Bulldog Library

The School for Good and Evil

JF Chainani    •    Fairy Tale & Friendship


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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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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Fluff Dragon

JF Clark    •    Fantasy Adventure & Humor


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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Dorothy Must Die

YA F Paige    •    Fantasy Adventure


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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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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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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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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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 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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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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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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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


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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Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

JF Lin    •    Fantasy/Fairy-tale


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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The Borrowers

JF Norton    •    AR Reading Level: 5.3    •    AR Points: 5.0    •    Quiz #10

Jacket.aspxWhen he is sent to the English countryside for rest, a young boy meets a family of little people.  They live beneath the kitchen floorboards in a tiny house filled with many tiny objects.  There is a tiny stove with thimbles for pots.  The walls are papered with discarded letters, and postage stamps serve as decoration.  They even have a tiny porcelain teacup from a doll’s house.  It is this teacup that starts the trouble … and adventure.  For when the teacup is broken, Homily insists that her husband Pod go to the dollhouse to borrow another one.  While trying to figure out how to climb down a curtain holding both the cup and saucer, the young boy sees Pod!  What will happen now that a human Bean has seen a Borrower?  Will the family have to emigrate from the home they have always known?

Originally published in 1952, The Borrowers is a classic in children’s literature that has stood the test of time.  It is an imaginative and delightful adventure suitable for children of all ages.  This is a story that leaves readers wanting more … thankfully there are four more Borrower’s books to fulfill this desire! This book would be an excellent reading choice for families.

Genre: Classic Literature  •  Interest Level: grades 3-6

Norton, M. (1952). The Borrowers.  Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

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Franny K. Stein, mad scientist: the Invisible Fran

JF Benton    •    AR Reading Level: 5.2    •    AR Points: 1.0    •    Quiz #81997


Franny K. Stein is a young girl with an interesting hobby.  Franny K. Stein is a mad scientist.  When her teacher, Miss Shelly, asks the class to give presentations on their hobbies, Franny decides to build a robot that will entice her classmates into becoming mad scientists as well.  To Franny’s dismay none of her classmates shows the slightest interest in taking up mad science, so Franny creates an invisibility potion and whispers suggestions to her classmates on how they can improve the robot.  With Franny’s unseen encouragement, the other children become wildly excited about mad science, but Franny’s plan backfires.  What will Franny do when her classmates efforts at mad science threaten to destroy the school?!

The Invisible Fran is the third in the Franny K. Stein series.  Just as with the first two books in the seires, this is a madcap adventure that features an array of wild creatures and odd inventions sure to please any reader.  The story is presented in short chapters that are augmented by black-and-white cartoon illustration on every page.  These illustrations can be large, taking up to three quarters of the page and serve to enhance the humor in the text.  This is a very enjoyable book and highly recommended to readers who enjoy funny books, such as Captain Underpants.

Genre: Science Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 3-5

Benton, J.(2004). Franny K. Stein, Mad Scientist: the Invisible Fran.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

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The Graveyard Book

JF Gaiman    •    AR Reading Level: 5.1    •    AR Points: 10.0    •    Quiz #125535


On a cold and misty October night, the man Jack enters the home of a sleeping family with dark and murderous intentions.  With speed and silence, his razor-sharp blade serves its dark purpose three times over, but the tiny baby escapes from the man Jack’s grasp.  Unseen and unheard he climbs out of his crib and down the stairs into the nearby graveyard.

With the man Jack in pursuit, the ghostly residence of the graveyard conceal the child to save him from the wicked assailant.  They grant him the freedom of the graveyard and care for him as he grows.  But what kind of life can a live child have among the dead?  Will he survive a second time if the man Jack finds him in the graveyard?

This is a very good book, but it is a very odd book.  Many of the chapters feel like short stories strung together with only the common characters to unite them.  Each chapter is an interesting story in and of itself, but it is not until the end of the book that the author starts to tie together the loose ends that book really shines.  It becomes more than a collection of short stories and becomes a unified story of a boy with a really interesting and unusual life story, a story of life and all of its possibilities and adventures.

This is a story that deals with death, murder, monsters, and ghouls.  It might be frightening for younger readers.  Older tweens and teens are more likely to enjoy this Newbery Award winning tale of the macabre.

Genre: Horror  •  Interest Level: grades 6 and up

2009 Newbery Medal Winner

Gaiman, N. (2008).  The Graveyard Book.  (Dave McKean, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Harper Collins.

