Teen Booktalks
created by Carrie Falk and Joy Stortvedt
Shenandoah Public Library
Updated
8/2012
 

Author List                                        Title List                         Back to Main Booktalks Page

These booktalks are listed alphabetically by the title of the book.  Click on a letter below to see the titles that begin with that letter. To the side of the title is a listing of the grade or grades that I would booktalk this book to.

A    B    C    D    E

 

Academy 7 by Anne Osterlund  Grades 7-10
New York: Penguin, 2009.  9780142414378

Aerin Renning has a secret.  She’s an ex-slave on the run, hiding in the most prestigious school in the universe.  To stay alive and free, all she has to do is fly under the radar, make sure that she doesn’t attract too much notice from anyone who could expose her – or send her back.  That’s not the easiest thing to do when she keeps getting tangled up with Dane Madousin, son of one of the most powerful men in the Alliance.  Dane’s got secrets of his own, but he can’t help being drawn to the mysterious Aerin.  As they slowly learn to trust each other, they begin to discover a larger web of secrets that surround them both.  Together they must find the truth – a truth that could alter history…

 

Acceleration by Graham McNamee  Grades 8-10
210 p., New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2003.  0385731191

 It has to be the most boring summer job ever.  Duncan feels like he is putting in his time working in the dungeon.  Actually his job is way underground working for the Toronto Transit Commission’s lost and found.  Everything that is left on a subway or a bus is brought down here to be cataloged and put on a shelf with a dated post-it note.  Duncan puts stuff on shelves when it comes in and then goes looking for it when people come in to claim their items.  The four most often lost items are umbrellas, cell phones, books and glasses.  During one of the many slow afternoons Duncan is flipping through the books trying to fill up his hours when he comes across a small leather bound volume with no writing on it.  When he flips it open he finds that it is some kind of diary.  Only it is worse than that, some person has listed all of their sick activities like torturing and killing small animals and starting fires.  It is like the cesspool of someone’s mind.  Duncan doesn’t want to read anymore, but he can’t seem to put it down.  As he reads more Duncan finds out that this person has moved beyond the small time and is now looking for a human target.  In fact he has listed several women in his book.  It’s like he is shopping for them on the subway.  What is Duncan going to do with this information?  Should he go to the police?  Would they believe him or is it already too late for one of these women?

 

 The Adventures of Blue Avenger by Norma Howe  Grades 8-10
229 p., New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2000.  0064472256
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 1020 Points: 11

 On his 16th birthday David Schumacher changes his name to Blue Avenger.  So now whenever David puts on his headdress and fishing vest, he turns into his comic book character Blue Avenger.  Blue’s first real action comes at the tennis team award ceremony.  Let me just read to you what happens because you’ll never believe it otherwise.  Read pages 59-61 aloud to the class.  This is just the first of many such challenges for Blue Avenger secret champion of the underdog, modest seeker of the truth and fearless innovator of the unknown.

 

After the Death of Anna Gonzales by Terri Fields Grades 7-10
100 p., New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2002.  9780805071276

Read p. 3-9.

Students, teachers, people Anna never even knew share their reflections on Anna’s death through poetry.  47 different voices tell the story of how life goes on After the Death of Anna Gonzales.

 

Airball: My Life in Briefs by L. D. Harkrader
New Milford, CT: Roaring Book Press, 2005.  9781596430600

Read p. 92-95.

Kirby can’t wait to meet his idol, basketball superstar and hometown hero Brett McGrew – not to mention the chance that Brett “McNet” might also be his father.  But even with their *ahem* “stealth uniforms,” does the 7th grade team have what it takes to prove to everyone that they deserve this once-in-a-lifetime chance?

 

Airborn by Kenneth Oppel  Grades 8-10
501 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.  0060531827

All Matt Cruse has ever wanted to do is fly.  After all, he was born in the sky while his parents were crossing the ocean in an airship.  He dreams of someday being the captain of one of the amazing vessels, but Matt is grateful just to be aloft as a cabin boy on the luxury airliner Aurora.  However, there is more in the sky than most people ever see, and not everything up there is friendly.  A crashed balloon pilot whispers a mystery in Matt’s ear, and that’s when the real adventures begin.  When the Aurora comes under attack, Matt, the crew, and the passengers will have to use all their resources, wits, and courage to get airborne again.

 

Airhead by Meg Cabot  Grades 9-12
337 p., New York: Scholastic Point, 2008.  9780545040525

Nobody notices Emerson Watts.  She’s only average-looking, likes computer games, and even her best friend Christopher doesn’t dream she’d want to be anything more than friends.  At the Stark Megastore opening, everyone’s staring at Nikki Howard, teenage supermodel sensation, when a freak accident changes both of their lives forever.  Now Em’s seeing life through Nikki Howard’s eyes and realizing that being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Can she prove that there’s more to her than what people see, or will everyone dismiss her as another beautiful Airhead?  This book has a brand-new sequel called Being Nikki.

 

Airman by Eoin Colfer  Grades7-10
New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2008.  9781423107507

Conor Broekhart has lived a charmed life.  Sure, Great Saltee Island is little more than a bare hunk of rock off the coast of Ireland, but he has the love of his family, the friendship of his country’s princess, and the chance to train his mind and body with tutor Victor Vigny.  Together, the two have dreamed of building the world’s first flying machine.  Everything changes the instant Conor witnesses the murder of his king.  Abandoned by his family and friends, Conor finds himself banished to the Little Saltee prison and diamond mine by none other than the king’s assassin.  Now the boy with the charmed life must learn to survive in a place that breeds lunacy and despair, and it will take every skill he has and every design he can create to rise again as Conor Finn, a man who can escape the impenetrable fortress.  But can Conor Finn truly leave Conor Broekhart behind, knowing the traitor still lives and threatens all he once held dear?  Which man will fly the Saltee skies as the legendary “Airman”?

 

 Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko   Grades 7-8
228 p., New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2004.  0399238611

 The convicts on Alcatraz are the kind other prisons don’t want.  “I never knew prisons could be picky, but I guess they can.  You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst.  Unless you’re me.  I came because my mother said I had to.”  It is 1935, Alcatraz has been a federal penitentiary for a year when Moose Flanagan and his family move to the island.  They are there because his father got a job as an electrician/prison guard.  Moose’s family has moved from Santa Monica to Alcatraz to be closer to the school his sister Natalie will be going to in San Francisco.  So now instead of being close to family and friends, he lives on an island with 23 other kids and lots of prisoners.  At first it seems life is going to be boring on Alcatraz, but then Moose has a run in with Piper the Warden’s daughter.  He knows she is going to be nothing but trouble with a capitol T.  Now Piper has come up with a scheme to sell the prisoner’s laundry service to the kids in their class at school.  The kicker is that she expects Moose to help.  What will happen if the Warden ever finds out?  He has told them never to talk about the prisoners with anyone on the outside, so having the prisoners do other people’s laundry has to be a really big no no. 

 

Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson  Grades 6-8
308 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 2007.  9780439925501

Read p. 1-2 until he gives his name.

Alcatraz has even more to be grateful to his parents for.  On his thirteenth birthday, they left him his inheritance – a bag of sand.  However, this is no ordinary bag of sand, and soon Alcatraz finds himself on a life-or-death mission to get it back from the evil librarians who stole it.  Armed with some eyeglasses and his amazing talent for breaking things, Alcatraz and a few friends and relatives set out to infiltrate the library and restore the balance of power.  Sanderson’s wry sense of humor is a great match for anyone who liked Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events.

 

Alias:  Recruited by Lynn Mason  Grades 7-8
201 p., New York: Random House Children’s Books, 2002.  0553493981

 All Sydney has ever wanted is to fit in and make friends.  That is why she has been so excited about going to college.  She has known she will attend UCLA and major in English, following in her mother’s footsteps by becoming an English professor.  However college is not turning out to be what she thought it would be.  She is still painfully shy and the only friend she has made so far is her roommate Francie.  Francie is outgoing, fun and already has a cute boyfriend.  Sydney feels like a third wheel when she is with them.  To assert herself and gain financial independence from her father Sydney decides to get a job.  She is hired as a waitress at the same restaurant as Francie.  However, she gets fired her first day on the job when she dumps coffee in the lap of a rude obnoxious customer.  So, now Sydney is right back where she started.  Then when she is studying in an outdoor café, she is approached by a man calling himself Wilson.  He tells her he is a recruiter for the Central Intelligence Agency.  He hands her a business card and tells here that if she is interested in working for the government to call that number.  But she cannot tell anyone about this conversation and most importantly she can’t lose the card, because they will not contact her again and they aren’t listed in any phone book.  Now Sydney has this card burning a hole in her backpack.  Should she call?  Does she really have what it takes to be an agent for the CIA?

 

Alias:  A Secret Life by Laura Peyton Roberts  Grades 7-8
202 p. New York: Bantam Books, 2003.  055349399X

 Sydney is on her first big mission.  She has been sent to Paris to check out a fashion house that might be laundering money for K-Directorate a Russian spy group.  This is like a dream vacation, not an undercover assignment.  First Sydney gets to go to Paris; she has lots of money, and a suitcase full of expensive designer clothes.  She gets to pose as the spoiled wealthy wife of a dot.com millionaire who just happens to be hunky agent Noah Hicks.  Sydney has had a crush on him since she saw him on her first day of training.  All she will be doing is trying on and buying lots of beautiful expensive outfits while planting bugs and hidden cameras.  What could possibly be difficult about this little recon job?  Somewhere something goes terribly wrong because all of a sudden the tables have been turned.  Someone has gone through their hotel room and may have even planted bugs.  What could have possible tipped them off?  How are Sydney and Noah going to finish the job they started when their cover may have been blown?

 

All*American Girl by Meg Cabot  Grade 8
247 p., New York, HarperCollins Publishers, 2002.  0060294698

 Getting a C- in German isn’t that big a deal, at least it isn’t flunking.  However, Sam’s parents don’t see it quite that way.  As a punishment and to help her focus her artistic tendencies her parents enroll Sam in a twice a week art class.  The first time she goes the teacher has her sit by this cute boy named David and tells them all to draw the fruit laying out for the still life.  When the time is finished everyone has to show their work and the teacher critiques it.  Sam knows hers looks better than everyone else’s, yet when the teacher gets to hers she rips it apart.  Sam added things in like pears and pineapple.  She drew perfect looking fruit, not exactly what was up front.  Sam is humiliated by the teachers critique and feels the class is destroying her creative individuality so, she decides to skip the next class.  Since she has to wait around for a ride she hangs out in the music store below the art studio.  In the store is this strange guy wearing an army surplus poncho and listening to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” over and over again.  When it is time for her ride to show up, Sam goes outside to wait.  The guy from the music store comes out and stands beside her.  Then he starts adjusting something under his poncho.  Just then the Presidential motorcade pulls up and the president gets out and goes into a store.  When he comes back out the guy standing next to Sam pulls a gun out of his poncho and aims at the President.  Without even thinking Sam jumps on his back and the shot goes wild.  The only problem is, now she is famous, her picture is on T.V.  She’s a hero and her parents will figure out she has skipped art class.  What is a girl to do?

 

Amazing Grace by Megan Shull  Grades 8-9
247 p.  New York:  Hyperion, 2005.  0786856904.

 Ava tells Grace she can take the bike out riding to explore the island.  The next thing Grace knows, she is lying on the pavement looking up into the face of one really, really, really cute boy.  What just happened?  His name is Teague and he tells her that she has just battled a moose and maybe won?  Then it all starts to come back to her.  Just a few days ago, she was Grace “Ace” Kincaid, teen tennis star, when she decided to call it all quits and disappear.  Now she is in Medicine Hat, Alaska population 813 living with former FBI agent Ava Gardner posing as her niece Emily O’Brian.  How embarrassing can it be to start her new normal ordinary life with mud up her nose and her legs wrapped around a bicycle that is wrapped around a tree.  What a way to meet the cutest guy on the island.  Is it possible to start over yet again?

