By Jason Reynolds
A Caitlyn Dlouhy Book, 2016.
I enjoyed Ghost—it was a fast paced story about a junior high boy, named Castle Crenshaw who gave himself the nickname, Ghost. His mom is a nurse’s aide who is taking online courses to become an RN is his only true support. His dad, a mean alcoholic, who pulls a gun on him and his mom is now in jail. Ghost is traumatized and angry about his dad—that anger is what often gets him in trouble—big trouble at school. One day he stumbles upon a coach and a group of kids running and knows that he can beat them all—when he challenges them—the coach sees something redeeming in Ghost and encourages him to join the Defenders Track Team; with conditions—keep up grades and no school troubles. Unfortunately, trouble seems to follow Ghost. Can Ghost overcome his past to make something of his future? Don’t miss this great read by Jason Reynolds! Perfect for middle school readers!!
Author Website: http://www.jasonwritesbooks.com/
Greetings from the Witness Protection
By Jake Burt
I loved, loved this book! Spunky Nikki has just been “bounced” from another foster home back to the foster center but she doesn’t let that get her down then she is suddenly called out of art class. Getting called out of class usually means you are heading out to meet a “new perspective” family. Nikki hadn’t even unpacked her bag yet when she gets led into the “visiting” room and notices two uniformed adults. This makes Nikki very squeamish as she has a kind of a “bad habit” when she gets nervous. She is a masterful kleptomaniac—she can pick any pocket thanks to her criminal dad (now in prison) and her late grandmother. These U.S. Marshall’s have a unique opportunity to offer Nikki. A family entering the witness protection program, because of being involved in organized crime, need to change their family structure by adding a family member. Nikki has been chosen because she looks just like the mom, they needed girl who could be strong in the face of adversity. The decision is Nikki’s to make and she declines because she is waiting for her dad to get out of prison and come get her. Nikki’s world is suddenly turned upside down when the U.S. Marshall’s tell Nikki her dad has been out of prison for three years. Nikki is crushed and then quickly decides she is up for a new adventure as the daughter of the Trevor’s. Quickly, the reader discovers that the Trevor’s need a street smart girl as much as Nikki needs a family!
As one might imagine—the mob is very persistent and it is just a matter of time before they figure out the location of the Trevor’s. That’s when the story gets really intense—don’t miss this first great novel by Wyoming (Ohio) High School graduate, Jake Burt!
We had a great impromptu visit with Jake Burt!!
Author Website: http://www.jburtbooks.com/
The Perfect Score
By Richard Buyea
It took me a few chapters to warm up to this book! Perhaps because my audio book got returned before I could really get going! Each chapter changes character and so the reader gets a different perspective of the unfolding story; of how five sixth graders are anticipating being in the same class with the most awesome teacher of all–Mr. Mitchell. When they show up the first day he has been replaced by an older teacher who “is no fun at all,” or so they think! Mrs. Woods, the replacement teacher, has taught for a million years but she brings her special power with her to the classroom—she has a keen ability to really understand each student. Mrs. Woods quickly comes under fire for reading a-loud to the class—as the principal is changing the rules of the school. No fluff in the curriculum—only academics that will help students pass the state test. As the students become weary of “all the academics” and school becomes no fun anymore (true for many schools today), one student comes up with an idea of how his entire class can ace the test—with just a little bit of–cheating. This is where doing something wrong for the right reason makes sense!! LOL!! Richard Buyea does a great job fully developing each student’s character and you will be cheering for each student as they overcome personal obstacles to become the best 6th graders they can be! I really enjoyed this first book by Roy Buyea.
Author Website: http://robbuyea.com/
Audio Clip from the book: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP-5ZGaZL68
By Erin Entrada Kelly
Greeenwillow Books, 2017
Grades 4-6 Realistic Fiction Newbery Medal Winner 2018
The stars are all aligned in this universe which has produced a fun read, Hello, Universe! This is the story of three children, who do not know each other and a bully named Chet “Bull” Bullens. Virgil is quiet, shy and has a crush on a girl but can’t find the courage to talk to her. At home, his parents and brothers call him “turtle” which makes him feel bad, but his grandmother, who shares Pilipino folktales with him is a true believer and supporter of Virgil. Valencia Somerset loves nature, is deaf and often feels lonely. Kaori Tanaka has set up her own business of telling fortunes and giving advice. Bull, Valencia and Virgil all go to school together and Bull has been known to pick on the “deaf kid” and “the retard.” Then, during a chance meeting in the woods Bull steps over the line and puts one of the kids’ life in danger. But the stars align and fate takes over as Kaori, Valencia and Virgil each find what they truly need in life. Don’t miss this award winning novel!
Author Website: http://www.erinentradakelly.com/
The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle
By Janet Fox
Viking Books, 2016.
Genre: Fantasy and Historical Fiction Pages: 388 Grades: 5/6 and Up
My two favorite genres are historical fiction and fantasy. That’s why I loved this book it takes place during World War II in London. Bombs are beginning to fall and the people of London are sending their kids away to safer places. Katherine, called Kat, her brother Robbie and younger sister Amelie are sent away to an Academy that was set up in Rookskill Castle in Scotland. Their father said it would be a great place for them all during the war.
