Monday, July 29, 2013

Titles for Summer Readers From Librarians Across the U.S.

The Summer Reading List Committee at the Parkway School District in Chesterfield, Missouri, deserves a pat on the back. They've compiled an amazing roster of good summer books for students entering kindergarten through sixth grade, broken down by year. It's vast, it's detailed, and it's immensely helpful. Here is the rundown of books for young readers entering third grade in the fall.

Read Alouds
Bridges: Ruby’s Wish 2002 historical fiction, ethnic diversity
During the 1800s in China, when few girls learn to read and write, Ruby fervently desires to attend university with all the males in her family.
Curtis: The Bat Boy and His Violin 1998 sports, music, ethnic diversity
Reginald loves to play his violin, but Papa wants him to be outdoors more and enlists him as the bat boy for the baseball team Papa manages. Reginald plays his violin in the dugout, and the team improves.

Independent Reading  
Adler: Bones series mystery
Everyone needs bones — Detective Jeffrey Bones that is. With his bag of detective tools in hand, read how Jeffrey can solve any mystery.

Bourke: Christian the Lion: Based on the True Story of Anthony (Ace) Bourke, John Rendall and Christian the Lion 2009 nonfiction
Details the experiences of Anthony Bourke and John Rendall, who bought a lion cub from a department store, raised him as a pet, reintroduced him to the wild in Kenya and years later received a warm welcome from the grown lion.
Bunting: One Green Apple 2006 historical fiction, ethnic diversity
Farah is new to the U.S. and her class. She feels alone until she goes on a field trip and realizes things are alike everywhere.
Cleary: Math is CATegorical series stores in rhyme, mathematics
Mathematical functions are explained in rhyming text and simple, silly cartoons.
Cronin: Diary of a Fly 2007 animal fiction
A young fly discovers, day by day, that there is a lot to learn about being an insect, including the dangers of flyswatters and that heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Dadey: Adventures of the Bailey School Kids series schools, fiction
There are some pretty weird grown-ups living in Bailey City.
DeFelice: One Potato, Two Potato 2006 fairy tale
A very poor, humble couple live so simple a life they share everything, until the husband discovers a pot with magical powers buried under the very last potato in the garden.
DiCamillo: Mercy Watson series animal, fantasy, humor
Welcome to the wry and endearing world of Mercy Watson, the beloved "pig wonder" of the Watson household.
Foxworthy: Dirt On My Shirt 2008 poetry
Comedian Jeff Foxworthy presents more than 30 illustrated poems for children on such topics as friends, bugs, family members and pretending.
Holm: Babymouse series 2005 graphic fiction, friendship, imagination
An imaginative mouse learns life lessons while living her life.
Hopkinson: Abe Lincoln Crosses a Creek: A Tall, Thin Tale (Introducing His Forgotten Frontier Friend) 2008 historical fiction
In Knob Creek, Kentucky, in 1816, seven-year-old Abe Lincoln falls into a creek and is rescued by his best friend.
Johnson: Just Like Josh Gibson 2007 sports fiction, historical fiction
A grandmother recounts the story of the day she was allowed to play in a baseball game, even though she was a girl.
Kerrin: Martin Bridge: Ready for Takeoff! 2005 fiction
Martin means well, but his ideas don’t always turn out as expected. In three stand-alone chapters, Martin deals with issues at home and school.
Pinkney: The Ugly Duckling 1999 fairy tale
This adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen classic portrays an unhappy year for an ugly duckling who eventually grows up and transforms into a beautiful swan.
Sachar: Marvin Redpost series fiction
Marvin Redpost encounters hilarious problems with school, family and friends.
Stilton: The Geronimo Stilton series mice, fantasy, mystery
Geronimo Stilton is a mouse newspaper editor and journalist who travels the world to chase important interviews but winds up in the middle of adventures that involve solving intriguing mysteries.
Tunnell: Mailing May 1997 historical fiction
Five-year-old May wishes to visit her grandmother, but the train is too expensive. May's father and cousin concoct a clever means of sending the child after all.
Warner: Only Emma 2005 fiction
Emma’s mother loses her job, so Emma becomes the new kid in the school and neighborhood. An only child, Emma’s life changes when a four year old comes for a visit.

