Sunday, May 31, 2009

Proven Guilty

Proven Guilty is by Jim Butcher. The 8th book in the Dresden Files series. Harry is in up to his eyeballs, again! Horror movie creatures are killing people in Chicago. It appears to be the work of black magic. When Harry comes up with a plan to target the "warlock" he discovers the person responsible is Michael's teenage daughter, Molly. When Molly is kidnapped and taken to the stronghold of the Winter Court, Harry and company set out to rescue her. This story has more twists and subplots than it is possible to count. As with all the books in this series, nothing is ever straightforward and no one is ever what they seem. Another wonderful entry in the series!

Ratings: 10th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - V (violence) - AC (mature thematic content) - S (non-graphic sexual references).

The Captive

The Captive is by Christoph Von Schmid. Another in the wonderous Rare Collector's Series by Lamplighter Publishing. This is the story of a young Christian boy who is kidnapped and sold to a rich Muslim family. This account is powerful and gripping. He struggles with his desire for freedom and his desire to serve his Lord even in captivity. A wonderful book about trusting God when things don't seem to be going your way. A great story!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

A Year Down Yonder

A Year Down Yonder is by Richard Peck. The sequel to A Long Way from Chicago. In 1937, 15-year-old Mary Alice is going to live with her grandmother for a whole year, maybe more. She is not looking forward to sleeping in the attic or attending the country school. She gets caught up in her grandmother's outrageous schemes and plots and even a few of her own. This book is filled with hilarious adventures and is a stirring story of commitment and love.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.


Rascal is by Sterling North. This is the story of a boy named Sterling and his pet raccoon. Sterling lives with a variety of animals: dogs, crows, skunks, and of course Rascal. He has lost his mother at age seven and struggles with the loss and his independence. He decides to build a canoe in the living room! He finds and raises a baby raccoon, he calls Rascal. Their bond leads to many hilarious adventures. A wonderful read! Boys will love this story.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Eternity Code

The Eternity Code is by Eoin Colfer. The third installment in the Artemis Fowl series is a total joy to read. The most suspenseful and exciting story thus far. Artemis creates a new supercomputer using stolen fairy technology. He decides to meet with the evil Jon Spiro and offer him a deal. For a price, Aretmis will suppress his cube, and allow Spiro time to sell his stock and buy into Fowl Industries. Spiro double-crosses Artemis, steals the C Cube and murders Butler. Artemis teams up with Holly Short and others to bring Butler back to life, and bring Spiro down. The action never lets up; lovers of the series will love this one as well.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.


Wyvernhail is by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. The fifth book in The Kiesha'ra series. Oliza has abdicated the throne of Wyvernhail. As her cousin Salem prepares to take the throne, Hai keeps having visions of Salem dying in her arms and Wyvernhail being destroyed by war. Hai struggles with her growing love for her new land and the lack of acceptance she still feels from serpents, avians, and falcons. How can she change her visions of the future and prevent the war she sees coming? Can she save Salem? If she does save Wyvernhail, can she save herself? A wonderful addition to the series. It is a little hard to read as Hai's narration is as fragmented as her own psyche.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief is by Rick Riordan. The first book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. This book combines Greek mythology with action and adventure in the modern world. Percy Jackson has ADHD, a mean stepfather, and a long line of schools that have rejected him. Strange events seem to happen to him on a regular basis. Then he discovers that he is the son of a Greek god and that Mount Olympus exists - on the 600th floor of the Empire State Building. He goes to Camp Half-Blood a school for other children of the gods. But a war is brewing, someone has stolen Zeus' thunderbolt. Percy, a satyr, and the half-blood daughter of Athena set out to find the thief, return the thunderbolt, and stop the war. A great modern introduction to Greek monsters, gods and myths. A promising new series.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Shipwrecked, But Not Lost

Shipwrecked, But Not Lost is by Mrs. Dundas. Another book in the Rare Collector's Series from Lamplighter Publishing. This is the story of two impatient young boys who can't wait to head out on their own. They listen to foolish counsel and find themselves stranded in the Arctic. They need to survive cold, bears, wolves, and learn that actions have consequences. They also learn that God is merciful and He can be trusted. A great adventure survival story from a decidedly Christian perspective.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.


Tracker is by Gary Paulsen. John Borne's family hunts for survival not sport. He and his grandfather must head into the woods every fall to shoot deer so the family will have meat during the long Minnesota winter. But now his grandfather is dying and John must go on the hunt alone. He finds a doe and tracks her for days only to discover he can't shoot her. This story is about coming of age and dealing with the loss of a loved one. It is a story of life and death.

