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.

K    L    M    N    O

Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen  Grades 8-10
228 p., New York: Viking 1999.  0670885495.

 Collie has been sent to Colby, North Carolina to spend the summer with her Aunt Mira.  Collie’s mom Kiki Sparks a popular aerobics instructor will be touring Europe over the summer and she can’t take Collie with her.  This means spending a summer with an aunt she barely remembers in a small seaside town.  At least no one there knows Collie from the fat years before she lost those 45 ˝ pounds.  No one knows the nicknames like, “hole in one.” or that she is supposed to be easy.  Collie steps off the train in Colby with only her self cut hair dyed black and her lip ring to hide behind in this strange new town.  Waiting on the platform is a hippie looking guy who introduces himself as Norman and grabs her bags.  Somehow he manages to put her stuff in the back of the car around 4 headless mannequins and miscellaneous other treasures.  Norman must be one of those artsy types.  When he drops her off at Mira’s house, Collie isn’t sure what she’s gotten herself into.  Mira is a big pro wrestling fan and there are notes everywhere in the house explaining how things work differently.  Nothing seems to work right in this house.  It is going to be one strange summer and Collie hasn’t even been in Colby a full day yet!


The Key to the Golden Firebird by Maureen Johnson  Grades 9-10
297 p. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004.  0060541385.

 Life revolves around that car.  The ’67 Pontiac Firebird painted signet gold with cream colored interior and a black convertible top.  This car is their Dad’s baby.  It is the car he bought when he was 18.  It is also the scene of his death, the heart attack as he was getting out of the car in the garage.  That moment stops time for the three Gold sisters.  Their world has always revolved around their father.  Now they are all adrift.  Palmer the youngest who has an awesome pitching arm, May the middle child, the smart and responsible one and Brooks, tall, beautiful and athletic, the oldest.  Palmer starts having these attacks where everything goes black and she can’t seem to catch her breath.  May studies and works and works and studies.  She is the responsible one who keeps things together on the surface, but keeps pushing others away.  Brooks has lost interest in baseball and is spending all her time focusing on Dave and drinking to forget her problems.  They are drifting apart and drifting into oblivion.  Mom is working the night shift at the hospital trying to make ends meet so she isn’t around to help.  What can they do to bring their lives back from the brink?  Is the golden Firebird the key?


Kieli: The Dead Sleep in the Wilderness by Yukako Kabei  Grades 8-11
228 p. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2009.  9780759529298

Kieli has always been able to see ghosts.  She’s all alone now, except for her no-so-alive dorm roommate, Becca.  So when she meets a guy who can see Becca, too, she thinks she’s finally found someone who can share her lonely days.  However, it turns out that Harvey is not-so-alive, either – he’s an “Undying” soldier, a corpse powered by an energy core, left over from the Church’s war 80 years ago.  Harvey’s got plenty of problems of his own, like the ghost-possessed radio he’s returning to a battlefield, not to mention the fact that if anyone finds out what he is, he’ll be immediately annihilated.  In spite of everything, Harvey just can’t shake this annoying girl and the warmth she inspires in him.  Through the dangers ahead, these two will need to find something worth living for – maybe even something they can give each other.


Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller  Grades 6-9
387 p., New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006.  9781582349602

Ananka Fishbein can’t help being curious, but even she never imagined what she would find when she explored a sinkhole near her home in New York City.  The long-forgotten “shadow city” of tunnels and rooms has been under her feet all along, and holds countless secrets.  However, the shadow city’s secrets aren’t the only ones puzzling Ananka.  The pale, mysterious Kiki Strike appears and disappears from her life, and soon Kiki, Ananka, and a group of other renegade ex-girl scouts known as the Irregulars find themselves in the middle of something much bigger and more dangerous than they had ever imagined.  At the end of each chapter, Ananka gives the reader tips on how to do a number of things, from taking advantage of being a girl to being a master of disguise to foiling a kidnapping.  The sequel to this book is Kiki Strike: The Empress’s Tomb.


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The Last Payback by James VanOosting  Grades 5-6
150 p., New York: HarperCollinsPublishers, 1997.  0060274913.

 Dimple is the last one to know and that doesn’t sit well, especially when what is going on involves her twin brother. There is a special bond between twins don’t you know?  In fact Dimple and Dale have their own club called twin protectors.  They watch each other’s backs and never delay a payback when one is due.  The police have called and said that Dale has had an accident, and to hurry to the hospital.  Well, Mom and Dad go, but they leave Dimple home to wonder what is going on.  She knows Dale was over at Ronnie’s house playing Nintendo, so what happened?  When her parents come home she finds out Dale is dead, but no one seems to have enough energy to explain how or why.  Dimple has to read it in the paper the next morning.  The boys found a loaded gun and Dale was shot and later died.  Ronnie shot Dale?!?  Well, that is that, it is time for Dimple to have one more act by twin protectors.  There has to be one last payback and we all know who will get it this time!


The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze  Grades 7-10
295 p.,  New York: Little, Brown & Co., 2012.  9780316185486

After the Seventeen Days, everything changed.  Great Britain now has no contact with the rest of the world, food and supplies are scarce, and people do ugly, horrible things to survive.  The house of Windsor still holds the throne, but by a slender thread – and there are those who would like to see the end of their line forever.  First the queen dies by poison, then the King in a bloody battle at Buckingham palace – and sixteen-year-old Princess Eliza is the only one to escape.  Now she’ll do anything to have her revenge on the man who destroyed her family – even join the enemy forces in an attempt to kill him.  But can the pampered daughter of royalty survive the harsh reality of life outside the palace?  She’ll need help, and she finds it in an unexpected place – but will it be enough to give her hope for a future beyond her revenge?  Or is Eliza Windsor doomed to be The Last Princess?


Last Shot: a Final Four Mystery by John Feinstein  Grades 7-8
251 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005.  0375831681.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2006-2007 

This is a dream come true.  Stevie Thomas can’t believe he’s at the NCAA Men’s basketball Final 4 in New Orleans.  He has been chosen to cover the tournament after turning in one of the two winning essays in the U.S. Basketball Writers Association 14 and under writing contest.  Stevie knows this is a once in a lifetime experience.  He’s looking forward to every minute of it even if that means hanging out with the other contest winner, Susan Carol, who is taller than him, knows everything and is a huge Duke fan to boot.  He and Susan Carol spend time walking around the dome on their first day in New Orleans.  Stevie is looking for material to use in writing his first day’s story.  Susan Carol already has hers finished, go figure.  While they are poking around behind the scenes they stumble across something much bigger than a first day story.  They are on hand to watch the Minnesota basketball team enter the complex.  Lagging at the back of the group is Minnesota’s star player Chip Graber.  All of a sudden a man in a suit and tie comes up to Chip and they stop walking and kind of sneak off from the rest of the group.  Stevie and Susan Carol manage to overhear some of the conversation which consists of the man in the suit telling Chip to remember their deal.  Chip has to make sure his team loses to Duke in the final round or the man in the suit will go public with his information which will ruin Chip’s chance at a basketball career as well as his father’s coaching career.  Stevie and Susan Carol know they have just stumbled across the story of a career, but what is really going on?  How are they going to get to the bottom of this mystery before the Last Shot?  When the buzzer sounds it will be too late!


Learning to Swim by Ann Turner  Grades 8-9
115 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 2000. 0439153093.

