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.
P.S. Longer Letter Later
by Paula Danziger & Ann M. Martin Grades 6-7
Have you ever had your best friend move away? Stinks, doesn’t it? Well, that’s what happens to Elizabeth and Tarra*Starr at the beginning of their seventh grade year. Instead of giving up on their friendship, they write letters back and forth to let each other know what is going on. They tell each other what they wear to school on the first day and Elizabeth fills Tarra*Starr in on all the traditional things she has missed, like Karen Frank, Barf Queen of the water fountain doing it again this year on the first day of school. Strange things start going on at Elizabeth’s house. Her dad starts saying at work till one in the morning and drinking more. Elizabeth doesn’t know what is going on and she is afraid to talk to her parents about it. She writes all her fears to Tarra*Starr, but what she wouldn’t give to have her best friend right there to talk to. How are Elizabeth and Tarra*Starr going to keep their friendship going with so many miles separating them and how will they figure out what is going on with Elizabeth’s dad? Can they save Elizabeth’s family?
Parent Swap by Terence Blacker Grades 6-8 233 p., New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2005. 9780374357528
“Want to get a new life? Looking for a new home? Tired of your parents? Then it’s time you tried… ParentSwap™.” (From Parent Swap, p. 14)
When Danny Bell finds that ad in his bookbag, he doesn’t know what to think. He’s pretty skeptical at first, but looking around, how can it be worse than his absent mother, his all-too present father, a former rock star turned slob who hasn’t left the house in years, and his sister who only has time for her latest boyfriend. Danny decides to give it a try, but the further he goes into the program the more suspicious he becomes. Why can’t his friends get the ParentSwap™ office on the phone? And what’s with all the surveillance cameras? Something’s not quite right, and it’s up to him to figure out what’s going on, what being a family really means, and how he can turn the tables on ParentSwap™.
Payback Time by Carl Deuker Grades 8-11
I’ve been known as “Mitch” for years now… short for the Michelin Man. So I weigh a little more than most other people – it hasn’t really bothered me until this year. I had high hopes for this year: I’d be the editor of the school paper, on my way to being an ace reporter in New York. But nothing this year turned out like I’d planned. I lost the editorship, and now I’m the sports reporter. My camera girl is pretty, and maybe worth the extra effort to get in shape. At our first football practice, I notice an amazing player – Angel Marichal – but the coach says he’s nothing special and barely lets him play. I try to find out more about him, but keep running into brick walls. What’s going on with the Lincoln High football team? This story could be the biggest scoop of my career… if I can stay out of trouble long enough to print it…
Peak by Roland Smith Grades 6-8 246 p., Orlando, FL: Harcourt, 2007. 9780152024178
Living in New York City isn’t easy for Peak Marcello. Both his parents were world-famous rock climbers, and he can’t get enough of the sport. When his love for climbing gets him in trouble with the law, it’s Peak’s dad who comes from the back of beyond to help him out and give him the opportunity of a lifetime: Everest, and a chance to make history if he makes it to the top. That definitely beats doing time in juvie. However, reaching the summit of Everest is not just fun and games. Climbing this mountain will force Peak to make gut-wrenching decisions about what is really important in life.
The Perfect Shot by
Elaine Marie Alphin Grades 8-10
Brian knows it’s all his fault. If only he’d let Amanda and Cory come over that afternoon to join their game of pickup basketball, then they would both still be alive. Instead, Amanda, Cory and their mom were shot and killed in their garage. Now their dad, a police officer is on trial for the murder of his family. The only way Brian can move on is to lose himself in basketball. When he is playing he can focus on the ball and forget everything else. Their team is really good this year and probably championship bound if they can hold it all together. Then Mr. Fortner the history teacher assigns a really tough project which means Brian has to divide his time between basketball and school work if he wants to stay eligible to be on the team. This project brings up lots of questions about what happened to Amanda. Brian knows there is something very important about that day that he isn’t recalling correctly. He knows something that could change the outcome of the trial. What is it and will Brian have the courage to step out of his protective shell to make the perfect play to win the game?
Peter and the Starcatchers
by Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson Grades 7-9
Have you ever wondered how Peter Pan got his magical powers? How can he fly and here did he and Tinkerbell come from? How did all that bad blood between him and Captain Hook Start? Well, it all started at St. Norberts Orphanage in England. Five of the orphans are being sent on a ship across the ocean to work as servants for a king. Peter is one of these boys. As he is familiarizing himself with the rickety old ship he’ll be sailing on he sees a very strange sight. Two sailors are bringing an old trunk covered in a tarp on board the ship. This seems like a lot of extra work for one thing and the expression of the face of one of the sailors is very odd. He looks blissfully happy. What would do that to him? What is so special about this particular trunk? Peter doesn’t get his questions answered right away because he has a more immediate problem. The food on the ship is horrible and so he has to find something else for the five of them to eat before they all starve. While he is out searching he finds a room with a guard posted in front of the door. Luckily for Peter the guard is asleep. Peter figures if they go to all the effort to guard the door, there must be food inside somewhere so he sneaks in. When his eyes adjust to the gloom he sees the trunk again. He also runs into the guard although they are both dumbstruck when they see a rat floating through the air in front of them. There is something very strange about that trunk and its contents. Peter will have to fight a lot of people to find out what’s really going on and what is inside that trunk!
Read p. 130 “D’you think it’ll hurt me reputation” through p. 132 “We’ve got work to do.”
Pirates, treasure, adventure on the high seas, and – pixie dust? It can only be the unstoppable Peter Pan. Find out what happened before Wendy came to Neverland, how Tinkerbell was born, and how Peter became “the boy who never grew up.” First in a series of four.
