Category Archives: Book Lists

New School Blues

CountingThyme

Moving is always a challenge, especially when it involves a new school. Take it from this shy girl who went to three different kindergartens alone and moved more times than she cares to count. Whether it’s a new town or making the leap from elementary to middle school, here are some books to make life easier in the great unknown of a new home.

COUNTING THYME by Melanie Conklin (Putnam 2016) When eleven-year-old Thyme Owens’ little brother, Val, is accepted into a new cancer drug trial, it’s just the second chance that he needs. But it also means the Owens family has to move to New York, thousands of miles away from Thyme’s best friend and everything she knows and loves. The island of Manhattan doesn’t exactly inspire new beginnings, but Thyme tries to embrace the change for what it is: temporary.

After Val’s treatment shows real promise and Mr. Owens accepts a full-time position in the city, Thyme has to face the frightening possibility that the move to New York is permanent. Thyme loves her brother, and knows the trial could save his life—she’d give anything for him to be well—but she still wants to go home, although the guilt of not wanting to stay is agonizing. She finds herself even more mixed up when her heart feels the tug of new friends, a first crush, and even a crotchety neighbor and his sweet whistling bird. All Thyme can do is count the minutes, the hours, and days, and hope time can bring both a miracle for Val and a way back home.

With equal parts heart and humor, Melanie Conklin’s debut is a courageous and charming story of love and family—and what it means to be counted.

HootHOOT by Carl Hiaasen (Yearling 2006) Unfortunately, Roy’s first acquaintance in Florida is Dana Matherson, a well-known bully. Then again, if Dana hadn’t been sinking his thumbs into Roy’s temples and mashing his face against the school-bus window, Roy might never have spotted the running boy. And the running boy is intriguing: he was running away from the school bus, carried no books, and–here’s the odd part–wore no shoes. Sensing a mystery, Roy sets himself on the boy’s trail. The chase introduces him to potty-trained alligators, a fake-fart champion, some burrowing owls, a renegade eco-avenger, and several extremely poisonous snakes with unnaturally sparkling tails.
Roy has most definitely arrived in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida.

TheTroubleWithRulesTHE TROUBLE WITH RULES by Leslie Bulion (Peachtree 2008) For Nadine Rostraver, fourth grade means peer pressure and new social rules she hadn t anticipated. For one thing, girls aren t supposed to hang out with boys anymore. So where does that leave Nadine and her best friend Nick?

Then Summer Crawford arrives at Upper Springville Elementary and Nadine s life goes from bad to worse! Nadine loses her job as the art editor on the class newspaper The Springville Spark and gets in some serious trouble with her teacher, Mr. Allen.

But Summer is a free spirit who marches to her own beat. Slowly Nadine realizes that life can be a lot more fun if you call your own tune. Together Nadine, Nick, and Summer decide breaking the rules is sometimes the best thing you can do. Especially when the rules don t allow you to be yourself.

Author Leslie Bulion s sensitive, realistic look at adolescence and her humorous slant on its unique struggles will resonate with young readers who will recognize themselves and their own dilemmas in her well-drawn characters and their responses to a complicated world.

MovingDayMOVING DAY by Ralph Fletcher, illustrated by Jennifer Emery (Boyds Mills Press 2006) The traumas and trials of moving away are poignantly expressed in new poems from a respected writer. Fletch’s new Diamondback mountain bike and his brother’s new hockey outfit are unexpected gifts from Dad. When Dad announces, “We’re going to move to Ohio,” Fletch’s heart drops to his stomach. Leaving means selling the house, abandoning his best friends,and living next to Lake Erie. . . . Hey, didn’t that lake catch on fire? Ralph Feltcher’s poems evoke what’s hard about moving away as well as what makes moving day, well, maybe, okay.

