Here are some books from my younger daughter’s bookshelf that are books that we bought, liking the plot and/or the author. Although many of these have not yet been read (TBR pile), they are ones that even I find interesting (which is why I bought them!). A number of them are by well known adult mystery/fantasy/science fiction authors. It’s nice to see that trend. So enjoy another batch!
Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander
Ages 9-12. “Grade 3-6-Jason has always thought that his cat Gareth could talk if he wanted to, so when Gareth speaks to him he is not surprised. On finding that Gareth does not have nine lives but does have the ability to visit nine different times and places, Jason eagerly asks to go with him. Together they travel to Ancient Egypt, Roman Britain, pre-Christian Ireland, Imperial Japan, Renaissance Italy, 16th century Peru, late 16th century Isle of Man, 17th century Germany, and America at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. In each place they help someone, often rulers having problems with corrupt or evil officials. They meet St. Patrick, help Leonardo DaVinci convince his father that he should be an artist, witness the beginning of Manx cats, learn about Incan civilization, are nearly burned as witches in Germany, and participate in the opening battle of the American Revolution. Listeners learn much about history and the position of cats in various societies along the way. Originally published in 1963, Time Cat (Puffin, pap. 1996) is an early novel by Lloyd Alexander and less successful than much of his later work. Jason is not a fully developed character, but more of a device for enabling readers/listeners to see each time period through his eyes. Both the opening and closing chapters leave many unanswered questions and seem merely a frame for getting Jason and Gareth in and out of their time travels. However, young cat fanciers and fantasy readers will enjoy the story. Ron Keith reads the story well with an expressive voice, good pacing, and emphasis. Technical quality is excellent. The episodic nature of the book lends itself to audio, and it is equally suitable for both individual and group listening. The historic overview the story provides is especially appropriate for this year when many schools and libraries are looking at the past in preparation for the millennium.” School Library Journal
Lloyd Alexander is the best-selling author of the Black Cauldron series (covered here before).
Skellig by David Almond (Whitbread Award’s 1998 Children’s Book of the Year)
Ages 9-12. “British novelist Almond makes a triumphant debut in the field of children’s literature with prose that is at once eerie, magical and poignant. Broken down into 46 succinct, eloquent chapters, the story begins in medias res with narrator Michael recounting his discovery of a mysterious stranger living in an old shed on the rundown property the boy’s family has just purchased: “He was lying there in the darkness behind the tea chests, in the dust and dirt. It was as if he’d been there forever…. I’d soon begin to see the truth about him, that there’d never been another creature like him in the world.” With that first description of Skellig, the author creates a tantalizing tension between the dank and dusty here-and-now and an aura of other-worldliness that permeates the rest of the novel. The magnetism of Skellig’s ethereal world grows markedly stronger when Michael, brushing his hand across Skellig’s back, detects what appears to be a pair of wings. Soon after Michael’s discovery in the shed, he meets his new neighbor, Mina, a home-schooled girl with a passion for William Blake’s poetry and an imagination as large as her vast knowledge of birds. Unable to take his mind off Skellig, Michael is temporarily distracted from other pressing concerns about his new surroundings, his gravely ill baby sister and his parents. Determined to nurse Skellig back to health, Michael enlists Mina’s help. Besides providing Skellig with more comfortable accommodations and nourishing food, the two children offer him companionship. In response, Skellig undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis that profoundly affects the narrator’s (and audience members’) first impression of the curious creature, and opens the way to an examination of the subtle line between life and death. The author adroitly interconnects the threads of the story, Michael’s difficult adjustment to a new neighborhood, his growing friendship with Mina, the baby’s decline, to Skellig, whose history and reason for being are open to readers’ interpretations. Although some foreshadowing suggests that Skellig has been sent to Earth on a grim mission, the dark, almost gothic tone of the story brightens dramatically as Michael’s loving, life-affirming spirit begins to work miracles. Ages 8-12.” Publishers Weekly
The Book Without Words: ATale of Medieval Magic by Avi
Ages 9-12. “Grade 5-8 At the dawning of the Middle Ages, Thorston, an old alchemist, works feverishly to create gold and to dose himself with a concoction that will enable him to live forever. The key to his success lies in a mysterious book with blank pages that can only be read by desperate, green-eyed people. Master Bashcroft, enforcer of law and order for the city, desires Thorston’s secrets for himself. Brother Wilfrid, a priest with green eyes, knows the dangers of the book and seeks to retrieve it. To this mix add Odo, a talking raven, and Sybil, a poor orphan girl whom Thorston has taken in as his servant, and you have an intriguing tale in which goodness ultimately triumphs. Avi’s compelling language creates a dreary foreboding, a grim backdrop against which the characters work out their fate. The old city always seems enshrouded in nasty fog and disgusting odors. Thorston keeps consuming part of his life-giving formula and repeatedly appears to die before resuscitating as a younger person. This, plus the fact that after each “death” Sybil and the others bury him, only to have him tromp up the basement steps covered in grime, will surely keep readers turning pages. Odo’s cleverness and cynicism make him a likable character, while Sybil’s innate goodness will endear her to readers. Clearly this is a story with a message, a true fable. Thoughtful readers will devour its absorbing plot and humorous elements, and learn a “useful truth” along the way.” School Library Journal
Crispin : The Cross of Lead by Avi (2003 Newbery Award winner)
Ages 9-12. “Set in 14th-century England, Avi’s (The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle) 50th book begins with a funeral, that of a village outcast whose past is shrouded in mystery and whose adolescent son is known only as “Asta’s son.” Mired in grief for his mother, the boy learns his given name, Crispin, from the village priest, although his presumably dead father’s identity remains obscure. The words etched on his mother’s treasured lead cross may provide some clue, but the priest is murdered before he can tell the illiterate lad what they say. Worse, Crispin is fingered for the murder by the manor steward, who declares him a “wolf’s head” wanted dead or alive, preferably dead. Crispin flees, and falls in with a traveling juggler. “I have no name,” Crispin tells Bear, whose rough manners and appearance mask a tender heart. “No home, no kin, no place in this world.” How the boy learns his true identity (he’s the bastard son of the lord of the manor) and finds his place in the world makes for a rattling fine yarn. Avi’s plot is engineered for maximum thrills, with twists, turns and treachery aplenty, but it’s the compellingly drawn relationship between Crispin and Bear that provides the heart of this story. A page turner to delight Avi’s fans, it will leave readers hoping for a sequel. Ages 8-12.” Publishers Weekly
Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett
Ages 9-12. “In the classic tradition of E.L. Konigsburg’s From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, debut author Blue Balliett introduces readers to another pair of precocious kids on an artful quest full of patterns, puzzles, and the power of blue M&Ms. Eleven year old Petra and Calder may be in the same sixth grade class, but they barely know each other. It’s only after a near collision during a museum field trip that they discover their shared worship of art, their teacher Ms. Hussey, and the blue candy that doesn’t melt in your hands. Their burgeoning friendship is strengthened when a creative thief steals a valuable Vermeer painting en route to Chicago, their home town. When the thief leaves a trail of public clues via the newspaper, Petra and Calder decide to try and recover the painting themselves. But tracking down the Vermeer isn’t easy, as Calder and Petra try to figure out what a set of pentominos (mathematical puzzle pieces), a mysterious book about unexplainable phenomena and a suddenly very nervous Ms. Hussey have to do with a centuries old artwork. When the thief ups the ante by declaring that he or she may very well destroy the painting, the two friends know they have to make the pieces of the puzzle fit before it’s too late!