Petey by Ben Mikaelsen
Have you ever wondered what it would have been like if you had been born with a disability? Imagine that your arms were pulled into your sides and you really couldn’t use them at all. Your legs are pulled up at the knees and there is no way you could walk. If that isn’t hard enough, your tongue is very large and you can’t really speak. You can imitate sounds others make, but conversation is virtually impossible. Once you imagine all that you have the beginning of an idea of what life is like for Petey. Only Petey doesn’t have the benefit of mainstreaming or new technology. Petey was born in 1922 in Bozeman, Montana. Back then people didn’t know what Petey had. Today we would know he has cerebral palsy. But, back in 1922, he was considered to be a freak who was an idiot because he couldn’t speak and as far as doctors were concerned he had no mental ability at all. Petey is put in a state insane asylum at the age of two because no one knows what to do with him. Eventually Petey does make a few friends at the insane asylum and is able to communicate a few thoughts. Doctors still believe he has no ability and that he is just being conditioned to respond a certain way. How will Petey and his friends ever be able to convince the doctors otherwise? Will Petey ever got to lead a normal life? To find out what happens read Petey by Ben Mikaelsen.
Pictures, 1918 by
Jeanette Ingold Grades 8-9
If you want to be something no matter what it is you can do that, right? No one says you can’t do that because you are a girl or because you don’t have enough money or whatever the case may be. Things used to be different. In 1918 there were certain things girls could and could not do. Asia is about to break the accepted norms for her small Texas town. When Asia sees the Kodak Autographic camera for $55.00 in the window of the pharmacy she knows somehow she has to get that camera. Asia wants to take pictures, to capture memories on film so she will be able to view them that way forever and they won’t ever change. When Asia tells her parents about the camera they think she is crazy. What does a 15 year old girl need an expensive camera like that for anyway? How is Asia going to get the money to buy the camera? $55.00 is a lot of money in 1918. If only Asia could get the camera she would have pictures of her rabbit Straw Bit before he was killed in the fire. She would also have a picture of the shadowy figure she saw slinking away right after the fire was started. She might also have pictures of Boy Blackwell who is acting so strange and of his cousin Nick Grissom whom she thinks might like her as more than just a friend. Will Asia find a way to purchase the camera, and if she gets it will she be able to take pictures that will help her see the world around her more clearly? To find out read Pictures, 1918.
Pirates! : the true and
remarkable adventures of Minerva Sharpe and Nancy Kington, female
pirates by Celia Rees Grades 8-9
The year is 1724. Nancy Kington’s father owns a major shipping company out of Bristol, England with a large sugar plantation in Jamaica. When a horrible storm comes up and destroys most of he father’s shipping empire Nancy promises him she will do whatever he asks to help the family. Little does she know what she is getting herself into. The next thing Nancy knows she is on a ship bound for their plantation Fountain Head in Jamaica. Nancy is leaving the world she knows and the boy she loves far behind. She only hopes her letter to William will make it so that he knows what has happened to her. When Nancy arrives in Jamaica she is taken straight to Fountain Head. Jamaica is a very different world than England. It is very beautiful but cruel. Nancy is left alone on the plantation with no one to talk to except the house slaves Phyllis and Minerva. Nancy tries to make friends with them but they are very wary of her. Then on the eve of Nancy’s 16th birthday she finds out what her family has in store for her. Fountain Head is her plantation and her father has promised her in marriage to the Brazilian who owns the neighboring plantation. He is very wealthy, but old and cruel. Nancy knows she can never marry him, she loves William. How will she escape from this life she is being forced into? That is when Nancy and Minerva devise the most daring plan of all. To find out what happens read Pirates!
Playing the Field by
Janette Rallison Grade 7
McKay is in deep trouble. He is flunking algebra. All those x’s and y’s don’t make any sense. His parents have told him that if he doesn’t get his grades up he will have to quit the baseball team. Now McKay lives for baseball and he is one of the best hitters on the team. This year they are championship bound, so not being on the team is not an option. This means that somehow McKay will have to brush up on his algebra. His friend Tony suggests McKay get Sabrina, one of the prettiest, smartest girls in class, to tutor him. The only problem is that McKay has never spoken to Sabrina. What do you say to a girl to get her to tutor you in algebra anyway? Tony suggests McKay strike up a conversation with Sabrina and work on her sympathy. McKay hasn’t had a meaningful conversation with a girl since kindergarten so that may be quite a challenge. Will algebra ever make sense, but most importantly will girls ever make sense?
Point Blank by
Anthony Hororwitz Grades 8-9
Alex Rider MI6 (British Intelligence’s) youngest agent is back on the case. Two wealthy important men have been killed recently. One was a New York businessman dealing in electronics and the other was head of the Russian foreign intelligence services. On the surface both deaths seem totally unrelated, however, British Intelligence is sure they are linked together and they are going to send Alex to find out. So far the only link is that both men have teenage sons at a very exclusive school in France called Point Blanc. The only way boys can get into this school is to come from very wealthy influential families and the boys must all be juvenile delinquents. So, Alex’s assignment is to infiltrate Point Blanc posing as the son of a wealthy supermarket giant. He is to try to fit into the group at the school as a surly, uncooperative and antisocial teen as well as try to get to know some of the other boys there. Alex will be on his own at the castle on a mountain in France with no back up and no help. Will he figure out what is going on at this creepy private school before they get to him too?
