"It is what we do with what Fate hands us that defines who we are." In A Tangle of Knots by Lisa Graff (Lexile: 840; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), we enter a world in which people have Talents or are Fair (without Talents). What talent would you wish for? Cady has a Talent for baking the perfect cake for each person she meets, but she doesn't know what her own special cake would be. Miss Mallory has a Talent for matching people with their perfect family, but can't seem to place Cady. Marigold can't seem to discover her Talent, but her brother Zane has a Talent for spitting that causes a hot air balloon to crash, sending their family off to live at a Lost Luggage Emporium where they meet Cady, her new father, Toby, and the Owner, who has a Talent for stealing other people's Talents.
Add to this that Marigold's mother may have a secret she has never told anyone, which becomes an awfully important little detail, an old story about peanut butter, and a woman who can't remember her words, and we have a recipe for an amazing story.
As you read, you learn that all people are connected in ways you may not be able to guess, and even the Fair may have Talents all their own. In many ways like Ingrid Law's Savvy, and including recipes like Sarah Weeks' Pie, this is a marvelous story showing how Fate can entangle even the strangest people within his knots. (230 pages)
A novel told in verse, Crossover by Kwame Alexander (Lexile: NP 750; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) is the 2015 Newbery Award Winner. The main character, Josh Bell, tells an engaging story about growing up, playing basketball, and the importance of family.
Josh is a twin, and he and his twin brother do everything together: school, basketball, hanging out. That is, until Sweet Tea (as Josh calls her) starts coming to their school. Now, all of a sudden, JB (Josh's brother) has a girlfriend, and Josh is feeling left out. Add to that the fact that Josh's dad, a former professional basketball player, seems to be not feeling well, and it is no wonder Josh is starting to have trouble focusing.
Alexander uses great rhymes and rhythms throughout the book that help you to feel the emotions coursing through Josh, the pounding of the basketball, the beating of his heart, the anxiety about his brother's girlfriend and his dad's health. This is one of the better sports books I have read, and I think it's the poetry of basketball that moves me through it. (237 pages)
Technically a prequel (# 0.5) of the Bartimaeus Trilogy, this fourth story about the djinni Bartimaeus holds has much fun, snarky commentary as the previous three stories. The Ring of Solomon by Jonathan Stroud (Lexile: 820; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) tells a story from Bartimaeus's past, before meeting Nathaniel, and blends the story of the Wise King Solomon into his fantastic fantasy series.
Bartimaeus is enslaved by an evil magician named Khaba, who is trying to overthrow King Solomon. King Solomon is very powerful because of his wisdom and his control of a very powerful magical ring which contains the spirit of an extremely high-level magical being. Khaba is mean to the spirits he enslaves, often keeping them longer than their essence should be kept on Earth. By request of a beautiful servant of the Queen of Sheba, Khaba agrees to allow Bartimaeus to leave his service, but instead of freeing him, Bartimaeus is trapped inside a bottle.
Asmira, the beautiful hereditary guard of the Queen of Sheba, steals the bottle, releases Bartimaeus and traps him into her service as she attempts to murder the great King Solomon and steal the Ring. Bartimaeus, as much as he hates his enslavement, grows to be a bit fond of Asmira's spunk, and the two of them make an interesting pair of determination and sarcasm. As always, I enjoy the smart-alec comments of Bartimaeus as well as the action in the story.
If you are a fan of fantasy, I think you will enjoy the books of this series. This one can stand alone from the rest of the trilogy (which starts with The Amulet of Samarkand), although the rest should be read in order. (398 pages)
One Came Home by Amy Timberlake (Lexile: 690; Interest Level: Grades 4-8) is the story of Georgie Burkhardt, a 14 year old sharp-shooter who knows everything there is to know about her world in Placid, Wisconsin. She doesn't know what to do, therefore, when her sister runs off with some "pigeoners," and the sheriff brings home a body wearing Agatha's dress. Convinced that her sister is still alive, Georgie takes off to follow her sister's trail. However, what Georgie finds is not her sister, but a whole lot of trouble!
Georgie's story takes place between two major historical events. The first is one that many people don't talk much about: the Great Passenger Pigeon Migration of 1871, during which experts estimate that every single passenger pigeon in North America went to Wisconsin to nest. The second is the Great Fires that happened in Chicago and along the Great Lakes.
This 2014 Newbery Honor Book is also the 2014 winner of the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Juvenile Mystery. So, if you like history and mystery, this book may just be the one for you! (272 pages)
In 1963, the black school that Kizzy Ann Stamps attended closed down and the students were integrated into the white school that was a little farther away. Kizzy Ann's new teacher sent her a letter over the summer, so Kizzy Ann wrote back. The story is told through the letters that Kizzy Ann wrote to her teacher over the summer and then the journal entries that she writes during the school year to share her story, about integration, about attending school with a scar from an accident, about having a dog as a best friend.
Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts (Lexile: 920; Interest Level: Grades 4-6) is a touching story about a girl who faces growing up in a time of serious social prejudices, which are made even more complicated by having a facial disfiguration. Kizzy Ann is brutally honest at times, and she sometimes seems to act much younger than her 12 years.
I have to admit that this was not one of my favorite books, as I have read other books about this time period that I like much better. However, I believe that readers who are interested in stories told as letters or journal entries, especially ones that help to explain important times in history (like the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s), may find this book to be a nice read. (192 pages)
Don't you just love a good book that you can' t put down? Especially a thriller crime story? I absolutely found one in Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve Sheinkin (Lexile: 930; Interest Level: Grades 4-8)! I am not usually a fan of nonfiction, but this story is so well-written and so intriguing that I was sucked right in, and even had to go do some research on my own because I couldn't believe some of what the author said was real! (It totally was!)
So, this story starts out with some information about the founding of the Secret Service. I thought they were created to guard the President, but the Secret Service was really created to stop counterfeiters (people who make fake money). In 1864, about half of the money in circulation was fake. This is important because one of the main characters in this crime story works for the Secret Service, and while he is tracking down some bad guys, he uncovers a plot to steal Abe Lincoln's body from it's grave in Springfield, Illinois! Yep, this part is real, too! (I looked it up!)
The author uses journal entries, letters, newspaper articles, and photographs to tell this remarkable true, historical crime story. It is definitely one of the best books I have read recently! If you like crime stories, history, nonfiction, and action, you will enjoy this story as much as I did! (224 pages)
Byrd and Igloo (Lexile 1020; Interest Level: Grades 3-5) by Samantha Seiple is a narrative nonfiction story of Richard Byrd's trips to the North and South Poles with his dog Igloo. Narrative nonfiction means that the story is true (nonfiction), but it reads as if it is a story. The story starts with Igloo being found by a kind lady on a rainy day, and how he made his way to belonging to Richard Byrd. Then, once he was owned by Byrd, what an adventurous life he began!
Now, little fox terriers don't so much like cold weather, but when Richard Byrd decided to become the first person to fly a plane over the North Pole, Igloo was glad to go along with him! Eventually, Byrd would become known as the first person to fly over both the North and South Poles, and Igloo? Well, he's the only dog to have flown over both!
If you are interested in dogs or good stories from history, you will enjoy this book. As a matter of fact, even if you aren't as fond of nonfiction, I bet this book could change your mind! The author uses quotes from primary source materials (like journals, letters, newspaper articles, and photographs) to tell the story. (192 pages)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.