Tag Archives: adventure

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker

The Star Thief by Lindsey Becker. April 11, 2017. Little, Brown, and Company, 408 p. ISBN: 9780316348560.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0; Lexile: 920.

Honorine’s life as as maid at the Vidalia mansion is rather dull, dusting treasures from faraway places and daydreaming in front of maps of the world. But everything changes when she catches two brutish sailors ransacking Lord Vidalia’s study, and then follows a mysterious girl with wings out into the night….

Suddenly, Honorine is whisked into the middle of a battle between the crew of a spectacular steamship and a band of mythical constellations. The stars in the sky have come to life to defend themselves against those who want to harness their powers. Much to her surprise, Honorine is the crux of it all, the center of an epic clash between magic and science, the old ways and the new. But can this spirited young girl bring both sides of a larger-than-life fight together before they unleash an evil power even older than the stars?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Author Interview

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 14))
Grades 5-8. In this adventure of the galactic variety, Honorine’s deepest wish is to know a family. And according to the Mapmaker, a strident and fiercely powerful Mordant, she’ll betray him to gain her deepest longing. Orphaned as a baby, Honorine discovers Lord Vidalia placed her in his home to protect her from unseen powers that literally light up the night sky. One night, Honorine’s life drastically changes when she stumbles upon Mordants—constellations come to life—and is reunited with the only person she’s ever considered family: Lord Vidalia’s son, Francis. The problem? Francis seems to be on the wrong side of the epic battle above, and Honorine is discovering truths about her family that leave her in an extremely sticky situation. Infused with references to constellations and Greek mythological creatures, and stocked with ships that sail through the sky and civilizations succumbing to power and greed over and over again, the invigorating plot ultimately leaves Honorine with only one choice to make. A fun, Rick Riordanesque escapade.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
A debut middle-grade adventure involving constellations that come to life, airships, friendships, revenge, and the fight for survival.In the years just before the turn of the 20th century, Honorine—a white girl with gray eyes and a knack for artifacts and machinery—has lived on the Vidalia Estate for as long as she remembers. For the first years her best friend and playmate was Francis Vidalia, but now he’s in school and her days are filled with household chores. When strangers come looking for a book, her world is turned on its head. Honorine is swept up into a world where living constellations—here known as Mordant—are in a fight for their very survival. Before the book is over Honorine will have been on a fantastical flying island that is really a ship; met the scheming white Capt. Nautilus Olyphant and seen the ingenious device with which he has been capturing the Mordant; dealt with the mysterious and somewhat sinister Mapmaker; found out who her parents are; seen monsters emerge from Hades; and made important decisions involving friendship, family, and loyalty. The pace is fast, the characters believable, and the setting original. Though there are some holes in the story, such as exactly what motivates Nautilus, the breakneck pace will not give readers time to ponder such questions. And they probably won’t mind a bit. Readers enjoying a mix of fantasy, adventure, and a clever heroine will fall for this one. (Fantasy. 9-12)

About the Author

Lindsey Becker writes middle grade fiction about ghosts, monsters, mythical beasts, and daring children who love adventure and magic. The Star Thief is her debut novel.

Her website is http://literarylilycate.blogspot.com/

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The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie. April 18, 2017. Flux, 281 p. ISBN: 9781635830002.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 870.

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she’d been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it’s not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It’s being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Boa is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

Sequel to: The Abyss Surrounds Us

Part of Series: The Abyss

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War; Violence; Strong sexual themes; Underage drinking; Criminal culture

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Three weeks have passed since Cassandra lost her Reckoner monster Durga, her life as a trainer, and her heart to a pirate girl. In this sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016), Santa Elena, pirate queen and captain of the Minnow, has retreated to the freezing waters of the NeoAntarctic, fleeing another Reckoner beast gone wild. Cas is stuck when she realizes that the illegal monsters stolen by a greedy agent are all loose in the ocean, attacking ships and people with no trainers to guide them: she grew up as a trainer and is attached to the beasts. On the other hand, she’s now a pirate on the receiving end of their wrath, and she wants the threat neutralized. This is a new kind of adventure book—sci-fi piracy at its finest—and Skrutskie has penned another winner. There is definite closure in this second book of a planned duology, but enough open ends mean that Skrutskie could certainly return to this world, and readers will surely hope she does.

