Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Land of the Silver Apples by Nancy Farmer

In this sequel to The Sea of Trolls we finally learn why Lucy is concerned only about herself. Lucy is a changeling - a troll baby that was stolen by Jack's parents. Jack discovers that his real sister is likely living with goblins now. Lucy disappears as a result of an exorcism gone wrong so Jack goes to the Land of the Silver Apples to get both of his sisters.

The Sea of Trolls by Nancy Farmer

Jack is learning to become a bard - a village leader who tells stories and performs magic. As a part of his apprenticeship he gets to live with the bard which works out well for him since his father spends all his time doting on Jack's younger sister Lucy. But when Viking berserkers come through the village they kidnap Jack and Lucy. Jack is able to save their lives with his magic and even becomes friends with Olaf One-Brown and a young girl who wants to become a warrior. When the Vikings arrive in their own land Jack meets Queen Frith who is half Troll. Like his father, she is immediately devoted to Lucy and treats her like a daughter. Jack continues to tell stories to save his life but one of his stories accidentally undoes a spell that Frith has cast which puts Jack's life in danger once again.

The Night Tourist by Katherine Marsh

After Jack is hit by a car his widower father sends him to New York to see a doctor. The doctor just takes a picture of Jack and then sends him on his way. With some extra time on his hands Jack decides to spend some time wandering around the train station where he meets Euri. She takes him to the underground section of the station where he sees an underworld of ghosts. Jack learns that he can spend three days in the underworld before he becomes a ghost himself. In the meantime he can do whatever Euri does as long as he is holding her hand. So Jack starts on a quest to try to find his dead mother and bring her back to the land of the living vefore his time runs out.

The Red Necklace by Sally Gardner

Yann works with a magician at the time of the French Revolution. One night they are hired for a private performance at the house of an aristocrat who is in lots of debt. Yann meets Sido, the 12 year old daughter of the aristocrat. She reveals that her father wants her to marry Count Kalliovski in order to end his money problems. During the course of the evening Yann's mentor is murdered during his act by the Count who has now set his sites on Yann. Yann and Sido work together to save themselves from the evil Count and staying safe during a dangerous time in history.

Remembering Raquel by Vivian Vande Velde

Raquel was hit by a car and has died before this book even begins. The chapters of the book are told by people who knew Raquel who are now remembering what they knew of her. Some of the people affected by her death knew her well but others were people who couldn't be bothered to talk to her when she was alive. Although Raquel wasn't a complete outcast she was also not very popular and very few people know who she really was. As all the characters remember her in different ways we find out many details about her life that might indicate her accident might not have been so accidental after all.

The Ruby Key by Holly Lisle

Genna and Dan's father disappeared several years before after suffering a mental illness. Everyone assumes that he is dead and now their mother is showing symptoms of the same illness. Now their Uncle Banris is pressuring their mother to marry him but Genna and Dan don't trust him and suspect that he has ulterior motives. Their town is bordered by a forest that has the nightlings in it. The nightlings are elf-like creatures who demand gifts each year to keep the peace with the humans. Genna decides to go ask Letrin, the king of the nightlings, to help them find their father. Once there they learn that Uncle Banris has already talked to the nightlings and plans to murder their entire family once he marries their mother. Letrin agrees to help them - as long as they do something for him first. So Genna and Dan set off on a quest with a young nightling girl and a talking cat.

The Sky Inside by Clare Dunkle

Martin lives with his parents and younger sister in the future in a city covered by a dome. The people living there are content to live their lives making no decisions and having no options about their futures. When Martin gets an A.I. dog for his birthday he is unhappy at first but he soon discovers that his dog has abilities he shouldn't have. For instance, his dog is capable of changing his form into any other item and he can access forbidden areas of the dome. Martin's sister Cassie is a genetically engineered child from a group called the "Wonder Babies". Now that they are school age it is clear that the Wonder Babies are brilliant - smarter than any adult in the world - and they are worrying the government because of their abilities. When a man comes to the dome claiming that he is taking the Wonder Babies to a better place Martin is skeptical and worried about his sister. With the help of his dog he decides to brave the world outside the dome to find Cassie.