Already being heralded as The DaVinci Code for kids, Chasing Vermeer will have middle grade readers scrutinizing art books as they try to solve the mystery along with Calder and Petra. In an added bonus, artist Brett Helquist has also hidden a secret pentomino message in several of the book’s illustrations for readers to decode. An auspicious and wonderfully satisfying debut that will leave no young detective clueless.” Amazon Reviews
The House With a Clock In Its Walls by John Bellairs
Ages 9 -12. “Lewis always dreamed of living in an old house full of secret passageways, hidden rooms, and big marble fireplaces. And suddenly, after the death of his parents, he finds himself in just such a mansion–his Uncle Jonathan’s. When he discovers that his big friendly uncle is also a wizard, Lewis has a hard time keeping himself from jumping up and down in his seat. Unfortunately, what Lewis doesn’t bank on is the fact that the previous owner of the mansion was also a wizard–but an evil one who has placed a tick-tocking clock somewhere in the bowels of the house, marking off the minutes until the end of the world. And when Lewis accidentally awakens the dead on Halloween night, the clock only ticks louder and faster. Doomsday draws near–unless Lewis can stop the clock!
This is a deliciously chilling tale, with healthy doses of humor and compassion thrown in for good measure. Edward Gorey’s unmistakable pen and ink style (as seen in many picture books, including The Shrinking of Treehorn and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats) perfectly complements John Bellairs’s wry, touching story of a lonely boy, his quirky uncle, and the ghost of mansions past. (Ages 9 to 12).” Amazon Reviews
The Revenge Of The Shadow King (Grey Griffins #1) by Derek Benz and J.S. Lewis
Ages 9-12. “Grade 5-8-Sixth-grader Max Sumner and his three best friends, Harley, Natalia, and Ernie, refer to themselves as the Grey Griffins. They enjoy sharing a fantasy role-play game called Round Table with elderly Iver Iverson, the proprietor of Avalon, Minnesota’s Shoppe of Antiquities. It is played with odd-shaped dice and cards that depict a variety of fantastic creatures and characters-spriggans, garden faeries, goblins, and more. Iver takes the game very seriously, and the Grey Griffins learn they must do the same once Max accidentally releases a spriggan, a shape-shifting faerie, from a magical book he finds in his grandmother’s attic. The game fades into the background as other characters from the cards start appearing around Avalon-the Black Witch Morgan LaFey, the Slayer goblin, and many others. The four friends realize that it is up to them to save the world as they learn, bit by bit, that Max is probably a descendant of King Arthur and the Knights Templar. Iver and many of the other adults in their lives are there to guide him in accepting his legacy, or, in some cases, to prevent him from doing so. Stilted dialogue and stereotypical cartoonlike characters abound as this plot-driven fantasy races to a predictable ending with plenty of room for multiple sequels. The action is gross and violent in the same way that Darren Shan’s Cirque du Freak books (Little, Brown) are, and will appeal to the same readers.” School Library Journal
Summerland by Michael Chabon
Ages 9-12. “In his debut novel for young readers, Pulitzer Prize winner Chabon (The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay) hits a high-flying home run, creating a vivid fantasy where baseball is king. Following the death of his mother, 11-year-old Ethan Feld and his father, a designer of lighter-than-air-dirigibles move to Clam Island, Wash. The island is known for its almost constant rain, save for an area on its westernmost tip called Summerland by the locals which “knew a June, July and August that were perfectly dry and sunshiny.” In Summerland, Ethan struggles to play baseball for the Ruth’s Fluff and Fold Roosters, with dismal results. But here, too, a mystical baseball scout recruits Ethan and escorts him through a gateway to a series of interconnected worlds that are home to magical creatures called ferishers and an evil, shape-changing overlord called Coyote. Ethan and two of his fellow teammates soon accept a mission to save these other worlds (plus the one they live in) from ultimate destruction at Coyote’s hand. When his father’s well-being is also threatened, Ethan’s quest becomes all the more urgent. To succeed, Ethan and his friends must find a way to beat giants, ferishers and others in a series of games where striking out truly has apocalyptic implications. Chabon unspools an elaborate yarn in a style that frequently crackles with color and surprise. He occasionally addresses readers directly, imbuing his tale with the aura of something that has been passed down through the ages. Impressively, the author takes a contemporary smalltown setting and weaves in baseball history, folklore and environmental themes, to both challenge and entertain readers. Images of the icy Winterlands and beasts like the werefox and Taffy the motherly Sasquatch recall C.S. Lewis’s Narnia and some of Philip Pullman’s creations in His Dark Materials. Devotees of the genre and of America’s pastime will find much to cheer here. All ages.” Publishers Weekly
Half-Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer
Ages Y/A “Grade 4-7-Diminutive Fletcher Moon may not be the most popular 12-year-old in his Irish town but he’s proud-maybe a little too proud-of the badge that he constantly flashes to let everyone know that he’s an online graduate of a private detective academy in Washington, DC. The other kids admit that Fletcher, aka Half Moon, has solved several tough cases at Saint Jerome’s Elementary and Middle School, so they come to him when they have a problem. But when super all-in-pink girly-girl April Devereux hires him to find a lock of a pop star’s hair that she claims was stolen by one of the Sharkeys-a family of well-known criminals-everything starts going wrong for Fletcher. His precious badge is taken, he finds a single huge footprint at every crime scene, and he’s picked up by the local police for arson when the Devereux playhouse burns down. When Fletcher goes on the run, who becomes his number-one ally? Young Red Sharkey. A typically funny Colfer offering without the mania of the Artemis Fowl series (Hyperion), the story wittily delivers the message that some people aren’t-for good or ill-who they appear to be. Kids who enjoy comic mysteries will have a great time with Half Moon, and the conclusion drops plenty of hints that this could become a series.” School Library Journal
The Supernaturalist by Eoin Colfer (Golden Duck Awards, Eleanor Cameron Award for Middle Grades)
Ages 9-14. “Grade 6 Up A suspenseful, cautionary science fiction tale. In a future dystopia, cities have become for-profit businesses. Orphanages are not exempt from the struggle to make money, and at the Clarissa Frayne Institute for Parentally Challenged Boys, kids are forced to endure product testing and frequently end up injured as a result. With orphans facing an average life expectancy of 15, 14-year-old Cosmo Hill knows that he is on borrowed time. Unfortunately, his escape attempt nearly proves fatal. While he’s lying there dying, a small, hairless blue creature lands on his chest and begins to feed. He is rescued by the Supernaturalists, a motley crew of young people who have dedicated their lives to destroying the Parasites, which feed on the essence of the living. Cosmo joins the group as a Spotter, someone who can actually see the creatures and thus destroy them. However, facts soon emerge that cause the Supernaturalists to question everything they believe in. Is it possible that the Parasites don’t feed off of the energy of dying people, but remove pain? Are they actually beneficial to society? The plot’s twists and turns will keep readers totally engrossed until the last page. Colfer’s futuristic world seems plausible; his characters have strengths, flaws, and histories that account for their points of view. The ending is satisfying yet open to the possibility of a sequel. For anyone who loves science fiction, or just an engrossing story, this novel is a must-read.” School Library Journal
