Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff: I think this is my favorite book I read this summer. Albie, the main character, has a big heart, a heart that is often broken when he isn’t able to achieve as others think he should. He is generous and kind yet sometimes it’s easy to miss all the wonderful qualities he has when it’s only his deficits that are noticed.Asking kids to “live in someone else’s shoes” is a hard task especially if they have never experienced the hardships that the others have faced. This book opens the possibility for kids to experience life through Albie’s eyes and heart, to see that a person’s strengths are much more important than perceived weaknesses. Great for intermediate and middle school.
Circa Now by Amber McRee Turner: Circa Monroe has a gift. Like her father, she is wonderful at cleaning up (photo shopting) photographs. Her mother is a talented photographer too, but battles depression, so Circa and her father keep the family functioning. When her father is tragically killed in an accident, Circa begins to believe that things her father had shopt to entertain her as a child (adding a bit of fantasy to otherwise boring old photos) are actually coming to life. A young boy shows up at her doorstep that seems to have materialized from nowhere. Is he the baby in an old shopt photo her dad had recently included in a family reunion photo? Is this boy the answer to all of her problems?Kids that like reality with a hint of fantasy will enjoy this read. It leaves you guessing right up to the end. Good read for intermediate and middle school.
I Kill the Mockingbird by Paul Acampora: Having lived with teenagers the past six or seven years, I am totally aware that often the “assigned” novels that middle school and high school kids are expected to read and revere- are never touched. I just heard it again on a long ride home from a youth conference. “I read the spark notes to answer the questions. I never read the book.”So the fun in this novel is that three middle schoolers decide to create a frenzy for To Kill a Mockingbird using the law of supply and demand. If a book is suddenly gone from all the shelves, everyone will want to read it because it is so hard to get so it must be amazing! The narrator, Lucy loves To Kill a Mockingbird and thinks everyone should read it. It is an assigned book for the summer, so why not hide all the books in all the area bookstores and create a webpage to create a buzz about the disappearance of the books? Lots of fun for teens to read!!!
Boys of Blur by N.D. Wilson: A mix of voodoo and football. Our young protagonist Charlie Reynolds moves to the southern swamps of Florida and all the magic and mystery of the sugar cane fields. Will Charlie and his family be able to survive the evil that hides in the fields?This book took a few chapters to pull me in, but it was worth sticking with. A great book for boys but girls will enjoy too intermediate and up.
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead: Miranda, a sixth grader lives in the heart of New York with her mom. She is used to coming home to an empty house since her mom has to work so they can live. But, her life gets crazy when she begins to receive strange notes from an anonymous person, a homeless man suddenly begins to hang out on her street corner, and strange things keep happening to her and her friends.Kids that read this book will need to pay attention and not get too caught up in the confusion they may feel as they progress through the story. If they stick with it, they will be rewarded at the end! There is mystery and time travel. Themes of friendship and small acts of kindness making a difference make this a great book for kids intermediate and up.
Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Juliet T. Lamana is a gripping story about Hurricane Katrina from the eyes of one family. Armani is about to have a birthday party and doesn’t want an old storm to ruin it. Soon everything she has known is taken away and birthdays seem pointless. Her family becomes split during the worst of the storm and she must become a mother to her younger siblings. I recommend this book to fifth grade and up. There are raw moments which may not be a good fit for younger children, but readers will be swept into the storm holding on for dear life to the last page of the book.
Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher: Wow – I was blown away by this gut wrenching story. Definitely a read for older middle school/ high school students, but the cast of characters in this novel become so real they are like family. TJ is a high school senior – a natural athlete that hates conformity. In fact, there is a lot in his life he hates, but somehow survives with the help of great adopted parents and a teacher that convinces him to become a part of the inaugural swim team for the high school. TJ agrees if he can bring alongside him a group of misfits to swim with him. Themes of racism, loss, friendship and sacrifice. Great read for guys but I think girls will be moved by it too.
The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm- growing old can be painful and lonely, but becoming a teenager can be just as terrifying. Ellie is eleven years old and life is about to change as she transitions to middle school- sixth grade. Her best friend seems to be finding a new group to hang out with, and a long lost family member about thirteen years of age suddenly comes to live with her family. He looks just like her grandfather, her grandfather the scientist… Could it be he has found the fountain of youth? Fun and fast, The Fourteenth Goldfish will entertain and also possibly ignite an interest in science and discovery. Great for third grade and up.
Almost Home by Joan Bauer- Sugar Mae has two parents that love her fiercely, but addiction and depression create family disfunction. So Sugar and her dog Shush must find help through new friends and the foster system. This is a story of inner strength that hopefully will resonate with children in similar situations to Sugar and they too can find courage to survive, love, and thrive in spite of life’s challenges. Great for intermediate grades and up.
Rules by Cynthia Lord –We don’t realize the importance of each word we say until we know someone that can only communicate by using index cards to talk- one word at a time. Twelve year old Catherine meets a new friend when sitting in a waiting room where her autistic brother receives therapy. Her new friend Jason can’t talk, he can’t walk, but he is funny and smart and desperate to get beyond his disabilities and fly. Will Catherine be the one to help him or will her own prejudices and challenges keep her from finding the courage to fly too? Another great read for intermediate and up!
Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabstein- What a fun book. This is a mix of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Jumanji all taking place at the local library in Austin TX! The library should be an exciting place and Mr. Lemoncello creates a fascinating competition for a select group of students(winners of an essay contest) that includes animatronics, holograms, and other three-dimensional things all coming from characters and artifacts from beloved books. Readers starting in second grade through middle school will enjoy this one!
Found by Salina Yoon- Bear finds a lost toy, a stuffed bunny that must belong to someone else. Bear wants to find the owner, but finds himself falling in love with the bunny. Will he be able to give bunny back to the real owner when it’s time? Wonderful simple story of considering others before yourself. This would be a nice mentor text for elaboration and edge of your seat of story.
The Snatchabook Who’s Stealing the Stories? By Helen and Thomas Docherty-a delightful tale of Eliza Brown, a little rabbit, that must solve the mystery of who is stealing all the towns’ story books? Written in verse with interesting use of punctuation to create voice. This could be used to teach young writers how to make time move quickly, how to create tension through simple words and phrases, and how to write a “learned a lesson” ending.
The Cat, The Dog, The Exploding Eggs, The Wolf, and Grandma by Diane and Christyan Fox- With today’s world of video games and super power heroes, a child may have trouble anticipating the plot of an old-fashioned fairy tale like Little Red Riding Hood. So when cat tries to read this fairy tale to dog, dog tries to bring his background knowledge to predict what will happen next, like Red Riding Hood will hypnotize the bad guys, or blow them up with exploding eggs! Will dog’s interruptions make cat quit reading? This is a great way to fracture a fairy tale and might be a nice mentor text for students in that use!
Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston illustrated by Jim LaMarche- Jim LaMarch’s eye-catching illustrations of the changing season and Tony Johnston’s sensory filled text will delight readers of all ages! This definitely should be used for sensory details, specific word choice, purposeful sentence fragments, and use of repetition.