Kirkus Reviews starred (March 1, 2017)
The sequel to The Abyss Surrounds Us (2016) finds this world’s post-apocalyptic future threatened by rogue genetically engineered sea monsters.Cas Leung, once an aspiring trainer of the savage, gargantuan Reckoners that protect the world’s maritime traffic from pirates, now bears the tattoo of pirate captain Santa Elena’s Minnow. It’s the only way, she figures, she can pursue the double-dealing Reckoner agent who has been selling unlicensed pups to pirates. When the Minnow tangles with one that’s now grown and on the loose, Cas realizes the NeoPacific’s fast-dwindling fisheries are being consumed by these Hellbeasts, and global environmental catastrophe looms again. Even as Santa Elena convenes the Salt, the treaty organization of the NeoPacific’s pirates, to address this threat, the relationship begun previously between Cas and fellow trainee Swift continues to evolve, physical attraction and affection ever in conflict with the ruthless competition for supremacy that defines a pirate trainee’s life. Skrutskie deftly balances introspection and action, making for a page-turning, thoughtful read. Her worldbuilding envisions a brutal and diverse future: gender is no barrier to success—kick-ass women abound, most notably brown-skinned Santa Elena and white Swift—and neither, for the most part, is race, although differences are both acknowledged and celebrated. Chinese-American Cas’ moment with a plate of siumai, ordered in her “best Canto,” is “pure bliss” with “food that is so thoroughly mine.” A dazzling, satisfying sequel. (Science fiction. 14 & up)

About the Author

Emily Skrutskie is six feet tall. She was born in Massachusetts, raised in Virginia, and forged in the mountains above Boulder, Colorado. She holds a B.A. in Performing and Media Arts from Cornell University, where she studied an outrageous and demanding combination of film, computer science, and game design.

Her website is skrutskie.com.

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The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick

The Palace of Memory by Julian Sedgwick. MArch 1, 2017. Carolrhoda Books, 352 p. ISBN: 9781512499940.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.2; Lexile: 790.

Danny Woo has just escaped from the jaws of death. But he’s still haunted by the suspicious deaths of his parents, who were the star performers in a radical traveling circus, the Mysterium. When he discovers that the Mysterium is re-forming in Barcelona without him he’s devastated. But after learning that the Mysterium’s enemies may be active in Barcelona, he rushes to warn his friends.

Sequel to: Black Dragon

Part of series: Mysterium (BOOK 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Mild sexual themes

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 4-7. After numerous close calls in The Black Dragon (2016), Daniel Woo is still trying to uncover the truth behind his parents’ deaths. What’s more, the Forty-Nine, a murderous criminal group, seems to be targeting members of his old circus troupe, the Mysterium. Danny gives his aunt the slip to rejoin the recently reformed troupe in Barcelona, feeling angry and betrayed that no one told him they were mounting a new show—not even his close friends Zamora and Sing Sing. Tensions rise as Danny digs for information about his parents’ final days, and trouble dogs his every step. Meanwhile, a woman in a green coat is spotted at the scene of several dangerous accidents, and Danny is sure she’s involved in the circus’ streak of bad luck. Sedgwick keeps the pages turning with nonstop action; daring circus stunts; light mystery; and an interesting, multiethnic cast of characters. An abrupt ending signals more high-stakes adventures for Danny Woo and the Mysterium.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
Following the events of series opener The Black Dragon (2016), 12-year-old Chinese-English orphan Danny Woo is once again running for his life, but this time he is not the only one in danger.When the magical traveling circus, the Mysterium, decides to reopen, Danny fears that there is a traitor among the performers. He travels from Hong Kong to Barcelona to warn them, but once there he discovers that the stakes are much higher than he imagined. Even his godfather, Major Zamora, cannot protect him when a hired assassin begins playing a deadly game of cat and mouse. Danny will need the skills he learned from his circus-performer parents as well as the street smarts he has acquired since a mysterious explosion forced him from his boarding school and into a dangerous game he does not yet understand. This fast-paced mystery is packed with exotic locations, a multicultural cast, code-breaking, high-speed chases, and masterful magic tricks. Readers unfamiliar with the series will have a challenge initially, but the payoff is there. At times cohesion and clarity are sacrificed for intensity and drama, but the effect is pure heart-stopping adventure. And while Danny’s sleight-of-hand and acrobatic ability give him an edge, his logic, his loyalty, and his determination are what will ultimately serve him best. Chaos barely contained makes for a thrilling read. (Adventure. 8-11)