The Boggart by Susan Cooper
Ages 9-12. “Grade 4-7– The Volnik family inherits a rundown old castle on an island off Scotland and visits their new property. After returning home, 12-year-old Emily and 10-year-old Jessup notice strange things happening. Their detective work eventually discloses the cause–a mischievous boggart has accidentally become trapped in a piece of furniture the family shipped home to Canada. Unfortunately, no adults believe them. The children claim innocence on Halloween night as pieces of furniture fly through the air and a bucket of water soaks their mother. Eventually, the boggart’s pranks begin to cause serious problems; he becomes intrigued with the power of electricity, and causes a traffic accident that lands Emily in the hospital. Finally, he learns to communicate with the children by computer, causing the message– “I want to go to my own country”–to appear in Gaelic on Jessup’s screen. When he gets trapped in a black hole in a computer space-adventure game, the youngsters devise a daring, risky, and ultimately successful plan to help the boggart return home. The novel is fleshed out with numerous, vividly realized secondary characters, including various actors at the Chervil Playhouse, where Mr. Volnik is artistic director, as well as the novel’s true villain, Dr. Stigmore, a psychiatrist and a parapsychology scholar who insists that Emily is a troubled adolescent in need of hospitalization. The intelligently thought-out clash between the ancient folkloric creature and modern science guarantees a wide audience. A lively story, compelling from first page to last, and a good bet for a read-aloud.” School Library Journal
Both Sides of Time by Caroline Cooney
Ages Y/A. “Though narrated in the stylized, spine-tingling voice that has become a Cooney trademark, this tale of time travel and romance lacks the momentum of the author’s best work (The Face on the Milk Carton; Driver’s Ed). While her decidedly unromantic boyfriend tinkers with a car engine, Annie wanders through the soon-to-be-demolished Stratton mansion, longing for a more gracious way of life. Suddenly she “falls through” 100 years-landing in 1895 just in time to witness (albeit hazily) a murder. The first person Annie meets is Hiram “Strat” Stratton, slated to inherit both the mansion and the family fortune if he marries his plain but sweet and devoted cousin Harriett. Annie and Strat fall head over heels in love, thus reproducing in the 19th century a triangle loosely similar to the situation created by Annie’s father, who, unbeknownst to Annie’s mother, is conducting an affair with a co-worker. Along with the murder, the various affairs of the heart provide fodder for almost requisite musings on the position of women then and now. Constrained by the novel’s black-and-white approach, the truly intriguing social issues raised here never acquire real urgency. Ages 12-up.” Publishers Weekly
For All Time by Caroline Cooney
Ages Y/A. “The time-travel series that began with Both Sides of Time adds another breathlessly romantic whirl through the centuries. Experienced time-traveler and 20th-century high-schooler Annie ventures into New York City to see an exhibit of Egyptian art in which she hopes to find a photograph of Strat, her lost 19th-century love. With any luck, seeing Strat’s image will magically jolt Annie back through time. The jolting works a bit too well: instead of stopping in Strat’s era, Annie journeys all the way to ancient Egypt, where she is taken in (a la Moses in the bulrushes) by the pious yet independent-minded Renifer. Meanwhile, back in the 19th century, feisty Camilla Mateusz disguises herself as a young man and goes to work for a private detective. Assigned to hunt down Strat on behalf of his evil father, Camilla ends up in Egypt, at the dig where Strat works as a photographer. Narrated in the author’s characteristically breezily, intimate style, a series of swoopy, swoony plot twists links the various characters and time periods. Although the flap copy indicates that this installation will conclude the series, its end (featuring Annie’s nascent relationship with Strat’s great-grandnephew) certainly doesn’t rule out a sequel. Ages 12-up.” School Library Journal
This is actually the fourth book in the series, the others being Out of Time, and Both Sides of Time.
David Brin’s Out of Time: Tiger in Sky by Sheila Finch
Ages 9-12. “In the world of comets far out on the Oort Cloud, impossible for adults to teleport to in the year 2345, children can become heroes. An entire space station run by teens and children, tracking and deflecting wayward comments, is beseiged by a strange alien life form called Thogs. Though these cute little one-celled furry balls are harmless singly, they reproduce rapidly and combine to be deadly to electronics and humans. Readers will side with Jerry, 15, and Nan, 14, abducted from our time to help in this emergency unrecognized as dangerous by the children running the space station. Jerry with his scientific mind and Nan with her practical leadership must use their wits and their reasoning to draw logical conclusions, make quick decisions, judge character and think up creative solutions to combat the Thogs, with the help of a saber-tooth tiger imported from extinction, and their vast, talking computer library. I like best the line: “Thanks, Library. You’ve given me a lot to think about.” Indeed. True in all times.” Amazon Customer Review
David Brin, a well-known science fiction author, has created a framework for this Y/A series. The first volume, which we don’t have is Yanked! by Nancy Kress, and this one is followed by Game of Worlds by Roger MacBride Allen. This is one of the few true series by adult science fiction authors.
Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Ages Y/A. “In Just Ella, Margaret Peterson Haddix puts a spin on the traditional tale of the glass slippers. In her version, Ella (sans “Cinder”) finds her own way to the ball (there was no fairy godmother, despite the rumors) and wins the heart of the prince. But now she is finding that life at the palace as Prince Charming’s betrothed is not as great as she thought it was going to be. In fact, it’s downright boring for a self-reliant and active girl to do needlework all day or listen to instructions on court etiquette from the strict and cold Madame Bisset. Worst of all, Ella is beginning to suspect that Charming’s beautiful blue eyes and golden hair are attached to a head with nothing in it. Her young tutor Jed, however, talks with her about serious things that really matter. Ella finally gets up the courage to announce to Charming that she doesn’t want to go through with the wedding, but when she finds herself locked in the dungeon she realizes it’s not that easy to walk away from a politically arranged marriage. In the end, as in all good fairy tales, our heroine and hero do manage to live happily ever after–but with a twist.
