Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Middle School Newest New, New Top 20 Favorites 2010 selected by Xena's Mom

Taylor, Greg, Killer Pizza, Lexile 770, Reading level 4.4

Who knew that Killer Pizza was a front for an organization that hunts and eliminates those monsters among us? Certainly not 14 year old Toby McGill and his fellow employees when they report for work. From the underground office and training facility to the streets of their home town monster hunters 101 begins and blossoms with horror, humor, adventure and believe it or not...fun.

Springer, Nancy, The case of the missing marquess: an Enola Holmes mystery, Lexile 1020, Reading level 6.6

Enola Holmes, sister of none other than Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes, finds herself on her birthday without any parents. Her last living parent, her mother, has left her without a word or so it seems. Rather than face the fate of boarding school that her brothers have planned Enola sets out on her own via a bicycle to find her mother. Peppered with clues that her clever mother left and another mystery to boot Enola survives in Victorian London by using her own powers of deduction and disguise. Springer has created a lively spunky character within a page turning mystery. This first book in the series leaves the reader craving for more.

Grisham, John, Theodore Boone: kid lawyer, Reading level 5.4

Theodore Boone is no ordinary kid...he acts like a lawyer, talks like a lawyer, gives legal advice like a lawyer, he would live in the courtroom instead of attending school and he watches old Perry Mason reruns. Giving out legal advice does find him in a dilemma as a murder trial heats up in town. With an ending not completely resolved readers will be seeing more of Theodore Boone and the tension will be turned up again.

Fantaskey, Beth, Jessica's guide to dating on the dark side, Lexile 700, Reading level Young Adult

The typical normal world of high school student, Jessica Parker, changes dramatically with the arrival of Lucius Vladescu who proclaims that she is his betrothed from birth and that they are vampire royalty. Her parents confirm this along with the tale of her true parent's deaths. What's a girl who is a math whiz to do when a tall dark handsome stranger invades her space? Readers will be richly rewarded with romance, warring vampire clans and left guessing to the very last minute about the outcome. Different than Twilight but definitely excellent.

Paulsen, Gary, Notes from the dog, Lexile 760, Reading level 5.1

Finn is pretty much a loner and certainly not much of a talker. But that changes with the arrival of his new neighbor, Johanna, who is battling breast cancer. Johanna draws Finn and his friend, Matthew, into her world through the creation of a garden in Finn's yard. Paulsen has a true gift for bringing hope to a hopeless situation and infusing the best that people can be in his realistic portrayal of characters.

Lin, Grace, Where the mountain meets the moon, Lexile 820, Reading level 5.5

Grace Lin grew up hearing folktales rich in Chinese lore. These stories are the basis for those found throughout this truly worthy Newbery Honor winner. Minli and her parents live a poverty stricken life at the base of Fruitless Mountain. Each day her mother complains about their fate and each evening her father tells her stories. Minli after purchasing a talking goldfish begins a quest to change their lives for the better. Magic abounds as do fantastical creatures, a helpful king and the Old Man of the Moon who offers up the best life lesson of all...what is true wealth? Lin's beautiful artwork compliments this book in every way.

Hale, Shannon, Rapunzel's revenge, Lexile 500, Reading level 3.7

Taking the traditional to a whole new level, Hale and company have created a graphic novel that is the best in this style. Set in the days of the Wild West Rapunzel is one rootin', tootin' cowgirl whose braids lasso up more than one villain. To offer assistance is that thief of giants, Jack. This fairy tale zips along page after page with high adventure and just the right amount of romance.

Hale, Shannon, Calamity Jack, Lexile 560, Reading level 5.2

Jack and Rapunzel are back again but their exploits have moved to the city of Jack's birth. Jack is definitely highlighted in this second installment. Appropriately giants are the problem along with their weird ant army and a flying menace. Offering assistance along the way is a pixie of questionable motives. As in the previous novel this moves at a breathtaking pace heightened by the artwork of Nathan Hale (not related to Shannon or her husband Dean who co-authors).

Swanson, James L., Chasing Lincoln's killer, Lexile 980, Reading level Young adult

As an adaptation of his previous work, Manhunt: The 12-day chase for Lincoln's killer, this nonfiction reads with all the gripping tension of good crime fiction. The original photographs, facts and nearly hour by hour pacing make the reader feel as though this happened just yesterday. For the reader the background on all the players, Booth and his conspirators along with the Lincolns, their friends and members of the government brings the historical past to the here and now. Whether you are interested in this time period or not once started you will not be able to put this book down. There is good reason for this to be on the Best Books for Young Adults 2010 list and Children's Books of the Year 2010.

Bell, Ted, Nick of time, Lexile 950, Reading level 6.3

What's not to like about time travel, pirates, sea battles, a ship captained by a relative from the past in Lord Nelson's fleet, spying on the Nazis during World War II ( and you thought your father was a bird watcher), kidnapping of children and almost more adventure than you can stand? Nick McIver after a near death sailing episode finds a sea chest on the beach. This chest holds an element of time travel (invented of course by Leonardo da Vinci) that one particular pirate from the past, Billy Blood, wants. The parallel worlds of past and the present (1939) collide through the cast of characters and the role of each. Hold on tight...this is one fast thrilling ride with the promise of more to come.

MacLachlan, Patricia, Word after word after word, Reading level 4.5

Author MacLachlan has truly "hit the nail on the head" when it comes to giving life to the art of writing for a classroom of fourth grade students. Making every word count this small book will send every reader a huge message. The characters and their lives are vivid in detail and very human. The meaning of friendship, divorce, death of a dog and a mother who is fighting cancer are revealed through the children's writing and their daily conversations under the lilac bush. This book is a pure gem.