SchooledSCHOOLED by Gordon Korman (Hyperion 2008-from Booklist’s red review) Homeschooled on an isolated “alternate farm commune” that has dwindled since the 1960s to 2 members, 13-year-old Cap has always lived with his grandmother, Rain. When she is hospitalized, Cap is taken in by a social worker and sent—like a lamb to slaughter—to middle school. Smart and capable, innocent and inexperienced (he learned to drive on the farm, but he has never watched television), long-haired Cap soon becomes the butt of pranks. He reacts in unexpected ways and, in the end, elevates those around him to higher ground. From chapter to chapter, the first-person narrative shifts among certain characters: Cap, a social worker (who takes him into her home), her daughter (who resents his presence there), an A-list bully, a Z-list victim, a popular girl, the school principal, and a football player (who unintentionally decks Cap twice in one day). Korman capably manages the shifting points of view of characters who begin by scorning or resenting Cap and end up on his side. From the eye-catching jacket art to the scene in which Cap says good-bye to his 1,100 fellow students, individually and by name, this rewarding novel features an engaging main character and some memorable moments of comedy, tenderness, and reflection.

HowToSurviveMiddleSchoolHOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL by Donna Gephart (Yearling 2008) Eleven-year-old David Greenberg dreams of becoming a YouTube sensation and spends all of his time making hilarious Top 6½ Lists and Talk Time videos. But before he can get famous, he has to figure out a way to deal with:

6. Middle school (much scarier than it sounds!)
5. His best friend gone girl-crazy
4. A runaway mom who has no phone!
3. The threat of a swirlie on his birthday
2. A terrifying cousin
1. His # 1 fan, Bubbe (his Jewish grandmother)
1/2. Did we mention Hammy, the hamster who’s determined to break David’s heart?

But when David’s new best friend, Sophie, starts sending out the links to everyone she knows and her friends tell their friends, thousands of people start viewing his videos.

AnastasiaAgain!ANASTASIA AGAIN! by Lois Lowry (Yearling 1982) Anastasia has grown to love her new little brother, Sam. But she is in for a new shock as her parents announce that they will be moving to the suburbs. Anastasia is sure that all suburbanites live drab, meaningless lives, and tries to prevent the move by requesting a room with a tower before she will consent to the move. Her parents, however, find just such a house, and Anastasia must confront her misconceptions. Her adventures in the suburbs involve meeting her new neighbors, including a cute boy who mows lawns, and a “witch” who lives next door.

WeAreAllMadeOfMoleculesWE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES by Susin Nielsen (Ember 2016) Ashley’s and Stewart’s worlds collide when Stewart and his dad move in with Ashley and her mom. The Brady Bunch it isn’t. Stewart is trying to be 89.9 percent happy about it–he’s always wanted a sister. But Ashley is 110 percent horrified. She already has to hide the real reason her dad moved out; “Spewart” could further threaten her position at the top of the social ladder. They’re complete opposites, but they have one thing in common: they—like everyone else—are made of molecules.

TheKidInTheRedJacketTHE KID IN THE RED JACKET by Barbara Park (Random House 1988) Can Howard SURVIVE life without friends? Howard Jeeter’s parents have ruined his life. They’ve moved him across the country, and all the kids in his new town act like he’s totally invisible. At least, all of them except for his six-year-old neighbor, Molly Vera Thompson. Howard could use a friend. But a little girl who talks nonstop? Not what he had in mind. Still, when you’re really lonely, you’ll be friends with anyone…right?

 

NewBoy

NEW BOY by Nick Earls (Puffin 2015) Adjusting to a new country and a new school was never going to be easy for Herschelle. The food is strange, it’s so different to South Africa and, worst of all, no one understands the Aussie slang he’s learnt on the web. But it’s the similarities that make things really hard. Herschelle will have to confront racism, bullying and his own past before Australia can feel like home…

 

 

EllieMcDoodle

ELLIE MCDOODLE NEW KID IN SCHOOL by Ruth McNally Barshaw (Bloomsbury 2009) When Ellie’s family moves to a new town, she’s sure she won’t fit in. Nobody else likes to read as much as she does, and even the teachers can’t get her name right. But when the students need someone to help them rally against unfair lunch lines, it’s Ellie to the rescue―and if shorter lines and better food prevail, can friendship be far behind?

