Teen Booktalks
created by Carrie Falk and Joy Stortvedt
Shenandoah Public Library

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.

F    G    H    I    J


F is for Fabuloso by Marie G. Lee  Grade 6-7
176 p., New York: Avon Books, 1999.  03809748X.

Do you hate pop quizzes?  How do you feel when they are returned?  When the math quiz is passed back Jin-Ha sees a big fat F at the top of her paper.  Jin-Ha is in shock, she knows she studies hard, but math is her least favorite subject this year.  The honors math class just doesn’t make sense.  When she gets home from school her mom wants to know how her quiz went.  Jin-Ha tells her mother that she got an F, but since her family is from Korea her mom doesn’t understand the American grading system, so she doesn’t know what F means.  She asks Jin-Ha if an F is a good grade.  Before she can stop herself, Jin-Ha blurts out, “F is for fabuloso,” using one of her best friend’s favorite words.  So now Jin-Ha’s parents think she did a great job and they are doing special things for her to show her how proud they are.  How will Jin-Ha be able to get herself out of this lie?  Will she be able to find help to raise her grade in math? To find out what happens read F is for Fabuloso.


Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney  Grade 6-7
184 p., New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Book for Young Readers, 1990.  0440220653.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 660 Points: 11
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1992-1993

 Have you ever wondered if you were adopted, or maybe even hoped you were adopted?  Janie Johnson has never really worried about that.  She is an only child with two great parents.  Right now all she is concerned about is getting her drivers license and trying to catch the eye of her cute next door neighbor Reeve.  Imagine her shock when in the school cafeteria eating lunch she sees a picture of herself as a little girl on one of the milk cartons that show pictures of missing children.  She knows that the little girl is her, but how can that be?  She, Janie Johnson, has a loving family.  Her parents could never have done something so horrible as to kidnap her, right?  Then Janie starts having flashbacks and she knows she has to get to the bottom of this before she goes crazy.  What happened to that three year old girl in pig tails who was kidnapped from a shopping mall in New Jersey?  How will Janie ever find out what is really going on and who can she trust?


Fade to Black by Alex Flinn  Grades 8-11
184 p., New York: HarperTempest, 2005.  0060568399. 

At 6:00a.m. Monday morning Alex Crusan is heading to Dunkin Donuts in his red Honda CRV to pick up breakfast for his family when he is brutally attacked.  Someone wearing a school letter jacket runs up to his car and starts beating on the windows with a baseball bat.  Alex manages to drive away but not before being badly injured by the broken glass.  Now he is in the hospital bandaged and stitched up and on lots of pain medication.  Daria, who is in class with Alex, saw the whole thing happen.  She may have Down syndrome but she knows what she saw.  Clinton Cole a football player is hauled in for the crime.  Yeah, he hates Alex, that HIV positive Cuban outsider who is polluting his school.  He doesn’t want Alex there.  He doesn’t want to get AIDS.  And to make matters worse, his little sister is best friends with Alex’s little sister.  What if she gets AIDS from being at Alex’s house?  Well, everyone knows Clinton hates Alex, but he’s not the one who attacked Alex in his car.  Clinton may have been out that morning, but it’s no one’s business what he was doing and he isn’t telling.  Who attacked Alex?  Everyone has their own ideas and everyone knows what they saw, but what is the real story?  To find out you’ll have to read Fade to Black.


Falling by Doug Wilhelm  Grades 8-9
241p., New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007.  9780374322519.

 Do you believe in fate or destiny?  Katie does after that evening she logged into the chat room.  Her friends are always telling her to stay away from them cause you never know who you are really talking to.  This night there is only one other person in the chat room and he could be from anywhere in the world.  When she asks, she finds out that he is 15 and lives in the same town she does.  He even goes to the same school.  That is more than a coincidence.  She asks him what he likes to do because in case you haven’t figured it out yet, Katie is a questioner.  He tells her that he used to play basketball, but just quit playing.  All of a sudden Katie knows exactly who she is talking to.  He is Matt Shaw, an enigma at their school.  He is a great basketball player yet didn’t go out for the team and won’t tell anyone why.  He’s a loner who just walks around town after school listening to his ipod.  Katie really likes chatting with him.  She likes his quick answers and his questions.  She’s afraid she may be falling for him. But, how well does she know him?  Why did he really quit basketball?  Why does he spend all his time alone?   These are questions Katie needs to find answers to before she falls anymore.


Far from You by Lisa Schroeder  Grades 8-10
355 p., New York: Simon Pulse, 2009.  9781416975076

Read p. 1-5

Alice thought her life was falling apart – her mother, dead; her father, remarried; her new baby sister taking her place; her best friend fighting with her; her boyfriend pushing for more.  Just like Alice falling down the rabbit hole, nothing is like it used to be.  And then the snow is falling, falling, falling, and Alice would give anything to have a chance to make things right.  But that would take a miracle….


Fastback Beach by Shirlee Smith Matheson  Grades 7-8
97 p., Custer, WA: Orca Soundings, 2003.  1551432676.

 When Miles comes to in the front of the stolen Mustang he has a lot of explaining to do.  He decides not to rat on any of his friends and takes all the blame himself.  He gets off with probation and 100 hours of community service.  When Miles meets his probation officer she tells him he will be working with the Rossburn Community Association.  On Saturday, his first day of community service, Miles doesn’t want to get out of bed and as a result starts his first day out on the wrong foot.  HE finally makes it to the house and meets Mr. and Mrs. Barnier.  His first day he is stuck cleaning out the basement, which seems like a drag until he gets to go through old issues of Hot Rod magazine.  Miles really enjoys that and he and Mr. Barnier get to talking about cars.  Mile’s dad was a race car driver and Mr. Barnier is into custom rods.  That is when Mr. Barnier takes Miles out to the garage to show him his pride and joy the ’37 Ford coupe he is working on modifying.  Miles knows that if his friends ever find out about it something bad could happen to that coupe.  After all they are the reason he is here doing community service.  Miles had better watch himself, but can he keep his mouth shut and stay out of trouble this time? 


The Final Four by Paul Volponi  Grades 7-12
245 p., New York: Penguin, 2012.  9780670012640

March Madness: it’s the final moments of one of the biggest games of the year.  The Final Four game between the favorite Michigan State Spartans and the underdog Troy University Trojans has come to an edge-of-your-seat finale.  Who will go to the championships?  Will it be the Spartans – like Malcolm McBride, the freshman phenom who’s heading straight to the pros, but is haunted by the violence of the past? Will it be the Trojans – like Roko Bacic, who left war-torn Croatia behind to hope for a new future in a new country, but who has seen his own share of tragedy?  Who will go home?  Will it be Crispin Rice, who’s engaged to the Trojan’s good luck charm cheerleader and feeling the pressure of the national spotlight?  Or will it be the Spartans’ Michael Jordan, who has always had to carry the weight of a legend in his name?  As the battle between the Spartans and the Trojans on the basketball court comes down to its nail-biting conclusion only one question remains: who has the drive and the heart to be the victor?  There is a little bit of rough language from the guys’ street-ball days, but nothing you probably haven’t heard before.


Finding Lubchenko by Michael Simmons  Grades 8-10
280 p., New York, Penguin Group, 2005.  1595140212.

 Evan is in a world of hurt.  His dad has just been put in jail for killing one of his employees.  He knows his dad would never kill anyone and steal money from his own company, and Evan even has the piece of evidence that will clear his father.  His only problem is that if he gives the evidence to the police they will know he has been stealing things from his dad’s business and he will be grounded for the rest of his natural born life.  This whole problem started with his father.  Evan’s father may be a millionaire, but he is a tightwad.  Evan has a job at his dad’s company called MRI which has a hot lab where live strains of certain viruses are stored.  Evan has a minimum wage office slave job at MRI.  To supplement his pitiful income he lifts certain items that would be easy to sell on the internet.  MRI is a big company, no one notices these small things.  Besides, if you really think about it he’s just stealing from himself, or so Evan rationalizes.  Anyway, after this employee is found dead at MRI and Evan’s dad is implicated by lots of evidence such as off shore bank accounts and millions of stolen money, the police are frantically looking for the dead man’s laptop.  This particular laptop is sitting in Evan’s best friend’s garage waiting to be sold online.  What is Evan going to do?  How can he help clear his dad without being caught himself?  That is when Evan comes up with his stupidest yet most brilliant plan yet. All it involves is finding Lubchenko.  To find out who Lubchenko is and how he fits into the puzzle you’ll have to read the story.