Ratings: 6th grade - 6 out of 10.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is by J. K. Rowling. Harry Potter is an orphan living with his horrible aunt and uncle and his spoiled bratty cousin. On his 11th birthday Harry discovers that he is special. His parents were magical folk and he is a wizard, a very famous one. He is accepted into Hogwart's School of Wizardry and the adventures begin. Harry finds many new friends and one old enemy. Will Harry discover the truth about his past? Will he survive to have a future? The incredible beginning to a wonderful series.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Light in the Forest

The Light in the Forest is by Conrad Richter. This is the tale of John Butler who was captured from a frontier town at age four by the Lenni Lenape Indians. He was raised by a great warrior and given the name "True Son." He grows up as an Indian. Then he is rescued and returned to his family. True Son wants to return to his Indian family. He escapes and discovers that the gap between his two worlds is irreconcilable. What does a young boy do when he doesn't belong to either the culture that bred him or that which raised him. A sad, but compelling tale.

Ratings: 6th grade - 7 out of 10.

The Bird's Nest

The Bird's Nest is by Christoph Von Schmid. Another great tale from a Christian point of view by this masterful author. This story tells the tale of a young peasant boy who believes that the truth should be told regardless of the consequences. Even when he is pressured by the prince and his guards he refuses to go back on his word. A story that proves the Lord rewards even a seemingly insignificant good deed. Von Schmid teaches the importance of good character in all of his books and this one is no exception.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

A Basket of Flowers

A Basket of Flowers is by Christoph Von Schmid. A wonderful tale from a definitely Christian perspective. The tale is set in Germany 100 years ago. It is the story of a young woman who is wrongly accused of a crime. Her father is a gardener who uses nature to teach his daughter lessons about God. When Mary is accused and convicted of theft she refuses to lie and maintains her innocence. Mary and her father begin their sentence for the crime. Her father's lessons see her through this trial and prepare her for a greater one. A fantastic story!

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.


Loser is by Jerry Spinelli. Donald Zinkoff is a "loser". He wears a giraffe hat, he is clumsy, he giggles uncontrollably, and he loves school. He longs to sit in the front of the class, but until 4th grade he always ends up in the back because his name begins with "Z". After his poor coordination loses an athletic contest for his class, his status as "loser" is confirmed. Then comes middle school and Donald is determined to become a hero. When a local girl goes missing Donald is determined to find her. Will he? Will he be able to go from "zero" to "hero"? Another wonderful tale from the master of juvenile fiction.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.


Crane is by Jeff Stone. The fourth installment in The Five Ancestors series follows the exploits of Hok, the crane. Hok, who has always had to pretend to be a boy, is enjoying her freedom to dress as a girl. She is briefly reunited with her brothers Fu, Malao, and Seh; but then Malao and Fu are captured by their enemies and Seh is injured. First Hok must help Seh and then they must find a way to rescue Fu and Malao. Can they succeed? Who are their friends? Who is the enemy? This wonderful adventure continues. Boys will especially love these tales, loaded with kung fu action, deception, and danger.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Holes is by Louis Sachar. The comedic adventures of Stanley Yelnats. Accused of stealing shoes he didn't steal, Stanley is sent to Camp Green Lake - in the middle of the desert. Inmates dig holes daily to "improve their character", but is there an ulterior motive? What is the warden really looking for? A very cute tale of perseverance, luck, and destiny.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

The River

The River is by Gary Paulsen. The sequel to Hatchet. Brian goes back to the wilderness two years after his rescue. This time he doesn't go alone. A government psychologist goes with him so he can study how Brian survived in the wilderness so he can train others in survival skills. During a storm Derek is struck by lightning and falls into a coma. Brian is now alone again and he must build a raft and get Derek to safety. Can he make it out of the forest again?

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.


Hercules is by Bernard Evslin. This is a magnificent re-telling of the 12 labors of Hercules. A great introduction to Greek mythology. This book is a fun and easy read and faithfully follows the Greek tale.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Realm of the Reaper

Realm of the Reaper is by K.A. Applegate. This is the fourth book in the Everworld series. It is told from Jalil's point of view. The four teens continue to seek a way out of Everworld and back home. Not everyone is as hot to rescue Senna as they were before however. Now the kids find themselves in a creepy village where once you enter you can't leave. The village is under the control of Hel, Loki's daughter, and it is hell literally. This is the most intensely violent of the books thus far - a definite 8 on the creep-o-meter.

