If April brings showers, then May brings flowers…and books! Read on for this month’s new releases.
♦ Charlie Joe Jackson’s Guide to Summer Vacation (Roaring Brook Press) – Tommy Greenwald. Despite all attempts to avoid reading and extra work, Charlie Joe Jackson finds himself in a terrible dream he can’t wake up from: Camp Rituhbukkee (pronounced “read-a-bookie”)—a place filled with grammar workshops, Read-a-Ramas, and kids who actually like reading. But Charlie Joe is determined to convince the entire camp to hate reading and writing—one genius at a time.
♦ Elvis and the Underdogs (Balzer + Bray) – Jenny Lee. In the tradition of funny and heartwarming bestsellers like Wonder and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books, this is the story of a sickly boy whose life is turned upside down when he gets a therapy dog…who can talk! Benji Wendell Barnsworth is a small ten-year-old boy with a big personality. Born premature, Benji is sickly, accident prone, and at the hospital so often he even has his own punch card. That is, until the day Benji wakes up from a particularly bad spell. Concerned for Benji’s health, the doctor offers him two options: wear the world’s ugliest padded helmet or get a therapy dog. Benji chooses the dog, of course. But when a massive crate arrives at Benji’s house, out walks a two-hundred-pound Newfoundland. And that isn’t even the strangest thing about the dog. He announces that his name is Parker Elvis Pembroke IV. That’s right, this dog can talk! And boy, is he bossy. Having a bossy dog can come in handy, though. Elvis brings out the dog lover in the most surprising people and shows Benji that making new friends may not be as scary as he once thought.
♦ Just Grace and the Trouble with Cupcakes (The Just Grace Series) (Houghton Mifflin) – Charise Mericle Harper. It’s time for the school fair, and Just Grace’s class has chosen a cupcake theme. But the fair’s highlight, a cupcake competition, causes quite a stir when Grace gets paired with dreadful Owen 1 and not with her best pal, Mimi. Grace is devastated. And just when she thinks things can’t get worse, her team votes down her idea to build a cupcake Eiffel Tower in favor of building Spiderman. It’s a challenging time for Grace. Will she be able to overcome her disappointment and lead her team onward? Will Grace’s team ever figure out how to make a Spiderman out of cupcakes?
♦ Odessa Again (Wendy Lamb) – Dana Reinhardt. Fourth grader Odessa Green-Light lives with her mom and her toad of a little brother, Oliver. Her dad is getting remarried, which makes no sense according to Odessa. If the prefix “re” means “to do all over again,” shouldn’t he be remarrying Mom? Meanwhile, Odessa moves into the attic room of their new house. One day she gets mad and stomps across the attic floor. Then she feels as if she is falling and lands . . . on the attic floor. Turns out that Odessa has gone back in time a whole day! With this new power she can fix all sorts of things–embarrassing moments, big mistakes, and even help Oliver be less of a toad. Her biggest goal: reunite Mom and Dad.
♦ The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Best Friends Fur-Ever (Bloomsbury USA) – Ruth McNally Barshaw. When her teacher assigns a report on animals, Ellie is stumped about what kind she wants to research. Then a neighbor goes on vacation and asks Ellie to pet-sit for her parrot, Alix. Perfect–exotic bird it will be! Unfortunately, Alix flies the coop…literally. But when Ellie can’t lure him back on her own, it will take clever teamwork from a librarian, a zookeeper, some good friends, and Ellie’s own pet-obsessed family to save the day.
♦ The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Have Pen, Will Travel (Bloomsbury USA) – Ruth McNally Barshaw. One girl. One sketchbook. One week with the world’s most annoying relatives. When Ellie McDougal’s parents go out of town, she’s forced to go on a camping trip with her aunt, uncle, cousins, and baby brother, Ben-Ben. Ellie can handle mosquitos and poison ivy, but sharing a cabin with her crazy relatives? No way! From her aunt’s many rules to her cousin Eric’s constant teasing, Ellie needs her sketchbook to survive this family vacation!
♦ The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: Most Valuable Player (Bloomsbury USA) – Ruth McNally Barshaw. Poor Ellie. When her best friend, Mo, suggests they try out for soccer together, Ellie isn’t convinced she’s the athletic type. And sure enough, Ellie can’t seem to get her head (or her feet) around the game, even with her dad’s coaching. The truth is, Ellie would much rather be doing brain-bending puzzles with her school’s Journey of the Mind club. But when both teams have a tournament on the same day, the race is on to see whether Ellie can be in two places at once and help her teammates bring home a win–on and off the field!
