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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The Fourteenth Goldfish

JF Holm    •    Sci-Fi

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

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

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

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

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

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Fluff Dragon

JF Clark    •    Fantasy Adventure & Humor


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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JF Shurtliff    •    Fairytale/Fantasy


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

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

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

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

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

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Thrones and Bones: Frostborn

JF Anders    •    Fantasy

Thrones and Bones Frostborn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Castle Behind Thorns

JF Haskell    •    Fairytale

Castle Behind Thorns

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

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

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

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


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Bad Kitty: Drawn to Trouble

JF Bruel    •    Humor/How-to

bad kitty drawn to trouble

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

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

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

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

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

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The Feral Child

JF Golden    •    Horror/Fantasy

Feral Child

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

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

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

Interest Level: grades 4-8

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

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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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Bad Unicorn

JF Clark    •    Fantasy & Humor

bad unicorn

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

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

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

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

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

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The Strange Case of Origami Yoda

JF Angleberger    •    School Story    •    Graphic Hybrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Almost Super

JF Jensen    •    Sci-Fi & Humor


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

JF Grabenstein    •    Mystery & Adventure

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

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

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

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

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

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JF Palacio    •    Award Winning Juvenile Fiction

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

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

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

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

Wonder is simply a wonderful book.

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

2013 ALA Notable Children’s Book

2015 California Young Reader Winner

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

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I Funny

JF Patterson    •    Humor    •    Graphic Hybrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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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 Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

JF Baum    •    Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

Interest Level: grades 4-8  •  AR: 7.0

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

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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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Closed for the Season

JF Hahn    •    Mystery

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

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

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

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

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

2010 Edgar Allen Poe Award for best Juvenile Mystery

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

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Sky Island

FIC Baum    •    Fantasy/Classic Literature

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

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

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

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

Interest Level: grades 4-8

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

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Sea Fairies

FIC Baum  •  Fantasy/Classic Literature

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

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

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

Interest Level: grades 4-8

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

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Turtle in Paradise

JF Holm    •    Historical Fiction


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

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

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

2014 California Young Reader Nominee

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

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Among the Hidden

JF Haddix    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia


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


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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JF Pennypacker    •    Humor

Jacket.aspxClementine is a creative, energetic young girl.  She loves to draw, she is allergic to sitting still, and despite having the best intentions she always seem to get into trouble.  She gets into a world of trouble when she ‘helps’ her best friend cut glue out of her hair and ends up cutting her long hair completely off.

This book is very similar in style to Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones, however Clementine has a charm all her own.  The book is perhaps a bit slower at the start than Judy Moody; however, readers who persevere will be rewarded with a delightful tale.  Like Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones, Clementine is likely to appeal to female readers; however, all readers who enjoy funny stories, and those who have previously enjoyed books like Alvin Ho are strongly encouraged to try Clementine!

Interest Level: grades 2-4  •  Lexile: 790L  •  AR: 4.5

2007 Sid Fleishman Humor Award

Pennypacker, S. (2006).  Clemintine.  (Marla Frazee and Kate Herrill, Illustrators).  New York, NY: Hyperion Books for Children.

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Wishworks, Inc.

JF Tolan    •    Fantasy

Jacket.aspxHave you ever wished for a dog?  Max did.  Max has always wanted a dog, a big dog with a bushy tail that always obeys his every command.  Unfortunately, when Max wished for a dog, he wasn’t quite specific enough.  He doesn’t get a big dog, or a beautiful dog, or even a well behaved dog!  What he does get is a tiny, ratty-looking dog who chews his toys and chases his cat.

Max decides that there is only one thing to do.  He must wish this awful dog away.  But will his life go back to normal when the ratty little dog is gone?  Or will he find that the ratty little dog was exactly what his family needed all along?

Wishworks, Inc. is an imaginative, yet very simple story.  It is not a long book, and the large text and many pictures make it a fairly quick read.  It really gives an excellent contrast between the fantasy of a dog and the reality of owning a dog.  Max learns about the responsibility and hard work needed to raise a puppy.  This book is recommended for kids who think that they want a dog, or for readers who have previously enjoyed Bruce Coville’s Magic Shop series.

Interest Level: grades 2-4  •  Lexile: 680L  •  AR: 4.3

Tolan, S.S. (2009).  Wishworks, Inc. (Amy June Bates, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Arthur A. Levine Books.

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Legend of Spud Murphy

JF Colfer    •    AR Reading Level: 3.8    •    AR Points: 1.0    •    Quiz #87214

JacketWill’s parents have decided to send him and his trouble-making older brother to the library to spend their summer break reading.  Will and his older brother beg there parents not to make them go to the library and face the mean librarian, Spud Muphy.  Every kid in town is terrified of Spud Murphy.  They say she shoots kids who break library rules with a gas-powered potato cannon!  Sadly, their pleading is for naught and they are forced spend their summer in the library.

