Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah

Jamilah is a Lebanese-Muslim girl but no one knows this about her. She has worked hard to hide her ethnic and religious background from the popular kids at her school who constantly torment the "wogs". To complete her disguise Jamilah has dyed her hair blonde, wears blue contact lenses and calls herself Jamie. She even keeps her two school friends at a distance so that they will not know her secret. And she definitely keeps her family away from everyone - her over-protective father who won't let her out after dusk, her sleezy older brother, and her political sister who insists on wearing the hijab to all her protests. Although Jamie doesn't like the way he picks on the other Arab kids at school, she is flattered when the most popular boy begins to show an interest in her because she knows he could be her ticket to fitting in once and for all. She has also started an on-line friendship with a boy she doesn't even know (or does she?) and he now knows all her secrets. When Jamie's band from Arabic school is asked to play at the Spring formal at her school she knows that her two worlds are about to meet!

Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech

In this sequel to Love That Dog we find Jack back in class with Miss Stretchberry, the teacher who taught him to love poetry. Jack learns more about poetry and, as before, tries his hand at writing his own using the new devices and styles he knows about now. A lot of his poetry is about a local mean black cat who seems to be around when Jack doesn't want to see him at all. Although he is sure he could never like a cat as much as his dog Sky, Jack's beliefs are tested when his parents get him a kitten.

The Bone Magician by F.E. Higgins

Set in Victorian England just like her other book, The Black Book of Secrets, this title oozes the atmosphere of the less desirable parts of town. Pin is a young boy living all alone since his mother has died and his father has disappeared after being accused of murder. Pin makes money working at a funeral home keeping an eye on the bodies to be sure they are actually dead so they won't be buried alive. While at work one night he is drugged. When he comes to he finds three people around the body - two who are bringing it back to life and one who needs an answer from his dead girlfriend. Before long Pin finds himself living with the Bone Magician and his assistant Juno while he tries to find out the secret of their magic. He is also tormented by a local newspaper columnist who writes daily that Pin's missing father is the notorious Silver Apple Killer who is responsible for several deaths in town.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

After an uprising the United States is divided up into 12 regions. As punishment for the uprising each year each district must choose a boy and a girl to participate in the Hunger Games, a battle to the death. Katniss has been lucky so far but her younger sister's name is drawn on the first year she is eligible so Kat volunteers to take her place. To make matters worse, Kat's district has always been underdogs in the Games since other districts train their fighters from early ages. But Kat's handlers have some different ideas about how to present her and Peeta, the boy from her district, that might give them a better chance than ever before. But even if the two of them can beat the other 22 contestants, there can only be one winner for the Hunger Games...

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

When he was just a baby Bod's entire family was murdered by The Man Jack. Bod managed to crawl away to a nearby graveyard where he was adopted by the ghosts and given full privileges of the graveyard. Since the ghosts cannot leave the graveyard Silas, a vampire (although the book never actually says this) agrees to be his guardian and to bring him food. Bod's astonishing life includes lessons in vanishing, a trip to the ghoul world, learning from a Hell hound, and many warm moments with his ghost family. When The Man Jack finally tracks Bod down he will need to use all of his skills and friends to beat Jack another time.

Don't Call Me Ishmael by Michael Gerard Bauer

Ishmael Leseur hates his name because he has always been bullied about it by Barry, the class bully. No one has ever been able to stand up to Barry. When James joins the class everyone knows that he is exactly the type of target Barry loves and that he will be the next scapegoat. But James claims that his sense of fear was removed during an operation and he refuses to be intimidated. With someone finally standing up to Barry, Ishmael and the rest of the class begin to feel better and more capable of doing some different things. The book is full of funny confrontations between different students as well as some hilarious and embarrassing situations.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz

Alex Rider lives with his uncle, a boring banker. But when his uncle is killed Alex learns that he was really a spy for British intelligence and was working on a top secret mission concerning the Stormbreaker computer. The computer is set to be released in just a few days and the intelligence agency needs someone to continue the work so Alex is recruited to complete his uncle's mission. Armed with a Game Boy that can send faxes, take X-rays, and find listening bugs Alex goes undercover on a dangerous mission.

Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale

Dashti is a maid who serves Lady Saren. On the second day of her service to Lady Saren they are both locked into a tower for seven years because the Lady refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her. With Lady Saren in despair it becomes Dashti's job to take care of both of them and to talk through the wall to the man Saren would rather marry. As she talks with this kind man Dashti falls in love with him although he never suspects he is not talking to Saren. But Saren's beloved is not the only visitor to the tower. The man her father intended for her also visits and he proves to be cruel and possibly, something more like a wolf than a man. With food running low Dashti must find a way out of the tower and to the country of the nice king before they both die.

If a Tree Falls at Lunch Period by Gennifer Choldenko

Kristin has been best friends with Rory forever but suddenly Rory is hanging out with the most popular girl in school instead. During a detention the popular girl takes a teacher's wallet and hides it in Kristin's bookbag, getting her into serious trouble. Rory and her new friend make up a story that gets Kristin out of trouble but she is still wary of them. Meanwhile, the same teacher offers a chance for the students to get extra credit so Kristin is teamed up with Walk, a new boy at school and the only black student in the entire building. Although he doesn't like Kristin a lot Walk invites her to eat lunch with him and his friends one day and Kristin proves to be so witty and fun that she immediately fits in with them. Then, while eavesdropping on a fight between her parents, Kristin discovers a secret that links her to Walk even more than either of them realized.

Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam by Cynthia Kadohata

During the Vietnam war dogs were trained to help our troops by detecting trip wires or hidden soldiers. This book tells the story of Cracker, a german shepherd who forges a friendship with Rick, a young soldier determined to take on the world. Told partly from Cracker's point of view the story travels from the fort where Cracker and Rick train to the camp in Vietnam where they are stationed. Some of Cracker and Rick's other friends - dog and human - travel with them and they are all deployed on various missions during the war. During this era, however, the military viewed their dogs as just another piece of equipment and when the war ended the dogs were often not brought back home. Cracker! presents a realistic picture of the war with an appealing canine perspective.

Harlem Summer by Walter Dean Myers

Mark wants to be a musician like his hero Fats Waller. But during the summer of 1925 his mother insists that he get a real job working at the office of The Crisis, a newspaper for the "New Negro" during the Harlem Renaissance. Hoping to make a little extra fast cash Mark goes with Fats to deliver a truck filled with some boxes. Unfortunately, the truck disappears and all the gangsters in town think that Mark is responsible for stealing their illegal alcohol - and they want their money. Like all of Walter Dean Myers' books Harlem Summer is fantastic. It is also hilarious as Mark tries to keep his mother happy and keep from being killed by all the rival gangsters in New York.

Knucklehead by Jon Scieszka

The author of The Stinky Cheese Man and The True Story of the Three Little Pigs writes about his wacky childhood. Jon was the second oldest of six brothers and like all young boys they got into lots of strange predicaments. Among other things he writes about his brother who constantly had broken collarbones from their football games, the time he had to make a list of all the bad words he knew for his teacher, and the time he saved up to buy a set of plastic soldiers that turned out to be less than he expected - so he sold them to another brother. As you would expect his stories are hilarious and they make you really appreciate how patient his parents must have been.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

Addie and her mom have just moved into a small trailer parked under an overpass and across a dirty parking lot from a small gas station and convenience store. The trailer was provided by Addie's ex-stepfather Dwight who lives in a house in the country with Addie's twin half-sisters. Addie loves her mom but Mommers has always been a bit distant and often leaves her alone for days at a time, especially when she is dating someone new. As much as Addie would like to live with Dwight and her sisters she knows that's not possible and contents herself with visits whenever they can be arranged. She also makes friends with the owner and manager of the gas station who help take care of her when Mommers is missing. More than anything, Addie would like for her life to be normal but that doesn't seem to be possible with Mommers. This is a beautiful, touching book with some humor as well. Give it a try!

The Black Book of Secrets by F.E. Higgins

Ludlow's parents have never been very good but when they try to sell his teeth for some extra money he runs away from them for good. He ends up in a small village working for Joe, a pawnbroker. Joe will buy anything from the people in the village but he specializes in buying secrets from them. As the people in the village come and reveal their darkest, most gruesome secrets, Ludlow's job is to write them down in the black book. As more and more people disclose their secrets it seems that many of them involve the town's worst resident and the villagers are waiting for Joe and Ludlow to do something to stop him.