Fairy tale retellings are an entrancing form of young adult fiction, as they add psychological insight and turn events around for a surprising contemporary angle. Teens who enjoy this delightful revamping of an age-old story may also enjoy Donna Jo Napoli’s Spinners and Zel or the Newbery Honor book Ella Enchanted, by Gail Levine.” Amazon Reviews
Time Stops for No Mouse (Hermux Tantamoq Adventure) by Micheel Hoeye
Ages 9-12. “It’s impossible not to like Hermux Tantamoq, the watchmaking mouse. He relaxes in a flannel shirt printed with pictures of cheeses from around the world, he has a caged pet ladybug named Terfle, he writes endearing thank-you letters to the universe each night, and he has a big heart–a heart that aches for the fearless aviatrix Ms. Linka Perflinger, who unexpectedly visits his shop requesting an emergency rush repair of her wristwatch. Little does he know that this brief rendezvous with the jaunty adventuress will change his life forever. When a week goes by without word from her, he doesn’t know whether to be worried or angry. He drafts a slightly unpleasant, then desperate, then not-too-sweet, not-too-sour letter to her and awaits her response. Nothing. Even nasty encounters with his neighbor (the horribly garish and affected cosmetics tycoon Tucka Mertslin) and pleasant interludes with his artist friend Mirrin don’t distract him from his new heart-quickening obsession.
His worst fears start to cement when a yellow-eyed, thin-lipped, sharp-tongued rat comes to his shop and says with a dreadful smile, “I’ve come for Linka Perflinger’s watch.” Hermux isn’t about to fork over his beloved’s watch without a claim check, and ends up following the rat… all the way to Linka’s house! And, what’s this? Is she being kidnapped? The plot thickens as Hermux boldly enters her apartment (what has gotten into him?) and discovers a mysterious letter from Teulabonari and an overturned spicy-smelling plant. As he says to his ladybug that night, “This is the beginning of a new career for me. Either as a detective or a jailbird. Only time will tell. If it turns out to be the latter I will be asking you for hints on decorating my cage.” Soon he begins to make a connection with these strange clues and the cosmetics mogul Tucka, who pulls him into her scheme to create eternal youth in a bottle (to be taken internally).
Suffice it to say that gentle Hermux gets in way over his head with his detective work and proceeds to have fur-raising encounters involving spies, thieves, killers, betrayal, the Fountain of Youth, snakes, calliopes, and dramatic rescue attempts. Throughout it all, however, Hermux continues to thank the world at large: “Thank you for corner grocers. For sandwiches and honey fizz. For scary news and narrow escapes and trolleys and shopping bags. Thank you for loyal pets and bold adventurers (and adventuresses).” Readers will be disarmed by Hermux’s earnest, inquisitive nature and zeal for life–and thoroughly engaged by the suspenseful action adventure. Highly recommended! (Ages 10 to adult). Amazon Reviews
Phoenix Rising by Karen Hesse
Ages 9-12. “Grade 6-9-A Vermont sheep farm seems an unlikely place to worry about radiation and its effects. However, Nyle Sumner, 13, and her grandmother are completely surrounded by the grotesque results of an accident at a nuclear-power plant. Because of the accident, Nyle’s cousin Bethany has radiation poisoning. Then Gran does the unthinkable: she takes in two fugitives who were exposed to the worst of the radiation, Miriam Trent and her son, Ezra, who is also sick with the poisoning. They stay in the back bedroom, the room marked by the death of Nyle’s mother and grandfather. Now it seems likely that it will be the place that Ezra dies too. The bleak setting of this book serves as a backdrop for the sensitive interaction among the main characters. Gran quietly acts on her principles, Nyle overcomes her own feelings to help Ezra, and her best friend, Muncie, forgives past wrongs for the sake of friendship. The characters overcome adversity, not through heroic deeds of epic proportions, but through simple acts of kindness. The message is poignant, but not overpowering. Hesse has displayed considerable skill in creating a contemporary tale of hope and love rising, like a phoenix, from destruction and despair.” School Library Journal
Kokopelli’s Flute by Will Hobbs
Ages 9-12. “Grade 5-8? This unique and compelling fantasy/adventure is set in northern New Mexico. The mood is created immediately as Tepary Jones, 13, sets out to view a total eclipse of the full moon from the ruins of a cliff dwelling near his family’s farm, but the quiet mystery of the Ancient Ones is shattered by illegal pothunters. Tep finds an eagle-bone flute they leave behind, and his adventures become complicated by a magic older than the ruins. He finds himself changing into a bushy-tailed woodrat each night, which both hinders and helps him to find the pothunters; develop drought-resistant seeds with his father; and save his mother from the hantavirus, a disease thought to be contracted from rodent droppings. Both parents are scientists and have encouraged their son to enjoy and respect nature, and to help preserve the variety of life on earth as well as the beauties of the past. They are both fully developed individuals who capture and hold readers’ interest. Even Dusty, the dog, has a rare personality. Hobbs vividly evokes the Four Corners region and blends fantasy with fact so smoothly that the resulting mix can be consumed without question. Subplots flow together naturally, and ancient stories and sensibilities become one with modern lives. Outstanding characters, plot, mood, and setting combine in this satisfying and memorable book.” School Library Journal
Indigo by Alice Hoffman
Ges 9-12. “Fans of Alice Hoffman’s first novella for children, Aquamarine, will be thrilled to discover Indigo, another watery tale that blends fantasy with reality in a surprising coming-of-age quest. Thirteen-year-old Martha and her best friends, brothers nicknamed Trout and Eel for their fishy tendencies and webbed fingers and toes, long to escape from their dull, dry town. Their ambivalent feelings about running away, though, are reinforced when a fierce storm interrupts their journey and helps them begin to answer their questions about who they are “at the deepest core”–and who they will become. Unfortunately, there’s not enough time for Hoffman to develop her characters here, and an implausibly pat denouement may leave the reader wishing the book were longer–or shorter–but the elements of friendship, loss, and hope will come through for those who take it for the parable it is. (Ages 10 to 14). Amazon Reviews
Castaways of the Flying Dutchman by Brian Jacques
Ages 9-12. “Fans of the Redwall series eager to sink their teeth into the latest adventure from Brian Jacques will be surprised to find that the cover of Castaways of the Flying Dutchman belies the contents of this fine mystery novel. A handsome young lad, sporting a billowing, ripped shirt, gazes off into the distance, while behind him a ship founders on an eerily tempestuous sea. It’s true, the first (brief) section of the book does tell the tale of a stowaway orphan on the legendary, ill-fated ship, the Flying Dutchman. And that’s as swashbuckling a story as they come. But as soon as the boy and his newly adopted dog are tossed into the sea during a ferocious storm, the book takes a sharp turn. Ben and his dog, Ned, given eternal life by a sympathetic angel, now set out to “bring confidence and sympathy, help others to change their fate.” Two centuries later, they arrive in the village of Chapelvale, which is filled with quirky, affectionate citizens, who immediately welcome the mysterious but kindhearted and brave boy and his dog. The impending destruction of their village by the blustering, bloated Obadiah Smithers, an industrial speculator, propels Ben and his new friends into a thrilling search for a solution, involving ancient Byzantine gold chalices, mysterious coded messages, and some fierce tete-a-tetes with hired bullies. Illustrator Ian Schoenherr’s intriguing line drawings at the beginning of each chapter hint at the upcoming clues to the mystery. Redwall fans be warned: you’ll find no warrior mice here. But readers will find a satisfying story that never leaves a doubt as to the ability of good to triumph over evil. (Ages 9 to 12).” School Library Journal