 

 

WonderWONDER by R.J. Palacio (Knopf 2012) August (Auggie) Pullman was born with a facial deformity that prevented him from going to a mainstream school―until now. He’s about to enter fifth grade at Beecher Prep, and if you’ve ever been the new kid, then you know how hard that can be. The thing is Auggie’s just an ordinary kid, with an extraordinary face. But can he convince his new classmates that he’s just like them, despite appearances?

R. J. Palacio has crafted an uplifting novel full of wonderfully realistic family interactions, lively school scenes, and writing that shines with spare emotional power.

What other books can you recommend to help kids ease into the daunting world of a new school?

Louise Galveston is the author of BY THE GRACE OF TODD and IN TODD WE TRUST (Razorbill). 

Chilly books to beat the heat

It’s been a warm hot steamy beastly hellish summer.  They say books can transport you, so here are some books to take you to cool brisk cold icy frigid places.  Grab a cup of hot chocolate, snuggle under a comforter, and enjoy.

(Descriptions from IndieBound)

Arctic CodeThe Arctic Code by Matthew J. Kirby

(Balzer & Bray/Harperteen  2015)

It is the near future, and the earth has entered a new ice age. Eleanor Perry lives in Tucson, one of the most popular destinations for refugees of the Freeze. She is the daughter of a climatologist who is trying to find new ways to preserve human life on the planet. Dr. Perry believes that a series of oil deposits she has found in the Arctic may hold the key to our survival. That’s when she disappears but not before sending Eleanor a series of cryptic messages that point to a significant and mysterious discovery. Now it’s up to Eleanor to go find her.

BlizzardBlizzard: Colorado, 1886 by Kathleen Duey and Karen A. Bale

 (Aladdin Paperbacks  2014)

Maggie Rose’s trick on her spoiled cousin Haydn Sinclair backfires when he disappears on a hike, and it’s up to Maggie to rescue him in a sudden blizzard in Estes Park, Colorado, in 1886.

BreadcrumbsBreadcrumbs by Anne Ursu

(Walden Pond Press  2013)

Once upon a time, Hazel and Jack were best friends. But that was before he stopped talking to her and disappeared into a forest with a mysterious woman made of ice. Now it’s up to Hazel to go in after him. Inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen,” Breadcrumbs is a stunningly original fairy tale of modern-day America, a dazzling ode to the power of fantasy, and a heartbreaking meditation on how growing up is as much a choice as it is something that happens to us.

Brian's WinterBrian’s Winter by Gary Paulsen

 (Delacorte Books for Young Readers 1996)

In Hatchet, 13-year-old Brian Robeson learned to survive alone in the Canadian wilderness, armed only with his hatchet. He was rescued at the end of the summer. Brian’s Winter begins where Hatchet might have ended: Brian is not rescued, but must build on his survival skills to face his deadliest enemy–a northern winter.

Call of the Klondike

Call of the Klondike: A True Gold Rush Adventure

by David Meissner and Kim Richardson (Calkins Creek Books  2013)

As thousands head north in search of gold, Marshall Bond and Stanley Pearce join them, booking passage on a steamship bound for the Klondike goldfields. The journey is life threatening, but the two friends make it to Dawson City, in Canada, build a cabin, and meet Jack London, all the while searching for the ultimate reward: gold

Daughter of WinterDaughter of Winter by Pat Lowery Collins

(Candlewick Press 2010)

It’s 1849, and twelve-year-old Addie lives in the shipbuilding town of Essex, Massachusetts. Her father has left the family to seek gold on the West Coast, and now the flux has taken the lives of her mother and baby brother, leaving Addie all alone. Her fear of living as a servant in some other home drives her into the snowy woods, where she survives on her own for several weeks before a nomadic, silver-haired Wampanoag woman takes her in. Slowly, the startling truth of Addie’s past unfolds. Through an intense ancient ceremony, and by force of her own wits and will, Addie unravels the mystery of her identity and finds the courage to build a future unlike any she could ever have imagined.