Flipped by Wendelin Van Draanen  Grades 7-8
212 p., New York: Knopf, 2001.  0375811745.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 720 Points: 15
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2003-2004

 From the first moment Juli saw Bryce she flipped over him.  From the first moment Bryce saw Julie he ran from her.  Things have been that way since the summer before 2nd grade when Bryce and his family moved into the house across the street from Juli.  Bryce does everything he can to stay away from Juli and not encourage her, but nothing seems to work.  He even dated Juli’s arch enemy Shelly Stalls in 6th grade.  That was until Shelly and Juli got in a huge cat fight.

 Julie has tried everything she can to get Bryce to notice her.  She has spent six long years waiting for that kiss he almost gave her in the moving van.  She has given him lots of opportunity, but Bryce is just too shy for his own good.  She even forgave him for going out with Shelly “the hair” Stalls, who everyone knows is all hair and no brains.  When Bryce gave her that pitiful look, Juli just knew that Shelly had her hooks in him and Bryce just couldn’t say no.  So, it was up to her, Juli, to let Shelly know Bryce wasn’t interested.  Julie then did what she had to do, and put Shelly in a headlock and her arm in a hammerlock until the teachers pulled them apart.

 Now they are both in 8th grade and much wiser.  What will happen when after all this time Juli starts to see that Bryce isn’t as wonderful as she always dreamed and Bryce starts to notice that Juli is so much more than he thought.  Things have just Flipped.


Flush by Carl Hiaasen  Grades 7-8
263 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. 0375821821.

 Noah’s dad is in jail although not for any of the reasons you might think.  You see he is mad at Dusty Muleman and to show his outrage he sunk Dusty’s boat, and then turned himself in to the police.  Dusty runs a casino boat called the Coral Queen, and he has been illegally dumping the holding tank into the water.  Now for those of us who don’t know much about boats, this means that all those people that get on the gambling boat and party all night have to use the restroom.  When they flush the toilets, or heads as they are called on boats, all that waste water collects in a holding tank.  A tank which should be be pumped into a tank on the dock and hauled away.  Only Dusty is too cheap to do that, so he just has the crew stick the hoses over the side of the ship and pump all that filth straight into the basin and then the tide carries it out to open water.  But, before it gets thee, it goes through Thunder Beach where everyone swims and fished and where the loggerhead turtles lay their eggs.  The thought of what Dusty Muleman is doing makes Noah sick.  His dad has tried to tell everyone what is going on, but no one can catch Dusty in the act.  So, now it is up to Noah and his sister Abbey to stop the filth and clear their dad’s name.  To do  it they are going to have to Flush.


Football Genius by Tim Green  Grades 5-8
244 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2007.  9780061122705

Troy has a gift – he knows what play will be run next on the football field.  It doesn’t matter what team, player, coach – he just knows.  And now that his Mom works in the Atlanta Falcons PR department, well, he figures now it’s his turn to find his way into the spotlight.  First, though, he has to get the attention of someone – anyone – on the team.  Security is crazy tight, even with his mom’s connections.  He finally gets a chance to prove himself to linebacker Seth Halloway, but can he handle the pressure?  Can he finally get the team to listen to him, to give him a chance to use his Football Genius?


The Fortunes of Indigo Skye by Deb Caletti  Grades 9-12
New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008.  9781416910077

What would you do?  Imagine this: you’ve got a pretty good life – a job you enjoy, a family that doesn’t have a whole lot but cares about each other, and a boyfriend or girlfriend you really like.  And then something comes along that could change everything – out of the blue, a check for 2.5 million dollars!  Now you can buy anything you want, do anything you want, but how do you know what you really want?  With the whole world at your fingertips, how do you keep from losing the things that matter most?  Can money really buy happiness?  Read The Fortunes of Indigo Skye to see what she finds out.


Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce  Grades 6-8
306 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.  9780060734022

Being the only boy in his whole town (forget about soccer) is the least of Dylan Hughes worries.  His parents own the only gas station, but since it’s at the end of the road in Manod, England (the middle of nowhere), money is tight – really tight.  But it turns out that the middle of nowhere is a great place to hide things – in this case the entire contents of the National Gallery of Art - while its regular home recovers from a flood.  All that valuable art just lying around (locked up, of course) may just prove too tempting to someone who needs money, but Dylan is out to remind everyone that art is worth more than what someone will pay for it.


Freaky Green Eyes by Joyce Carol Oates  Grades 8-10
341 p., New York:   HarperTempest, 2003.  0066237599.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2006-2007

 The Pierson family is just fine.  There is nothing wrong with them.  Her parents are not getting a divorce.  Franky desperately wants to believe this.  Dad is on the road a lot as a former professional football player turned sports announcer and mom stays home with Franky and her younger sister Samantha.  Mom isn’t around as much anymore.  She is working on her painting and pottery and off at art shows.  Dad doesn’t like this change of events.  He wants the family around him being supportive when he is back home.  This makes Franky angry with her mom.  If mom were home more and not so concerned with her own selfish artsy stuff the dad would be happier and they could really be a family again.  Then mom decides to move to Skagit harbor to live in their cabin.  She doesn’t take the girls with her and rarely comes home to visit.  Dad says she’s in her own zone and even when mom tries to call Franky won’t pick up or even talk to her.  When Franky lets the strong brave part of herself that she calls Freaky Green Eyes come out she can admit that there is much more going on than meets the eye.  But, is Franky strong enough to uncover the truth about what is really going on in the Pierson household?  It is up to Freaky Green Eyes to uncover the hidden secrets.


Full Tilt by Neal Shusterman  Grades 8-10
201 p. New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2002.  0689803745.

 The girl running the ball toss booth strikes up a conversation with Blake.  She’s beautiful and he can’t believe she even noticed him at all.  Then she offers him a game on the house.  He then proceeds to knock down the pyramid of bottles and she hands him his prize, a sorry looking bear with bright red eyes and greenish brown fur.  It has on a bright yellow jersey with the number 7 on it.  On the front of the jersey is a large pocket with the edge of something sticking out.  Blake pulls it out and sees a strange symbol in bright red.  When he flips the card over it reads, “An invitation to ride, 10 Hawkings Road, Midnight to dawn.”  When he turns back to the girl to ask her about it the girl is gone.  Blake decides to ignore the invitation, but later that evening when he finds his wild and crazy younger brother Quinn in what appears to be a drug induced coma Blake knows better.  He can see the carnival lights reflected in Quinn’s eyes.  Quinn has swiped his invitation.  If Blake ever wants to see Quinn again he will have to accept the invitation for the ride of his life.  This carnival only goes one speed and that is Full Tilt!


Back to top of page


Game by Walter Dean Myers Grades 8-11
218 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2008.  9780060582944

Drew Lawson has one thing going for him – his game.  All around him, he sees guys who never made it anywhere, but he won’t be one of them.  He knows his game will get him to college, if he can keep it together this year.  Everything goes as planned until halfway through the season, a white boy joins the team.  Suddenly Drew’s hanging out on the bench and wondering if his chance is passing him by.  Drew’s got game, but it’s time to find out just how deep his game is.  Is it deep enough to do what it takes to get his team to the championships and get him where he wants to be?


Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry  Grades 6-7
215 p.,  Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000.  0618055819.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2002-2003

 The angry mob of women standing around Kira make her very afraid, but she can’t let them see that.  The leader, Vandara wants to see Kira gone and the place where she has lived all her life turned into a pen to hold tykes and animals.  Kira’s mother has just died making Kira an orphan.  Kira has a crippled foot so she is physically flawed.  The women sense someone weak and defenseless that they can prey on.  When the women pick up rocks to throw at Kira she stands her ground.  She reminds the women that in a conflict that could bring death they must go to the Council of Guardians.  Slowly the women lower their stones.  Kira has won this round, but now she must face the Council of Guardians.  What will they say about her future?  After all she is crippled, she can’t do all the things other women can.  All she has is her incredible ability to weave beautiful things.  Will that skill be enough to save her?


The Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler  Grades 7-8
214 p., New York: Philomel Books, 1999. 039923330X.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 740 Points: 12
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2003-2004

 What would you do if you saw a ghost in your bedroom in the middle of the night?  Seikei and his father are traveling to the city of Edo to sell tea.  They stop at an inn to spend the night.  At the inn Seikei meets a girl who tells him a frightening ghost story.  Seikei finds it very hard to fall asleep thinking about ghosts.  So, imagine his surprise when he hears the door to their room opening and sees a ghost holding a large red rock glide into their room.  Seikei sits up in bed and tries to yell, “I’m not dead yet,” making the ghost leave the room.  Feeling very scared, Seikei gets up and follows the ghost into the hallway to see what it is doing.  He sees the ghost enter another room and then return to the hallway.  Seikei stamps his foot when he sees the ghost again hoping to scare it off for good.  The ghost disappears.  Seikei goes back to bed and the next morning he wonders if it is all a bad dream.  Then a Samurai Warrior staying at the inn finds out his ruby intended for the Shogun who is the emperor of Japan, is missing.  After a search of the rooms the ruby is found in the girl’s room.  Is Seikei brave enough to tell everyone that he saw the ghost going into her room with the ruby in it’s hand?  Will anyone believe him if he does or will they all just think he is crazy.  What is going on and will Seikei be able to figure it all out?

Alternate booktalk:
Ghost in the Tokaido Inn by Dorothy and Thomas Hoobler  Grades 6-10
214 p., New York: Philomel Books, 1999.  9780399233302

What makes a samurai?  Their weapons – the two traditional swords?  Their culture – the ability to perform the tea ceremony and write haiku?  Their courage – to never fear death?  Their dedication in service to the shogun?  It takes all these things and one more – their birth.  Only those born into a samurai family can become a samurai, and Seikei, son of a tea merchant, cannot.  Still, he can’t help dreaming.  However, it’s no dream when he sees a mysterious figure at night in the Tokaido Inn – the same night that a priceless ruby is stolen.  Suddenly, he finds himself learning the way of the samurai and the way of a detective from a real samurai, Judge Ooka, one of the shogun’s most trusted officials.  Will they catch the thief in time?  And is there some way for Seikei’s dream to be a real samurai to come true?  First in a series of six.


Gilda Joyce Psychic Investigator by Jennifer Allison  Grades 7-8
321 p., New York:  Dutton Children’s Books, 2005.  0525473750

 On the last day of school Gilda Joyce is sitting in the back of  8th grade English when the teacher Mrs. Weinstock hones in on her and asks in front of the class, what Gilda’s summer plans are?  Rather than tell everyone she was planning on spending the summer spying on plaid pants at the convenience store, she blurts out the first thing that comes to mind.  “I’m going to San Francisco,” she says.  Later as school gets out Gilda feels upset.  She has promised herself to try and stop spontaneous lying or at least do everything possible to make the lie come true.  So, now what?  She knows her mom has an eccentric cousin living in San Francisco so maybe Gilda should write to him and try to get herself invited out for a visit.  Well, she writes the letter and then she waits and waits for a reply, which amazingly comes with a plane ticket included.  It is off to San Francisco for Gilda.  Gilda is ready for a good mystery.  She knows cousin Lester’s sister jumped from the tower of their home years ago, so maybe there are some ghosts hanging around.  If so, Gilda is prepared.  But, when she gets to the big old creepy looking mansion she isn’t so sure this was a good idea.  Between her unfriendly cousin Lester, his daughter Juliet who is strange and rude, and a houseful of ghosts according to Rosa the housekeeper there are more than enough mysteries around to keep Gilda occupied.  What more could a psychic investigator ask for?  Now Gilda just hopes she can solve the big one.  Why did Lester’s sister Melanie jump to her death from that tower?


Girl in the Arena by Lise Haines  Grades 8-12
New York: Bloomsbury, 2009. 9781599903729

Lyn’s sort-of famous.  She’s been the daughter (or stepdaughter) of seven gladiators.  People all over the country watch her family on TV, cheering the heroes of this bloody sport.  Tommy, her current step-father is one of the best gladiators out there, and he’s not bad as far as stepdads go.  So she doesn’t think much about giving him her bracelet as a good luck charm - until their luck runs out and stepfather #7 dies, too.  Now his killer has her bracelet AND the right to marry her.  Lyn never wanted to be a gladiator’s wife, so she’ll have to come up with some way to save herself … even if it means becoming the Girl in the Arena.  This book will keep you guessing and on the edge of your seat from start to finish.


Give a Boy a Gun by Todd Strasser  Grades 8-9
146 p., NewYork: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2000.  0689811128.

 Gary and Brendan are angry. They are tired of being picked on and teased by all the athletic jocks and ignored or humiliated by some of the teachers at school.  They decide to take revenge and justice into their own hands.  They steal guns from a neighbor’s house and take everyone at the school dance hostage.  Their target is the students and teachers who have ridiculed and humiliated them throughout their school careers.  Brendan and Gary have been working on this plan for a long time.

 Denise Shipley, who is from the same town and Gary and Brendan, is away at college working on a degree in journalism.  She decides to come home after the shooting and interview all those involved to try and get a clearer picture of what really happened with Gary and Brendan.  Give a Boy a Gun is a compilation of all her notes and interviews with classmates, teachers, relatives, friends and neighbors.  Sometimes the more you know, the less you understand.


Goddesses: Heaven Sent by Clea Hantman  Grade 8
172 p., New York: Avon Books, 2002.  0064408752.

 Thalia has really blown it this time.  She has talked two of her sisters into helping her with her scheme.  It has backfired big time and now they are all in hot water with their father.  This wouldn’t be such a problem except their dad is Zeus, ruler of the heavens, supreme master of the Olympians.  So, imagine what could happen when your father is ruler over all of the Greek gods.  Thalia, Era and Polly are three of the nine muses who are all daughters of Zeus.  These three though, happen to get in plenty of mischief.  This time they have gone too far, and angered Zeus’ wife Hera.  Zeus decides to punish these three troublemakers by sending them to Athens until they learn their lesson and change their ways. Then he tells each one the changes he expects to see in them.  He also tells them that they cannot use any of their powers while on Earth.  There is only one snag.  When Zeus sends them to Earth he messes up.  He sends them to Athens but not Athens, Greece in 423 B.C. like he thought.  The sisters are sent to Athens, Georgia in 2002.  They are going to have quite an adjustment to life in Athens, attending public high school, doing what mortal teens do.  They have to fit in and follow the rules.  They will also have to work on changing their ways if they ever want to return to Olympus.  Little do they know that the furies are working their hardest to make sure these goddesses never leave Earth.


Good Brother, Bad Brother:  The Story of Edwin Booth & John Wilkes Booth by James Cross Giblin  Grades 8-10
244 p., New York:  Clarion Books, 2005.  0618096246.

 “There is a long held truism that villains in fiction and in life are more interesting and colorful than heroes.”  I’m sure you know who John Wilkes Booth is, but do you know anything about his brother Edwin?  Did you even know John had brothers and sisters?  As you well know John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 1865.  But, what else do you know about him?  What drove him to do something so drastic and evil?  What did he hope to gain by shooting the president of the United States?   John was a southern sympathizer and he believed that Lincoln wanted to become king of America.  He felt that someone needed to stop Lincoln before that happened.  Just like his father and older brother Edwin, John was a very popular actor in his day.  He and Edwin were best known for their portrayals of the lead characters in Shakespeare’s plays.  Imagine Edwin’s shock at finding out from the newspaper that his baby brother John had been accused of assassinating the president of the United States.  He was in the middle of a theatrical tour when the news arrived.  How would the public treat him since he was the brother of a now notorious murderer?  How would the nation treat the rest of the Booth family knowing that one of their family members is such a villain.  How does Edwin handle the shock and infamy that goes with such a horrific event?  To find out you’ll have to read Good Brother, Bad Brother.