 

Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix  Grade 7
153p., New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000, c1998. 0689824750
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2000-2001
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 800 Points: 8

 Are you a first born child?  How about a second born child or are you a shadow child, which is a third born child?  If you are a shadow child you wouldn’t be here today.  In fact, if the government caught you, you wouldn’t even be alive at this moment. In Among the Hidden, the U.S. government has a population law that states a family can only have two children maximum due to a population explosion.  Any other children will be taken away and disposed of by the government.  Luke is a third child, but he has never really worried about it since his family lives in the country.  He knows he can’t go to school or into town like his two older brothers, but that doesn’t bother him.  Then the land next to their house is sold and a housing development is built.  Now Luke is confined to the attic.  He can’t even eat dinner at the table with his family.  He has to eat on the stairs where no one from the outside might be able to see him.  One day while staring out the window in the attic Luke sees a figure in one of the houses in the new development.  He knows the family has two boys and that they already left for school.  That can only mean one thing; there is another third child.  How many more shadow children are out there?  Should Luke try to contact this person?  Is it too risky to go outside?  What if he gets caught?  To find out what happens to Luke, you will have to check out Among the Hidden.

 

Ana’s Story: A Journey of Hope by Jenna Bush  Grades 7-11
290 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.  9780061379086

Not every child has an easy life.  Some are born into poverty.  Some don’t have both of their parents.  Some are abused by those who should take care of them.  Some are born with frightening diseases, like being HIV-positive.  Ana, a young girl in a Latin American country, must deal with all of these things.  With courage and determination, Ana faces all the obstacles in her life and tries to find a better way to live – for herself and her baby.  Short chapters and vivid photographs make this book a quick but compelling read.  The last few chapters are dedicated to what we can do to help people like Ana all around the world.  Ana’s Story can be an inspiration and a wake-up call to all of us. 

 

Angel on the Square by Gloria Whelan  Grade 8
288 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2001.  0060290307

 Katya Ivanova is excited to find out her mother has been made a lady in waiting to the Empress of Russia.  On the one hand it means she will have to leave her home in St. Petersburg to live at the royal palace, on the other hand Katya will live with the royal family and have the grand duchesses for playmates.  The youngest grand duchess is Anastasia who is right about Katya’s age.  Anastasia likes to get into trouble and that always keeps things interesting at the palace.  Katya decides she really likes living at the palace and Tsar Nicholas is almost like a father to her.  So, when Katya hears people say mean things about the Tsar she doesn’t want to believe any of it.  Then Russia enters the war against Germany, which will be known as World War I and loses very badly.  Now people are calling for the Tsar to step down and let someone else rule the country.  Finally, the royal family is forced to flee the palace to Siberia.  Katya and her mother accompany the family because they couldn’t abandon them in their greatest hour of need.  What will happen to the Tsar and his family and what will become of Katya and her mother?  To find out, read Angel on the Square.

 

Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison  Grade 8
247 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2000.  0060288140

 Georgia’s nose is way too big.  She is sure everyone is always looking at it.  She has done everything she can to make it smaller but no matter what she does it stays the same size.  What is worse is she has one of those under-the-skin spots that never goes away and it is right on her nose.  However in spite of that her biggest concern is that she knows nothing about full frontal snogging, which is kissing with all the trimmings for you American types.  Georgia has heard that there is a guy who gives snogging lessons, but is she really that desperate?  She will definitely have to learn how to snow properly if she ever wants a chance to date the Sex God.  The only problem is that the Sex God is dating old swotty knickers Lindsay.  Georgia and her best friend Jas will have to do some spying etc.. and try to break up Lindsay and the Sex God so Georgia has a chance.  Will they be able to pull it off?

 

As You Wish by Jackson Pearce  Grades 7-10
New York: HarperTeen, 2009.  9780061661525

If you had 3 wishes, what would you wish for?  Money?  Beauty?  Popularity?  What would make you happy? Viola has been wishing as hard as she can since her boyfriend broke up with her for somewhere to belong, and that’s brought her… a jinn!  So now she has three wishes, but she doesn’t know what to wish for and is afraid of wishing for the wrong thing.  The jinn just wants to go home, so he spends a lot of time with her, trying to convince her to wish – and then finds his wish changing, too.  Now they’re both wishing their time together could never end, but forces more powerful than both of them are pulling them apart.  When Viola makes her third wish, will she lose Jinn forever?  Or can she figure out a way for her wish to bring her happiness that lasts?

 

Assassin by Anna Myers  Grades 7-8
212 p., New York:  Walker & Company, 2005.  0802789897.

 As a young girl Bella’s mother takes her to see a play in Richmond, Virginia.  While walking into the theater they meet a young actor who makes a big impression on Bella, his name is John Wilkes Booth.  Bella has always wanted to be an actress but she is so very shy.  When her mother dies her dad takes her to Washington City to live with her grandmother.  Bella’s grandmother is a dressmaker who works at the White House.  She sends Bella to school Bella meets Steven who becomes her best friend.  His mother also works at the White House, so every day after school Steven and Bella go to the White House to play.  After a while Bella also starts working at the White House as a dressmaker for Mrs. Lincoln, learning the trade.  Her Grandmother hates the theater and won’t allow Bella to have anything to do with acting.  Dressmaking is a respectable trade and that is what Bella should do.  However, Steven encourages Bella to apply for a dressmaking position at Ford’s Theater sewing costumes.  That is where she meets the handsome and dashing John Wilkes Booth for the second time.  He finds out Bella is from the south and works at the White House.  He then decides to use her in his plot to kidnap President Lincoln.  What will Bella do?  To find out you’ll have to read Assassin.

 

Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway  Grades 9-12
313 p., New York: Penguin Group, 2008.  9781595141910

“You said your piece and now I’ve got to say mine!
I had you and you strung me on the liiiiiinnnnneeeeee! …
Audrey, wait!  Audrey, wait!”

“According to the poll on the front page of USA Today, sixty-three percent of Americans blame me for the breakup, so let me clear the air right now: They’re right.  Sixty-three percent of Americans are no fools when it comes to knowing about my love life, a fact which is really creepy and isn’t helping me sleep well.  But it’s true: I broke up with Evan, and eight hours later, he had a song in his head and a guitar in his hand and it snowballed from there.” (from Audrey, Wait! p. 1)

Audrey had a normal life.  Her boyfriend, Evan, is the lead singer for a local band, and she works at Scooper Dooper serving ice cream to the masses.  But that all changes the day she and Evan break up, and the song he writes, “Audrey, Wait!” is suddenly on everybody’s lips and everybody’s iPod.  As the catchy tune moves its way up the charts, Audrey finds herself a celebrity.  However, fame’s not all it’s cracked up to be – suddenly, everyone’s an expert on her love life, people all over the country critique her outfits, and she can’t go anywhere – even school – without being mobbed by the paparazzi. How can she survive the madness, let alone find the guy of her dreams that Evan was so obviously not?  In her own voice, with language that’s a little rough, Audrey at last gets to tell her side of the story.

 

Avalon High by Meg Cabot  Grades 8-11
288 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.  9780060755867

Starting a new school wasn’t exactly Ellie’s plan for her junior year, but with her parents on sabbatical from their jobs as university professors, she didn’t get a lot of choice.  Ellie certainly never planned to fall in love with football quarterback/senior class president Will Wagner, especially since he’s already dating cheerleader Jennifer Gold.  Reliving the King Arthur legend with Will, Jennifer, and Will’s best friend Lance – well that was never even close to in her plans.  No matter what anyone says or what role they think she’s playing, Ellie’s not about stand back and watch a tragedy unfold – again.  But is there anything she can do to stop it?

 

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Backwater by Joan Bauer  Grade 8
185p., New York: Putnam’s, 1999.  0399231412

 Ivy Breedlove has grown up in a family full of aggressive arguing bullheaded lawyers.  She never has any peace and they all expect her to take up the family profession, as well.  Ivy wants nothing to do with being a lawyer.  She is fascinated with history and learning from the past.  In fact, Ivy has been working on writing the Breedlove family history.  She has information on everyone but her Aunt Josephine who disappeared years ago.  Whenever her father or uncle talks about Aunt Josephine they use words like crazy and eccentric.  People say that Ivy is a lot like Josephine too.  Ivy decides to set out to meet this aunt she has never seen.  Josephine lives the life of a hermit on the side of a mountain.  Ivy hires a guide named Mountain Mama and starts out on the adventure of her life.  What will happen on the way?  What will Ivy find out about Aunt Josephine and more importantly what will she find out about herself in the Backwater?

 

Battle Dress by Amy Efaw  Grade 8
291 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2000.  0060279435

 “You are no longer in kindergarten, moron!  You have for responses here and four responses only:  Yes Sir; No Sir; No Excuse, Sir; and sir, I do not understand.  DO YOU PEA-BRAINED SCUM-SUCKING, LOW-LIFE GRUB BALLS UNDERSTAND?”  Can you imagine being talked to like this?  Andi can hardly believe it and she is only four minutes into her first day at West Point, the U.S. Army Officer Training Academy in New York State.  It is a completely different world than the one she just left and Andi knows there is no going back now.  She is going to make it through her first six weeks as a new cadet known as the beast.  Andi applied to West Point to get away from her horribly dysfunctional family.  The military academy is her first chance to fit into a group instead of feeling like she is on the outside looking in.  Will she be able to learn all the rules and follow directions well enough to be able to fit into the 3rd squad of the 3rd  platoon of H Company?  To find out if Andi is able to conquer the beast read Battle Dress.

 

The Battle of Jericho by Sharon Draper  Grades 9-12
New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2003.  9780689842320

“Between now and the last week of this month, anything that a pledge master asks you to do – anything … you are required to do.  That’s at school or any place off campus.  Understood?” (p.139).  Jericho can’t believe he’s been asked to be a member of the “Warriors of Distinction” club.  The guys are so cool in their black jackets, and they have connections to many powerful community leaders who were members in their day.  All he has to do is get through the pledge week activities.  Guys have been pledging to the club for over 50 years, so he can do it, too.  Right?  But this year is different.  For the first time ever, there’s a girl in the pledge class.  And the activities get more and more disturbing as the week goes on.  Jericho said he’d do anything to get in – anything.  But is that black jacket worth the price?

 

Beachmont Letters by Cathleen Twomey  Grade 8-10
223 p., Honesdale, PA Boyds Mills Press, Inc., 2003.  1590780507.

 Eleanor loves writing letters to Robert.  She enjoys describing life in Beachmont, from the way the boys play on the beach to the way her bossy nosey neighbor Angela tries to run her family’s life.  She likes to tell him about her little sister Lindy and her job at the drugstore.  She even tells him about her disastrous driving lesson and the way she misses her father since he dies.  The only thing she can’t bring herself to tell Robert about is herself and what happened to her.  She can’t tell him about the fire and what it did to her face and her life, the way people stare at her or try to ignore her.  What if Robert treated her that way too?  Eleanor can’t handle that kind of rejection from him too.

 The year is 1944 and everything is changing.  Eleanor is writing to Robert, a soldier stationed in New York City waiting for orders to head overseas to fight the Germans.  Robert’s letters mean so much to her after the terrible accident, yet she can’t bring herself to tell him the most important news.  Will Eleanor ever find the courage to share her deepest darkest secret and how will Robert respond to the news?  To find out, read the Beachmont Letters.

 

Beautiful Creatures  by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl  Grades 8-12
563 p., New York: Little & Brown Company, 2009.  9780316077033

“Sixteen moons, sixteen years
Sixteen of your deepest fears
Sixteen times you dreamed my tears
Falling, falling through the years…”(from Beautiful Creatures, p. 6)

A strange song mysteriously appears on his iPod.  A strange dream is haunting his nights.  A strange smell – lemons and rosemary – leads Ethan Wate of Gatlin, South Carolina to a strange girl who just moved into town.  Lena Duchannes (du-KAYNE) is, literally, the girl of his dreams – dreams that end as nightmares.  The connection between them is undeniable and strong, and has its roots in a shared family past dating all the way back to the Civil War.  However, as Lena’s 16th birthday approaches, life in Gatlin becomes more and more dangerous for someone who is… strange, and there’s only so much Ethan can do to help the girl he loves.  She must make a terrible choice, and that choice will change the world – and both of them – forever.  First in the series.