About the Author

Born in rural East Kent in 1966 Julian Sedgwick resolved to become a writer at an early age. He and his brother (writer Marcus Sedgwick) relied on their imaginations, and each other, to entertain themselves – inspired by their father’s love of cinema, theatre and storytelling.

Julian took a long detour whilst working out what and how to write – via a degree and a half at Cambridge University reading Oriental Studies and Philosophy, dying his hair various ill-advised colours, working as a bookseller, painter, therapist and researcher for film and TV – before moving into screenplay development and writing.

A lifelong interest in the arts and culture of China and Japan has influenced much of his work, as has his fascination with performance, street art and circus.

Julian lives near Ely, Cambridgeshire, with his wife and two sons, waiting impatiently for it to get cold enough to go Fen skating.

Her website is http://www.juliansedgwick.co.uk.

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The Last Spell by J.A. White

The Last Spell by J.A. White. April 4, 2017. Katherine Tegen Books, 504 p. ISBN: 9780062381392.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.1; Lexile: 750.

The spellbinding conclusion to the critically acclaimed Thickety series. In The Thickety #4: The Last Spell, Kara and her brother Taff must find the hidden pieces of Princess Evangeline’s grimoire to defeat Rygoth and her army of witches in one last good versus evil battle.

Kara and Taff have discovered that the Spider Queen is searching for Princess Evangeline’s grimoire, the Vukera. Legends say that any witch who wields its dangerous magic would be indestructible. Kara and Taff have to stop the Spider Queen from finding the ancient weapon—and destroying everything.

They will travel through time with an old enemy, come face-to-face with the creatures that guard the grimoire’s pages, and unravel a king’s dangerous secret, before one final battle against the Spider Queen. But can Kara save the people she loves and cast a spell that could change magic forever?

Sequel to: Well of Witches

Part of series: The Thickety (Book 4)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence

 

Reviews

Booklist (April 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 5-8. Kara is more powerful than ever, but Rygoth, too, has made steady progress: she has one of the four pieces of the Vulkera, an incredibly powerful grimoire that could make her unstoppable. Kara and Taff follow clues all over the kingdoms of the world to find the remaining pieces, but Rygoth is at their heels at every turn. White’s fanciful world building is as rich as ever, though his characters travel so much that many intriguing locations get short shrift, and some key explanations are glossed over. Still, the mechanics of magic in White’s world are fascinating, and series fans will surely be satisfied by this empowering final installment.

Kirkus Reviews (February 15, 2017)
This long-anticipated finale to the Thickety fantasy series will provide readers with as much excitement, monsters, evil characters, and constant change as they need to stay glued to the page.Fans of the series will wonder what disasters befall Kara Westfall and her brother, Taff, in this volume. Long before this chronicle began, the grimoire Vulkera was torn in four parts and dispersed to Sentium’s four regions to prevent its power from falling into malevolent hands. As the siblings travel from the Hourglass Tower to Dolrose Castle and the Museum of Impossible Things, each place yields information; but all throw Kara and Taff into serious danger. Their visit to the museum, for instance, offers a close call from capture by Rygoth as well as a terrifying airborne battle. A huge battle follows on the discovery of the last piece of the Vulkera—and a grand wrapping up of narrative threads creates a satisfying ending. Although some readers new to the series should begin with Volume 1, more-experienced fantasy readers will be able to catch up quite well. Differences in skin color appear to exist in this fantasyland, but Kara and Taff seem to be white. Magic, suspense, and close calls—what could be better? (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