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Looking Glass Wars

YA F Beddor    •    AR Reading Level: 6.7    •    AR Points: 12.0    •    Quiz #109069


Alyss is the Princess of Wonderland.  Today is her seventh birthday, and all of Wonderland is celebrating the momentous occasion.  But the Wonderlander’s revelries will be abruptly and violently ended when Alyss’ evil Aunt Redd attacks Heart Palace and kills Alyss’ mother, Queen Genevieve.  Aided by the loyal head of the Millenary Guard, Hatter Madigan, Alyss makes a narrow escape from Heart Palace, but is forced to flee to another world through the Pool of Tears.  This narrow escape leaves Wonderland in the merciless hands of Redd, and Alyss is lost and alone in London.  Will Hatter Madigan be able to find Alyss and rescue her from exile?  Even if she is found, can an untrained princess wrest control of Wonderland from the evil Redd?

Readers should be aware that Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars is a much darker book than the Lewis Carrol’s original Wonderland books: Alice In Wonderland  and Alice through the Looking Glass.  Reader wanting this book to be like Lewis Carroll’s original Wonderland books will be disappointed.  This is a fast-paced action adventure fantasy that draws from elements of Carroll’s Wonderland, as well as the true story of Alice Liddell and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (AKA Lewis Carroll), to create a completely new interpretation of Wonderland and its most famous inhabitants.  For example, the tea-loving Mad Hatter has been transformed by Beddor into the blade-wielding warrior Hatter Madigan.  This dark re-imaging of Wonderland may be disturbing for younger readers, but older tweens and teens will enjoy this new look at beloved characters and the high-action fight between Alyss and Redd for the fate of Wonderland.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 6 and up

Beddor, F. (2006). The Looking Glass Wars. New York, NY: Dial Books.

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Chasing Vermeer

JF Balliett    •    AR Reading Level: 5.4    •    AR Points: 6.0    •    Quiz #78186


When Petra finds a discarded book at her favorite bookstore, she becomes intrigued with the theories of its author, Charles Fort, who proposes that people often overlook what is right in front of them simply because they cannot explain what is happening.  She shows this book to her classmate, Caulder.  Together they begin to view the world in a much different way and recording every odd, unexplainable, seemingly coincidental thing they notice.

When a famous Vermeer painting, A Lady Writing, is stolen from the Chicago Institute of Art, Petra and Caulder apply their observations to help solve the mystery of the missing art work.

Chasing Vermeer is a mystery book filled with puzzles for the reader to figure out as they follow Caulder and Petra’s adventure.  These puzzles are sprinkled throughout the book in encrypted letters between Caulder and Tommy and in secret patterns hidden in the book’s many illustrations.  This is not a traditional mystery book with detectives collecting fact-based clues.  Caulder and Petra collect clues based on intuition, dreams, and an esoteric reading of pentominoes like ancient runes.   Readers wanting a traditional mystery with a traditional detective would do much better choosing on of the many Encyclopedia Brown books or Eion Colfer’s Half-moon Investigations.  However, readers interested in art history or those who enjoy solving puzzles might really enjoy Chasing Vermeer.

This is the first in a trilogy of mysteries that revolves around famous works of art.  The other two books in this trilogy are: The Wright 3 and The Caulder Game.

Genre: Mystery  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Balliett, B. (2004). Chasing Vermeer. (Brett Helquist, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

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Mister Monday

JF Nix    •    AR Reading Level: 5.9    •    AR Points: 12.0    •    Quiz #70137


Arthur Penhaligon was destined to die of an asthma attack on a Monday morning, but as he lay dying, grasping for air, two strange men changed Arthur’s destiny forever!  These men, Sneezer and Mister Monday, gave Arthur a key shaped like the minute hand of a clock.  The instant that he touched the key he was able to breath again, and Arthur lived.

Desperate to get the key back, Mister Monday sends minions to attack Arthur and release a plague that threatens to turn into a sweeping epidemic.  With the lives of everyone he cares about at steak, Arthur must find a way to cure the plague!

Mister Monday is a surreal fantasy book.  It is a dream-like adventure with nightmarish monsters and bizarre characters.  Readers will journey through Garth Nix’s imagination into an unbelievable world wholly unlike anything else readers have likely experienced!