 

Behind Rebel Lines:  the Incredible Story of Emma Edmonds, Civil War Spy by Seymour Reit  Grade 7-8
144p., New York: Gulliver Books, 2001.  0152164278

 If there was a war going on would you feel it was your duty to fight for the side you felt was right? That is how Emma Edmonds felt and this is her story.  The cause she felt strongly about was slavery and the war was the Civil War.  As you know, women weren’t allowed to fight or be near the fighting.  To get around this and do her part Emma cuts her hair, dresses up as a man named Franklin Thompson and joins the Union Army.  Luckily for her they did not give physical examinations to the recruits.  Emma is assigned to the infirmary to help the sick and wounded.  One day she sees a sign asking for spies for the army and she decides to apply.  She is chosen to spy on the rebel camps.  On her first assignment she dresses up as a slave named Cuff, and so begins her career as a Union spy.  Will she be caught?  Will her true identity be discovered?  To find out what happens read Behind Rebel Lines by Seymour Reit.

 

The Beloved Dearly  by Doug Cooney  Grades 7-8
183 p., New York: Simon  & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002.  0689831277 

Ernie always has a plan.  He is an entrepreneur.  He always has a money making scheme up his sleeve and they always work out for a while.  His dad is tired of making trips to the principal’s office to bail Ernie out of his latest mess.  That is when Red, Ernie’s dad, lays down the law.  No more business schemes to take everyone’s money.  This has to stop.  He threatens Ernie with grounding if he hears of another get rich quick plan.  That evening while out walking Mister Doggie, Ernie hits upon his best money making idea yet, pet funerals.  He has found an abandoned lot right behind his house that could be turned into something very nice.  What better place for quiet reflection and a final resting place for the dearly departed?  He just has to keep this new business venture a secret so his dad doesn’t find out and ground him.  Just to show you how hard it will be to keep this one under wraps let me share with you the funeral of Kirby the dog.  (pp 120-121 The Beloved Dearly)

Alternate booktalk:
The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney  Grades 5-7
183 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002.  9780689831270

Ernie has a knack for business.  He’s always cooking up some scheme to make a few bucks, but this time he’s hit the big time: pet funerals.  Kids and even some adults will pay good money for a send-off for dearly beloved fido.  Ernie soon assembles a great team – Dusty decorates the “coffins,” Tony digs the holes, and tomboy Swimming Pool provides the tears.  Things go great for a while, but as the business grows, so does the stress on Ernie’s team.  They’ll need to rely on eachother’s friendship when they start losing their own Beloved Dearly.

 

Big Mouth and Ugly Girl by Joyce Carol Oates  Grades 8-10
266 p. New York: HarperTempest, 2002.  066237564.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2004-2005. 

You know pretty much everyone in the high school, but how well do you really know them?  I’m sure everyone was thinking that about Matt Donaghy when the plain clothes detectives walked into his 5th period study hall and asked him to leave with them.  Matt has a reputation for being smart and funny.  He is on the newspaper staff and junior class vice president.  What would the police want with him?  Well, then the rumors start flying.  Matt threatened to blow up the school and massacre a bunch of people.  Someone overheard him telling all this to his friends in the cafeteria over lunch.  But who turned him in?  Who could have done this to Matt?  Matt is sure this misunderstanding will all be cleared up soon.  All the police need to do is talk to his friends and then they will find out it was just a big joke.  Only Matt’s friends don’t want to talk to the police and they are avoiding him at all costs.  He is a social outcast.  The only person who contacts him is Ursula Riggs a tall, athletic loner.  What on earth does she want from Matt?  What does her email mean?  “dear matt—please call me, it’s urgent. your classmate URSULA RIGGS.”   Will Matt’s life ever return to normal or will one careless comment completely change it forever?

 

Black-Eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw  Grade 8
167 p., Honesdale, PA.: Boyds Mills Press, 2002.  156398829X

 “I live in a box four sides, tall and brown.  I cannot get out.”  This is what Suzie’s life is like.  She tries to sit very still inside her box and be as quiet and unnoticed as possible.  No one else can see her box but she knows that it is there, always pushing in on her so she can’t escape.  Sometimes she can drift away on a fluffy pink cloud and look down on herself sitting in the box.  Those are the happy times but they don’t happen that often.  Suzie’s mom says she is just going through a stage or that is just Suzie’s way of trying to get attention.  Everyone should ignore her behavior, which is sitting silently on the chair with her knees tucked up to her chin, never talking, never eating.  This goes on until Uncle Elliot comes to visit and sees Suzie acting this way.  He gets upset and demands that Suzie’s parents take her to the hospital.  From the hospital Suzie is taken to St. Dorothy’s, which is a mental hospital.  Suzie is very confused and afraid.  She doesn’t understand why she is there when her job is to sit quietly at home.  The people at St. Dorothy’s tell her she is there to get well, but how can she do that there when what she really needs is to be at home with her own familiar surroundings.  Will Suzie ever be able to get out of her box before it crushes her?

Alternate Booktalk:
Black-eyed Suzie by Susan Shaw  Grades 7-10
Honesdale, PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2002.  9781563977299

Suzie is a 12-year-old girl, sitting on a chair, arms wrapped around her legs, quietly crying.  She can’t do anything else – not even eat or sleep.  All she sees around her is a box, a box she can’t leave, except by floating with the pink clouds in the sky.  Her mom thinks it’s a phase, but when her Uncle Elliot unexpectedly drops by, he realizes that something more – something dangerous – is going on.  And so Suzie’s box moves to St. Dorothy’s mental hospital, where, with the help of the therapists, she tries to piece together how she got into the box – and if she can find the strength to get out.

 

Black Taxi by James Moloney  Grades 8-10
264 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.  0060559373.

 Rosie has been a little nervous about answering her cell phone lately.  Normally she just gets calls from all the wrinklies who need her to take them places.  Now that she is babysitting her grandad’s car and cell phone while he is in jail; she feels like she is running a regular taxi service.  She never knew old people lead such busy lives.  Then the phone calls take on a sinister edge.  Some angry creepy underworld sounding guy starts calling Rosie and asking her where the diamond is.  She doesn’t know anything about any diamond.  Why is he calling her about it?  Then he gets a little more pushy and starts threatening Rosie by telling her that if she doesn’t give him that diamond her grandpa will have a very rough time in jail.  He might even lose some fingers if she catches his drift.  Now it is up to Rosie and her best friend Glenda to figure out what is going on.  They’ve torn the car apart looking for the diamond and it isn’t there.  Where could it be?  Will they be able to get to the bottom of this mystery before something bad happens to Grandad in jail?

 

Body Bags by Christopher Golden  Grades 8-9
247 p., New York: Simon Pulse, 1999.  0671034928.

 Jenna is so excited about her freshman year of college.  It is going to be so different from high school.  A chance for her to try new things, live on her own and stretch her wings.  She is going to Somerset University where her father is a criminology professor.  Jenna hasn’t spent much time with her father so this might be a chance for them to reconnect.  The first thing Jenna’s dad wants to know is what she is majoring in.  She isn’t sure what to say,  she is fascinated by medicine, after all her mom is a well known doctor, but Jenna hates blood and is afraid of making a mistake and hurting a patient.  After considering these things, Jenna’s dad offers to recommend her for an internship with the medical examiner.  It sounds pretty disgusting at first, but Jenna decides to go in for an interview anyway.  She finds out that the work is really fascinating to her.  It gives the dead a chance to tell their side of the story.  Then Jenna’s International Studies professor goes berserk in class throwing a student out the window before falling to the floor dead.  Jenna knows she ahs heard of something similar happening to one of the people being autopsied at the Medical examiner’s office.  What is going on?  Who or what is behind these bizarre attacks?  Jenna knows she has to get to the bottom of things before there is another victim, one who may be even closer to her!

 

The Body of Christopher Creed  by Carol Plum-Ucci  Grade 8
248 p., San Diego: Harcourt, 2000 0152023887
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 720 Points: 17
Iowa Teen Award Nomination  2002-2003

 Everyone has a Christopher Creed in their class.  You know the type, geeky, has no social skills and drives everyone else crazy with his annoying actions.  Admit it, you know someone like Christopher Creed, or perhaps you feel like Chris Creed yourself.  Torey has gone to school with Chris all his life so he doesn’t really think anything about Chris’ behavior and the way everyone treats him.  Imagine Torey’s surprise when one day Chris just up and disappears leaving behind no trace except this note.

  “Dear Mr. Ames, 

I have a problem getting along with people. I know that people wish I were dead, and at this moment in time I see no alternative but to accommodate them in this wish.  I have a wish.  Not that anybody cares, but if anybody cared over the years, it was you.  Here is my wish.  I wish that I had been born somebody else—Mike Healy, Jose DeSantos, Tommy Ide, Even Lucenti, Torey Adams, Alex Arrington….

I don’t understand why I get nothing and these boys get everything—athletic ability, good personalities, beautiful girlfriends.  I’m sure their parents will be buying them cars next year, while I will still be riding my bicycle until my parents decide I’m old enough.  Quite possibly, I’ll be 25.  I wish to understand life and luck and liberty.  But I will never do that confined to this life, the personality defects I’ve been cursed with, the lack of abilities, the strain.  I wish no malice on anyone.  I only wish to be gone.  Therefore, I AM.    Yours Respectfully, Christopher Creed”

 Torey is shocked that he is mentioned in this letter, he had never thought about his life being perfect.  Torey sets out to find Chris and in the process has everything he believes in turned upside down.  Did Chris run away or did he commit suicide?  The more Torey looks, the more it seems that Christopher Creed just plain vanished.

 

Both Sides of Time by Caroline Cooney  Grades 6-8
210 p., New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1995.  0440219329

Annie Lockwood is living in the wrong century.  Her dad is cheating on her mom, her boyfriend only realizes she’s there when he needs a wrench, and Annie wishes she could have a little bit of the beauty and romance of the past, when ladies and gentlemen flirted and danced in the old ballroom of the Mansion.  Suddenly, she’s falling and her dream becomes reality.  She gets the beautiful dresses, the servants, and the romance with the most wonderful boy she’s ever met.  But there’s also a darker side, where women are thought of as empty-headed froth, marriages are made for security and money, and murder can be swept under the rug.  Annie thought she knew what she wanted, but now she has bigger decisions to make than she’s ever imagined, decisions that will affect people she cares about on both sides of time.

 

Bound by Donna Jo Napoli  Grade 8
186 p., New York: Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.  0689861753.

 Xing Xing is alone in the world.  Her mother is dead and so is her father.  She is bound to a stepmother who hates her and calls her lazy one.  She is also bound to a half sister Wei Ping who is no company at all since she is in so much pain because of her bound feet.  Having bound feet was important in ancient Chinese culture.  If a girl wanted to be married she had to have small feet.  Stepmother is obsessed with doing whatever it takes to ensure that Wei Ping is married and married well.  She makes Xing Xing work hard and run many errands for her.  Xing Xing is saddened by what is happening to her younger sister and frightened about what life will be like for her.  She has no hope of finding a husband or any other life without parents who care for her.  All she has is her skill in writing poetry and doing beautiful calligraphy.  Will these skills be enough to save this Chinese Cinderella?

 

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne  Grades 7-9
215 p., New York: David Fickling Books, 2006.  038571060.