Ratings: 8th grade - 8 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - V (violence).

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is by S.E. Hinton. West Side Story meets Rebel Without a Cause! 14-year-old Ponyboy Curtis lives on the wrong side of the tracks. His loyalties are to his brothers and his gang, the Greasers. He and his brothers, Darry and Soda Pop have little besides the gang and each other since their parents' death. Then his best friend kills a member of the rival gang and Pony's nightmare begins. A fantastic novel of struggle, honor, and seeing the inside of a person vs. what's on the outside. Miss White's favorite book for a reason!

Ratings: 8th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Time Bike

The Time Bike is by Jane Langton. The first book in the Hall Family Chronicles. Eddy wants a fancy expensive bike for his birthday. He is so excited when he gets it, until it is stolen. Then his Indian uncle sends him an old beat up model. Eddy is crushed until he discovers the old bike is really a time machine. He uses the bike to time travel into the past to find a vanished deed to their house or face eviction. His sister Eleanor tries to travel into the past in a vain effort to save the life of a movie star. A very cute story.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

Old Yeller

Old Yeller is by Fred Gipson. The classic tale of life on the Texas frontier. A family's struggle to survive with the help of their "big yeller dog". Every bit as wonderful as the Disney movie version, which was amazingly faithful to the book, this story will make you laugh and cry. A must read for dog lovers everywhere, and everyone else too!

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers

Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers is by Gary Paulsen. Paulsen is the author of Hatchet and the other "Brian" books. This is a nonfiction tale of his experiences with his sled dogs. He relates his memories of Cookie, his long time friend and lead dog. We hear of his love and care for Cookie and watch her last litter of puppies become experienced sled dogs. Paulsen is an experienced Iditarod racer and this book is every bit as enjoyable as his fictional works.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Black Pearl

The Black Pearl is by Scott O'Dell. This story is set in Baja California. Young Ramon wants to prove to his father that he is a good pearl diver. Ramon wants to dive for the legendary black "pearl of the heavens", but the grotto where this pearl is said to lie is guarded by a giant manta ray known as Manta Diablo. Ramon finds the pearl and brings it home, but then the trouble begins. Should he keep the pearl or give it back to Manta Diablo? A wonderfully told story, if somewhat lacking in excitement.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Abel's Island

Abel's Island is by William Steig. Abel and Amanda are mice. They have just gotten married. One day while picnicking in the woods they are caught in a sudden storm. Amanda makes it to a cave, but Abel foolishly goes after Amanda's scarf and is swept into a stream. He finds himself marooned on an island, sure rescue will come shortly - but it never comes. Will Abel make it back to Amanda? Will he survive on the island long enough to escape? A wonderfully engaging tale. Abel is the Robinson Crusoe of the mouse world.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.


Indigo is by Alice Hoffman. Thirteen-year-old Martha has two very strange best friends. Trout and Eel are brothers who love being near water and have webbed toes and fingers. All three long to get away from their very dry and waterless town. The threesome decide to run away, but their escape attempt is cut short by a fierce storm. Is the storm a blessing or a curse? Will their questions about themselves finally be answered? A very short, but compelling book.

Ratings: 4th grade - 9 out of 10.

Freak the Mighty

Freak the Mighty is by Rodman Philbrick. Max's life is a mess. He is clumsy, learning-disabled, and his father is in prison for murdering his mother. Kevin is small and crippled, but very smart. Kevin uses his brains to protect Max, and Max "loans" Kevin his legs. After Kevin's death, Max is left struggling with the memories of their extraordinary friendship. An amazing story of friendship, cruelty, and loss.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Vampire Prince

The Vampire Prince is by Darren Shan. Book number six in the Cirque Du Freak series. Darren has escaped his death sentence and finds himself with a dilemma. Should he return to Vampire Mountain and warn the vampires of the traitor in their midst, and face his death sentence? Or run away, survive, and leave the vampires to the vampaneze? Will Mr. Tiny's prophecy come to pass? Will the vampires by destroyed? Is the traitor really a traitor? Another great entry in the series which gets more intense with each installment.

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violence).

Fire Star

Fire Star is by Chris D'Lacey. This is the third in the Dragon series by D'Lacey. It is the most intense and also the most confusing of the series. If you haven't read the other books, don't bother with this one. David Rain; his girlfriend, Zanna; his landlord, Liz, and her daughter, Lucy, race to fulfill their destinies. David is writing his book, but is it fiction or reality? Gwilanna is trying to raise Gawain. The Fain, an ancient race, are trying to stop her and destroy the dragons. Which is worse, Gawain's awakening or his destruction? What will happen to David, Zanna, and their friends?