Pool Boy by Michael
Simmons Grades 8-9
Brett hates his dad and there is no way he’s ever going to forgive him for what he did to their family. The day the copes showed up and arrested him by tackling dad right in their kitchen after he tried to run away was probably the worst day of Brett’s life. It seems Brett’s dad has been doing some insider trading and he got caught. Now he owes the U.S. government 10 million dollars. That means Brett’s life as he knows it is over. They have to sell the big house with the pool and the three cars. Brett even has to give up his $5,000 stereo system. But, what is worse is that they have to move to the wrong side of the tracks and go live with crazy Aunt Mary and both Brett and his mom have to get jobs. Working at Fast Burger is no picnic. Those people have no idea how to treat a guy decently. The only saving grace is that none of his friends would eat at a dive like Fast Burger so he is spared the humiliation of having to wait on them. Well, Fast Burger gets worse and worse till finally Brett can’t stand it any longer. He rips off his apron, pulls off the dorky hat and tells his boss he’s outta here. Luckily for hem his old bus drier and pool man Alfie has offered him a job cleaning pools. How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you, it is no fun cleaning your old pool and those of your friend’s families. How will Brett ever land his true love Nicole? What does he have to offer her? He’s just a nobody Pool Boy!
The Presence: a Ghost
Story by Eve Bunting Grades 8-9
Catherine has been sent to California to spend Christmas with her Grandmother, since her parents will be in Europe. Everyone is a little worried about Catherine. She has seemed so fragile since the car crash where her best friend Kirsty was killed and somehow she survived. So when she is at the church with her Grandmother and someone whispers her name Catherine is very frightened. Who is there and who is calling her name. Then there is an extra poinsettia plant that has a blank card on it, well the card looks blank to everyone else, but Catherine can plainly see what is written on it. It says, “To Catherine from Noah.” Who is this Noah, and why can no one else see the writing on the card? Then Sunday morning Catherine gets to meet Noah at the church. He is so very handsome and polite, yet everyone else just ignores him like he isn’t there at all. How rude! Noah tells Catherine he can help her talk to Kirsty. He tells Catherine to come back in the afternoon and meet him in the church lobby and he will help her to contact Kirsty. There is something strange about Noah and the way everyone else ignores him and acts like he isn’t really there. Should Catherine trust him to help her contact Kirsty? Catherine needs to find out if Kirsty is angry with her. She wants to be absolved from her guilt over the car crash. How can she not trust Noah?
Princess Diaries by
Meg Cabot Grades 7-8
How would you feel if you woke up one morning out find out you really are royalty? Mia is angry with her parents for keeping this secret from her for 14 years. It’s not as if she doesn’t already have lots of things to worry about. Not only is Mia flunking algebra, but now her Mom is dating her algebra teacher too. Maybe it would be okay if she wasn’t flunking, but… Mia doesn’t want anyone to know she is a princess, heir to the throne of Genovia. It is going to take her awhile to adjust to this new role. All she really wants to be is a normal teenager living in New York City attending private school. How is she going to keep this secret from her classmates, especially her best friend Lilly, when her father who has come back from Genovia just to inform her she is royalty, insists she take a chauffeured limo to school every morning? Yeah right, no one will notice that! And by the way, Mia is the only person she knows who still doesn’t have a date to the cultural diversity dance. Life is so unfair!
Quaking by Kathryn Erskine Grades 7-10
My face, my hair, my make-up, my clothes all say leave me alone. I’ve been shuffled around all my life. It’s a good thing I’ve got a lot of relatives, because I’ve been through most of them. Too bad they’re all crazy. This new family isn’t going to be any better, I mean, they’re Quakers. I thought Quakers were extinct or something, but apparently not. Great. A new little brother who’s got major problems, a new school filled with the same bullies I’ve met everywhere else, a teacher who’s just as bad as the bullies, and no one on my side but Sam and Jessica – and they’re Quakers, so they’re big on non-violence. Somehow, I’ll have to find a way through all the fear that leaves me quaking, and then maybe I can find a little of Sam and Jessica’s peace.
The Raging Quiet by
Sherryl Jordan Grades 7-8
Marnie has no friends except the local priest Father Brannan and the wild boy the town folk call Raver. Marnie moved to the remote fishing village of Torcurra with her new husband. Two days after her marriage Marnie’s husband falls through the roof of thier cottage while trying to fix it. He is killed instantly. The villagers’ believe Marnie is a witch and that her husband died because she put a curse on him. The only thing that is saving Marnie from being burned as a witch is the fact that Father Brannan, who has taken her under his wing, won’t let them. The villagers get more suspicious as Marnie’s friendship with the crazy boy Raver grows. Marnie finds out that he isn’t crazy, he’s just deaf, so he can’t speak or understand what anyone is saying. She renames him Raven and together they create a language full of hand words. This really scares the villagers. They believe the local witch has possessed the crazy boy and makes him do her biding with magical hand gestures. While Father Brannan is away visiting another village the townspeople decide it is time to make their move and get rid of that witch once and for all. What will Marnie do? Will she be able to save herself from people who just don’t want to understand?
Range of Motion by
Elizabeth Berg Grades 10-12 Adult
“I can tell you how it happened. It’s easy to say how it happened. He walked past a building, and a huge chunk of ice fell off the roof, and it hit him in the head. This is Chaplinesque, right? This is kind of funny. People start to laugh when I tell them. I see the start of their hand to their mouth, their poor disguise. I laughed when I heard. I thought after the doctor told me what happened that Jay would get on the phone and say, ‘Jeez, Lainey, come and get me. I’ve got a goose egg the size of the world. Come take me home.’ Only what happened wasn’t like Chaplin: Jay didn’t land on his butt with his legs sticking out at chopstick angles, twitch his mustache, get back up and walk away. He landed on his side, and stayed there.” Lainey’s husband Jay is now in a coma thanks to that chunk of ice. Lainey has two young daughters to cope with as well as doctors that tell her, her husband won’t get better. They basically tell her to fact the facts. However, Lainey isn’t willing to give up on Jay. She needs him and she will do whatever it takes to help him regain consciousness. But, what can she do?
