Friday, April 14, 2017

SECRETS IN THE SNOW by Michaela MacColl

Historical Fiction (French Revolution & Britain 1700's),
Mystery, Romance, Jane Austen

264 pages; Grades 6-10

Junior Library Guild Selection

"Jane Austen's family is eager to secure her future by marrying her off. But Jane is much more interested in writing her novels, and finds every suitor lacking--until the mysterious Mr. Lefroy arrives. Could he be the one? Before Jane can find out, she must solve a murder, clear her family's name, and face a decision that might cost her true love." -The Publisher

Entertaining murder mystery with some romance that may tempt readers to discover the real Jane Austen. Writing reflects formality of the time period (the late 1700's), but is an appropriate reading level for students.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

THE SUMMER I SAVED THE WORLD ....IN 65 DAYS by Michele Hurwitz

Realistic Fiction, Friendship, Families, Helping People,  Romance

265 pages; grades 5-8

Horn Book Guide (Fall 2014)
"The summer before ninth grade, Nina is adrift: she's growing apart from her best friend, and her family hardly speaks to one another. Then she decides to do one small, anonymous kind act each day, hoping to bring some good to her neighborhood. Nina is a thoughtful, inspiring hero who proves that one person really can make a difference."
Love, love this book! You have suspense, the difficulties that sometimes come with friendship, loneliness, happiness, triumph, and a lot of great characters in one small neighborhood.

Put this on your recommended list for middle school.


Humor, School, Genius

302 pages; YA

"Twelve-year-old evil genius, Oliver, uses his great brain to become the third richest person in the world, and finds that overthrowing foreign dictators is easier than getting the kids in his middle school to vote him class president."
-Publisher's description

This kid is so evil. Forget role models! I couldn't stop reading it. It was grabbed up immediately by one of my students before I could finish it. He had just told me that he doesn't like to read, so if this book gets him reading, well then I love it!

OUT OF MY MIND by Sharon Draper

white Realistic Fiction, Overcoming Adversity, Assistive Technology, Friendship, Family, Courage

295 pages Grades 5-8

Starred reviews

Horn Book Guide starred (Fall 2010)
"Narrator Melody is a fifth grader with cerebral palsy. She's brilliant, but few people realize just how brilliant until she receives "Elvira," her Medi-Talker computer. Draper paints the picture of a real girl--with tantrums and attitude, problems with mean girls and oafish adults. This is an eye-opening book with an unforgettable protagonist and a rich cast of fully realized, complicated characters."
An unforgettable description of the frustration and heartache experienced by people who must cope with disabilities that cause others to stereotype and exclude them. A powerful book for class discussion or independent reading. Pair with Wonder by Palacio.

Friday, November 18, 2016

THE WAR THAT SAVED MY LIFE by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Historical Fiction, World War II, Disabilities, Courage, Family, Friendship, Horses

2015, 316 pages

Newbery Honor and many starred reviews

Horn Book Guide starred (Fall 2015)
Ten-year-old Ada, abused by her cruel, ignorant mam due to an unrepaired clubfoot, has never been outside her squalid London flat. With WWII imminent, her brother, Jamie, is evacuated to the countryside, and Ada determines to go with him. The emotional content feels completely true, especially in recognition of how far Ada's journey will be to both physical and mental health.

This is an absolute winner. It has a great story line and gives a vivid portrayal of a child's perspective of the war in England. Readers will be inspired by Ada's courage and the people who help her. Love this book! I give it 5 stars!

Monday, November 07, 2016

COUNTING BY 7'S by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Realistic Fiction, Geniuses, Eccentricities, Family, Friendship, Loss

378 pages; 2014

Horn Book Guide starred (Spring 2014)
After her parents' death, twelve-year-old Willow Chance, a genius obsessed with plants and medical conditions, is taken in by her only friend, high schooler Mai Nguyen, Mai's mother Pattie, and Mai's surly brother, Quang-ha. What sets this novel apart from the average orphan-finds-a-home book is its lack of sentimentality, its truly multicultural cast, and its precise, poignant tone.
Love, love this book! Sloan, author of Apple Blossom Possum (a very different type of book), is a top notch author. Counting by 7's would be a great book club or class discussion.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

ZERO TO HERO by Henry Winkler

Fantasy, Ghosts, Bullies

170 pages, 2012

A short, fun story that empathizes with the challenges of middle school social complexities.