♦ The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: New Kid in School (Bloomsbury USA) – Ruth McNally Barshaw. Ellie’s family is moving to a new town, and Ellie is sure she won’t fit in at school. The other kids play “new kid bingo” behind her back, and even the teachers can’t seem to remember her name. But when her new classmates start complaining about long lunch lines (and bad food), Ellie jumps at the chance to lead a protest. And tackling the school cafeteria just might be the perfect way to make new friends!
♦ The Ellie McDoodle Diaries: The Show Must Go On (Bloomsbury USA) – Ruth McNally Barshaw. When Ellie McDoodle signs up to help with her school’s production of The Wizard of Oz, she never expected it to be so much work! There are sets to help paint, costumes to plan, and then there’s casting. When her best friend Mo gets cast as Wicked Witch–and not the coveted Dorothy–Mo and Ellie have their first big fight. As the student director, Ellie should have helped her get the starring role, right? Mo thinks so. Ruth McNally Barshaw’s creative doodles take Ellie through her first big drama production at school. And just like the main characters in Oz, Ellie and her friends will find courage, heart, brains, and that there’s no place like home!
♦ The Life of Ty: Penguin Problems (Dutton Juvenile) – Lauren Myracle. Winnie Perry’s sweet baby brother, Ty, is the quintessential dreamer, full of big ideas and wacky plans that only a seven-year-old boy could hatch. Whether it’s battling the family cat with a Dustbuster or smuggling a baby penguin out of the aquarium, Ty is always in the middle of a well-intended, big-hearted scheme.
♦ The Short Seller (Atheneum) – Elissa Brent Weissman. It all starts when seventh grader Lindy Sachs is granted $100 and access to her father’s online trading account as a way to alleviate her boredom while she’s home sick from school. Lindy learns something immediately—she is very, very good at e-trading. Her $100 becomes $200. Then $400. And more. With trading talent and access to her parents’ savings, the opportunity to make some real dough is too tempting to pass up. In fact, given how well Lindy’s stocks are doing, it would be a disservice to not invest it all… Right?
♦ Twerp (Random House) – Mark Goldblatt. Julian Twerski isn’t a bully. He’s just made a big mistake. So when he returns to school after a weeklong suspension, his English teacher offers him a deal: if he keeps a journal and writes about the terrible incident that got him and his friends suspended, he can get out of writing a report on Shakespeare. Julian jumps at the chance. And so begins his account of life in sixth grade–blowing up homemade fireworks, writing a love letter for his best friend (with disastrous results), and worrying whether he’s still the fastest kid in school. Lurking in the background, though, is the one story he can’t bring himself to tell, the one story his teacher most wants to hear. Inspired by Mark Goldblatt’s own childhood growing up in 1960s Queens, Twerp shines with humor and heart. This remarkably powerful story will have readers laughing and crying right along with these flawed but unforgettable characters.
♦ The Year of the Baby (Houghton Mifflin) – Andrea Cheng. Last year, Anna learned how to be a good friend. Now that her family has adopted a baby girl from China, she wants to learn how to be a good sister. But the new year proves challenging when the doctor warns that the baby isn’t thriving. Can Anna and her best friends, Laura and Camille, create a science project that saves the day? In this heartwarming sequel to The Year of the Book, readers will be just as moved by Anna’s devotion to her new sister as they will be inspired by her loving family and lasting friendships.
♦ Violet Mackerel’s Natural Habitat (Atheneum) – Anna Branford. Violet is the smallest in her family, and has a special affinity for Small Things everywhere. So when she finds a tiny ladybug in the garden, she expects she knows how it feels. It probably has to go to bed before all the others, and whenever it finds out something interesting (like that your ears keep growing all your life even when you are old), the bigger ladybugs probably say they already knew. Violet wants to help the ladybug, so she names her Small Gloria, puts her in a jar, and feeds her cheese toast. And then Violet wakes up to a horrible surprise. But thankfully, even as Violet learns a hard lesson about natural habitats, she realizes how nice it is to share her own habitat with a big sister.
♦ Vote (Wendy Lamb) – Gary Paulsen. Kevin Spencer, the hero of Liar, Liar, Flat Broke, and Crush, has a knack for tackling big ideas and goofing up, so what’s next? Politics, of course! He’s running for office, and his campaign is truly unique.
♦ A Box of Gargoyles (HarperCollins) – Anne Nesbet. In this sequel to The Cabinet of Earths, twelve-year-old Maya is feeling more at home in Paris, a city filled with old magic. Her little brother, James, is safe, and the terrible man with purple eyes is gone. At least Maya believed he was until a person-sized column of dust and leaves with hints of purple where its eyes should be begins following her. Maya suspects the strange, shadowy column is what’s left of the purple-eyed man, and that it—he—is behind the eerie changes in Paris, including the appearance of flying, talking stone gargoyles. She’s right. Worse, he has bound Maya to make him whole again, even if it kills her.