Goose Chase by Patrice Kindl  Grade 8
214 p., Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2001.  0618033777.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 890 Points: 14

I was just a poor goose girl tending my geese all by myself.  Things were going great until this ugly old lady interrupted the tea party I was having with my geese.  She was hungry so being a good girl just like my dearly departed mother taught me I offered her my bread and water.  She ate all of it too, might I add, and I was hungry.  As her thank you, she gave me three gifts, which I as a poor orphan goose girl did not need.  She said, “You’re a good girl, and patient with a bad old creature.  Very Well, when you comb your hair, gold dust shall fall like rain.  When you weep, your tears shall be precious diamonds.  And you shall be as lovely as the dawn.”  Then she laughed and vanished leaving me all alone.  I will admit that at first I was very pleased with these gifts, brushing my hair all the time just to collect the gold dust and then laughing so hard I cried to collect the diamonds, but what good are precious gold and jewels when what I really need is food and water.  Less than a week after meeting the old woman while I was eating supper the Prince of Dorloo and the King of Gilboa showed up at my door both asking for my hand in marriage.  I turned them both down but they wouldn’t be denied so now here I am stuck in this tower till I choose one to marry.  The king is evil and cruel and the prince is young and stupid.  I don’t want either of them.  I only want my freedom back.  However, that doesn’t seem to be an option.  What should I do, and what will become of my precious geese?


The Gospel According to Larry by Janet Tashjian  Grades 8-9
227 p., New York: H. Holt, 2001. 0805063781.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2004-2005

 What started out as ramblings on a little known internet website has turned into a national phenomenon.  Josh started the “Gospel According to Larry” at that family black hole time between Thanksgiving and Christmas when consumerism becomes so awful you can hardly stand it.  It started out with Josh posting his thoughts on consumerism and the site got just a couple of hits a day.  The comments were positive so Josh spent more time working on Larry’s sermons and putting more effort into the site.  Now people are emailing asking who Larry really is.  Josh doesn’t want to let anyone know and he isn’t going to stop the website now that it has become so popular and is finally getting his message out.  Larry is the perfect alter ego for a loner like Josh.  Larry is outspoken and opinionated.  He doesn’t bury himself in a privacy cocoon like Josh.  Now Josh’s best friend Beth (whom he’s been in love with forever) is trying to start a Larry fan club as their school.  Josh would like to tell Beth that he is Larry, but he can’t since he’s decided to keep his identity a secret.  Will things just keep going on the way they have been or will someone figure out his identity?  Will the “Gospel According to Larry” survive all the attention or will the whole thing blow up in Josh’s face? 


Gotta Get Some Bish Bash Bosh by M.E. Allen  Grades 8-9
198 p., New York:  Katherine Tegen Books, 2005.  0060731982.

 The following is a paraphrasing of the text on pages 8 and 9 of the book.

Brrring- brrring, brrring – brrring
“Hi.  It’s Sandi.  I’ve-decided-I-don’t-want-to-go-out-with-you-anymore, sorry and all that.”
“What?” I croak.  “Sand- what’re you saying?  You mean you’re dumping me?”
“Er…yeah,” she says.  “It’s like this: I used to think you were fun.  Only now I’ve reached the stage where girls start fancying more mature guys.  You know, guys with a bit more bish bash bosh.”
How dare she dump me?  What’s she mean, “more mature”?  What’s she mean, “more bish bash bosh”?  Aren’t I the guy who’s forever knocking himself inside out, trying to be slick, stylish and original?  The injustice seers into me like a branding iron.  I feel pain!  I feel hurt!  I’m flipping livid!  “WHA-T?” I roar down the phone.
Click.  She’s gone.  The coward.
Now what?  What does a guy do to get more bish bash bosh?  Gotta do something to show little Miss Sandi, but what…..?
*bish bash bosh = self confidence, swagger


The Grave by James Heneghan  Grade 8
245 p., New York: Frances Foster Books/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.  0374327653.

 It is 1974 in Liverpool England.  Tom Mullen is living in foster care and going to school at St. Oswald’s.  There has been construction going on at a site next to the school for over a year now.  There is a high fence around it and a guard posted, all very secretive.  Tom feels drawn to whatever is at the site.  So, one night he sneaks past the guard and into the area. When he looks in the hole he sees boxes all over and bones scattered on the ground. Now he knows why there is so much secrecy, the construction workers have uncovered a mass grave.  But why is he being drawn to it?  The pull is so strong that Tom gets sucked right into the black pit.  When Tom comes to, he is near the ocean on a cliff.  As he walks down the path he sees a group of people huddled around someone lying on the ground next to a damaged boat.  When Tom gets to the people he hears that the boy on the ground has drowned.  Tom crouches by the boy who’s name is Tully and starts doing CPR.  Before long the boy starts coughing and breathing again.  When Tom finally gets a good look at Tully, he is in for a shock.  It is like looking in a mirror for Tully could be Toms double.  Where is Tom?  What happened when he fill in the grave?  Who is this kid Tully and why do they look like twins?


Guerrilla Season by Pat Hughes  Grade 7-8
328 p., New York:  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003.  0374328110.

 Missouri is a state at war with itself.  Guerrillas or bushwhackers fight against Jayhawkers or Free Staters.  Matt feels like the war is being fought in his own home.  Matt’s mom is adamant that their family will stay neutral in this conflict.  She doesn’t want their farm burned or pillaged by either side.  Matt knows which side he agrees with, but he can’t tell anyone.  He can’t even tell his best friend Jesse who’s older brother Buck is a Guerrilla fighting with Quantrill.  Then Matt’s neighbors the Stones are attacked by Guerrillas in the middle of the night.  Now Matt gets to see first hand the brutality of this war between the states.  Matt questions whether his friend Jesse knew about the attack ahead of time?  Did Buck take part in killing one of their neighbors?  Will Matt and his family survive this horrible war?  To find out you’ll have to check out Guerrilla Season.


Back to top of page


Hana’s Suitcase by Karen Levine  Grades 5-8
111 p., Morton Grove, IL:  Albert Whitman & Company, 2002.  0807531480. 

During World War II Japan was an ally of Germany.  However, in recent years people in Japan have wanted to educate more people in their country about the Holocaust and what happened to those six million Jews between 1939 and 1945.  In 1998 Fumiko Ishioka, the director of the Tokyo Holocaust Center decided she need a display of physical objects from the Holocaust to share with the people who visit the center.  Having objects they could touch would make what happened so many years ago more real.  Everyone she asked turned her down telling her the objects they had were too precious to send to Japan.  Finally she traveled to Poland and on to Auschwitz, the most famous concentration camp to plead her case.  A few months later she received a package from them which included a child’s sock and shoe, a child’s sweater, a can of Zyklon B poisonous gas and one suitcase.  The suitcase is a very ordinary looking one, big and brown with writing in white paint across the front of it.  The writing has a girl’s name: Hana Brady, a date of birth: May 16, 1931 and one other word: Waisenkind, which is the German word for Orphan.  Who was this girl Hana Brady and what happened to her?  No one seems to know.  It is up to Fumiko and the group of students at the museum to find out the story behind Hana’s Suitcase.


Hanging on to Max  by Margaret Bechard   Grade 8
142 p., Brookfield, Conn. : Roaring Brook Press, 2002.  0761315799.

 Have you planned out your future?  Do you know where you are going to college and what you will major in?  Sam has it all figured out.  He knows he’s good with computers and he likes math, so he has decided to major in engineering at a college in California.  Well, all of that changes when Sam’s girlfriend Brittney tells him she’s pregnant.  At first Brittney says she will keep the baby, but about a month after he is born Brittney decides she really can’t handle having a baby as a senior in high school.  She tells Sam she is giving the baby up for adoption.  Before he really thinks it through Sam tells her he wants to keep the baby.  Now Sam is going through his senior year changing diapers and buying formula.  College is out of the question and Sam is going to have to make a lot of changes in his life.  He hardly ever sees his friends anymore and football is a distant memory.  Sam’s whole life now revolves around Max. Then at school dropping Max off at daycare Sam runs into Claire whom he has had a crush on since 6th grade.  Claire also has a baby she is dropping off.  Things start looking up for Sam’s social life, but it is so hard to plan things with a toddler in tow.  Is Hanging on to Max really the best thing for both Sam and Max?


Heat by Mike Lupica  Grades 6-9
New York: Philomel Books, 2006.  9780399243011

Michael knows he’s got something special.  He’s got a great arm – he can throw heat that knocks his catcher to the ground.  He’s got a baseball team full of great friends, a team with a chance for the Little League World Series.  He’s got a brother who cares for him, a pretty girl he likes, and Mrs. Cora upstairs who lets him watch his beloved El Grande lead the Yankees to victory on her cable TV.  He’s also got a huge secret – his father has been dead for months, and if the Offical Persons find out, they’ll take away everything he’s got.  Michael just has to try to keep everything he has, but when a good deed and his skill with a baseball land him in the limelight, things start to slip away.  Can Michael find a way to hold on to what is most important?


