New Book Reviews
Reading Level: Grades K-3
Retirement isn’t for everyone – especially not sixty-two year old Annie Edson Taylor. Schoolteaching in the late 1800s was not a high paying job, and after retirement, Annie needed a way to earn some money so she could live out the rest of her days in comfort and happiness. She knew that stuntmen and daredevils often made good money from their bravado, and so she decided to become the first person ever to go over Niagara Falls… in a barrel. Chris Van Allsburg’s typical old-timey illustrations are a perfect pairing with this biography.
Reading Level: Grades 8+
When 17-year-old Ginny's eccentric aunt died she sent her niece $1,000 and some numbered envelopes with the instruction that Ginny fly to Europe by herself and follow the directions in the envelopes, never opening the next envelope until the tasks in the previous envelope were completed.
WARNING: If you have not read 13 Little Blue Envelopes read no more!
It was a summer Ginny would never forget. She worked her way through twelve of the envelopes before her backpack (which held the thirteenth envelope) was stolen in Greece. Resigning herself to never finishing the adventure, Ginny returns home to New York.
Months later she receives an e-mail from someone she doesn't know. The e-mail contains the first page of the thirteenth letter. When she answers the e-mail, the sender tells her the rest of the e-mail contains clues to another of her aunt's paintings. Clues that only Ginny can solve. The sender will not share the instructions in the letter unless Ginny agrees to accompany him on the hunt for the pieces of the work, sell the painting and split the proceeds with him 50/50.
Other foreign adventures include:
Reading Level: Grade 6-8
Vera is too young to remember a time she wasn't thirsty. Since the polar ice caps melted and the rivers dried up, there is very little fresh water left. Almost all the northern hemisphere's fresh water is controlled by the Empire of Canada and the Republic of Minnesota. Vera lives in the Republic of Illinowa where she is lucky to get a drink a day.
One day Vera meets Kai a boy with a wonderful, powerful secret. When Kai is suddenly, violently kidnapped, Vera and her older brother Wil naively set out to save him. As they encounter dangerous water pirates, the People's Environmental Army and the sinister organization Bluewater, it becomes clear that the brother and sister probably won't even be able to save themselves.
Other tales of environmental disaster include:
Reading Level: Grades 3-6
Be careful what you wish for.
After her older half-sister reads her part of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland but refuses to tell why Alice followed the rabbit down the hole, nine-year-old Olemaun nags her parents to send her to the school of the white outsiders. Even though her father warns her that they will cut her hair, give her a new name and not allow her to speak their language , Olemaun so desperately wants to read that she persists until she gets her way.
Once in the clutches of the dark-cloaked nuns, Olemaun realizes what a horrible mistake she has made. Somehow she must hold onto who she is until she can finally return to her people.
More narratives of Indian boarding schools include:
Reading Level: Grades 4-6
Quiet Calli Gold feels out of place in her family of achievers. Her older brother Alex is the star of his school's basketball team. Her older sister Becca is an ice skater. The family calender is loaded with post-it notes, blue for Alex's games and practices, pink for Becca. Calli's color is yellow. There only two yellow post-its up for the whole month, appointments for the dentist and a haircut.
Calli's parents are sure if Calli would just be willing to try she would find her place to shine. Calli HAS tried. So far she has tried and failed gymnastics, ballet, soccer, baton twirling, violin and origami. Now her father has signed her up for acting.
Can Calli ever be appreciated for who she is in this high octane family?
For other stories of a kid feeling out of place in their family try::
Reading Level: Grades 2-4
Sassy Simone Sanford feels invisible in her family. Her older brother, sister and her parents call her "Little Sister." Sassy hates that nickname. It sounds like she's a baby. Sassy is anything but a baby. She's a bubbly kid with a quirky fashion sense. Her friends appreciate her, she just needs her family to see her for who she is.
If you enjoyed meeting Sassy you'd also enjoy.:
Reading Level: Grades 5-7
11-year-old Tracy has been in America for six years. She doesn't remember much about her years in Vietnam. Not until she and her friend Stargazer discover her father's old ammo box in the garage. Stargazer breaks off the lock and opens the box. Her father finds them just as they pull out the military dogtag. His cold, hard anger sends Stargazer running for home.
During that steamy summer of 1980, powerful memories come back to haunt both Tracy and her father, memories that may force them apart forever.
Other stories of the lingering effects of war include:
The Things a Brother Knows by Dana Reinhardt
Reading Level: Grades 8-10
If the kid had just waited five minutes Detective George Rawls wouldn't have caught the case. He was on his way out when he was told that a kid had just walked through the door and confessed to murder. Small, slight 16-year-old Shayne Blank isn't like any killer the detective has ever encountered.
Switching between the stark interview room and the memories of Shayne's friend Mikey, the author pulls the reader into a tantalizing mystery that is almost impossible to put down.
Other tales of teens and the police include:
Reading Level: Grade 6-8
Riley Bloom resisted for a long time. After she, her parents and her dog were killed in a traffic accident, Riley lingered on the earth plane spying on her sister and her friends as they continued living. When she finally crossed the bridge into Here and was reunited with her parents and dog, she still couldn't resist spying on the living.
On her first day of school (yes, they have school in Here) a nerdy boy brings her to a mysterious door. Inside she meets a group of angels who show her her life...all of it. Riley is horribly embarrassed. So embarrassed that she doesn't ask the right questions when the council of angels announces that Riley will train as a soul catcher. She should have asked.
Other tales of the afterlife include:
No Passengers Beyond This Point by Gennifer Choldenko