J. A. White lives in New Jersey with his wife, three sons, and a hamster named Ophelia that doesn’t like him very much. When he’s not making up stories, he teaches a bunch of kids how to make up stories (along with math and science and other important stuff). He wishes dragons were real because it would be a much cooler way to get to work.  His website is www.jawhitebooks.com.

 

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The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

The Dark Prophecy: The Trials of Apollo, Book Two by Rick Riordan. May 2, 2017. Disney-Hyperion, 414 p. ISBN: 9781484746424.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.6.

Zeus has punished his son Apollo—god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more—by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark. What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo do anything about them without his powers?

After experiencing a series of dangerous—and frankly, humiliating—trials at Camp Half-Blood, Apollo must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Fortunately, what he lacks in godly graces he’s gaining in new friendships—with heroes who will be very familiar to fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians and Heroes of Olympus series. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride. . . .

Sequel to: The Hidden Oracle

Part of Series: The Trials of Apollo

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns; Violence; Animal cruelty; Murder

Book Trailer

 

About the Author

Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.

For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.

While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.

Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.

His website is www.rickriordan.com.

Teacher Resources

Trials of Apollo  Teaching Resources

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Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose

Jasper and the Riddle of Riley’s Mine by Caroline Starr Rose. February 7, 2017. G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 288 p. ISBN: 9780399168116.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.4; Lexile: 750.

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.

Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now—even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.

Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who’s long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine—all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.

In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence; Alcohol

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2017)
News that gold’s been discovered in northern Canada has just arrived in 1897 Seattle; learning that his brother, Mel, has joined the stampede of amateur prospectors, Jasper, 11, follows him north.With their mother dead and their father alcoholic and unemployed, Mel, 16, was the family breadwinner. Feeling hurt and abandoned, afraid Mel might send him home, Jasper sneaks onto the ship that will take them to Skagway, Alaska. Jasper’s brought along their father’s gold pocket watch and mother’s washboard; resourceful and determined, he trades his laundry services for a place to sleep and money for food, avoiding capture as a stowaway. The prospectors embarking on this long, dangerous journey to the Klondike as winter approaches are rough, dishonest, and highly credulous (even Jasper questions whether Yukon gold litters the ground or grows on trees). But like them, Jasper’s spellbound by the story of One-Eyed Riley, an unhinged prospector who abandoned his valuable claim but left clues to its whereabouts. Untold riches await the miner who solves the riddles. Jasper narrates in the present tense, his homespun voice evoking both emotion and adventure. Rose milks the setting for all it’s worth. Jasper and Mel are both white. Villains and allies provide colorful melodrama, but it’s the brothers’ struggle to survive the Yukon wilderness with its harsh beauty and unforgiving cold that will keep readers entranced. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

School Library Journal (February 1, 2017)
Gr 4-7-The dreams and dangers of the 1879 Klondike gold rush fuel Rose’s first novel in prose, and it’s a rousing historical adventure. By the end of the first chapter, news of the strikes reaches 11-year-old Jasper and 16-year-old Melvin’s rural Washington town. The brothers quickly forsake their abusive father and set out for the gold fields of Canada. Harsh weather and physical challenges aren’t the only perils along the way. Stampeders are more likely to steal from than help one another, especially two boys traveling alone. Tall tales of gold that grows on trees keep the brothers’ hopes high; Jasper is spurred on by the legend of a million-dollar stake abandoned by miner One-Eyed Riley, who left behind a series of riddles leading to the gold. It’s unlikely that readers will be able to solve the riddles and locate Riley’s claim on the included map, but that won’t deter them. Rose’s carefully plotted clues, along with colorful supporting characters and narrow escapes, keep the pace brisk until Jasper finds Riley’s mine in a suspenseful climax. Complementing a narrative rich in details about life on the frontier, the author’s note provides more intriguing facts, including profiles of characters in the book who were true historical figures. VERDICT Highly recommended for fans of adventure and historical fiction, or as a classroom read-aloud.-Marybeth Kozikowski, Sachem -Public Library, Holbrook, NY

