I Did It Without Thinking - Bob Hugel
This non-fiction book contains brief accounts from real teens who made impulsive decisions which negatively affected their lives, such as getting a tattoo, dropping out of school, or committing a crime. The book also offers alternative positive actions in which teens can engage. Great for discussion at home or in a Wellness class.
Million Dollar Throw - Mike Lupica
14 year-old Nate is an all-star quarterback who has a chance to win $1,000,000 on national TV by throwing a football throw a small target. This feat would normally be achievable for Nate. However, with his family facing foreclosure on thier house and Nate's best friend losing her eyesight, Nate is under extreme stress and his accuracy and concentration are being challenged. Will Nate be able to win the $1,000,000 at the Patriot's game on Thanksgiving night? If so, what will he do with the prize money?
Crocodile Tears - Anthony Horowitz
Being just a teenager does not keep Alex Rider from being recruited by the British Secret Service. Alex's current mission leads him to expose a villian posing as a philanthropist who is making money by causing natural disasters and pocketing relief money. The adventurous story is full of bombs, bullets, car chases, and hungry crocodiles. A great read for reluctant readers, even if they are not familiar with Alex Rider and another sure hit for those who are fans of previous books.
The Magician's Elephant - Kate DiCamillo
10 year-old Peter encounters a fortune teller in the marketplace who tells him his sister, presumed dead, is still alive.
More amazingly, the man tells Peter that an elephant will lead him to his sister. This is a fable filled with miraculous events, where hope triumphs over despair.
Maximum Ride series - James Patterson
In this science fiction/thriller series, 14 year-old Maximum Ride (Max) lead a group of genetically-engineered children who have escaped from the laboratories where they were "designed." These kids have wings and can fly, so it's sometimes hard to keep a low profile especially when the institution's scientists are constantly hunting for them. Look for such titles as The Final Warning; Max; The Angel Experiment; School's Out-Forever; Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports, and Fang.
Found - Margaret Peterson Haddix
This book is the first in another science fiction/adventure series by Haddix. The story begins with the arrival at an airport of a planeload of unaccompanied babies. As time passes, two of the babies, now teenagers, begin to receive mysterious messages which leads to the discovery of their being adopted , and the FBI's role in the process. As the teens search for kids who were on the plane, they become trapped in a time warp from which they fear there is no escape. A sequel, Sent, follows for avid Haddix fans.
Surviving Divorce: Teens Talk About What Hurts and What Helps - Trudi Strain Trueit
This non-fiction book reassures teens that they are not alone in their oft-confusing feelings regarding thier parents' divorce. Each chapter begins with personal stories from teens and advice is given as to where to find help in dealing with situations and emotions that can turn a teen's world upside down.
When You Reach Me- Rebecca Stead
6th-grader Miranda seems to lead an ordinary life of a 12-year-old girl in New York City. However, things start to change when her best friend, Sal, gets punched by a stranger and starts ignoring Miranda, and when Miranda starts receiving mysterious messages from the past (or the future). There are three plot threads that eventually weave together to provide an intriguing story: Miranda's mom's appearance on the $20,000 Pyramid TV show, the deteriorating relationship between Miranda and Sal, and the disturbing appearance of "the laughing man," a homeless person. This Newbery Medal winner is a story where character is as important as plot - a satisfying read for mystery lovers and fans of A Wrinkle in Time, Miranda's favorite story.
The Great Death- John Smelcer
In 1917, two Native Alaskan sisters set off alone to find a new settlement after their village is devastated by smallpox, brought by white settlers. This is a riveting survival story as the girls' journey is plagued by tragedy.
Necropolis - Anthony Horowitz
In book 4 of the Gatekeepers series, we find Scarlett from Scotland joining her exceptional talents with those of the other four Gatekeepers as they seek to defeat the Old Ones. Scarlett travels to Hong Kong where she finds a city filled with shape-changers and corpses. The other Gatekeepers must try to save her in this gory adventure story which inevitably will lead to a sequel by Horowitz.
Tangerine - Edward Bloor
Paul is legally blind, forced to wear thick glasses, but he is able to see clearly the lies that his family lives out day after day. No one pays attentions to Paul until he and his family move to Tangerine County, Florda. There he adjusts to his new home, triumphs at soccer, and unravels the horrible truth about his disturbed, manacing football-star brother. By the end of the story, readers will cheer for Paul - bright, funny, geeky - but a decent kid nonetheless.
