The Book Bag, Books for ages 9 to 12, March/April 2008

Before we jump into the Book bag to talk about some of our favorite Tween and YA books, I want to let you know about a new blog we’ve found. Fusion Stories is the place to go find new novels with Asian American protagonists that aren’t immigrant stories nor set in Asia.

All We Know of Heaven; A Novel by Jacquelyn Mitchard. I had the chance to read this one myself. I’m not one to seek out “chick lit,” but I am glad I read this one. You can read my personal review at What Happens Next. Click the title to see the Reading Tub review. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

The Curse of Addy McMahon by Katie Davis. Kids and parents (especially those who “fondly” remember sixth grade) will enjoy this humorous, wholesome journey with Addy, who learns that life is about choices, not curses. “Very clever! The story is engaging, with great characters. The author has done an incredible job allowing Addy to lead the story, but leaving plenty of room for the other characters to be equally rich and offer their views of the events.” If you are looking for a good book for reluctant readers, DEFINITELY check this one out. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

How to Be Bad; A Novel by E. Lockhart, Sarah Mlynowski, and Lauren Myracle. Parents of teen girls — don’t let the title scare you away. This is a YA novel with strong characters and a solid plot. We loved how each of the characters gets to tell her view of events as the story moves along. (HarperCollins, 2008)

Galahad 2: The Web of Titan by Dom Testa. This fantasy adventure has a spaceship of teens in a race to save their universe. Rare is the time when get a reviewer who writes “The reader will be hooked by the end of the first paragraph.” I don’t think there’s anything else I could add! (Profound Impact Group, 2006)

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr. This is a captivating story told by Jenna Vaughn, a teen who “reinvented” herself after her best and only friend disappeared in fifth grade. Her birthday always takes her back to her “former” life and all the unanswered questions. The book covers a lot of ground, but a lot of the usual teen stuff (boyfriends, school, popularity) is part of the scenery, not central to the two main characters. This is a “soft” way to introduce teens to what abuse and the cycle of abuse look like. (Little, Brown, and Company, 2008)

Gone by Michael Grant. In one minute, we’re listening to a teacher drone on … in the next minute, the teacher and every person 14 and older has disappeared. There is no simple way to describe this book. It’s captivating, wonderful, and frightening all at the same time. Even if you aren’t a YA sci-fi fan, you will get wrapped up in this story. (HarperCollins, 2008)

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleishman. If you know anything about Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain), you know he is a character as colorful as those he created in his stories. This is an illustrated biography (every 3 pages there is a full-page picture) that looks like it will be perfect for reluctant readers, remedial readers, and those of us who love Mark Twain. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Girls Rule …. A Very Special Book Created Especially for Girls by Ashley Rice. Our student reviewer at Northumberland Elementary School declared that this book was “awesome.” She is a reluctant reader, but she liked it so much that she would buy one for her sister. (Blue Mountain Arts, Inc., 2002)

Crafty Inventions: Great Inventions by Gerry Bailey. Whenever we can, we try to sprinkle in some non-fiction books. Our student reviewer at Northumberland Elementary School gave this one two thumbs up because it was fun and taught him about how to make the inventions. He even picked it up more than once! (Mercury Junior, 2004)

Here are the books we’re going to be reading.

Reading Ahead – Books for ages 5 to 8 (Mar/Apr 2008)

Champion Sleeper! by Tim Young. The book cover is a Bassett hound sleeping on a pillow next to a trophy. Thumbing through it, the illustrations just made me smile. (Murphy’s Bone Publishing, 2008)

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French. The woman on the cover (and her discription on the back) will remind you of Cruella de Ville. I am intrigued that this is a chapter book for 7- to 9-year-olds. We don’t see many of those. (Candlewick Press, 2008)

Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express by Megan McDonald. Picture this: a VW bus with a banner on the front that says “Squeals on Wheels.” The art may not be final, but the picture made me laugh out loud. This is an illustrated chapter book with big print! (Candlewick Press, 2008)

The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly: Costa Rica by Debbie Glade. This is a little thicker than your average picture book (61 pages) but plenty of “white space” on the pages. The bugs look really cute, and I like the idea of learning about a new place. There is also a CD with a narration of the story and music, too. (Smart Poodle Publishing, 2008)

The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West by Sid Fleishman. This is an illustrated biography (every 3 pages there is a full-page picture) that looks like it will be a gret way to introduce longer stories (and a biography at that) to kids who aren’t quite reading chapter books themselves. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Reading Ahead: Books for Ages 9 to 12 (March/April 2008)

These are the new books we’ll be reviewing in a few months that caught our eye.

Champion Sleeper! by Tim Young. The book cover is a Bassett hound sleeping on a pillow next to a trophy. Thumbing through it, the illustrations just made me smile. This is a text-heavy picture book that looks to have potential for reluctant and remedial readers. (Murphy’s Bone Publishing, 2008)

Coraline (Graphic Novel Adaptation) by Neil Gaiman (adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell). I am not usually a fan of graphic novels, but the “verbatim adaptation” of this classic intrigues me. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Do the Math #2: The Writing on the Wall by Wendy Lichtman. I admit I am allergic to math, but I don’t want my daughter to be. I love the idea of a math-loving eighth grade girl as our heroine! (Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

The Extraordinary Adventures of Ordinary Boy (Book 1: The Hero Revealed) by William Boniface. This has the feel of a great summer paperback. It’s a chapter book, but there are some great comic-like illustrations, too. Looks like it might be a fun read for a reluctant reader. (HarperTrophy, 2006)

The Juliet Club by Suzanne Harper. I loved Shakespeare … not sophomore English in high school, I mean college. William Shakespeare was one of those writers who made the pursuit of a degree in English seem relevant. It will be interesting to see if this fictional tale will draw a younger generation to the Bard’s great works. (Greenwillow Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

My Dog May Be a Genius by Jack Prelutsky. April is National Poetry Month, so it only seems fitting to include one book. Kids need to learn about and appreciate poetry, and this illustrated book looks like it could be just the right hook. (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

MySpace/Our Planet by the MySpace Community with Jeca Taudte. This is a how-to guide for teens about going “green.” It is jam-packed with informatin and suggestions. I’ll be curious to see what the teens think! (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

No Sisters Sisters Club by Linda Salisbury. This is the second title in the Bailey Fish Adventure series. Its very topical: how would you react if your long-lost dad knocked on the door … and brought siblings you didn’t even know you had? (Tabby House, 2006)

The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French. The woman on the cover (and her discription on the back) will remind you of Cruella de Ville. This is a chapter book for 7- to 9-year-olds, but is VERY lightly illustrated. I am looking at it for its potential as a title for reluctant or remedial readers. (Candlewick Press, 2008)

The Sisters Club by Megan McDonald. The story looks interesting (four very different sisters), but what really catches my eye is the setup. There is traditional narrative AND play dialogue. I like the idea of giving “parts” to the kids to read. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out (no pun intented)! That offers real potential for reluctant and remedial readers alike. (Candlewick Press, 2008)

The Sky Village (Kaimira, Book 1) by Monk Ashland and Nigel Ashland. I am intrigued by the idea of a story with its base set in Asia. The cover image is captivating and mysterious. The back cover says 13-year-old Rom is trying to survive in the “ruins of Las Vegas.” That, alone, is a pretty interesting visual! (Candlewick Press, 2008)