About the Author

Caroline Starr Rose spent her childhood in the deserts of Saudi Arabia and New Mexico, camping at the Red Sea in one and eating red chile in the other. As a girl she danced ballet, raced through books, composed poetry on an ancient typewriter, and put on magic shows in a homemade cape. She’s taught both social studies and English in New Mexico, Florida, Virginia, and Louisiana. In her classroom, she worked to instill in her students a passion for books, an enthusiasm to experiment with words, and a curiosity about the past. She is the author of the critically acclaimed novels in verse May B. and Blue Birds. Caroline lives in New Mexico with her husband and two sons.

Her website is www.carolinestarrrose.com.

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Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman

Masterminds: Payback by Gordon Korman. March 7, 2017. Balzer + Bray, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062300058.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

The thrilling finale to the New York Times-bestselling Masterminds series from middle grade star author Gordon Korman. Perfect for fans of Rick Riordan and James Patterson.

After a serious betrayal from one of their former friends, the clones of Project Osiris are on the run again. Now separated into pairs, Eli and Tori and Amber and Malik are fighting to survive in the real world.

Amber and Malik track down the one person they think can help them prove the existence of Project Osiris, notorious mob boss Gus Alabaster, also known as Malik’s DNA donor. But as Malik gets pulled into the criminal world—tantalized by hints of a real family—his actions put him and Amber into greater danger.

Part of Series: Masterminds (Book 3)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 12))
Grades 4-7. Korman’s action-packed caper series comes to a satisfying close in this final installment. After facing a surprising double-cross at the end of the last book (Criminal Destiny, 2016), Eli and Tori get separated from Amber and Malik, but that doesn’t stop each pair of kids from continuing to follow clues to track down the criminals from which they were cloned. They have good intentions, but they can’t help but use their inborn skills, and soon they all begin to feel lured in by the ease of breaking the law. But as the cinematic plot, laced with red herrings, daring escapes, and mostly harmless minor crimes, trundles on to a tropical resort, where the foursome confronts the mad scientist responsible for their existence, the kids realize that their loyalty to one another and the skills they’ve learned from each other are enough to keep them on the straight and narrow (for now, at least). With a masterful balance of humor, thought-provoking questions, and adventure, this finale offers just the right closing note to an entertaining trilogy.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2016)
In this trilogy closer, the four escaped clones from Project Osiris are still on the run, trying to avoid capture, discover the truth behind their criminal origins, and rescue the rest of the clones from the clutches of the evil Dr. Hammerstrom.Amber and Malik travel to Chicago to question Malik’s DNA donor, crime boss Gus Alabaster. Posing as his long-lost son, Malik is able to infiltrate his inner circle, but other than the confirmation that he is Gus’ clone, the trip is futile. Meanwhile, Tori and Eli go to California to visit serial killer Bartholomew Glen. There, they find that the Osiris conspiracy is bigger than they imagined. The four use a combination of their innate criminal abilities and their learned kindness to survive. Whether it is stealing a car, selling stolen Girl Scout cookies, or hacking computers, they will do whatever it takes to find the truth. This final installment in the trilogy that began with Masterminds (2015) is packed with surprising twists, high-speed chases, and plenty of near misses. Though the novel sidesteps racial differences, the question of nature versus nurture adds a thoughtful layer to a book that relies heavily on some convenient coincidences and improbable scenarios. (The dimly lit cover depicts the kids as either white or ambiguous.) Fans of the series will not be disappointed. Action-packed, high-speed fun. (Adventure. 8-12)

About the Author

Korman wrote his first book, “This Can’t be Happening at Macdonald Hall”, when he was 12 years old, for a coach who suddenly found himself teaching 7th grade English. He later took that episode and created a book out of it, as well, in “The Sixth Grade Nickname Game”, wherein Mr. Huge was based on that 7th grade teacher.

