Midnight Dark Star

Midnight Dark Star

By R.T. Martin

Minneapolis: Darby Creek, 2017.

Thriller   88 Pages  Grades 7 and Up   Reluctant Readers

This reminds me of an old sci-fi movie and perfect for reluctant readers who need a fast pace thriller. Claire is not doing well in high school science class—she is getting 51lbl9q9ecl-_sx353_bo1204203200_desperate and when her teacher offers Saturday night extra credit—Clare has no choice but to cancel her plans with friends. Misery loves company and soon her friends join her Saturday night extra credit.  It was the new smart girl, Val,   who came up with going out to the bluffs to watch the meteor showers. But, she does not know the history of the


bluffs—the bluffs where a whole senior class disappeared many years ago.  But this mysterious new girl has a dark side, a very dark side and Claire and her friends will not soon forget the night they spent at the bluffs—if they survive.


The Bicycle Spy

The Bicycle Spy

By Yona Zeldis McDonough

New York:  Scholastic, 2016

Historical Fiction    193 pages     Grades 5 and Up

This is a great, quick and easy middle grade read!  This story takes place during WW II in a small French town called Aucoin, where Marcel and his parents lived and ran a bakery. Marcel loved school and the Tour de France, a famous bike race held every year in Paris. In fact, he would often ride his bike through town dreaming about one day being in that 7ba33f7282-e4b3-4410-9ebb-62037b5c5d0b7dimg400great race. This year, 1943, the race was canceled again due to the war. Although German soldiers occupied much of France Marcel’s little town was more neutral, in fact, some people were part of the French Resistance Movement. But you had to be careful because your friends or neighbors could be Nazi sympathizers.  Marcel attended school, rode his bike and often made deliveries for his parent’s bakery.  What he didn’t know was that some of his friends and family were in great danger and he might be the only one who could help them! This is a great book for younger middle school students as it will give them a perspective of on World War II that they might not be familiar with. A book of courage and friendship.

Yona Zeldis McDonough Website



By Karen Harrington

New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2016.

Grades 5 and Up    Realistic Fiction    344 Pages

Wayne Kovok is fact nerd! He loves to collect facts and whenever there is a lull in the conversation or when he gets anxious and doesn’t know what to say—he spouts out a fact!  Now many might think him odd but not Sandy Showalter, the prettiest girl in his middle school—they actually went out!

Wayne tells the story in two parts—before and after.  Before—when his divorced mom, retired drill sergeant grandfather who often is very critical of Wayne, and his Uncle Reed are out to lunch.  They are all getting together before Uncle Reed gets deployed for the fourth time and life returns to normal. 22024494

Then there was a tragic event that makes Wayne get on a plane and on the return to home flight–the after begins.  After—the plane crash.  During a storm, a back part of their airplane comes apart leaving a gaping hole in the side of the plane.  The pilot was able to crash land the plane and some survived; including Wayne and his mother.  Wayne suffered a crushed windpipe and a large “L” shaped gash across his face.  Wayne was left feeling a loser with survivors remorse, unable to speak and spout off facts. To make things worse his granddad moves in to help out and his estranged father continues to try and establish a relationship with Wayne.

You will not be disappointed in this story about family relationships and healing both physically and emotionally.




Not As We Know It

Not As We Know It

By Tom Avery

New York: Schwartz & Wade Books, 2015.

Grades 5 and Up     Realistic Fiction   159 Pages

Ned and Jamie are twins but they don’t look much alike. Jamie is tall and healthy and Ned smaller and suffers with cystic fibrosis. This is a condition that causes recurrent lung infections which over time causes the lungs to fail. Ned’s breathing is getting worse day by day.

not-as-we-know-it-203x300Mom decides to home school the boys to keep Ned away from other germs, granddad, a retired seaman, who teaches the boys geography and shares folktales from his time at sea.  These tales include stories of merpeople and of other creatures great and small with mystical powers.  Ned and Jamie love to take adventures along the seashore where they live which includes taking in treasures they find along the way and daydreaming about granddads stories.  After a good storm and Ned feeling pretty good, the boys go off and find a treasure that both feel confident will change their lives. A creature that looks half human and half fish—they name him Leonard and store him secretly in the garage until it mends. Find out if this creature holds some mystical power that can fulfill both boys hopes and dreams.

A story that will touch your heart for sure!


Real Friends

Real Friends

By Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

New York: First Second, 2017.

Grades 3-6   Graphic Novel   213 pages

This amazing memoir is a great reminder to adults that one of the hardest parts of growing up is friends and to students—you are not alone when you struggle with friend relationships and where you fit in.


This is the story of New York Times Bestselling author Shannon Hale.  She is portrayed as spunky red head who just wants real friends.  But who are our real friends?  Are they the popular group, new kids who Halemove in, the ones who moved out? Shannon Hale makes these struggles come alive as she talks about the anxiety symptoms that began to manifest as result of trying to find real friends. This is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel!


Every Falling Star

Every Falling Star

By Sung Ju Lee

Amulet Books:  New York, 2016.