Nine-year-old Bruno loves their nice big home in Berlin.  It has five stories a big oak front door and the most awesome banister to slide down.  Bruno has three best friends and they have made great summer plans to cause mischief.  But all that changes when the “Fury” comes for dinner at their house.  Now they will have to move out of the beautiful city of Berlin because father got a promotion.  Bruno doesn’t want to leave his home, friends and grandparents to go to some strange new place.  When he gets there it is even worse than he imagined.  The house is small, only three stories high and there is no one for Bruno to play with.  There is just a tall fence that stretches for miles in either direction.  On the other side of the fence are low huts surrounded by dirt and lots of strange solemn people who are wearing striped pajamas.  None of them look happy.  Who are these people and why do they live on the other side of the fence?  Bruno hates this new place called “out-with.”  He just wants to go home.  How long will he be stuck here across the fence from all these people in striped pajamas?

 

The Boy Who Ate Stars by Kochka
107 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004. 9781416900382

Read p. 1 to first break.

Matthew is a little boy who is not like anyone Lucy has ever met.  He’s autistic, living in his own little world.  Lucy’s determined friendship with Matthew and his family changes the way she sees the world, as she learns to look at life through the eyes of The Boy Who Ate Stars.

 

Breaking Point  by Alex Flinn  Grade 8-9
241 p., New York: HarperTempest, 2002. 0066238471

 “We may need to plant a bomb in Old Lady Zaller’s classroom.”  Paul has no idea how that one sentence will change the course of his life forever.  Paul’s parents have just gotten divorced, so he and his mom have moved to Miami where she has a job working at Gate-Brickell Christian, a very exclusive expensive private school.  Because his mom works there, Paul can attend school for free.  He would really just like to go to public school where he would be lost in the crowd, but his mom makes him attend Gate so she can keep an eye on him.  He knows he’ll never fit in with his classmates.  He is poor, shy, awkward, and smart.  In fast they enjoy nothing more than playing cruel pranks on him, like spraying Coke through the air vents in his locker.   Then miraculously Charlie Good, the most popular kid in school starts asking Paul to hang around with him.  Paul can’t believe his good fortune.  Suddenly everyone starts treating him with respect.  However, Charlie Good doesn’t just give friendship out for free.  Is Paul willing to pay the price to be in Charlie’s inner circle?  If so, what will that price be?

 

Breathing Underwater by Alex Flinn  Grade 8
263 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2001. 0060291982

 Have you ever heard of the saying, like father, like son?  Do you think this is true?  Do you see pieces of your parents or other family members in you?  Nick hopes that it isn’t true at all.  He doesn’t want to be anything like his father who is abusive and hits him and yells at him.  No one knows what Nick’s dad is like, not even his best friend Tom.  Nick spends every chance he gets over at Tom’s house just to stay out of his father’s way.  When Nick meets Caitlin she becomes his whole life.  He wants her to spend all her time with him and become a part of his group and his world.  Caitlin is the only person Nick has confided in and told about his problems with his father.  Caitlin means everything to Nick so when she is late or spends time with someone else it makes perfect sense to him that he should be angry with her.  After all he isn’t going to share her with anyone.  But, Nick is acting just like his father and by doing that he is driving Caitlin away.  How can he convince her he loves her and that he can’t survive without her?  Can Nick change his ways before it is too late, or is it impossible to break the cycle?

 

Bruiser by Neal Shusterman  Grades 8-11
New York: HarperTeen, 2010.  9780061134081

Read p. 49 “The next day” through end of chapter.

At first, Tennyson just wants to keep the Bruiser away from his sister.  A guy that big, a loner, can be nothing but trouble.  However, as he gets to know Brewster Rawlins, he finds out the truth is like nothing he’s suspected – nothing he’s ever imagined.  Being friends with the Bruiser will change his life – and his family’s lives – forever.

 

Bucking the Sarge by Christopher Paul Curtis  Grades 7-9
259 p., New York, NY: Wendy Lamb Books, 2004.  0385323077.

 To everyone on the outside it looks like Luther T. Farrell has it made.  He is only in middle school but already has his full driver’s license, his own ride a $85,000 van, credit cards and a huge college fund put away.  $92,510.00 to be exact.  While everyone else is jealous of Luther and all he has, Luther knows differently.  He does the grunt work for his mom, the Sarge.  The Sarge owns lots of rental apartments in Flint, Michigan as well as running the Happy Neighbor Loan Company and the Happy Neighbor Group Home.  Luther is in charge of one of the Happy Neighbor Group homes for the Sarge.  His job is to take care of the men, get them dressed, shaved, to work and back and keep their meds regulated.  That is a lot of work and then on top of that he has to do lots of other stuff for the Sarge whenever she needs it.  That is the reason Luther has all this money.  Between his projects for the Sarge and working on his science fair project Luther doesn’t have any life.  Something has got to change, but how will Luther buck the Sarge?

 

Burger Wuss by M.T. Anderson  Grade 8
192 p., Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 1999.  0763606804
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 420 Points: 11

 All Anthony can feel is hatred and a burning desire for revenge.  Normally Anthony is a very mild mannered person, referred to as a nice boy by his neighbors and considered kind of a weenie by some of the kids at school.  That is until Anthony goes to a party and finds his girlfriend Diana making out on the couch with some jock named Turner.  Now Anthony can think of nothing but getting back at Turner for humiliating him and ruining his relationship with Diana.  Anthony finds out that Turner works at O’Dermotts, a burger joint in town.  He decides to try out for a job at O’Dermotts so he can get even with Turner.  Then Anthony devises THE PLAN.  No one will ever call him a burger wuss again if he can pull it off.  *profanity*

 

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The Cannibals: Starring Tiffany Spratt by Cynthia D. Grant  Grade 8
148 p.,, Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook Press, 2002.  0761316426 

This is the most exciting news ever!  They are going to make a movie at our school called Scream Bloody Murder.  It is a comedy slasher movie.  Luckily, I Tiffany Spratt, head yell leader at Hiram Johnson High, heard about the news early and found out the producers were in talking to our school principal trying to get permission to film at our school.  I decided to pop in to welcome them and to let them know that I had modeling experience.  Luckily for the producers I showed up just in time.  Principal Brown was about to tell them no way when I asked if the school board knew about this opportunity and what they thought about it.  Now there will be a special board meeting where I will be speaking to help let people know what a great opportunity this movie will be for our town and the local economy.  Unfortunately the local teachers association, of which my mom is the president, is against us having the movie.  Something about it not being educational, or something like that.  My mother is so naive sometimes.  I just hope that what happens at the school board meeting doesn’t crush her.  To find out whether they get to film the movie at school and if Tiffany gets a starring role you will have to check out The Cannibals: Staring Tiffany Spratt.

 

Cat Running by Zilpha Keatley Snyder  Grade 6
168 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 1994. 0385310560
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 970 Points: 10

 Cat Kinsey is the fastest girl at Brownwood School.  In fact Cat is the fastest runner in the entire school.  All she has been thinking about and practicing for is the big race on Play Day where all the school districts in the area get together for a sports and game day.  Cat has been asking her father for months if she can wear slacks instead of a dress for the race.  After all, this is the 1930’s and all the other girls will be wearing them.  So, when her dad refuses to let her wear slacks Cat decides much to everyone’s surprise that she will not be running in the race.  Instead of Cat winning, a new boy at Brownwood School named Zane Perkins wins the race.  Zane is a barefoot Okie who doesn’t even have decent fitting clothes. It really burns Cat up that he wins the race.  Then when all the other kids beg her to race him to find out who is really the fastest runner Cat refuses.  That makes everyone tease her that she’s afraid she will lose to this nobody Zane Perkins.  What choices does Cat have? Why won’t she race Zane?  To find out, read Cat Running.

 

Catch a Tiger by the Toe by Ellen Levine  Grades 7-8
200 p., New York: Viking, 2005.  0670884618.

 Ever since September 11, 2001 our country has been on high alert against terrorism.  We read about it in the papers and hear about it on the news.  Just like now where we are concerned about suspected terrorists hurting our country there was that same concern in the 1950’s.  Only in the 1950’s they weren’t hunting down terrorists but suspected communists.  Jamie’s dad is a member of the communist party.  This makes their life very difficult in many ways.  Jamie has to be very careful about what she says and does.  She can’t even invite her best friend Elaine over to her house, just in case.  Jamie doesn’t like leading such a secretive life and she is very afraid of what might happen to her family if someone does find out about her father’s political beliefs.  Harriet, one of the other girls in school had to go through that, where her father lost his job and no one at school would talk to her.  In fact her family had to move and Harriet had to change schools.  Jamie wonders if Harriet is mad at her father.  Jamie sure is mad at her dad for putting them in this difficult situation.  What is so important about these beliefs and ideals of freedom that they can’t live like a normal family?  What will happen if her dad loses his job or if no one at school will talk to her?  Jamie hates living this lie, but she is afraid to give it up.

 

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett  Grades 7-8
254p., New York: Scholastic, 2004.  0439372941.

 What is art?  What makes something a work of art?  That is the assignment Miss Hussey gives her class.  They need to find something they consider art and write a paper describing that object.  Neither Calder nor Petra knows what to describe at first.  What is art to one person may just be junk to someone else.  Little do they know that what they choose will have so many ripple effects in the next several months.  Calder picks out a box with a fascinating picture on the front that was given to him by his Grandmother.  Petra chooses a book to describe.  Then later that night when she is almost asleep she sees a girl writing at a desk and that picture is seared into her mind.  Both of them have chosen objects and pictures with ties to the artist Johannes Vermeer yet neither of them know it.  When they figure out what their items have in common they both become fascinated with Vermeer’s work, especially since someone is sending letters to newspapers asking for the public’s help in setting the record straight on Vermeer’s life and work.  Then Vermeer’s painting “A Lady Writing” is stolen while in transit to Chicago for an exhibit.  This makes Calder and Petra question all these coincidences.  Maybe they aren’t just coincidences.  Maybe the lady writing is appealing to them to find her and save her from this art fanatic turned thief.  Can they find her before something more sinister happens to her or them?

p. 48 Picture of the Lady Writing
p. 55 Calder’s box
p. 56-57 Pentomino code

 

Cheating Lessons by Nan Willard Cappo  Grades 8-9
234 p., New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002. 068984378X 

Are they really that smart?  When Wickham High’s principal walked into the honors English class to deliver the news everyone was thrilled.  Wickham had for the first time ever beaten out their arch rival Pinehurst Academy at the Classics Literature Contest.  The more Bernadette thinks about it the more sure she is that something fishy is going on.  That test was really difficult and she knows she missed several questions.  Not to brag or anything, but she is the smartest person in the class.  That can only mean that someone doctored the answer sheets.  When Bernadette thinks of the other people in the class she knows there is no one there who could pull off cheating on that grand a scale.  That leaves the three teachers who proctored the test; the principal, the librarian, and their English teacher Mr. Mallory.  Surely it wouldn’t have been one of them.  Especially not Mr. Mallory the handsome Englishman with the wonderful accent and a way with words.  All the girls swoon every time he walks in the room.  He couldn’t……he wouldn’t…ever have done something like cheat on a test would he????

 

The Chemistry of Death by Simon Beckett  Grades 10-12  Adult
313 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 2006.  9780385340045.

 David Hunter chose to leave London and his flourishing career to become a village doctor in the English countryside.  This is what he wants after the car accident that claimed the lives of his wife and daughter.  He likes getting lost in the day to day routine of house calls and office hours.  He likes working with his partner Henry who needs the help after being confined to a wheelchair following an automobile accident.  Then David’s life and routine are turned upside down when two young boys come across a body in the woods.  The Police find out that David was a leading expert I the field of forensic anthropology and they ask him to help them with the case.  All the locals are suspicious when the police keep talking to David.  After all he isn’t one of them.  His is an outsider, new to the area so he probably should be a suspect.  David hasn’t told anyone about his past career and he prefers to keep it that way.  Then when another local woman disappears it becomes obvious that the killer is indeed one of them.  It isn’t some random act committed by a transient.  Will David be able to help the police find the evidence they need to stop this killer?  It all hinges on The Chemistry of Death

 

Chinese Cinderella by Adeline Yen Mah  Grades 7-8
205 p., New York,: Delecorte Press, 1999. 0385327072
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 960 Points: 11

 Imagine you were the last person left in school.  Only you and the teachers remained.  The Communist army is advancing onward and everyone else has fled the country.  Adeline has just started school at a private French Catholic Boarding School in Tianjin, China, because her stepmother hates her and wants her away from home.  At first there are a few girls in school with her but as the days pass fewer and fewer girls show up, until no one is left except Adeline and the nuns.  The nuns have told Adeline that the Communists hate anyone foreign and will kill everyone who is foreign or with foreigners.  Everyday Adeline waits for a letter from home or for someone to show up and whisk her out of harms way.  Will she be rescued before the Communist army takes over Tianjin or will she suffer unknown horrors at the hands of brutal Communist Soldiers?  This is just one of the many examples of Adeline’s horrible life as an unwanted daughter.