Daniel's Story- Carol Matas
Daniel, age 14, has led a happy, comfortable life with his family in Germany even though there have been increasing signs of an anti-Jew movement in the country. By 1941, the family is forced to move to a Polish ghetto and then they are taken to a concentration camp.
In the concentration camp, Daniel loses most of his family - only he and his father survive. He records the atrocities and the Nazi brutality with a smuggled camera and in his mind so that future generations will always remember this disturbing time in history.
Daniel's Story is a work of fiction, but is based on survivors' accounts of life in the concentration camps. The story is a memorial to the one million children who were killed in the Holocaust. The book was originally published as part of an exhibit at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Among the Hidden - Margaret peterson Haddix
Luke has never had a friend outside of his family, never been to a school, nor had a birthday party. Living in a society where the government controls every aspect of its citizens' lives, Luke is a "shadow child," a family's third child, a fact that is brutally punished by the Population Police.
Luke spends most of his time hidden in his house's attic, bored but careful not to be seen at a window. One day, however, he spies a girl's face in a window of a neighboring house. He knows of two other children that already live in the house, therefore the face must belong to another shadow child. Luke sneaks over to the house one day and meets Jen, a spirited girl who is determined to lead a protest march on the white House on behalf of the plight of the shadow children. After the march ends in tragedy, Luke, who refused to go, is able to acquire a new identity. He must decide if he is willing to defy the government in order to have a life worth living.
Among the Hidden is the first book in Haddix's series The Shadow Children. There are five other exciting books which follow it.
Wild Man Island by Will Hobbs
14 year-old Andy Galloway is separated from his fellow sea kayakers in the waters around southeast Alaska when he strikes out to pay a tribute to his deceased archeologist father who was killed nearby. A sudden storm and a tipped kayak leaves Andy washed up on the shores of Admiralty Island, “shoeless and clueless” with only a credit card to aid in his survival.
With no rescue in sight, Andy is force by starvation to start walking in search of food , discovering unexplored caves loaded with ancient artifacts but also encountering more danger, especially from the bears that inhabit the island. He is befriended by a dog who leads him to the “wild man” who lives on the island, much as a man would live in prehistoric times. This mysterious hermit may be Andy’s only hope in getting rescued from the island.
Will Hobbs has written a book with a fast-paced plot, a physically-challenging setting, and a resourceful hero. He also offers the reader a wealth of information about early human migration in North America.
Woods Runner by Gary Paulsen
Rumors of war between American patriots and the British seem far removed to 13 year-old Samuel who lives on the edge of the Pennsylvania wilderness with his family and a small group of neighbors. However, the Revolutionary War becomes a reality when Samuel returns from hunting one day to find his home burned down, his neighbors slaughtered, and his parent missing.
Using his tracking, hunting and survival skills, Samuel follows his seized parents’ trail all the way to British headquarters in New York. Along the way, he confronts the cruelty, tragedy, and horror of war along with the kindness and bravery shown to him by a few hardy rebels.
The reader is presented with a vivid and graphic historical fiction story alternating with sections of nonfiction information related to the story line. This is another first-rate book by one of America’s favorite writers for teens and tweens.
Highway Cats by Janet Taylor Lisle
A rag-tag band of feral cats lives in a patch of woods next to Interstate 95, existing off scraps of food thrown from passing cars and by “dumpster diving” at the local mall . The cats’ lives change with the arrival of three abandoned kittens who miraculously survive crossing the busy highway. The kittens have an air of the supernatural about them, and bring about changes in the older cats, softening their hearts and causing them to clean up their act. Changed for the better, the cats are able to unite in unexpected ways to stop the construction of a highway exit which would destroy their woodland home and a cemetery for humans.
This story will appeal to readers who enjoyed The Incredible Journey or Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. The author has developed animal characters that are as convincing as humans. This book would make a great classroom read-aloud !
The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen
Popular author Gary Paulsen tells the story (sometimes imagined) of Bass Reeves, a real-life lawman of the Wild West and a true hero.
Bass Reeves was once a slave and then a rancher after the Emancipation Proclamation. In his later years, he became a federal marshal and brought law and order to the Indian Territory of Oklahoma with thousands of arrests and 14 gunfights to his credit. Reeves served the law with courage and honor, never drawing his gun first. He became one of the most respected lawmen in the West and through newspaper accounts and his own vivid imagination, Paulsen makes Reeves' story come alive.
Things Not Seen by Andrew Clements
What would you do if you woke up one morning and found that you were invisible? 15 year-old Bobby Phillips finds himself in that exact situation one February morning when he looks in the mirror.