The librarians at View Ridge Elementary in Seattle, Washington, offer this quick list of funny reads for those hankering for some humor:

Bake Sale by Sara Varon
Flat Stanley by Jeff Brown
Gooney Bird Green by Lois Lowry
Magic Pickle by Scott Morse
The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin
Punished! by David Lubar
Scaredy Squirrel series by Melanie Watt
Spot the Plot by Patrick Lewis
Sweet Tooth by Margie Palatini
Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? by Marla Frazee et al.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Brave, Spirited Kat Guides Stephanie Burgis' Magical Series

 I have yet to master the art of the golden opening sentence. So when I come across a memorable one, I take note. Stephanie Burgis, with her three magical Kat stories, has got it down to a science:

"I was twelve years of age when I chopped off my hair, dressed as a boy and set off to save my family from impending ruin."

So opens Kat, Incorrigible (Atheneum 2011), the first in her series of middle-grade novels that are a lively mix of Jane Austen and Harry Potter. Recognized for its fiesty heroine and sharp writing, Kat, Incorrigible was a 2012 ALA/ALSC Notable Children’s Book in Fiction and made many lists, such as a Best of 2012 from Bank Street College.

Next up from Stephanie, Renegade Magic (Atheneum 2012) shared the further adventures of Kat. Kirkus Reviews recommended, "For readers who like their fantasy seasoned with feisty characters and nonstop action," and named it one of their New and Notable Books for 2012. And finally, this year's Stolen Magic (Atheneum 2013), which Stephanie opens with another golden line:

"Despite what either of my sisters may say, I actually possess a great deal of common sense. That was why I waited until nearly midnight on the last night of our journey into Devon before I climbed out of my bedroom window."

Part history, part fantasy, Stephanie's Kat books are set in 19th-century England. Kat is 12 years old and the fearless youngest sister of saintly (Kat would prefer "prissy") Elissa, brooding Angeline, and feckless Charles. Her mother was a witch, and Kat learns that not only does she have magical powers, but even more, she's a magical Guardian. However, she can only step up to the task if the secret order that ousted her mother comes to accept her. Sly Kat relies on her own wiles to boldly buck the system and help her siblings find love.

Question: Can you talk about your creative process and where the idea for your series came from? Did you have the three books visualized in your mind when you began? Or did one grow into two into three?

Stephanie Burgis: I don't outline my novels before I write, so I find out most plot developments as I go, traveling right along with my heroine. By partway through Kat, Incorrigible, though, I knew that one book would never be enough! Honestly, when I finished that first book, I felt that I could happily write another eight or nine standalone books in the series! Because I know Kat's adventures will never stop. However, my very smart agent suggested that I focus on just three books for the series, at least to begin with, so that was what I did – and I made sure to provide closure by the end of the third book for all the most important, overarching themes and storylines from all three books.

Q: It's hard enough writing one novel. How did you produce three titles that are strong enough to stand on their own and do it in just three years? Did you ever sleep? Was your office plastered with post-it notes?

SB: Ha! Well, luckily, although the books were published over the course of three years, I actually had four years to write them . . . but even so, the process involved a lot of scribbled notes in various notebooks (I have two different Moleskines that were JUST devoted to Kat and her family!), a whole bookcase full of Regency historical research, a ton of visits to various Regency museums around the UK . . . and a lot of love for the characters I was writing about.

Book Giveaway Alert!
Comment below on Stephanie's interview, and you will be entered to win a copy 
of Kat, Incorrigible!

Q: So often it's the boys who get to have all the fun, setting off on wild adventures and wielding powerful weapons. Kat is a special kind of heroine. She's bold and brave if not a bit outspoken but still very much a class act. What inspired the traits you gave her? What or whom did you tap for inspiration in the writing of Kat?

