Alex is waiting to die. Well, technically, to be killed. His village, Quill, has determined that he is unwanted, so now that it is Purge Day, he is waiting to be dispatched. His twin brother, Aaron, however, is Wanted, so as soon as Alex has been removed, they will celebrate.
What happens to Alex when he arrives at the Boiling Lake surprises him (and all of the other Unwanteds), as they are transported not to the afterlife, but to Artime, a magical world in which those things that made them unwanted in their village are now celebrated, and even taught! Alex now has a chance to create the art that got him in trouble before.
Alex's deep loyalty to his twin, however, causes him to want to bring Aaron with him to Artime, even if Aaron is happy in his new role aiding the High Priest of the village. Alex's desire to be with his brother upsets the fragile peace between the strict rules of Quill and the strong freedoms of Artime.
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann (Lexile: 880; Interest Level: Grades 3-8) is a very imaginative dystopian-like novel for younger readers who are not quite ready for the Hunger Games. Readers who are interested in alternative leadership styles and the battle between rules and creativity will really enjoy this book, and the series it starts. (416 p.)
Hunted and on the run? The third book in Brandon Mull's Five Kingdoms series, The Crystal Keepers (Lexile: 630; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), tells the adventures of Cole, his earth-friend Dalton, and his new friends Mira, Jace and Twitch as they enter the third kingdom, Zeropolis. The magic in Zeropolis is very technological, involving using magic to tune harmonic crystals to various frequencies to make new things. Cole, Dalton, Mira and Jace find themselves in a kingdom in which things easily resemble home--they can even find jeans to wear trains to ride, and access to Earth's Internet to check their email.
Even technology can't help them as much as they wish, though, as Cole is still being hunted by a guy who calls himself "The Hunter," and is known as a henchman of the High King. Things really seem to be looking up when they discover their first rendezvous point is an arcade. Yep, an arcade--a place to go play video games! It is here that they meet and team up with the Crystal Keepers, kids who help the rebels run their operations. It is also with the Crystal Keepers that Cole encounters the most danger and embarks on the most dangerous mission yet--he must travel alone to the High King's private castle to speak directly to Queen Harmony!
The story is definitely picking up in this series, and I am most definitely eagerly awaiting the fourth book (not to come out until March 2016!). Fans of Brandon Mull, adventure, and science fiction/ fantasy mixes will love this story! (479 p.)
Kidnapped! By a kid their own age?! This definitely starts the action off right in Margaret Peterson Haddix's Risked (Lexile: 770; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), the sixth book in her Missing series.
Jonah and Katherine are researching missing kids from history to find out who Jonah might really be when they come across the story of Princess Anastasia and Prince Alexei Romanov. When the doorbell rings, they can't believe it when they see Anastasia staring at them! Daniella, as she is known in Jonah's time, doesn't know who her "historical" self is, but she comes to see Jonah and Katherine after their other friend Chip contacts her. As they walk away to discuss things, Gavin grabs ahold of them all and sends them hurtling toward 1918 Russia, the very day before the entire Romanov family (including Anastasia and Alexei) are murdered.
When it turns out that Gavin was given a "dumbed down" elucidator that only travels to a specific date and time, the children know they are in serious trouble. With no way to contact help from JB, Jonah's time-traveling friend, they must get creative in figuring out a way to save not only their friends, but also their own lives as well! This has to be one of my favorite series of all time, and I am looking forward to the seventh and eighth books! (336 p.)
In The Rogue Knight (Lexile: 630; Interest Level: Grades 3-6), the second installment of Brandon Mull's Five Kingdoms series, Cole leaves Sambria and travels to a new kingdom, Elloweer. The magic in Elloweer is different from Sambria, and Cole's magic jumping sword no longer works. The incredible seemings, magically changed visions, make it hard to tell who is who and what is what, but Cole and his new friends Mira, Jace, and Twitch are off in search of Cole's friends and Mira's sister.
The land of Elloweer certainly has some interesting challenges in figuring out how to discover friends you can trust without telling too many secrets to the enemy. And when Mira is kidnapped by the Rogue Knight, they are sure they have made a strong enemy. So, what should they do when they need his help to defeat Morgassa? But Morgassa isn't the worst trouble the face in this strange land.
Again, some of the sections seem rather slow, but the action certainly makes up for it. I am starting to really like the characters, and I want to see them succeed! I am looking forward to the third story as the children are on their way to yet another kingdom.
One of the reasons I became an elementary school librarian is so I can read children's books.