Cole, Henry, A nest for Celeste: a story about art, inspiration, and the meaning of home, Reading level 4.9

This is one of those cross-genre books, historical and fantasy, whose combination works like a charm. Celeste, a small, feisty mouse, makes her home in a variety of locations within a Louisiana plantation based upon encounters with two unlikable rats, a nasty cat, grumpy occupants, a large dog and finally real life John James Audubon and his apprentice, Joseph Mason. It is through Joseph's kindness along with that of a thrush, groundhog and osprey that Celeste finds her way out of near death encounters in and out of the house. Cole's pencil drawn illustrations occupy nearly as much of the book as does the writing which adds to the sheer delight of this tale.

George, Jessica Day, Princess of the midnight ball, Lexile 830, Reading level Young adult

The Grimm Brothers fairy tale, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, comes to life in this novel retelling. Cursed by a bargain their late mother made with the wicked King Under Stone Rose and her 11 sisters face a fate like death each and every night. A solider returning home from war becomes enchanted with Rose. Using his wit and magic given to him by unlikely characters he is able to unravel the mystery but not before the reader is lured into an every increasingly suspenseful story which has just the required amount of romance. This books appears on the Best Books for Young Adults 2010 list and Children's Books of the Year 2010.

Riordan, Rick, Red pyramid (Kane Chronicles book one), Reading level 6.0

Of late no single author has done more for bringing past cultural mythologies alive than Riordan. In this, his first book in a new series, it is the mythology of ancient Egyptians that holds the reader spellbound. For the past six years since their mother's mysterious death brother and sister, Carter and Sadie, have lived apart in different worlds. Carter has hopped from place to place with his Egyptologist father while Sadie has lived with her grandparents in London. In one of the few times they are together each year their father takes them to the British Museum where he blows up the Rosetta Stone and promptly disappears. It seems that Carter and Sadie have untold powers as descendants of powerful Egyptian magicians. The action, humor, quirky human and animal characters, alternating dialog between Carter and Sadie with each chapter takes off, never lets up and leaves Percy Jackson in the dust.

Stead, Rebecca, When you reach me, Lexile 750, Reading level 4.6

This Newbery award book is one of those that when finished begs to be read again...right away. Taking place in that late 1970s the daily lives of Miranda, her best friend Hal, an unusual classmate Marcus, a mentally challenged homeless man and her mother, who is trying to win on the $20,000 Pyramid show, paint a clear, realistic picture of the time and the challenges for each character. As a reader you are so caught in this initial story that you don't realize right away that you are gently being drawn into another scenario as connections start to be made between Miranda's favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time and a series of futuristic notes being anonymously left for her. The ending sneaks up on you in a good and completely satisfying manner.

Peck, Richard, A season of gifts, Lexile 690, Reading level 4.9

Whether a fan of A long Way from Chicago or A year down yonder, or not the reader will enjoy Mrs. (Grandma) Dowdel as she shines in all her larger-than-life glory. This time the story takes places in 1958 nearly 20 years after the two previous tales and is not told through the eyes of a relative but Bobby, the son of a preacher, who is a new next door neighbor. Through all her cantankerous escapades Mrs. Dowdel is a character to be avoided or relished depending who you are. Peck is a master word smith.

Burg, Ann E., All the broken pieces: a novel in verse, Lexile 680, Reading level 4.1

Appearing on at least four highly respected book lists for 2009 and 2010 this book bridges the gap between those American soldiers who fought in the Vietnam War and their families as well as those children of Vietnam who were adopted into loving families after the war. Twelve year old Matt Pin is haunted by his recollections of the war and the family he lost. Although he has found a place as a star baseball pitcher, he is still taunted and called names at school. It is when he attends meetings of Vietnam vets that he can reveal his true feelings and grow to understand how this war has touched the lives of others.

Dashner, James, The maze runner, Lexile 770, Reading level Young adult

Tension and mystery begin, continue and ultimately conclude this glimpse into the future. Thomas, without memory, finds himself thrust via an elevator into a male society that survives by wit and strictly held rules. Each day runners wind through a maze seeking an escape racing back to the safety of the walled living area before the monsters roam. Thomas begins to remember more than he really should and when a girl arrives with a note attached to her there are more questions than answers. The sequel can not come soon enough.

Smith, Sherri L., Flygirl, Lexile 680, Reading level Young adult

It's World War II and women, especially African American women, have no place flying or serving in the armed forces. But Ida Mae Jones, a recent high school graduate has other ideas. Her late father taught her to fly and her light skin allows her to pass as white. Determined to be a member of the newly formed WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) Ida Mae leaves her family behind to assume a new identity. The historical detail, realistically worded dialog and aviation segments made for a taunt, revealing and highly enjoyable read.

Paulsen, Gary, Woods runner, Lexile 870, Reading level 5.1
Time and time again Gary Paulsen delivers succinct, tightly woven historical novels.  Among the  fiction of Woods runner he has inserted fact pages which rather than distract only add to the tension of the storyline.  Samuel, a 13-year-old boy, more at home in the forest than with his parents in their small, crude farm and cabin sees smoke rising above the tree lines while on a hunting trip.  Arriving in his familiar clearing he sees his neighbors slaughtered, homes burned and his soft-spoken passive parents have been taken prisoner by the British soldiers and Iroquois. The remainder of the book is Samuel's journey to find his parents and free them while dodging enemies or making alliances with "friendlies" among all the larger than life horrors of the Revolutionary War.  This gives insight into the American Revolution as Soldier's Heart did for the Civil War.