Winner of the 1994 Newbery Medal, The Giver by Lois Lowry (Lexile: 760; Interest Level: Grades 5-8) is the beginning of the story of Jonas, who lives in a community in which everything is perfect. There is no war, no worry, no pain, no fear, no joy. But there are also no choices. Each year, the community celebrates life stages at a single ceremony. Children are assigned to families and given names at year 1, they are given their bicycles at year 9, they are assigned their adult roles at age 12. Grown ups are assigned their spouses. When Jonas turns 12, he is excited to learn what role the elders have chosen for him, so he is confused when the Lead Elder skips over him. He is even more confused when he is called up on stage and told he was chosen for, rather than assigned to, his new role as "Receiver." What does that mean? Why was he chosen? Jonah learns that he is to be taught the secrets to the perfect world he lives in when the Giver begins to share the true memories of pleasure and pain, and for Jonas, there will be no turning back. But how can he live as the only one who knows what he knows?
Now considered an early dystopian novel, this is an excellent look at a post-apocolyptic society and how people chose to adapt to build a better life. Readers who are not quite ready for the violence of the Hunger Games, but are interested in the concept of that story, may want to try out The Giver. (179 pages)
Reminiscent of Stuart Little and the Tale of Despereaux, The Mouse With the Question Mark Tail by Richard Peck (Lexile: 680; Interest Level: Grades 3-6) is the story of the smallest mouse in London's Royal Mews, a mouse whose very existence is a mystery. He doesn't know his name or who his parents are, but his Aunt Marigold sews him a uniform and sends him off to be educated. At school he is called "Mouse Minor" because he is so small, but he doesn't make a good student. As one mishap leads to another, Mouse Minor finds himself running for his life. He figures that he may be able to get some answers from Queen Victoria, since she is all-knowing, but only if she can communicate with mice.
Follow the adventures of "Mouse Minor" as he searches for answers, safety, and his identity, and you will enjoy some interesting surprises, some fun twists and turns, and pick up a few impressive vocabulary words along the way! I enjoyed this story, even though I do not usually enjoy this type of animal fantasy, and I think anyone who enjoys a good story about someone searching for the meaning of their life will certainly enjoy this book. (224 pages)
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.