The Book Bag, Books for Ages 9 to 12 (November/December 2008)

The middle-grade audience is probably one of the toughest for writers. These are savvy readers … they can see through junk easily, and won’t waste time if they don’t connect to a story quickly. This is also the audience that is most likely to be pulled away from reading as something fun to do. So when our reviewers came back with “wow, this is really good,” they made my day.

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Football Hero by Tim Green Ty Lewis is a 12-year-old whose parents were recently killed in an auto accident. Ty’s brother, Thane “Tiger” Lewis, is getting ready to graduate from Syracuse University. He also expects to be a first round draft choice of the NY Jets. Ty’s Uncle Gus believes he’s entitled to Tiger’s signing bonus; but Uncle Gus is involved in activities that could ruin Tiger’s career. Is there anything Ty can do? “There are several themes that complement the narrative: importance of family; the phenomena of bullying; friendship; responsibility for one’s actions; and being true to your self. There is much more than a good story between the covers of this book.” (HarperCollins, 2008) Reading Level 5.0

Ghost Files: The Haunting Truth by Eugene Yelchin and Mary Kuryla. If you are into apparitions, ghosts, spirits, haunted houses, and the like, this is the book for you. It is the most thorough and up-to-date resource on paranormal phenomena available on the planet. “When I first saw Ghost Files I wasn’t impressed. Once I opened the book and saw all of the cut-sheets, envelopes, folding notes, diary sheets, etc., it became a piece of art as well as a tongue-in-cheek encyclopaedia of spooky stuff. It is exceptionally well written and superbly illustrated. ” This book has potential as a book that reluctant readers would be interested in. (HarperCollins, 2008) Reading Level – not determined

The Secret Life of Sparrow Delaney by Suzanne Harper. Sparrow Delaney is happy to be at a new school, away from Lily Dale and her eccentric family of spiritualists. Try as she might to hide her talents, fate – and her spirit guides – have other plans. Sparrow is about to learn that running away won’t make things go away. “Teens will enjoy this fast-moving, humorous look at life as a high school sophomore. Spiritualism is really just an element that strings together a group of great characters. This book has great potential as a high interest/low readability title.” (Greenwillow, 2008) Reading Level 5.7

So Far from the Bamboo Grove by Yoko Kawashima Watkins. Eleven-year-old Yoko Kawashima and her family live in Japenese-occupied Korea. World War II has ended, and the Japnese army has left. They miraculously escape from Korea, only to find their homeland totally devastated and their family, friends, and neighbors suspicious and wary of them. This is an historical fiction recounting of the author’s life experiences. “This is a terrific story. It highlights some of the most horrible attributes of war and man’s inhumanity to his fellow man. At the same time, it demonstrates the impact that simple works of human kindness have in helping people successfully cope with challenge.” This is a book that has potential as a high interest/low readability title. (HarperTrophy, 1986) Reading Level 5.8

Learn about some great books to share with your kids at JOMB. Andrea and Mark have started adding video to some of their reviews. This video review of Bird by Zetta Elliott is just amazing.

The Lamp, the Ice and the Boat Called Fish written by Jacqueline Briggs, illustrated by Shadra Strickland. “Soothing speculation, striking details and spellbinding scratchboard art present a gripping account of The Karluk’s last icy voyage and the strength and resourcefulness that beat all odds.” (Lee & Low Books, 2008)