This is the first of seven books in the Keys to the Kingdom series.  Each book is set on a different day of the week, and in a different realm of the House.  If this first book is any indication, this series promises to be an utterly unique rollercoaster of an adventure.  This book may not be for everyone.  Readers who prefer realism in their books, may not enjoy this surreal book; however, readers looking for a unique fantasy experience should defiantly give this book a try!

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest level: grades 5 and up

Nix, G. (2003). The Keyes to the Kingdom: Mister Monday. New York, NY: Scholastic.

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Jacob Have I Loved

JF Patterson    •    AR Reading Level: 5.7    •    AR Points: 8.0    •    Quiz #120

Jacket.aspx“Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” – Malachi 1 : 2-3

Like Jacob and Esau, Louise and Caroline Bradshaw are twins. Louise is the eldest, born just two minutes before Caroline.  Louise was born strong and healthy.  Caroline was born sickly.  Since the moment Caroline was born, she has received the attention, the love, and the adoration of everyone around her.  Since the moment Caroline was born, Louise has been in her shadow.  As they grow from school children to adults, Caroline sees her life laid before her.  Her life seems charmed, her future certain.  Louise’s future is uncertain.  She must find her own path, make her own way in the world.  Can she ever escape her sister’s shadow?  Will she ever find the place that she belongs?

Jacob Have I Loved chronicles the life of the Bradshaw family through the Great Depression and World War II.  In this span, Caroline and Louise grow from children into adults.  This is a book filled with flawed people.  Each character is portrayed warts and all.  Caroline is haughty.  Louise is angry and melancholy.  Their grandmother is slowly sinking into dementia.  It is the fallible humanity of each character that creates the emotional depth  readers will experience in this book.  Readers will mourn with Louise as her mocking sister eclipses her and bit-by-bit takes everything Louise held dear, but they will also rejoice with her when she does finally find the place where she belongs.  This is a deeply moving and sorrowful book with a heartwarming ending that will leave readers believing they can also make a way for themselves and overcome the obstacles they were born with.

Genre: Historical Fiction  •  Interest Level: grades 5-9

1981 Newbery Medal Winner

Patterson, K. (1980). Jacob Have I Loved.  New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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Dark Hills Divide

JF Carman    •    AR Reading Level: 6.1    •    AR Points: 10.0    •    Quiz #86676


The land of Elyon is divided by the vast stone walls that were built to keep Bridewell safe from the evil forces that are said to live in the Dark Hills.  Twelve-year-old Alexa has lived all her life behind the safety of the these stone walls, but she longs to see what lies beyond.  Little does Alexa suspect that her family’s annual trip to Renny Lodge will yield her the opportunity to journey beyond the walls.  Nor could she ever dream that on her journey, she will find a shocking conspiracy, headed by a unknown traitor, that threatens to forever end the security of Bridewell.  Now Alexa must find a way to save her homeland.  Unable to trust anyone, even her own father, Alexa’s only allies will be the wild animals of the Dark Hills.  Can she figure out who the mysterious traitor is and save her home?

The Dark Hills Divide is the first in the Land of Elyon series.  It is a fantasy novel with political intrigue, mysteries that must be solved using cryptic clues and magical objects, and a quest to find the truth that no one but Alexa can find.  It is a good fantasy novel for readers who enjoy the fantasy genre.  While most of this book simply establishes the characters, setting, and problems that must be overcome, the ending of this novel provides a highly satisfying conclusion to this installment of Alexa’s adventures in the land of Elyon, and the epilog promises many more adventures to come in this book’s three sequels (and one prequel).

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-6

Carman, P. (2005). The Dark Hills Divide.  New York, NY: Orchard Book.

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Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable

JF DeMatteis    •    AR Reading Level: 5.2    •    AR Points: 3.0    •    Quiz #107082

Abadazad bk 1

Imagine if Oz was a real country and L. Frank Baum really was the Royal Historian of Oz.  Imagine if the all of the beloved characters of Oz, the Tin-man, the Patchwork girl, Ozma, Polychrome the Rainbow’s daughter, etc., all really existed.  Imagine that Dorothy gave you her silver slippers so you could go to Oz.