What They Found: Love on 145th Street by Walter Dean Myers

The neighborhood beauty salon is the center of activity for these short stories which are all set in Harlem. Although some stories are funny and some are serious they all concern the residents of 145th street and show people who are "poor and black". A young boy wishes he had a way to support his girlfriend and their baby. A girl with big plans for her future ends up dating a gangster who surprises her with how nice he is to the handicapped kids she works with. A boy who wants to make something of himself finds that it is difficult for him to make any progress without a gun or drugs. These are just a few of the many great stories by a master storyteller.

Antsy Does Time by Neal Shusterman

Antsy and Gunnar are given a project to work on together for school. As they become friends Gunnar reveals that his doctor has told him he only has a few months left to live. Antsy wants to help Gunnar in some way so he offers to donate one month of his own life to Gunnar. Gunnar is touched by the gesture and so are many people at school. Soon, everyone is approaching Antsy to ask him about drawing up contracts for their own donations to Gunnar. Meanwhile, Antsy is beginning to think he might have a chance with Gunnar's older, beautiful sister Kjersten as they begin spending more time together. But as time goes on and Antsy learns more about Gunnar he begins to doubt his friend's story and becomes more uneasy about all the people at school who are obsessed with Gunnar's story.

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Brothers Prosper and Boniface have to live with a mean aunt and uncle after their parents' deaths. When they learn that their aunt wants to separate them and just keep young, cute Boniface they run away to Venice. Once there they are living on the streets until they meet a group of orphans who live in an abandoned theater. The orphans are taken care of by another boy named Scipio, the Thief Lord, who steals things of great value and sells them to provide for all of them. The brothers learn that their aunt has tracked them to Venice and has hired a private investigator to locate them. So with the help of their new family they plan a way to carry out the biggest theft ever and throw the detective off their trail.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Downsiders by Neal Shusterman

Talon lives in the Downside - the world located underneath New York City. According to Downsider history they have always lived there, safe from the burning rays of the sun that harm the unlucky topsiders. But despite warnings to stay away from the Topside Talon finds himself drawn to some things there, especially Lindsey who has just moved in with her father. Lindsey is drawn to Talon as well and is determined to teach him more about what he is missing on the Topside. But Talon and the rest of the Downsiders might not have any choice about leaving their world left when some digging equipment accidentally breaks through a wall and part of their home is discovered. Now they are faced with a hard decision about their future.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Num8ers by Rachel Ward

Jem sees numbers in the eyes of everyone she meets. After her mother's death, Jem realizes that a person's number is actually the date that person will die. Ever since then Jem has kept to herself trying to avoid the death dates all around her. When she meets Spider at school she is shocked to see that his number is only a few months away. Despite his impending death they become friends, both getting into trouble at school for different reasons. During an afternoon trip to the London Eye Jem notices that everyone waiting in line for the ride has the same number - that day's date. She knows that some catastrophe is going to happen to the people at the London Eye so she grabs Spider's hand and runs away. Minutes later a bomb explodes killing dozens of people. Within hours the police are looking for two teens - a tall black boy and short white girl who were seen running away from the scene of the terrorist attack. Jem and Spider have to run for their lives, even though Spider only has about a week left in his.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick

Steven has a totally normal life for an 8th grader. He's in the All Star band because he's a great drummer, he has a crush on the hottest girl in school, and he has a little brother who sometimes drives him crazy. But his life is turned upside down when his brother Jeffrey is diagnosed with leukemia. Almost overnight his mother quits her job to take care of Jeffrey and they are spending weeks in treatment in another city. His father shuts down as a parent and Steven is left to fend for himself. At first, he's not doing a very good job of that. But with some help from his best friend and a caring school counselor he begins to get himself together. He follows the advice of the counselor who tells him to stop focusing on what he can't change and instead, think about the things he can. With this advice, Steven is poised to become the best big brother, and musician, ever.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Iris, Messenger by Sara Deming

Iris has the weirdest teachers and is always getting in trouble with them. Her mother is a health food nut who works for a tofu company and her father lives with his new wife far away and sends her the worst presents ever. On Iris's birthday she expects to receive the usual bunch of awful gifts but is pleasantly surprised when she gets a copy of Bullfinch's Mythology. And in the margins of the book she finds notes written specifically to her with hints on how to find the Greek god Poseidon. She also receives a rainbow-colored shawl that allows her to transport to any spot she likes. Determined to find out who has sent her these gifts and why, Iris travels around town meeting all the gods who are alive and well. She also hears lots of the original stories from mythology told by the gods themselves and finds a way to help her mom who has been fired from her job.