Korman moved to New York City, where he studied film and film writing. While in New York, he met his future wife; live in Long Island with their three children.

He has published more than 50 books.

His website is gordonkorman.com.

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Train I Ride by Paul Mosier

Train I Ride by Paul Mosier. January 24, 2017. HarperCollins, 192 p. ISBN: 9780062455734.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 6.3; Lexile: 720.

Rydr is on a train heading east, leaving California, where her gramma can’t take care of her anymore, and traveling to Chicago to live with an unknown relative. She brings with her a suitcase, memories both happy and sad, and a box containing something very important.

As Rydr meets her fellow passengers and learns their stories, her own past begins to emerge. And as much as Rydr may want to forget about her life in California, on the train she finds that maybe her past can help her deal with her present. And maybe hope and forgiveness are all around her and, most important, within her, if she’s willing to look for it.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language; Violence; Drugs

 

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-7. While some journey hopefully toward a destination, Rydr’s expectations are decidedly low. Following her grandmother’s death, she’s traveling by rail to meet her next guardian, a great-uncle she has never met. In the meantime, the train becomes her home. She befriends a couple of passengers as well as her Amtrak chaperone and the snack-counter attendant, while the train travels from California to Chicago. Along the way, she celebrates her thirteenth birthday, deals with a personal crisis, and forms a strong bond with a boy. Each of these occurrences has an element of the unexpected as well as a feeling of inevitability. And in the end, this tough, smart, vulnerable kid leaves readers with the conviction that wherever she’s headed, it’s going to turn out OK. Written in a style that is simple and direct but not without nuance, the novel introduces Rydr as an initially enigmatic narrator whose story becomes more intricate and more involving as the many complications of her journey elicit memories from her past. While there’s tragedy in Rydr’s background, her way forward is lit by insight and hope. In his first novel, Mosier offers a cast of well-drawn characters, an unusual setting, and a rewarding reading experience.

Kirkus Reviews starred (October 1, 2016)
Rydr, as she calls herself, is trying to put a brave face on a journey that feels much like doom.The 13-year-old, hungry and broke, is the daughter of an addicted mom “who used to have public embarrassments”—but now she’s dead. Her reluctant grandmother (also now dead), whose best quality was her excellent pancakes, was her next not-quite-a-caregiver. Now the girl, battered by life but always resiliently and often cleverly struggling forward, is on a long train trip from Palm Springs to Chicago, where she’ll be placed with an elderly great-uncle she doesn’t know but whose “monthly check will get bigger” when she arrives. During the journey she’s under the care of, then befriended and perhaps even saved by, Dorothea, an Amtrak escort, Neal, a gay snack bar worker, Carlos, a traveling poet, and an antipathetic Boy Scout called Tenderchunks who touches her heart. Along the way Rydr will savor her first kiss, run away from the train and her memories—but return—leave the burden of her mother’s ashes in an Iowa wood, and nearly destroy a restroom while trying to cope with her excruciating recollections. Her pluck and her perceptive narrative voice combine to make her brief yet deeply affecting connections with caring strangers plausible although occurring over the course of just a few days. Race and culture are implied in naming convention and speech patterns, with characters defaulting to white. A harrowing, moving, immersive, and ultimately uplifting debut novel. (Fiction. 11-16)

About the Author

Paul Mosier began writing novels in 2011, but has written in some fashion his entire life. He lives a short walk from the place of his birth in downtown Phoenix, Arizona, but it has been a very circuitous route that brought him there. He is married and is father to two lovely daughters who both read fanatically. He loves listening to baseball on the radio, eating vegetarian food, drinking coffee, talking nonstop, and riding trains. In fact, he has ridden most of the route described in his debut novel, Train I Ride, which has earned starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Kirkus.