 It started out as a normal summer vacation by the lake at the summer house they stayed at every year.  Ann, her parents, baby brother and grandparents were all going to enjoy a fun summer filled with activity.  This was the summer that Ann was going to have to learn how to swim on her own without her pink tube to keep her afloat.  That was all she had to worry about until one afternoon an older neighbor boy offers to read to her and takes her up to her room alone.  Alone together, their secret time begins.  He tells her not to tell anyone.  Now her home and her room aren’t safe havens for her anymore.  How can she let her family how what is going on and find the courage to talk about her terrible secret?

 According to the RAINN website approximately one-third of all juvenile victims of sexual abuse cases are children younger than 6 years of age. 

According to the Justice Department, one in two rape victims is under the age of 18; one in six is under the age of 12.


Legend by Marie Lu  Grades 8-11
305 p., G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011.

My name is Day.  Just Day.  I have been a wanted criminal since the day I failed my exam and then escaped my death.  In fact, I’m the most wanted criminal in my country, not because I am the most evil, but because I make the Republic look bad, and they can’t even catch one fifteen-year-old boy.  I manage to watch over my family the best I can from a distance, praying that the plague won’t come to their house.  And when it did, well, I did the best I could, breaking into the hospital for medication.  My hit didn’t work as planned, and I had to wound a soldier to get away.  And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve found this girl who needs my help…

My name is June, June Iparis.  At 15, I am the only one to ever receive a perfect score on the exam.  I am attending the most elite academy in the country, following in my brother’s footsteps – until he is killed when the renegade criminal Day breaks into a hospital.  I’ve always admired his ingenuity, but now I want him caught.  The police give me an incredible opportunity – the chance to implement whatever plan I choose to capture Day.  I know I’ll have to go undercover, but I will stop at nothing until my brother’s killer is brought to justice, even if he’s nothing like I expected…

Hear both sides of the story as June and Day, working on opposite sides of the law, uncover conspiracies greater than they could have imagined and make life and death decisions that affect those they hold dear.  First in the series.


The Legend of Lady Ilena by Patricia Malone  Grades 7-8
232 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 2002.  0385729154.

Ilena knows that even though she has lived in the Vale of Enfort all of her life it is not her true home.  She knows that her parents brought her here when she was just an infant and someday they will all travel back to Dun Alyn which is their home.  Ilena’s parents won’t tell her anything more than that.  So, when her parents die she is left with no clue about her heritage except a cryptic message from her father as he lay dying. “Go to Dun Alyn.  Find Ryaman.”  Ilena has never traveled alone and only has a vague idea about where Dun Alyn is located.  It is about 2 days ride north by the sea.  There is a lot of turmoil in Britain in the 1600’s as the Saxons fight the inhabitants under pledge of loyalty to Arthur for control of the country.  There is also much conflict between the old ways of the Druids and the new Christian beliefs.  All of this makes for treacherous travel.  Ilena’s father has made sure she is trained as a mighty warrior but still this is a very dangerous journey to undertake alone, especially for a woman.  Ilena dresses as a boy, and starts her journey to Dun Alyn never realizing what she will learn about herself and her heritage along the way.


Liar by Winifred Morris  Grades 6-7
161 p., New York: Walker, 1996.  0802784615.

 15 year old Alex has one chance left.  If he messes up again he will be sent to “training school.”  He has been sent to live with his grandparents in the small town of Rimrock, Oregon.  This means living with grandparents he hasn’t seen since he was eight years old and starting a new school.  He has to stay clean, no running away, starting fires, fighting, stealing, drugs or guns.  Things seem to be going good.  Alex likes his grandparents, has made a friend in Barry who is a little weird but nice enough and he has a girlfriend named Mickey.  Then someone steals a walkman from the locker of one of the most popular guys in school and Alex is blamed for it.  What will happen now?


Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer  Grades 8-11
337 p., New York: Harcourt, 2006.  9780152058265

Read p. 18 “And then it hit.” Through p. 20 “Maybe the world really is coming to an end.”

Miranda and her family have to confront the catastrophe and the months of chaos that follow.  Who will survive, and can they ever go back to Life as We Knew It?  First in a series of three.


Life in the Fat Lane by Cherie Bennett  Grade 8
260 p., New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1998.  0440220297.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 640 Points: 10
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2001-2002

 Lara has won lots of beauty pageants.  She has been Miss Tennessee, but nothing else is as important as becoming homecoming queen her junior year of high school.  There are two very pretty seniors who are also in the running and Lara knows she’ll probably have to wait till next year for the honors.  When one of the other girls comes down with the chicken pox it seems that luck might be with Lara.  Everyone is on hand for the big announcement, her boyfriend Jett, best friend Molly, and her parents.  The suspense has tied her stomach into knots.  Lara almost goes into shock when her name is announced as the homecoming queen.  Life can’t get any sweeter than this.  At 118 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes with a winning can do attitude Lara is the epitome of what a homecoming queen should be.  About a month later, Lara has gained weight; she is up to 128 pounds and decides it is time to take action.  She can exercise more and diet.  After all, she is in control of herself.  There is noting she can’t accomplish with some will-power.  By 158 pounds, Lara knows there is a real problem.  She has gone to doctors but all the tests come back normal.  She can’t convince them that she is gaining weight no matter how much she exercises and how little she eats.  What is going on with her body?  She isn’t pageant material anymore and all her friends are leaving her for thinner people.  Will Lara be resigned to Life in the Fat Lane?


Lily’s Ghosts by Laura Ruby  Grades 7-8
258 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2003.  0060518294.

 Lily and her mom have moved yet again.  This time they are living in Uncle Wesley’s big beautiful Victorian house on Cape May, a popular tourist spot on the Atlantic Ocean.  The first thing Lily does is take down the picture of her Uncle Max who is dead.  It is an awful picture and it gives her the willies.  That isn’t the only strange thing in the house.  When Lily is in the basement doing laundry she spots the Kewpie doll that was her grandmother’s.  It is just standing on the shelf with its arms at its sides.  When Lily is turns back around the doll’s arms are up like it wants to be held.  Lily wonders if she’s seeing things.  She just can’t stay in the basement with that thing any longer.  When she goes back upstairs her books aren’t on the table where she left them.  So she runs up to the second floor to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror.  Is she losing her mind?  While she is in the bathroom trying to calm down she ears little footsteps.  “Mom?” No answer.  That’s it.  Lily can’t take another minute in the house alone.  She races down the stairs out the backdoor, around the house and runs smack into a boy walking down the sidewalk.  That is how Lily meets Vas, who is quite a cutie.  How can she explain why she was out running around the house like a crazy person.  He’d never believe her story that the house is haunted.  She’s not sure she believes it herself.  What is going on?  To find out, you’ll have to read Lily’s Ghosts.


Listen! by Stephanie Tolan  Grades 6-7
197 p., New York: HarperCollins, 2006.  9780060570357.

 Charley feels abandoned.  First her mother dies in a plane crash in Brazil while she is on a photo shoot.  This event makes Charley’s dad withdrawn and now he’s such a workaholic he hardly ever has time for her anymore.  But, the worst one is Amy, Charley’s so called best friend.  Amy is going to spend the summer with Becky Sue to brush up on her tennis skills.  Charley knows it is because of the car accident that left her legs broken and weak.  She won’t be playing any tennis this summer.  Since Amy and her brother Travis were in the car with Charley  and Travis was driving when the accident occurred, you’d think she’d stay around to show her support for Charley, but nooooo!   Now Charley has a long boring summer stretching out before her with nothing to do.  Nothing that is, until she spots the wild dog in the brush.  She feels an instant connection with him.  He has been abandoned too.  What can Charley do to help him overcome his mistrust of people?  It will be especially hard since Charley still has trouble getting around.  But, she has a plan and she is determined to win him over.  All she has to do is be patient, loving and Listen! 