Raven’s Gate by
Anthony Horowitz Grades 8-9
Matt is in big trouble. He and a friend are sneaking into a warehouse to steal DVDs when they are caught by the security guard. Before Matt can do anything his friend plunges his knife into the guard and tries to run away. They are quickly apprehended by the police and Matt is put in a detention center awaiting a court decision. In a meeting with the police, a judge and his social worker, Matt finds out he is being sent into an experimental new program called the L.E.A.F. project where he will be sent home with a family to live and work with them for several years. Matt’s new guardian is named Mrs. Deverill and she seems strict and mean. She lives on a dumpy farm near the village of Lesser Malling in the middle of nowhere. Matt hates it there, but what can he do? The people in Lesser Malling are strange and there is no help for him there. One night he wakes up and hears chanting and sees a glow coming from the woods near the farm. What is really going on here and what do these people want with him? To find out, you’ll have to brave the Raven’s Gate.
The Recruit by Robert
James is having a very bad day. First he gets in a fight with a girl in his chemistry class, because she keeps making fun of his mom. He finally loses his temper and pushes her against the wall where there is a nail that cuts her cheek. He is so shocked by all the blood that he runs out of the school and heads home where his mom and step-dad are getting drunk in the living room. At least his mom is too far gone to care why he is home early from school. Since she is obviously in no shape to go pick up his little sister Lauren from school, James heads out to get her. On their way back home he is pounced on by the bully of an older brother of the girl he hurt at school earlier that day. It is an ugly fight and by the time it is all over James is really hurting bad. As if things aren’t bad enough, later in the evening as James is heading to the bathroom he hears the T.V. still on in the living room and goes in to check on his mom. There is something not right, she feels cold to the touch and James knows she is dead. That is how James ends up at a foster home called Nebraska House. Little does he know that while he is there, he is being evaluated to see if he will make a good agent for British Intelligence’s CHERUB unit. To find out what CHERUB is and whether James has what it takes to become an agent, you’ll have to read Mission One: The Recruit.
Red Kayak by Priscilla
Cummings Grades 8-9
Have you ever had a day where you wished you could go back and just start over? If you’d know how that day would change your life, you’d do it all differently. Well, Brady still remembers that day so clearly. He and his best friends J.T and Digger were waiting for his cousin Carl to stop by and give them a ride to school. As they were waiting out by the road they saw their new neighbor Mr. DiAngelo head by down the river in his red kayak. It was a cold April morning with a storm brewing. Brady wanted to call out a warning to Mr. DiAngelo, but Digger and J.T. told him to let it be. Maybe Mr. DiAngelo could use a cold swim. Later that morning, Brady’s dad shows up at school to pull him out to help search along the river. Although, not for Mr. DiAngelo like Brady had thought, but for his wife and their three year old son Ben. Mrs. DiAngelo is quickly rescued, but it takes a lot longer to locate Ben. Brady’s dog Tilly helps him locate the little boy. However, they may be too late to save little Ben. What happened to make them have such a terrible accident and how can you live with yourself knowing you might have prevented this tragedy? To find out what happens, you’ll have to read the Red Kayak.
Read p. 3-5.
It comes down to a choice – do you say something, or not? And if you don’t, and something horrible happens, what do you say then? Do you speak up? Who will it help, who will it hurt? Find out what Brady chooses to say when he finds out about the Red Kayak.
Rules of Survival by
Nancy Werlin Grades 8-10
Everything changed the day they met Murdoch McIvans. Only Matt didn’t know his name at the time. It was only later that they found out who he was. Matt and Callie had gone down to the store on the corner for a moment of blessed air conditioning when the witnessed Murdoch stand up for a little boy whose big father was about to beat him right there in the store. After watching Murdoch step in and rescue the boy Matt knows he has to meet this man. Murdoch could help protect them from Nikki, their mother. She is crazy and unpredictable and most frightening, she is dangerous. They never know what her moods will e like and the moods change so quickly. Well, it is no place to raise their little sister Emmy. But, how can they get out of this situation? No one will believe what their mother is really like. She puts on a good show for others. Murdoch is the key to escape but how will Matt be able to find him? To find out what happens to Matt, Callie and Emmy, you’ll have to read Rules of Survival.
Rules of the Road by
Joan Bauer Grades 8-9
Jenna Boller has had her driver’s license six months and she knows it is her ticket to freedom. Jenna has a great job working at Gladstone’s Shoe Stores, and she is a born shoe saleswoman. Her goal is to save enough money to buy a red sports car. So, when her father comes stumbling drunk into Gladstones to see her, Jenna knows without a doubt she has lost her job. Even Mrs. Gladstone who owns the chain of Gladstone’s Shoe Stores was there to witness Jenna’s humiliation. Imagine Jenna’s surprise when Mrs. Gladstone tells her that she wants Jenna at her house at 7:00 am sharp the next morning to try out to be her driver for the summer. So begins a tenuous relationship with Mrs. Gladstone and her huge white Cadillac. Mrs. Gladstone’s slimy son Eldon is trying to take over the company, so she and Jenna set out on a cross-country trek to try and stop him. Follow Jenna as she learns the Rules of the Road.
Runaway by Wendelin
Van Draanen Grades 6-8
Holly is fed up with her life. She hates the way the kids at school treat her like dirt and how the teacher plays favorites. If only everyone didn’t know her background. She and her mother were homeless living on the streets until Holly’s mom died of a drug overdose. Now Holly is living in foster care with the Benders. They are a mean spiteful couple. When they think Holly is being bad they lock her in the laundry room to sleep, with a bucket to use for the bathroom. They also don’t feed her when they are mad, which is all the time. School is almost out for the summer and Holly can’t stand the thought of three months locked in the laundry room with no food. That is when she formulates her plan. She is going to run away and live like a gypsy. She wants to go to California where it is warm and live by the ocean and swim with the dolphins. However, it is pretty hard to travel under the radar as a twelve-year-old girl alone with only and backpack and no money. How will Holly survive on her own? Life as a runaway is very lonely and scary.