SB: Kat is, in many ways, the girl I would have loved to be! (And still would love to be, even now.) When I was 12, I was shy, quiet, and the oldest in my family. (Er, actually, I still am the oldest in my family. That part hasn't changed!) I've always been an anxious rule-follower, I still hate conflict, and as the oldest child, I grew up with the understanding that I was supposed to be "the responsible one."

Kat, on the other hand, is the youngest in her family, and she's NEVER afraid to speak her mind! She's not afraid of conflict, she throws herself into adventure, she never lets herself be stopped by the fear of social disapproval. She was sooo liberating to write! I can only hope that I absorbed a little bit of her courage and energy by writing in her voice for so long.

(And one quality that we absolutely share is a devotion to family. Like Kat, I grew up in a big, noisy, loving family, and the rule was always, definitely: family comes first!)

Q: You've clearly connected with young readers. My own daughter, for example, produced an elaborate book report on Kat, Incorrigible, complete with magic mirror (purchased from Walgreens' makeup department) and highwayman mask. What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

SB: Oh, wow. I love hearing that! What I really see as my writing "mission" is to write fun, empowering, and exciting novels that feature girls who win their adventures through their courage and intelligence. There is SO MUCH pressure beamed at girls from all angles in our society, telling them that their overriding goal should be to look pretty/sexy, to appeal to boys, and to never offend anybody. I want my books to offer an opposing view!

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your books?

SB: Most of all, I want readers to have fun when they read my books. I want to transport them to a different world and, especially if their own world is not a happy place at the moment (as mine certainly wasn't when I first started writing the Kat books), I want to offer them a joyful escape. But, tied into that, I'd also love to leave them feeling charged up and empowered when they finish reading one of my novels.

Over and over again in the Kat books, Kat is told by powerful people that she ought to sit down and be quiet, that she's too unimportant to be taken seriously. But guess what? She ALWAYS wins in the end by speaking her truth, listening to her gut, caring for the people she loves, and following her own moral compass, even when it takes her to scary places. That, to me, is a really important message.

Q: What is your next project? How hard will it be to step away from Kat and her family and start something new? Or will you stay with Regency England?

SB: I would absolutely love to go back to Regency England again one day! I adore that period – and ohhhh, did it hurt to say goodbye to Kat and her family. Right now, though, I'm playing with two different projects – one novel set in 1930s America and one novel set in contemporary Wales. Of course, they both feature strong, adventurous girls, and they're both chock-full of magic. We'll just have to see which one strikes publishing gold first! Please wish me luck.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

We Love Free Things! Win a Kindle Fire HD

Welcome to the Kindle Fire HD giveaway! Sponsored by some amazing blogs that celebrate the world of children's lit:
Kid Lit Frenzy
Read Now Sleep Later
Nite Lite Book Reviews
The Windy Pages
The Book Pixie
There's a Book
The Late Bloomer's Book Blog
Teach Mentor Texts
The Reading Date
Nancy Tandon
Read Write Mom

Show these blogger friends some love and at the same time earn entries into the giveaway. The Kindle Fire HD winner (U.S. only) will also get their choice of one July or August Kindle eBook from Kid Lit Frenzy, one YA Kindle eBook from Read Now Sleep Later, or one MG Kindle eBook from There's a Book

If you are not from the United States, use the second Rafflecopter to enter to win up to $20 worth of books from and an ARC or signed copy of a book from Kid Lit Frenzy

If you are a blogger, you can earn an extra entry by re-posting the giveaway. Copy the HTML from this page and paste it into a new post. We cannot count your entry unless you leave us the link, so remember to paste the link into the Rafflecopter widget. If you cannot embed the Rafflecopter widget, here is the Share Link for the Kindle Fire HD (US only) and the Share Link for the International $20 widgets.


