New York, NY: Scholastic.

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Juliet Dove, Queen of Love

JF Coville    •    AR Reading Level: 5.0    •    AR Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #73767

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While running away from two school bullies, Juliet Dove happens upon a odd magic shop that she has never seen before.  Intrigued, she enters the quaint shop and is greeted by an enigmatic woman who offers her a beautiful necklace.  Juliet has never wanted anything as much as she wants that necklace and is amazed that the woman will give it to her free of charge.  This is not just an ordinary necklace, and Juliet could never guess how much the free necklace will cost her!  This necklace holds one big secret that will make the painfully shy Juliet the desire of every young man in Venus Harbor.

Juliet Dove, Queen of Love is part of Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series.  It is a fun adventure that introduces readers to several elements of Greek mythology.  It gives a particularly excellent and succinct overview of the causes of the Trojan War.  This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy Greek myth or humorous adventures, and it would be an especially fun book to read around Valentines Day.

Genre: Humor  •  Interest Level: grades 4-6

Coville, B. (2003). Juliet Dove, Queen of Love.  Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

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Fat Camp Commandos

JF Pinkwater    •    AR Reading Level: 4.8    •    AR Points: 1.0    •    Quiz #49781

Jacket.aspxRalph Nebula lives in Pokooksie, New York.  Pokooksie does not like fat people.  Once a year they have an Anti-Fat Day where the thin people ridicule and insult fat people for there own good.  This year they had a famous health guru come and lecture on the dangers of being fat.  This famous health guru suggests that parents send their fat children to fat camp.  Consequently, Ralph’s parents (who are fat themselves) decide to send Ralph and his sister Sylvia to Camp Noo Yoo.  Camp Noo Yoo is an awful place.  They treat the kids horribly and feed them little more than carrots and raisins.  Thankfully, while at Camp Noo Yoo, Ralph and Sylvia meet Mavis.  Mavis has a plan to sneak out of camp, and she wants to break Ralph and Sylvia out of Camp Noo Yoo too!  Will this trio be able to escape fat camp?  What will they do all summer if they make it back to Pokooksie?

Despite facing overwhelming criticism, the children in Fat Camp Commandos are happy with who they are.  Rather than allowing the constant ridicule to create a damaged self-image, they fight back and find others who will accept them as they are.  This book provides a wonderful lesson for readers: not to allow mean people to determine who you are.  (It also introduces readers to the delightful songs of Gilbert and Sullivan!)  It is humorously written with very short chapters and large font with cartoon illustrations sprinkled throughout.  It is entertaining and enjoyable to read.

Genre: Humor  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Pinkwater, D. (2001).  Fat Camp Commandos.  (Andy Rash, illustrated).  New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

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Dragon Rider

YA F Funke    •    AR Reading Level: 4.9    •    AR Points: 16.0    •    Quiz #82162

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The Valley of the Dragons is in danger!  The humans plan to flood the valley.  The dragons must find somewhere else to live, but is there anywhere on earth where there are no humans?  The oldest dragon in the valley remembers his first home, the Rim of Heaven.  It may be the last safe place on earth for the dragons, but no dragon alive remembers the way to the Rim of Heaven.  To save the dragons, Firedrake must go on a quest to find the Rim of Heaven.

Unfortunately, Firedrake is not the only one searching for the safe haven of the dragons.  Nettlebrand, the Golden One, has long sought the Rim of Heaven in order to hunt and kill the last living dragons.  Firedrake must find a way to the Rim of Heaven without leading Nettlebrand to dragons’ last safe haven.

Dragon Rider is a very long book and it is filled with many wonderful characters including: Ben, an orphan boy who becomes the dragon rider; Sorrel, a Scottish brownie; and Twigleg, a very clever homunculi.  It incorporates a very great many legendary creatures, including: dragons, dwarves, elves, fairies, a basalisk, and a roc bird.  Some of these creatures aid them in their mission and some oppose them.  Part of the excitement of this journey is figuring out who Firedrake, Sorrel, and Ben can trust. Readers looking for an engrossing fantasy novel filled with legendary creatures and magical adventures will thoroughly enjoy Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider. 

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Funke, C. (2004). Dragon Rider.  Anthea Bell (Translator).  New York, NY: The Chicken House.

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Fablehaven

JF Mull    •    AR Reading Level: 4.8    •    AR Points: 11.0    •    Quiz #113529

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When Mr. and Mrs. Sorenson go on a cruise, they have no choice but to leave their two children, Seth and Kendra, with their Grandfather Sorenson.  Kendra and Seth have never spent much time with their Grandpa.  He is a virtual stranger, and neither of the siblings wants to stay with him.  Little do they know that this unwanted trip will change their lives forever!