Alternative Booktalk: Runaway by Wendelin Van Draanen Grades 8-11 250 p., New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2006. 9780375835223
Read p.1-2, May 17th entry
Holly can’t take any more from her abusive foster family. She’s finally going to get away. But life on the road isn’t much easier. She’s hiding out from the cops and the overzealous social workers, scrounging for meals and rides, and defending herself from creeps and crazies. This journal becomes her lifeline as she searches for a place to call home.
Running Out of Time
by Margaret Peterson Haddix Grades 6-7
Jessie lives with her family in the frontier village of Clifton, Indiana in 1840. There is a diphtheria outbreak in her village and it seems like the serum just won’t arrive. After several deaths, Jessie’s mom takes her aside and tells her a very dangerous secret. It is not 1840, it is actually 1996 and Jessie and her family are living in a reconstructed village. Tourists come very day to watch them living in the past. What a shock this is for Jessie. Can you imagine people watching your every move all day long? Jessie’s mom tells her that there is a medicine on the outside that can save those who are deathly ill with diphtheria. Evidently the people who run Clifton Village don’t want to save the people who are sick and dying. Jessie’s mom then gives her her old clothes from when she first came to the village and shows Jessie how to sneak out without anyone seeing her. It is up to Jessie to find someone who can help the sick people in Clifton before they all run out of time.
Sammy Keyes and the Curse
of Moustache Mary by Wendelin Van Drannen Grades 6-7
Imagine a little old woman dressed all in black with a fuzzy black hat walking a big black pig with a big black satin bow attached to its collar. Now that would be a sight to see along the side of the road. This is how Sammy Keyes first meets Lucinda Huntly and her pig Penny. Lucinda tells Sammy and her friends about her great-grandmother Moustache Mary who came out west on a wagon train disguised as a man. Mary got in a feud with the Murdocks, another family on the wagon train and since they both settled in the same area the feud has continued on for generations. When Moustache Mary’s pioneer cabin burns to the ground, Lucinda is convinced the Murdocks are behind the horrible act of arson. Sammy and her friends aren’t so sure. Then Penny the pig goes missing. It is time for Sammy to get to the bottom of this mystery and there is definitely more doing on than what meets the eye.
Sammy Keyes and the Hotel
Thief by Wendelin Van Draanen Grades 6-7
Grams has told Sammy over and over that using the binoculars to stare at people is going to get her in trouble. Sammy just doesn’t believe her. So, when Sammy is watching out the window of the senior’s high-rise at the Heavenly Hotel across the street, she can’t believe what she sees through the binoculars. It is a man hurrying around on of the rooms and he is wearing black gloves. She sees him digging through a purse, take out a big wad of money and stuff it into his jacket. While Sammy is trying to get a better look at his face he looks up and sees her. Now, what should she have done? She should have ducked down and run. What Sammy did instead was wave at him. Now the guy really knows she saw him and he knows where she lives. Sammy decides she should tell the police what she has seen, only they don’t believe her. After all she is just a snot nosed kid. Now Sammy is worried that the Hotel Thief will find her and she has a niggling thought in the back of her mind that he looks really familiar and she should know who he is. Now let me tell you, that’s not a very comforting thought.
Sammy Keyes and the
Search for Snake Eyes by Wendelin Van Draanen Grades 6-7
Trouble just seems to find Sammy Keyes. While Sammy is at the arcade with her best friend Marissa, trouble just bumped into her, literally. Sammy was standing there watching Marissa play when a girl with a big red and white Sears bag backs into her. The girl doesn’t even say she’s sorry. In fact she just continues to back up. She is so scared she’s shaking and she keeps looking at the front door of the arcade and saying, “oh no, he’s going to kill me. He’s going to kill us.” Then she turns to Sammy and asks her to hide her. When Sammy suggests going to mall security the girl just gives her a sad smile and tells Sammy to keep the Sears bag safe for her and not to call the police. She says she will meet Sammy back at the mall at 7:00 pm. Then she sneaks out of the arcade before Sammy can stop her. Sammy then sees the guy who had the girl so worried. He has hatred for eyes and steel for a mouth and a snake with eyes like dice tattooed on his arm. He almost doesn’t look human he’s so mean. When he finally slinks out of the arcade, Sammy pulls herself together and checks in the bag. What she sees scares her almost as much as Snake Eyes. Can you guess what was in the bag? A baby. What is Sammy going to do with a baby? The girl told her not to talk to the police, but what will she do if the girl doesn’t show up at 7:00? How will Sammy be able to find her and most importantly, what is the deal with Snake Eyes?
Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta Grades 8-11 243 p., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2003. 9780375829826
Francesca’s life only seems to get harder by the day. She’s started a new school this year – St. Sebastian’s, which used to be an all boys school. The only girls there aren’t exactly what she’d choose for friends, if she had any others to choose from – and as for the boys, well, musical burping’s just not Francesca’s thing. She finds herself somehow attracted to senior Will Trombal, but the whole situation is extremely confusing. And then there’s her mom, whose normally strong personality is crushed under a depression so deep, she hasn’t gotten up from bed in weeks. How much more can Francesca take before she finds someone – anyone – to reach out and save her?