  1. You must be 13 years of age or older to enter, or have a parent/guardian enter for you. All entries are subject to verification.
  2. We will notify the winner via email within 48 hours after the contest's end (11:59 pm on July 29).
  3. The Kindle Fire HD winner must have a mailing address in the United States. The International ($20 books) winner can be anywhere except the United States.
  4. The winners will have 48 hours to reply with their mailing address or another winner will be chosen.
  5. Contest sponsors are not responsible for items lost in the mail.
  6. We love comments, but please do not leave personal information such as email or mailing addresses in the comments! We are using Rafflecopter because it will keep your information private.
Questions? Please email the organizer, Alethea, at frootjoos at gmail dot com.
Good luck!

Inspired by Kathy at I am a Reader

Monday, July 15, 2013

School Librarians Know Best: More Great Summer Reads

The list sharing continues! Here are a few links to more compilations of great summer reads, this time from the big city librarians of the Boston Public Schools as well as a smaller town's selections, from Carver Middle School in Tulsa, Oklahoma. There is little in the way of description of these titles, so you have to trust that these librarians know what they are doing! And judging by the many talented authors they've included, I think we're in good hands.

The way I take advantage of these lists is to open another window on my laptop and log into my Chicago Public Library account. Then I reserve as many books as I can, and the library notifies me when they come in. So we have a steady feed of good books all summer.

Below is the summer reading list from the Boston Public Schools, specifically the best legends and myths to read this summer:

The Coming of the Dragon, Barnhouse
Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection, Dembicki, ed.
Odd and the Frost Giants, Gaiman
Princess of the Midnight Ball, George
A Tale Dark and Grimm, Gidwitz
The Odyssey: A Graphic Novel, Hinds
Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood, Lee
Gilgamesh the Hero, McCaughrean
Cinder, Meyer
Ain't Nothing But a Man: My Quest to Find the Real John Henry, Nelson
The Illustrated Book of Myths, Philip
The Kane Chronicles (series), Riordan
The Beautiful Stories of Life: Six Greek Myths, Retold, Rylant

Here is the list of novels Carver Middle School sixth-graders are encouraged to read this summer when they're escaping the Oklahoma heat. (The * means first book in a series or book has a sequel.):

Abduction by Peg Kehret
*Among the Hidden by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Airball: My Life in Briefs by Lisa Harkrader
Arilla Sun Down by Virginia Hamilton
*Bone, Vol. 1: Out from Boneville by Jeff Smith
*Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Read Hunger Games first)
Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman
*The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau
Cracker by Cynthia Kadohata
Curse of the Blue Figurine by John Bellairs
*Eragon by Christopher Paolini
*The Face on the Milk Carton by Caroline B. Cooney
Games: A Tale of Two Bullies by Carol Gorman
*Gregor the Overlander by Collins, Suzanne
Heads or Tails by Jack Gantos (1st book in the Jack Henry series)
Heat by Mike Lupica
Hoops by Walter Dean Myers
*Hoot by Carl Hiaasen
Hostage by Willo Davis Roberts
*Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones
*Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
*Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
*Into the Wild by Erin Hunter
The Island by Gary Paulsen
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
*Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos (1st book in the Joey Pigza series)
Joey Pigza Loses Control by Jack Gantos (#2 in Joey Pigza series)
Last Shot by John Feinstein
*The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron
The Man Who Was Poe by Avi
Million Dollar Shot by Don Gutman
Miracle’s Boys by Jacqueline Woodson
*Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment by James Patterson
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (3rd book in Hunger Games trilogy – Read the other two first.)
Monkey Island by Paula Fox
The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman
*The Mistmantle Chronicles Urchin of the Riding Stars by M.I. McAllister
The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
The Mysterious Matter of I.M. Fine by Diane Stanley
Naked Mole-Rat Letters by Mary Amato
Night of the Twisters by Ivy Ruckman
Or Give Me Death by Ann Rinaldi
*Out of Sight, Out of Mind by Marilyn Kaye
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
*The Princess Diaries by Cabot, Meg
*Quid Pro Quo by Vicki Grant
*Redwall by Brian Jacques
*Sammy Keys and the Hotel Thief by Wendelin VanDraanen
Shackleton’s Stowaway by Victoria McKernan
*Son of the Mob by Gordon Korman
*Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz
The Revealers by Doug Wilhelm
The River by Gary Paulsen
The School Story by Andrew Clements
The Scream Museum by Paul Zindel
The Skin I’m In by Sharon G. Flake
The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo
*Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke
Way Down Deep by Ruth White
*A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Monday, July 8, 2013