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Adaline Falling Star

Adaline Falling Star is by Mary Pope Osborne. This is the fictionalized tale of legendary scout Kit Carson's real daughter, Adaline. She was called Falling Star by her Arapaho mother. When her mother dies of cholera, she refuses to speak from grief. Her father sends her to his racist relatives until he returns from his Rocky Mountain expedition. But her cousins treat her as a servant, refuse to allow her to study at school, and constantly treat her as a not quite human "half-breed". She finally runs away to join her father. Will she find him? Will he want her if she does? Can she get over her mother's death?

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Trolls

The Trolls is by Polly Horvath. When Mom and Dad leave for Paris and the baby sitter cancels - who ya gonna call? Aunt Sally is Dad's sister, and to say she is a character is putting it mildly. Melissa, Amanda, and Frank (Pee Wee) know nothing about their aunt. Sally wears her hair in a beehive, pretends green beans are walrus tusks, and tells the strangest stories about the family. She tells of leaving her brother on the beach as an offering for trolls and about Maud who shot 80 "cougars". These tales are as hilarious for us as for the Anderson kids. A thoroughly delightful read.

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

Frightful's Mountain

Frightful's Mountain is by Jean Craighead George. The conclusion of the trilogy begun in My Side of the Mountain. Frightful, Sam's peregrine falcon, is being held captive by poachers. The falcon wants to return to Sam. His sister Alice frees the falcon and then the question becomes can Frightful survive on her own. Frightful finds a mate, breeds, and is threatened by construction workers and the return of the poachers. Will she ever make it back to Sam?

Ratings: 6th grade -7 out of 10.

The Egypt Game

The Egypt Game is by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. April is a snooty only child whose mother rarely pays attention to her. Her mother leaves her with her grandmother where she meets Melanie who is friendly and likes everyone. They become friends and make up incredible stories and play wild games - one of which is the Egypt game. They play in an abandoned lot where they find a bust of Nefertiti. Soon other kids join in the game. Then strange things begin happening and they are afraid there is a murderer in the neighborhood whose victims are children. A wonderful story!

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull is by Peter & Connie Roop. This is part of a series of nonfiction for younger readers called In Their Own Words. Other books in the series include Benjamin Franklin and Sojourner Truth. These books are a great introduction to nonfiction. They are easy to read and full of pictures and other illustrative material.

Ratings: 6th grade.

The Divide

The Divide is by Elizabeth Kay. The first in a new trilogy by the author. 13-year-old Felix has a heart condition. While he and his parents are in Costa Rica he passes out. When he wakes, he finds himself in a magical world populated by griffins, unicorns, dragons, pixies, and elves. Humans, their science, and their culture are considered mythical. He meets Betony, an elf, and with her help and that of some other fantastic inhabitants. Felix embarks on a journey to find a cure for his disease. They soon find themselves sought by the evil Snakeweed and his minions. Will Felix make it home alive?

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

Trials of Death

Trials of Death is by Darren Shan. The fifth book in the Cirque Du Freak series finds Darren at Vampire Mountain waiting to complete the trials of death ordered by the Vampire Princes. He must prove himself to the vampires, but can he survive? On top of everything else the vampaneze seem to be planning to attack. Is there a traitor in Vampire Mountain?

Ratings: 8th grade - 9 out of 10 - V (some violence).


Revealers is by Amanda Marrone. By day, Jules and her friends are typical teenagers. By night, they are revealers; they have the power to make werewolves, vampires, and ghosts reveal themselves, so they can destroy them. As her friends come of age and are brought into the coven's inner circle she begins to sense that something is not right. She is the youngest and her friend's won't tell her what's got them so freaked. What's going on? They are the good guys, aren't they?

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - P (profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

Witch Child

Witch Child is by Celia Rees. Set in the late 1600s, Mary's grandmother is burned at the stake for witchcraft. Mary is disguised as a pilgrim and smuggled away to America with a ship full of Puritans. She tries to fit in and to hide her belief in "the craft". Sailors soon begin to whisper about a "witch" being on board. Even when they arrive in America things don't go well for Mary and her friends. A great story of fear and prejudice and how superstition can run amok.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


Earthquakes is by Luke Thompson. This is a nonfiction book about the cause of earthquakes. It is loaded with pictures, charts, and other visuals sure to interest reluctant readers. A great introduction to scientific nonfiction.

Ratings: 5th grade - 7 out of 10.

