The Book Bag, Books for ages 9 to 12, May/June 2008

Part of what makes this book bag the most fun to write is that it gives us a chance to showcase the reader’s work. The 9 to 12 target audience is the first one where we get to read what the kids think in their own words. As I previously mentioned in the Winder 2008 newsletter, we had lots of school requests for the Use Your ABCs program this past spring. It is so energizing to read what the kids are writing. Remember: these are the struggling and reluctant readers!

The Dragon Tree by Jane Langton. Fans of the Hall Family Chronicles will love this next installment. We’ve never read any of the other titles in the series and enjoyed it, too. “This is a well written and enjoyable mystery/fantasy story that adolescents will have fun reading…it is perfect for building and sustaining a young student’s interest in reading. ” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Ever by Gail Carson Levine. Olus, the Akkan god of the winds, studies mortals. His first attempt to interact with an Akkan boy failed. In his second attempt, disguised as a shepherd, he meets and falls in love with Kezi, the landowner’s daughter. Olus is too late to stop Kezi from uttering an oath that will change her life forever. “The story is well-constructed, with some predictable elements but enough suspense and new paths to keep you going. This is one of those books where you are really tempted to read the end before you get to chapter five! Don’t dismiss this as chick lit.” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Gone by Michael Grant. Yes, I know this is a repeat … but now we have the Teen STAR Review Team input. They wrote a truly professional review and the effort is worth mentioning!

Jim and Me by Dan Gutman. With the help of vintage baseball cards, Joey Stoshack can travel through time. When Bobby Fuller, the school bully, learns about Joey’s “talent” he wants Joey to take him back in time to meet his great great grandfather, Jim Thorpe. “Any Little League player will love this book. Time travel and the dangers therein provide the excitement and danger that grab young readers.” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

The Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas Conn is a thief who picks pockets and locks. The day he decides to pick Nevery’s pocket, his life changes forever. Nevery is a wizard and Conn has lifted a magic stone. The stone should have killed him, but it doesn’t. Nevery decides to bring Conn home, making him a servant. Conn is now saved from a life on the street…but how safe is the city? Here’s what our student reviewer thinks: “I was drawn to this book when I saw the word ‘magic’ in the title. I thought it was going to be a good book after the first page, and I was right. It was a really fun book to read.”

Paraworld Zero (Parallel Worlds, Book 1) by Matthew Peterson. Simon is a boy who lives in an orphanage. One day he meets Tonya, who is from a parallel universe. She has powers, and together, Tonya and Simon must face monsters. They also have to protect Tonya from the evil people who don’t like magic. This is sci-fi adventure for young adults. Here’s our student reviewer’s thoughts: “This book is good for kids 13 and older. I picked the book because I like science. From the very beginning it held my attention and was easy to get into. I liked how it was futuristic.” (Blue Works, a Division of Windstorm Creative, 2007)

The Seer of Shadows by Avi. Horace Carpetine, an apprentice photographer, and Pegg, a black servant girl, realize that a wealthy family’s dead daughter has become a ghost, looking for those who mistreated her while she was alive. During their dangerous quest, they discover who Eleanora, the ghost girl, really was and how and when she actually dies. This is a mystery/suspense/ghost story from Newbery Medal Winner Avi. Here’s what our student reviewer thought: “I liked that it had all different genres at points. Sometimes it was suspenseful, sometimes mysterious, and all of it exciting and adventurous. I was very surprised about VonMacht’s mother.” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Sisters of the Sword by Maya Snow. In feudal Japan, girls do not become samurai. Even though they have trained with their brothers, they can never attend the dojo, the samurai training school. After witnessing their fathers’ and brothers’ murders, they escape with their lives and immediately set in motion a plan to regain their family honor. Their first step: disguise themselves as boys and find a way to become samurai. “This ensemble cast, led by sisters Hana and Kimi, offers teens – including boys – a wonderful story with characters they will relate to.” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

Up All Night: A Short Story Collection by Peter Abrahams, et al. This collection of short stories is about what happens at night. They cover anything from asking someone “What’s up?” and meaning it to going to a rock concert. The authors in this collection each tell a story about something that happens after dark. Here is what our student reviewer had to say: “I really liked it because each of the stories was different. I picked the book because it was written by some of my favorite authors (Libba Bray, David Levithan), so that helped. There is something to learn in each of the stories (but I’m not telling what they are).” (Laura Geringer Books, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2008)

We are very proud to offer you the podcast reviews that Mark and Andrea publish at “their favorite coffee shop.” Yesterday, they published a wonderful, inspiring story about a Val Willis, who found the manuscript of a book her daughter Kenra had written when she was eleven years old. Kenra lost her battle with cancer at age 49, but Val (who is about to turn 88) is using the book to inspire others. It is the change-your-perspective story you have to hear.

Click the titles for these books and you’ll go to Just One More Book where you can listen to the podcast.

Lady Liberty: A Biography by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Matt Tavares. Stunningly warm, intimate illustrations and eleven candid first person accounts capture the crescendo of Lady Liberty’s creation, from idea to unveiling, and give us an enduring appreciation for the landmark, her creators and the many lives she has touched. (Candlewick Press, 2008)
My Dad’s a Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Airy illustrations, playful, British dialogue and sprightly dipping, gliding narrative give flight to a zany father-daughter adventure that dances delicately between tenderness, tomfoolery, hope and despair landing lightly in the comfort of allied abandon. (Candlewick Press, 2007)

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart, illustrated by Carson Ellis. Creativity, dexterity, integrity and retentivity are raised to the rank of super-power as four stray eleven year olds battle mind-numbing media, personal misgivings and the elaborate scheming of a mind-sweeping megalomaniac in this puzzle-filled, cleverly hilarious page-turner. (Little, Brown and Company, 2006)