"Billy Broccoli is new to the neighborhood, and wants cool friends and a spot on the baseball team more than anything. But the one thing he never wanted is his own personal ghost. So imagine his surprise when he ends up sharing a room with Hoover Porterhouse, a funny ghost with a whole lot of attitude.
When an obnoxious school bully sets out to demolish Billy, the Hoove comes up with a plan for revenge. It’s all in the Hoove's Rule Number Forty-Two: Stay cool. And like it or not, Billy and the Hoove have to stick together if Billy ever wants to get in style, get even, and conquer the school." - from the publisher

MANIAC MAGEE by Jerry Spinelli

Fiction, Prejudice, Racism, Homelessness, Family, Strength

Newbery Award 1991; Boston Globe/Hornbook Award 1990
184 pages, 1990

Let's not forget to recommend this powerful, heartwarming book! It exemplifies the strength of innocence and truth. An uplifting story that will also make you want to cry.

"In this modern-day tall tale, Spinelli ( Dump Days ; Jason and Marceline ) presents a humorous yet poignant look at the issue of race relations, a rare topic for a work aimed at middle readers. Orphaned as an infant, Jerry Magee is reared by his feuding aunt and uncle until he runs away at age eight. He finds his way to Two Mills, Pa., where the legend of ``Maniac'' Magee begins after he scores major upsets against Brian Denehy, the star high school football player, and Little League tough guy, John McNab. In racially divided Two Mills, the Beales, a black family, take Maniac in, but despite his local fame, community pressure forces him out and he returns to living at the zoo. Park groundskeeper Grayson next cares for the boy, but the old man dies and Maniac moves into the squalid home of the McNabs, who are convinced a race war is imminent. After a showdown with his nemesis, Mars Bar, Maniac bridges the gap between the two sides of town and finally finds a home. Full of snappy street-talk cadences, this off-the-wall yarn will give readers of all colors plenty of food for thought. Ages 8-12" -Publishers Weekly May 1990

Sunday, October 16, 2016

COUNTDOWN by Deborah Wiles

Historical Fiction, 1960's, Cuban Missile Crisis
Grades 5-8
ALA Notable Book 2011; Starred Reviews

"The narrator of this first-rate novel is eleven-year-old Air Force brat (and middle child) Franny Chapman. With JFK facing down Communists and a father on active duty, Franny has cause to feel on edge. Eye-grabbing graphic spreads of Cold War-era images, lyrics, speeches, and headlines are shrewdly interspersed throughout the book, providing most of the social commentary and historical explication."  -Hornbook Fall 2010

This would be a fabulous book for classes studying U.S. History during the early 1960's. The primary resources interspersed bring this era to life. Very engaging and informative.

Thursday, October 13, 2016


Humor, Mystery, Games, Libraries


"Grades 4-7. Here’s an instantly engaging and wildly creative mystery that is sure to have readers looking at their humble local library in a new light. Mr. Lemoncello is an eccentric game designer who has just funded a very special new library in his hometown. In honor of the grand opening, Lemoncello has selected a dozen 12-year-olds to participate in an overnight lock-in event at the library. But when the kids wake up, they discover a new and unexpected game is afoot: whoever can find a way out of Mr. Lemoncello’s library will win the grand prize. Avid readers will get a kick out of the references to classic and current children’s literature as the kids solve clues to escape and win the game. Main character Kyle Keeley works hard to beat his nemesis, the conniving bully Charles Chilington, who constantly reminds everyone that he is always successful. As Lemoncello says, knowledge not shared remains unknown, and the group learns that working together just might be the key to solving the mystery. An ode to libraries and literature that is a worthy successor to the original madman riddle master himself, Willy Wonka." -Booklist starred (June 1, 2013 (Vol. 109, No. 19))

This is fantastic! I am in the middle of it, but can't wait to put the book into a student's hands....or maybe do a bit of a read aloud. A real winner!!!