There are some advantages to the invisiblity, like visiting the university library stark naked or being able to listen in on corporate meetings. But, there are drawbacks. Bobby can't go to school or be around his friends. People are beginning to think that he has run away or, worse yet, is a victim of foul play. His parents, who know about his dilemma but are unable to help him, risk being arrested for Bobby's murder! About the only comforting part of Bobby's bleak existence is his growing relationship with Alicia, a blind girl with whom he can talk and trust. Together they work on finding a solution to Bobby's invisibility.
Clements, the author of The Report Card and The Last Holiday Concert, gives readers a story which is both funny and scary , a blend of reality and fiction.
The Schernoff Discoveries by Gary Paulsen
Popular author Gary Paulsen includes incidents from his own life in this short but hilarious story.
Gary and his best (make that his only) friend Harold Schernoff are 14 year-old social outcasts. But whileGary is cautious and not-so-smart, Harold is a science whiz who devises theories to solve all teenage problems from getting a date to dealing with bullies and learning to ski. The two boys like girls a lot and figure out a way to be the only boys enrolled in a Home Economics class, thereby eliminating the competition from the school jocks. They also manage to earn enough money to buy a car even though they are underage.
Some may say this is a funny novel about friendship but it is also a survival story. Read it to find out if two geeks can survive their adolescence!
Trash by Andy Mulligan
In an un-named Third World city, 14 year-old Raphael and his two friends live like thousands of other youth - in a garbage dump, digging through piles to find anything profitable. One day, they hit the jackpot - a bag containing a wallet, some money, a map, and a locker key. The police keep their find from the police who quickly come looking for the bag. It is hinted that if the police find out that the boys have the bag, they will be killed. Raphael and his friends' search for the locker lands them in the middle of a suspenseful mission involving a secret code, a corrupt politician, abuse of the poor, and six million stolen dollars.
The story is told mainly in the voices of the three boys and provides harrowing details about their lives in the dump and exposes the great disparity between the "haves " and the "have nots" in their society. The boys face many moral dilemmas and ultimately make good decisions. This Treasure Island meets Slumdog Millionaire novel will appeal to lovers of mystery and adventure.
One-handed catch by M.J. Auch
This story of a middle-grader’s determination to rise above a physical disability opens with the harrowing details of Norm’s too-close encounter with a meat grinder at his father’s store. His dad had asked him to give him a hand, but, as Norm puts it, his hand fast became part of the chopped –meat special of the day.
Losing your hand can make everyday activities like tying your shoes or playing baseball seem impossible. But Norm, pushed by his tough-love mother, takes on the challenge and finds ways to display his musical and artistic talents. He invents ingenious ways to practice fielding, batting and catching on the ball field and becomes a valuable member of the summer league team.
Norm has a great sense of humor and is a hero, but not a saint. The story is set in the years following World War II and is loosely based on the life of the author’s husband.
The Death Collector by Justin Richards
George Archer is the youngest member of the Dept. of Unclassified Artifacts at the British Museum in the late 1800s. When thieves break into the office one day and kill his co-worker over a scrap of paper from a scientist's diary, George tries to figure out why men would kill for such a thing.
George joins forces with a local pick-pocket and cleryman's duaghter in a wild romp through the foggy streets and parks of Victorian London. The trio seeks to put a stop to the plans of a crazed industrialist, Augustus Lorimore, to reanimate the dead and take over the world.
Complete with a seance, walking zombies, and a fire-breathing monster, this combination of horror and mystery might remind you of Sherlock Holmes meets Frankenstein!
The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had by Kristen Levine
This historical fiction story, the first by author Levine, takes place in a small town in Alabama in 1917.
Harry “Dit” Sims is longing for a new friend with whom he can share adventures and who will take him away from his nine annoying siblings. Dit is more than disappointed when the new postmaster moves into town with a daughter in tow, not a son as Harry had hoped. It doesn’t matter to Dit that that Emma is an African American, but she is a prissy bookworm. However, as unlikely as it would seem, Dit and Emma slowly become close friends. He teaches her how to throw a ball and dig a cave; she teaches him about math and books. When a blatantly racist sheriff sentences a black man to hang on trumped-up charges, Dit and Emma join forces to rescue the condemned man.
The book treats racism frankly, opening the reader’s eyes to the harsh realities of segregation. Yet, it is heartwarming to watch the growth of Dit and Emma’s friendship and their emerging moral conscience.
Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
International bestseller author John Grisham is known for his adult legal thrillers. In this, his first book for younger readers, Grisham again delivers a page-turner full of intrigue and suspense.
13 year-old Theodore Boone dreams of being a great trial lawyer. He hangs out at the courthouse, knows the judges and everyone on the police force, and is pretty well- versed in the law, thanks to his lawyer mom and Perry Mason reruns.
Theo faces a moral dilemma when he meets a young illegal immigrant who witnessed a high-profile murder. As the trial progresses, it looks like the cold-blooded murderer will go free because the evidence against him is circumstantial. Young Boone must decide whether or not to come forward about the eyewitness to the murder since the young illegal wants his identity to remain confidential.
This is a good read for those who enjoy crime shows and Grisham has already penned another Boone novel due out in May.
The Dark Days of Hamburger Halpin by Josh Berk
Will Halpin has several things going against him – he’s the new kid in class, overweight, and deaf. He’s always seated in the front corner of his high school classes so that he can read the lips of the other students and his teachers, but this positioning only gets him treated like a classroom houseplant.
In the first half of the book, readers are privy to Will’s thoughts and musings which are quite humorous and irreverent. The second half of the story pushes forward at a faster pace, being told in instant messages between Will and his partner in geekiness, Devon. The two social outcasts try to solve the mystery of how the star quarterback tumbled to his death on a field trip to the Happy Memory Coal Mine. Was his death an accident or murder? If it was murder, the suspects are many – the sexy math teacher, the crackpot bus driver, and the sad prom queen, to name a few.
This is story is a combination of coming-of-age reality fiction, a mystery, an expose on the problems of the deaf, but above all, a humorous look at high school life through the eyes of two unexpected heroes.
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick
He isn't very good at sports, but Steven Alper is better than most at drumming. He has a crush on the hottest girl in school who probably doesn't know he exists, and he is constantly annoyed by his cuter-than-cute five-year- old brother, Jeff.
The world of a typical middle-schooler is turned upside-down when Steven's little brother is diagnosed with leukemia. Now, Steven is the forgotten son as his mother's days revolve around getting Jeff to chemo appointments and Mr. Alper withdraws into a shell, worrying about mounting medical bills. In reaction to his family's painful process of adjustment, Steven throws himself into drumming, quits doing homework, and tries to keep his friends from finding out about Jeff's illness.
Readers will fall inl ove with the two brothers, laughing and crying and rooting for them. They'll find that in the midst of tragedy, life goes on. Read this hysterically funny, real, and heart-rending story and find out what "Dangerous Pie " is!
Escape! : The Story of the Great Houdini by Sid Fleischman
Erich Weiss was born in a Budapest Jewish ghetto in 1874. Modeling himself after his idol, French magician Robert-Houdin, he took on the stage name of Harry Houdini. Houdini traveled with medicine shows and vaudeville theater, perfecting tricks which involved illusion and escaping from restraints such as straightjackets and handcuffs. It was during these travels that he met his wife, Bess, who would become a partner in his acts. Famous throughout the world, Houdini would die from a ruptured appendix while performing his famous “Chinese Water Torture” trick.
For author Fleischman, writing this biography was a labor of love since Fleischman was once a young magician himself and had visited with Madame Houdini after her husband’s death. However, the author never breaks an unwritten code – he never tells the reader how the tricks were done.
So, how did Houdini walk through walls, escape drowning, and shatter iron chains wrapped tightly around him? Readers might get some clues as to how the tricks were done from the rare photos included in the book. This book is an engaging and fascinating read about a larger-than-life personality.
Hide & Seek by Katy Grant
Life is pretty boring for 14 year-old Chase who works in his parent’s family store all summer selling bait, tackle, and soft drinks. When he has time off from work, Chase has started enjoying a new pass time – geocaching – using a GPS to find containers hidden by other enthusiasts.
On his first solo geocache outing, chase finds a small metal box with a few plastic army men, a log book, and a puzzling message in a childish scrawl asking for food. When Chase returns to the site with food, he meets two little boys who appear to be living with their father at a campsite. Upon getting to know the family better, something just doesn’t seem right. Chase finds out through the Internet that the boys have been abducted by their father and that their mother is desperately looking for her children. Instead of going to the police, Chase makes the mistake of trying to handle the situation by himself and ends up being kidnapped by the boys’ father.
Throughout the ordeal, Chase learns quite a bit about the love between a parent and child, and the reader gets an introduction to geocaching in this first-rate suspense story.
Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger
15 year-olds Dave, Victor and Curtis have been looking forward to a summer of freedom – lounging around the pool, biking, just hanging out – but their fathers have a different idea. The boys are supposed to get jobs and make some money.
Determined not to work, the boys devise the plan, “Project Sweet Life,” so that it will look like they really do have jobs. The only problem is that Dave’s dad wants to see evidence of a job that is MONEY! And so the boys create hilarious moneymaking schemes that prove harder to pull off than actual jobs.
This comedy of errors is designed for the lazy bones in all of us, but it should be especially appealing to middle school boys. Hartinger’s book has a 5.0 AR reading level.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Late at night, a toddler wakes and, discovering the back door is open, heads out into the night.
The door had been opened by an assissin who had murdered the adults and is on his way to kill the child. But our unlikely hero had entered the graveyard across from his home and ends up in the care of the friendly ghosts who reside there. It turns out that the child is the focus of an ancient order that wants him dead. If you like adventure, horror mixed with humor, this is the book for you. this book has a 5.1 AR reading level.
Kids at Work by Russell Freedman
Do you think your parents give you too many chores at home? You will feel quite lucky after reading Russell Freedman's Kids at Work.
Lewis Hine, a schoolteacher and photographer, traveled the US taking pictures of children at work in the earlier part of the 20th century. There are photos of children laboring in dark, narrow coal mines, picking cotton and produce under the blazing sun, working in a lint-filled cotton mill, and tending the furnaces in a glass factory. The ages of these children will astound you!
Hine's photos were so devastating, they convinced people that the US needed laws against child labor. Russell Freedman provides an account of Hine's crusade and the social reforms that protect our youth today from labor abuse. This book is an excellent choice for your nonfiction AR requirement.
Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
12 year-old Abilene Tucker, daughter of a restless railroad worker, has been sent to Manifest, Kansas for the summer while her father is away. With the help of some of the town’s more colorful residents, Abilene discovers the town’s secrets, as well as those about her father.
The story is set in the 1930s Depression era. The characters are unforgettable and the story is rich in historical detail.
If you liked the movie Fried Green Tomatoes, you will enjoy this book. It has a 5.3 AR reading level.
Dreadful Sorry by Kathryn Reiss
Clementine Horn disappeared over 8o years ago, but Molly Teague is haunted by her memory. Molly’s recurring nightmares are of people and places she doesn’t know, an unfamiliar melody runs through her mind, and the image in the mirror is not her own. She also has an inexplicable terror of water.
After moving in with father and stepmother who live in a Victorian house in Maine, the nightmares become more vivid and Molly starts slipping in and out of Clementine’s life.
Reiss has written a chilling psychological time travel mystery for sleuths and ghost lovers alike. This book has a 7.2 AR reading level.
Flight #116 Is Down by Carolyn Cooney
Patrick, 17, finds it ironic that he needs to request hall passes to go to the library, while as an emergency medical technician he can deliver babies and save lives without such childish restrictions. Wealthy Heidi longs to feel competent at something and close to someone. Daniel, 15, must escort his younger brother to a wedding he desperately hopes won't take place. Spoiled Darienne can only focus on the small, insignificant negatives of life. All of these different personalitiesand more are thrown together by the cataclysmic crash of a 747 on Heidi's rural estate.
The rapidly shifting viewpoints in the story may make the reader fell like he is watching an action-packed TV movie – a fact that may appeal to some readers. The author has carefully researched emergency rescue procedures – the crash scene and its confusion are vividly detailed. The situation brings out both the shortcomings and the strengths of the characters.
Cooney, the master of suspense, presents a gripping novel portraying the bravery of teens caught in a terrifying and unforgettable drama. The book has an AR reading level of 6.5.
Hero by Mike Lupica
Did you ever want super powers? After Zach's father dies in a plane crash, Zach Harriman has trouble believing that his father died the way it was reported, so he visits the site of the crash.
There he meets a strange man, who explains that Mr. Harriman was killed because of his special powers and that Zach shares them as well. Suddenly, the adventure begins with Zach being attacked and realizing that it is up to him to protect the President of the United States. Find out how Zach masters his unique talents and decides who to trust in this new role he is thrust into.
Stepping on the Cracks by Mary Downing Hahn
“Step on a crack, break Hitler’s back!” Elizabeth and her friend Margaret put a new twist on an old game as they walk down the sidewalk.