Heist Society by Ally Carter  Grades 8-11
New York: Disney-Hyperion, 2010.  9781423116394

Read p. 8 “ ‘Katarina?’ Ms. Connors asked” through p. 10  “very, very good.”

The end of Katarina’s stolen boarding school life is the beginning of something big.  A mobster’s priceless art collection has been stolen, and Kat’s father is the only suspect.  To clear his name, Kat and her team of teenage con artists will have to steal the paintings back.  Can they pull off one of the biggest heists in history, outsmarting both Interpol and the mobster who wants his stuff back – at any cost?


The Hemingway Tradition by Kristin Butcher  Grades 8-9
92 p., Custer, WA: Orca Book Publishers, 2002. 1551432420.

 Shaw is trying to outrun his father’s ghost.  He and his mom have moved from Vancouver across Canada to Winnipeg, but that still isn’t far enough.  You see, Shaw’s father who was a very well known and popular writer committed suicide and Shaw was the one who found him and the note he left behind.  Shaw thought his dad was happy and that they were a loving family.  Was it all a lie?  Shaw used to enjoy writing but now it just makes him replay that horrible memory in his mind.  To make matters worse, on the first day of class at his new school, the English teacher recognizes his name and tells him that she is a huge fan of his father’s work.  He is afraid she will tell the whole class about his father’s suicide and then the pitying looks will start all over again.  Mercifully she doesn’t mention anything.  Will Shaw ever be able to break free from this legacy his father has left him?  Or worse, what if he turns out to be just like his father….


Here Lies the Librarian by Richard Peck  Grades 6-8
145 p., New York: The Penguin Group, 2006.  9780803730809

It’s 1914, and things are about to start getting exciting.  A twister stirs things up at the local cemetery, giving some of the “residents” a trip topside.  And that’s just the beginning.  Women are starting to get more rights and automobiles are replacing horses, but the big news in town is the paved road and new library school students who want to reopen the library.  Closed since the demise of the previous librarian, residents have gotten along without it for years.  Now the town isn’t too sure what to make of these stylish women and their new-fangled ideas.  Eleanor McGrath, a young town resident known to one and all as “PeeWee,” loves cars and helps her brother try to keep their garage afloat in spite of the competition’s attempts to sabotage them.  The new librarians and their fancy cars will turn her world on its head and make her dreams come true in ways she never expected.


Hidden Talents by David Lubar  Grades 7-8
213 p., New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1999.  0812541707.

 Martin Anderson has the uncanny ability to open his mouth and say the exact right thing to irritate any adult.  He has opened his smart mouth one too many times and gotten himself into trouble.  He has been sent to the Edgeview Alternative School which is the end of the road for him.  In Edgeview Martin meets lots of interesting characters.  His new roommate is nicknamed Torchie because he is constantly starting fires although he swears it isn’t his fault.  Nothing like knowing your roommate could burn the place down around your rears at any moment.  Torchie introduces Martin to many other students.  There is Cheater who is really smart but always has the same answers as everyone else.  Flinch is the world’s best dodge ball player because he instinctively knows when to get out of the way.  And then there is the school bully, Lester Bloodbath and his last name isn’t a nickname, it’s the real thing.  Everyone who is at Edgewood except Bloodbath swears they didn’t do whatever it is that they are there for.  Is everyone in a severe case of denial, or is something much stranger going on?  To find out about the Hidden Talents at Edgeview, check out this book.

Alternate Booktalk:
Hidden Talents by David Lubar  Grades 6-8
213 p., New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1999.  0812541707

My big mouth got me into trouble again.  They said I “don’t respect authority,” but it’s not like I can help it.  The words are there, just waiting to be said – the best zingers that’ll get you right where it hurts.  I can push anybody’s buttons without a second thought.  But I guess this time I went too far, because now I’m stuck here at Edgeview, alternative school for wackos and troublemakers like me.  I’ve made a few friends – guys called Cheater, Lucky, Flinch, Torchie, and Bloodbath.  But I’m starting to think maybe we’re not such troublemakers after all.  Maybe we have – talents – that we’re just not controlling.  I’ve been doing some reading in the library, and I’m really starting to wonder.  Maybe if we get together and get a handle on our… talents… we can get out of here…….  This book has a sequel called True Talents.


Hit Squad by James Heneghan  Grades 8-9
106 p., Custer, WA: Orca Soundings, 2003.  1551432692.

 Mickey was so excited about going to school at Grandview.  It is the school where all the rich kids go, so it has to be a better school, right?  Well, Mickey is learning that looks can be deceiving.  Kids at Grandview are mean, there is a lot of bullying going on and teachers and students just look the other way.  Just the other day, Mickey was getting his lunch out of his locker when some kid came up behind him and took his lunch then tried to shove him into his locker.  Mickey is tired of being pushed around, but what can he do about it?  Then Mickey finds an envelope in his locker inviting him to a special meeting of a special secret society.  He decides to go just to see what this note is all about.  At this meeting he meets Birgit Neilsen who he thinks is really cute.  He finds out that she wants to create a secret society to combat the bullying and violence at school.  It is a hit squad of sorts.  She wants Mickey to be a part of this hit squad.  Should Mickey join?  Will this hit squad be effective or will it cause more violence?


Holdup by Terri Fields  Grades 8-10
163 p., New Milford, CT:  Roaring Brook Press, 2007.  9781596432192.

 Did you know that each one of us makes more than 600 decisions every day?  Have you ever really thought about how the decisions you make affect others?  Most of our decisions are pretty trivial but some are huge and have longstanding effects.  Jordan, Theresa, Sara, Alex and Manuel all work at Burger Heaven a fast food restaurant. Jordan has been looking forward to this free Saturday for a long time but then the phone rings.  They are short staffed at the Burger Heaven and the manager wants her to come in.  The same for Theresa and Alex.  Now all of them are working, just putting in their time till 10:00 comes and it is closing time.  Meanwhile, Dylan has been planning this robbery for a long time.  It should be really easy money.  His partner got arrested for something else and now he needs a new gopher.  Joe will fit the bill.  What will happen when all these lives intersect?  How will their decisions affect the rest of their evening, not to mention the rest of their lives.  You are about to walk into a Holdup!


Homeless Bird    by Gloria Whelan  Grades 7-8
216 p., New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 2000.  0060284544.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 800 Points: 10
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2002-2003

 How old are you?  Remember when you were 13?  That is how old Koly is when she is married to a complete stranger through an arranged marriage set up by her parents.  Koly lives in India and that is how things are done there.  After her marriage Koly will never see her family again.  She will spend the rest of her life with her husband’s family.  Once she is married, she finds out that her husband Hari, who is no older than she is, is very ill.  The only reason they were married was so his family could get the dowry money she provided.  She knows that Hari’s family doesn’t like her and she is scared to find out what will happen to her when he dies.  Then her worst fears come true and Hari dies.  Hari’s mother then takes Koly on a train ride to Delhi, India’s capitol city.  When they get there Koly’s mother-in-law gives her money to buy lunch.  While Koly is buying lunch form a street vendor her mother-in-law disappears. As night approaches the horrible truth dawns on Koly.  They brought her here to leave her so they don’t have to take care of her anymore.  Koly has truly been abandoned.  What is she going to do?


Hoot by Carl Hiaasen  Grades 8-9
292 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002.  0375821813.

 Roy Eberhardt didn’t want to move to Florida from Montana.  But, on the bright side he sure has met some interesting and unique people since he moved.  For example, he is still looking for the dark haired barefoot boy he spotted through the school bus window.  Roy has followed the kid to a wooded area on a golf course, but can’t track him any farther.  When Roy gives up looking because it starts to rain he heads back to where he left his bike.  Only, his bike isn’t there anymore.  As Roy is trudging home he spots his bike with one other than Beatrice Leap riding it.  Now there is another interesting person you don’t want to mess with.  Beatrice is a tall soccer jock with red frizzy hair and glasses.  When she sees Roy she rides up and asks him what he is doing.  He tells her that he is looking for the barefoot boy.  Beatrice wants to know why he can’t leave it alone, but Roy can’t really explain to her his fascination with the boy.  So, then resigned, Beatrice tells Roy to hop on the handle bars of the bike and they take off.  To find out where Beatrice takes Roy and what the deal with the barefoot is and oh, did I mention the burrowing owls?  Well, to find out how they all tie together you’ll have to pick up Hoot.