His website is novelistpaulmosier.wordpress.com.

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Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park

Cavern of Secrets by Linda Sue Park. March7, 2017. HarperCollins, 320 p. ISBN: 9780062327413.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.0.

In the second installment of the spellbinding Wing & Claw series, Newbery Medal—winning author Linda Sue Park takes a young apothecary hero to new heights of danger, exciting adventure, and intriguing botanical magic.

Raffa Santana has spent all winter hiding in the harsh wilderness of the Sudden Mountains, and now it’s time to return home. Home, where his parents will help him fight back against the vile Chancellor who has captured and altered the wild creatures of the Forest of Wonders. Home, where Raffa’s beloved companion, Echo the bat, will recover from his mysterious sickness.

To get there, Raffa must make a treacherous journey across Obsidia. Along the way, he will discover a luminous plant that might be the key to saving the creatures stuck in the Chancellor’s grasp… if only Raffa can unlock the plant’s secrets and deliver the cure to the captive animals.

Cavern of Secrets masterfully explores one boy’s responsibility to his friends, family, and the wider world.

Sequel to: Forest of Wonders

Part of series: Wing & Claw

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Inhumane treatment of animals

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 1, 2017 (Online))
Grades 3-6. After spending months hiding in the woods, Raffa, Garith, and Kuma, accompanied by their animal friends, decide it’s time to go home, if only because Raffa’s talking bat, Echo, is gravely ill. On their trip back, Raffa stumbles onto a new plant with miraculous healing properties, which comes in handy once aggressive animals treated with the scarlet vine start attacking people in unnatural ways. Raffa’s new plant seems to reverse the effects of the scarlet vine, and he endeavors to return to the heart of the city, no matter how dangerous, to thwart the Chancellor’s nefarious plans. Amid all the action of his mission, Raffa faces some hard truths about his apothecary gifts, especially when he considers what might be best for Echo. While Raffa’s fretful inner monologue sometimes bogs down the pace, Park’s meaningful exploration of emotions nicely grounds the plot, and her rich, vividly drawn characters add plenty of depth. Another cliff-hanger ends this second volume of the Wing and Claw series, but that only means there’s more for fans to pine for.

Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2016)
In this sequel to Forest of Wonders (2016), hero Raffa applies his apothecary skills to thwart the Chancellor of Obsidia’s malevolent plot to treat wild animals with botanicals and use them against her own people. Raffa, his cousin, Garith, and his friend Kuma, along with a talking bat named Echo, a gigantic bear, and a raccoon, have spent the winter in the Sudden Mountains, hiding from the Chancellor who wants to silence them because of their knowledge of her secret plan. With spring’s approach, Raffa decides to return to his parents. On the perilous journey home, Raffa discovers a hidden cavern where he harvests a mysterious, translucent plant whose healing properties cure the ailing Echo. After witnessing the Chancellor’s manipulated foxes, stoats, and crows devastate Kuma’s village and finding his own home in ashes, Raffa covertly develops an antidote from the cavern plant, hoping to cure and free the captured animals. When his plan fails, a desperate, desolate Raffa faces a precarious future, pondering his role as a healer vis-à-vis his family, friends, and Obsidia. As in the trilogy opener, Park demands that her child protagonist make adult-sized choices that come with real consequences. Raffa’s world is a diverse one; he has dark hair and light-brown skin, Kuma’s skin is dark, and Garith is newly deaf. The nail-biting adventure, relevant moral dilemmas, and complex characters will leave readers eager for the final installment. (map) (Fantasy. 8-12)

About the Author

Linda Sue Park is a Korean American author of children’s fiction. Park published her first novel, Seesaw Girl, in 1999. To date, she has written six children’s novels and five picture books for younger readers. Park’s work achieved prominence when she received the prestigious 2002 Newbery Medal for her novel A Single Shard.