As they are packing her Aunt gives Cat a chatelaine—which are charms that are strung and are worn around the waist. Each, Cat was told had some magical power. As her aunt tries to explain its powers, Cat dismisses her as a little crazy.
Upon arriving at the old castle they are met by Lady Lenore who is very odd. She lays out the rules and tells the children their lessons will begin the next day. That’s when the book takes a creepy turn. The children are locked in their rooms and when they sneak out they find there are rooms, halls and secret passages everywhere. There are real people who appear like ghosts and there are the weird and crazy noises that come from within the walls.
This story is filled with dark magic, spies and puzzles. The final chapters will keep readers on their edge of their seats for sure!
I only wish the author would have given more history about the war—like what a blitz was, what countries were in the war, how spies were used and how disruptive the war was to families all over the world.
Train I Ride
By Paul Mosier
New York: Harper, 2017.
Genre: Realistic Fiction Pages 181 Grades 5 and Up
I loved, loved this story. It is one of heart and heartbreak, aloneness but not loneliness. This is the story of twelve year old Rydr as she is headed from California to Chicago on an Amtrak Train with a special box, her backpack and no money (she blew it all in the station before she left). She is alone but not really alone. She has to be accompanied by a train matron who is assigned to minors who are traveling alone without a parent or an adult. That’s where the story begins—Rydr’s grandmother died while she was caring for her in California—it seems she was the logical choice to pick to care for after her mother died. Rydr was just settling in at school (kind of) and was beginning to make great strides with her therapist when her grandmother suddenly died. Although, Rydr was not happy living with gramma she knew that she would always be there for her—unlike her drug addicted mother. Rydr’s meets people aboard this train that the reader will soon not forget. This is a timely coming of age story filled with compassion, kindness, hope, forgiveness and love.
By K.A. Holt
New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2017.
Genre: Fantasy Pages: 285 Grades: 5 -7
This was a fun summer read! Buck and Lizzie are huge fans of the series, Triumphant Gnome Syndicate, and book three is getting ready for it release. This book makes several references/parallels to the Harry Potter phenomena, like the midnight release party that is swamped by fans. At the release party in Buck’s home town a surprise visit occurs at his bookstore—it is Harold Macinaw, famed author of the Gnome Series. When he makes his appearance there is an explosion and the famous author goes missing. That’s when things get really strange—kids are be summoned and walk off into a bottomless dumpster and replacement kids end up in their spot. Parents/adults seem to be frozen like zombies. It appears Buck and Lizzie are not effected but are now in pursuit of this missing author and Buck’s little sister who jumped into the mysterious dumpster. They find themselves in a most peculiar adventure—they have landed in the underground world of the Gnomes! Not just any world—the world of Gnomes that was created by Harold Macinaw. Good thing that Buck is one of the best at the Triumphant Gnome Syndicate trivia—he is going to need that knowledge to navigate in this strange world. Lizzie ends up going with him by mistake—but luckily she also knows a lot about the world of Gnomes and is the one who remains well-grounded throughout the entire adventure. Check out this strange, action packed fantasy to see if Buck has what it takes to solve the bizarre mystery, save his sister and the author. Colin Jack does the art work for the cover and the pictures that periodically show up in the book—a fun addition indeed.
By Svetlana Chmakova
New York: Yen Press, 2017.
Genre: Graphic Novel Realistic Fiction Grades: 5 and Up Pages: 239
This is a great realistic fiction, graphic novel from the author who brought us Awkward. Yes, middle school students are very awkward but they are also brave! Author Chmakova likens middle school to one of the Top 10 Natural Disasters! Not only does main character Jensen agree but also he thinks he is in a video game where his mission is just to make it through each day… “without getting eaten by the game monsters…” Just who are those monsters? The math teacher who has no mercy for mediocre, the girls who laugh at him and the boys who bully him for being overweight. Therefore, each day he runs “the gauntlet” where the only safe spots are art club and the school newspaper. Jensen is the boy at school who sits alone at lunch and the one not picked for a group in class. However, today when the teacher asks for a volunteer to partner with Jensen, Jorge raises his hand and volunteers! Jorge is a big jock with a soft spot for those who get bullied and so Jensen begins to have some allies in school. This is a great book to help students establish some empathy as you feel the pain of being laughed at, being used and finally cheering as Jensen becomes brave enough to speak up for himself!
By Carol Goodman
New York: Viking, 2017.
Genre: Fantasy 355 Pages Grades 5 and Up
This was an interesting read. It is historical, a mystery and a fantasy book all rolled up into one. The story is about four kids coming from very different backgrounds and meeting on December 7, 1941, the day Pearl Harbor was bombed. They become unified in the quest to stop a Nazi plot that is to take place four days later in New York City! It is their diversity that unites them—one a Japanese American, one Jewish, who was sent to the U.S from Europe when his parents were taken to ghettos/concentration camps, one an orphan separated from siblings, and one who is of Indian descent. They have each been selected to find the Kelmsbury Manuscript, which has been separated into, parts—all containing clues that will help them to figure out the plot against the U.S.A. The Kelmsbury is no ordinary book; it is about the legends of King Arthur. Each of the characters in the story unknowingly takes on a role in the book and has a special power to help them. See how they unite, overcome self-serving behavior to have good triumph over evil!