New Book Reviews
Reading Level: Grades 7+
When you’re a homeless eleven year-old named Skip, there isn’t anywhere for you to go, because all the shelters are either for women with children, or for men, which you aren’t. When you’re homeless, a runaway, you never sleep in the same place twice, otherwise someone might be able to figure out where you are and take you back to where you ran away from.
Skip is asleep in a Dumpster when the bombs begin to fall. He wakes up violently, ears ringing, dust and garbage in his mouth, chunks of concrete raining down on top of his exhausted body, Dumpster rolling from the concussion of the blast. Skip doesn’t know which way is up, but he crawls out of the Dumpster and runs. Skip runs and runs, looking for someone or something familiar, and then he sees the grizzled face of his friend Billy.
In the days after the war begins, Billy and Skip rattle around the broken city, searching for food, for shelter. One day, they find a six year-old boy named Max who has lost his mother. Another day, they follow the train tracks out of the city to Dreamland, an abandoned amusement park that becomes their home. As soldiers begin to move in, Skip, Billy and Max find it harder to hide themselves, especially with the addition of the dancing teenage mother Tia and her infant daughter Sixpence to their ragtag gang.
It is Billy’s knowledge, Max’s unfettered optimism and hope, Skip’s determination, Tia’s beauty, and Sixpence’s innocence that brings them together. In A Small Free Kiss in the Dark, Glenda Millard has created a fragile world with delicate characters; a world that, as you read into it more, unconsciously pulls your blanket tighter around you and curls your legs up close to your body. This book is not one to read lightly, nor is it one to miss.
Reading Level: Grades 6-8
Allegra Katz is going to be a concert pianist. Her family of musicians has know that since she was four. Ally has been attending the Julliard School's Saturday Pre-College Division music program for years. Now Ally is almost thirteen and she longs for a life with more choices. Allegra doesn't know what she wants or even how to tell her parents she is having doubts about her future. If you are born with a tremendous gift MUST you choose it as your life's path?
Other stories of young musicians include:
Reading Level: Grades 6 and up
When the water started boiling around his leg, Daniel knew the pain was coming. He threw himself off the pontoon boat into the ocean. When he arrived home the third scar had appeared around his ankle. A ring for each of the young Loriens found and killed by the Mogadarians. Nine Lorien children and their guardians escaped the slaughter of their home world. As they escaped, they were given a protection. They could only be killed in order. Daniel now has three ringed scars around his ankle. Numbers One, Two and Three are dead. Daniel is number four...he is next.
If you enjoyed this tale of alien danger try:
Reading Level: Grades 3-5
After she is orphaned, young Emily makes the best of her situation, writing to her favorite aunt for a place to live. Unfortunately, the Catchum Child Catching Services have other plans - Emily must live with her closest blood relative, something Aunt Hilda is not. Instead, she is supposed to live with her money-grubbing, mustached Uncle Victor. What in the flippin' flapjacks is Emily supposed to do?!?!
Reading Level: Grades 7+
In this futuristic post-fairies fairy tale world, companies mine fairy dust residue in the earth from long-ago magic to sell as minor first aid remedies. Henry seems to be the only citizen unwilling to use this somewhat makeshift fairy dust, as his mother was killed in an accident involving a truckload of the stuff.
Our main character Henry’s father is the Big Bad Wolf, and when Henry has one little teenage slipup (a broken window), he is sent to the St. Remus Home for Wayward Youth (aka wayward animalians & one hominid, Henry’s best friend Jack).
Through Jack’s nimble fingers, Henry comes into possession of a series of letters written to him by his incarcerated father. The letters contain secrets – important secrets that could exonerate his father and bring them back together. All Henry has to do is get in with a guy named Skinner, by competing for a job in a dust drug-fueled and vicious race; then gather proof of his father’s semi-innocence. But in working for Skinner is no walk in the park; Henry now is a runner of nixiedust, a much more powerful and dangerous version of corporately mined fairy dust.