Hot Lunch by Alex Bradley  Grades 6-10
276 p., New York: The Penguin Group, 2007.  9780525478300

Molly marches to the beat of her own drummer – blue hair, vegetarian.  She can’t stand preppy Cassie, her partner for a class assignment.  Their collaboration, or lack thereof, results in a food fight.  The “punishment fits the crime” policy of their charter high school means that instead of getting suspension, the girls get lunch duty.  Blue hair meets hairnet.  It turns out that cooking for the whole school isn’t easy, and the girls are stuck with it until every day for a week, the lunch poll says they’ve got it right.  The two girls and their volunteer kitchen crew sure stir things up, but will they get the right blend of healthy, tasty, and on time?  Includes recipes.


How I Fell in Love and Learned to Shoot Free Throws by Jon Ripslinger  Grades 8-10
170 p., Brookfield, Conn.: Roaring brook Press, 2003.  0761318925.

 It was the annual spring charity assembly free-throw shooting contest.  The contest was pretty simple; 25 free throws for a member of the girls basketball team and 25 free throws for a member of the boys basketball team.  The person who scores the most wins.  Angel McPherson who is probably the best female basketball player in the state of Iowa and Danny Henderson just a passable player is going to have to compete against her.  Danny already knows it is a no win situation for the guy.  “If he wins, he’s beaten a girl.  What pride could he take in that?  If he lost, he faced humiliation and ridicule.  Who wanted that?”  Well, Danny has come up with a fool proof plan. He has had his eye on Angel ever since she started school there six months ago.  He makes the sacrifice to lose to her in the contest because who could beat her anyway?  He hopes to do passably well and then ask Angel for help with his free-throw shooting.  After all, won’t she feel a little sorry for him when he loses to her?   Then maybe, just maybe he can learn to shoot better and get a date out of the whole thing.  However, Angel McPherson isn’t known as the stone angel for nothing.  What is she hiding?


How to Disappear Completely and Never be Found by Sara Nickerson  Grade 8
281 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2002.  0060297719.

 Margaret has always known her family was strange.  Things have been different ever since her father died in a swimming accident four years ago.  Now Margaret has just been given a clue to what really happened to her father since her mom won’t talk about it.  That morning they left their house and boarded a ferry which took them to an island.  On the island Margaret’s mom stopped at the hardware store in town, bought a sign that says, “For Sale By Owner,” and headed out of town.  After a long drive they reach a huge old house that is very run down.  Margaret’s mom then tries to drive the sign into the yard, but the ground is too hard so she sends Margaret for a shovel.  While Margaret is getting the shovel she takes the opportunity to sneak into the back porch of the house.  It is crammed full of every item imaginable, but what stands out to Margaret is a package mailed to her mother four years ago that has been returned unopened.  Margaret takes the package and inside it she finds a comic book about a guy who is half human and half rat, a swimming medal and an old key.  What do these things have to do with the house and her family?  Why does her mom own this house if they have never been there before and does this really have anything to do with her dad’s death?  Margaret knows she will have to dig deeper if she is going to find the answers to these questions and that just may mean another trip back to the house to do some searching.  Only next time she will have to come alone.


Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones  Grades 6-9
429 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1986.  9780061478789

Sophie Hatter expects to spend her life working in the hat shop her father left her.  But life has a way of changing unexpectedly, and she finds herself an old woman before her time.  The wicked Witch of the Waste has cursed Sophie, and the only thing for her to do is go out and seek her fortune, or at least seek a way to break the spell she’s under.  Her journey leads her to the amazing moving castle of the Wizard Howl, where Sophie takes up residence as a cleaning lady and makes friends of the castle’s other – interesting – inhabitants.  As for Howl, well, the wizard just annoys and disgusts her, at least, at first……… Will her curse turn out to be a blessing in disguise?  First in a series of three, this book inspired the animated movie by Hayao Miyazaki.


Back to top of page


I am the Great Horse by Katherine Roberts  Grades 8-10
401 p., New York:  The Chicken House, 2006.  0439821630.

  Alexander is only 16 when he surprises everyone by being the only person who can ride the great big black warhorse known as Bucephalas.  Around everyone else Bucephalas acts wild and crazy, but the horse respects and trusts Alexander.  However, Alexander’s father, King Philip of Macedonia doesn’t want his son to have such a wild horse and secretly tells the horsemaster at the stable to hide Bucephalas until Alexander has forgotten all about him.  That doesn’t happen.  How can Alexander forget the great black warhorse with which he formed an instant bond?  When King Philip is assassinated at a party Alexander becomes king.  When a king dies it is everyone’s chance to challenge his successor.  Alexander now has several wars on his hands.  He has to go fight the Greeks and the Persians, and some days it seems like everyone else is out to get him too.  They haven’t yet realized they are dealing with one of the most cunning warriors in history, Alexander the Great.  It is Bucephalas’ job to keep Alexander safe in battle and to help him dominated those he fights.  Luckily, he is the Great Horse and he is up to the challenge.


I Heart You, You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroeder  Grades 8-11
226 p., New York: Simon Pulse, 2008.  9781416955207

Read “A Strange Sensation” p. 57-58.

She can only see him and touch him in her dreams, but Ava knows he’s there.  Her boyfriend Jackson promised her he’d never leave, and he won’t let even death break that promise.  But what is his unfinished business?  What does he want from her?  What does he want for her?  Ava needs to find out, to sort out through poetry what’s going on between her and the boy who’s haunting her heart.


I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan  Grade 8
199 p., New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1973. 0440228441.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile 760 Points: 9

 It should have been a perfect day.  At breakfast Julie received two letters.  The first one was from Smith University telling her she had been accepted.  It was what Julie had been working so hard for all year long.  The second letter seemed so unimportant until she opened it and read what the note said.  All that was written on the paper was one sentence.  “I know what you did last summer.”  After Julie reads it she feels as if her whole world is falling apart.  Is this a cruel joke?  They had made a pact not to tell anyone what happened that fateful night last summer, so how can someone possibly know and why are they sending her notes after all this time?  She has tried so hard to forget what happened and now someone is dragging it all back up again.  What should Julie do?  And what really did happen last summer? 


I’d Tell You I Love You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You by Ally Carter  Grades 8-10
284 p., New York: Hyperion, 2006.  1423100034.

 The People of Roseville, Virginia have no idea what goes on at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women.  Everyone assumes it is just a snooty boarding school for bored heiresses with no place else to go.  And, no one behind those ivy covered walls is eager to change their minds either.  You see, the Gallagher Academy is not at all what it appears to be.  It is actually a school for spies.  Cammie Morgan knows all the ins and outs of the school since her mother is the head mistress and that is her home.  However, everything Cammie knows doesn’t prepare her for her sophomore level covert ops class and the hunky new teacher Mr. Solomon.  He sends the girls out on their first undercover recon mission right there in Roseville.  Cammie and her two best friends are sent out during the Roseville Town Carnival to follow one of their other teachers Mr. Smith.  Their mission is to find out what he drinks with his funnel cakes.  And if you think it is easy following one of your teachers who sees you every day in class as well as is a world class spy, you have another thing coming.  While Cammie is working hard at tailing Mr. Smith without him noticing her, she is spotted by a really cute boy.  His name is Josh and Cammie knows that somehow she has to see him again, but can she risk everything she is to spend time with him?  Josh can never know the real Cameron Morgan, cause then she’d have to kill him.


If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where’s My Prince? by Melissa Kantor  Grades 8-11
283 p., New York: Hyperion, 2005.  9780786809608

“Cinderella – dead mother, wicked stepmother, evil stepsisters (2), friendless
Me – dead mother, wicked stepmother, evil stepsisters (2), friendless
Cinderella – father dead
Me – father ‘alive’” (from If I Have a Wicked Stepmother, Where's My Prince? p.1 & 2)

At least Cinderella had the woodland creatures.  All I’ve got is a new school full of people who won’t even look at me.  And while my dad is technically alive, breathing and all that, sometimes that’s hard to remember since he spends most of his time working on the West Coast after moving me clear across the country and leaving me with the wicked stepfamily.  So if I’ve got to deal with all the bad stuff, I should get the fairy-tale, too, right?  And Connor Pearson, captain of the basketball team, would definitely make a great prince charming.  He’s everything I ever wanted.   At least, I thought so at first, but now I’m not so sure.  There’s this other guy in my art class… at first I thought he was just an anti-social geek, but there might be more to him than meets the eye.  Prom is almost here, and when the clock strikes midnight, will I find my own happily ever after?