First LightFirst Light by Rebecca Stead

(Wendy Lamb Books 2007)

Peter is thrilled to join his parents on an expedition to Greenland, where his father studies global warming. Peter will get to skip school, drive a dogsled, and finally share in his dad’s adventures. But on the ice cap, Peter struggles to understand a series of visions that both frighten and entice him.
Thea has never seen the sun. Her extraordinary people, suspected of witchcraft and nearly driven to extinction, have retreated to a secret world they’ve built deep inside the arctic ice. As Thea dreams of a path to Earth’s surface, Peter’s search for answers brings him ever closer to her hidden home.
Rebecca Stead’s fascinating debut novel is a dazzling tale of mystery, science and adventure at the top of the world.

Ice dogsIce Dogs by Terry Lynn Johnson

(Hmh Books for Young Readers 2014)

Victoria Secord, a fourteen-year-old Alaskan dogsled racer, loses her way on a routine outing with her dogs. With food gone and temperatures dropping, her survival and that of her dogs and the mysterious boy she meets in the woods is entirely up to her.

Ice StoryIce Story: Shackleton’s Lost Expedition 

bElizabeth Cody Kimmel (Clarion Books 1999)

In 1914, Sir Ernest Shackleton and a twenty-seven-man crew set off on an expedition to reach and cross Antarctica. Just a month and a half into the voyage, their ship, the Endurance, was caught fast in heavy pack ice. The men had no radio contact, and no one knew where they were or even that they were in trouble. None of them should have survived the ordeal that followed-unstable ice floes, treacherous waters, freezing temperatures, and starvation. Only the extraordinary leadership, courage, and strength of Shackleton brought the whole team safely through.

Impossible RescueThe Impossible Rescue: The True Story of an Amazing Arctic Adventure by  Martin W. Sandler (Candlewick Press 2012)

In 1897, whaling in the Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast was as dangerous as it was lucrative. And in that particular year, winter blasted early, bringing storms and ice packs that caught eight American whale ships and three hundred sailors off guard. Their ships locked in ice, with no means of escape, the whalers had limited provisions on board, and little hope of surviving until warmer temperatures arrived many months later. Here is the incredible story of three men sent by President McKinley to rescue them. The mission? A perilous trek over 1,500 miles of nearly impassable Alaskan terrain, in the bone-chilling months of winter, to secure two herds of reindeer (for food) and find a way to guide them to the whalers before they starve.

Surviving AntarcticaSurviving Antarctica: Reality TV 2083

by Andrea White (Eos 2006)

Five fourteen year olds face this desperate situation on a deadly journey in Antarctica. It is 2083. They are contestants on a reality TV show, Antarctic Survivor, which is set up to re create Robert F. Scott’s 1912 doomed attempt to be the first to reach the South Pole.But in 2083 reality TV is not just an act. Contestants literally relive or die during the simulations of events. Robert Scott and his team were experienced explorers and scientists, but their attempt to reach the Pole proved fatal. What chance does the Antarctic Survivor team have?

TrappedTrapped by Michael Northrop

(Scholastic Press,  2011)

The day the blizzard started, no one knew that it was going to keep snowing for a week. That for those in its path, it would become not just a matter of keeping warm, but of staying alive.

Scotty and his friends Pete and Jason are among the last seven kids at their high school waiting to get picked up that day, and they soon realize that no one is coming for them. Still, it doesn’t seem so bad to spend the night at school, especially when distractingly hot Krista and Julie are sleeping just down the hall. But then the power goes out, then the heat. The pipes freeze, and the roof shudders. As the days add up, the snow piles higher, and the empty halls grow colder and darker, the mounting pressure forces a devastating decision.

WinterfrostWinterfrost by Michelle Houts

 (Candlewick Press   2014)

Christmas has come, and with it a sparkling white winterfrost over the countryside. But twelve-year-old Bettina’s parents have been called away unexpectedly, leaving her in charge of the house, the farm, and baby Pia. In all the confusion, Bettina’s family neglects to set out the traditional bowl of Christmas rice pudding for the tiny nisse who are rumored to look after the family and their livestock. No one besides her grandfather ever believed the nisse were real, so what harm could there be in forgetting this silly custom? But when baby Pia disappears during a nap, the magic of the nisse makes itself known. To find her sister and set things right, Bettina must venture into the miniature world of these usually helpful, but sometimes mischievous folk.

