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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sharp Shot

Looking for an adventure novel with action, suspense, criminals, and heroes? Then Sharp Shot, the third book about the Chance twins, by Jack Higgins with Justin Richards is the book for you. The year is 1990; John Chance is on a mission with fellow British Special Forces to take out a nuclear site in Iraq. When one of his peers is seriously injured they must make a decision to leave things behind in order to save his life. Flash forward to present day…the Chance twins (Jade and Rich) are at home in England while their hardworking father, John Chance, is on another secret mission. An unexpected visitor arrives with his enemy shooting and right on his heels. Before the twins know it, they are swept up in a life or death situation linked to their father’s 1990 mission. What will the twins do to survive? Who can they trust? Each chapter will leave you eagerly anticipating the next. This is a great recommendation for Alex Rider fans looking for another thriller.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Books of Elsewhere: The Shadows (Vol 1)

The Shadows is the first book in Jacqueline West's The Books of Elsewhere series.The first sentence of the book reads: "Ms. McMartin was definitely dead." Olive Dunwoody, the only child of two smart mathematicians, is looking forward to exploring the old house her family has just purchased. You guessed it...this was the very house that Ms. McMartin had died in. The old house is full of antiques and art, so different from the plain apartments they have lived in before. As Olive is looking at one of the paintings, she sees a shadow moving within it. Her eyes must be playing tricks on her! Later she finds spectacles that enable her to travel into the paintings on the wall. She soon discovers a lost boy, talking cats, and dangerous spirits. The original owner of the house, the late Aldous McMartin wants his house back and he will stop at nothing to get it. Although I first labeled this as a fantasy, I quickly changed my mind as it has just enough frightening elements and suspense to make it horror/suspense for upper elementary through middle school. This is on the Texas Bluebonnet Reading List 2011-12. This would be a great recommendation for someone looking for a "scary" book. Check out the book trailer from Penguin Group USA.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Candymakers

The Candymakers is the latest entertaining novel by Wendy Mass. The story is told from four different points of view; as a result, the things the reader thinks he or she knows changes as each character’s story is revealed. Layered storytelling at its best! The four points of view are the four main characters – Logan, Daisy, Miles, and Philip – who are finalists in a candy making competition. Compassionate Logan is the Candymaker’s son who has terrible scars as a result of an accident that happened when he was five years old. Daisy is a strong competitor because she has been training all her life. Miles is trying to get over a horrible incident that only he witnessed. Philip has the biggest secret of all…it is the reason he is even in the competition as he hasn’t eaten candy in seven years. Each contestant has his or her own agenda. Who will win the competition? I admit the first part of the book was a little slow for me, but I know the author had to set the foundation for the story. I actually went back to read part one at the end for things I knew I had missed. By part two, I was hooked. This is a long book…stick with it - you will be so happy that you did. The story is as lively as the artwork on the book’s cover. Other great books by Wendy Mass include Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life (a favorite with my teachers and students), Every Soul a Star, 11 Birthdays (kids love this one), and Leap Day. Click on the video below to hear Wendy Mass tell you about this gem of a book.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Plain Kate

Plain Kate by Erin Bow is a book that has been recommended to me by my middle school students. This is classified as a fantasy, but while reading it I thought it crossed over into horror & suspense at times. It may be a little bit too much for elementary students as the target audience is young adults. The story takes place in the past during a time when people feared witchcraft and owned objects that would cast out evil spirits. The main character, Katerina, lost her mother when she was born and loses her father at the beginning of the story. The orphaned girl became known as Plain Kate. Her one true companion was her cat, Taggle. Plain Kate, a gifted wood carver, meets an odd man new to her village. He persuades her to give him her shadow and in return he would grant her a wish. Her special wish is granted, but at a huge cost. People begin going into deep sleeps and dying. She is accused of witchcraft. How will she be able to undo the evil that is traveling from village to village? I can totally see how this appeals to middle school students – it has the right amount of magic, terror, and suspense.