Kimberley Griffiths Little Works Magic With 'Butterflies'

Summer is a great time for kicking back poolside or on the beach with a juicy mystery to solve. And Kimberley Griffiths Little's latest middle-grade novel, When the Butterflies Came (Scholastic, April 2013), is just the book for young sleuths. The cover alone is enticing, featuring a young girl on the sand surrounded by dazzling butterflies. And that the author is Kimberley, whose honors include the Southwest Book Award, the Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel of 2010, Bank Street College Best Books of 2011, Crystal Kite Finalist, and New Mexico Book Award Finalist, rest assured that readers are in good hands.

When the Butterflies Came tells the story of 12-year-old Tara, whose Grammy Claire has recently died. Tara's mother has sunken into a deep depression and is essentially unreachable, and Tara feels little to no connection to her rebellious sister, Riley. Soon after her grandmother's passing, mysterious butterflies begin to follow her around. Tara believes her grandmother has left her a great mystery to solve.

Question: The mysterious and magical elements to your story pull readers in. Where did you get the idea for Tara and Grammy Claire and those keys? Have you written a mystery before? What was your creative process like? 

Kimberley Griffiths Little:
This is my first true mystery, although I adored reading mysteries when I was growing up and attempted to write mysteries years ago, but they are really hard!

When the Butterflies Came sort of grew organically. My characters and setting came first, and I wanted to do something with a really cool, smart grandmother. So I made her a research scientist on an island in Micronesia who has a tree-house laboratory and is fiercely trying to protect her special butterflies.

The first chapter always gets rewritten about 10 times or more, but Grammy Claire’s letters to Tara seemed to write themselves. They are the only part of the book that didn’t go through major revision – just a few tweaks, which almost never happens.

I included many elements I love, like secret letters and old-fashioned keys. And then, of course, butterflies are just awesome. So after a lot of brainstorming the story started coming together – and turned into a mystery of all things, which I never expected!

Q: The butterflies make delightful characters. Was it hard to write elements of magic realism? While it is so easy to devour as a reader, I think writing fantasy and magic realism is challenging. What was it like?

KGL: We have a cultural fascination with butterflies because they’re such gorgeous and extraordinary creatures. Butterflies have this magical ability to “sleep/die” when a caterpillar becomes a chrysalis and then “resurrect” into a flying flower.

The realism angle: I wanted to know more about one of the minor characters, Tara Doucet, from my previous novel, Circle of Secrets. She’s a modern day Scarlett O’Hara whose family still lives in their crumbling Doucet Mansion in the South along the bayou – and who hasn’t dreamed of being Scarlett O’Hara? But she’s Scarlett with a touch of OCD and a bratty older sister!

I love magical realism: a story set in the real world with real characters and problems and then turning one element upside down/inside out that gives the story a magical, otherworldly feel. I grew up reading lots of magical realism books – although that term had not been coined 30 years ago!

Book giveaway! Kimberley will send a copy of When the Butterflies Came to one lucky person who comments on this interview!

Q: There is a lot of adventure going on in When the Butterflies Came, but ultimately it is a book about coping with loss. What do you hope readers take away from your story?

KGL: No matter what we write, our personal beliefs often creep through. I hope readers will feel the importance of unconditional, family love; that we can get through anything with love and faith and forgiveness. I want readers and kids to know that families can be strong and that they are the most important relationships we have. I’ve personally gone through a lot of loss in my own life, losing all of my grandparents and my father and a few friends by the time I was 16 years old. Several months ago we lost my baby brother (out of six of us) to sudden, out-of-the-blue brain cancer, and it has left me reeling and unbearably sad. The only way I get through it is to rely on my sisters and my other brothers, and I’m so very grateful for them.