A Tale of Time City by Diana Wynne Jones
Ages 9-12. “Grade 6 Up. High-spirited time travel fantasy that is sure to delight its readers. When 11-year-old Vivian Smith is evacuated from London in 1939, she expects to end up in the peaceful British countryside. Instead she is kidnapped by two youthful time travellers who mistake her for the “Time Lady” and whisk her off to Time City, a richly imagined alternative world which exists in time but not in history. Time City observers, Viv learns, have reason to believe that the Time Lady, the wife of the founder of Time Citya mysterious Merlin figureis at large in history and is busily altering it, thereby endangering not only the historical world but Time City itself. If Vivian is to return to her own world and time, it will be necessary for her to help her kidnappers foil the Time Lady first. That almost nothingwhether person or incidentis precisely what it appears to be at first encounter both complicates Vivian’s task and delights readers. This ability to surprise has become a Diana Wynne Jones signature, as have her unflagging inventiveness and almost uncanny ability to create imaginary worlds of resounding reality, a capacity based in part on her attention to detail and in part on her capacity to create believable and sympathetic characters. All of these gifts are in abundant evidence in A Tale of Time City which is, accordingly, absolutely first-rate entertainment. And to her fans, this will be one of the few things about her new book which will come as no surprise!” School Library Journal
Woman in the Wall by Patrice Kindl (an ALA Best Book for Young Adults)
Ages Y/A. “Anna is more than shy. She is nearly invisible. Most of the time her mother and sisters don’t see, hear, or pay attention to her. At seven, terrified of the prospect of school, Anna retreats within their enormous Victorian house, and builds a house of her own: passageways and hidden rooms become her world. As the years go by, her family forgets she ever existed. Then a mysterious note is thrust through a crack in the wall, and Anna must decide whether or not to come out of hiding. Her life may seem like a fantasy – but there is nothing more real.” Book description
“Kindl, who brought readers an unforgettable, offbeat protaganoist in her first book, does it again in this not-quite -fantasy…How Anna finds herself and her family again is a tour de force of extraordinary drma and wicked humor.” Kirkus Reviews, pointer review
School Library Journal gave this a somewhat poor review, but it’s obvious others didn’t agree, based on the reviews and awards.
Shipwreck (Island, Book 1) by Gordon Korman
Ages 9-12. “Being on a sailboat in the warm waters of the Pacific with a bunch of kids the same age could sound like a vacation dream come true. However, when this month-long trip is part of a strict program called Charting a New Course, and each participant–or inmate–is there for disciplinary problems, things don’t look quite as rosy. And then, of course, when a big storm strikes, and the captain and first mate disappear, and the boat seems to be sinking… the whole idea becomes less and less appealing. Still, for Luke, Will, Lyssa, J.J., Ian, and Charla, this is the way the cards have been dealt, and whatever problems they may have with each other, however much they don’t want to be there, it’s time to start working together to save their own lives.
The first book of Gordon Korman’s exciting new trilogy introduces readers to the six troubled kids who will become unwitting partners in their desperate bid for survival. A steely captain and a gruff first mate who calls every boy “Archie” and every girl “Veronica” keep order and attempt to turn their charges into young sailors–an effort that may pay off more than any of them ever anticipate. A hint of menace permeates Shipwreck, along with humor, angst, and mystery. Readers won’t want to miss the continuation of the riveting saga in books 2 and 3, Survival and Escape. (Ages 9 to 13).” Amazon Reviews
The Capture (Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Book 1) by Kathryn Lasky
Ages 9-12. “Grade 4-8-At the beginning of this new series, a young Barn Owl named Soren lives peacefully with his family, participating in rituals like the First Meat ceremony, and enjoying legends about the Guardians of Ga’Hoole, knightly owls “who would rise each night into the blackness and perform noble deeds.” After he falls from his nest, his idyllic world transforms into one of confusion and danger, as he is captured by evil chick-snatching owls and taken to the St. Aegolius Academy for Orphaned Owls. Soren and his new friend Gylfie work to develop strategies for withstanding “moon blinking” (brainwashing), while secretly striving to learn how to fly. The legends of Ga’Hoole help them to survive, and they are able to escape to find their families and warn the world about the dangers of St. Aegolius. While the owls have human characteristics, such as Soren’s determination and Gylfie’s creative ideas, their actions and culture reflect Lasky’s research into owl behaviors and species. The story’s fast pace, menacing bad guys, and flashes of humor make this a good choice for reluctant readers, while the underlying message about the power of legends provides a unifying element and gives strong appeal for fantasy fans.” Amazon Reviews
Gifts (Annals of the Western Shore) by Ursula K. LeGuin
Ages Y/A. “Gifts, in the context of Le Guin’s newest novel, inspire fear more often than gratitude. But this book is a gift in the purest sense, as the renowned fantasist’s admirers have waited 14 years since the release of Tehanu (1990) for another full-length young adult novel. Providing an intriguing counterpoint to the epic third-person voice of Le Guin’s Earthsea novels, this quieter, more intimate tale is narrated by its central character, Orrec. Born into a feud-riven community where the balance of power depends on inherited, extrasensory “gifts,” Orrec’s gift of Unmaking (which is wielded at a glance and is as fearsome as it sounds) manifests late and strangely, forcing him to don a blindfold to protect those he loves from his dire abilities. The blindfold becomes a source of escalating tension between Orrec and his stern father, and its eventual removal serves as a powerful metaphor for the transition from dependent youngster to self-possessed, questioning young adult. Although intriguing as a coming-of-age allegory, Orrec’s story is also rich in the earthy magic and intelligent plot twists that made the Earthsea novels classics. One would expect nothing less from the author whose contributions to literature have earned her a World Fantasy Award, a Nebula Award, and, most recently, a Margaret Edwards Award for lifetime achievement.” Booklist starred review
LeGuin is one of the top fantasy writers in the genre and it is nice to see a quality book, not a throw-away for teens, come from her pen. One could only wish there were more who followed her example.