World War II is in full swing and the girls’ brothers are overseas fighting the Germans. As much as the girls support the war effort, they are busy fighting their own war with Gordy, the 6th grade bully who has destroyed their tree house. While following Gordy to his hideout in the woods for revenge, the girls stumble upon his alarming secret – a secret which changes their feelings toward Gordy and about the war.
This story is rich in historical detail and raises issues and questions about war to which there are no easy answers. There is plenty of action and suspense in the story, but also much to ponder.
Hahn’s book has a 6.5 AR reading level.
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Life is pretty much meaningless to high school sophomores John and Lorraine. They spend much of their spare time playing practical jokes on people. It is a phone prank played on a lonely widower, Angelo Pignati, that leads to an almost-overnight friendship with the old man. Pignati's, or the Pigman's, enthusiasm for life spills over onto the two teens. Through Pignati's friendship and love, John and Lorraine finally find pleasure in life, especially during the times spent with the Pigman.
However, a bad decision on the part of the teens leaves mr. Pignati feeling betrayed and distraught and eventually leads to a fatal heart attack. The only way that John and Lorraine can make peace with their conscience is by telling the Pigman's story.
The story is narrated alternately by the the teens. Even though this book was written over 40 years ago, it is still relevant to young adults today. It's not a cheery story, but one you won't soon forget! The Pigman has an AR reading level of 5.8.
The Pigman by Paul Zindel
Life is pretty much meaningless to high school sophomores John and Lorraine. They spend much of their spare time playing practical jokes on people. It is a phone prank played on a lonely widower, Angelo Pignati, that leads to an almost-overnight friendship with the old man. Pignati, or “The Pigman’s,” enthusiasm for life spills over onto the two teens. Through Pignati’s friendship and love, John and Lorraine finally find pleasure in life, especially during the times spent with the Pigman.
However, a bad decision on the part of the teens leaves Mr. Pignati feeling betrayed and distraught and eventually leads to a fatal heart attack. The only way that John and Lorraine can make peace with their conscience is by telling the Pigman’s story.
The story is narrated alternately by the teens. Even though this book was written over 40 years ago, it is still relevant to young adults today. It’s not a cheery story, but one you won’t soon forget!
The Pigman has an AR reading level of 5.8.
Bodies from the Ash by James Deem
On the morning of Aug. 24, 79AD, Mt. Vesuvius, believed to be nothing more than a mountain, erupted with volcanic fury, annihilating the entire city of Pompeii. Volcanic fallout pummeled the city at a rate of five or six inches per hour, the pieces of raining pumice increasing in size as the day went on. The next day, Vesuvius was losing strength, but as the eruption cloud collapsed, it produced pyroclastic “surge and flow.” Superhot gas and ash blew down the volcano’s slopes at temperatures between 350 and 650 degrees, destroying everything in its path and leaving behind a thick covering of ash. No one knows what happened to the residents of Pompeii who managed to escape – there are no written records from the survivors.
In the 18th century, excavators started to uncover the buildings and treasures of Pompeii. But it wasn’t until 1863 that Giuseppe Fiorelli’s workers came across hollow areas in the ash with bones lying at the bottom. Fiorelli found that when these cavities were filled with plaster, people who had vanished suddenly in death reappeared as plaster mummies. The plaster casts preserved imprints of the people’s dying moments!
Bodies from the Ash is filled with photos of the plaster casts. The reader can get a sense of the desperation Pompeii’s victims must have felt as they tried to escape the ash or resigned themselves to certain death. The author gives a very readable account of the days of the eruption and its aftermath.
This non-fiction book has an AR reading level of 8.0, but the photos will fascinate even struggling readers.
Homecoming by Cynthia Voight
What kind of mother leaves her four children in a parked car in a strange town and just walks away never to return? This is exactly what happens to the Tillerman kids – Dicey, James, Sammy, and Maybeth. Their father had left them a long time ago. They have little money but know that they have a rich aunt that lives some distance away. However, the only way to get to her house is to walk – down the length of the Connecticut coastline. They can’t go to the authorities who would split them up into different foster homes. It is up to 13 year-old Dicey to make decisions about the fate of her brothers and sisters in a world that is usually indifferent and sometimes threatening.
Homecoming is a breath-taking journey to find a place called home. Voigt’s trilogy continues with the books Dicey’s Song and A Solitary Blue.
Charley Skedaddle by Patricia Beatty
Charley is a member of one of the toughest gangs in New York City. When his older brother is killed at the Battle of Gettysburg, Charley seeks revenge against the Confederates. He joins the Union Army as a drummer boy.