The Schernoff Discoveries
by Gary Paulsen Grades 6-7
One day Harold told me he had decided he needed to learn how to fish. “Fishing is a manly art,” he said and he felt he needed to be more manly. I protested, knowing Harold was not an outdoorsman. He got a sunburn walking across the yard on a cloudy day. Harold persisted, so the next morning we met at his house to begin our fishing lessons. Harold looked like something out of Field and Stream in hip waders, an old felt hat and one of those vests with lots of pockets. We then headed down to the stream to start fishing. I showed him how to bait the hook with worms and to cast the line just so. Then he reached into the bucket and pulled out a glob of worms, stuck them on the hook and started to cast. It looked great except he forgot to unlock the reel, so the whole mess came back and caught him square in the mouth. On the next try he remembered to unlock his reel and managed to catch me in the back of the head with the mess of worms, as it whipped back around. At that point I decided it was safer to hide behind a bush while Harold was learning to cast his line, and pray I survived the experience.
Gordon Korman Grades 7-8
Capricorn Anderson feels like he has just been transported to a strange new planet where nothing makes sense anymore. This new planet is the Claverage Middle School and he’s in way over his head. It all started when Cap’s grandmother Rain fell out of the plum tree and broke her hip. Until that time Cap has lived with Rain at Garland Farm, an old hippie commune. They are the only people who live there. Rain home schools Cap and there is no radio or television, so unless they go to town for supplies Cap doesn’t interact with other people. When Rain breaks her hip, she must stay in the hospital for rehab which means Cap is sent to foster care until she recovers enough to go home. Now Cap is enrolled in public school for the first time in his live and it is an eye opening experience. 1,100 students pushing, shoving, yelling and talking on cell phones. On the other hand, none of the kids at “C Average” Middle School have seen anything like Capricorn Anderson either. He has wild blond hair, tie died t-shirts, homemade woven sandals and a cluelessness that goes beyond anything anyone has ever seen. It’s open season on the new kid and Cap is in for the school experience of his life. No one has ever been Schooled like this!
Alternative Booktalk: Schooled by Gordon Korman Grades 6-8 208 p., New York: Hyperion Books for Children, 2007. 9780786856923
“The teacher gazed around at the spectators. ‘Any witnesses?’ Nobody said a word. ‘Come on, who saw what happened?’ ‘I did,’ I volunteered. ‘Well?’ ‘Buttwipe wanted to know what jerkface was looking at, and jerkface wanted to know what buttwipe was looking at.’ I turned earnest eyes on the bloody and dirt-smeared brawlers. ‘You were barely three inches apart. Couldn’t you see that you were both looking at each other?’ The teacher reddened. ‘Who do you think you are, Jerry Seinfeld?’ ‘You must have me confused with another student,’ I told him. ‘My name is Capricorn Anderson.’ (From Schooled, p.19)
Capricorn Anderson has spent his whole life at the Garland Farm Commune with his hippie grandmother, Rain. An accident on the farm lands Rain in the hospital and Cap in foster care, and for the first time, in public school. Those tie-dye shirts are a great big multi-colored target marking Cap as the school’s new chief nerd, and therefore candidate for eighth grade class president. But Cap Anderson is different from anyone who’s ever been to Claverage Middle school, and he may just change everyone’s mind about the class president’s job – and him. Everybody has a bit of learning to do in Gordon Korman’s Schooled.
The Schwa Was Here by
Neal Shusterman Grades 8-9
There is something very strange about Calvin Schwa. It is almost like he is so forgettable he is invisible. Antsy and his friends can’t decide about the Schwa. What is it that makes him so strange and practically invisible to everyone? That is when the guys come up with an idea to experiment on the Schwa to find out if he really is as invisible as he seems. They call it “The Schwa Effect.” Here’s what they decide to do. They put 9 people in a classroom with the Schwa and then ask 20 other students to walk in the room and count heads. 15 said there were only 9 people in the room, 4 counted 10 and one said there were 17. The guys think he counted the hamsters and guinea pig too. So according to their experiment 4 out of 5 people do not see the Schwa in your standard classroom. Antsy decides to capitalize on this phenomenon and market the Schwa to do things that you would need an invisible person to do, like listen in on the conversations in the teacher lounge. The Schwa also takes dares. It is one of those dares that will change the lives of Antsy and the Schwa. To find out about life after the dare you’ll have to read The Schwa Was Here.
Functionally invisible – it’s like people look right through me, and they can barely remember me when they’ve just finished talking to me. My friend Antsy (that’s Anthony Bonano) came up with the name for my condition. He’s also helping me research exactly what it all means and how we can turn it to our advantage. It’s cool to have a friend, even though sometimes I can tell he doesn’t see me either – the “Schwa effect” at work. But somebody has to remember me, or I might disappear for good, like my Mom did. Somebody has to. They call me the Schwa and I AM HERE!
Scorpia by Anthony
Horowitz Grades 7-8
“Go to Venice. Find Scorpia. And you will find your destiny…” These words spoken by Yassen Gregorovich as he lay dying continue to haunt Alex Rider. What did Yassen mean by this? Alex knows that his father was an assassin working for Scorpia one of the worlds largest and most deadly criminal organizations. Finally Alex knows that he won’t be able to rest until he finds out more about Scorpia for himself. So, when his friend Tom invites him to go to Italy to visit his older brother Alex jumps at the chance. Maybe now he can find out a little more about Scorpia and his father. Of course, how does one go about finding out about a very secretive criminal organization? Scorpia won’t be listed in any phone book nor will they have brochures available. In Venice a small silver scorpion on one of the boats in the canal catches Alex’s eye. He follows it to a beautiful villa and from a lady down the street finds out that there will be a huge costume party that evening. Alex sees his chance to get in and do some investigating. He comes disguised and manages to sneak into the party, but gets caught while going through the owner’s desk. Now he is locked in a room below the house with more questions than answers. To make matters worse the water is steadily rising. There seems to be no way out. Will Alex drown without finding the information he is seeking or will he manage to escape from this watery prison?