 

Code Orange by Caroline B. Cooney  Grade 8
200 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 2005.  0385732597.

 Mitty hates doing homework.  Why do it now when you can put it off a little longer and have fun instead?  Well, it is the weekend before everything is due and now Mitty is in a bind.  He’s at his family’s country house in Connecticut with no bookstores close, and he needs four books for his term paper notes, which are due on Monday.  He remembers his mom has recently bought out a doctor’s personal library.  Maybe there are some books in there he can use.  The report is for advanced biology and it must be about an infectious disease.  Well, Mitty finds several book on infectious diseases and is flipping through them when he finds an envelope with Scabs – VM epidemic, 1902, Boston written on the outside.  What on earth is VM?  When Mitty looks it up in the book he finds out that VM is short for Variola Major which is another name for smallpox, one of the most dreaded diseases the world has ever known.  Mitty has just touched the scabs and breathed in the dust, sneezed and wiped his nose.  Does this mean he’s infected with smallpox now?  What does this mean for his hometown of New York City?  Could Mitty be a bioterror hazard of epic proportions?  This very well might be a code orange!

 

Confessions of a Closet Catholic by Sarah Darer Littman  Grades 7-8
193 p., New York: Dutton Children’s Books, 2005.  0525473653. 

Justine Silver decides to give up being Jewish for lent.  Her best friend Mary Catherine is Catholic and Justine really likes the way Mary Catherine’s family treats each other.  She also likes the structure of the Catholic faith.  Justine’s family may be Jewish, but they don’t really practice their faith or even go to Synagogue.  The only person in her family who really acts Jewish is her grandma who is a concentration camp survivor.  Justine loves her Bubbe (which is the Hebrew word for Grandmother) and would never do anything to hurt her.  That’s why she hasn’t told anyone in her family that she’s not really Jewish right now.  When Justine spends the night at Mary Catherine’s house she gets a chance to go to mass with them.  Justine is excited at this chance to see what their church is like.  When they get back from mass Justine’s mom and little brother are waiting in the driveway.  Justine is sure she is so dead because they found out she went to a Catholic church.  Only it is much worse than that.  Bubbe has had a stroke and is in the hospital.  Justine is sure it is all her fault for going to the wrong church.  God is punishing her Bubbe for Justine’s sins.  What can Justine do to fix things?  Will she ever find the place she belongs?

 

Confessions of a Not It Girl by Melissa Kantor  Grades 8-9
247 p., New York: Hyperion, 2004.  0786818379.

 College applications and the essay questions are the bane of Jan’s senior year.  By the way, that is Jan spelled J-A-N but pronounced, ”Yahn.”  Her father is an art history professor at Columbia University so their whole family has strange names.  She doesn’t even know where she wants to go to college.  Her parents want her to go to Amhurst where they both went.  She is planning on applying to Brown because Josh, her current crush wore a Brown baseball cap the other day.  But, then later in the week he wears a Michigan sweatshirt.  Should she apply there too to cover all the bases?  What should she wrote on those essays?  For example the essay question for Wesleyan reads, “What unique qualities could you contribute to the Wesleyan community?”  “I have many unique qualities that I could contribute to the Wesleyan community.  For example, I…” Well, that is as far as Jan can get before she has a severe case of writer’s block.  It is so much easier to find negative qualities than positive ones.  “For example, I do not speak a foreign language, and I have no athletic ability.  I have never had the lead in a school play.  I am incapable of mastering a musical instrument and can’t dance…”  Wow, this approach is way too easy.  Of course, the colleges may not accept her either.  Such is life when you are a not it girl!

 

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper  Grades 8-11
302 p., New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.  9780689821813

My name is Amari.  I was born and raised in Africa under the copper sun.  My life was filled with the love of my family, my village, and my handsome fiancé.  I was happy, until the strange men came.  They captured anyone young and strong and killed all the rest – even my mischievous little brother.  Then my life became a nightmare – carried across the sea and sold to a man who does terrible things to me.  I made a few friends – even a white girl – but I will do anything to get away from this place.  They changed my name to Myna, but inside I am still Amari and I will do anything to be free.

 

Counterfeit Son by Elaine Marie Alphin  Grades 7-8
180 p., New York:  Harcourt Inc., 2000.  0152026452
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2004-2005

 Out of all the boys that had been through their house Cameron picked Neil Lacey.  Neil was about Cameron’s age and looked like him.  Besides, the Lacey family had money.  Even more important than the money, they had sailboats.  For as long as Cameron can remember, when bad things happen to him he has drifted into a fantasy about sailing away on the water where no one can hurt him anymore.  When Cameron gets the chance to run away from Pop he goes to the police and tells them he is the missing boy Neil Lacey.  Will Cameron be able to convince the police that he really is Neil?  More importantly, will he be able to convince the Lacey family that he is there missing son who has been gone for the past six years.  What if they ask him questions he can’t answer?  What if they don’t believe him?  What if…

 

The Countess and Me by Paul Kropp  Grade 7
144 p., Allston, Mass.: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2002. 1550416804.

 Jordan hates everything about the new town they live in.  He misses his old friends and his old school.  Here he has no friends and most of the kids at school think he’s a loser.  One night while he is out walking around the neighborhood having a smoke, Jordan notices this old lady out in front of her house digging in her flower bed after dark.  Jordan probably wouldn’t have paid any attention to her but she was wearing this really funny looking hat.  When she looked up and saw him that is when she asked if he was going to come help her or just keeps staring.  This is how Jordan makes the acquaintance of the Countess von Loewen.  Jordan helps her dig a hole to bury this quartz skull that she swears is cursed; and after that the countess hires Jordan to help her with yard work and odd jobs.  Jordan likes helping out and the countess pays well too.  Then when he is bragging about the countess to a couple of guys at school, they get really interested in the skull.  They decide to give Jordan an initiation into their group.  If he can bring them the quartz skull, then he will pass initiation and he can hang out with them.  Jordan knows the countess won’t miss the skull and he would do anything to make friends…even steal.

 

Crash by Jerry Spinelli  Grades 6-8
162 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1996.  9780679879572

My name is John Coogan, but everybody calls me Crash.  I’ve been crash for as long as I can remember, crashing into anything and anybody in my way, with or without a football helmet.  I’m big and fast, and nobody can beat me at anything, especially not dorky kids like Penn Webb.  I can have whatever I want, except parents who show up to my games and the attention of a certain cheerleader.  At least with my grandfather moving in with us, I’ve finally got someone who’s around to see me break the all-school records.  But there are some things being the fastest and strongest can’t fix, and everyone may just discover there’s more to me than just my nickname.

 

Crooked by Laura and Tom McNeal  Grades 8-9
346 p., New York: Knopf, 1999.  0679893008.

 Amos’ first mistake of the evening was deciding to walk home instead of hitching a ride.  His second mistake landed him in the hospital with a concussion.  As he was walking home in the snow he kept hearing a solid clanking sound.  Ahead of him in the darkness were two shadowy figures.  Amos could see the crushed mailboxes as he passed them.  As the two figures passed the streetlight they became the two people that Amos hoped they wouldn’t be, Charles and Eddie Tripp.  Finally they stopped in front of the Goddard’s house.  The Goddards were an older couple famous for their elaborate snow scenes.  This time there was a snowman and woman playing tennis.  Amos just stood in the shadows watching until Charles said. “Off with their heads,” and Eddie cocked the bat.  The “No” just popped out.  Charles and Eddie spun around and spotted Amos. Then they started toward him with menacing steps.  Amos was rooted to the spot, he couldn’t scream, he couldn’t run, he couldn’t even move.  They just kept getting closer and then Amos thought Charles might turn away.  That’s when he heard the whirring sound of the bat as it headed straight toward him.  To find out what happens to Amos, Charles, Eddie and Clare the mutual love interest read Crooked.

 

Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter  Grades 8-9
236 p., New York:  Hyperion, 2007.  9781423100058.

 How often do people tell you to just be yourself?  Sometimes it is a challenge to know who the real you really is.  That is especially true if you are Cammie Morgan, a sophomore at the elite Gallagher Academy, which is a school for spies.  It is especially difficult when your nickname happens to be the chameleon.  It is so much easier to pretend to be someone else.  It’s a lot safer on your heart too.  Cammie has just spenat her last day of Christmas break being subjected to a polygraph test and debriefing by the CIA.  This is all because of an incident involving a local boy during last semester’s final exam.  He nearly broke her heart but that’s all in a day’s work when you are a spy.  Now she is back at school, but things are very different.  One wing of the school is off limits to students and Cammie’s mom, who is the headmistress, is having clandestine meeting with the Covert Ops teacher.  Cammie overhears them talking about something called Black Thorn, and whether the girls know or suspect anything yet.  What is going on?  Who or what is this black thorn?  Why has their school been torn apart?  It is up to Cammie and her spy sisters to get to the bottom of this latest intrigue at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.  Hold onto your hats ladies and gents, cause it is time to Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy!

 

Crushed by Laura & Tom McNeal  Grades 9-11 
308 p., New York:  Alfred A Knopf, 2006.  0375831053.

Sometimes if you let them, it can feel like outside forces are crushing you.  Audrey and her best friends C.C. and Lea have started their first year of public high school after attending a small private school for all of their previous education.  They feel lost in this sea of crazyness, where no one seems to care about learning and the three of them have been labeled nerdy freaks.  Then into Audrey’s physics class walks a new student.  His name is Wickham Hill.  He sits right behind her and he has a delightful southern drawl.  She can feel that something is definitely happening here.  And when Wickham suggests they get together to stuffy for an upcoming test, things really start happening.  Wickham isn’t much of a student so he suggests Audrey lean over a little while she is working on her test, so he can see the answers.  Audrey knows this is wrong, but what can it hurt when she gets to spend more time with Wickham?  Then Clyde a quiet guy from World Cultures tells Audrey he has information she needs to know about Wickham.  School bully Theo Driggs corners Audrey and reminds her that she’s on his “to do list.”  Between all that is going on at school, her budding relationship with Wickham, the strange way her father has been acting and her distance from her best friends, Audrey is afraid she just may be crushed by everything that is happening.

 

Cut by Patricia McCormick  Grades 8-10
151p., New York: Scholastic Paperbacks, 2002.  0439324599.

 Do you know anyone who cuts themselves or is inflicting wounds on themselves?  Callie cuts herself.  There is something about slicing through skin with a sharp object and then watching the blood bubble up to the surface that gives her a sense of relief from stress and problems.  It is this issue that lands Callie at Sea Pines, otherwise known as sick minds, in the hope that with a little help she can stop.  She is at sick minds with other girls who have eating disorders and drug problems, but no one like herself.  Callie has withdrawn into herself.  She is not speaking to anyone, not in group therapy and not to the therapist who is assigned to work with her.  In fact her silence has earned her the nickname S.T. for silent treatment.  How will Callie ever improve if she never talks?  What can be so horrible that she cuts herself and will not talk to anyone about it?

 

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Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock  Grades 9-11
275 p., Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.  0618683070.