Little Polar Bears by Thorsten Milse  Grades 7-12 Adult
174 p., Munich, Germany: Bucher, 2006.  9783765815867. 

The Wapusk National Park in Manitoba, Canada was created to protect some 1,200 dens used by female polar bears to have their cubs.  During the birthing season roughly 150 to 200 female polar bears reside in the range of the park.  That is why photographer Thorsten Milse chose this location to take pictures of polar bear cubs.  It is a lot of work to track the polar bears and requires hours of patience.  In fact Milse used several Cree Indians who live in the area to help track the bears for him.  Without their help he wouldn’t have taken a single picture.  About 70% of polar bears have twins and once they are born the cubs stay with their mother for about 2 years.  To find out more about these beautiful creatures and see the stunning photographs check out Little Polar Bears.


Locked Inside by Nancy Werlin  Grades 8-10
259 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 2000. 0385327005.

 As I sat on the cot in the cold small square room with no windows it all started to come back to me in waves.  Holding my aching head I remembered the events of the afternoon.  Ms. Slaight my chemistry teacher had invited me to lunch as a sort of truce.  I had been bombing chemistry and she had offered to give me extra tutoring over spring break.  I thought it was a little odd, but I was curious about her motives, so I said sure, why not.  At the restaurant things were going pretty well until Ms. Slaight asked me about my famous mother Skye.  At that point I saw red and screamed something about how she couldn’t buy information with a lunch.  I told her, “I’m not going to start telling you stories about Skye just because you took me to lunch.”  I made quite a scene at the restaurant.  At that point Ms. Slaight got up and walked out.  After I had paid for the meal and left the building, I figured I’d have to walk back to school, so imagine my surprise when I saw Ms. Slaight in her beat up car in the parking lot waiting for me.  She pulled up beside me and said that as my teacher she was responsible for me so I should get in the car.  We drove for a while and when I started paying attention we were somewhere I had never seen before.  She ordered me to get out of the car and told me she didn’t mean for it to be this way.  I saw her raise her hand with something clutched in her fist and that was the last thing I remember.  What does Ms. Slaight want with me?  How will I ever escape from this prison I’m locked in, and will my head ever stop aching?


The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor  Grades 7-12
New York: Speak, 2006.  9780142409411

What if “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was only part of the story?

Alyss Heart is the true heir to the throne of Wonderland.  She’s now lost in Victorian England, since she escaped the murderous intentions of her aunt Redd, who killed her parents and usurped the throne.  Her bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, was separated from her during the escape and has spent the last thirteen years searching for his princess – until a children’s book gives him a clue at last.  In the meantime, Redd’s grip on Wonderland has become absolute.   When the time comes, will Alyss have what it takes to fight her aunt for her rightful place?  Does she even want to?  And what will become of Wonderland if she doesn’t?  Or if she does?  This book is the first in a trilogy, with great illustrated inserts.  There’s also a graphic novel series “Hatter M” detailing Hatter Madigan’s 13 year journey in search of Alyss.


Love Among the Walnuts by Jean Ferris  Grades 8-10
216 p., San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 1998.  0152015906.

 Sandy’s family is very rich.  He has spent his whole life living on a country estate with his parents who want to get away from the rat race.  So, when Sandy’s parents are poisoned by his money grubbing uncles, he doesn’t know what to do.  Luckily his uncles are rather stupid and only manage to put Sandy’s parents into a deep coma with their poisoned birthday cake.  While the family butler tries to find an antidote for the poison Sandy must find outside help.  He turns to the neighboring estate called Walnut Manor.  However, Walnut Manor isn’t just an ordinary place, it is home to many people whose families thought they were too odd to have around.  In other words, Walnut Manor is a high class loony bin.  It is here that Sandy finds help.  They need to keep Sandy’s parents safe until they can wake them up or prove that Sandy’s uncles are trying to kill them for their money.  To find out what happens at Walnut Manor read Love Among the Walnuts.


Lucky T by Kate Brian  Grades 8-10
291 p., New York: Simon & Shuster Books for Young Readers, 2005.  9780689873515

I had the best life ever!  Good grades, great looks, and a super boyfriend.  And then the unthinkable – my mom accidentally gave away my lucky t-shirt and everything started to fall apart.  I had to turn things around, somehow – I just had to get that t-shirt back!  I was prepared to do anything, whatever it took, even go on a volunteer trip to India with a girl I absolutely could’t stand.  India’s a big place, and my search for the t-shirt took me to see things I never imagined and meet people I’ll never forget – one special guy in particular.  By the time I got home, I had a whole new definition of lucky.


Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls by Bennett Madison  Grades 8-10
248 p., New York:  Razorbill, 2005.  1595140107.

 Lulu Dark has always hated Nancy Drew and those other goodie goodie girl detectives.  However, things change when her very favorite purse is stolen at the Many Handsomes concert.  It is a fake Kate Spade with a garish, tacky, pink-and-yellow flower pattern and a hot pink strap.  That is why Lulu loves it so much, it is over the top and one of a kind.  Now it is gone.  Not only has she lost her favorite purse, but in it was the phone number for the hunky lead singer of the band Many Handsomes.  She has to find that purse.  Where to start?  Hummmmm, who was at the concert who doesn’t like her?  Well, that’s easy, Rachel and Marisol.  Now that Lulu thinks about it, maybe that is the real reason Rachel spilled iced coffee on her favorite vintage skirt.  It was a distraction to steal the purse.  So, it is off to Rachel’s house to confront her.  But, there is much more going on than meets the eye and things could get very dangerous for Lulu Dark, girl sleuth.  To find out what happens read, Lulu Dark Can See Through Walls.
*uses the “B” word several times*


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Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear  Grades 10-12  Adult
294 p., New York: Penguin Books, 2003.  0142004332. 

Maisie Dobbs’ new job may be more challenging than she ever imagined.  She has just started her own practice as a private investigator.  Her first client is an older gentleman who wants Maisie to follow his wife.  He is sure she is cheating on him.  He says she leaves the house every Tuesday and Thursday right after he does and returns just in time to welcome him home.  Whatever it is she tells him she is doing that day doesn’t take that long so he wants to know what she is doing the rest of the day.  Maisie reluctantly takes on this job and starts to follow Celia Davenham.  It isn’t very hard to figure out what is happening.  Each Tuesday and Thursday Celia boards the train and goes to the same small town where she buys a bouquet of flowers and then visits the local cemetery.  There she clears off a headstone, puts the flowers on the grave and spends time talking to the dead.  Maisie discovers the plot belongs to a soldier from the Great War, but the only thing written on the headstone is a first name, “Vincent.”  How strange, there is no date of birth, death date or a last name.  It seems Maisie has uncovered more questions than answers.  Who was Vincent?  Why does Celia visit his grave twice a week?  Why is there only a first name on the headstone?  As Maisie endeavors to answer these questions she runs headlong into a past she has been trying to avoid.  Now she just has to do her job and follow the questions to their answers.  But, is she ready for what those answers will be?