♦ Doll Bones (Margaret K. McElderry) – Holly Black. Zach, Poppy, and Alice have been friends forever. And for almost as long, they’ve been playing one continuous, ever-changing game of pirates and thieves, mermaids and warriors. Ruling over all is the Great Queen, a bone-china doll cursing those who displease her. But they are in middle school now. Zach’s father pushes him to give up make-believe, and Zach quits the game. Their friendship might be over, until Poppy declares she’s been having dreams about the Queen—and the ghost of a girl who will not rest until the bone-china doll is buried in her empty grave. Zach and Alice and Poppy set off on one last adventure to lay the Queen’s ghost to rest. But nothing goes according to plan, and as their adventure turns into an epic journey, creepy things begin to happen. Is the doll just a doll or something more sinister? And if there really is a ghost, will it let them go now that it has them in its clutches?
♦ Handbook for Dragon Slayers (HarperCollins) – Merrie Haskell. Like Gail Carson Levine’s books, Merrie Haskell’s middle-grade fantasy / adventure Handbook for Dragon Slayers mixes magic, mythical creatures, thrilling action, and a wonderful cast of characters. Political upheaval sends Princess Tilda fleeing from her kingdom in the company of two hopeful dragon slayers. The princess never had any interest in chasing dragons. The pain from her crippled foot was too great, and her dream was to write a book.But the princess finds herself making friends with magical horses, facing the Wild Hunt, and pointing a sword at the fire-breathing creatures. While doing things she never imagined, Tilda finds qualities in herself she never knew she possessed.
♦ The Lost Princess (Mermaid Tales) (Aladdin) – Debbie Dadey. Not one of the merkids in Shelly Siren’s third grade class can believe the shell-shattering news: Shelly is a princess! A real princess! It’s been a deep, dark secret in Trident City, but now everyone knows—and Shelly doesn’t know how to act. Should she start wearing a glittery crown? Or move to a grand undersea palace? Will her friends have to call her Princess Shelly? She knows it’s an exciting turn of events, but Shelly’s not sure she can truly fit the royal part. Can she find a way to be a princess and stay herself?
♦ The Neptune Project (Disney Hyperion) – Polly Holyoke. Nere has never understood why she feels so much more comfortable and confident in water than on land, but everything falls into place when Nere learns that she is one of a group of kids who-unbeknownst to them-have been genetically altered to survive in the ocean. These products of “The Neptune Project” will be able to build a better future under the sea, safe from the barren country’s famine, wars, and harsh laws.But there are some very big problems: no one asked Nere if she wanted to be a science experiment, the other Neptune kids aren’t exactly the friendliest bunch, and in order to reach the safe haven of the Neptune colony, Nere and her fellow mutates must swim through hundreds of miles of dangerous waters, relying only on their wits, dolphins, and each other to evade terrifying undersea creatures and a government that will stop at nothing to capture the Neptune kids…dead or alive.
♦ The Pirate’s Coin: A Sixty-Eight Rooms Adventure (Random House) – Marianne Malone. Sixth Graders Ruthie and Jack return to the Art Institute of Chicago’s magical Thorne Rooms. During a school presentation, Ruthie and Jack discover that their classmate Kendra is descended from Phoebe Monroe, the young slave they befriended when they traveled to 19th-century South Carolina. Kendra tells them that long ago her family lost their good name and their business selling herbal remedies when mobsters accused them of stealing the recipes! Only Ruthie and Jack know the truth–because only they know about the secret ledger that Phoebe wrote the recipes in long ago! Ruthie and Jack’s mission to clear Kendra’s name takes them back to the Thorne Rooms, where a mysterious old coin leads them to 1753 Cape Cod and to Jack’s own ancestor . . . the pirate Jack Norfleet! But playing with history can be dangerous! Suddenly, Jack’s very existence is in jeopardy! Can Ruthie and Jack find the proof they need to help Kendra? And can they fix the past and save Jack’s future . . . before it’s too late?
♦ The Watcher in the Shadows (Inquisitor’s Apprentice) (Harcourt) – Ms. Chris Moriarty. At the turn of the twentieth century, New York’s Bowery District becomes the scene of a terrible murder when the Klezmer King gets fried to a crisp by his Electric Tuxedo—on stage! The Inquisitor’s apprentice, thirteen-year-old Sacha Kessler, tries to help find the killer, but the closer he gets to solving the crime, the more it sounds as if the creature that haunted him in his first adventure is back. Worse still, his own Jewish family is in danger. Sacha has avoided learning magic until now, but as his world falls apart around him, he changes his mind.