Genre: Non-Fiction  North Korea

Grades: 7 and Up

Pages 314

There not many books written about life inside North Korea and when this one debuted a couple weeks ago I knew I needed to read it!  This a powerful memoir of Sung Ju Lee’s life in North Korea.  In the beginning of the book there is a brief history of 20th century North Korea which helps to set the stage for the story.  The country of North Korea is home to about 24 million people and of that 24 million about 72% belong to the military. Military service is mandatory for women to serve 7 years and men to serve 9 years. This is where 10-year-old Sung Ju Lee’s story begins, as his father was in the military an28818317d his mother a school teacher.  They had a very comfortable life, a roomy apartment, a good education, a pet dog and occasional trips to the amusement park.  But one day his mother told Sung Ju that they were going on an “extended vacation”—they packed up some belongings and took a train north.  What Sung Ju did not know that his family had been sent away (somehow his father had offended the government)—they now lived in deplorable conditions and since North Korea was in the midst of a famine, food soon ran out.  With no food and little hope Sung Ju’s Father tried to sneak over the border to China to find work and mother went to visit a sister to see if see could find food—neither of them returned. Now at the age of 12,
Sung Ju is an orphaned and had to run the streets with hundreds of other boys just like himself.  They formed gangs in order to effectively steal so that they could get enough food to exist. This is a survival story of a young boy determined that there was something more in life for him. The amazing part for my students reading this book will be that this book takes place in the early 2000’s—it is North Korea as it exists today.  The author often states that some facts he cannot give as it would mean certain death for friends and family that still live in North Korea today.  It is an eye opening book not to be missed.

Some violence in this book and they refer to Night Flowers (prostitutes) but no details are given.  It is a great book for grades 7 and up!

The Goldfish Boy

The Goldfish Boy

By Lisa Thompson

New York:  Scholastic Press, 2017.

Genre:  Realistic Fiction / Mystery

Grades: 5 and up

Pages: 313


Just what is it like to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder? Meet Matthew Corbin a twelve-year-old with OCD who in the beginning of the book has stopped attending school, barely communicates with his family and has completely shut out the outside world.  His only connection to the outside world is his bedroom window and his computer.  From my psychiatric nursing days, I learned people with OCD are often rigid, stubborn, 26891408perfectionists, preoccupied with rules, order and organization and often take no time for leisure or social activities.  Lisa Thompson does a great job developing the character of Matthew.  His need to have order in his world circles around his need to record habits of his neighbors; when they leave and return from work, who visits them, what lights they routinely turn on etc.  To the reader this may seem like a complete waste of time but as the story develops and a toddler goes missing, Matthew might be the key to solving the kidnapping/murder of little two-year-old Teddy.

Matthew expresses his obsession of being germ free by his compulsion for cleanliness.  What twelve-year-old would clean (actually disinfect) his entire room daily or sometimes more often.  Read from page 14-16. That hardly seems harmful but when he washes his hands over and over and uses bleach to clean his hands become a bloody mess and it begins to incapacitate him.

The author does a fabulous job allowing you to get to know each neighbor their habits, their quirkiness and why each one is a suspect in the case of the missing toddler.  She builds a great whodunit which will keep the reader guessing up to the very end!

The book is educational, compassionate and builds empathy!

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

By J.K. Rowling

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016.

Genre: Fantasy   304 pages

Grade Level: Grades 4 and Up.

Okay, so I saw the movie first and on the way home stopped and bought a copy of the book and finished reading it that evening! I loved the movie and wish the book was more than a script.

This is a Harry Potter, prequel of sorts which takes place in New York City in 1926, when Newt Scamander a Brit gets off an ocean liner carrying a worn leather suitcase that has more than a change of clothes contained within.  His goal is to release a creature that had been captured from Arizona some time ago. But a dark force is at work and when Newt’s 91igigbj0vlarrival is timed with the havoc, he becomes suspect number one by the MCUSA—the Magical Congress of the United States which keeps the magical wizards safe.

Readers will be mesmerized, in only the way that J.K. Rowling can do it, when Newt and muggle Jacob Kowalski step down into that worn piece of luggage. Readers will be introduced to new creatures some that cute and loveable and others that look quite fierce. Tie-ins to Harry Potter? Newt went to Hogwarts where he had Professor Dumbledore and he had a relationship with a Leta Lestrange.

Hang on to your hats and keep your wands at the ready—this book is filled with adventure, mystery and the magic of J.K. Rowling. 

Catching a Story Fish

Catching a Story Fish

By Janice N. Harrington

Wordsong, 2016.

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Grades: 4-6

This story has been told many times before—girl/boy moves and becomes 51m1ft2a5al-_sx301_bo1204203200_the new kid in school and does not fit in or gets bullied. This story has been given unique voice of Katharen who moves from Alabama to Illinois and who tells her story in verse.  It is beautifully written story about a girl who was known as Keet-Keet, because she loved to talk and tell stories like a “parakeet.” But her love of words comes abruptly to a halt when the kids in her class make fun of her southern accent. Although missing her friends she is now lives near her grandfather who not only loves to fish but loves to share life stories.  Stories of how catching fish parallels life.  The author note at the end of the book shares with the reader the different types of poems contained in the book.

Paper Hearts

Paper Hearts

By Meg Waviott

New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2015.

Pages 337

Genre: Historical Fiction

Grades: 6 and Up

Is the story of two girls, Fania and Zlatka both from Poland and both Jews. Although they did not know one another and they came from different ghettos they became family for each other when their own families were murdered at the hands of Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Fania and Zlatka met while at Auschwitz Concentration Camp, a notorious “work camp” where a million Jewish people died.  The story is written in verse, so it reads like a paper-hearts-9781481439848_hrdiary—a diary that unveils the horrors of daily life among a group of twenty resilient, courageous and defiant young women.  The paper heart was a “birthday gift” given to Fania as an act of total defiance by the women who lived and worked side by side. If any of them were caught while making it or if Fania would have been caught with it in her possession it would have meant certain death. The paper heart survived and is in a Holocaust Museum in Canada.

This is a historical fiction book and the author note at the end of the book tells the reader the facts upon which this story is built and the fate of the twenty women who shared the darkest days in world history. It is a compelling read—don’t miss it!