Wondrous Strange by Lesley Livingston

Kelley is 17 and living in New York City trying to become an actress. She gets her big break when she is given the lead role in a Shakespeare play. But while practicing her lines in Central Park one night she hears a commotion and finds a horse drowning in a pond. She rescues the horse and then is stunned to find the horse in her bathtub when she gets to her apartment on the third floor. Meanwhile, Sonny is a changeling - a human who was stolen as a baby by faeries and raised as one of their own. He has been selected by the Winter King to be part of the Janus who guard a crack between the faerie and human worlds. For nine nights near Halloween the crack opens enough that fae creatures can escape into the human world. When Sonny runs into Kelley he realizes that she is more than she seems although he's not sure what, exactly, she is. But when he discovers that she is keeping a kelpie in her bathtub and that her roommate is an escaped faerie from hundreds of years before, he begins to suspect that Kelley might be much more powerful than either of them had ever imagined.

Night Fires by George Edward Stanley

Woodrow and his mother have just moved into the town of Lawton, Oklahoma. They have returned to Woodrow's father's home after he was killed in a car accident. Woodrow's mother is still mourning and spends much of her time in her bedroom. So Woodrow keeps himself busy with his next door neighbor, Senator Crawford. Senator Crawford fills a void left by the death of his father and Woodrow soon begins to think of the Senator as a father. Likewise, the Senator's son died a few years before and now the Senator feels like Woodrow is taking his place. But as the relationship between Woodrow and the Senator grows, his mother makes it clear that she does not like the Senator and worries about his influence on Woodrow. Woodrow is not concerned at all, until the night he secretly witnesses the beating of a black boy and realizes that the Senator is the head of the local Ku Klux Klan. Woodrow wants to believe that his new "father" is a good man but the more he learns about the Klan and what they are doing in town, the harder time he has believing that.

Little Audrey by Ruth White

Set in a coal mining town in 1948, Little Audrey is the story of the author's childhood but told from the perspective of her older sister Audrey. Audrey's mother has had problems ever since the death of one of her children several years before. Now she often has spells where she lives in her own world, drifting about in the real world. The girls' father is an abusive drunk who uses most of his pay for alcohol. The family is barely surviving until something happens that changes their lives forever.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Shooting the Moon by Frances O'Roark Dowell

Jamie is an army brat who has heard all her life about how great the military is from her Colonel father. When her older brother decides to skip college and go to fight in Vietnam instead Jamie is thrilled that T.J. will get to live what they have always dreamed about. So she is very surprised when it seems that her father is trying to talk T.J. out of enlisting. And she is even more surprised when T.J. starts sending her film to develop full of pictures that paint a completely different picture of the war than she has always imagined.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt

Ranger is an old hound dog. He used to hunt with his owner, Gar Face, until the day Gar Face shot him in the leg. Now he is chained to the front porch where he suffers whatever abuse Gar Face gives him. When a beautiful calico cat comes out of the swamp and becomes his friend he is happy but also worried for her safety. And when she has two kittens the dog and cat do everything they can to keep their family safe. Woven throughout the story of the dog and cats is another story of an ancient water moccasin with magical abilities who is just waiting to take revenge on those she feels have hurt her.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall

Mr. Collins is tired of trying to motivate the students in his math class. Frustrated, he asks them "what would make you care about this class?" One student suggests that a contest might help so Mr. Collins forms an after school club to try to break the world record in making tetrahedrons - pyramid shaped figures. The students who join the group are there for a variety of reasons. Rhondell because she hopes it might help her get into college someday; Sharice because she has to be somewhere after school until her latest foster mother gets home; James because he is failing math class and he thinks this will be an easy way to get extra credit; and Marcel because he hopes to do something with his life besides take over his father's barbeque restaurant. Although the students are not very excited to be there at first they all find themselves growing more interested in completing the project and caring about the others in the group. In fact, everything is going well until someone threatens to destroy all their hard work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristin Levine