This is exactly what happens to Kate.  She has grown up reading about the magical land of Abadazad.  She loves the magical characters in Franklin O. Davies’ classic fairy stories, like the Two-Fold Witch, Queen Ija, and Master Wix.  One day, out of the blue, her neighbor invites her to tea and gives her the magical blue orb that can transport her to the real Abadazad.  But, when she gets to Abadazad, she finds that Franklin O. Davies did not get the stories right and that the land of Abadazad can be more dangerous than she ever imagined!

Abadazad is a fantasy adventure told in a graphic hybrid format.  Most of the story is told through the text of Kate’s diary; however, the story very often switches from plain text to a lively and beautifully illustrated graphic novel.  The two formats are brilliantly integrated, and the story flows seamlessly between the two formats.  This book is a wonderful and uniquely creative example of just how good a graphic hybrid can be when the two formats are used harmoniously to complement each other and tell a genuinely interesting story.  This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy graphic novels and for anyone who has ever wanted to travel to a magical fairyland like Oz (or Abadazad)!

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

DeMatteis, J.M. (2006).  Abadazad: The Road to Inconceivable. (Mike Ploog, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

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Invention of Hugo Cabret

JF Selznick    •    AR Reading Level: 5.1    •    AR Points: 4.0    •    Quiz #113692


Hugo Cabret comes from a long line of horologists.  His father repaired clocks.  His uncle maintained clocks.  Hugo himself, though still young, is an expert in clock repair.  He can repair any mechanical mechanism his father gives him.

When his father finds an automaton, a clockwork man, in disrepair hidden away in a museum’s attic, Hugo is thrilled.  He dearly wishes his father would repair the automaton.  His father is as eager as Hugo to see the machine man restored and begins studying the figures complex clockwork.  Sadly, Hugo’s father will never see the figure restored.  Can Hugo fix the automaton without his father’s guidance?

The award winning illustrations used throughout The Invention of Hugo Cabret do not merely illustrate the story.  They further the plot of the book.  They are used in combination with the text to tell the story.  Unlike a true graphic novel that combines words and text on the same page, The Invention of Hugo Cabret contrasts scenes presented wholly through image and scenes presented wholly through text.  It is an interesting and unusual way to present a story, like a silent movie in print.

Brian Selznick’s black and white illustrations are masterfully rendered, beautiful works of art.  They convey mood, set the scene, and advance the story brilliantly.

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

2008 Caldecott Medal Winner

Selznick, B. (2007). Invention of Hugo Cabret: a novel in words and pictures. New York, NY: Scholastic Press.

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The Giver

YA F Lowry    •    AR Reading Level: 5.7    •    AR Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #8568

Jacket.aspxImagine living in a world without choices.  Every decision made for you: the clothes you wear, the way you style your hair, and even the person you will marry.  This is Jonas’ world.

Jonas is eleven.  He is about to turn twelve.  He is about to receive his job assignment.  This will be the job that Jonas will have for the rest of his life.  He is excited and nervous.  What will his job be?  Will he like his new job?  Jonas has no way of knowing that the job he will be assigned will change his life forever and literally reshape the way he sees the world.

The Giver by Lois Lowry is a dystopian novel; however, compared to other dystopian novels like The Hunger Games or City of Ember which are filled with action, The Giver presents a much more subdued and contemplative story.  There is very little action until the very end of the book.  The ideas presented and the exchanges between Jonas and the Giver are the focal point and brilliance of this simple story.  This is a book that makes you think.  What is better: freedom or equality?  Should people be allowed to choose how they wish to live even if they may choose poorly?  What if their poor choices lead to negative consequences?  Or is it better to take away choice and freedom to gain sameness, equality, and safety?  If you give up freedom will you be safe?  The Giver is a page-turner and every bit as compelling as The Hunger Games. 

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

1994 Newbery Medal Winner

Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. New York, NY: Delacorte Press.

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Hunger Games

YA F Collins    •    AR Reading Level: 5.3    •    AR Points: 15.0    •  Quiz #123740

Jacket.aspxPanem is divided into twelve regions.  For 74 years, each region has been required to give two tributes to fight in the Hunger Games.  The winner of the games earns fame and fortune.  The other 23 tributes reap only death.

Now it is time for the 74th Hunger Games.  Tributes must be chosen.  For District Twelve, the tributes will be Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark.  They will be pitted against each other in a life or death struggle to survive.  Who will win?  Who will die?  How will they survive the brutality of the other tributes, the cruelty of the capitol, and the deprivation of the Hunger Games?