♦ Troubletwisters Book 3: The Mystery (Scholastic) – Garth Nix. The third thrilling installment of the new middle-grade fantasy series from bestselling authors Garth Nix and Sean Williams. Just as Jaide and Jack Shield are settling into their crazy new lives in Portland, The Evil threatens another Ward, and the twins will need to put their growing powers to the test!
♦ Wings of Fire Book Three: The Hidden Kingdom (Scholastic) – Tui T. Sutherland. The dragonets of destiny aren’t sure what to expect in the RainWing kingdom – Glory hopes to learn more about her family, and since the RainWings aren’t fighting in the war, all five dragonets think they might be able to hide safely for a while. But something deadly is stalking the peaceful kingdom, and the dragonets soon discover that RainWings have been mysteriously disappearing from the forest. When the RainWing queen won’t do anything to find her missing tribe members, Glory and her friends set off on their own rescue mission – which leads them right back into enemy territory. . . .
♦ Below (Candlewick) – Meg McKinlay. On the day Cassie was born, they drowned her town. The mayor flipped a lever and everyone cheered as Old Lower Grange was submerged beneath five thousand swimming pools’ worth of water. Now, twelve years later, Cassie feels drawn to the manmade lake and the mysteries it hides — and she’s not the only one. Her classmate Liam, who wears oversized swim trunks to cover the scars on his legs, joins Cassie in her daily swims across the off-limits side of the lake. As the summer heats up, the water drops lower and lower, offering them glimpses of the ghostly town and uncovering secrets one prominent town figure seems anxious to keep submerged. But like a swimmer who ventures too far from shore, Cassie realizes she can’t turn back. Can she bring their suspicions to light before it’s too late — and does she dare?
♦ Romeo Blue (Arthur A. Levine Books) – Phoebe Stone. The follow-up to Phoebe Stone’s instant classic, THE ROMEO AND JULIET CODE. When Flissy Bathburn’s parents first dropped her off in Bottlebay, Maine, she hated everything about it. She hated the big gloomy house she was to live in. She hated meeting her long-lost and highly eccentric relatives. And most of all, she hated knowing that she was safe in America while her parents faced the guns of WWII in Europe. But a year has passed now, and Flissy has grown to love her life in Bottlebay — and especially Derek, the boy the Bathburns have adopted. Then a man claiming to be Derek’s true father arrives, and soon he’s asking all sorts of strange questions. Flissy has a nose for trouble. Has Derek’s new father come to take him away . . . or is there something even more sinister happening in Bottlebay, Maine?
♦ The Outlaws of Sherwood Street: Giving to the Poor (Philomel) – Peter Abrahams. Robbie Forester has learned the hard way that life isn’t fair. So have her friends Ashanti, Silas and Tut-Tut. But Robbie and her friends—who call themselves the Outlaws of Sherwood Street—want to change that. When Sheldon Gun, an evil business man, ends up killing Silas’s father so he can build a new apartment complex in Brooklyn, the Outlaws know it’s up to them to make Sheldon Gun pay. With street smarts, Silas’s inventions, and a little help from a charm bracelet, these friends know they can take on Sheldon Gun and win—at least, they hope so. If not, they may end up just like Silas’s dad. This story is filled with action, adventure, social justice and great friends–and is especially relevant during our current economy and the rise of the Occupy Everywhere movement.
♦ P.S. Be Eleven (Amistad) – Rita Williams-Garcia. Eleven-year-old Brooklyn girl Delphine feels overwhelmed with worries and responsibilities. She’s just started sixth grade and is self-conscious about being the tallest girl in the class, and nervous about her first school dance. She’s supposed to be watching her sisters, but Fern and Vonetta are hard to control. Her uncle Darnell is home from Vietnam and seems different. And her pa has a girlfriend. At least Delphine can write to her mother in Oakland, California, for advice. But why does her mother tell her to “be eleven” when Delphine is now twelve?
♦ Sugar (Little, Brown) – Jewell Parker Rhodes. Ten-year-old Sugar lives on the River Road sugar plantation along the banks of the Mississippi. Slavery is over, but laboring in the fields all day doesn’t make her feel very free. Thankfully, Sugar has a knack for finding her own fun, especially when she joins forces with forbidden friend Billy, the white plantation owner’s son. Sugar has always yearned to learn more about the world, and she sees her chance when Chinese workers are brought in to help harvest the cane. The older River Road folks feel threatened, but Sugar is fascinated. As she befriends young Beau and elder Master Liu, they introduce her to the traditions of their culture, and she, in turn, shares the ways of plantation life. Sugar soon realizes that she must be the one to bridge the cultural gap and bring the community together. Here is a story of unlikely friendships and how they can change our lives forever.