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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Humming Room

Ellen Potter’s The Humming Room, inspired by The Secret Garden, is on the Texas Bluebonnet Reading List 2013-14. Roo Fanshaw , tiny for her twelve years with dull green eyes, often hides from the outside world. Most would consider her a wild child neglected by her parents. Hiding beneath her parents’ trailer saves her life when her parents are murdered. She is sent to live on Cough Rock Island; the home of her rich uncle that she never knew existed. His estate is a former hospital where they sent children who were dying from tuberculosis. Roo leaves the house as often as possible to hideout in a nearby cave – her love of nature draws her there. Something in the house is making a humming noise and Roo is determined to find out where it is coming from. Who is the mysterious boy who seems to glide on the water surrounding the island? Roo hears rumors that her uncle killed his beautiful young wife. Will Roo be able to uncover the dark secrets even though her uncle remains aloof? Readers will enjoy Potter’s descriptive writing style. Other great books by Potter include Slob and the Olivia Kidney series.

The Humming Room by Ellen Potter (book trailer) from Ellen Potter on Vimeo.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Liar & Spy

Rebecca Stead’s When You Reach Me was the 2010 Newbery Medal Winner – it was so intriguing. Her most recent novel, Liar & Spy, has moments of mystery and revelation as well. Readers will enjoy her short chapters and interesting characters. Georges (pronounced George) has a big shift in his life during seventh grade when his family is forced to sell their house when his father loses his job. They move into an apartment where Georges meets an unusual boy named Safer and his sister named Candy. Safer has been spying on a mysterious tenant in the apartment who he has identified as Mr. X – a man who wears black all the time and is always leaving his apartment with a suitcase. Georges is at first happy to have a new friend, because his former best friend ignores him and hangs out with kids in the popular crowd at school who have been bullying Georges. Safer’s behavior becomes more erratic which starts to add stress to Georges’ life. Even worse, his mother is never home and he misses her a lot. What is the reason for Safer’s obsession with Mr. X? Read Liar & Spy to find out how everyone has fears and that it takes courage to fight back. Another great book by Stead is First Light. Click on the book trailer below from 60 second recap.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Unwanteds

Lisa McMann is well known for her high school novels - the middle grades are going to really enjoy her fantasy novel, The Unwanteds. Kirkus Review correctly states, "The Hunger Games meets Harry Potter." I would maybe add meets The Giver as well. The beginning of the book starts off in a plain land called the Quill - no creativity, no color, and no imagination exists in this land. It is forbidden. The annual event called The Purge separates thirteen-year-olds into three categories: Wanted, Necessary, and Unwanted. The Unwanteds will surely be put to death. When main characters - twins Aaron and Alex Stowe are divided, the outcome is no surprise to anyone. Aaron is labeled a Wanted while Alex is sent to the Death Farm with the other Unwanteds. Once Alex arrives, he finds out that the Unwanteds were chosen, because they were creative and threatened the Quill's culture of blandness. He and others are allowed to not only survive, but also attend a school of magic and learn warrior skills. Everything changes when Alex is convinced that two of the Unwanteds are going to return to Quill to avenge the wrongdoings of his twin Aaron. Choosing to help his brother creates an unexpected backlash and huge war. I can't wait to read Book 2, The Unwanteds: Island of Silence.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The False Prince

If you love books that have a huge twist in the plot then you are going to really like Jennifer Nielsen's The False Prince - the first book in her new trilogy (The Ascendance Trilogy). The story begins with an orphan boy named Sage who has just stolen some bread to help feed those in need at his orphanage. He is quickly nabbed by a man named Conner (a regent of the king’s court) and his men. Conner offers to buy Sage from the orphanage. Sage, along with two other orphans from different places, is brought to Conner’s estate. They find out they are to learn the ways of a prince in order to take over the kingdom. The king’s youngest son, Jaron, has been missing for years; presumed dead in another altercation. When the king, his wife, and eldest son die, the regents want desperately to find an appropriate replacement. Conner knows his only hope to obtain power is to find an imposter to fulfill the role of Prince Jaron. The orphans must train under scrutiny and hope to be selected for this role, or be put to death if they fail. My students and I are eagerly anticipating book 2, The Runaway King, being published on March 1, 2013.

Sunday, December 2, 2012


Gordon Korman is one of my favorite authors of middle grade novels. His newest humorous book, Ungifted, was so entertaining - kids will love the storyline and interesting characters. Donovan has been impulsive his entire life so it was not a surprise when he “accidentally” knocked the globe off the metal statue at his middle school. Thankfully no one was killed or injured by the massive careening out-of-control sphere. The result was costly – damaging the entrance, floors, and inside of the gymnasium. Donovan is quickly nabbed by the superintendent who writes his name down on a piece of paper. The superintendent’s secretary mistakenly thinks the paper identifies the qualified candidates for the gifted and talented academy in the district. When Donovan is notified of his transfer to the prestigious school, he quickly realizes that this is his chance to hide out and not have to face any consequences; all the while the superintendent is looking for the name of the perpetrator. Donovan has never shown any type of giftedness in his life so “hiding out” in a school of geniuses is not as easy as it seems. Told from different perspectives, readers will find themselves cheering Donovan on and hoping for the best for the new friends he has made. Other great books by Gordon Korman include No More Dead Dogs, Schooled, Pop, Swindle, Framed, Show Off, Medusa Plot, Born to Rock, Everest series, Island series, On the Run series and Titanic series.