Charley thinks war will be glamorous and exciting. But when he sees two of his friends gunned down, reality sets in. When Charley shoots a Confederate soldier in self-defense, he knows he can’t take any more killing. Convinced that he’s a coward, Charley “skedaddles” away to the Blue Ridge Mountains to hide. While in hiding, Charley encounters the ultimate test of his courage. Can he prove himself and restore his shattered self-image?
This historical fiction book has an AR reading level of 6.4.
The Girl Who Threw Butterflies by Mick Cochrane
After her father’s death in a car accident, 8thgrader Molly’s life is turned upside down. Not only does she miss her father with whom she was very close, but now her mother has become withdrawn, hardly even speaking to Molly.
Molly and her Dad loved baseball. He had taught her how to throw a knuckleball, a pitch that”flutters like a butterfly.” In order to keep connected with her dad, Molly tries out for the boy’s baseball team. After some resistance from her teammates, Molly earns a spot on the team. Over the course of the season, Molly must figure out how to redefine her relationship to her mother, her deceased father, her old and new friends, and of course, to baseball.
Cochrane’s book has well-defined characters, baseball action, and is honest and gently humorous. The AR reading level is 5.1.
Funny business edited by Jon Scieszka (ches’ ka)
Scieszka , the force behind Guys Read , a popular website geared toward boys, has chosen 10 stories by various authors guaranteed to make you laugh. These authors include David Lubar of Red Hot Pepper Weenies fame and Jeff Kinney known for his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Scieszka believes that “humor is seriously one of the best kinds of reading” and he provides a collection that will keep you amused. You’ll meet a raging robot, a killer turkey, an alien body-snatcher, and a biker taking over a kid’s bedroom.
Scieszka has promised us more in the Guys Read short stoy series – look for Action & Adventure, Thrillers & Mystery and Fantasy in the future, all filled with writing that” gives guys a reason to want to be readers.” Girls, don’t worry… we’ll let you check them out , too.
This short story collection has an AR reading level of 5.1.
Copper Sun by Sharon Draper
15 year old Amari lives in a remote part of Africa. Her life as she knows it is destroyed the day white strangers arrive at the village, capture the healthiest and strongest members, and murder the rest. Beaten, branded, and dragged aboard a slave ship, Amari witnesses unimaginable horrors and endures humiliations she didn’t think possible.
As she struggles daily to survive the hard labor on the plantation and endure the harsh treatment from her owners, Amari becomes friends with Polly, a white indentured servant girl. They decide to work together to get the thing they both want the most – freedom.
This action-packed historical fiction book describes the shocking realities of the slave trade, but also portrays the resourcefulness and triumph of the human spirit.
The book, which is a Coretts Scott King Award winner, has an AR reading level of 5.2.
War & Watermelon by Rich Wallace
It’s the summer of 1969. Man has just walked on the moon for the first time, The Vietnam War is heating up, the Mets are beginning their famous World Series run, and Woodstock is rocking upstate New York. In New Jersey, 13 year-old Brody is mostly concerned with the Top Ten Hits on the radio and with trying not to mess up at football practice.
But after going along with his brother to experience Woodstock and contemplating his 17 year-old brother’s possible draft into the military, Brody starts to wake up to the world around him – a world that might take his brother away forever.
The reader will get a good dose of 60s culture, with references to rock bands of the era and play-by-play narration of the Mets’ games. This book is geared toward a male audience and reluctant readers will appreciate the lower 3.9 AR level. However, this book would make a great read for all students seeking extra AR points.
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman
12 year-old Dan, his baby brother, and Dan’s best friend are home alone when the wind begins to howl. Then , the only sound that can be heard is the wail of the emergency sirens. Tornadoes spotted! The boys hurry to the basement and huddle in a shower stall, wondering the whole time if their families are safe and if the town is still there. Little do the boys know that, even if they survive the twisters, their ordeal is just beginning.
This fiction story is based on the events of 1980 when 7tornadoes touched down in a matter of 3 hours in a Nebraska town. The book captures the terror of a devastating natural disaster, explores issues of sibling rivalry, the importance of friends helping friends, and how strong family bonds can get one through tough times.
The first person narration of this story and the fast pace of the telling make this book a real thriller. The book has a 6.9 AR level.
The Kid Comes Backby John Tunis
The character of Roy Tucker, a.k.a. The Kid, was made famous in Tunis’ bookWorld Series. Roy had played ball for the Brooklyn Dodgers, but his big-league career is interrupted by W.W. II.