The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine
Ages 9-12. “After stealing the hearts of middle-grade girls with her delightful Newbery Honor-winning Cinderella retelling, Ella Enchanted, Gail Carson Levine here creates a fairy tale of her own and gives it a characteristic grrrl-power twist. Twelve-year-old Addie admires her older sister Meryl, who aspires to rid the kingdom of Bamarre of gryphons, specters, and ogres. Addie, on the other hand, is fearful even of spiders and depends on Meryl for courage and protection. Waving her sword Bloodbiter, the older girl declaims in the garden from the heroic epic of Drualt to a thrilled audience of Addie, their governess, and the young sorcerer Rhys. But when Meryl falls ill with the dreaded Gray Death, Addie must gather her courage and set off alone on a quest to find the cure and save her beloved sister. Addie takes the seven-league boots and magic spyglass left to her by her mother and the enchanted tablecloth and cloak given to her by Rhys–along with a shy declaration of his love. She prevails in encounters with tricky specters (spiders too) and outwits a wickedly personable dragon in adventures touched with romance and a bittersweet ending. Young fans of princess stories will gobble this one up. (Ages 10 to 14).” Amazon Reviews
The Merchant of Death (Pendragon Series #1) by D.J. MacHale
Ages 10 and UP. “In Pendragon: The Merchant of Death, D.J. MacHale, the creator of several popular television series and Afterschool Specials, transplants the Pendragon name from Arthurian legend to modern-day junior high school. Fourteen- year-old Bobby Pendragon has it all; he’s smart, popular, and a star basketball player in quiet Stony Brook, Connecticut. But a visit from Uncle Press soon topples all of that as Bobby learns that he is a Traveler, someone who can ride “flumes” through time and space. Bobby lands in Denduron, a medieval world where the gentle Milago are enslaved by the Bedoowan, and it’s Bobby’s job to free them. He reluctantly teams up with Loor–a girl his age from the warrior-territory of Zadaa–and other Travelers, recounting his adventures in journals that are magically transported back to his friends Mark and Courtney in Stony Brook. These first-person journals at times feel contrived–they’re riddled with terms like “coolio” and “bizarro” and gnarly descriptions of vile sights and smells–but the book’s thumping story soon scrubs away all such concern. The Merchant of Death keeps the pages flipping with steady action and near-constant mortal peril for its heroes, promising that both this and future volumes in the Pendragon series should be eagerly devoured. (Ages 10 and older). Amazon Reviews
Cut by Patricia McCormick
Ages Y/A. “Burdened with the pressure of believing she is responsible for her brother’s illness, 15-year-old Callie begins a course of self-destruction that leads to her being admitted to Sea Pines, a psychiatric hospital the “guests” refer to as Sick Minds. Although initially she refuses to speak, her individual and group therapy sessions trigger memories and insights. Slowly, she begins emerging from her miserable silence, ultimately understanding the role her dysfunctional family played in her brother’s health crisis.
Patricia McCormick’s first novel is authentic and deeply moving. Callie suffers from a less familiar teen problem–she cuts herself to relieve her inner frustrations and guilt. The hope and hard-won progress that comes at the conclusion of the novel is believable and heartening for any teen reader who feels alone in her (or his) angst. Along with Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak and E.L. Konigsburg’s Silent to the Bone, McCormick’s Cut expertly tackles an unusual response to harrowing adolescent trouble. (Ages 14 and older).” Amazon Reviews
Saffy’s Angel by Hilary McKay
Ages 9-12. “McKay’s (The Exiles; Dog Friday) sparkling novel once again introduces an eccentric, entirely engaging British family whose members readers will immediately embrace. The Casson parents, both artists delightfully distracted Eve paints in her backyard shed and comically distant Bill spends weekdays painting in his London studio named their children from a paint color chart: Caddy (for Cadmium), Indigo and Rose. All but Saffron, “so fierce and alone,” who learns at the start of the story that she is actually the Italian-born daughter of Eve’s twin sister, who died in a car crash when Saffy was three. Eve explains that Grandfather had been visiting Saffy and Saffy’s mother in Siena at the time of the accident, and delivered the girl to the Cassons, who adopted her. Now elderly and catatonic after two heart attacks, beloved Grandfather sits in silence when he visits the family, as the children hover around him, endearingly sharing news of their lives. When Grandfather dies, “They felt as if they had lost a battle they might have won if only they had tried a bit harder.”The man leaves something to each of the children: Caddy receives his crumbling cottage on a cliff in Wales; Indigo his aged Bentley (which Bill dismisses as an “absolute wreck”); Rose his remaining cash (L144). Attached to the will by a rusty pin is a note scrawled in a shaky hand, “For Saffron. Her angel in the garden. The stone angel.” As McKay shapes an intriguing plot around Saffy’s angel, the Cassons’ capricious capers and understated, droll dialogue will keep readers chuckling. Especially entertaining subplots include: reckless Caddy’s driving lessons with her patient instructor (who fabricates a girlfriend to keep his flirtatious student in check), aspiring polar explorer Indigo’s sessions sitting on his bedroom windowsill, hoping to cure his vertigo, and Rose’s efforts to create works of art using such unlikely materials as “the entire contents of the refrigerator” and the pound coins that constitute her inheritance. An unlikely friendship with Sarah (“the wheelchair girl”), a neighbor, brings out another side of Saffy as the two attempt to find her angel in Siena, and Saffy makes all kinds of discoveries, including her love for the Cassons. The author blends a generous heaping of humor and joy with a dose of pain in a memorable portrait of a vastly human family.The only disappointment for readers may be that McKay’s affecting conclusion arrives too soon. They’ll close this book hoping for the Casson clan’s swift return. Ages 8-12.” Publishers Weekly
Standing Up to Mr. O. by Claudia Mills
Ages 9-12. “Grade 5-7-Seventh-grader Maggie McIntosh is a good student and loves biology class. She especially loves the teacher, Mr. O’Neill. She feels she can talk to Mr. O. about anything, except her reluctance to do dissections in class. The other kids don’t seem to mind killing worms, but Maggie feels it is wrong. When she takes a stand and refuses to do the dissection, Jake, a good-looking troublemaker, is her only ally. Later, her lab partner stands by her when he feels that her anti-dissection essay should have won a prize and Mr. O. was one of the judges. Maggie’s inner struggle is well drawn as she attempts to articulate her beliefs and what she is willing to fight for. Her pain in disappointing, and possibly alienating, her favorite teacher is believable. Her arguments with her friends provide other viewpoints in a natural way without any didacticism. The tension is maintained until Maggie and Jake are caught “rescuing” the frogs that are next to undergo dissection. Maggie’s fight to follow her conscience will hold readers, and her growth as a person will be applauded even when she makes mistakes. Her interest in Jake forces Maggie to make other decisions, all of which help her define her beliefs. A thought-provoking book.” School Library Journal
War Horse by Micahel Morpurgo
Like Morpurgo’s Private Peaceful (2004), this searing World War I novel reveals the unspeakable slaughter of soldiers on all sides fighting against people who are just like them. The story is told by an English farm horse, Joey, and, as in Cynthia Kadahota’s Cracker! The Best Dog in Vietnam (2007), the first-person narrative blends the animal’s physical experience with what men say. On the farm, Joey has close ties to Albert, who is too young to join up when his dad first sells Joey to the army. Charging into battle under machine-gun fire, Joey is captured by the Germans, who train him to haul ambulances and guns. His reunion with Albert in battle is sentimental and contrived, but the viewpoint brings close the fury of the thundering guns, the confusion, and the kindness of enemies who come together in No Man’s Land to save the wounded horse. Joey’s ability to understand the language wherever he is–England, France, Germany–reinforces the novel’s antiwar message, and the terse details speak eloquently about peace.” School Library Journal
This book my youngest daughter, who loves animals, stopped half-way through. She was devastated by the picture of war and the horse that was painted. I eventually talked her into finishing it, on the grounds that she needed to due the horse justice, and she did. It turned out she loved it, although she still finds it sad – even though the ending turned out fine. We have an old battered paperback. It’s nice to see that there is a new hardcover edition – it deserves it!
Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli
Ages 12 and up. “Donna Jo Napoli thoughtfully and poetically reexamined the story of Hansel and Gretel from the witch’s point of view in The Magic Circle. Here, she retells the Greek myth of the Sirens, whose sweet, beckoning singing caused countless shipwrecks. But did the Sirens (who Napoli imagines as mermaids) really mean for the sailors to perish? Or were these sultry singers cursed themselves? In Napoli’s tale, because they are half-human, the 10 Sirens are doomed to lead short mortal lives–unless they can convince men to become their mates. But after witnessing a shipwreck in which the survivors kill one of her sisters, 17-year-old Sirena decides she would rather lose her chance at eternal life than trick a human into loving her. She vows to live alone on “an island where the first rays of sun bring sight to blind eyes…. I am going there to find new sight. I will wipe from my brain the sights I have seen and start over.” Little does she know that due to a jealous goddess, a sea-serpent bite, and a dead hero, a man will come to her island and love her for herself, not just her song. Sirena is the perfect teenage heroine–questioning authority and falling in love no matter what the consequences. In creating this beautiful story, Napoli brings mythology alive for today’s young adults. (Ages 12 to 15). Amazon Reviews
The Deadly Curse of Toco-Rey (The Cooper Kids Adventure Series #6) by Frank Peretti
Ages 9-12. “Lila and Jay Cooper have joined their dad on a mission to the jungles of Central America, where a group of American treasure hunters have already become the victims of the deadly curse of Toco-Rey. Before Dr. Cooper can solve the mystery, his children are kidnapped and his integrity is put to the test. What price will he pay to get his children back? Is the treasure in the burial tomb of Kachi-Tochetin really worth more than gold? Follow the Coopers as they explore unknown ruins, plunge through dangerous jungles, face hostile natives, and battle ancient evil forces. Will their courage and faith in God bring them through? Book description
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin (winner of the Newberry Medal, the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award, and an ALA notable Book)
Ages 9-12. “One fateful day, sixteen people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. To their surprise, the will turns out to be a contest, challenging the heirs to find out who among them is Westing’s murderer. Forging ahead, through blizzrds, burgalries, and bombings, the game is on. Only two people hold all the clues. One of them is a Westing heir. The other is you!” Book description
“A supersharp mystery…Confoundingly clever, and very funny.” Booklist, starred review.
Downsiders by Neal Shusterman
Ages 12 and up. “Meticulous 14-year-old Lindsay isn’t exactly thrilled about moving to the chaos that she believes is New York City. Her flighty “career college student” mom, now divorced, has dumped her on her city engineer dad, “a man who lived his life twenty minutes behind schedule and in a perpetual state of apology.” Lindsay is certain that nothing better awaits her than prep school boredom and constant battles with her evil stepbrother Todd. But she is wrong. Quite by accident, Lindsay discovers an unusual boy named Talon who resides in a secret city beneath New York–a kind of underground Oz called the Downside. Talon and Lindsey are fascinated by the differences in their dual worlds and soon grow equally fascinated with each other. But when Lindsay’s dad’s construction project hits a snag that reveals the Downside, it is not only the blooming relationship that hangs in the balance, but the entire future of the Downside as well.
Downsiders is both funny and compelling. But while Lindsay and Talon’s observations of their distinct environments is humorous (Talon compares Lindsay’s French braid to a “gator’s tail” and, despite Talon’s explanation that “time is of low importance,” Lindsay still thinks it’s strange that Talon wears his watch around his ankle), Neal Shusterman also uses their relationship to illustrate how much a particular culture both shapes our identity and affects how we view people from backgrounds other than our own. This call to look beneath the surface is cleverly and subtly woven through an original story with broad appeal. (Ages 10 to 16).” School Library Journal
“History and urban folklore are wittily combined in this well-wrought fantasy, centering on an alternative society that thrives undisturbed in the subterranean recesses of New York City.” Publishers Weekly
Sasquatch by Roland Smith
Ages 9-12. “Grade 5-8. When Dylan accompanies his father to a meeting of the Bigfoot International society, he’s sure that it’s just another of Dad’s odd hobbies. Soon after, his father joins the society’s sinister leader in an expedition to hunt down a Sasquatch specimen, and Dylan decides to go along. He hooks up with an old hermit who seems to be familiar with the area and the legend. When it appears that someone is following the old man, Dylan begins to suspect that his companion may be hiding a mysterious past. In addition, evidence that the Sasquatch may be more than a legend begins to accumulate and Dylan realizes he must prevent the society from killing them. With an exciting climax set amid a Mount Saint-Helens eruption, this fast-moving, suspenseful story provides lots of action and appeal.” School Library Journal
Cayman Gold: Lost Treasure of Devils Grotto (Harbor Lights Series) (A MacGregor Family Adventure) by Richard Trout
Ages 9-12 and up. “Thrust into a race for lost Spanish treasure, four teenagers rely on their courage and scuba diving skills to survive. Sinister international forces plot to destroy a natural barrier reef in order to stake a claim to gold doubloons and Colombian emeralds hidden for nearly four hundred years.
Amid the exotic waters and beaches of the Cayman Islands, this tale conveys an exciting mix of pirates, strange and timeless creatures of the sea, and the hospitable peoples of the Caribbean. Fast boats, mini-subs, undersea scooters, hurricanes, and even teen romance accentuate the fast tempo of this techno-thriller, the first in a series.
The MacGregor family’s respect for life and the sanctity of the environment, along with their thirst for adventure, drive the teens through a series of challenging and surprising events. Along with page-turning excitement, Cayman Gold delivers gentle doses of history and geography along the way.” Book description.
