Duncan lives with his mother in a small village where she works giving people piano lessons. His mother has a lot of strange rules for him to follow such as to ALWAYS wear his cap, and NEVER do anything to stand out. So, when he scores a perfect score on the school test, she asks if he can retake it to make sure he misses some questions. Duncan doesn't understand why his mother won't let him be the best at anything, and he knows she wouldn't like it if she knew he could talk to cats--a very rare talent indeed.
One day, Duncan goes down to the docks to try to earn a little money and gets a chance to meet the Nation's Hero, an earl who offers him a job as a ship boy, Duncan is very tempted to take it. However, when he declines, he discovers that saying no was not really an option, and he is kidnapped and whisked away on an adventure that will require all of his wits!
The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell (Lexile: 770; Interest level: Grades 3-6) will take you on an unforgettable adventure full of danger, loyalty, treachery, sword fights, a missing princess, cats, and many things that are not what they appear. (368 p.)
Silly (Priscilla) and her sisters have just moved into the house their mother grew up in. There is a lot of history in this house, for the girls and their mother, and it isn't all good history. Silly's older sisters don't want to let her hang around with them, but they need all of the sister power they can get to be strong when their mother's sickness gets worse. As the bond between the girls is challenged by the outside forces of the older girls' boyfriends and the mother's drinking, it is also strengthened by their adventures into the magical closets in the old house.
Rules for Stealing Stars by Corey Ann Haydu (Lexile: 720; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) blends reality and make-believe in a remarkable way as the girls discover their parents' fairytale and realize how much they must work together to make each other strong enough to deal with the grown-up challenges they must face. Readers who search for a little magic in the everyday will enjoy this story, as will readers who have ever wished for magic to help with the difficult realities of parental shortcomings. (336 p.)
Chris is excited when his uncle invites him to sail from Alaska to home in California--especially when he discovers it means he will have to miss school! Then he meets another boy on board the ship with Uncle Jack, and he doesn't even know who he is. When the trip takes a disastrous turn, and Chris and Frank are left to fend for themselves, it becomes very important for them to forge an alliance, if not a friendship. Surviving in the Alaskan wilderness certainly has a lot of challenges for these boys, one of whom has never even been fishing before, but they luck into finding a cabin and then use their wits to learn quickly what they need to survive. The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence (Lexile: 670; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is a fantastic adventure story that makes you wonder how well you would survive in the wild. It is a fantastic addition to the 2016-2017 Indian Paintbrush Nominee list.
Readers who enjoy Gary Paulsen's Brian books, Julie of the Wolves, or other such survival adventures will enjoy The Skeleton Tree. (288 p.)
Bowser and Birdie make a good team--right from the start! Bowser, a dog that Birdie picks out at the pound right at the beginning of the book, tells the story of the bond between dog and girl. With some quirky spins on how dogs may see things that humans do, Bowser tells the events that happen from the prize marlin getting stolen from Granny's store, where there is a strong smell of cigar smoke, to investigating Granny's rival (who smokes the same kind of cigar!) to making new friends and meeting some not-so-friendly people. Bowser, of course, is the hero of the story, but Birdie's spunk cannot go unnoticed! Woof by Spencer Quinn (Lexile: 650; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is a fun mystery with adventure and humor included. This is a good addition to the 2016-2017 Indian Paintbrush Nominee List. (304 p.)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.