Many well known fairy tale characters are featured in the story, such as Detective White, who has a lingering cough due to being raised by miners, and Cindy Rella, a secretary type for St. Remus’, who has a fancy pair of heels. Some are blatant, like Ms. Rella, some subtle – Detective White – and others much less obvious – Jack, for example, is a kleptomaniac who escapes from St. Remus’ via plant.
Other books you might enjoy:
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman
Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
Virals by Kathy Reichs
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Lockdown: Escape from Furnace Book 1 by Alexander Gordon Smith
The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor
Reading Level: Grades 2-4
Jonathan Joseph Tully, a retired Search and Rescue dog, is hired by worried mother Millicent to find her two missing chicks, Poppy and Sweetie – but this SAR mission is not as simple as it seems.
The Trouble with Chickens is the kind of book that will make you stop and read aloud hilarious sentences to anyone nearby. Cronin has taken a very simple missing-child mystery and turned it into something much denser. Younger readers may not fully appreciate all the humor of J.J.’s detective style, but will certainly find themselves immersed in the mystery from the first page.
Other books with amusing dogs in them are:
Reading Level: Grades 4 - 6
Callum's father keeps looking at him like he wants to eat him, literally eat him. This isn't all that odd, since his father is a wolf and Callum is a soft furless salty-tasting definitely not wolf pup. Unfortunately he is also approaching adolescence which means that he MIGHT want to make a challenge for the Alpha or Beta male position, so to protect him his mother brings him a school uniform and leaves him at the edge of the woods so that he can go live with his own kind. This fun book is full of misunderstandings and coincidences and will appeal to anyone who enjoys fantastic realism novels like Hoot by Carl Hiaasen.
Reading Level: Grades 6 and up
Bee: 15 years old, class president, good grades, takes care of her little brother Tommy; excited about the family trip to San Francisco’s shark coast.
Tommy: 11 years old, has cystic fibrosis, incredibly smart, obsessed with great white sharks; given the chance to dive with great whites in a cage through a make-a-wish foundation.
Their Mom: constantly flirting, a little distant; ruining their trip to San Francisco by going on a date and not coming back.
Ty Barry: 21 years old, survived a shark attack a few years ago and has become young Tommy’s pen pal; takes Tommy and Bee in when they run away from their inattentive mother after a failed shark dive excursion.
Little Brew: Ty’s extremely hot younger brother; has a crush on Bee.
Charcharadon carcharias: the great white shark, eater of seals and sea lions, biter of Ty’s surfboard (miraculously not Ty); according to Tommy, a misunderstood animal.
Reading Level: Grades 4 - 6
When ten-year-old Lucinda's parents decide to travel to Italy for a year, they drop Lucinda off at a sort of temporary orphanage in New York. Undaunted, Lucinda straps on her roller skates and begins skating around the city, making friends as she goes. Most of these friends would be frowned upon by her stuffy Aunt Emily (who Lucinda must spend every Saturday sewing with) because of either their age or their status in life, but cheerful Lucinda doesn't mind, and befriends anyone she meets.
Lucinda's cheerful nature and desire for every single one of her friends to experience happiness and good fortune seeps off the page and into your heart in this beautifully told 1937 Newbery winner.
Reading Level: Grades 7 - 9
Josh spends a lot of his free time playing a virtual reality game that his parents despise. The game? Killing z's. Zombies. Meatbags. The undead. Doesn't matter what you call 'em, as long as you kill 'em quickly. And Josh is one of the best.
So good, in fact, that he's invited to play a secret IRL* version of the game. In prepping for his first game with another (female!) player named Charlie, he takes a drug called Z - to help him think just like the enemy. Josh soon spends so much of his time taking Z and prepping for or playing the IRL game that his friendships become strained.
What Josh doesn't know is that he's risking more than his friendships by playing. He's risking his life.
*noob definition: in real life