The Maze of Bones by Rick Riordan

Orphans Amy and Dan Cahill have spent every weekend with their beloved grandmother, Grace. Grace lives in a huge mansion and has told them stories about how the Cahill family is one of the most powerful families in human history claiming relatives such as Benjamin Franklin, Harry Houdini, Lewis and Clark, and Abraham Lincoln. When Grace dies all of her distant relatives show up for the funeral hoping to collect on some of her millions. But at the reading of the will her lawyer reveals that all the relatives have a chance to take part in a contest that will lead them to an important treasure and make them powerful beyond belief. If they choose to participate they will receive the first of 39 clues that will lead them to the next clue. If they decide to leave the contest they can take one million dollars right away. Although they are scared about their prospects, especially when facing some of their evil relatives, Amy and Dan decide to take on the challenge of the contest. This mystery is the first in a series and includes an on-line contest as well for students!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Melting Stones by Tamora Pierce

Evvy is a stone mage - a person who has a special relationship with and can control rocks and stones. She is aided in her skills by Luvo, a living rock creature that is the heart of a mountain. Evvy travels with her mentors to a remote island that has suddenly had several ponds poisoned and groups of plants that have just died for no reason. While investigating on the island with the adults Evvy is able to magically transport herself underground where she finds that the volcano spirits are restless and looking for a way out. With Luvo's help she is able to find a way to keep the two lead spirits busy for a short while in order to have time to get everyone off the island before an eruption. But her solution to keeping them busy also makes them stronger and before long she knows that if she doesn't find a way to lead them away from the island completely the entire island chain will be destroyed by the new volcano.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Remember D-Day: The Plan, the Invasion, Survivor Stories by Ronald J. Drez

The Allies invasion on d-day was a decisive turning point in World War II. This book examines all the facets of that historic day including the events that lead up to d-day, the planning needed to make it a success, the people involved, and the actual events of that day. There are also lots of pictures to give readers a real sense of what it was like to be there.

Peak by Roland Smith

Everyone in Peak's family climbs mountains. Unfortunately, since his parents' divorce Peak lives in a city without any mountains so he climbs buildings instead. When he is caught doing just that he faces a long term in juvenile detention unless he leaves the country entirely and goes with his dad, whom he has not seen in years. Peak's dad takes him to the base of Mount Everest and reveals that he wants to get Peak to the summit, setting a world record for the youngest climber ever to summit. Peak faces many obstacles in his attempt to climb Everest including another possible contender for the record and the Chinese government. But the biggest challenge is the toll that Everest takes on everyone who tries to climb it. This thrilling adventure presents a very true-to-life portrait of what it's like to climb the world's tallest mountain.

Lionboy by Zizou Corder

When Charlie comes home from school one day he finds that his famous scientist parents have been kidnapped. Escaping from his own kidnapper Charlie decides to go after his parents. Since an incident when he was a baby Charlie has been able to speak to cats of all sizes so using information from the felines he runs into he learns that they are being taken to Paris. Charlie gets a position as an assistant lion tamer on a circus boat that is bound for Paris. While traveling he finds out that the lions are not happy with the lion tamer so they are willing to help Charlie in his quest for his parents in exchange for their freedom. This exciting adventure is the first in the series!

Darkness Creeping by Neal Shusterman

Neal Shusterman knows how to make things creepy! This collection of 20 short stories has at least one story that will give you the creeps, although which one gets to you varies from person to person. A few of the stories:
  • Flushie - about a boy who has been picked on throughout school and now has a plan to get back at all the kids who have bullied him
  • A quilt that eats up the children who are wrapped up in it
  • A grandfather taking his grandson out for a day of fishing who then reveals that he's ready to die
  • An ancient box handed down from generation to generation that will bring about the end of the world if it is opened.
  • And lots more!