Communication just doesn’t happen in the Schwenk family.  Whenever anyone is upset they just don’t talk.  So, lots of things never get dealt with.  Take for instance, that D.J.’s father and older brothers had a fight over Christmas when they were home from college.  Now, D.J. hasn’t seen or heard from them since.  She really misses Bill and Win, especially since she is stuck doing most of the work on their dairy farm.  Dad had his hip replaced so he can’t do anything.  Then Brian Nelson shows up at their farm.  He is the quarterback for the rival school and he tells D.J. that his coach sent him to her for summer training.  His coach is a close family friend and he thinks Brian will benefit from the Schwenk family work ethic and well, they can use his help around the farm.  There are lots of things D.J. would like to say but how?  They don’t talk and it takes her too long to think of the right way to say something.  Then, Brian gets mad and he tells D.J. that she’s just like the cows on their farm doing what she’s been told never thinking for herself.  Well, as you can imagine D.J. doesn’t like being compared to a cow one bit.  That starts her thinking about what he said and wondering if it is true.  What can she do to break out of the mold and be different?  She doesn’t want to be just another Dairy Queen.

 

A Dance for Three by Louise Plummer  Grades 8-9
230 p., New York: Dell Laurel-Leaf, 2000.  0440227143
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 600 Points: 14
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2002-2003

 Hannah’s dad died two years ago, leaving her and her mom all alone.  Hannah’s mom has retreated into her own little world of caring for her plants, leaving Hannah to take care of everything else.  Since her mom never leaves the house, Hannah has to do all the grocery shopping, errands, cooking and pretty much everything else that needs to be done.  That is a lot of responsibility for Hannah who is only 15.  Then when she meets Milo Fabiano who is handsome and rich, she falls for him big time.  Hannah can’t believe Milo who is a high school senior could be interested in her.  He is everything she has ever dreamed of and in many ways he makes her forget the pain of losing her father and having to care for her mother.  When Hannah finds out she is pregnant she is thrilled.  She knows Milo will be as excited as she is.  They will get married and raise this child together.  When Hannah finally gets up enough courage to tell Milo about their baby he doesn’t react at all like she thought he would.  Now what will Hannah do?

 

Daniel’s Story by Carol Matas  Grade 7
136 p., New York: Scholastic, 1993.  0590465880.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 720 Points: 7
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1996-1997 

How many of you have cameras?  What kinds of things do you take pictures of?  Happy things you want to remember, right?  Daniel’s uncle has given him a camera for his birthday.  Daniel records all the happy moments like parties and family, pictures of his father’s store and of school.  Then things begin to change for Daniel and his family.  They are Jews living in Germany as Adolf Hitler rises to power.  Daniel begins to record the changes in his community and what the Nazis do to the Jews.  Then Daniel and his family are uprooted from their home and herded from one ghetto to another.  Finally they are sent to the worst concentration camp of all, Auschwitz.  All the while, Daniel tries to hold onto his camera and pictures so he can remember what life was like when he still felt like a human being.  Daniel also believes that there needs to be pictures so people on the outside can see the horrors of life for the Jews during the war, and the pure evil of the Nazis.  Will Daniel be able to survive the concentration camp so he can show the world what the Jews have suffered at the hands of the Nazis?

 

Dark Waters by Catherine MacPhail  Grade 8
176 p., New York: Bloomsbury, 2003.  1582348464.

 Col is a McCann.  McCann means lots of things to different people, but mostly it means trouble.  McCann’s are always getting into trouble or causing it.  His whole family has quite a reputation around town, especially his older brother Mungo.  That is why when Col pulls the young boy from the freezing water he becomes quite a hero.  Col was skipping school up at the loch when he notices a young boy out playing on the ice.  The kid seems to be tempting fate by jumping up and down on the ice and then throwing rocks.  Finally the ice gives way and down he goes.  Before Col can think about what he is doing he runs over to where the boy went under.  Col manages to get a hold of the boy and pull him out to safety but not before falling into the freezing water himself.  The next thing Col knows he is waking up in the local hospital being hailed a hero.  However, Col keeps having nightmares about what he saw while he was under that freezing water of the loch.  What dark secret about his own family is lurking in the back of Col’s memory?

 

Darkness Before Dawn by Sharon Draper  Grade 8
233 p., New York: Atheneum Books for  Young Readers, 2001.  0689830807.

 It is Keisha’s senior year of high school and boy, has it been a rough road to get here.  In the fall of her junior year her friend Rob was killed in a car accident.  Then in the spring Keisha’s boyfriend committed suicide.  Junior year was a sad year for Keisha and all of her friends.  Keisha knows that her senior year has to be better.  She has set her sights on doing well in school and running for class president.  She had decided that she doesn’t have room in her life for a boyfriend right now.  Besides highs school boys are so immature anyway.  Her resolve is blown out of the water when the principal, Mr. Hathaway introduces his son Jonathan at the beginning of the school year.  Jonathan is a junior at the university majoring in education and he is doing student observations and volunteering to help coach basketball and track.  Jonathan is very handsome.  He dresses like a G.Q. model and he makes Keisha feel like an adult.  He listens to cool music and takes her to the art museum.  Her opinions matter to him and he challenges her to really think about things.  The only hitch in this relationship is that Keisha’s friends and her parents don’t trust the smooth talking Jonathan.  Is there something sinister about Jonathan Hathaway or has Keisha found the man of her dreams?

 

The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love by Rosie Rushton  Grades 9-12
325 p., New York: Hyperion, 2005.  9780786851362

“Secret No. 21 – Sometimes love really does find you when you least expect it (and thus are not properly dressed)” (From The Dashwood Sisters’ Secrets of Love p.229)

The Dashwood sisters have had it pretty easy.  Their parents did divorce last year, but they still live in an amazing manor house in Brighton, England and attend a private school.  It only takes a moment, though, to change their lives forever, and soon the girls are moving to a cottage in the country.  Ellie, the eldest daughter and the practical one, may have finally lost her heart – to a guy who’s already got a girlfriend.  Abby, the impulsive drama queen, feels like she’s being exiled to social Siberia, but with two boys vying for her affection – including her best friend’s crush – there is definitely enough romantic drama to go around.  The youngest, Georgie, has always been a tomboy, and leaving her “best mate” Tom is pretty tough.  However, it doesn’t take her long to make a new friend, and he might just be interested in something more than friendship…  Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility gets a modern update as the Dashwood girls discover the secrets of love.

 

Daughter of Venice by Donna Jo Napoli  Grade 7
274 p., New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2002.  0385327803.

 In Venice in 1592 being a girl doesn’t give you many rights at all.  Donata is born into a wealthy noble family, so she never has to worry about necessities, but there is so much she doesn’t know.  Donata loves to sit on the balcony outside her bedroom and watch the hustle and bustle of Venice as gondolas travel up and down the Canal Grande.  She knows about going to church and visiting other noble families for parties, but those are the only places she’s ever been.  When she and her sisters go out they must cover themselves with veils because their father insists.  Donata feels so sheltered from the real world.  At a party she sees an arial picture of Venice and all its canals.  It is then that she realizes she doesn’t know much about the city she loves.  Donata formulates a plan to sneak out and see Venice.  She gets some clothes from a fisher boy so she can dress the part and sneaks out of the plazzo to see the city.  What Donata finds is more than she bargained for.  Getting out was the easy part. 

 

Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters by Gail Giles  Grades 8-10
136 p., Brookfield, CT:  Roaring Brook Press, 2003.  0761317279.

 Sunny has a routine and it works well for her.  Come home from school at lunch, check to see if mom is up and has taken her pills.  Then feed her some lunch, check the mail and head back to school.  This routine has been in place since their family got the news that Sunny’s older sister Jazz was killed in an apartment fire in New York City.  Sunny’s parents can’t handle the news.  Dad slides back into alcoholism, and mom exists on Prozac and sleeping pills.  Then the yellow envelope that is Jazz’s trademark color shows up in the mail with no return address, just Jasmine written in the upper left hand corner.  It definitely is Jazz’s handwriting.  What can this mean?  Jazz has been dead for three months.  This letter is nothing but trouble.  When Sunny finally reads the letter, she finds out that Jazz isn’t really dead, she was away when the fire happened and didn’t even know about it.  Now she is on her way home on the bus and will be there on Sunday.  What is the meaning of this?  Is Jazz really alive or is someone trying to pull a fast one on their dysfunctional family?  To find out, read Dead Girls Don’t Write Letters.

 

The Dealer by Robert Muchamore   Grades 8-9
309 p., New York:  Simon Pulse, 2005.  9870689877803.

 James is excited when he is picked for his second mission with CHERUB.  CHERUB is a branch of British Intelligence whose agents are all orphans between the ages of 10 and 17.  After all, who would suspect teens of being spies?  This is a perfect undercover opportunity for James and he can’t believe that Nicole who is a hottie will also be on this mission.  Here is his chance to be a hero, and to put the moves on her.  They will be a part of a family who moves in down the road from the head of the largest drug operation in Great Brittan.  KMG is short for the Keith Moore Gang.  Keith Moore who runs the operation had 4 children at the right age for the CHERUB agents to befriend.  Their job is to learn as much as they can about KMG’s activities and get invited to their house so they can snoop.  They are also to make friends with some of the drug runners and try to infiltrate KMG.  This seems pretty simple, but how will James balance becoming good friends with Junior Moore and getting close to Nicole?  It’s all in a day’s work if you are a part of CHERUB.

 

The Death Collector by Justin Richards  Grade 8-9
320 p., New York: Bloomsbury, 2006. 9781582347219.

 Eddie Hopkins is a pickpocket on the streets of London and he has seen some very strange things but this beats all.  There is a very decrepit old man out walking his dog when Eddie sees two men overtake him and hustle him off.  Eddie decides to follow them and try to save the old chap.  However the men take the old man through the gates to an impressive park.  Eddie follows them in the shadows trying to formulate a plan when he runs into the most terrifying creature he’s ever laid eyes on.  It comes out of the fog with a clanking metallic sound blowing hot breath all over Eddie.  Then it raises its massive head and roars.  It looks like a dragon dripping saliva down Eddie’s jacket but he doesn’t stick around to find out what it really is.  Eddie thinks he’s escaped the monster, when he decides to steal George Archer’s wallet.  That act throws him right back in the thick of things.  There is a scrap of paper in the wallet that everyone is after, including the monster.  Will Eddie escape or will he be the next victim of the Death Collector?

 

Defect by Will Weaver  Grades 9-12
199 p., New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  9780374317256

David was born… different.  His strange facial features, “hearing aids,” and other “defects” mean he’s always been on the outside.  He’s been picked on and kicked from home to home, all the while protecting an amazing secret.  When the bullying at school gets out of hand, David is the one sent to an alternative school.  However, that’s where he meets Cheetah, a girl with problems of her own.  As their friendship grows, David knows his life has changed, but he doesn’t realize just how much.  His secret has never been in greater danger.  Can Cheetah accept him for who he really is?  Can he accept himself?  Does being born different mean born defective, or will David find blessings in disguise?

 

Defining Dulcie by Paul Acampora  Grade 7-8
168 p., New York: Dial Books, 2006.  0803730462.

 Dulcie’s mom decides on the spur of the moment to move them to California.  When Dulcie asks why, her mom tells her that she doesn’t want to be defined as the janitor’s daughter and now the janitor’s widow.  Only several weeks before, Dulcie’s dad had died in a freak accident at the John Jacob Jerome High School where he worked as a janitor under his father-in-law, Dulcie’s grandpa.  When they get to sunny California Dulcie just doesn’t like it.  So, when her mom says she is trading in the the old 1968 Chevy pickup that was her dads pride and joy for a new Volvo, Dulcie decides enough is enough.  First they move away from everyone they know and now mom is selling their last connection with her father.  That’s the last straw.  Dulcie steals the truck in the middle of the night and points it toward Connecticut and the only place she’s ever called home.  Back to her Grandpa the head janitor, her job working as a janitor at the Triple J and the only life she wants to live.  Little does Dulcie realize that this decision will define who she really is.

 

Deliver Us From Normal by Kate Klise  Grades 7-8
226 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 2005.  0439523222.