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is by Alexander McCall Smith. The first in a new series of mysteries by the author. An entertaining and hilarious new addition to the mystery genre. After the death of her father Precious Ramotswe sells his cattle and sets up the first ladies' detective agency in Botswana. The first book introduces Precious and her family history and covers her first series of cases. These include missing husbands, swindling con artists, and kidnapping. A wonderful walk through African culture. I hope the rest of the series is as good as the opener.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - AC (mature thematic content).

The Case of the Missing Marquess

The Case of the Missing Marquess is by Nancy Springer. The first in a series of Enola Holmes Mysteries. A fascinating re-do of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. Enola is the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes. Her mother disappears and leaves Enola clues to help her understand why she went away. When her brothers send her to boarding school, Enola escapes and heads for London dressed as a widow. She begins by solving the mystery of the missing Viscount Tewksbury. She decides to stay in the city and become a detective herself.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

The House on the Gulf

The House on the Gulf is by Margaret Peterson Haddix. Twelve-year-old Britt lives with her mother and her older brother, Bran, in a small, dismal apartment. Then Bran announces that he has a summer house-sitting job, enabling the family to live in a better neighborhood. When they move into their temporary home, Britt notices that Bran has developed an uncharacteristic mania for secrecy. Britt is certain Bran is concealing something. She thinks she discovers the truth, but is she right? Lots of fun unexpected twists.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Midnight Rider

Midnight Rider is by Joan Hiatt Harlow. A great bit of historical fiction with a female protagonist. Hannah, a 14-year-old orphan, is contracted out as an indentured servant by her cruel aunt. She ends of working for General Gage and becomes involved in the events leading up to the American Revolution. She has a special way with horses and is devastated when her aunt sells her beloved horse, Promise, to a neighbor. She finds a way through a secret tunnel to get outside Gage's compound so that, disguised as a boy, she can ride Promise at night. This leads to her harassing British soldiers and earns her the name of the Midnight Rider, though her identity remains a secret. A fun read!

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Urchin of the Riding Stars

Urchin of the Riding Stars is by M. I. McAllister. The first book in The Mistmantle Chronicles. A fun read, even if it is a Redwall knock-off. Urchin the squirrel is dropped from the sky by a gull onto the island of Mistmantle. He is rescued by Crispin, captain to hedgehog King Brushen. He becomes Crispin's page and is quickly caught up in the murder of the young prince. When Crispin is framed for the crime and banished, Urchin remains on Mistmantle, working for another captain, Padra the otter. He helps fight against cruel new laws and reveals the true murderer.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.


Hatchet is by Gary Paulsen. The classic tale of a 13-year-old who has to survive in the Canadian wilderness when the pilot of his small plane has a heart attack and dies. Brian has to learn to survive alone. Paulsen takes realistic events and plunges the reader into a real life or death battle. A great tale!

Ratings: 5th grade - 10 out of 10.

Shades of Gray

Shades of Gray is by Carolyn Reeder. The Civil War is over, but not for twelve-year-old Will Page. He is filled with bitterness. The Yankees were responsible for the deaths of everyone in his family. He goes to live with relatives he has never met, who are struggling to make a living on their farm in Virginia. Will's uncle Jed had refused to fight for the South; to Will he is a traitor at best, a coward at worst. But Will begins to respect the man. And when he sees his uncle stand up for what he believes in, Will realizes that he must rethink his definition of honor and courage.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

In Their Own Words

In Their Own Words is by George Sullivan. This is a series of nonfiction biographies of famous people. The books are written in a way that is easy to understand and are full of pictures, illustrations, and graphics that are sure to intrigue young readers. The series includes: Helen Keller, Abraham Lincoln, Lewis & Clark, Paul Revere, Pocahontas, The Wright Brothers, and Thomas Edison. These are great books to introduce readers to nonfiction.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


Stargirl is by Jerry Spinelli. A unique study in what it's like to be different. Stargirl has been home schooled for most of her life and has no idea of conformity. She wears pioneer type dresses, no make up, meditates, knows peoples birthdays, and makes people feel good about themselves. Leo, the 16 year old narrator of the book, finds himself her boyfriend, and as such is completely alienated from the rest of the school. It dawns on him that he has to choose, Stargirl or his friends and respect.

Ratings: 7th grade - 10 out of 10.