Her website is www.lindasuepark.com.

Teacher Resources

Wing and Claw Reading Guide

Around the Web

Cavern of Secrets on Amazon

Cavern of Secrets on Goodreads

Cavern of Secrets on JLG

Cavern of Secrets Publisher Page

Hideout by Watt Key

Hideout  by Watt Key. January 10, 2017. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 320 p. ISBN: 9780374304829.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.2.

In this riveting middle-grade adventure, the son of a Mississippi policeman finds a boy living on his own in the wilderness. Twelve-year-old Sam has been given a fishing boat by his father, but he hates fishing. Instead he uses the boat to disappear for hours at a time, exploring the forbidden swampy surroundings of his bayou home. Then he discovers a strange kid named Davey, mysteriously alone, repairing an abandoned cabin deep in the woods. Not fooled by the boy’s evasive explanation as to why he’s on his own, Sam becomes entangled in his own efforts to help Davey. But this leads him to telling small lies that only get bigger as the danger increases for both boys and hidden truths become harder to conceal.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: References to marijuana use

 

Reviews

Booklist (January 1, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 9))
Grades 5-8. From the author of Alabama Moon (2006) and Terror at Bottle Creek (2016) comes an exciting adventure set in Mississippi’s Pascagoula River marshlands. When 12-year-old Sam finds another boy, Davey, living alone in an abandoned fishing camp, Sam’s efforts to help him draw the attention of a trio of criminals. Emotionally reeling from a beating at school, Sam wonders if he’s been marked as a loser for good. He wants to do something brave, like his police chief dad, so he’s taken to piloting his boat in the bayou’s unmapped areas, where he finds Davey. Davey claims to be waiting for his father and brother, but as Sam begins sneaking him food and supplies, it’s clear Davey isn’t telling the whole truth. He’s hidden piles of money, which remind Sam of a robbery his dad is investigating. Sam’s struggles to fit in at school, to like himself, and to solve his own problems reflect middle-grade concerns. The boys’ survivalist adventures in the swamps are suspenseful, and the reassuring ending relies on supportive adult intervention.

Kirkus Reviews (November 1, 2016)
Key treads familiar territory in this tale of boys trying to be men, this time in the dangerous swampy bayous of Mississippi.Narrator Sam Ford has been beaten badly by two bullies at his new middle school. With a dad who has just become chief of police of Pascagoula, Sam tries to escape his humiliation by blaming his only friend, nerdy white Grover. Hoping to prove himself, Sam heads to the bayous in his new boat, a present for his 13th birthday, looking for a dead body that search and rescue hasn’t been able to find. Instead, Sam finds Davey holed up in a deserted and rotting old fish camp. Given the absence of racial markers, particularly in this Mississippi setting, readers are likely to conclude that both boys are white. With little heed to common sense, Sam begins to help Davey by taking him supplies he’s sneaked out of his house. The natural predators of the swamp and backwaters combine with human dilemmas to test the boys and their mix of loyalties. The ways they meet such frightening circumstances as thieves on the run highlight the difference that a loving and supportive family can make, and that has nothing to do with what money can buy. The boys are on the cusp of manhood, and navigating those waters is as treacherous as any swamp. It’s man versus nature as well as man versus man in this tale that will have strong appeal to Key’s fans and adventure lovers. (Adventure. 10-15)

About the Author

Watt Key received his BA from Birmingham-Southern College in Birmingham, Alabama. He subsequently earned an MBA from Springhill College in Mobile, AL. While working as a computer programmer, he began submitting novels to major publishers in New York City. When he was 34 years he sold his debut novel, Alabama Moon, to publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Watt currently lives with his wife and three children in Mobile, Alabama.

Her website is www.wattkey.com.

Teacher Resources

Watt Key Common Core Guide

Around the Web

Hideout on Amazon

Hideout on Goodreads

Hideout on JLG

Hideout Publisher Page