 

wintersmithWintersmith by Terry Pratchett

(HarperCollins 2006)

At 9, Tiffany Aching defeated the cruel Queen of Fairyland.

At 11, she battled an ancient body-stealing evil.

At 13, Tiffany faces a new challenge: a boy. And boys can be a bit of a problem when you’re thirteen. . . .

But the Wintersmith isn’t “exactly” a boy.  He is Winter itself–snow, gales, icicles–“all of it.” When he has a crush on Tiffany, he may make her roses out of ice, but his nature is blizzards and avalanches. And he wants Tiffany to stay in his gleaming, frozen world. Forever.

Tiffany will need all her cunning to make it to Spring. She’ll also need her friends, from junior witches to the legendary Granny Weatherwax. Tiffany will need the Wee Free Men too. She’ll have the help of the bravest, toughest, smelliest pictsies ever to be banished from Fairyland–whether she wants it or not. It’s going to be a cold, cold season, because if Tiffany doesn’t survive until Spring–Spring won’t come.

 

Jacqueline Houtman is the author of the middle-grade novel The Reinvention of Edison Thomas (Front Street/Boyds Mills Press 2010) and coauthor, with Walter Naegle and Michael G. Long, of the biography for young (and not-so-young) readers, Bayard Rustin: The Invisible Activist (Quaker Press 2014).

It’s About Time

clock

If only we could predict time future or change time past. If only we could make time speed up, slow down, or even stop. Instead, we run out of time, or have too much time on our hands. We’re always trying to steal a bit of it, and getting upset when we lose or waste it. Time blithely ignores all our efforts to control it.

“Time creeps. Time sprints. Time leaps. Time stumbles…Now and then, time stands still.” Thus speaks Jeptha A. Stone, a marble monument in my MG novel “Every Single Second”. Jeptha resides in a cemetery, where he’s got plenty of time (!) to contemplate its slippery nature.

Researching the novel, I marveled at all the ingenious ways humans have concocted to measure its passage, from sundials to water clocks, hour glasses to star maps. Today scientists can measure time in units called attoseconds: one hundred attoseconds is to one second as one second is to three hundred million years. (pause here for a dizzy spell).

And yet, isn’t it a little arbitrary, maybe even arrogant, to try to pin down something so cunning and elusive? Nella, my book’s main character, is driven crazy by the concept of infinity. How can something have no beginning or end? Her sweet nerdy friend Clem longs to time travel, even though her scientist father warns her that it will always be impossible to return to the past. Time runs forever forward. Why? We still don’t know.

Some of the most beloved MG novels of all you-know-what ponder the notion of time. Just to mention three:

wrinkle in time

The hands-down champion is, of course,  “A Wrinkle in Time” and the other books in Madelein L’Engle’s “Time Quintet”. Meg and Charles Wallace’s scientist father is researching the tesseract, that wrinkle which allows for travel in time and space, when he goes missing. They set off to find him.

when you reach me

The book won the Newbery, and so did Rebecca Stead’s staggeringly brilliant homage to it. In “When You Reach Me”, Miranda receives notes from what clearly is her own future.

tom's midnight

Another classic, by my lights too often overlooked, is Philippa Pearce’s “Tom’s Midnight Garden”. When the clock in his aunt and uncle’s apartment strikes thirteen, Tom is flabbergasted to find the deserted alley behind has become a lush garden. He meets another child, from another time, who is no less surprised than he is.

Since 1962, when “Wrinkle” was published, the science of time has grown ever more mind-blowing. Yet it’s dizzying and exciting and somehow gratifying to know that every discovery scientists makes engenders many new questions. What we know is far less than what we don’t, and time still has the last chuckle on us. No wonder we can’t stop reading and writing about it.

Please add your own time-themed favorites below!

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Tricia’s newest MG books are “Every Single Second” and “Cody and the Mysteries of the Universe”. Time is always getting away from her, especially when she’s reading. You can visit her at triciaspringstubb.com