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society

Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society is by Adeline Yen Mah. After enduring abuse at the hands of her cruel stepmother, Chinese Cinderella seeks refuge at a martial-arts school and joins a secret dragon society. Under the guidance of Grandma Wu, she is introduced to the exciting world of espionage as a part of the Chinese Resistance movement. And when she and her comrades take on a daring mission to rescue a crew of WWII American airmen, they prove that true bravery knows no age barrier. Based on a real historical event during WWII.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

Missing May

Missing May is by Cynthia Rylant. A study in grieving. After being passed among relatives, Summer joins her aunt and uncle and marvels at the couple's deep love for one another. But after Aunt May dies, Summer and Uncle Ob are brought together in their struggles to come to terms with the death. Cletus, a neighbor boy, comes along to help provide an answer. A marvelous look at the death of a loved one and the grieving process that follows.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Headless Cupid

The Headless Cupid is by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. When the four Stanley children meet Amanda, their new stepsister, they're amazed to learn that she studies witchcraft. They're stunned to see her dressed in a strange costume, carrying a pet crow, and surrounded by a pile of books about the supernatural. Amanda promises to give them witchcraft lessons. But then strange things start happening in their old house. David suspects Amanda, but is the house really haunted? What is up with the wooden cupid on the stairway - the one with the missing head?

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.


Flipped is by Wendelin Van Draanen. Juli Baker devoutly believes in three things: the sanctity of trees (especially her beloved sycamore), the wholesomeness of the eggs she collects from her backyard flock of chickens, and that someday she will kiss Bryce Loski. Unfortunately, Bryce has never felt the same. Frankly, he thinks Juli Baker is a little weird. This story is told from both Julie's and Bryce's point of view. A hilarious tale of two adolescents who don't understand each other.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Ebony Swan

The Ebony Swan is by Phyllis A. Whitney. When Susan Prentice returns to her childhood home in Virginia 25 years after witnessing the death of her mother, Dolores, she wishes only to become reacquainted with her formidable grandmother, Alex, a former ballerina. But Susan finds herself isolated in a hostile environment, her relatives obviously fearful that she might recall hitherto repressed memories of the tragedy. Her old playmate Peter (now Alex's physician) has survived the murder of his wife a year ago, a crime that might be linked to Dolores's death. And Susan is particularly dismayed to find an ebony swan carved by her late grandfather that ostensibly depicts Alex as Odile in Swan Lake --with a terrifyingly malevolent face. Another Whitney gem!

Ratings: 9th grade - 9 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content).

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Picture of Dorian Gray is by Oscar Wilde. Wilde's masterpiece. As Dorian Gray admires his portrait in Basil Hallward's studio he makes a vain wish that he would never age and that the picture would bear the marks of age and sin. He sells his soul for eternal youth and all age, decay, and corruption show in the picture, while Gray's appearance stays eternally young and fresh. Dorian destroys one life after another until he can stand the portrait no longer and attempts to destroy it, and ends by destroying himself. Wilde at his witty and profound best. A book about the consequences of sin from a man who knew the subject well.

Ratings: 9th grade - 10 out of 10 - AC (mature thematic content).

Brian's Winter

Brian's Winter is by Gary Paulsen. Hatchet is Paulsen's classic tale of a boy's survival in the north woods after a plane crash. This book revisits Brian, who was not rescued, and imagines how he would have survived a Canadian winter. Paulsen serves up one cliffhanger after another (a marauding bear, a charging elk), and always there are the supreme challenges of obtaining food and protection against the cold. A great read for boys.

Ratings: 7th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Call of the Wild

The Call of the Wild is by Jack London. This story follows the adventures of the loyal dog Buck, who is stolen from his comfortable family home and forced into the harsh life of an Alaskan sled dog. Passed from master to master, Buck embarks on an extraordinary journey that ends with his becoming the legendary leader of a wolf pack. I am not a huge fan of London, but this is an intriguing tale of survival.

Ratings: 7th grade - 7 out of 10.

The Color of My Words

The Color of My Words is by Lynn Joseph. What 12-year-old Ana Rosa Hèrnandez wants more than anything is a notepad of her very own. Writing is her passion. In the República Dominicana, however, only the President can write books. Then the government decides to buy all the land in the village to build hotels, people decide to stand up for themselves. Ana Rosa's brother is appointed spokesperson for the cause, but when rebellion begins will he be safe? Will anyone? Joseph paints a vibrant picture of life on this Caribbean island. An excellent read.

Ratings: 7th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Hedge of Thorns

The Hedge of Thorns is by Mark Hamby. Based on a true story, this is a gripping account of a young boy who learns the hard way that the choices we make can harm those we love the most. Because he desperately wants to know what is on the other side of a hedge of thorns, he puts his little sister in great danger. From his experience, we learn that God places boundaries in our lives because He loves us. This story is written from a definite Christian worldview. It is one of the finest tales of the consequences of disobedience I've ever read. I highly recommend this small book.