As soon as they arrive, Grandpa Sorenson sets down rule, after rule, after rule.  Seth can’t see why they should follow any of the rules.  What could be so dangerous?  Seth and Kendra will soon find out that the rules are there for a very good reason!

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull is the first in the Fablehaven series.  It introduces readers to a very interesting and complex new world.  It takes readers on an amazing journey through a forest of monsters and myths, and it ends with a promise of many more adventures to come for Kendra and Seth Sorenson.  Readers will be enthralled with the wild adventures, beautifully creatures, and fearsome monsters the Sorenson siblings encounter on their first visit to their Grandparents’ estate.  If you enjoy fantasy novels like The Sisters Grimm or Percy Jackson and the Olympians, than chances are, you will enjoy Fablehaven.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Mull, B. (2006). Fablehaven. (Illustrated by Brandon Dorman). Salt Lake City, Utah: Shadow Mountain.

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Tale of Despereaux

JF DiCamillo    •    AR Reading Level: 4.7    •    AR Points: 5.0    •    Quiz #70401

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Despereaux Tilling is a very small mouse with very big ears.  Since the day he was born with his eyes open, he has been a very different from all of the other mice.  The other mice eat books.  Despereaux reads books.  Other mice run from people.  Despereaux loves a person, a very special person: the Princess Pea.

Chiaroscuro is a rat.  He lives with the other rats in the dungeon’s darkness, but he dreams of a life filled with light.

Miggery Sow is an unfortunate girl who was sold by her father after her mother died.  She did not want her mother to die.  She did not father to leave her.  Sadly, no one has every cared what Miggery Sow wants.

These three will be brought together through a most unexpected series of events.

In The Tale of Despereaux, Kate DiCamillo has created a beautifully rendered and wholly unforgettable fairy tale.  The characters of Despereaux, Roscuro, and Miggery Sow seem to come to life for the reader.  DiCamillo allows the reader to see the world through the eyes of each of these three characters.  Consequentially, the reader will sympathies each of them – even when their deepest desires cause them to treat the others cruelly.  The details of this book are not quite the same as the details in the movie, but if readers have seen the movie and enjoyed it, they will no doubt enjoy the book as well.  Highly recommended and well worth reading, The Tale of Despereaux is a wonderful book!

Genre: Fairy Tale  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

2004 Newbery Medal Winner

DiCamillo, K. (2003). The Tale of Despereaux. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

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Bud, Not Buddy

JF Curtis    •    AR Reading Level: 5.0    •    AR Points: 8.0    •    Quiz #29554

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Orphaned at six years old when his mother died, Bud Caldwell is now ten.  He has escaped from the cruel foster family he was sent to and is now all alone in the world, on the lamb.  Everything he owns is in his tattered old suitcase tied with twine.  These are his treasures.  They include: a flier for a jazz band, a few rocks with weird writing on them, and the one and only picture of his mother.  These are the only things he has left to remember his mother.

With nowhere left to go, and being on the run from the law, Bud decides the only thing to do is to go on a journey to find his father.

Bud, not Buddy is an awarding winning book set in the Great Depression.  It introduces readers to this period in American history as seen through the eyes of a young African American boy.  Readers will journey with Bud to a soup kitchen and Hooverville.  They will learn about the hardships that people suffered through this difficult time.

While the themes presented in this book, such as poverty and death, are weighty topics, they are presented in this book with a great deal of humor and heart.  Perhaps the funniest parts of the book are  “Bud Caldwell’s rules and things for having a funner life and making a better liar of yourself”.  These “rules and things” are referred to throughout the book and explain Buds philosophies on life.  This is a good book and recommended for readers who enjoy historical fiction.

Genre: Historical Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

2000 Newbery Medal Winner & Coretta Scott King Author Award Winner

Curtis, C. (1999). Bud, not Buddy. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

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Holes

JF Sachar    •    AR Reading Level: 4.6    •    AR Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #28081

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When Stanley gets arrested for stealing a pair of shoes that dropped from the sky and fell on his head, Stanley knows just who to blame, his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”, who cursed his whole family when he stole a pig from Madame Zeroni.

As punishment for stealing the shoes, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake. It hasn’t rained at Camp Green Lake in more than 100 years.  The lake dried up years ago.  Now the lake is nothing more than a scorching hot desert.  In order to build character, juvenile offenders sent to Camp Green Lake must dig one giant hole every day in the dry lakebed.

While at Camp Green Lake, Stanley meets a curious kid named Zero, and the two boys eventually become friends.  When Zero runs away from Camp, Stanley sets out to find and save his new friend.