Dit lives in Alabama in 1917. He is looking forward to the arrival of the new postmaster because he hopes there will be a new boy who likes baseball nearby. But when the postmaster arrives the entire town is surprised to see that the family is black. Dit doesn't care about that but he is very disappointed that the only child in the family is a girl who doesn't like baseball or fishing. Forced by his parents to spend time with Emma he begins to discover that she is more interesting than he thought and they become close friends with Emma tutoring him and teaching him to change his ways. But his friendship with a "negra" doesn't sit well with other people in town, including his good friends at school. When Dit and Emma witness a killing in the local barber shop they know that the accused man is innocent. But no one is willing to listen to two children so it is up to them to save the man who is on trial.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

T4 by Ann Clare LeZotte

Paula is deaf in Germany during the Holocaust. In addition to the killing of Jews and other groups, Nazi doctors killed thousands of disabled people in a program they labeled T4. In order to save her life Paula's family sends her into hiding. This novel, told in free verse, tells her story of survival and a part of the Holocaust which is still somewhat hidden.

Breathe: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish

Jack and his mother move into an old house inhabited by four ghost children and one Ghost Mother. Jack is the first person living in the house has ever been able to sense the ghosts and the children are hopeful that he'll be able to help them escape and rejoin their loved ones on the Other Side. The Ghost Mother has captured all of the children's souls and is slowly feeding on them to extend her time on Earth and to keep herself out of the Nightmare Passage, a place for lost souls. She is also looking for a child to love after the death of he daughter many years before and once she finds out that Jack can see her she hopes that he will become her new child. But Jack quickly figures out that the Ghost Mother is dangerous to everyone, human and ghost. But before he can do anything the Ghost Mother possesses his own mum and he has to find a way to save them all.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Junior has lived on the reservation all his life but as he enters his freshman year he decides to try going to school at the white school just over the border of the rez. The white kids make fun of him at first and Junior is surprised to learn that the rules of the white world are different from the rules of the Indian world. Gradually he starts to fit in, making the basketball team and semi-dating a girl from school. But Junior's bigger problems are back on the rez. His entire community is mad at him for leaving them behind. Junior tells his entire story with humor and tragedy including the many deaths on the rez, the rampant alcoholism, and his attempts to make up with his best friend who now hates him.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Peace, Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson

Locomotion lives with his foster mother Miss Edna and writes daily to his younger sister Lili, who is in another foster home, after the death of their parents. Locomotion likes to write poetry but his new teacher is not very appreciative of his talent. One of his good friends has moved to Florida. And Miss Edna's son Jenkins is fighting in Iraq but the family gets word that he is wounded. Locomotion reveals all the details of his life and his thoughts in his letters to Lili while they deal with their grief and form new families.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Last Summer of the Death Warriors by Francisco Stork

Pancho arrives at an orphanage after his sister's death. Although the police say that Rosa's death was an accident, Pancho is certain that she was murdered by a man she was seeing. Pancho is determined to kill that man, as soon as he can figure out who that man is. At his new home he meets D.Q. who has cancer and expects to die within a few months. D.Q. says that Pancho is the friend he's been waiting for and that they are going to be Death Warriors - people who love life and are not afraid of love. Pancho is not interested in that but he agrees to go with D.Q. to the hospital where he will be receiving a new treatment because Rosa's killer lives in that city. D.Q. knows about Pancho's plans but he is hoping that Pancho will change his mind after spending more time with him and with Marisol, a pretty girl who works at the place they will be staying.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

This graphic novel tells three connected stories. One story is about the Monkey King who wants to join the other gods in heaven. In another story Jin Wang is the only Chinese-American student in his school. When another Asian boy arrives Jin doesn't want to be associated with him. In the third story, Danny is an all-American boy but he has an obnoxious Chinese cousin who comes to visit once a year. After Chin-Kee visits each year Danny has to transfer to a new school to rebuild his reputation. All three characters just want to fit in but they all connected in ways they never would have expected.