 Back to school shopping is the worst, especially if you have to go with your whole family.  Charles has four siblings, Clara who is a year older, Ben, Laura and Sally who are younger.  Even though they live in Normal, Illinois, the Harrisong family is anything but Normal.  Picture yourself in Charles’ shoes, at the Bargin Bonanza store with your family shopping for school supplies.  Mom says that everyone needs new underwear before they get anything else.  She saw the holes in Ben’s while she was washing clothes and they were huge.  At this Laura starts singing at the top of her lungs “Ben has holes in his underwear, Ben has holes in his underwear!”  Which makes Ben so mad he yells at Laura calling her a knucklehead.  So, Laura bursts into tears.  Meanwhile, Sally is begging for a purse and a horse in her underwear and Clara wants to go look at the cake decorating.  As you can imagine, the Harrisong family is attracting lots of attention as they wheel their cart through the store.  No one can miss them with all the noise they are making.  It is almost an official scene.  As if things can’t get anymore embarrassing for Charles their cart turns the corner and he runs into three of the most popular girls in his class.  So, of course they giggle, wave and say, “hi Charlie”.  All the while secretly thinking, “There goes poor Charlie Harrisong, he and his family are anything but normal.”  Can life get any worse?  Please, just Deliver Us from Normal!

 

The Demon in the Teahouse by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler  Grades 7-8
181 p., New York: Philomel Books, 2001.  0399234993.

 There have been five mysterious fires in Japan’s capital city of Edo in the past several weeks.  Seikei’s adopted father the famous samurai Judge Ooka is in charge of keeping the city safe and preventing these fires.  If the fires don’t stop the Shogun will be very displeased with judge Ooka and might even have him killed.  The judge has run across a clue that heads them to the floating world, a place full of tea houses and geisha, where people go for relief from their everyday lives.  While investigating, they turn up a disturbing trend.  Someone has been killing beautiful geisha.  Could the person setting the fires and killing the geisha be one and the same?  Judge Ooka tells Seikei to stay around the floating world to search for clues.  Seikei manages to get a job helping out at one of the popular tea houses where the most beautiful and famous geisha, Umae, entertains.  Seikei hopes he can figure out what is going on before another fire starts and the shogun is displeased.  Will Seikei figure out what is going on in time?

 

Devil’s Bridge by Cynthia DeFelice  Grade 6
95 p., New York: Avon Books, 1992.  0380721171.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 810 Points: 5

 Fishing is Ben’s life.  He lives on an island called Martha’s Vineyard of the coast of Massachusetts.  Ben’s father was a commercial fisherman before he died.  In fact Captain Jack Daggett holds the record for catching the largest striped bass ever on the island.  The annual island wide striped bass derby is about to begin.  Ben is sure he will catch a big fish, but he has to sneak around because his mom has been worried about him going near the water ever since his dad was killed in a storm.  She won’t even let him go fishing at night which is the best time to catch striped bass.  So, Ben decides to sneak out at night and go fishing.  While he is in his favorite spot fishing off of Devil’s Bridge he overhears two men discussing how they are going to beat the record fish with this one they caught and fed mercury to make it heavier.  Ben knows he has to stop them from cheating, but how?  Who will believe him over the fishermen?  There is no way he can make it to the judges headquarters in time to warn them.  What will Ben do?

 

Devil’s Footsteps by E.E. Richardson  Grade 8
184 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 2005.  0385902794.

One in Fire, two in blood.
Three in storm, and four in flood.
Five in anger, six in hate.
Seven fear and evil eight.
Nine in sorrow, ten in pain.
Eleven death, twelve life again.
Thirteen steps to the Dark Man’s door.
Won’t be turning back no more.

It’s just another old skipping rhyme that everyone knows but no one knows where it originated.  The Dark Man took Bryan’s brother Adam five years ago.  At the time no one would believe Bryan and no one could find the devil’s footsteps where Adam disappeared.  The devil’s footsteps lead you straight to the Dark Man.  Why can no one find them when they are out in the woods behind the park?  Why doesn’t anyone in town seem to notice that so many kids are disappearing?  Why does no one ever ask questions or seem concerned with all these missing children?  It has never dawned on Bryan to ask questions about the Dark Man.  Who is he?  Why does he haunt this town?  He’s never questioned his life until Stephen a new kid in town approaches Bryan and tells him he’s seen the Dark Man too. Together they decide to do some research to find out more about the Dark Man and answer all those questions everyone else is afraid to ask.  What they will uncover in the process is more terrifying than anyone can imagine.

 

The Diary of Pelly D by L. J. Adlington  Grades 7-11
New York: Greenwillow Books, 2005.  9780060766153

Toni V. works on a demolition crew, breaking up concrete for most of the day.  Whatever happened in City Five left a big mess, and it’s his job to help pave the way for reconstruction.  One day, his drill hits a metal watering can, and in it he finds a paper wrapped notebook.  The diary of Pelly D.  He doesn’t know Pelly D., but he finds himself sneaking the diary home and reading it on the sly.  Pelly D.’s life is very different from his – she’s rich, popular, pretty, and mostly not that bright.  But more and more Toni V. finds himself drawn to her, through her diary, drawn into her world – a world that becomes more terrifying with each page.  Gene tags, tattoos, discrimination… those were things that were never supposed to happen when they built this world so far from the one their ancestors left.  So what did happen in City Five?  And what happened to Pelly D.?  Toni V. just has to find out.

 

Do Not Pass Go by Kirkpatrick Hill  Grades 7-8
229 p., New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.  9781416914006.

 Jail, clink, slammer, pen, correctional facility, these are all terms you’ve heard of, but do they really mean anything to you?  Deet used to think those terms were kinda funny, until his own dad ends up in jail.  Suddenly it is no laughing matter anymore.  How can someone nice and easy going like his dad be in there with all those hardened evil criminals?  What will everyone else in school think of Deet and his family when they read about his dad’s arrest in the paper?  How will his family make ends meet with dad not able to work?  These are just a few of the concerns Deet has after his dad is arrested.  Through this ordeal Deet learns a lot about his own inner strength and resolve.  Also, he finds out that everyone else doesn’t always lead the easy perfect lives it seems like they do on the outside.  Sometimes others are in as much pain as you are.  It just doesn’t always show on the outside.  Is Deet strong enough to change the way he thinks?  Do Not Pass Go, do not collect your $200.00.

 

Don’t Scream by Joan Lowery Nixon  Grades 7-8
165 p., New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1996.  0440227100.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1998-1999

 The school year is starting to look up when a cute new guy named Mark moves in next door to Jess.  Then another equally handsome guy starts school right at the same time.  They both seem really nice and even volunteer to assist her with a community service project helping the children in the Children’s wing of the local hospital.  Then strange things start happening in Jess’ neighborhood.  Someone knocks out the streetlight and Jess sees someone lurking in the shadows around Mark’s house.  Then one of the neighbor’s cats disappears.  What is going on?  Who can Jess trust?  Will she be able to get to the bottom of these strange happenings and live to tell the tale?  To find out what happens to Jess read Don’t Scream.

 

Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunphrey by Margaret Peterson Haddix  Grade 8
108 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1996.  0689800975.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 980 Points: 7
1999-2000 Iowa Teen Award Nomination

 (Act like you are writing in a journal.) Don’t you dare read this Mrs. Dunphrey. Teachers, they always feel like their class is the only one you have.  I don’t have time to do all the problems just assigned in math last hour.  I mean, I’m not stupid, I just don’t have time to do this stuff.  Yesterday I found out I lost my job at the Burger Boy because I wouldn’t go out on a date with Bud the assistant manager.  I’d rather clean bathrooms than go out with Bud Turner, but I needed that job to survive.  Since Mom left for California to find Dad, Matt and I have been on our own.  The money is running out.  What if they turn off our electricity and our phone?  I can’t tell anyone because I don’t want to be separated from Matt, he’s only in 1st grade and he’s the only family I have left.  What if they take him from me?  This is just an example of what you might find in the journal that Tish Bonner is keeping for Mrs. Dunphrey’s English class.  She thinks the journal is a stupid idea, until it becomes a type of therapy for her to voice her frustrations and feelings.  Will Mrs. Dunphrey read this journal even though Tish has marked do not read this?  How will Tish and Matt survive?  To find out pick up Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dnuphrey, if you dare.

 

Double Helix by Nancy Werlin  Grades 8-10
252 p., New York: Dial Books, 2004.  0803726066.

 Eli is very excited.  He has just been hired at Wyatt Transgenics by Dr. Quincy Wyatt himself, a famous biologist and Nobel Prize winner.  This is a great chance for him since he has decided to take a year off before going to college.  Most of the people who work at the lab at least have a PhD, so it is very surprising that Eli is even considered for the job.  What is even more surprising is that Dr. Wyatt himself interviews Eli and he seems to take great interest in Eli and what he has been doing. Dr. Wyatt knows Eli’s family and even knows that Eli’s mom is dying of Huntington’s disease.  It really impresses him that Dr. Wyatt cares so much.  When he tells his dad about the new job, his father is furious.  He tells Eli to please quit the job and not to have nay contact with Dr. Wyatt.  Eli can’t believe his dad’s reaction.  Why is he so angry about this job?  What does he have against Dr. Wyatt?  When Eli asks his dad to explain, his dad tells him that he can’t, but to just trust him on this.  Eli can’t do that, so he decides to find out on his own what his dad has against Dr. Wyatt and of course to go back to work at Wyatt Transgenics.

 

Double Identity by Margaret Peterson Haddix  Grades 6-7
218 p., New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005.  0689873743. 

Bethany’s parents have been acting very strange.  As Bethany’s thirteenth birthday approaches, her mom gets more and more emotional.  In fact she cries all the time for apparently no reason.  Her dad seems more and more stooped and withdrawn.  Then on a Thursday after school they bundle her into the car and say they are going for a drive.  They drive for hours and hours across several states.  Finally they drive into a small town in Indiana, Illinois or is it Iowa?  By this time Bethany has lost track of where they are.  They pull into the driveway of a big old house and Bethany’s dad heads up to the front door while mom sits in the car and sobs.  After talking a long time to the woman who answers the door, Bethany’s Dad comes back to the car, pulls out her suitcase, and tells Bethany she will be staying with her Aunt Myrlie.  Bethany didn’t even know she had any relatives and her parents have never let her spent the night at anyone else’s house.  This is very strange.  Bethany isn’t sure what to think.  As her dad gets in the car he tells her not to call them, they will call here.  What is going on?  Why are they abandoning her with this stranger in the middle of the night?  Will Bethany ever see her parents again?

 

Down the Rabbit Hole: an Echo Falls Mystery by Peter Abrahams  Grade 8
375 p., New York: Laura Geringer Books, 2005.  0060737018.

 If only she hadn’t been so worried about being late to soccer practice, then she wouldn’t be in this mess.  Ingrid had a dentist appointment before soccer practice, but when she gets done, there is no one waiting to pick her up.  In a panic Ingrid decides she can just walk to practice.  After all, how far can it be?  Echo Falls is a small town, surely she can find her way there.  Well, by the time Ingrid figures out she is hopelessly lost she is wandering around the flats, a not so nice area of Echo Falls.  That is when Ingrid runs into a woman called Cracked-up Katie as she is leaving her house.  Katie takes pity on Ingrid and invites her in.  She even calls a cab to come pick Ingrid up and take her to the soccer field.  Just as the cabbie pulls up to the house Ingrid hears footsteps upstairs.  Cracked-up Katie lives alone.  Who could that be?  But, no time to contemplate, the cab is waiting and so is her soccer coach.  The next morning, Ingrid opens up the paper to find out Cracked-up Katie has been murdered in her own home.  That sends a chill down Ingrid’s spine.  She was just there and what if those footsteps she heard belonged to Katie’s killer?  By the way, where are Ingrid’s red soccer cleats anyway?  Oh, no, Down the Rabbit Hole we go!