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen (Winner of the 1999 Edgar Award for Best Children’s Msytery)
Ages 9-12. “Look out Harriet the Spy! Here comes Sammy Keyes, a resourceful, brave, too-curious-for-her-own-good young sleuth who gets into trouble with her grandmother’s binoculars. Sammy was just killing time when she looked across the avenue with the binoculars. She certainly didn’t imagine that she would see a thief in the act of stealing something from one of the rooms at the Heavenly Hotel. The worst part is that the thief saw Sammy spying! And what did “smart” Sammy do then? She waved at the thief! Now Sammy is in loads of trouble. Can she solve the mystery of the hotel thief before the thief finds her and before the police discover that she has been living illegally with her grandmother? (Oh, don’t ask–it’s just another stressful situation in this young detective’s life.) Teens of all ages, shapes, and persuasions (especially reluctant readers) will adore Sammy and her crazy adventures. She is much more than a brilliant detective: Sammy Keyes, who is curious in all the right ways, is the sort of person you’d love to have as a friend.” Amazon Reviews
Double Helix by Nancy Werlin (an Edgar Ward Winner and ALA Best Book for Young Adults, School Library Journal Starred Review, and Publisher’s Weekly Starred Review).
Ages Y/A. “Grade 9 Up–Eli Samuels’ mother is dying of Huntington’s Disease and he is aware that it might be in his own future. Yet his father seems certain Eli does not have the fateful genetic marker and maintains a secretive silence. An excellent science student, Eli is hired to work at the famed Dr. Quincy Wyatt’s lab, foregoing college and defying his father. In some way, Wyatt is tied to Eli’s parents and to their genetic mystery. Thus Nancy Werlin has set the stage for a suspenseful thriller whose seamless boundary between science and fiction keeps listeners totally involved (Dial, 2004)… Teens interested in science will be caught up in the intrigue as Eli pieces together clues and redefines himself and his relationships with both his father and girlfriend. His sexual relationship with Viv is apparent although not a major part of the story. The themes of genetic engineering and bioethics will interest teens and appeal to the same audience as Ann Halam’s Dr. Franklin’s Island (Random, 2002) although Werlin’s plot is much more believable.” School Library Journal
The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn
Ages Y/A. “Grade 6 Up – It’s 2025, and the thing to do on your 17th birthday is to get a bar code tattoo, which is used for everything from driver’s licenses to shopping. Kayla, almost 17, resists because she hates the idea of being labeled. Then the tattoos begin to drive people to commit suicide, Kayla’s father among them, and she soon finds out that the markings contain detailed information about their bearers, including their genetic code. When the government, controlled by a corporation called Global-1, makes the tattoo mandatory, Kayla joins a teen resistance movement and falls for a gorgeous guy, unaware that he’s a double agent. She discovers she has some psychic ability and has confusing visions of future events. Forced to run away after being implicated in her mother’s accidental death, she eventually joins other resisters hiding in the Adirondack Mountains, finds romance with an old friend, and learns to harness her psychic powers to fight Global-1 and fulfill her visions. Like M. T. Anderson’s Feed (Candlewick, 2002), this novel examines issues of individuality versus conformity and individual freedom versus governmental control. Because it also deals with the ethics of enhanced genetics and cloning, it tries to cover too much territory and relies too heavily on coincidence and far-fetched plotting. Stick with Feed.” School Library Journal
Growing Wings by Laurel Winter
Ages 9-12. “When 11-year-old Linnet discovers she is growing wings, her bewilderment is confounded by her mother’s obvious distress. As it turns out, her mother also grew wings on the cusp of adolescence, only to have them cut off by her mother. Linnet’s life seems to speed up rapidly after her shocking discovery; she soon finds herself alone on her estranged grandmother’s doorstep, and shortly thereafter, at a type of secret residence for winged people like herself. As she tries to adapt to a life she never expected, Linnet struggles with desires common to anyone who has ever wanted desperately to fit in, while simultaneously seeking to embrace uniqueness.
This unusual novel will strike a chord with young readers who long to both blend in and stand out. Linnet is a sensitive, strong, fallible girl, easy to relate to (in spite of her unusual physical traits). Her adventures as she tries to learn how to fly (just having wings isn’t enough–it takes hard work and practice), make friends, find her mother, and, with her winged community, avoid being noticed by the media, make for an entirely new kind of science fiction-fantasy story–one that soars.” Amazon Reviews
Dealing with Dragons: The Enchanted Forest Chronicles, Book One by Patricia C. Wrede
Ages 9-12. “Cimorene, princess of Linderwall, is a classic tomboy heroine with classic tomboy strengths–all of which are perceived by those around her as defects: “As for the girl’s disposition–well, when people were being polite, they said she was strong-minded. When they were angry or annoyed with her, they said she was as stubborn as a pig.” Cimorene, tired of etiquette and embroidery, runs away from home and finds herself in a nest of dragons. Now, in Cimorene’s world–a world cleverly built by author Patricia C. Wrede on the shifting sands of myriad fairy tales–princesses are forever being captured by dragons. The difference here is that Cimorene goes willingly. She would rather keep house for the dragon Kazul than be bored in her parents’ castle. With her quick wit and her stubborn courage, Cimorene saves the mostly kind dragons from a wicked plot hatched by the local wizards, and worms her way into the hearts of young girls everywhere.
While the characters are sometimes simplistically drawn, adults and children will have fun tracing the sources of the various fairy tales Wrede plunders for her story. Dealing with Dragons is the first book in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles, and most young readers will want to devour the entire series. (Ages 10 and older).” Amazon Reviews
Armageddon Summer by Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville
Ages Y/A. “On the heels of Paula Danziger and Ann Martin’s P.S. Longer Letter Later (Children’s Forecasts, Feb. 16) comes another novel (on a very different subject) co-written by a pair of popular YA authors. The two alternating narrators, Marina and Jed, are both children of religious fanatics, so-called Believers who dedicate themselves to the Reverend Beelson. The Believers have brought their families to the top of a mountain to prepare for the end of the world, only two weeks away, according to Beelson. Marina and Jed are instantly attracted to each other, even though Marina believes the world really will end and Jed thinks the whole thing is a hoax. Their different points of view?and occasional interleaved “memos” from FBI agents, excerpts from sermons, etc., yield a multidimensional description of cult dynamics and dangers. As Beelson predicts, there is a type of Armageddon on July 27, 2000 (Marina’s 14th birthday), but, as Marina sadly concludes, it is one “made by man. Not by God.” Yolen’s and Coville’s styles and narrative voices, though different, complement each other well, so that both protagonists emerge with the same depth and the action builds smoothly and steadily. Providing action, romance and a provocative message, this novel could well get teens talking. Ages 12-up.” Publishers Weekly
This is the end of part on of our teenage bookshelf. Another one will be forthcoming. Many of these books have others in the series, so if you like one, check out for more by the same author in that series, or just other ones. Read, have fun, enjoy!