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

Matt is a cabin boy on a luxury airship/blimp. Although he is young he is involved in rescuing an old man in a balloon who is raving about the cloud cats he saw before his ship was damaged. A year after the man dies his granddaughter comes onto Matt's ship with her grandfather's journal. Although he has been dismissed as a lunatic by scientists around the world, Kate is sure that her grandfather actually saw the new species he called cloud cats. She is trying to get Matt to help her prove they exist when the ship is attacked by pirates and forced to crash land on an uncharted island. While looking for a way to save the ship Kate and Matt find more than they bargained for including a bouncing snake, more pirates and a skeleton than seems very similar to the sketch in the journal.

Black Duck by Janet Taylor Lisle

During the time of prohibition Ruben and his best friend Jeddy find a dead man in a suit washed up on shore. They are certain he must be connected to the illegal alcohol trade in their area but by the time they come back with the police, the body is gone. The boys know what they saw but after Jeddy talks to his dad, the chief of police, he stops talking to Ruben and their relationship is strained. Ruben, meanwhile, begins to become involved with the captain of the Black Duck, a famous local rum-running boat. The Black Duck undertakes more and more dangerous jobs until the night when one member of the crew is shot. Was it an accident or did someone murder the crew member?

Estrella's Quinceanera by Malin Alegria

All her life Estrella's mom has been planning her quinceanera, the huge celebration on Estrella's 15th birthday. Now that the date is approaching Estrella finds herself full of worries. She goes to a private school out of the neighborhood and her friends at that school know nothing about her family or life at home. In fact, they're not even familiar with her real name since she has they call her Star. Her mother is planning a terribly tacky party with a hideous orange dress and Estrella is worried that her school friends will find out about her secret life. On top of all that she is interested in a boy from the neighborhood but her parents have dismissed him as a loser and she is fighting with her oldest Hispanic friends but her mother insists on having them as part of the quinceanera. Estrella has to find a way to either cancel her quince or bring all these different parts of her life together.

Begging for Change by Sharon Flake

At the beginning of this sequel to Money Hungry, Raspberry and her mother are living in the projects next door to an older teenager who is living on her own. During a fight the neighbor attacks Raspberry's mom with a pipe, nearly killing her. Already worried about her mother, their neighborhood and money, Raspberry next has to deal with her father who appears after a long absence claiming to be clean of the drugs he takes. Raspberry wants to believe him and trusts him with a little money but he takes it all and disappears again. Raspberry and her mom work to get the home they really want in the suburbs while Raspberry struggles to make things right with her best friend after a falling out as well as trying to forgive her father when he keeps turning up.

Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083

In the future kids don't go to school, they just watch TV. However, TV of the future is not like TV now. Instead, all the programs are reenactments of famous historical events in a reality-type format. Usually the contestants on these shows are adults who are fighting for a chance at a better life but for the latest show - a re-creation of Robert Scott's attempt to reach the South Pole - a group of five teens are participating. If they survive they are promised enough money to make a much better life than they are facing now where they live in small shacks and work at hard jobs. Their chances of surviving Antarctica are already pretty slim but they also have to deal with the woman in charge of programming who has stacked the odds against them by sabotaging their equipment and animals. How far will she go just to get better ratings?

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

This is the first book to combine a typical narrative story with lots of pictures like a graphic novel. So even though it looks huge, the pictures make the book read a lot faster than you would expect! Hugo lives in a train station with his uncle. His uncle's job is to take care of the clocks in the train station but Hugo's uncle has been missing for quite a while so Hugo has been maintaining the clocks all by himself hoping he won't be caught by the station master. Hugo's father was an inventor and when he died he left his journal behind. In the journal is a picture of a mechanical man and Hugo is certain that if he could just finish building the mechanical man it would write out a message for him from his father. So whenever he is not hiding he steals things from the toy stand across the street in order to get the pieces he needs to finish building. But one day Hugo is caught by the old man who runs the toy stand who takes Hugo's journal. Desperate to get the journal back Hugo begins working with the man's granddaughter and together they discover the answer to more than one mystery.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hour of the Cobra by Maiya Williams

In a small town in New England there is an old hotel. For one hour at dusk and one hour at dawn each day the hotel comes alive with people who visited there in the past, including many famous people from history. This hotel also has some special elevators that allow people to travel into the past. Four friends are allowed to travel to ancient Egypt on a mission to save relics that will be destroyed in a fire at that time. Since they need to blend in with the locals they are disguised to fit in at that time. African-American Xanthe gets to disguise herself as royalty and while visiting a temple one evening encounters a young Cleopatra. Cleopatra mistakes Xanthe for the goddess Isis and decides to follow her advice which leads to unexpected consequences for Egypt and the future. A great adventure full of time travel, chariot races and sibling rivalry.