 

Dragon Sword and Wind Child by Noriko Ogiwara  Grades 8-11
286 p., San Francisco: VIZ Media, 2005.  9781421515014

They found her wandering around and nearly dead of starvation – a victim of the war between the Light and the Dark, everyone supposed.  A village family raised her and taught her to worship the God of Light.  Yet there is more to Saya than meets the eye – more than even she realizes.  On her fifteenth birthday, two amazing things happen to her.  First, she is invited to become a handmaiden in the palace of the handsome and kind Prince of Light.  Then she discovers that she is, in fact, the reincarnation of the Water Maiden, a powerful being who serves the Goddess of Darkness.  Does she truly belong to the Light or the Dark?  Will she survive long enough to find out?  And what role must she play to stop the destruction quickly overtaking them all?  Translated from the Japanese, fans of Noriko Ogiwara’s manga Good Witch of the West or Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha series will enjoy this story.

 

DragonSpell by Donita K. Paul  Grades 6-8
339 p., Colorado Springs, CO: WaterBrook Press, 2004.  9781578568239

Read p. 12-13

Finding those dragon eggs is only the beginning of the adventure for Kale.  Soon she is joined by a group of companions from various of the high races on a quest to rescue a meech dragon egg from an evil wizard.  The journey is extremely dangerous, but this former slave serves a new master now, and with his help, and the help of the dragons she hatches, Kale will become the dragon keeper she was meant to be.  This book is first in a series of five.

 

Drawing a Blank by Daniel Ehrenhaft  Grades 8-10
327 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2006.  9780060752521

Carlton Dunne IV is no one’s idea of a hero.  He’s a loner who draws the comic strip Signy the Superbad for the local paper under his dad’s name (which is the same as his).  So no one is more surprised than Carlton when he goes from a “booth” (with no table or walls) at the less-than-spectacular Comic Expo convention to a plane to Scotland.  When he gets there, he’ll have to end a centuries-old feud, save his dad from kidnappers, and maybe, just maybe, hook up with the super-hot girl of his dreams.  You know, if he survives.  Installments from the Signy the Superbad comic add a humorous perspective on the story’s main action.

 

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick Grade 8
273 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 2004.  0439755190.

Quote from pp 4-5
“Having a brother is horrible.  Having any brother would be horrible, I suppose, but having my particular brother, Jeffrey, is an unrelenting nightmare.  It’s not because he’s eight years younger than I am, although that’s part of it.  It’s not because he’s cuter than I am, although that’s part of it, too.  It’s not even because he hates me—he doesn’t.  The truth is that he idolizes me.   And that’s the problem:  The kid follows me around like I’m Elvis or something.  And while he’s being much too cute and following me around, he also destroys all of my stuff, including my self-esteem and my sanity.”  The day things all fell apart started out as a really great day.  I got up early and went downstairs to make my breakfast.  Jeffery came down and begged me to make his favorite breakfast, moatmeal.  I put him up on the tall stool while I got out the ingredients for oatmeal and the next thing I know he has slipped off the stool and smacked his face on the counter.  He is slumped on the floor bleeding everywhere and he looks really scared.  I try to stop the flood as our parents come running into the kitchen and mom scoops Jeffery up and says she is going to rush him to the emergency room, while dad takes me to school.  All day I worry about what was going on with Jeffery and when I get home I find out it is much worse than I imagined.   Jeffery has been diagnosed with ALL, which stands for acute lymphoblastic leukemia.  And suddenly our world is turned upside down.  You may not like having a little brother, but you don’t want something like this happening to him.

 

Dunk by David Lubar  Grades 8-10
249 p., New York: Clarion Books, 2002.  061819455X.

 Another long summer is stretching out before Chad with nothing to do but hang out on the boardwalk with his friends.  His mom is adamant that he will not work while he is still in school.  Chad really wants a job so he can earn some spending money and so he’ll have something to occupy his time besides standing around the cat-a-pult booth hoping Gwen will come back to work this summer.  He’s had a crush on Gwen since he saw her last summer, but he’s never gotten up the nerve to ask her out.  As Chad wanders down the boardwalk the first day of summer he sees a sight that completely captivates him like nothing else on the boardwalk.  In the dunk tank is a bozo, which in and of itself isn’t very exciting, but there is something very different about this bozo.  He has the ability to pick out people and know their weaknesses and use that knowledge to egg them on until their only goal is to dunk this bozo who is picking on them.  Here’s an example (pp. 2-5).  After watching all this Chad knows that no matter what else happens this summer, he is going to become a bozo, because the bozo is in control!

 

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Eagle Strike:  an Alex Rider Adventure  by Anthony Horowitz  Grades 7-8
256 p., New York: Philomel Books, 2004.  0399239790.

 Alex finally has a chance to go on vacation and relax.  His friend Sabina has invited him to join her family for several weeks in the south of France.  While relaxing on the beach Alex notices an enormous yacht pull in, and standing in the bow is someone Alex recognizes.  Yassen Gregorovich, a contract killer.  There can only be one reason Gregorovich is here and that means by evening someone will be dead.  Alex is sure it has nothing to do with him after all he is here on vacation, so he will just stay out of the way.  Gregorovich is not his problem.  Later that afternoon Alex and Sabina hitch a ride to another town because Sabina wants to try out a French café.  On their way back they are passed by an ambulance and see the medical helicopter go by.  Alex is certain it has something to do with Gregorovich, but he has no idea that it will affect him until they get back to the villa and see nothing but rubble.  Sabina’s mother is fine, but her father has been badly hurt and life-flighted to the hospital.  Alex knows who did it, but why?  Was the bomb meant for him or for someone else?  The French police won’t listen to him, after all who would believe that a teen works for MI6, British Intelligence.  It is up to Alex to find out Yassen Gregorovich’s plans on his own.  Will he live to tell the tale?

 

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler  Grade8-9
246 p., Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2003.  0763619582.

 “Sometimes I wonder if my parents wish they’d stopped at two kids.  No one’s ever spelled it out, but I think I was a mistake.”  Virginia Shreve knows she doesn’t fit in with her perfect, slim, beautiful, brown haired, smart and over achieving family.  Virginia “has dishwater blond hair, pale blue eyes, a roundish face and a larger-than-average body.   Ok, fat. [well] Not fat fat, more like chubby fat.”  Her sister is in the Peace Corps. In Africa and her brother is a sophomore at Columbia University.  Mom is an adolescent psychologist and dad is a high powered software executive.  Everyone else is a hard act to follow and Virginia isn’t exactly setting records at school.  She likes to watch T.V., read People Magazine, and eat snack foods.  Not exactly the types of activities popular with the rest of the family.  Add that to the fact that her best friend Shannon is living in Walla Walla, Washington for the year while her dad researches his new book on onions and this is going to be one long lonely school year for Virginia.  That is until her parents receive the phone call that turns everything upside down!

 

An Earthly Knight by Janet McNaughton  Grade 8-10
261 p., New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2003.  006008992X.

 Jenny is thrust into the role of lady of the house when her older sister Isabel is disgraced after running off with one of her father’s knights.  This isn’t something Jenny feels comfortable doing but, she has no choice.  Sometimes she has to get away from all the new demands and that is when she heads into the forest to her favorite place Carter Hall.  It is an old run down house that will be hers when she marries.  It used to belong to another powerful family but was given to her father by the King.  Now her father has forbid her to go to Carter Hall because Tam Lin was seen in the area.  He is the son of the family that used to own Carter Hall.  It is said that he is not quite right, that he was taken by the fairies and now is not all human anymore.  Jenny defies her father and goes to Carter Hall anyway and there meets Tam Lin.  He seems so kind and he becomes her friend.  However, Jenny can tell there are some secrets he isn’t telling her.  In her capacity as lady of the house Jenny meets a couple who want to introduce her to the King’s younger brother William.  They think she would make a wonderful bride for William.  Her father is thrilled with the possibility of this powerful match.  What will Jenny do if William doesn’t like her or more importantly if she doesn’t like him?  How does Tam Lin fit into things?  Will his dark secret bring them both down?

 

Erebos by Ursula Poznanski  Grades 9-12
434 p., New York: Annick Press, 2012.  9781554513727

What would you do?  Your best friend suddenly stops showing up to basketball practice and answering your phone calls, starts skipping school, having hushed conversations with the kids he used to bully, and looks like he hasn’t slept in days.  And he’s not the only one.  Other kids at school are acting strangely out of character, but no one will tell you anything.  Until the day a girl you know (and don’t really like) pulls you aside and tells you that she has something amazing to give you – but she can’t tell you what it is and won’t give it to you unless you promise to keep it a secret, too.  Do you promise, or walk away?  Nick Dunmore can’t help his curiosity, so he makes the promise and receives a CD that starts a new computer game, opening him to the world of Erebos.  Erebos is so incredible that Nick finds himself spending all his time there – until the game starts spilling into the real world.  How can Erebos know the things it does?  Who is behind it?  And what is it trying to do?  Nick’s curiosity has gotten him caught up in a dangerous game – and now he has to find a way out.

 

Escaping the Giant Wave by Peg Kehret
151p.,  New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2003.  068985272X

 On the last day of school, Kyle’s teacher asks each of them to write a couple of goals they have fore the summer.  Kyle wants to get an increase in his allowance, raise his batting average, learn how to pop a wheelie on his scooter and most difficult, make Daren Hazelton leave him alone.  Kyle thinks his first three goals will be pretty easy but he’s not sure about that fourth one.  This year for summer vacation Kyle’s family is going to the coast of Oregon.  His dad won salesman of the year at the real estate office where he works and they get an all expense paid vacation to the convention.  As the family is getting ready to board the plane, who should Kyle run into but, Daren Hazelton.  Daren’s parents also sell real estate so now Kyle and his little sister Bee Bee will get to spend their vacation with the school bully.  Little do they know that Daren will be the least of their problems.  When they get to their hotel in Oregon Kyle loves the view of the ocean but is a little surprised to see tsunami warning signs posted along the beach.  Is that really a possibility?  What will they do if there is an earthquake that causes a giant wave?  Kyle finds out when an earthquake hits while his parents are on a dinner cruise and he and Bee Bee are eating room service in their hotel room.  How will Kyle and Bee Bee get out of the hotel and escape the giant wave of the tsunami?

 

Evernight by Claudia Gray  Grades 8-11
327 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  9780061284441

Evernight is a boarding school for people like my parents.  For people like my parents want ME to be.  But I’m not like anyone else – I’m one of only a few born every century, so I can’t wait to get out of here.  At least, that’s how I felt at first, but when I ran away from Evernight the morning of the first day of school, I was chased by a pretty incredible boy.  He thought he was going to save me from what I was running from, not realizing I was running from him.  He’s not like anyone at Evernight, either, so I can tell he must be hiding secrets, just like me.  But when the truth is exposed, will our secrets tear us apart forever?  --A great read for fans of Twilight.

 

Eye Contact by Cammie McGovern  Grades 10-12  Adult
290 p., New York: Viking, 2006.  0670037656.

 Adam’s mom, Cara is only slightly worried when the school calls her to let her know Adam is missing.  This has happened lots of times before, but this time it is different.  Adam has disappeared outside during recess and another child is missing too, a girl named Amelia.  This is so unlike Adam that Cara is really concerned.  When Adam is finally located, there is little relief.  He was found all alone in the woods and the girl is found a little later, dead, stabbed with a knife.  What happened during those long 45 minutes Adam and Amelia were missing?  Adam was probably witness to the horrific murder, but what can the police get from him?  He is a nine-year-old boy with autism who is barely verbal on the best of days. After the incident in the woods, Cara knows Adam saw something.  He has changed so much, but how can she draw that information out of him?  More importantly, how can she help him understand and come to terms with what he did see to start the healing process?  What did Adam see is what everyone wants to know.  To find out you’ll have to read Eye Contact.

 

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The booktalks and lists are for educational purpose only.  They may be copied or adapted by any individual wishing to use them for booktalking.  They may not be copied in whole or reprinted on another website or in a book without the written permission of the creator.  To contact Carrie Falk, please e-mail
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