Major Crush by Jennifer Echols  Grades 9-12
287 p., New York: Simon Pulse, 2006.  9781416918301

I’m really not sure what’s going on here.  I’ve finally got my first job as a band teacher, leaving my Pizza Hut days behind.  And the band stinks!  The two drum majors have major issues – at first glance it seems like Virginia Sauter and Drew Morrow will never get along.  But when I look more closely, I think there’s something going on below the surface.  Maybe if I give them a little push in the right direction, I can get the two of them to create a little harmony – which is exactly what I need to win the band competition, and, incidentally, get me out of some major hot water.  I may be just the band teacher, but I know a Major Crush when I see one. – Mr. Rush, first year high school band teacher in small-town Alabama.


The Man Who Loved Clowns    by June Rae Wood  Grades 6-7
224 p., New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1992.  0399218882.
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1995-1996

 Is there something about your family that you don’t want anyone else to know about?  Delrita Jensen doesn’t want the other kids to know about her uncle Punky.  Punky has Down syndrome and so even though he is 35 he still acts like a little boy.  Delrita loves Punky dearly, but she is embarrassed when people stare, point, and make fun of him.  That is why Delrita doesn’t want to become friends with Avanell the new girl in town.  What if Avenelle makes fun of Punky too?   Little does Delrita know that Avenell has a terrible family secret too.


Married to a Stranger by Patricia MacDonald  Grades 10-12  Adult
286 p., New York: Atria Books, 2005.  0743269551.

 Emma is so happy.  She is marrying David, the love of her life.  She still can’t believe how lucky she is.  After a whirlwind 4 month courtship they are tying the knot.  David has even planned the perfect honeymoon at a remote cabin his uncle owns in the Pine Barrens.  It will be the perfect getaway with camping, canoeing and the whole outdoor experience.  While Emma is getting the cabin ready David goes outside and starts chopping more wood for a cozy fire.  After a while Emma realizes she doesn’t hear the sound of chopping any longer and wonders where he is.  By that time she is downstairs and decides to start a small fire in the fireplace herself.  As she is bending over to light the kindling she sees a movement out of the corner of her eye.  It is someone in a dark ski mask and a hooded sweatshirt wielding an ax headed straight for her.  Somehow Emma manages to ward off her attacker, but the hunter who hears her screams and comes to her aid doesn’t fare so well.  Now the police are on the scene but Emma’s masked attacker is long gone, leaving death and fear in his wake.  Emma has more questions than answers at this point.  Who hates her so much that they would try to kill her like this?  Where was her husband David while all this was going on.  Why didn’t he come running to her rescue?  Does he have something to do with the attack, like the police are suggesting?  How well does she really know David?  Has Emma married a stranger?


Mary, Bloody Mary by Carolyn Meyer  Grades 6-7
227 p., San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace, 1999.  0152019065.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 830 Points: 10

 How many of you have nicknames?  How would you like to be known as Bloody Mary?  That is how Mary Tudor, Queen of England has been known throughout history.  But, would you be a very happy person if your dad divorced your mom and had you declared illegitimate?  Mary’s dad is the infamous King Henry the VIII who had six wives in his quest to have a baby boy.  According to Henry the VIII a girl could not possibly rule England. Therefore, he desperately needs a son.  Mary starts to fear her father as he tries to divorce her mother and banish Mary from court.  He takes away her servants and allowance and finally makes Mary a servant to her baby half sister Elizabeth.  In Mary, Bloody Mary, you will hear Mary tell her side of this tragic family story.


Mates, Dates and Cosmic Kisses by Cathy Hopkins  Grades 7-8
197 p., Simon Pulse, 2003.  0689855451.

 Izzy has sworn she will never fall for any guy.  They just aren’t worth the hassle.  Her two best friends seem to always have a guy on the line, but that is fine for them.  Well, all of that changes when Izzy is shopping on Saturday and she runs into Mark at the Essential Oils booth.  He is really cute and he seems to like her.  He even asks her for her phone number and says he will call later that week.  So, Izzy spends all week at home waiting for him to call.  She immediately stops hanging out with her friends or doing other stuff.  Mark never calls her.  What is up with that?  She has replayed the conversation so many times in her mind and she can’t have scared him off.  How many times can she color coordinate her closet while waiting for his call?  Is it worth basically dumping her friends while she waits for Mark to make a move?  Surely there is a happy medium somewhere.


Maximum Ride: the Angel Experiment by James Patterson  Grades 8-10
422 p., New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.  031615556X.

 Max and her friends are so glad to be free of the “school” where they have been held as prisoners all of their lives.  Jed is the one who set them free and brought them up to this mountain top safe house where they are now.  It’s okay that they are isolated without lots of the things we take for granted, because at least they are free.  A year or so ago, Jed disappeared and everyone assumes that he is dead.  Max being the oldest is the obvious leader and she has taken care of everyone else.  You see, Max and her friends are special.  They were part of an experiment to graft bird DNA into humans.  All six of them have lightweight skeletons and wings, so they can fly.  Nothing like knowing everyone considers you a freak of nature and you’ll never be able to fit in anywhere.  Also, the scientists from the school want them back to continue experiments on them.  That is why it is so important for them to stay hidden.  Then in spite of all their precautions the Erasers, who are human/wolf guards from the school have found their hideaway and taken six year old Angel back with them.  Max won’t let anyone take Angel without a fight, so it is up to them to heard back to California where the “school” is located and try to rescue her before it is too late.  But, how will they get Angel back?

Alternative Booktalk:
Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson  Grades 6-9
422 p., New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.  9780316155564

“‘On the plus side, flying is just really, really cool,” I said, and [Fang] looked at me with a half smile of understanding.  His dark wings moved powerfully, glinting faintly purple in the sunlight.  The wind was whistling in our ears; we could see everything for miles.  It was like being God.  I imagine.
     Oh, yeah.  ‘On the minus side, we’re mutant freaks who will never live a normal life.’
     Fang shrugged.  ‘Win some, lose some.’”  (from Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment, p. 40)

Max, Fang, Iggy, Nudge, the Gasman and Angel are taking care of themselves.  No parents, no school, no problem – except for the insane scientists and their attack-mutants who are after them, bent on returning them to their dog crates in a lab.  But these kids aren’t about to take that lying down.  When Angel gets captured, they’ll do whatever it takes to get her back and try to stay one step ahead of the people chasing them – the people who made them.  Hang on to your seats for a fast read – the “incredible, indescribable Maximum Ride.”  First in a series.


Melonhead by Michael de Guzman  Grade 7
213 p., New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002. 0374349444.

 Sidney has been called melonhead for as long as he can remember. He has a very large head with red hair and an almost perfectly round face.  That coupled with the unfortunate name of Sidney T. Mellon Jr. makes him the butt of many jokes.  Sidney’s parents are divorced and they are both having troubles in their own lives so neither one has time to pay attention to him and if it becomes inconvenient to have him around they just shuttle him off to the other one. When his dad in L.A. decides to send him back to his mom in Seattle, Sidney calls her and tells her he is going to be busy with his dad for a week so she shouldn’t call.  He then pools all his money and asks his dad if he can take the bus to Seattle instead of flying.  When he gets to the bus station Sidney buys a one way ticket to New York City with no real idea about what he wants to do.  All he knows is that he wants to get away, and New York City is as far away as he can get.  However, it is awfully hard to leave your problems behind.


Millicent Min, Girl Genius by Lisa Yee  Grade 6-7
248 p., New York: Arthur A Levine Books, 2003.  0439425190. 

