A spooky house, two orphans, and a family slowly losing their lives. Are the house and its inhabitants cursed? And why is there a tree growing right into the house? It’s up to Molly and Kip, newly arrived from Ireland and working as servants for the strange Windsor family, to find out what’s going on and to help rescue everyone from the mysterious and malevolent Night Gardener. This book is filled with adventure and secrets. And shows us why stories can help our lives, but lies do nothing but destroy people. It’s an engaging tale that will keep you interested throughout. (Grades 4-6.)
Read about World War I from a different perspective: That of a dog who fought right alongside American soldiers. Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum takes readers on a unique journey. Stubby was a homeless terrier who befriended and adopted (as well as became adopted by) Bob Conroy. When Conroy became a member of the infantry and traveled to France to fight in the Great War, Stubby went right along with him. Some members of the unit considered Stubby a good-luck charm, others were just warmed by his presence. The devoted dog learned to salute, could warn his fellow soldiers of incoming artillery fire, and even captured an enemy with a strategic bite. After the war, Stubby became a popular symbol of bravery. Bausum’s book lets you experience the story of World War I from an unlikely source. (Non-fiction, for kids 10 years old and up.)
It’s not every day you find a sofa that that moves through time and space and helps three kids save the world from a tyrant bent on making all the citizens of Earth his subjects. But the sofa in Henry Clark’s new book does that and more. River (our narrator), Fiona, and Freak (he dislikes his real name) are lured not only by the sofa but the extremely rare and valuable crayon they find amid its cushions. The discovery brings them to the attention of Alf, who is actually a denizen of another world and striving to save our world from an evil dictator. It’s fun to read a science fiction novel that takes place in our time and world, especially one that makes so much fun of our reliance on cell phones. River, Fiona, and Freak are bright and likable and, I hope, coming back for more adventures. (Science fiction, grades 5-7)
Another series — just two books so far — I heartily recommend Sheila Turnage’s Tupelo Landing series (grades 4-6). In Three Times Lucky, a murder comes to tiny Tupelo Landing, N.C., and prompts our protagonist Moses LoBeau (aka Mo) to set up the Desperado Detective Agency with her best friend Dale Earnhardt Johnson III. The crime hits very close to home for our young detectives, but not so close that one of the main characters is the villain.
In The Ghosts of Tupelo Landing, the newest book, the murder took places years ago, so our town of quirky characters is somewhat safe, though each person is not without his or her secrets. You’ll love all of people in Tupelo Landing and the adventures Mo and Dale have in their tiny town.
–Marie Drucker, Children’s Librarian
In the first book, we meet Jinx — an orphan who is about to be left in the Urwald (a large primeval forest) to die but instead is rescued by the wizard Simon. He gradually becomes the Simon’s apprentice and learns that the power he draws on to work his magic is different than that Simon – and other wizards — use. In the course of the story, Jinx meets two young people (Reven, a would-be king, and Elfwyn, a would-be witch) who are making their way (separately at first) through the Urwald to rid themselves of curses. They end up at the house of an evil wizard who attempts to use them to capture Simon. Simon saves Jinx while Jinx in his way saves Simon.
Jinx’s Magic picks up where we left off – with the Jinx, Reven, Elfwyn, and Simon traveling again. The group separates midway and we follow Jinx on his quest to find out more about knowledge and power. Jinx is so very brave and determined. And he’s often a bit confused and overwhelmed too. I think that’s why I like him so much. By the end of Jinx’s Magic, all of the players are in place for what promises to be a climactic battle between fire and ice, life and death, in the next book.
Poor Goat. Ever since Unicorn moved into his neighborhood, he’s been ignored. After all, Unicorn can make it rain cupcakes! But even Unicorn can’t do some things that only Goats can do (like make cheese). And the two learn that their differences make them unique and that together they make quite an amazing pair. Great picture book with a message that doesn’t preach, but instead celebrates each individual.
Angie Sage’s Septimus Heap is easily one of my favorite fantasy series. And now that the seventh and last book is out, you can read all the books one right after another and not have to wait for the next adventure to come out.
I probably can’t do the series justice in a small post like this, but here are the basics: Septimus is the 7th son of a 7th son of a 7th son and, therefore, highly magical. In Magyk, he discovers who he his and who his family is, including the heir to the kingdom, Princess Jenna. In Flyte, he finds his wonderful dragon, Spit Fyre. In Physik, he travels back in time and learns the secrets of alchemy. In Queste, he undergoes one of the most difficult trials of any young magician. In Syren, he and his companions are stranded on a strange island and must find a way to rescue themselves and a mysterious young woman. In Darke, he must help save the wizard tower from destructive forces. And, finally, in Fyre, all the threads of these marvelous stories come together and Septimus realizes his fate.
I plan to read all seven books again soon. That’s how much I like them.
Do you know the story of Henry Knox? In 1775, he took on the nearly impossible task of bringing 59 cannons from Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York all the way to Boston — traveling over 300 miles across lakes, forests, and mountains during a bitter winter! — to help General George Washington chase the British army out to Boston. In Don Brown’s thrilling Henry and the Cannons, you’ll see how difficult the trip was and all the obstacles Henry overcame. (Illustrated non-fiction, grades 1-4.)
Two young boys set out on a quest in this beautifully crafted book by Clare Vanderpool. Early Auden is a little strange, but he knows certain things: like, his brother didn’t die in the war, the numbers of Pi tell a story, and a trek through the Maine woods will prove both. Jack Baker, meanwhile, is alone and adrift, having recently been uprooted from his native Kansas to an all-boys school on the Maine coast. He is mourning the loss of his mother, missing his naval captain father, and trying to find his way. Early and Jack experience an adventure to last a lifetime, as they outwit pirates, get chased by a bear, and solve some mysteries on their own. Navigating Early is destined to be a classic. Clare Vanderpool is also the author of the Newbery Medal-winning book Moon Over Manifest. For kids 10 years old and up.