Fast paced and exciting!  The Hunger Games is definite must read.  There is something in this book for everyone: action, romance and so much more.  This is a deeply moving novel of self-sacrificing love set in a dystopian world of starvation and cruelty where the threat of death lurks around every corner.

Before starting the series, parents and readers should beware that The Hunger Games is a violent book, and its sequels get progressively more violent.  Readers should also beware that as soon as they finish the first book they will want to immediately move onto the second and third books, Catching Fire and Mockingjay.  You will get hooked on this trilogy!  Readers should be sure they are ready to handle the violence in this book, and its sequels, before they start reading The Hunger Games.  Because of the extreme violence, it is recommended for older tweens and teens.

Bulldogs please note: The Hunger Games trilogy is not currently available at our school library.  However, read-alikes such as the City of Ember, Among the HiddenThe Unwanteds, or The Giver are available.  Additionally, Suzanne Collins’ first series the Underland Chronicles is available at the our school library.  Readers are highly encouraged to try these excellent read-alikes.  Readers specifically wanting The Hunger Games will have to check it out at the San Diego County Library. 

Genre: Dystopian Novel  •  Interest Level: grades 6 and up

2011 Young Adult Californa Young Reader Medal Winner

Collins, S. (2008). The Hunger Games. New York, NY: Scholastic.

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Millicent Min, Girl Genius

JF Yee    •    AR Reading Level: 5.8    •    AR Points: 8.0    •    Quiz #73256


Millicent Min is a genius.  She is twelve years old and just finished her junior year in high school.  Before she starts her senior year in the fall, Millicent has the whole summer to enjoy her favorite hobbies like reading and solving mathematical puzzles.  She has even signed up for poetry class at Rogers College!  She is really looking forward to a fun summer, but her mom has a few other things planed for Millicent’s summer.  Now, against her will, Millicent has been forced to add volleyball to her summer schedule.  If that is not bad enough, she will also be tutoring her nemesis, Stanford Wong.

This story is written in a journal format.  The chapters are organized by date.  As the days of summer pass, readers see Millicent grow into a well-rounded young lady as her whole world expands to include friends and experiences she never expected.  Through the course of this story, Millicent learns that getting out your comfort zone can be a good thing.  She learns about life and friendship.  She even learns that people you thought you knew may surprise you if you give them a chance.  This is an enjoyable, character-driven story that is likely to make readers want to go out and try something new.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

2004 Sid Fleischman Humor Award

Yee, L. (2003). Millicent Min, Girl Genius. New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.

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Seekers: The Quest Begins

JF Hunter    •    AR Reading Level: 5.4    •    AR Points: 12.0    •    Quiz #123127


Orphaned.  Abandoned.  Lost far from home.   Three bear cubs find themselves alone in the wild.

Kallik is a young polar bear.  She began her life on the ice with her mother and brother hunting for seal and playing in the snow.  When the ice suddenly began to melt, Kallik’s family was forced to flee the only home she had ever known.

Lussa is a black bear.  She was born and raised in the safety and comfort of a zoo, but she dreams of the wild.  She longs to experience the world outside the bear bowl.

Toklo is a grizzly bear.  After the death of his sickly brother, Tobi, Toklo is abandoned.  He must learn quickly to fend for himself.

The Quest Begins is the first book in the Seekers series.  It is just what the title portends: it is the start of these three young bears’ quest.   This is a brilliant start to what promises to be an epic journey that will weave together the lives of these three cubs.

The one downside to this book is that it is not a complete adventure in and of itself.  It is a prelude to the journey.  It introduces us to Kallik, Lusa, and Toklo.  We learn about their life and grow to care about these bears, but by the end of the book, only two of the three bears have even met.  Readers will have to keep reading the Seekers series in order journey with these bears on their real quest.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Hunter, E. (2008). Seekers: the quest begins. New York, NY: Harper Collins.

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Dork Diaries: Tales from a Not-So-Fabulous Life

YA F Russell    •    AR Reading Level: 5.4    •    AR Points: 5.0    •    Quiz #132957


Nikki is starting her eighth grade year at a new private school.  She is there on a scholarship that her father got because he is the school’s exterminator.  She desperately wants to fit in with the Cute, Cool, & Popular (CCP) clique, but she can’t afford a cell phone and she doesn’t have the right clothes.  She feels doomed to forever be a social outcast.  To make matters worse, the most popular girl in school, MacKenzie, quickly becomes Nikki’s nemesis when Nikki mistakenly thinks MacKenzie is inviting her to her party.  Will life at this new school ever get any better?

