The Bookbag, Books for Ages 8 to 12, November/December 2006

Happy Chanukkah to those who begin celebrating the festival of lights this evening. And Merry Christmas to those who are getting ready to celebrate Christ’s birth and/or Santa.

If you’re searching for a great gift for a middle reader/teenager, we’ve got some titles they may enjoy. Many of these have been “road tested” with their target audience. The Teen STAR Review Team at Be the Star You Are!(tm) has sent us their reviews.

Crine through Time: Iced by Bill Doyle. Nick Fitzmorgan is going through his paces at the Private Detective Agency. Right in the middle of a field exercise, he’s pulled away and sent home. Except that when Nick gets home, his Dad is missing. Using his expert detective skills, Nick puts together clues that lead him to Mount Everest. This story is part historical mystery (who was the first climber to reach Mt. Everest) and part fictional tale of a missing person. “This is an incredibly fun series to read. They’ll hook you just like Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys.” (Little, Brown and Company, 2006)

The Many Adventures of Pengey Penguin by John Burns. Pengey is an orphaned penguin. What should have been a routine childhood, quickly became transcontinental adventure. After meeting Wendy (a human) he knew he had found a ‘family.’ When they are separated at the airport, all wonders of events befall Pengey as he tries to find Wendy again. This is a chapter-book adventure of a young emperor penguin. “Who doesn’t love penguins? Pengey embodies all of the things we love (or want to see) in a penguin. Whether its the movie Happy Feet, or the National Geographic’s The March of the Penguin, somehow you can see Pengey.”

Secret of the Dance by Susan Eileen Walker. Jeremy Applewhite returned home from New York City 17 years and one day too late to see his grandmother alive. His brother Chance, who stayed behind, is not particularly happy to see him. A series of events, thanks to fate and Chance’s wife and daughter, give the brothers the opportunity to resume a once close relationship. This is a young adult novel about pursuing dreams and remaining true to one’s self. Teen Reviewer: “This book is exceptionally touching, with events that reveal the nature of the human heart. The author creates real, strong characters which contribute to the passion with which the story is written. I think that this story inspires us to be true to our souls, live our lives with zeal, and appreciate the precious times that we share with our families and friends.”

Two Worlds by Marietta Barron. In 1926, revolution in Mexico forced the Garcia family to flee to the United States. They resettled in Aztec, a mining town in the Anerican Southwest. Jose, a precocious eleven-year-old, wanted to play baseball, help earn money for his family, and be treated as an equal by his anglo peers. This is a historical fiction work for advanced readers. “The story is real and the characters are believable. Although they may never experience Jose’s experiences personally, readers will relate to his joy and pain and gain some measure of understanding of the suffering and inhumanity caused by bigotry.” (Royal Fireworks Press, 1999)