During a tour of duty in Occupied France, Roy’s plane crashes and he is rescued from the Germans by the French Resistance. He is sent home to recover from a leg injury. The remaining story deals with Roy’s personal struggle in rehabilitation and his difficulties in returning to Major League baseball.
Although this story is as much about courage as it is about baseball, it is as exciting as a home run in the bottom of the ninth with the bases loaded! This book has an AR level of 6.6. and if you enjoy this Tunis novel, be sure to check outWorld Series, Rookie of the Year,andKeystone Kids.
The Emerald Atlas by John Stephens
It all begins on a snowy Christmas Eve night. Three children are tucked in their beds, dreaming of presents to be opened. Kate, the oldest, is approached in the darkness by her panicked mother who makes Kate promise to always take care of her brother and sister. The children are plucked from their parents,bundled up, put in a car by a tall stranger, and are whisked away. However, they are pursued by creatures with superhuman powers and the reader finds out that the hunt for these chosen children will never cease.
The children are being protected from a horrible evil of devastating power and are moved from one orphanage to another for 10 years. In their last home, tucked away in the Adirondacks, the children discover a magical green book which transports them into the recent past. Kate and her siblings find themselves on an incredible adventure – one involving captive children, bloodthirsty wolves, underground battles, sword-yielding giants, and a quest for three books of unspeakable power.
This first book in a trilogy by Stephens is packed with action, humor, and emotion. It is the story of three children who set out to save their family and end up having to save the world. The book has an AR reading level of 4.9.
The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen
Hannah , a young Jewish girl, wonders why she is always forced to listen to her family’s history and stories of the past. However, what happens when she participates in a Passover Seder meal will change her attitude forever.
Hannah is transported from her modern New York town to a Jewish village in Poland in the 1940s. Her name is now Chaya. She and other Jews are rounded up and shipped off to a Nazi death camp where survival is a daily challenge.
There comes a pivotal point in the story where Chaya becomes Hannah once more and returns to the present. However, Hannah now can explain the meaning of the tattoo on her aunt’s arm and why her relatives repeat their stories of the past. She has returned with a changed outlook of her Jewish heritage.
The Jewish Holocaust was a brutal, horrific event in human history. Jane Yolen gives the reader glimpses into this horror with a fiction book that is eye-opening, suspenseful and moving. The AR reading level is 6.5.
Stowaway by Karen Hesse
In the summer of 1768, an eleven year- old Nicholas Young bribed three men to get him aboard a ship ready to leave port. His abusive father wanted him to follow in his footsteps and become a butcher, a job Nicholas found repugnant. The ship he hid on was the H.M.S.The Endeavor, bound for an unknown continent on the bottom of the globe. The famous Captain James Cook was at the helm.
During a three year journey, Nicholas experienced danger and hardship at sea, but proved himself to be brave and loyal to his crewmates and captain. He earned the trust and respect of all on board. He forged many friendships among the crew and with the natives on the islands they visited.
Hesse’s historical fiction book is based on fact. There really was a Nicholas Young that stowed aboard . Exhaustive historical research, actual ship logs, and personal diaries were used in writing the book. Nicholas’ story is told in a dated journal format.
This book of adventure and the meaning of friendship has an AR reading level of 6.1.
Wisdom’s Kiss: A Thrilling and Romantic Adventure Incorporating Magic, Villainy, and a Cat by Catherine
From the author ofDairy Queen, we have a rollicking, witty tale of a love triangle and a plot to control a kingdom through an arranged marriage. Princess Wisdom is betrothed to Duke Roger of Farina. During her journey to the royal marriage ceremony, she falls madly in love with Tips, a circus acrobat. To complicate matters further, Tips has declared his love for Wisdom’s lady-in-waiting, Trudy, or Dizzy as she is known. Other characters in the story are Sir Felis, a master swordsman, Duchess Wilhelmina, the prospective groom’s mother, and Queen Mother Ben and her cat.
Some of the passages in the story are written as letters, diary entries, a play, and excerpts from theImperial Encyclopedia of Law. The humorous dialogue and situations, and the antics of the egotistical black cat will capture the reader’s imagination. Readers will find themselves rooting for a happy ending for all the characters except for the villainous Wilhelmina.
Murdock combines sophisticated language, a highly original style, humor, royal politics, magic, and treachery to make this a satisfying read for fairy tale lovers. The book has an AR reading level of 8.8.