Dork Diaries is written in the form of a diary.  The story is not told in chapters; rather, the story is presented through dated diary entries.    Each entry is it own story of Nikki’s day.  Together, these entries feel like a series of vignettes with little overarching plot to pull them together.  It is not until you reach the end of the book that these entries are tied together to reveal the moral of the story.

At the beginning of this book, Nikki is vapid, shallow, and rather unpleasant.  Through the course of this book, Nikki grows as a character.  She places less importance on possessions and popularity and grows to understand that her true friends like her for who she is, not for what she has.

Genre: Comedy  •  Interest Level: grades 5-8

Russell, R. R. (2009). Dork Diaries: tales from a not-so-fabulous life. New York, NY: Aladdin.

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Diary of a Wimpy Kid

JF Kinney    •    AR Reading Level: 5.2    •   AR Points: 3.0    •   Quiz #113950

Jacket.aspxGreg Heffley is an average kid in middle school.  He figures that he is about the 51st or 52nd most popular boy in his school.  By contrast, his best friend Rowley is around 150.   He always has to tell Rowley how to be cool, but it never seems to work.  Rowley still acts like a goofy kid.

Just before his sixth grade year, Greg’s mom suggested that he right down his experiences in middle school.  She bought him a journal to right in.  Greg thought this was a good idea, so that when he grows up and becomes famous, he will have a record of how he was as a kid.  This book is Greg’s record of his total bummer of a school year.

Throughout the story, Greg Heffley is a rather unpleasant character.  He seems completely oblivious to the cruel and condescending way he treats his best friend Rowley, a character who is goofy but kind-hearted and sincere.  He shows absolutely no remorse when he breaks Rowley’s hand, but rather gets upset and envious when Rowley receives sympathy.  Over the course of this story, Greg learns to value Rowely’s friendship and ultimately learns to be a better, less selfish friend.  It is the growth of this character that redeems the story.

The Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney is a hugely popular series.  Readers clearly enjoy this humorous story with the simple illustrations.

Genre: Comedy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Kinney, J. (2007). Diary of a Wimpy Kid. New York, NY : Amulet Books.

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Sister’s Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives

JF Buckley    •    AR Reading Level: 5.2    •    AR Points: 9.0    •    Quiz #104622


Sabrina and Daphne Grimm were devastated when their parents, their only family in the world, disappeared.  The police came and took the sisters to an orphanage where they spent years being bounced from one horrible foster home than another.  Now they are being shipped to a woman who claims to be their grandmother, the grandmother that their father told them had died years ago.  Worse yet, the woman who claims to be their grandmother may be crazy!  She thinks that a giant climbed down a bean stock and stepped on a farmhouse!  Sabrina is determined to escape, but Daphne wants to stay.  She likes this odd woman, and what if Relda Grimm is telling the truth?  Have Sabrina and Daphne found the home they have longed for?  Could fairy tales really be true?  Sabrina and Daphne must solve the mysteries of Ferryport Landing before it is too late!

The Fairy-tail Detectives is the first in the Sister’s Grimm series.  It introduces the reader to the world of the Everafters. Michael Buckley, has created a wonderful world which weaves together beloved elements of fairy tales, folk lore, and classic literature.  While the mystery of who released the giants should be relatively obvious to people familiar with fairy tales, this in no way detracts from the enjoyment of the story.  The real charm of this story is the re-imagining of familiar characters and magical objects into this new tale where giants are fought with Dorothy’s Silver Slippers, and Aladdin’s magic carpet is used to outrun Prince Charming and the Three Little Pigs.

Genre: Mystery  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Buckley, M. (2005). The Sister’s Grimm: the fairy tale detectives. New York : Amulet Books.

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JF Paulsen    •    AR Reading Level: 5.7    •    AR Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #367

Jacket.aspxWhen thirteen-year-old Brian Robeson’s parents divorce, the judge grants his parents shared custody.   Now Brian is on a single engine airplane headed north to Canada to spend his summer with his father.  It is his first time on an airplane and he gets to sit in the co-pilot’s seat.  When the pilot has a heart attack, Brian is alone in a plane flying above the Canadian wilderness.  With the plane running out of fuel, Brian must find a way to land the plane and live in the wilderness completely alone with nothing but the hatchet his mother had given him before he left.