Scribbler of Dreams
by Mary E. Pearson Grades 8-9
Is there anything you hate with every fiber of your being? Kait Malone has been raised to hate the Crutchfields. It is a family fight that goes back generations and it is the way things have always been, hating the faceless Crutchfield monsters. Kait’s father has been sent to prison for involuntary manslaughter when he gets in an argument with a Crutchfield and the Crutchfield is killed. So, money is pretty tight around the Malone house. This means that Kait and her sister now have to go to public school, a Crutchfield school instead of the private school they have always attended. At this new school, they are registered under the last name of Hampton, their mom’s maiden name. So no one will know they are Malones. Things will be easier that way. Kait is a very quiet reserved person so going to a new school is very hard for her. She loves nothing more than writing in her journal so, at lunch Kait avoids the overcrowded cafeteria in favor of a shady courtyard. While she is sitting there writing she notices a guy sketching in a notebook. He has the most beautiful piercing blue eyes and she finds out his name is Bram. He is there everyday at lunch and Kait gets to know Bram better. He is the only thing that makes going to this new school bearable. Kait knows she is falling in love with Bram so imagine her shock when she finds out that he is a Crutchfield, one of the monsters she was raised to hate. What is she going to do now? Her family will never understand. Will Bram understand if he finds out she is a Malone, someone he has been raised to hate? How will she keep him from finding out the ugly truth?
Secret of the Mezuzah
by Mary Reeves Bell Grade 7
Who has ever been to a foreign country? Don’t you think it would be exciting to live outside of the United States? Well, Con thinks it is so boring living in Vienna, Austria. Nothing exciting ever happens there. When the local bakery owner tells Con that one in ten people living in Vienna is a spy, Con decides to take a closer look at everyone. He and his friends make a list of the people they know who might act like a spy. They then decide to watch these people and see what happens. Everything is going along smoothly until Con and his family takes a trip back to the village where they used to live. Con visits his old landlord Herr Donner and Donner gives Con a mezuzah. A mezuzah is a small Jewish parchment scroll inscribed with Bible verses tucked inside a case. Suddenly after Donner gives the mezuzah to Con he becomes very angry and tries to get it back. Con’s mom is just as determined to keep the mezuzah and they sneak out of town before Donner can force them to give it back. Does this mezuzah have any link to the spies Con is looking for? What is the power of this mezuzah and why does everyone want it?
Secrets of a Civil War
Submarine: Solving the Mysteries of the H.L. Hunley by Sally M.
Walker Grades 6-8
During the Civil War, the Union blockade of the southern port in Charleston was really hindering the South’s efforts. The Confederate navy needed a better way to deliver a torpedo to Union boats so they could get their ships and goods out of the harbor. Horace Hunley and James McClintock worked together to create a submarine that would meet these requirements. The first submarine was very small, just 4 feet tall by 40 feet long, with room for 7 crew members to sit and crank the crankshaft to make the submarine move. There was also space at the front for a captain to stand and steer the vessel. The Hunley, as it was known performed well on its test runs, but sank on both of its voyages. Then on its final voyage it managed to torpedo the Union ship the USS Housatonic killing 5 sailors, and that was the last anyone saw of the Hunley or its crew. Many people searched for the sub, but no one was able to locate its whereabouts. Then in May of 1995 after more than 130 years underwater, divers finally located the wreck. After lots of careful planning they brought it to the surface and into the laboratory. What will the wreck tell scientists? Will we ever know what really happened on that fateful voyage? To find out you’ll have to check out the Secrets of a Civil War Submarine.
Send One Angel Down
by Virginia Frances Schwartz Grades 7-8
To really understand what slavery was like, you have to hear the stories from the slaves themselves. During the 1930’s the Federal Writer’s Project interviewed many former slaves about their experiences and stories. Send One Angel Down is Abram’s story. Abram is born into slavery on Master Turner’s plantation in Alabama. There he grows up helping Granny tend the babies in the breeder’s cabin and trying to be invisible so the master doesn’t notice him. Having new babies means more money for the master. Either the babies grow up to pick cotton on the plantation or they are sold for money. Abram is so excited when his cousin Eliza is born. He knows she will be something special. It is his sacred duty to protect Eliza from the harsh lives the slaves endure. As Eliza grows up, all the slaves notice that Eliza is different. Her skin is lighter than everyone else’s and her eyes are blue. These differences are going to cause lots of trouble for Eliza as she grows older. Will Abram be strong enough to protect his cousin?
Serendipity Market by Penny Blubaugh Grades 8-10
Mama Inez has sent out her birds. The world is out of balance, and she needs stories to put things to rights again. So the birds call them to the Serendipity Market at the end of the world – young and old, human, beast and elf, princes and peasants – to tell their stories. Their tales are familiar, yet extraordinary, timeless and fresh. So slip into the tent, grab a pillow and a spot at a table, gather round and listen to the storytellers at the end of the world, in the Serendipity Market.
Meg Cabot Grades 8-11
Read p. 25-26 to “They always do.”
Moving to California should be a great change for Suze – she actually likes her new stepdad, and the new step-brothers could be worse. But she can’t seem to get away from her night job: acting as “mediator” between the dead and the living, helping ghosts to move on to whatever comes next. But this new ghost Jesse might not be so bad: he seems well adjusted, looks incredibly hot, and lives in her bedroom. What could possibly go wrong with that? Well, it turns out he’s not the only ghost around….. First in the six-book Mediator series.