Ratings: 6th grade - 10 out of 10.

Shadows on the Sea

Shadows on the Sea is by Joan Hiatt Harlow. Jill Winters, 14, has been sent to stay with her grandmother in Maine while her father, a famous singer, is on a U.S. tour and her mother is visiting her dying brother in Newfoundland. It is the summer of 1942, and German U-boats patrol the shores of the North Atlantic. There are the strange goings-on in Winter Haven. When Jill intercepts a carrier pigeon with a message in German, she begins to suspect that someone in the town is guilty of treason. After the town's July 4th clambake, her life is threatened when it becomes clear to the spies that she has figured out their identity. A fun and enjoyable historical fiction read.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.


Hoot is by Carl Hiaasen. Roy Eberhardt is the new kid in Coconut Grove, Florida. He has no real friends, and bullies to deal with. One day he sees a blond boy running. He tries to find out who he is and meets Beatrice. He then discovers the burrowing owls living in the lot on the corner of East Oriole Avenue. The three kids try to save the owls from the evil business people. A cute story, if a little on the ultra-environmentalist side of the fence.

Ratings: 6th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Federalist Papers

The Federalist Papers are by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison. A must read for anyone who wishes to understand the Founding Father's ideas for our form of government. These were articles published in various newspapers to persuade states to ratify the Constitution. There is no better way to understand the separation of powers, the reasoning for three branches of government and their purposes, and our entire system of government.

Ratings: 11th grade - 10 out of 10.

Th Atlantis Series

The Atlantis Series is by Gena Showalter. Atlantis exists and is populated with dragons, vampires, nymphs, demons, minotaurs, and other "mistakes" made by the gods. The gods hid Atlantis to keep these creatures away from mortals on earth, which they considered their private playground. Forgotten by the gods who created them, the inhabitants of Atlantis live, love, and war amongst themselves. The first book in the series, Heart of the Dragon, introduces us to Darius a shape shifting dragon whose duty is to guard one of the two portals that link Atlantis to the modern world. All mortals who enter the portal must by killed to protect the secret of Atlantis. But when Grace Carlyle stumbles through the portal Darius finds he doesn't want to kill her. The series continues with tales of other races and their interaction with mortals. This series contains mild profanity and graphic sexual content and is not recommended for those under the age of 18.

Ratings: Adult - 9 out of 10 - MP (mild profanity) - S (graphic sexual content) - AC (mature thematic content).

Goblins in the Castle

Goblins in the Castle is by Bruce Coville. What would you do if you found a secret passage in your room that led down to a dungeon filled with evil marauding goblins? Goblins in the Castle is about a boy who does just that. He opens a door he shouldn't, letting out the spirits of a Goblin army. Now he needs to leave the castle and take down the goblins for good. During his adventure he meets people and asks if they will join in his great adventure to defeat the goblins. Oh, did I mention his best friend is a hunchback who whacks people with his teddy bear?

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Ginger Pye

Ginger Pye is by Eleanor Estes. A quirky story about a boy called Jerry whose much-loved puppy, Ginger Pye, goes missing. Jerry and his sister begin a desperate hunt for Ginger, who they're convinced has been stolen away by the stranger in the yellow hat. After months of fruitless searching the children are about to give up hope when a chance gust of wind reveals the villain to the children and Ginger Pye is saved.

Ratings: 5th grade - 8 out of 10.


Heartbeat is by Sharon Creech. This story is told in free-verse poems. Annie, 12, takes great pleasure in running, but doesn't want to join the school track team. For her, the joy is running itself. Her friend and running partner Max runs to escape his personal problems. When Annie's mother becomes pregnant things begin to change. In addition she realizes her Grandpa is slipping into dementia. School, art class, and chores appear throughout the verses, creating an everyday rhythm that matches the footfalls of this engaging heroine who loves to move, but who is willing to stop and smell the roses.

Ratings: 4th grade - 10 out of 10.

The Tiger Rising

The Tiger Rising is by Kate DiCamillo. This is the story of 12-year-old Rob Horton who finds a caged tiger in the woods behind the Kentucky Star Motel where he lives with his dad. A tiger in Florida? It takes mind off his recently deceased mother and the itchy red blisters on his legs that the wise motel housekeeper, Willie May, says are a manifestation of the sadness. With the help of a girl named Sistine he sets out to discover the secret of the tiger and set it free.