Hatchet is an amazing story of a young man’s struggle to survive against incredible odds.  In Hatchet, Gary Paulsen has created a simple story, but it has a long lasting impact on readers.  Throughout the course of this book, readers will journey with Brian Robeson as he grows and transforms from an average city boy into an independent young man who learns to survive by himself through hard work, adaptability, and a bit of luck. This is an exciting book that young readers have read and enjoyed for twenty-five years.  This is a must read, a classic of children’s literature.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

1988 Newbery Honor Book

Paulsen, G. (1987). Hatchet. New York, NY : Scholastic Inc.

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Edgar & Ellen: Rare Beasts

JF Ogden    •    AR Reading Level: 6.2    •    AR Points: 3.0    •    Quiz #72385

JacketVile twins Edgar and Ellen live in a tall mansion on the bad side of town.  The garden is overgrown with weeds, the roses are dying, and the whole house is generally rundown and grimy, and this is just they way they like it!  After a long summer of playing a cruel and twisted version of hide-and-go seek, Edgar and Ellen have grown bored.  They have oodles of delicious ideas for wicked pranks to play on their unsuspecting neighbors, but without money how can they buy the stuff they need to carry out their nefarious plans?

Edgar and Ellen quickly hatch a devious plot that they believe will make them rich.  They will steal their neighbor’s pets, disguise them, and sell them as rare and exotic beasts!  Will anyone buy the twin’s monster creations?  What will happen if they get caught?

Edgar and Ellen are vile, mischievous, horrible children, and they would no doubt believe this to be high praise indeed!  They are rotten to the bone.  Readers will enjoy the antics of these two miscreants; however, readers likely will not root for these two protagonists to succeed in their cruel scheme.  In fact, readers might go through the entire book waiting for the twins to fail, but never-the-less, readers will enjoy the journey with this diabolical duo.

This is a darkly humorous book that is laugh out loud funny.  If your favorite holiday film is The Nightmare Before Christmas, or you think the Adams Family is the bee’s knees, than this offbeat book is for you.

Genre: Horror  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Ogden, C. (2006). Edgar & Ellen: rare beasts. New York : Aladdin.

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YA F Horowitz    •    AR Reading Level: 5.1    •    AR Points: 7.0    •   Quiz #50390

Jacket.aspxWhen Alex Ryder is told that his uncle was killed in a car crash, Alex become suspicious that his uncle’s death might not have been an accident.  Upon investigation, Alex finds that his suspicions are correct.  Bullet holes in his uncle’s car prove that his uncle was indeed murdered.  Alex soon finds out that his uncle was not a banker as he had always been told, but rather an international spy working for a secret government organization.  Now this secret government organization needs Alex Ryder’s help to finish the job that his uncle started and to find the secret of the Stormbreaker computers before they are delivered to school throughout England.

Stormbreaker is an action-packed thriller that will keep readers on the edge of their seat.  Filled with danger and intrigue, readers will not want to put this book down.  Readers must beware: this is a spy thriller and does contain violence.  Several minor characters are killed and there are several attempts on Ales Ryder’s life as well.  While readers should consider this before they begin this series, this violence is not gratuitous or particularly gory and it does serve to create an exciting story.  This is the first in the Alex Ryder series which includes other titles like Point Blank,  and Scorpia. 

Genre: Spy Thriller  •  Interest Level: grades 6 & up

Horowitz, A. (2001). Stormbreaker. New York : Philomel Books.

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Artemis Fowl

YA F Colfer    •    AR Reading Level: 5.5    •    AR Points: 12.0    •   Quiz #26759

Jacket.aspxArtemis Fowl is a thirteen-year-old evil genius.  When his father disappeared and his mother became gravely ill, Artemis became the head of the Fowl estate.

Butler, a trained assassin, is Artemis’ constant companion and much needed bodyguard.

Holly Short is a fairy.  She is member of the Lower Elements Police Recognizance team, a LEPrecon.

In a bold plan to regain his family’s lost fortune, Artemis devises a dastardly plan to kidnap Office Holly Short and holder her ransom for the legendary LEPrecon gold.  Now Artemis must outsmart the Lower Elements Police while Butler defends them against troll attacks and a kleptomaniac dwarf.