Shakespeare Bats Cleanup
by Ron Koertge Grade 8
Meet 14-year-old Kevin Boland. All he thinks about is baseball and girls, until he is diagnosed with mono. Now he is forced to spend several months at home recovering. That means no baseball and no girls. What is he going to do? His father, who is a writer, gives Kevin a journal which he isn’t all that thrilled with. Then he starts to experiment with this journal and even borrows a book on poetry from his dad’s collection. He starts to use different types of poetry such as haiku, sonnet and pastoral to express his feelings on getting sick, losing his mom, baseball and you guessed it, girls! How much longer will it be before he’s back on the ball field? Hopefully none of the other guys on the team will find out about this journal!
The Shakespeare Stealer
by Gary Blackwood Grade 7
Widge is a prentice which is little more than a slave in England during the 1500’s. A prentice is still not a bad position for an orphan boy. He works for a doctor/minister who has taught him several unusual skills. Widge knows how to read and write English and Latin. He has also mastered a complicated form of shorthand that helps him write as fast as a person speaks. (example on page 13) This makes Widge very valuable to a man named Simon Bass who buys Widge from the doctor. It is not until Widge gets to Mr. Bass’ house that he finds out what he is to do. Simon Bass owns a theater troupe and he needs some new material to perform. He gives Widge the job of going to London and transcribing the entire play of Hamlet written by Shakespeare while the actors are performing it at the Globe Theater. This seems fairly simple unitl Widge gets too caught up in the play to remember to write things down. Now he must try again or face the wrath of Falconer whom Simon Bass has sent to watch over him. So, Widge joins the actors to get away from Falconer. Now he has created a real mess. He knows Falconer will come after him to get the play, but if he copies the play or steals the playbook he will hurt his new found friends, the actors. What will Widge decide to do?
Shelter by Harlan Coben Grades 9-12
Mickey Bolitar is having a bad year. First, he saw his father die in a car wreck. Then he watched his mother self-destruct and end up in rehab. Next he moved in with his estranged uncle Myron – and started a new high school. He starts out by making enemies, then makes friends with the school’s outcasts, although he does meet an incredible girl – who disappears after he’s known her only a few days. The more he digs into the mystery surrounding Ashley, the more he realizes she wasn’t what she appeared to be – and the more questions he finds about his own past. What does Ashley have to do with his father’s last job, and what is the meaning of the butterfly symbol he keeps seeing everywhere? Mickey Bolitar will have to decide how far he’s willing to go to be a Shelter for the people who matter most to him.
The Shrouding Woman
by Loretta Ellsworth Grade 7
Evie is not at all excited to have her Aunt Flo come live with them. Evie’s mother died of consumption a few months ago, so Aunt Flo is moving in with them to help take care of things. Not only is Aunt Flo moving in and taking over her mother’s place in their family, but Evie has heard that Aunt Flo is a shrouding woman. Evie isn’t quite sure what exactly a shrouding woman is, but she knows it has to do with death and Evie wants no part of that. There has already been too much death in her family. Now Evie’s traitorous little sister has taken to Aunt Flo, showing her around and helping her out. Evie on the other hand tries to stay as far away as possible spending most of her time working in the garden. What really spooks Evie about Aunt Flo is the odd brown box she keeps under her bed. She always takes it with her when she is going to do a shrouding. There is something inside the box that rattles and it gives Evie the willies. Then one evening Aunt Flo is called out to help a family whose daughter has died during childbirth. Aunt Flo is tired and needs help. Evie’s father asks her to go along and help with the shrouding. Will Evie be able to handle it?
The Silent Boy by
Lois Lowery Grade 7-8
The first time Katy Thatcher saw the silent boy was when she went with her father to pick up their new hired girl Peggy. Jacob, the silent boy is Peggy’s younger brother. Jacob never talks nor will he look anyone directly in the eye. The men who work at the mill say that he is an idiot, but Katy has heard he is touched. Only, what does that mean? Touched by what or whom? Katy keeps seeing Jacob’s dog outside their barn, so she knows he has come all the way into town to see her family’s horses. Jacob has a way with animals and he has the ability to imitate any sound he hears. Jacob and Katy form a friendship of sorts when she goes out to the barn to see what he is doing. Often they sit in the barn in companionable silence. Then one night something horrible happens. Jacob disappears and the whole town is looking for him. Only Katy knows where he is. Should she tell or just stay silent?
Silent to the Bone by
E.L. Konigsburg Grade 8
On Wednesday, November 25, at 2:43 p.m. eastern standard time, Bramwell Zamborska is struck dumb. The reason we have the exact time is that when he dialed 911 he either couldn’t or wouldn’t speak. The reason Bramwell dialed 911 was because his 6 month old baby sister Nikki was breathing funny and was unresponsive. When it becomes obvious that Bramwell can’t say anything the British au pair Vivian takes over and tells the 911 operator that Bramwell has dropped the baby and that she is unresponsive. Because of what happened Bramwell is sent to the county juvenile behavioral center and Nikki goes to the county hospital. Bramwell’s dad asks his best friend Connor to visit him at the behavioral center. Connor takes it upon himself to help Bram talk or at least figure out the events leading up to that fateful 911 call on November 25th. Something must have happened that has rendered Bram speechless and Connor feels it is his duty to find out. Only how can he communicate with someone who can’t talk? Connor comes up with an idea of making up cards with certain words on them and then pointing to them until Bramwell blinks at the one he wants. Then Connor will use that information to try to piece together the events leading up to the 911 emergency call. Will Connor be able to help Bramwell or will he stay Silent to the Bone?
Words to go on cards for visual:
Blue Peter Margaret SISA The Ancestors Vivian Day Care Tape Bathroom
SilverFin: a James Bond
Adventure by Charlie Higson Grades 7-8
Going to school at Eaton is like visiting an alien planet. Sometimes James is afraid that he’ll never figure it all out. He had been schooled at home by his aunt until recently and now she had decided he would learn more at Eaton, the prestigious all boy preparatory school outside of Windsor, England.