Cabinet of Wonders by Marie Rutkoski

Petra lives in a small town with her father who is a metalworker. He has some magical abilities with metal and has created a series of living tin animals including Astrophil, a spider who is Petra’s good friend and advisor. Petra’s father is commissioned by the prince of Bohemia to build a clock which can control the weather. After creating a beautiful clock Petra’s father is blinded by the prince and sent home. Petra decides to go to Prague on her own to get her father’s eyes back and to destroy the clock so the prince will not be able to use it for his own evil ends. She is helped by Astrophil as well as a Roma brother and sister she meets in the city. This is a book full of magic and mystery!

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

Clary is 15 and lives with her mom. One night while out with her best friend Simon she sees a girl and two boys with knives luring another boy into a small room. She is determined to help out even though Simon doesn’t see anything. When she enters the room the three tell her that the other boy is a demon and they are Shadowhunters who are dedicated to returning demons to their own dimension. Clary is skeptical about the story until her own mother disappears and she is attacked by a demon at home. With nowhere else to go she turns to the three Shadowhunters for help and learns that her mom has been hiding a close connection to this world.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

At the age of 3 Daniel saw his parents killed by an alien. Since then he has lived on his own killing aliens from a list of the most dangerous aliens on Earth. Daniel now his his sites set on alien number 6. Although he sees himself as a human he has some magical abilities that are definitely not human. As he pursues number 6 he needs to use all his talents to try to save himself, Earth, other children who have been abducted, and the planet that might just be his real home world.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Airman by Eoin Colfer

Conor was born while his parents were in a hot air balloon and he feels that he was born to fly. His father is a close friend of the king of a small island and with the help of his tutor, Conor is trying to find some way to fly. But when the king is murdered by a traitor Conor is framed and finds himself in prison on a neighboring island. With the help of his cellmate Conor finds a way to stay alive while working on his plans for his own wings that he hopes will let him escape. If Conor can escape he hopes to get revenge on the man who has framed him, regain the love of his parents whom he believes have turned against him, and win the love of the king’s daughter. A fantastic adventure that is similar to the classic The Count of Monte Cristo.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Leanin' Dog

Dessa Dean lives with her dad near Willow Creek. Dessa Dean's dad takes care of his family by hunting and trapping but ever since her mother died in a snowstorm Dessa has not been able to step off the porch of their home. When a hurt dog shows up at their small house Dessa Dean adopts her despite her father's concerns. Although the dog takes to Dessa Dean immediately she has her own issues and panics if Dessa tries to shut the door to the house. The dog is also not fond of Dessa's father but they begin to make peace when the dog catches a rabbit for their Christmas dinner. When a bear enters the house while her dad is out during the day Dessa Dean and the dog must work together to help each other and survive.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Dead is the New Black

On the first day back at school the head cheerleader at school looks a little different. Instead of a golden tan she is incredibly pale, wearing all black and pulling a small coffin behind her rather than a backpack. Daisy is suspicious of her former friend, especially when her mother is asked to investigate the death of a girl who has been drained of her entire life source. Although Daisy is the only member of her family without any psychic powers she is determined to help with the investigation. Daisy tries to balance her new position on the cheerleading squad and boyfriend while keeping an eye on the head cheerleader as more and more members of the squad become sick.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko

Moose's family has just moved to Alcatraz so that his father can take a job as a guard at the prison. Moose's sister Natalie has autism and in addition to the new job, there is a school for special students nearby that would be able to help Natalie. Unfortunately, the school is not interested in admitting Natalie right now. Moose goes to school in San Francisco where he meets Scout - another boy who loves baseball as much as Moose. Moose is trying to arrange a baseball game but can't stay late because he has to be home to take care of Natalie and visitors to the island are not encouraged. Meanwhile, 16 year old Natalie seems to have made friends with one of the inmates which is something that cannot lead to anything good. Moose feels that he has to find a way to get Natalie into her school and away from Alcatraz and he wonders if notorious gangster Al Capone can help...