“I cannot believe my parents want me to have a “more normal childhood.”  I do lots of normal kid things.  For instance, some of my favorite reading material includes Archie comics.  As for other normal kid things, there are plenty of them.  Like well, I wear T-shirts and I enjoy potato chips, and I… well, I’m sure that if I set my mind to it, I could come up with a long list.”  The school psychologist is concerned about Millicent and encouraged her parents to giver her, a more normal and well rounded childhood.  That is why Millicent’s mom signed her up for summer volleyball league.  She thinks it will be good for Millicent to hang out with girls her own age.  The only problem is that Millicent isn’t athletic and hates team sports.  This will be pure torture.  The reason everyone is concerned about Millicent’s social life is because she is a genius.  She may be only eleven years old, but she will be a senior in high school in the fall.  It is hard to have friends your own age when you don’t go to school with them and they are afraid of your superior intelligence.  That is why when Millicent meets Emily at volleyball practice and they start hanging out together she doesn’t say anything to Emily about how smart she is.  Millicent is afraid to risk this new found friendship.  However, is withholding the truth a good idea?  Sometimes even girl geniuses can make big mistakes!


Millions by Frank Cottrell Boyce  Grades 7-8
247 p. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2004. 0060733306.

 Damian has learned some tricks from his older brother Anthony, such as if you tell people that your mum is dead they tend to give you stuff or leave you alone.  Damian who is very into saints has decided to build a hermitage just like Rose of Lima (1586-1617) had when she was a little girl.  It is a part of suffering which is called mortification and to be a saint you have to endure suffering or mortification.  Anyway, Damian builds a hermitage through the bushes near the train tracks behind their house.  Late one night Damian decides to go outside for a bit, and accidentally locks himself out of the house. It is rather chilly out so he decides to go down to the hermitage.  While her is thinking about things he decides to say a prayer but all he can think of to say is, “in the name of the Father and the Son and of the holy Spirit, Amen.  My mum is dead. Amen.”  Just as he finishes the prayer a train goes by and something crashes through the air and into the hermitage.  It is a bag and when Damian unzips it, it is full of banknotes, thousands and thousands of pounds, $229.370 pounds to be exact.  His prayer has been answered, but what are Anthony and Damian going to do with all this money.  They only have 17 days to spend it before the money becomes worthless.  England is switching from the pound to the Euro.  What should they spend the money on?  What if someone else is looking for all that money too?  Are Damian and Anthony in danger?  To find out, you’ll have to read Millions.


Missing by Catherine MacPhail  Grades 7-8
191 p., New York: Bloomsbury, 2002.  1582347735.

 Derek is dead and in a way Maxine is glad.  Not that she hated him or anything, she is just glad it is all over and maybe now her family can get back to normal.  Things have been awful ever since Derek ran away from home.  All Mom and Dad have been concerned about is Derek, trying to find him and get him to come back.  Maxine feels left out, like they blame her or wish it were she who ran away instead of their beloved Derek.  So when the police find a body wearing Derek’s clothes and their father identifies the body as Derek, Maxine is relived.  Maybe now her mother will stop walking around like a zombie and her dad will pay more attention to her.  But that doesn’t seem to be the case.  If anything her mom becomes obsessed with trying to contact Derek from beyond.  When Maxine receives a phone call from someone claiming to be Derek she doesn’t know what to do.  Who can she tell?  It would push her parents over the edge, if they found out.  Is it even really Derek or someone playing a prank?  What is even more creepy is when she does a call back after one of these calls she finds out it was made from the pay phone in the cemetery.  Will Maxine ever have any peace?

Alternative Booktalk
Missing by Catherine MacPhail  Grades 6-8
London: Bloomsbury, 2000.  9780747578352

Read p.41 “The phone was ringing” to p.44 “Who had it been?”

Derek’s been missing for months, and now they’ve found a body wearing his clothes.  Maxie has to hide her relief that after all the uncertainty and stress, her family can finally move on with their lives - except they can’t move on, because her mother won’t let go of Derek, seeing mediums and talking to his spirit.  And now the phone calls, someone claiming to be Derek who won’t leave Maxie alone.  Who is it, and what do they want?  And what really happened when Derek went Missing?


Monster by Walter Dean Myers  Grades 8-9
281 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1999.  0060280778.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 670 Points: 7
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 2001-2002 

Did you hear about the robbery that went down in the ‘hood?  Some guys asked me if I needed some extra cash.  And hey, who doesn’t?   They told me about some easy money down at the drug store on the corner and I could get a cut if I helped.  I wanted to be cool too, like them.  They needed someone to case the joint beforehand and check the place out for cops.  Someone else was supposed to stand outside and keep people from entering the store while the robbery was going down.  Two other guys were going to enter the store and clean out the cash drawer.  The next day I heard that the store owner was shot and killed during the robbery.  If I wasn’t actually there when it happened and I didn’t pull the trigger, am I really the monster everyone is claiming I am?


Montmorency by Eleanor Updale  Grades 8-9
233 p., New York: Scholastic, 2003. 0439580366.

 Montmorency is first and foremost a thief.  He is a very good one until the fateful night he falls through a skylight while trying to evade the London police.  He lands on some machinery which tears up his body. Now he is just a number in prison after having lost his freedom and almost losing his life.  Dr. Farcett a brilliant young surgeon uses Montmorency; or prisoner 493 as he is known to everyone else, for experimental surgery techniques.  This means that the doctor takes prisoner 493 with him to be an exhibit at medical gatherings across the city.  It is at one of these gatherings that prisoner 493 hears about an amazing addition to the city of London.  There has been a new sewer system created for the city and prisoner 493 has seen the map of the entire system.  He begins to plot and plan for after his release from prison.  He knows he can use this sewer system as an escape route, but how is he going to pull it off?  The wheels of his criminal mind are turning in anticipation of untold riches, and Montmorency is just the man to do it.

Alternative Booktalk:
Montmorency: Thief, Liar, Gentleman? by Eleanor Updale  Grades 8-10
233 p., New York: Scholastic, 2003.  0439580366

On a dark night on a London street, a thief falls through a skylight onto a grinding machine.  His injuries are horrifying, yet one doctor is willing to try to put him back together again.  Prisoner 493, tried for his crimes under the name of Montmorency, which was stamped on his toolbag, survives.  Eventually, he’s shown to all sorts of medical societies as a triumph of Doctor Farcett’s skill and ingenuity.  However, at these meetings, there are other lectures given, and Montmorency takes every opportunity to learn.  When he is released, he takes what he’s learned and develops a brilliant plan, making enough money to earn him a place in the upper echelons of society.  How long can his scheme last?  And who is he really?  Thief?  Liar?  Gentleman?  Or maybe all three?  First in a series of four.


Moonshiner’s Gold by John R. Erickson  Grade 7
199 p., New York: Viking, 2001.  0670035025.

 How many of you know what Prohibition means?  Prohibition ran from right after World War I until the early 1930’s.  It is the fall of 1926.  Riley and his kid brother Coy are riding home from school when Riley sees smoke drifting out of one of the canyons on the ranch that they lease from their Aunt Mattie.  Riley decides to go investigate and in the process almost gets them shot when they run across moonshiners operating a still in the canyon.  Riley tells his mom, but they know there isn’t much they can do about it.  So, imagine their surprise when a few weeks later the sheriff stops by to give them an eviction notice.  Aunt Mattie has decided to sell the ranch out from under them.  At this point the family decides they need to visit Aunt Mattie in her home in Sparrow, Texas to find out what is really going on.  Are they in for a shock when they arrive in town they find out Aunt Mattie is gravely ill and close to death.  Things don’t seem right in town either.  There are rumors that the sheriff is crooked and he might even be behind this whole moonshining operation.  If that is true then who can Riley and his family trust?  Will Riley be able to get to the bottom of what is going on before something dreadful happens to them and they lose the ranch? To find out read Moonshiner’s Gold.


Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit by Nahoko Uehashi  Grades 7-10
New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008.  9780545005425

I am called Balsa, the Spear-Wielder.  There is good reason for this – though I am a woman, my skill with the short spear has served me well over the years.  It has allowed me to become what I am – a bodyguard, a protector of innocents – repaying one life at a time the debt I owe.  When I saved the young second prince from the river, I could not imagine what I had begun.  I am a warrior; what do I know of politics and history, kings and assassins and demon eggs and magic?  This I do know.  Spear in hand, I will protect Prince Chagum with all of my strength and skill.  It is my vow; it is what I do.  I am Balsa, the Spear-Wielder.  It is who I am.


Mouse Rap by Walter Dean Myers  Grades 6-7
186 p., New York: Harper & Row, 1990.  0060243430.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 720 Points: 7

 It is looking to be a long summer for the Mouse.  His father is back in town and trying to get back together with his mother.  So, Mouse doesn’t want to spend time around home.  Mouse decides to go to the park to shoot some hoops.  While he is out some of the girls try and talk him and his friends into joining their dance group so they can compete in the talent show coming up at the park.  Mouse isn’t too excited about this dance thing, but the girls are pretty persistent.  Then who should show up at the park looking for a fight, but Bobby Burdette.  He’s still angry over the loss Mouse and his friends handed Bobby.  Bobby starts trash talking to Mouse and before he knows it, Beverly, one of the girls in the dance group, speaks up and says, “Why don’t you fight at 5:30?”  Mouse doesn’t know what hit him.  He doesn’t want to fight Bobby who is big and mean.  Why did Beverly try to get him in a fight? Is she mad about Mouse’s attitude toward the dance routine?  Most importantly is Mouse going to live through the fight since he can’t back down and save face?  To find out the bizarre ending to the big fight you’ll have to read The Mouse Rap.


Murder in a Pig’s Eye by Lynn Hall Grades 8-9
116 p., San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990. 0152562680.

 What started out innocently enough as a summer job soon turned dangerous.  Bodie Tureen is hired by his neighbor Henry Siler to cut wood and do chores when Henry cuts his arm in a chainsaw accident. When Bodie shows up for work he finds out that Henry’s wife Bella is gone.  Bodie asks Henry where Bella is but Henry won’t say anything.  Then Bodie gets a look at where the chainsaw accident took place.  There is way too much blood for just a cut arm.  Something worse must have happened.  No one knows where Bella is and then Henry moves his niece in to help out with cooking and laundry.  Sure she is his niece.  Bodie is sure Henry has killed his wife, but how, and where did he stash the body?  Bodie decides to get to the bottom of things himself.  So now while Bodie is chopping wood and feeding the pig he is looking for clues, like a fresh grave or some other place Henry could have stashed a body.  How hard can it be?  After all, Henry isn’t that bright.  But, Henry is getting suspicious of Bodie.  Is Bodie’s life in danger too?  To find out, read Murder in a Pig’s Eye.


Murdered, My Sweet by Joan Lowery Nixon  Grades 8-9
200 p., New York: Delacorte Press, 1997.  0385322453.
Scholastic Reading Counts! Lexile: 720 Points: 11

 If Jenny had had any idea what was going to happen, she wouldn’t have jumped at the chance to accompany her mother to San Antonio for the weekend.  Jenny and her mother, the famous mystery writer Madeline Jakes have been invited to San Antonio for the reading of the will of Cousin Arnold Harmony, the millionaire who owns Harmony Chocolates.  The odd thing is that cousin Arnold isn’t dead, he wants to be there when his will is read so he can see everyone’s reactions.  All the people there for the reading seem nervous and tense.  Then when someone finds cousin Arnold’s son Porter murdered in his room, things just deteriorate.  Now everyone expects Jenny’s mom to solve the murder, after all, she is a famous mystery writer and she helps the police solve crimes all the time, right?  Wrong.  Jenny’s mom doesn’t know the first thing about solving a mystery, so it is up to Jenny to ask the right questions and get to the bottom of things without hurting her mom’s reputation as a super sleuth.  Will Jenny be able to figure out who did it in time?


The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse  Grades 6-7
181 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 1996. 
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1999-2000

 Mila is a very special individual.  She is discovered off the coast of Florida by a coast guard helicopter.  Instead of running toward her rescuers, she runs away and tries to hide.  When they finally catch her, she is covered in seaweed, barnacles and hair.  As they fly away she bangs her head on the window of the chopper and makes a high wailing sound like an animal.  No one knows for sure how Mila has survived for so long living in the ocean with the dolphins.  Now she is at a research facility in Boston learning language and how to interact with people.  There is so much to learn and Mila misses the ocean and her dolphin family very much.  The ways of humans are strange, not like the dolphins at all.  Mila isn’t sure she likes this new life, but she loves the music humans can make with instruments.  Will Mila ever learn to live in this strange new world?


My Mom Married the Principal by Margaret Bechard  Grades 6-7
168 p., New York: Viking, 1998.  0670873942.

 Can you imagine if the school principal was your dad, or new step dad as the case may be?  Wouldn’t it be embarrassing to have everyone in school thing you had the inside scoop?  This is what Jonah has to deal with at the beginning of his 8th grade year.  His mom, a teacher at the elementary school married the middle school Principal Bob Decker.  Now everyone is coming up to Jonah asking for Bob favors.  Right after P.E. one day one of the guys stopped Jonah and asked him to get him in a better Spanish class with cuter babes.  Even Jonah’s best friend thinks that might not be a bad idea.  How is Jonah ever going to get up the nerve to ask Katherine Chang to go out with him when everyone keeps asking him for crazy Bob favors.  This really isn’t going to be a normal year at all.


My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult  Grades 10-12  Adult
423 p., New York: Atria Books, 2004.  0743454529.

 Most babies are conceived by accident.  Anna however was planned down to the last piece of her genetic makeup.  Anna’s parents wanted her very much and they were very specific about what they wanted in their baby.  Anna is a genetic match for her older sister Kate who has acute promyelocytic leukemia, APL for short.  Kate was diagnosed with APL at the age of 2.  APL is a very rare form of leukemia with only a 20% to 30% survival rate.  No one else in the family is a matched donor for Kate, not Jesse her older brother nor mom and dad.  That is when they decide to have Anna; Anna who lives in Kate’s shadow; Anna who has spent way too much time in the hospital even though she is very healthy herself; Anna who has given so much for her sister from cord blood to blood platelets.  Now Kate is dying again, not from the leukemia this time, but from other parts of her body giving out.  She needs a kidney and she needs it soon.  That is when Anna draws the line and makes up her mind to hire a lawyer to sue her parents for medical emancipation.  Even if she is just 13 she wants to be able to make these decisions for herself.  Anna may want the freedom to make her own choices, but will she be able to live with the consequences if she chooses not to help her sister?