In Disguise!  Stories of Real Women Spies by Ryan Ann Hunter  Grades 6-9
133 p., Hillsboro, OR:  Beyond Words Publishing, Inc., 2003.  1582700958.

 Do you have what it takes to be a spy?  Learn about how to create and crack codes and ciphers, how to disguise your appearance and create invisible ink.  Find out how women spied for both sides from the Anglo-Dutch Wars, the American Revolution, the Civil War all the way through the Cold War.  Did you know Julia Child the famous chef worked for the Office of Strategic Services, the predecessor to the CIA during World War II?  She helped develop a shark repellent to keep sharks form bumping into underwater explosives and setting them off.  Read about Sarah Emma Edmonds a.k.a. Frank Thompson (1841-1898).  Sarah disguised herself as a man to fight with the Union troops during the Civil War.  They then asked her to spy for them never knowing she was already wearing a risky disguise.  She dressed up as a slave, an old Irish peddler and even a confederate guard to get valuable information for the Union cause.  Or did you know about Emily Geiger (c. 1763-?)?  She rode through enemy territory to deliver an important message during the American Revolution.  She was captured by British loyalists, so she memorized her message, and then ate it to avoid being discovered as a spy.  Read more about these brave spies before the book disappears!


In My Enemy’s House by Carol Matas   Grades 8-9
167 p., New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1999.  0689813546.

 Marisa is a blond haired blue eyed Jew.  In fact she looks more Polish than Jewish, and she speaks Polish with no accent at all.  This has really helped her family ever since the Germans invaded Poland.  This also means she can take off the dreaded armband, with the yellow Star of David on it, to go get food or do other forbidden things.  The actions which are mass roundups of Jews become more regular and it gets harder and harder to hide from the German soldiers.  Marisa’s mother and younger siblings have been rounded up in the latest action.  Luckily she and her sister Fanny were in the country hiding, so the Nazis didn’t find them.  But, now what can they do?  Fanny is dark and looks very Jewish, so she cannot be seen.  Finally, Marisa is forced to make the difficult decision to leave those she loves behind in order to save herself.  She takes a Polish girl’s work papers and heads off to Germany.  She will be working in the heart of enemy territory surrounded by Nazis.  How will she keep her secret?  If they find out she is a Jew it will be all over.


In My Hands by Irene Gut Opdyke with Jennifer Armstrong  Grades 8-12

276 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.  9780679891819

“I did not ask myself, Should I do this?  But, How will I do this?  Every step of my childhood had brought me to this crossroad; I must take the right path, or I would no longer be myself.
                ‘You must understand that I did not become a resistance fighter, a smuggler of Jews, a defier of the SS and the Nazis, all at once.  One’s first steps are always small: I had begun by hiding food under a fence.  Now I was making plans to get a dorozka, a wagon, from the farm where Helen lived, and to transport in secret the Morris brothers and their wives ten kilometers from Ternopol, to the black shadowed forest of Janowka.” p. 142-143

At age 17, Irene’s world came crashing down when her homeland of Poland was conquered and divided between the Nazi Reich and the Soviet Red Army.  Suddenly, this nursing student was separated from her family and reduced to the role of captive servant.  But Irene would not simply accept her situation.  Time and time again, she found ways to escape, and when she realized what was happening to the Jews in nearby ghettos, she could not just stand by and watch.  Starting small, she found ways to help, eventually hiding a dozen Jews in the basement of her German employer.  Some parts of Irene’s story are difficult to read, because of the horrors she saw and the terrible choices she had to make, but this true story of Irene’s courage and compassion in the face of evil can inspire us all. 


Incantation by Alice Hoffman  Grades 7-9
166 p., New York:  Little, Brown and Company, 2006.  9780316010191.

Estrella deMadrigal has a secret.  It makes her very different from everyone else, although she can’t see that.  She used to believe that she and her best friend Catalina were so alike that they could be sisters.  Maybe that used to be true, but as they have both grown up they have grown apart, different from who they used to be.  Estrella feels that she can no longer be completely honest with Catalina, especially about Andres whom Catalina is pledged to marry, but who loves Estrella.  Then a monster comes to their town in Spain.  A monster known as hate and fear.  This monster threatens to take everything Estrella holds dear and change her life forever.  That is when she learns the truth about herself and her family, who she really is.  Life will never be the same again.  Once you know something, you can never unknow it.  There is no going back.  Is Estrella strong enough to face the monster?  To find out, you’ll have to read Incantation.


Incident at Badamaya by Dorothy Gillman  Grades 8-10
204 p., New York: Doubleday, 1989.  0385247605.

 At the age of 16, Gen Ferris is orphaned in the country of Burma when her father commits suicide.  He leaves her some money and a note telling her to leave the country and go to live with her aunt in New York.  This is a year of great unrest in Burma with many military clashes which makes leaving difficult.  Gen leaves her village home to catch a boat to take her to a city with an airport.  While she is traveling she is captured by soldiers.  When she is thrown in the compound she finds an assortment of others both American and British citizens being held for ransom.  And so begins their quest for freedom.  How will they escape the soldiers and manage to leave the country?


Indigo’s Star by Hilary McKay  Grades 6-8
266 p. New York: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2003.  0689865635

Most people would not be happy to get sick.  However, Indigo Casson is relieved when he gets mono.  He doesn’t have to go to school for months, and no school means no bullies.  However, all good things must come to an end, and Indigo must head back to school, whether he wants to or not.  This semester, though, things are going to be a little different.  There’s a new kid in class, Tom, an American visiting his grandmother in England.  Between his new friendship with Tom and the support of his wacky family, Indigo may find the courage to stand up for what is most important to him.  All the Cassons – Caddy, Saffy, Rose, and their mother, Eve, are up to their usual antics in this second in a series of five.


Ingo by Helen Dunmore  Grades 6-8
328 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.  9780060818548

"I wish I was away in Ingo
Far across the briny sea,
Sailing over deepest waters
Where love nor care never trouble me….."
(From Ingo, p. 137)

Sapphire Trewella misses her father.  One night, he went down to the cove and disappeared.  While rumors swirl about what might have happened, Sapphy finds herself getting closer to the truth.  The sea is pulling her, calling to her, and she can barely resist.  Did it call her father like it is calling her – and her brother, Conor?  Maybe her father’s tales about the Mer people were more than just bedtime stories.  Maybe her father’s name – the same as one in an old legend about a mermaid – is more than just a coincidence.  As the pull goes stronger, both Conor and Sapphy must ask themselves where they belong – in the Air, or in Ingo.


Invisible by Pete Hautman  Grades 9-11
149 p., New York:  Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2005.  0689868006. 

Everyone at school thinks Doug is a freak.  The girl he is obsessed with calls him a worm.  But that’s okay.  Doug doesn’t care what everyone else thinks, says or does.  Doug knows he is just fine.  After all, he is best friends with popular Andy Morrow who is captain of the football team and lead in the school play. Some people may think it is strange that Andy hangs around with a loser like Doug, but Doug knows that true friendship transcends differences and barriers.  Since Andy is usually busy Doug spends most of his free time building his model railroad in the basement.  Some people think he is obsessive about it.  It is his hobby and he has created a world called Madham.  Don’t get him started talking about the replica of the Golden Gate Bridge he is building out of matchsticks.  It is a feat of engineering and Doug has been working on it forever.  He is planning on the inaugural running of the train over the bridge to be November 17th and he has invited Andy to be there for it.  He and Andy usually talk late in the evening after everyone else has gone to bed.  Their windows face each other so they just hang out the windows and talk about what has happened that day.  Doug and Andy share everything, but neither one wants to talk about what happened at the Tuttle Place.  Could what happened there that day tear apart the perfect friendship?


Back to top of page


Jack’s Run by Roland Smith  Grade 7
246 p., New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2005.  0786855924. 