Over the six years I have been the librarian at my school, Mike Lupica’s books have been on our middle school reading list every single year. Yes, he’s that good and my students enjoy his books tremendously. Although he mentions the New York Knicks a lot, he has strayed away from the sports genre to mystery/suspense with his newest novel, Hero. The beginning of the story is narrated by fourteen-year-old Zach Harriman’s father, a hero who worked for the government, but ultimately dies in a plane crash. The story is then narrated by Zach who has doubts about his father’s death being an accident. His father was invincible. Strange things begin to happen to Zach shortly after his father’s death. He begins to have special powers which enable him to sense danger and fight off attackers. With the help of his good friend, Kate, Zach sets out to find answers about his father’s past. In doing so, he must decide who can be trusted in his life. Will Zach be the hero his father was? Other great reads by Mike Lupica include Million Dollar Throw, The Big Field, Travel Team, Miracle on 49th Street, Summer Ball, and Heat.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Dreamer

The Dreamer, written by Pam Munoz Ryan and illustrated by Peter Sís, is a fictionalized coming of age story based on the childhood of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda. The double-spaced, large text and flowing illustrations will appeal to upper elementary and middle school readers. The story reads like a parable. The story opens with a sickly Neftali (young Pablo) in bed. Neftali’s head is filled with so many thoughts; it takes him to faraway lands. His harsh father accuses him of daydreaming and insists that he will amount to nothing if he doesn’t build up his strength. Neftali loves to collect things – including words. For many years, his father berates Neftali’s aspirations. No matter the situation, Neftali disappoints his father. Pam Munoz Ryan’s depiction of Neftali’s hopes and dreams is eloquent. Adolescents who have been belittled because they are different or because they have different interests will be able to relate to this story. Other wonderful books by Pam Munoz Ryan include Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leόn, Riding Freedom, and Paint the Wind.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Sources of Light

It has been a while since a book has moved me as much as Margaret McMullan's Sources of Light. As I close this book, I have a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Fourteen-year-old Sam (short for Samantha) has already experienced tragedy. Her father died a hero in Vietnam. A year later, the summer of 1962, she and her mother moved to Jackson, Mississippi to be closer to her father’s family. She states, “The summer before I learned about love and hate all in the same year. The summer before it all happened.” Racial tensions are at its peak in the south. Sam’s mother, a professor of art history at the local college, begins dating Perry Walker, a photography professor. He gives Sam one of his small cameras and teaches her how to use it. Sam begins to see the cruel world around her through the camera lens. Perry and Sam’s mother seek ways to help end segregation. Even though Sam is white, she becomes caught in the crossfire of various horrific events – her camera is her only weapon. Tragedy strikes once again. The characters are convincing, the historical elements are accurate, and Sam’s explanations are powerful. My eighth graders are beginning a research unit on the Civil Rights Movement – this would be a great supplement. It hasn’t been that long since these events occurred. It is difficult to imagine living in a world like that. We need to remember those that stood up for what is right…some giving the biggest sacrifice, their lives.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Three Black Swans

My middle school library has many thrilling books by Caroline B. Cooney. Three Black Swans is another great addition. Missy Vianello, inspired by her biology teacher’s assignment to create a hoax, asks her cousin, Claire, to dress like her and pretend to be her identical twin. The cousins have always had a strong connection – they look alike, like the same things, and know what the other is thinking. The girls pose as identical twins who have just found each other while Missy’s friend, Rick, video tapes the shocking reunion. Rick posts the video to YouTube and it spreads quickly. Missy admits that the reunion was her hoax, but some people are not buying it. There is too much of a resemblance. In New York, Genevieve is shown the video. How can it be? How can these identical twins look just like her? Read Three Black Swans to find out. Other great books by Caroline B. Cooney include Both Sides of Time, Burning Up, Code Orange, Diamonds in the Shadow, Driver's Ed, and The Face on the Milk Carton.