Holes is an epic tale.  It weaves together three different stories that span across three eras and two continents.  The inclusion of the histories of Elya Yelnats (Stanley’s “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather”) and Kissin’ Kate Barlow, the notorious outlaw, allow readers to view the entire story of Stanley Yelnats in a way even the character cannot understand.  Readers will see cause and effect, and understand how his family’s past has shaped Stanley’s life and intertwined his fate with that of Zero and the Warden.

In Holes, Louise Sachar (who also authored the Wayside School and Marvin Redpost books) takes readers on a wonderful journey that is filled with memorable, unique characters and an inordinate amount of both humor and heart.  This is an excellent book!  It is highly recommended for all young readers.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

1999 Newbery Medal Winner

Sachar, L. (1998). Holes. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

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Gregor the Overlander

JF Collins    •    AR Reading Level: 4.8    •    AR Points: 8.0    •    Quiz #71754

Jacket.aspxOne hot summer day, while doing laundry and babysitting his little sister Boots, eleven-year-old Gregor and two-year-old Boots fall through a hole in the laundry room.  They fall and fall and fall for a very long time, and when they land, they find themselves in a strange new world surrounded by four-foot tall cockroaches.  The cockroaches take Gregor and Boots to Queen Luxa, the queen of the human underlanders, and sell them for five baskets of grain.

Desperate to get home, Gregor takes Boots and tries to flee from his new captors only to be found by giant rats bent on devouring the two overlanders.  Gregor and Boots are rescued, but the death of the rats that captured him sparks a war between the humans and the rats and sets into motion an ancient prophecy that may spell doom for all of the underlanders!

Gregor the Overlander was written by Suzanne Collins, author of the hugely popular Hunger Games trilogy. In Gregor the Overlander, first of the Underland Chronicles, Collins has used the fantasy genre to create an exciting, page-turning adventure that is every bit as gripping as her science fiction phenomenon, The Hunger Games. The Underland is an expansive new world filled with compelling, complex characters and fascinating creatures that are both familiar and utterly bizarre (like giant spiders who weave cloth for the humans).  This book is a great read and highly recommended to any fan of fantasy, or any reader who has enjoyed The Hunger Games, The City of Ember, or Tunnels.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Collins, S. (2003).  Gregor the Overlander.  New York, NY : Scholastic Press.

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The Hoboken Chicken Emergency

JF Pinkwater    •    AR Reading Level: 4.9    •    AR Points: 2.0    •    Quiz #7730

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On Thanksgiving, every family in Hoboken eats a turkey.  The Bobowicz family is no different.  Mr. Bobowicz reserved their turkey weeks ago, but when Arthur goes to pick up the turkey that his dad reserved, he finds that the store made an unfortunate mistake and that there is no turkey for them.  He goes to every food store in Hoboken looking for a turkey or any kind of fowl at all for the family’s Thanksgiving, but there is not a single bird for sale in all of Hoboken!  Desperate, Arthur stops when he sees a sign that reads:

“Professor Mazzocchi

Inventor of the Chicken System

By appointment”

Professor Mazzocchi has bred a super chicken that he sells to Arthur for 6¢/lb.  This is a remarkable deal to be sure, except that Arthur now has a 266-pound chicken named Henrietta.  How will he ever explain this to his mother?

The Hoboken Chicken Emergency is a wonderfully absurd and delightfully humorous book.  This is a quirky story that is augmented by equally quirky illustrations drawn in a very stylized and cartoonish way.  Readers will laugh at the absurdity of the premise: a gigantic super chicken lost in city and frightening its citizens while searching for potatoes to eat.  Readers will also laugh at the over-the-top cast of characters that includes a mad scientist, a charlatan chicken bounty hunter, and a whole lot of bumbling politicians.

This is a short book, but it is quite a fun read and well worth the time for anyone who enjoys a silly story!

Genre: Science Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Pinkwater, D. (1999). The Hoboken chicken emergency. Pinkwater, J. (ill.). New York, NY : Anthem Books for Young Readers.

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Bridge to Terabithia

JF Paterson    •    AR Reading Level: 4.6    •    AR Points: 5.0    •    Quiz #11

Jacket.aspxJesse Aarons dreams of being the fastest kid in the fifth grade.  He has been practicing all summer, getting up early and running before he has to milk the cow.  Just before the start of the school year, a new family moves in to the farm next door.  They have a daughter, Leslie Burke, who is the same age as Jesse.  When the school year starts, Leslie wins the big race.  She is the fastest kid in the fifth grade.

It is not long before Leslie and Jesse become best friends.  Leslie and Jesse spend every day together.  In the afternoon, the friends travel across a dry creek into a forest.  This forest becomes the magical kingdom Terabithia.