Jack’s parents have decided to send him to Los Angeles to live with his older sister Christine until the big trial is over.  Jack hopes everything is taken care of in time for him to return home for the start of school.  He would hate to have to start another new school.  The reason he is in California is because his parents are worried about testifying at the trial of Alonzo Aznar the powerful and dangerous drug lord.  They want Jack and his sister as far away as possible.  Aznar is the reason they all had to change their names, move and enter the witness protection program.  They are worried that Aznar’s men might locate them and use Jack and Christine to keep their dad from testifying against Alonzo Aznar.  When Jack gets to California he finds out that Christine is in the final audition to appear on the hit T.V. show, American Superstar.  She is so excited about the possibility.  It is something she has always dreamed of doing.  Of course, getting your face plastered all over national television probably isn’t a good thing when you are trying to lie low in the witness protection program.  But, Christine is way too excited to think about that until Jack point it out to her.  By that time it is too late.  The damage has been done.  Aznar’s men have seen her on T.V. and recognized her.  They are waiting for them at the house.  They cuff Jack and his sister and put them on a plane bound for who knows where.  How will Jack be able to save them from this tight spot?  To find out, you’ll have to read Jack’s Run.


Jade Green: a Ghost Story by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor  Grade 8
169 p., New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 1999. 068982002X.

 Who is Jade Green?  What hold does she have over this house?  Judith, who is an orphan, has just moved to South Carolina to live with an elderly uncle and cousin who have offered to take her in. However, there is one condition to her move.  She cannot have anything green, or bring the color into the house.  In a small act of defiance, Judith goes ahead and packs a picture of her mother in a green silk frame, which she cannot bear to part with.  It is the only piece of her parents she has left.  Surely her uncle won’t begrudge her this one small green item.  Then strange things start happening in the house.  It sounds like there is a mouse in Judith’s closet, and she finds her traveling trunks opened.  However, nothing is missing.  When Judith starts work at the hat shop in town she finds out about this mysterious Jade Green.  Jade was an orphan who had been taken in by her uncle and the household who had grown to love Jade very much.  Then for some mysterious reason, Jade committed suicide, or so it was said.  Judith’s uncle has forbidden anyone to have anything with the color green in the house because it was Jade’s favorite color.  Some say that by bringing the color green into the house it will release Jade’s unhappy spirit to roam free.  Was that really a mouse Judith heard in her closet, or the restless spirit of Jade Green who has been unleashed by Judith’s thoughtless act of defiance?


Jimmy Coates: Assassin? by Joe Craig  Grades 6-8
218 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.  9780060772635

Imagine this: you discover you have superpowers.  You can outrun, outjump and outfight almost anybody.  This is good news, because you’re being chased by the bad guys – and you’re not exactly sure who they are or whom you can trust.  Even your parents may be in on the deal.  But they’re not your parents like you thought they were, either, because you’re not completely human – not even mostly human.  62% non-organic, to be precise.  However, you don’t really have time to worry about that because your programming keeps kicking in, turning you into a deadly fighting machine.  In the end, only you decide: are you or are you not an assassin?  If you like the Alex Rider adventures, you may want to give Jimmy Coates a try.


The Journey that Saved Curious George: the True Wartime Escape of Margret and H.A. Rey by Louise Borden  Grades 7-8
72 p., Boston, MA:  Houghton Mifflin Company.  2005.  0618339248.

 We’ve all read Curious George as small children.  We loved his silly antics and cheered on the man in the yellow hat, but what do we know about the authors of those beloved picture books?  Both Hans and Margurete were born in Hamburg, Germany around the turn of the last century.  They were both from Jewish families.  But, they didn’t really fall in love until they teamed up in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.  Margret was a photographer and was looking for new and exciting adventures.  She knew her old family friend Hans Reyersbach was there, and so she went to Brazil and they joined forces as two artists in business together.  They were married in Rio de Janerio and then decided to honeymoon in Paris.  The honeymoon turned into several years during which they wrote children’s books together.  They knew that Germany had declared war on France but Paris was safe.  The French troops would never let the German army advance that far.  The war was so very far away from them.  But, in 1940, no one could stop the Nazis.  Hans and Margret were in Paris with no way out, all the buses and trains were full of people trying to flee to safety and there were no cars available.  How can they escape the country and the advancing German army?  To find out, read about the exciting  Journey that Saved Curious George.


Jude by Kate Morgenroth  Grades10-12
New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.  9780689864797

Jude’s dad is a drug dealer with big fists and a mean streak.  Living in dingy apartments on the wrong side of the tracks is all he’s ever known, and he’s pretty good at keeping secrets – like the fact that his dad’s been skimming the drug shipments.  The day his father is murdered in the kitchen, Jude’s whole life changes.  A few secrets come out – his absent mother is the DA, and she didn’t abandon him; his father kidnapped him when he was a baby.  Jude has other secrets that he can’t tell, like what really happened in the kitchen that fateful day.  One secret leads to another, and soon Jude finds himself trapped by his secrets, lies, and his love for his mother.  How long can he and his parents keep their secrets hidden, or could the truth really set him free?


Jump Ball by Mel Glenn  Grades 9-12
151 p., New York: Lodestar, 1997.  9780525675549

Read p. 3, 9, 13, 16, 21, 22

A basketball season – in poems.  Follow the Tower High Tigers and their friends, families and fans as they confront triumph and tragedy on and off the court.  This is a season no one will ever forget.


Just Ella   by Margaret Peterson Haddix  Grades 7-8
185 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 1999.  0689821867.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 850 Points: 9
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2001-2002

 Have you ever wondered what happened after happily ever after?  Well, Just Ella gives you an inside glimpse into what it is to be trained as a royal princess.  At the ball Ella falls in love with the wildly handsome prince Charming.  It is only weeks later as she prepares for her wedding that she finds out Charming really isn’t so charming after all.  He has never had an original thought in his life and he always gives her a blank stare.  Ella is tired of taking princess lessons.  It is all just way too much work.  She really wants to go home and just be herself again.  When Ella gets up the nerve to tell Charming that she really doesn’t want to marry him after all, he ties her up and throws her in the dungeon.  What will Ella do now?  Can she escape?  Or should she try and get Charming to change his mind?  Or will she give up and do what everyone wants her to do, marry the prince and live unhappily ever after.


Just Listen by Sarah Dessen  Grades 10-12
371 p., New York: Viking, 2006.  0670061050.

 The girl in the commercial for Kopf’s Department store is beautiful and she has it all.  She’s a cheerleader, homecoming queen, has lots of friends and a cute boyfriend to boot.  She is the girl who has everything; and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Even though that commercial was shot only five months ago, Annabel can’t believe how much her life has changed in that short amount of time.  At an end of school party in May Annabel had a huge fight with her best friend Sophie over Sophie’s boyfriend.  Sophie believes what her eyes tell her, never bothering to check and find out what really happened.  She won’t listen to Annabel and has been nasty to her ever since.  So, for the whole summer Annabel has avoided everyone she knows and just kept to herself.  Now that school has started again, that is no longer an option.  Now Annabel sees the result of avoiding everyone for an entire summer.  She has no friends, she is ignored by everyone.  She eats lunch outside along the wall by herself close to Owen Armstrong, the angriest boy in school, who constantly has his earphones on listening to his iPod.  Because Annabel can only do so much homework over lunch she becomes fascinated with Owen Armstrong.  What is he listening to everyday? Why is he so angry and standoffish?  Does Annabel have the courage to change her situation or will she be stuck on the wall, an outcast with Owen for the rest of her junior year?


Just One Wish by Janette Rallison  Grades 7-10
264 p., New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2009.  9780399246180

If Annika had three wishes, she knows the first thing she’d ask for is that her little brother Jeremy’s cancer would be miraculously healed.  But she doesn’t, so she takes matters into her own hands.  She tells Jeremy that she has three wishes, and she’s already used one, but he can use the other two – one for his surgery to go well and one for whatever he wants.  She’s just sure that he’ll ask for the Teen Robin Hood figure he’s been wanting, but instead, he asks to meet the real Teen Robin Hood!  Now Annika has only a few days to make her way to Hollywood and convince teen heartthrob Steve Raleigh to come back with her.  As she crashes through every obstacle in her way, Annika finds her wishes coming true in ways she never expected.


Back to top of page


Back to Main Booktalks Page

Copyright Notice
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
shencirc@qwestoffice.net.  To contact Joy Stortvedt, please e-mail libraryq@qwestoffice.net.