At first the two boys endure their imprisonment in the tiny children’s section by pretending to read and desperately avoiding breaking any of Spud’s many rules, but eventually each boy starts to actually read.  They discover new worlds in the old books and end up reading every book in the small children’s section … twice.  Still terrified of Spud Murphy but desperate to get a new book to read, Will decides he must break Spud’s rules, leave the children’s section, and get a book out of the forbidden adult fiction section.

In the Legend of Spud Murphy, Eion Colfer has created memorable characters and a fun adventure.  Glen McCoy’s stylized black-and-white cartoon illustrations truly add to Eion Colfer character development and enhance the excitement and emotion of this adventure.  This is a clever, comical story that simply fun to read.  If you enjoy stories about evil librarians (and who doesn’t ??), than Eion Colfer’s Legend of Spud Murphy is an absolute must read!

Genre: Humor  •  Interest Level: grades 3-5

Colfer, E. (2004). Legend of Spud Murphy. (Glen McCoy, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Miramax Books.

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Get Rich Quick Club

JF Gutman    •    AR Reading Level: 4.1    •    AR Points: 2.0    •    Quiz #80840


Have you every dreamed of making a million dollars?  Eleven-year-old Gina has always dreamed of making money, a whole lot of money!  She wants to make her first million before she is a teenager.  One one lazy summer day, she decides to make this dream come true.  She starts by forming a company with four of the kids in her neighborhood.  They call their new company the Get Rick Quick Club.  But what brilliant idea will they come up with for making a million dollars?  Will they be able to pull off their wild and crazy plan?

With only 114 pages, this is a short book, but once you start to read it, you will not want to put it down.  You may very well read it all in one afternoon.  It is a simple story, but it is an engrossing, quick read that will capture the reader’s imagination.  This book is especially recommended for budding entrepreneurs who dream of starting his/her own business someday.  If you enjoyed Gary Paulsen’s Lawn Boy, then chances you will also enjoy The Get Rich Quick Club.

Interest Level: grades 4-6

Gutman, D. (2004).  Get Rick Quick Club.  New York, NY: HarperCollins.

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Big Nate in a class by himself

JF Peirce    •    AR Reading Level: 3.1    •    AR Points: 2.0    •    Quiz #137291


Nate Write is in the sixth grade.  He believes he is destined for greatness.  When he gets a fortune cookie that says he will “…surpass all others…” he believes it to be fate.  He is determined to make his fortune come true.  He is determined to make today the day that he “surpasses all others”.  But what can he do better than anyone else?  For Nate, each class is a new opportunity to find his fate.  To bad his teachers don’t see it quite the same way…

Nate Write is narcissistic and delusional.  He believes himself to be destined for greatness based on nothing except his unwavering belief that he is better than other people.  He acts as if he is entitled to fame and fortune, like he expects to attain fame and fortune without hard work.  Meanwhile he ridicules students who actually try hard in school and are rewarded with academic success.  Worse yet, he bullies his friends and hits them with books.  Nate Write is not a sympathetic character.  However, he is hilarious.  Even if you do not much like Nate, you will somehow route for him to find his greatness, and you will laugh out loud every time he fails.

Nate’s story is told in a graphic hybrid format.  It is told through a very successful fusion of text and comic-book style cartoons.  Big Nate is very reminiscent of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, which is also told in the graphic hybrid format.  If you have enjoyed Diary of a Wimpy Kid, than you will very likely also enjoy Big Nate.  It is an excellent choice for readers who love graphic novels, or for those looking for a genuinely funny book.

Genre: Humor  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

Peirce, L. (2010). Big Nate: in a class by himself. New York, NY: Harper.

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Juliet Dove, Queen of Love

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


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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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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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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Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

JF Look    •    AR Reading Level: 3.8    •    AR Points: 3.0    •    Quiz #123779

Jacket.aspxAlvin Ho is the story of the adventures of Alvin Ho a young boy of Chinese decent who is afraid of almost everything.  He loves superheroes, reading, and playing catch with his grandfather, Gunggung. Alvin Ho is about to start first grade, but he has a big problem:  he is allergic to school.  He is so allergic to school that he can’t talk in school at all.  He can talk at home and even on the school bus, but not at school.  It is hard to make friends when you can’t even say hello to them.  What will Alvin do?  Will he ever find a friend?