Artemis Fowl is a villain with a heart of gold.  This is the first in the Artemis Fowl series and introduces readers to a world of bureaucratic fairies, flatulent dwarves, and a tech savvy centaur.  This is a novel unlike any other.  Eion Colfer is a wholly original author offers a unique spin on traditional fantasy creatures.  Readers familiar with Eion Colfer’s Legends of… series, which includes, The Legend of Spud Murphy and The Legend of the Worst Boy in the World, will likely enjoy this offbeat action-adventure fantasy novel in which the bad guy is the hero of the story.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Colfer, E. (2001). Artemis Fowl. New York : Miramax Books, Hyperion Paperbacks for Children.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

JF Rowling    •    AR Reading Level: 5.5    •    AR Points: 12.0    •   Quiz #26759

Harry Potter lives in a spider-infested closet under the stairs in the home of his Aunt, Uncle, and cousin where he has suffered neglect and cruelty for as long as he can remember.  One day, very unexpectedly, his life is changed forever by a letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.  Harry finds out that his parents were magical, that he is a wizard, and that he has been accepted to attend Hogwarts.

During his first year at Hogwarts, Harry and his friends, Ron and Hermione, encounter a mystery that they must solve in order to save the school and stop an evil wizard’s dastardly plan.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is an amazing book! The story is exciting and will keep readers guessing until the end.  It is a modern classic and a must read book for adults and children alike.  J. K. Rowling is a masterful storyteller who has created a magical world filled with whimsy and a cast of characters that is sure to delight every reader.  Few books capture the reader’s imagination in the way that the Harry Potter series does.  This book is highly recommended for any fan of the fantasy genre or any ready who wants to read a really good, fun book.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

1999 ALA Notable Children’s Books

Rowling, J.K. (1998). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.  New York : A.A. Levine Books

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Theodore Boone: kid lawyer

JF Grisham    •    AR Reading Level: 5.2    •    AR Points: 8.0    •    Quiz #137599

Theodore Boone is thirteen.  He is in the eighth grade.  When he grows up, he wants to be a lawyer.  He already knows more about the law than any other kid at school, so when any kid need legal advice, they come to Theodore Boone for help.  When Theodore’s friend Julio needs help, Theodore is naturally the first person he comes to.  Julio’s cousin believes that he might have witnessed a man murder his wife, but he is too afraid to go to the police and tell them what he saw.  Did Julio’s cousin really witness a murder?  Can Theodore convince him to testify?

Theodore Boone: kid lawyer is an interesting mystery that teaches readers about the American judicial system.  Legal concepts and principles, such as double jeopardy and circumstantial evidence, are introduced in a way that is easy to understand and explained in simple, straightforward language.  A succinct explanation of a jury trial is also given.

Theodore Boone: kid lawyer is the first in a series of tween books by famous author John Grisham.  This series includes other titles such as: Theodore Boone, the abduction and Theodore Boone, the accused.

Genre: Mystery  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Grisham, J. (2010). Theodore Boone: kid lawyer. New York : Dutton Children’s Books.

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The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg

JF Philbrick    •    Reading Level: 5.6    •    Points: 7.0    •    Quiz #127487

homer p figgSeventeen year old Harold Figg and his twelve year old brother Homer have been orphans for 8 years in the care of the miserable and wicked Uncle Squint who repays the brother’s hard work with cruelty and starvation.  After catching Homer stealing a bit of bread from the pigs, Squint retaliates by selling Harold to the Union Army as a replacement soldier.

Now Homer must escape from the evil Squint and find a way to rescue Harold from the army before he is shipped south to the front lines.  His only tool on this amazing journey is his uncanny ability to tell a lie.  Will Homer’s lie save him when he is captured by a one-tooth slave hunter?  Will a patent-medicine charlatan really be able to help Homer find Harold?  If Homer can find him, will Harold even want to be rescued?

The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg is a story full of adventure, humor, and heart.  Readers will be thrilled by the action of a boy on the run with a mission to save his older brother and will delight in the laugh-out-loud humor skillfully woven throughout this tale.  Additionally, The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg offers readers the opportunity to learn about real historical events, such as the Battle of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, in an exciting and entertaining way that brings to life the all-to-real dangers people lived through during the American Civil War.  This is an excellent book and is recommended for anyone who enjoys a good adventure.

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

2010 Newbery Honor Book

Philbrick, W. R. (2009).  The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg.  New York : Blue Sky Press.

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