Q: You're a prolific writer for middle-grade (The Healing Spell, The Last Snake Runner). What do you hope to achieve with your books? And why did you choose middle-grade as your niche?

KGL: Middle-grade books are special and marvelous in so many ways. Seven- to 14-years-old is the age where books are more powerful than any other. Ask any adult reader their favorite children’s books and they can name several right off the top of their head. Our favorite children’s books impact us and stay with us throughout our lives, influencing our reading and education forever more.

Middle-grade books are so important, I also helped found this terrific site, which has turned out to be the biggest middle-grade blog/website on the internet. From the Mixed-Up Files . . . of Middle-Grade Authors. One of the quotes on the site is from me:

"Middle-grade books = Magic. Kids devour their favorite books, laugh and giggle, shiver with goose bumps, and sometimes sob on their pillows with strong emotions. When I was young, books were my lifeline, my best friends, and books were usually better than real life. That’s why I now write middle-grade books—to recreate the magic and discover new best friends, and sometimes sob into my pillow."

Q: You're the founder of Spellbinders and have a commitment to growing lifelong readers. With so much competition for young readers' time from other realms (social media, video gaming, computer gaming), what is your take on the state of children's literature and literacy?

KGL: That is such a huge question and one that sometimes frightens me but usually ends up comforting me because no matter how big we get for our britches there will always be a place for story. Stories are part of our DNA. Social media, video/computer games are inherently all about story, too. And the past 10 years, due to books like Harry Potter and the surge of paranormal YA novels, children’s literature has become very popular reading for adults, too. Kid’s books are booming bigger than adult literature. Which is exciting!

Q: What can we expect to see from you next?

KGL: I just turned in my next middle-grade novel to my editor at Scholastic for Summer 2014. It’s called The Time of the Fireflies and is about a girl who lives in an antique store with a cursed doll.

I’m also doing final revisions for my YA debut novel with HarperCollins, which will publish Fall 2014. It’s a trilogy pitched as the Young Adult version of The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. I’ve been working on this project for 10 years, and I’m thrilled that it sold in a huge deal to Harper. It’s about the roots of belly dance in the women’s world of the ancient Middle East, goddess temples, tribal warfare, and a delicious romance.

A firm title is still forthcoming but keep checking my website for details and keep up with me on Facebook and Twitter where I’m pretty active.

Thank you so much for having me here, Kate! I enjoyed the questions very much, and your readers are always welcome to email me at:

Monday, July 1, 2013

School Librarians Do the Heavy Lifting for Summer Reads

Sometimes it feels like a tall order to find titles that excite my three kids. The just-finished-second-grade reader still judges a book's merit based on the cover and how many weapons are on it. The newly minted middle-schooler flips to the back of the book to see how many pages, then decides whether he's up for tackling it. And the 13-year-old holds out for exclusively dystopian YA, turning her nose up at the classics or other titles that do not threaten global annihilation.

So when I come across recommended reading lists, I'm grateful. Some wonderful librarian somewhere has taken the time to compile a list of books that have pleased her readers, thus saving me having to slog through stacks of titles to find the right covers, the right number of pages, and the right end-of-the-world scenarios!

Over the next few weeks, I'll share a few lists that feature fun titles for these lazy days of summer reading. Happy hunting!

First up from the fabulous librarians at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools comes a vast list of titles for fiction and non-fiction, picture books and more. Here is a partial rundown of their middle-grade novel recommendations:

Books marked with an * are easier; those with a # are more challenging.
Baker, Dierdre. Becca at Sea
This lovely book chronicles three separate visits by Becca to her Gran’s house on a remote Canadian island. Becca fears being lonely with no one her age on the island, but various adventures and a multitude of quirky relatives and neighbors keep life interesting.