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The Naming by Alison Croggon  Grades 8-10
492 p., Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press, 2002.  9780763631628

Though she is a slave, Maerad has always been special.  Different.  Her special abilities have earned her a little respect, but she still longs to be free.  When a bard named Cadvan offers her a way out, she quickly accepts and is flung into a world of schools and kings, light and darkness, power and danger.  As she undertakes the journey before her, Maerad begins to discover that her past may be more important than she thought, and her destiny may be more incredible than she ever dreamed.  This epic fantasy takes you to a world rich with amazing creatures, poetic legends, and brave people.  First in a series of four.


New Policeman by Kate Thompson  Grades 7-10
442 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005.  9780061174292

J.J.’s a musician, just like everyone on his mother’s side of the family.  But there are other family legacies he’d sooner forget about – like the rumors about his grandfather, the  wooden flute, and the missing (and presumed dead) priest.  People don’t have much time to worry about that though.  There never seems to be enough time, everyone running, running, running and still arriving late.  When his mother asks for more time for her birthday, J.J. finds himself in Tir na n’Og, the land where music comes from and where time stands still.  But there is a time leak somewhere, and it’s up to J.J. to sort things out – for Tir na n’Og, for his family, and for the mysterious new Policeman.  Each chapter includes sheet music for traditional Irish tunes.


The Night I Disappeared by Julie Reece Deaver  Grades 8-9
242 p., New York: Pocket Pulse, 2002.  0743439791.

 “Do you ever think about the night we met?  Do you even remember it?”  “You were nine years old,” he says.  “And one night, while I was taking a shortcut through the woods, I noticed you alone in the park.  You were scared and crying because your baseball game had been over for hours and there was some mix-up with your ride home.  No one had come to pick you up.  I told you not to worry, I’d look after you, I just didn’t know it would end up being my life’s work.”  Jamie has never been separated from Webb since she met him that night when she was nine years old.  Now this summer she is leaving California to move to Chicago for the summer while her mom is working on a very high profile murder trial there.  Jamie doesn’t want to go and she especially doesn’t want to leave Webb, but he is spending the summer backpacking in Europe, so he won’t be around anyway.  When Jamie gets to Chicago strange things start happening.  Without any warning she will be back in California with Webb.  It is so real and she has no control over when, where, and how long these episodes will last.  She has one while riding her bike downtown which lands her in the emergency room.  There she meets Morgan who will become her lifeline.  Will Jamie be able to find help before she disappears completely into her inner world?


The Night My Sister Went Missing  by Carol Plum-Ucci  Grades 8-11
202 p. Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2006.  9780152047580

I’ve been noticing for the past few months – life here on Mystic Island is boring, too predictable even for the plot of one of my dad’s second-rate novels.  So my friends and I were doing a little of the usual partying down by the pier, trying to find something, anything to break the routine.   And something unusual did happen – someone brought a gun, it went off, and the next thing I know my sister has disappeared, gone off the side of the pier without even a splash.  The hours that followed were anything but normal.  As the police tried to figure out what happened to Casey, I started to figure out that life here on Mystic isn’t what I thought it was, and a lot of people have been keeping secrets – some pretty dark, ugly secrets.  Even I could never have predicted everything I would uncover, everything that would happen and how my life would change The Night My Sister Went Missing.


No Place Like Home by Mary Higgins Clark  Grades 10-12  Adult
368 p., New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005.  0743264894.

 What would be the best birthday present you could imagine?  For her 34th birthday Celia Nolan’s husband buys her a house; a beautiful mansion on 10 acres in an upscale suburb of New York City.  Celia is shocked by this extravagant present, but not fore the reasons you might think.  Unbeknownst to her husband or anyone else Celia spent her first 10 years in that very house as Liza Barton.  She lived there until the night she shot her mother and wounded her stepfather.  Many in the community believed she was a cold blooded killer.  Celia was in such shock after the event that she never was able to give her side of the story.  Now she is back in the area with a different name and new identity.  How will she manage to live in the same house with all those horrible childhood memories.  Her husband has no idea about her past.  Dare Celia tell him now or will that knowledge drive him away?  Someone must know who Celia really is because pictures from her childhood keep appearing.  Why are they bringing it up after all these years and what will people do if they find out Celia is really that little killer Liza Barton?  There really is No Place Like Home.


No Talking by Andrew Clements  Grades 4-6
146 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2007.  978141690835.

 Who talks more in your grade, the boys or the girls?  What would happen if you had a contest to find out?  That is what Dave and Lynsey do.  They challenge the entire 5th grade to go two whole days without talking to anyone except for teachers when you are asked a direct question.  And even then you can’t say more than three words at a time without getting penalized. Don’t think for a minute that the boys and the girls aren’t keeping score.  This is a contest and everyone is determined to win.  But, how will you communicate with your friends, family, teammates and all grownups?  It is quite a challenge when there is No Talking allowed!


A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly  Grades 10-12
396 p., New York: Harcourt Childrens Books, 2004. 0152053107.

 Mattie Gokey is spending her summer working in the kitchen of the Glenmore Hotel on Big Moose Lake.  That is where she meets Grace Brown.  Mattie remembers waiting on her and a gentleman she referred to as Chester at dinner and hearing them argue about where to find a church.  Grace seems rather distraught, and Mattie imagines they are planning on getting married and are looking for the perfect church.  Then Mattie runs into Grace sitting forlornly on the porch and offers to get Grace a lemonade.  Grace tells Mattie that she doesn’t have enough money to pay for it but Mattie gets her the drink anyway.  When Mattie brings the lemonade, Grace presses a bunch of letters into her hands and tells Mattie to burn them, that no one must read these letters.  Mattie thinks it is a strange request, but she has had stranger requests from other hotel guests.  However, things keep her busy and she doesn’t get a chance to burn the letters that day.  The same evening Grace and her gentleman companion don’t return form their boat trip and the men go out looking for them.  Grace’s body is recovered, but they can find no trace of man who has registered himself at the hotel under the name of Carl Grahm.  If he is Carl  Gramh, why did Grace call him Chester and why are all Grace’s letters addressed to a Chester Gillette?  Mattie knows it is awful to break promises to the dead, that they will come back to haunt you.  But, what if the letters hold the key to Grace’s drowning?  Will Mattie have the courage to read the letters, or hand them over to the proper authorities?  To find out read A Northern Light.


Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick  Grades 8-9
265 p., New York: Scholastic Press, 2006.  0439757797.

 It always sounds like a great plan at the time, and then you do it, and things just don’t turn out the way you thought they would.  That is what happenes the night Alex was home alone drinking his dad’s old vodka.  He decides to grab his mom’s spare car keys, jump into the car and rush over and confront his dad with that no good home wrecker who used to be his third grade teacher.  Well, that’s the plan.  Things do not turn out the way Alex had envisioned.  Instead he drives the car onto the neighbor’s lawn, runs over and decapitates their lawn gnome and manages to puke on the shoes of the responding police officer.  All of this gets Alex a court date and lots of community service.  Now he has to report to the Egbert P. Johnson Memorial Home for the Aged to start his sentence with a Mr. Solomon Lewis.  Alex has no idea what he is in for now.  Could his mom have picked anyone worse for Alex to have to work with?  To find out what happens you’ll have to read Notes from the Midnight Driver.


Nothing But the Truth by Avi  Grade 7
177 p., New York: Orchard Books, 1991.  0531059596.
Scholastic Reading Counts!  Lexile: ?  Points: 10
Iowa Teen Award Nomination 1994-1995

 Fact:  Ninth grader Philip Malloy hums along with the daily tape of “The Star Spangled Banner” when it is played in Homeroom.

