Bulldog Library

Cinder

YA F Meyer    •    Sci-Fi & Fairy Tale

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

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

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

Cinder is the first in the Lunar Chronicals series.

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

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

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Dorothy Must Die

YA F Paige    •    Fantasy Adventure

dorothy-must-die

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Deep Blue

YA F Donnelly    •    Fantasy Adventure

deep-blue

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

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

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

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

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Steelheart

YA F Sanderson    •    Sci-fi

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

Steelheart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Good Neighbors: Kin

YA F Black    •    Fantasy/Mystery

good neighbors

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

Rue’s father has been arrested for murder.

Rue is now alone.

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

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

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

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

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Movie: The Giver

Rating: PG13

The Giver Movie

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

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

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

Genre: Dystopia  •  Interest Level: grades 8 and up

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

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Gathering Blue

YA F Lowry    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

Gathering Blue

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The People of Sparks

YA F DuPrau    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

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

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

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

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

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

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The Selection

YA F Cass    •    Romance & Sci-Fi/Dystopia

selection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Faith, Hope, and Ivy June

YA F Naylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 California Young Reader Nominee

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

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Uglies

YA F Westerfeld    •    Sci-Fi/Dystopia

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

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

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

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

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

2004 ALA Best Books for Young Adults

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

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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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Anne of Green Gables

YA F Montgomery    •    Classic Literature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Thief Lord

YA F Funke    •    Fantasy

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

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

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

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

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

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

2003 ALA Notable Children’s Book

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

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Rayearth II, volume 1: Magic Knight

YA F Clamp

Jacket.aspxMagic.  Swords.  Pixies.  Giant fighting robots.  Rayearth is a action filled Manga adventure.

On a trip to Tokyo Tower, the Magic Knights are summoned back to the magical world of Cephiro.  They return to find their beloved Cephiro on the verge of destruction.  After the death of the Pillar of Cephiro, this magical world is collapsing.  To make the situation worse, it is under attack from three neighboring worlds all wanting to seize Cephiro and become its new Pillar.

Will the Magic Knights be able to defend Cephiro from the onslaught of invaders?  Will they find out who summoned them to save the world?

This is the start of the second series of Rayearth.  This is supposed to be a stand-alone series; however, many of the characters are returning from the first series.  Thankfully, the author has provided an introduction at the beginning of the book that provides a synopsis of the important characters and plots for those of us who have not read the first series.

Overall this is a fun Manga with plenty of action, magic, and beautifully intricate drawings.  It is rated for readers ages seven and up; however, certain character’s costumes combined with cartoonish  violence (namely giant robot battles) may make it more appropriate for tweens readers.  While so many Manga’s are intended for teen readers, Rayearth provides an excellent introduction to this popular genre for tweens.

Genre: Manga  •  Interest Level: grades 6 and up

Clamp. (2003). Rayearth II: Magic Knight. (Volume 1). Los Angeles, CA : Tokyopop.

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Looking Glass Wars

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

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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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Dragon Rider

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

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

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

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

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

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

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

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

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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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Rapunzel’s Revenge

YA F Hale    •    AR Reading Level: 3.2    •    AR Points: 1.0    •    Quiz #122757

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Rapunzel grew up in her mother Gothel’s villa.  She mostly spent her days playing alone in Gothel’s magic garden, but occasionally, one of Gothel’s guards would teacher her how to do rope tricks.  In Gothel’s garden, there was a wall. Curious about what lay beyond the wall, Rapunzel used her rope to scale the wall against Gothel’s wishes.  On the other side of the wall, Rapunzel discovers a forced labor camp and learns that Gothel is not her real mother.  When she was young, Gothel kidnapped her and imprisoned her mother in the forced labor camp.

Enraged at Rapunzel’s impudence, Gothel locks Rapunzel in an enchanted tree.  It is four years before Rapunzel is able to escape her prison.  Now Rapunzel is on a mission to rescue her real mother.  Her only aids on this quest are her enchanted braids and a thief named Jack she meets on her journey.

Rapunzel’s Revenge is a beautifully drawn graphic novel (comic book) with a very exciting, modern retake on the two traditional fairy tales: Rapunzel and Jack and the Beanstalk.  Told in a fairy tale version of the Wild West, this unique story sets witches, giants, and jackalopes along side cowboys, ranchers, outlaws, and gunslingers.

The illustrations that bring this story to life are skillfully rendered.  These illustrations combine a masterful use of line, interesting perspectives, and lovely color palettes that add immensely to the story.  The compositions in the panels that depict Rapunzel’s battle with the giant sea serpent are especially remarkable in their use of line to create movement and drama.