#Corder, Zizou. Lion Boy (first book in a trilogy)
His ability to speak to cats in their own language proves very useful when Charlie Ashanti’s parents are kidnapped. Helped by cats of all kinds, Charlie manages to escape the unpleasant Rafi who is sent out to capture him. When he ends up on a circus boat, Charlie and the circus lions make a pact to help each other.

#Curtis, Christopher Paul. Elijah of Buxton
The first freeborn child in a Canadian town populated by runaway slaves, Elijah is in many ways an ordinary kid. He is helpful to his neighbors, throws rocks with amazing accuracy, and is often confounded by the adults around him. Things take a dramatic turn when he embarks on a dangerous journey to the United States, where runaway slaves are hunted down.

Dyer, Heather. The Fish in Room 11
An orphan of mysterious parentage (Toby), good guys, bad guys, unexpected changes of heart, mermaids and treasure all in one book!

*Grimes, Nikki. Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel (first book in a series)
Dyamonde just moved to a new neighborhood with her mom after her parents’ divorce. She’s funny, smart, speaks her mind, and loves math. She doesn’t have a best friend yet but, as she’ll tell you, she’s a gem waiting to be discovered!

#Horvath, Polly. My One Hundred Adventures
Twelve-year-old Jane, who lives in a house on the beach with her three younger siblings and her dreamy single mother, longs for something different to happen this summer and prays for a hundred adventures. Like Horvath’s other fine books (Everything on a Waffle, The Trolls), this is quirky, sad, funny, and wise.

King-Smith, Dick. Three Terrible Trins
Three mice brothers, ignoring the class system of rodents in their farmhouse, befriend a lower class mouse and form a team to fight cats. King-Smith has written many wonderful books for animal lovers.

*Mills, Claudia. 7 X 9=Trouble
Third grader Wilson is having a hard time learning the times tables, and it definitely doesn’t help when his 5-year old brother learns them without even trying.

*Osborne, Mary Pope. Tales From the Odyssey. Book 1: The One-Eyed Giant
The first in a series of short, accessible chapter books relating the adventures and misadventures of Odysseus trying to find his way home to Ithaca following the Trojan War. Begins with the brief explanation of the war and the story of the Trojan horse. Includes a map of his journey.

Pinkwater, Daniel Manus. Fat Men From Space
William is able to receive radio signals on his tooth, a useless annoyance until he starts receiving bulletins from outer space. Now he is the only one who knows that thousands of fat spacemen in plaid sport jackets, knitted neckties and two toned shoes are confiscating and eating all the junk food on Earth.

Robinson, Barbara. The Best School Year Ever
School has started, and that means the six Herdman kids are back and creating their inimitable brand of destruction and mayhem. This classic series begins with The Best Christmas Pageant Ever and continues with The Best Halloween Ever.

*Segal, Lore. More Mole Stories, and Little Gopher, Too
Warm, funny stories about the adventures of Mole and his grandmother, who are perfectly happy together–most of the time. If you like it, try their first book, Why Mole Shouted.

From Town School for Boys in San Francisco comes another list, this one more focused on dystopian middle-grade. And please note that as this is a BOYS school, the titles are geared toward getting the young fellas reading.

Unwind, by Neil Shustermann

Gone, by Michael Grant

The Other Side of the Island, by Allegra Goodman

The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

The Sky Inside, by Clare B. Dunkle

The Dead and the Gone, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Uglies, by Scott Westerfeld

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The City of Ember, by Jeanne DuPrau

Winter's End, by Jean-Claude Mourlevat

Lockdown: Escape from Furnace, by Alexander Gordon Smith

Truancy, by Isamu Fukui

The Adoration of Jenna Fox, by Mary Pearson

The Carbon Diaries 2015, by Saci Lloyd

The Compound, by S.A. Bodeen

Candor, by Pam Bachorz

Surviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083, by Andrea White

The Roar, by Emma Clayton