Jenny Nimmo is one of my favorite authors, and she doesn't disappoint in Griffin's Castle (Lexile: 730; Interest Level: Grades 3-6). Dinah and her mom move into a old, dilapidated house owned by her mom's new boyfriend, Gomer. Dinah falls in love with the grandness that she can see the house used to have. Since Dinah has moved around a lot, she is really hoping that this new house can become home for good, but she does not like Gomer, and he doesn't like her. Dinah is very smart and loves school, but she doesn't have (or want) many friends. Two boys at school marvel at Dinah's intellect and imagination, and they try to befriend Dinah, but the better they get to know her the odder she seems. It gets even stranger when the boys discover that the stone animals on the wall of the castle in the city leave at night to protect Dinah at her house. As in the Charlie Bone books, Jenny Nimmo allows some subtle magic to seep into the lives of normal people and weaves and engaging story that captures the imagination of any child who has ever wished their life were just a little more interesting. (278 pages)
Winner of a National Book Award and a Newbery Honor, Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai (Lexile: NP 800; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is a story written in verse (thus, the NP, or Non Prose Lexile code). Ha, the main character, begins her life in Vietnam, but when she is around 10 years old, she must move from Saigon to the United States to escape the war in Vietnam. Moving to a country where she doesn't know the language or the culture is difficult, and when you add the teasing and bullying she encounters at her new school, Ha wishes she had been able to stay in Vietnam. The heartfelt writing allows the reader to feel what Ha feels and experience her pain. Students interested in the time period of the Vietnam War and in relationships between cultures will enjoy this book. (262 pages)
Hazel and Jack have been best friends since they were very small. Then one day Jack quits talking to Hazel. Her mother thinks it is because they are getting to the age in which boys and girls are not best friends, but Hazel believes something more sinister may be at work. When Jack's friend Tyler tells her that he saw Jack go into the forest with a white lady on a sleigh drawn by wolves, Hazel knows she must go off to find and save him--even if it is to save him from himself.
In Breadcrumbs (Lexile: 720; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), Anne Ursu creates a magical world of fantasy/ fairy tale that touches upon our own and calls to the parts of us that believe in something more than we can see. The turning point that others expect in Hazel and Jack's friendship sets the stage for the action in this story. I felt like some parts of the story were added to add a fairy tale element, and they didn't all seem to fit together well, which may be why it took me a long time to finish this 312 page book. Fans of twisted fairy tale stories may enjoy this book.
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.