This graphic novel is highly recommended to readers who enjoy fantasy adventures, and to those who love the visual arts, especially drawing and painting.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 6-8

2009 ALA Notable Children’s Book

Hale, S. & Hale, D. (2008). Rapunzel’s Revenge. (N. Hale Illus.). New York, NY: Bloomsbury.

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Amulet: The Stonekeeper

YA F Kibuishi    •    AR Reading Level: 2.0    •    AR Points: 1.0    •    Quiz #121996

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Emily and Navin’s father died two years ago in a tragic automobile accident.  To get a new start, and to escape the painful memories of her lost husband, their mother has decided to move the family from the city to the country, into the house of her grandfather Silas Charnon.  The house is a little rundown, but working together, the family is determined to clean it, fix it, and make it a home.

While cleaning Emily finds Silas’ library.  It is full of weird animals, strange books, and the puzzles Silas created.  While exploring this room, Emily comes across an amulet.  The adventure begins when she puts the amulet on.  This adventure will lead them to a new world, a parallel earth, and put her entire family’s life in danger!

The Stonekeeper is the first in the Amulet series.  It is told in a graphic novel (comic book) format.  The use of the illustrations is absolutely essential as Kazu Kibuishi relies more on the graphics than the text to tell the story.  These illustrations convey action, magic, and the relay a great deal of information about the unique and occasionally bizarre inhabitants of Alledia.

This is a very good fantasy adventure.  It is highly recommended for all readers who enjoy either graphic novels or fantasy books.  It is also recommended for children who love art as the images are beautifully drawn and painted.

Genre: Fantasy  •  Interest Level: grades 4-8

ALA core collection of graphic novels

Kibuishi, K. (2008).  Amulet: the storekeeper. New York, NY : Graphix.

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City of Ember

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

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

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

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

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

2004 ALA Notable Children’s Books

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

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The Lost Hero

YA F Riordan    •    AR Reading Level: 4.5    •    AR Points: 19.0    •   Quiz #140427

Jacket.aspxWhen Jason wakes up on a camp bus, he has no knowledge of how he got there, who he is, or who his friends are.  He is soon confronted with a bully who turns into a storm and attacks him, his new friends, and a camp counselor who turns out to be half goat.  Jason is forced to fight for his life, and the lives of his new friends Piper and Leo, until a girl name Annabeth comes to their rescue.  Annabeth helps Jason and his friends escape to Camp Half-Blood where they all find out that they are demi-gods.

At Camp Half-Blood Jason, Piper, and Leo are sent on a quest by the Oracle of Apollo.  Hera has been captured and a powerful enemy is rising.  Can Jason, Piper, and Leo rescue Hera before the solstice?

The Lost Hero is the first in the Heroes of Olympus series.  It follows the Percy Jackson and the Olympian series, returning readers to Camp Half-Blood.  This book introduces new heroes, new villains, and a new great prophecy that again threatens the destruction of the whole world.  It is every bit as exciting and as magical as the Percy Jackson books.  This is a must read for fans of the Percy Jackson books; however, readers who have not read the Percy Jackson series are advised to start with The Lightning Thief as many of the characters and relationships from the first series carry over to this new sequel series.

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

Riordan, R. (2010). The Lost Hero. New York : Disney/Hyperion Books.

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Stormbreaker

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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The Red Pyramid

YA F Riordan    •    AR Reading Level: 4.5    •    AR Points: 18.0    •   Quiz #137173

Jacket.aspxCarter Kane and his father, a noted Egyptologist, travel the world studying rare Egyptian artifacts.  Carter’s sister Sadie lives with her grandparents in London.  On their annual visit London, Sadie and Carter’s father has arranged a private viewing of the Rossetta Stone at the British Museum.  While in the museum, Sadie and Carter witness their father holding a staff and an ivory stick, bathed in an odd light, right before the Rossetta Stone explodes killing their father and destroying the Egyptian wing of the British Museum.

After the explosion, Carter and Sadie are taken to New York by their uncle, Amos, where they learn that Egyptian gods are real and that their father was an Egyptian magician.  Now Carter and Sadie must go on a quest to save the world from the evil that their father released in the British museum.

In The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, introduces readers to Egyptian myth with a well paced and exciting story readers won’t want to put down.  This book is presented as transcript of a recording made by Carter and Sadie Kane.  The chapters use a repetitive pattern of two chapters narrated by Carter and two chapters narrated by Sadie.  This provides interesting shifts in the narrators’ point of view and allows readers a fuller understanding of all sides of the story.  This is the first in the Kane ChroniclesIt is a highly enjoyable adventure, and is especially recommended to readers who are interested in mythology or have previously enjoyed the Percy Jackson series.

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

Riordan, R. (2010). Red Pyramid. New York : Disney/Hyperion 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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