 Fact:  Margaret Narwin teacher of English sends Philip to the vice principal’s office for breaking a faculty rule that requires students at Harrison High School to stand at “respectful, silent attention” during playing of the national anthem.

 So, what is the big deal?  Philip is suspended by the vice principal for his disruptive behavior and blatant disregard for the rules, also for refusing to apologize to Miss. Narwin for interrupting her class.  When Philips’ neighbor who is running for school board hears about it, he understands this as something very unpatriotic on the part of the school for suspending Philip.  After all, what is wrong with singing along with the national anthem?  All of a sudden the national news picks up the story about the ninth grader who was suspended for patriotically singing along with the national anthem.  This story is now in all the papers and on radio stations across the country.  Things are out of control.  What is the real story and who is telling the truth?  To find out read Nothing But the Truth by Avi.


Nothing to Lose by Alex Flinn  Grades 8-9
277 p., New York:  HarperTempest, 2004.  0060517506.

 Michael hates watching helplessly as his mother is abused over and over.  Michael hates Walker for what he does to Michael’s mom.  But, in a way, Michael hates his mom more for staying with Walker and making excuses for him.  “Walker is working on his temper.  We both have to help him, not do things that set him off.”  Or “We have to be more understanding of Walker.  He has a stressful job.”  Right, like anything will help.  Michael has tried to talk her into leaving Walker, but she won’t do it.  He just can’t sand by any longer and continue to watch it happen.  Tat is when he meets Kristie at the carnival.  She shows him a whole different side of life and tells him that she can get him a job with the carnival if he is serious about leaving.  Michael figures the life of a carney has to be better than his home-life.  He has nothing to lose, right?


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The Ocean Within by V. M. Caldwell  Grade 7
275 p., Minneapolis, MN: Milkweed Editions, 1999.  1571316248.

 Have any of you ever been to the ocean?  What is it like?  What does it smell and sound like?  Elizabeth has always wanted to see the ocean. That is her one dream.  So, she jumps at the chance to live with the Sheridan family because they spend every summer with their grandmother who lives by the ocean.  Elizabeth can’t wait for a chance to see the ocean every day.  However, she hadn’t counted on having to deal with the whole Sheridan family. They are all talkative and inquisitive and worst of all, they just won’t take no for an answer.  All the other foster families have been easy to deal with, but the Sheridans keep trying to get under Elizabeth’s protective armor.  They drive her nuts with their silly games, especially the one they play every night at the dinner table called “Bests.”  In this game everyone goes around the table and each person shares their best experience of the day.  Just when Elizabeth thinks she can handle everyone she has to deal with Grandma whom she secretly calls Iron Woman.  How is Elizabeth going to survive what should have been a perfect summer at the ocean? 


The Old Willis Place by Mary Downing Hahn  Grades 6-7
199 p., New York: Clarion Books, 2004.  0618430180.

 Diana and her younger brother Georgie have been living in the woods on the old Willis place for a very long time.  That is why Diana is excited to see that when the new caretaker moves in he has a daughter about Diana’s age.  Maybe she and Diana can be friends.  But, then Georgie reminds Diana of the rules.  They cannot let anyone see them and they cannot leave the Willis property.  Lissa who has just moved to the Willis place with her dad is sure she is being watched.  Then someone steals her favorite book and her teddy bear too.  Then her brand new bike disappears.  Her dad keeps telling her not to be so forgetful, but Lissa knows she didn’t lose anything.  Someone stole it and she is going to get to the bottom of things.  When the police come after Lissa reports her bike stolen, one of the officers mentions that the property is supposed to be haunted.  After all, Miss Lillian who owned it was crazy and strange things have happened there.  That really spooks Lissa, but she is still determined to find out what is going on and where all of her possessions have disappeared to!


One of Those Hideous Books Where the Mother Dies by Sonya Sones  Grades 8-9
268 p., New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004.  0689858205.

 Read poem on page 7.  “I love to read/ But my life better not turn out/ to be like one of those hideous books/ where the mother dies/ and so the girl has to/ go live with her absentee father/ and he turns out to be/ an alcoholic heroin addict/ who brutally beats her/ and sexually molests her/ thereby causing her to become/ a bulimic ax murderer.  I love to read,/ but I can’t stand books like that.  And I flat out refuse/ to have one of those lives/ that I wouldn’t even want/ to read about.  That is Ruby’s fear as she is on the plane bound for Los Angeles where she is going to live with her father whom she has never met.  He divorced her mother before Ruby was even born.  Now that her mother is dead Ruby must go live with him.  Whip Logan, the famous movie star. What a cheese puff horrible name for a dad.  She is leaving behind her aunt Duffy, her best friend Lizzy and her boyfriend Ray.  What is Ruby going to do in California with a dad who reminds her of an overeager puppy while everyone that she loves is 3,000 miles away.


Only You Can Save Mankind by Terry Pratchett  Grades 6-8
207 p., New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1992.  9780060541859

Read p.12 from “so there was this book” through p.14 “games are a lot better now.”

So what would you do?  Find out what Johnny chooses and what happens next in the game that just might be more than a game.  Only you can save mankind, but who will save the ScreeWees?  First in a series of three.


The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E.L. Konigsburg  Grades 7-8
296 p., New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2004.  0689866364. 

Margaret’s parents are going to spend the summer in Peru on a dig.  For the first time that she can remember they aren’t letting her go with them.  Well, that shouldn’t be any problem because she can stay with her two great uncles.  They dote on her and she even has her own room at their house.  They would love to have her for the summer.  When Margaret tells Uncle Alex that she wants to spend the summer with them he gently suggests she might enjoy summer camp this year.  Hurt Margaret researches a bunch of different camps and finally settles on camp Talequa.  Well, Margaret hates camp, so every time anyone asks her to do something her standard reply is, “I prefer not to.”  This attitude causes a call from the camp administrator to Margaret’s uncles.  So, Uncle Alex arrives to take Margaret home.  It is after she gets to their house, and reads a postcard from her mother to the uncles, that Margaret finds out the reason that they didn’t want her around for the summer.  Now that Margaret knows what is happening, what will she do about it?


Overdrive by Eric Walters  Grades 8-9
102 p., Custer, WA:  Orca Soundings, 2004.  1551433184.

 When you get your license what kind of car do you dream of driving?  Jake is the first person in his 9th grade class to get his driver’s license.  This is because he is the oldest person in the 9th grade thanks to failing most of his classes last year and having to take 9th grade again.  When Jake gets his license his older brother lets him borrow his car.  Jake has been helping his brother fix up the car and it has a really sweet engine and modifications so it will be lots of fun to drive.  Jake takes his best friend Mickey out for his first spin.  They have a good time cruising until this black BMW pulls up next to them at the stoplight.  In the car is Luke who has been a real jerk to Jake especially since Jake flunked last year.  Well, Luke starts making fun of Jake and the car so Jake challenges him to a race.  Jake’s car beats the BMW through the intersection hands down, but Luke doesn’t slow down he keeps on going and plows into another car making a turn at the next intersection.  Jake feels that they should go back and helps, but Mickey urges him to leave.  After all they were racing and if the police find out they’ll be in big trouble too.  What if someone finds out?  What if someone was badly hurt or even killed?  In a way Jake feels partially responsible.  What should he do?


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