This is a heartwarming story with a tragic ending.  While this book is not long, readers are likely to become genuinely fond of these characters.  Jesse is an average kid.  He has annoying siblings and he loves to draw.  He is a very relatable character.  Leslie is an extraordinary child.  She is full of life and imagination.  She will charm readers every bit as much as she charms Jesse with her stories.  When tragedy strikes, readers will feel genuine sorrow and likely even shed tears for these two friends.  This is a book that will teach readers empathy for those that suffer tragedy.  This book is highly recommended for all readers.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

1978 Newbery Medal Winner

Paterson, K. (2007). Bridge to Terabithia. New York, NY : HarperEntertainment.

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City of Ember

YA F DuPrau    •    AR Reading Level: 5.0    •    AR Points: 9.0    •    Quiz #69274

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In the City of Ember, everyone goes to school until they are twelve.  On their last day of school, they choose a job at random from an old cloth bag.  Lina wants nothing more than to be a messenger.  Doon hopes for a job in the pipeworks where he might get a glimpse of the aging generator, the city’s only source of power.  When Lina draws pipeworks and Doon draws messenger, the two classmates decide to change jobs.

In the pipeworks, Doon learns that the situation in Ember is more dire than most people know.  The generator is failing; it is only a matter of time before the generator stops working and the lights of ember go out forever.  Now Lina and Doon must find a way out of Ember guided only by a document that is so badly damaged that it is nearly unreadable.

A novel set in a dystopian future, The City of Ember is a very interesting book.  This book, like the note Lina finds, is a riddle to be solved.  Readers will journey with Lina and Doon as they discover the truth about the city of Ember, how it came to be and if there is a way to escape the dying city.  The reason why the city of Ember was built is only alluded to in this book.  Presumably, readers will learn why Ember was needed in subsequent volumes of this series.  Readers who enjoy dystopian novels, such as The Giver and The Hunger Games, will likely enjoy The City of Ember.   However, be forewarned before starting this book: The City of Ember has a very exciting cliffhanger ending!  Upon finishing this book, you will want to immediately start reading The People of the Spark to find out what happens next!

Genre: Dystopian Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

2004 ALA Notable Children’s Books

DuPrau, J. (2003). City of Ember. New York, NY : Random House.

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Odd and the Frost Giants

JF Gaiman    •    AR Reading Level: 5.0    •    AR Points: 2.0    •   Quiz #132851

Jacket.aspxOdd is an unlucky Viking.  After his father died on a Viking expedition, Odd’s leg was shattered when a large tree fell on him.  Then his mother remarried a man with seven other children and Odd’s life gets even worse!

To escape his step-family, Odd runs away.  On his journey, he encounters a fox and an eagle and decided to follow them.  The fox leads Odd to a large bear with his hand stuck in a tree.  Odd frees the bear only to find out that the bear, the fox, and the eagle can talk.  Now Odd must help free his new friends from the curse that has turned them into animals and regain their lost city from the frost giants.

Odd and the Frost Giants introduces readers to Norse mythology.  It is a short book that tells a wonderful story.  Readers will be delighted with the adventure and humor contained in this diminutive volume.  Odd is a relatable character whose adventures along side his mythic friends will lead readers on a grand adventure, and his confrontation with the frost giant provides a truly satisfying ending.  This book is highly recommended for any reader, but especially for readers who have previously enjoyed Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series or the Kane Chronicles as this book is also deeply rooted in myth.

Genre: Myth/Fables/Folklore  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Gaiman, N. (2009). Odd and the Frost Giants. New York : Harper.

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A Wrinkle in Time

JF L’Engle    •    AR Reading Level: 4.7    •    AR Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #150

Years ago, while conducting a top-secret experiment, Meg’s father disappeared.  Meg’s mother has never given up on his return and neither has Meg.  One stormy night an oddly dressed woman named Mrs. Whatsit shows up at the Muphy’s house and changes Meg’s life forever.  Mrs. Whatsit leads Meg, her five year old brother Charles Wallace, and her new friend Calvin on an adventure through space to rescue their father and save the universe.  Will Meg be able to save her father?  Will she find out what makes her special in time to save the universe from the evil that is threatening to overwhelm it?

A Wrinkle in Time is a classic in children’s literature.  It tells a universal story of growing up and finding your own way in the world, of learning to do for yourself what your parents cannot do for you, and of the redemptive power of love.  It is also an action filled science fiction novels that allows reader to travel across the universe, to explore different planets, and to meet fantastic creatures like Mrs. Whatsit, Aunt Beast, and IT.  This book is the first in a series which includes A Wind in the Door, A Swiftly Tilting Planet, and Many Waters, and is highly recommended for anyone who enjoys good books with interesting plots and memorable characters.

Genre: Science Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

1963 Newbery Medal Winner

L’Engle, M. (2005).  A Wrinkle in Time.  New York : Random House Children’s Books.

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