Ratings: 4th grade - 9 out of 10.

Into the Land of the Unicorns

Into the Land of the Unicorns is by Bruce Coville. This enchanting tale is the first book in the Unicorn Chronicles. When Cara Hunter leaps from a church's bell tower clutching her grandmother's magic amulet, she falls into the land of Luster, home of the Dimblethum, delvers, dragons, the Squijum, and lots of unicorns. Since her grandmother told her to guard the amulet and to deliver an important message to the unicorn Queen, Cara embarks on a journey to her court. She is accompanied by her friends, chief among them Lightfoot, an adolescent unicorn who is having a difficult time with his family. The voyagers are attacked by delvers, Firethroat the Dragon, and Cara's father, who abandoned her when she was three. Coville combines all of the known myths about unicorns into one smooth retelling about a woman named Beloved whose life in ways mirrors Cara's own; this tale creates the foundation for the entire novel.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

True Stories of the First World War

True Stories of the First World War is by Paul Dowswell. This book contains true stories of courage, heroism and disaster from World War I. It is written in a way that is easy to understand and follow. It is filled with pictures, maps, and other visuals to aid in understanding. A great introduction to nonfiction.

Ratings: 6th grade - 8 out of 10.

The Big Wave

The Big Wave is by Pearl S. Buck. Kino lives on a farm on the side of a mountain in Japan. His friend, Jiya, lives in a fishing village below. Everyone, including Kino and Jiya, has heard of the big wave. No one suspects it will wipe out the whole village and Jiya's family, too. As Jiya struggles to overcome his sorrow, he understands it is in the presence of danger that one learns to be brave, and to appreciate how wonderful life can be. A wonderful tale of friendship and the courage needed to overcome tragedy.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Kneeknock Rise

Kneeknock Rise is by Natalie Babbitt. Kneeknock Rise is a fable about man's need for belief systems. A young boy visiting another town hears a mysterious cry at the top of a rocky mountain. Despite evidence that the sound is an explainable, natural occurrence, the townsfolk refuse to believe it is anything but the wailing and moaning monster, the Megramum. Even when the sounds are proven to be a natural occurrence the town's residents refuse to believe. Why?

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

Shakespeare's Secret

Shakespeare's Secret is by Elise Broach. Hero hates her Shakespearean-based name. She moves to a new town and starts sixth-grade. Resigned to constant teasing, she concentrates on a new found friendship with her elderly next-door neighbor. Mrs. Roth tells Hero about the missing "Murphy Diamond," a precious jewel that supposedly disappeared from the house where Hero now lives. Mrs. Roth has the necklace that once held the diamond, an heirloom that possibly once belonged to Anne Boleyn. She and Hero set out to find the diamond, with help from Danny, an eighth grader who befriends them both. The mystery itself is fun, but Broach adds a little Elizabethan history and theories about Shakespeare's writings.

Ratings: 4th grade - 10 out of 10.

Devil's Race

Devil's Race is by Avi. Sixteen-year-old John Proud discovers his family's darkest secret. His namesake confessed to being a demon in 1854. John finds himself battling against his ancestor's ghost to remain himself. He doesn't want to be used for the evil John's purposes. Mounting suspense plus the sure draw of occult horror will keep readers turning the pages.

Ratings: 5th grade - 9 out of 10.

The Snow Queen

The Snow Queen is by Hans Christian Andersen. When Kay is lured from his home by the beautiful, cruel Snow Queen, his friend Gerda sets out on an epic journey to rescue him. As she searches, she encounters a series of strangers to whom she relays her plight. Charmed by her story and her innocence, each of them helps Gerda, so that at last she is able to find the Snow Queen's icy palace. But at the end of her epic journey, will Gerda manage to set Kay free? A beautiful tale of friendship and courage.

Ratings: 4th grade - 9 out of 10.

Love At Stake Series

The Love At Stake Series is by Kerrelyn Sparks. A fun paranormal romance series that gets better as it goes along. Good vampires, known as Vamps, have created synthetic blood and don't need to feed off humans anymore. With allies among the humans and were-animals they battle against the bad vampires called Malcontents who want to use the human race as food. This series follows their struggles with the Malcontents and their desire to find love. The first several books are a little cheesy, but get progressively better. Sparks is not Sherrilyn Kenyon, but the books are fun to read. There is profanity and graphic sexual content. These books are not recommended for those under 18.

Ratings - Adult - 8 out of 10 - P (profanity), S (graphic sexual content) - AC (mature thematic content).