Alvin Ho is the story of a shy and awkward young boy.  He explains his life from his point of view in much the same way as Judy Moody and Junie B. Jones do.  It is humorous, but most of all, it is a story that relatable for readers who may also be struggling to find their social place in school and make friends.  It teaches good values like: being popular is not always worth the price (thankfully Alvin got a refund), and that you don’t need to make friends by changing who you are (you just need to find a friend who like you for you).  This is an excellent book and well worth reading!

Genre: Humor  •  Interest Level: grades 3-5

2012 California Young Reader Award

Look, L. (2008).  Alvin Ho: allergic to girls, school, and other scary things.  (LeUyen Pham, Illustrator).  New York, NY: Schwartz & Wade.

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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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Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie

JF Lubar    •    AR Reading Level: 3.7    •    AR Points: 4.0    •    Quiz #132458


When Shawna, the most popular girl in the fifth grade, comes up to Nathan at lunch to tell him about her Halloween party, Nathan thinks that this will be the best day of his life.  Oh how wrong he is!  This is not destined to be his best day of his life.  This day is destined to be the worst day of his life!  Shawna delights in telling Nathan that he is not invited to her party.  It is a cruel joke at Nathan’s expense.

Trying to help, Abigail, the smartest girl in the fifth grade, offers Nathan an experimental medicine that is supposed to make sad feelings not hurt anymore.  Unfortunately, the medicine has a horrible side effect that may be turning Nathan Abercrombie into a zombie!  Nathan doesn’t want to be half-dead.  Is their any cure for being a zombie?!  If anyone can find it Abigail can!

Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie: My Rotten Life is a hokey horror story.  Despite the fact that it is about a zombie, it is not at all frightening.  It is funny.  It is simply a silly science-fiction adventure.  Readers who want a realistic and dramatic novel should not read this book.  However, readers who are looking for a light-hearted story with a zombie, a mad scientist, and plenty of upper elementary school drama will absolutely delight in David Lubar’s My Rotten Life.  This is a fun book that younger readers will likely embrace for its over the top situations and funny characters.

Genre: Sci-Fi  •  Interest Level: grades 3-5

Lubar, D. (2009). Nathan Abercrombie, Accidental Zombie: my rotten life. New York, NY: Starscape.

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Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix

JF LaFevers    •    AR Reading Level: 4.2    •    AR Points: 3.0    •    Quiz #132418


Nathaniel Fludd has not seen his parents in three years.  They have been away on an expedition, and he has been in the care of Miss Lumpton.  That is all about to change.  Nathaniel’s parents have been declared “lost at sea”, and Nathaniel is to be sent to live with his only living relative, Phil A. Fludd.

When he arrives at his new home, Nathaniel learns that his aunt Phil is a beastologist, and that he is to be trained in the family business.  His first lesson will be to accompany his Aunt on a trip to the Arabian Desert to see the birth of a Phoenix.  This trip goes horribly wrong when Aunt Phil is accused of trespassing and taken prisoner.  Will Nathaniel be able to keep the Phoenix’s embers burning with out his Aunt?  How will he save Aunt Phil from her captors?

Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix is reminiscent of Cornelia Funke’s Dragon Rider because of its exploration of mythic creatures.  It is likely that readers who have enjoyed one of these books will enjoy the other book as well.  However, this book is significantly shorter than Dragon Rider.  With only 134 pages, readers will be able to enjoy this book in a fraction of the time that it takes to read Dragon Rider.  This is the first book in the Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist series and is recommended for any reader who enjoys light-hearted fantasy adventures with plenty of mythical creatures.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

LaFevers, R.L. (2009). Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books for Children.

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


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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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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Tale of Despereaux

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


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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Because of Winn-Dixie

JF DiCamillo    •    AR Reading Level: 3.9    •    AR Points: 3.0    •    Quiz #39557


India Opal Buloni is a preacher’s daughter.  She and her father just moved to a Naomi, Florida.  Opal doesn’t know anyone in this new town.  She is lonely.  Opal won’t be lonely for long.  A simple trip to the grocery store is about to change her life forever, because at the store she rescues a great big, mangy dog with a loveable, goofy smile that charms everyone he meets.  She names her new dog Winn-Dixie.  Winn-Dixie opens up Opals world.  Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal is not alone anymore.  With Winn-Dixie’s help, Opal meets a host of friends to fill her world!

This brief description gives a general overview of the story, but it falls far short of conveying the depth of this simple story.  Because of Winn-Dixie is a book that will touch the heart of anyone who has ever felt lonely or sad.  It is absolutely beautifully written.  Kate DiCamillo has created a town full of unique and memorable characters each with their own sadness. This is not a story driven book.  There is not a lot of action.  It is all about the characters in this story.  This book is highly recommended for readers looking for a genuinely touching story.

Interest Level: grades 4-8

2001 Newbery Honor Book

DiCamillo, K. (2000). Because of Winn-Dixie. Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press.

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