Audience: Grades 1-5
Format: Hardcover – Library Copy
“What is it, Sassafras?” I crouched down and ruffled my cat’s fluffy fur.
– first sentence
This book is a fabulous early chapter book. Zoey and her cat Sassafras both love bugs and science and when Zoey discovers that her mom secretly takes care of magical creatures, she is eager to help. Zoey, a budding scientist, wears her thinking goggles on her head when she needs to concentrate. And when she finds a baby dragon, she uses the scientific method to determine how to help him.
So, not only is this book fun, but it also explains the scientific method (including a glossary at the end). It is much more meaningful than I thought it would be. With a strong female lead who happens to be African American, and all the science thrown in, it goes above and beyond what you expect from an early chapter book. The entire series is a must-have for any elementary library collection.
Audience: Upper Elementary/Middle School
The first time I tried my hand at magic, I grew roses out of my nose.
– First sentence
Red’s granny is sick (maybe dying) and she is determined to find a way to save her. She sets off on an adventure that brings understanding, knowledge, fear, excitement and even unexpected friendships.
Other books in this series include Rump, Jack, and Grump. They all come from the same world, but see it from different perspectives.
I thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. I haven’t read Grump, but I’m sure it won’t disappoint. Red is a great character though a bit naive and sheltered. She learns a great deal during her adventure and grows into a stronger person.
Bottom line: A fresh take on the story of Red Riding Hood that will take you on an exciting adventure filled with danger and unexpected friendships.
It’s the very first thing I see when we pull into town.
This is a charming story about a feisty 9 year-old girl (Lemonade Liberty Witt) who is forced to uproot her life to live with her grandfather (who she never even met) when her mom passes away. Willow Creek is the Bigfoot Capital of the world and Lem’s neighbor, 11-year old Tobin Sky, is the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. Together, Lem and Tobin follow Bigfoot leads and try to capture him on film.
This is a realistic story set in the 1970’s that deals with some pretty serious issues surrounding grief and loss. Lem is grieving the loss of her mother and Tobin is dealing with his father’s disappearance after coming back from Vietnam. Tobin and Lem are cute together and their interactions bring humor to what is a pretty serious theme. The additional plot line with Tobin’s father is a little overwhelming and his issues with PTSD may be hard for children to understand. The end of the book is a bit surprising considering how realistic the rest of the book is, but overall this is a touching story of friendship, loss, and dealing with grief.
Recommended to: Grades 4-6, fans of realistic fiction who can deal with a bit of sadness
This was a bad idea.
– First sentence
I loved the first book so much and the cliffhanger ending got me, so I jumped directly into this when I finished The Ark Plan. The change in narrator was a bit jarring because I was accustomed to the way the characters “spoke” in the first book, but the story is just as good, if not better.
Sky, Shawn, and Todd continue their journey to solve the mysteries of the topside world and the Noah. Why is the military so set on catching them and will Sky be able to complete her dad’s mission? Oh and don’t forget all the deadly dinosaurs.
I thought one character was going to be traitorous, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought. (In an adult book, I might have been right.) Any kid who liked The Ark Plan will be thrilled with this sequel. The audio is a delightful way to experience the thrills and adventure of this fantastic story.
Recommended to: Grades 4 and up – fans of sci-fi, adventure, dinosaurs, and kids saving the day.
I needed two minutes.
– first sentence
Imagine a world where dinosaurs freely roam the surface and people are forced to live underground. This is Jurassic Park gone wild – dinosaurs were cloned 150 years ago and kept in zoos and on farms. Needless to say, things got out of hand. Sky Mundy lived underground her entire life and now that she found a clue to her father’s disappearance, she must venture to the topside world to find answers.
The story follows Sky’s journey and is filled with thrilling action, life-threatening situations, and heroic characters. The plot moves quickly with twists and a cliff-hanger ending. Make sure you have the second book ready for your young reader.
The narrator did an excellent job – I highly recommend the audio version. I borrowed it using the Hoopla app through my public library.
Recommended to: Grades 4 and up – fans of sci-fi, adventure, strong female characters, and of course, dinosaurs.
Our story begins in a city, with buildings and streets and bridges and parks.
– First sentence
At the end of the first book, Roz is taken away from her island home and brought back to the factory. She is reactivated at Hilltop farm to work for the Shreef family. As much as she enjoys her new home (kids, cows, etc.), Roz misses Brightbill and all her friends on the island. Will she be able to keep her secret? And will she ever make it back to her island home?
This is a great follow up and just as quirky and fun as the first one. I read this to my book club at school. The kids liked the first book better, but they did enjoy this one. It took a while to get going, but the end is worth it.
Recommended to: 3rd-5th graders who like quirky stories with talking animals
I’m only wearing five braids to school today.
– First Sentence
Mya is excited for Spirit Week and she is counting down the days with her braids. When she gets to one, it will be time for Spirit Week. But the partner picking doesn’t go her way and she ends up with Mean Connie Tate (the school bully) for a partner instead of her best friend Naomi.
As Mya would say, “good gravy.” And she says that often as she tries to navigate friendships, bullies, and Spirit Week challenges. Mya learns a lot about people and about judging others by what you hear about them. She is a perky little girl and easy to like, even though she doesn’t always think things through before she acts. Mya is a strong personality, but she desperately wants to repair her friendship with Naomi – even though Mya didn’t really do anything wrong. The flavor of Texas really comes through in the writing. In the audiobook, the narrator does a fantastic job of sounding like a Texas girl with attitude.
I think grownups reading this book will easily recognize the characters for who they are, but kids might be a bit surprised by the ending. The story is engaging and certainly humorous at times. You can’t help but laugh about some of the phrases that Mya comes out with. Girls will enjoy this one.
Recommended to: 3rd-5th graders who like stories about friendship and triumphing over adversity.
“Tell me how you survived the whale attack,” the reporter said.
– opening lines
Could you survive if the whale watching boat you were on capsized and you were left floating in the cold ocean? Travis and Marina are in just such a situation. Luckily, Travis is wearing an immersion suit, and Mariana has survival supplies in her vest (and a lot of knowledge). All they have to do is stay out of the water, find land, and get rescued. Simple, right?
So, this is a good book, but the plot is a little thin. Things resolve a bit too easily for me, but I don’t think kids will mind. At the end of the book, there is a section with “U.S. Coast Guard-Approved Cold Water Survival Tips” which kids will probably find very cool and informative.
It’s about 100 pages, easy to read and about survival, kids will love it.
Recommended to: Grades 3-5 (and some second graders), fans of the I Survived series, adventure fans, reluctant readers
There are a lot of things you should probably know to understand why a bunch of kids decided to climb up a treehouse and not come down.
– First Line
Imagine a never-ending sleepover in a treehouse with 9 of your best friends. Just so you know, the treehouse has a bathroom (but no stove), two floors, a craft station, a platform for deliveries, a skylight, and a zipline. The thing is, the kids are staying in the treehouse and refusing to come down until their parents give in to their demands. While a treehouse sleepover sounds amazing (and who wants sleepovers to end), 10 kids in close quarters can become stressful for even the best of friends.
Winnie originally stays in the treehouse every Wednesday – so her divorcing parents can have equal numbers of days with her. When Winnie realizes she is failing 5th grade and the only time she gets any homework done is Wednesdays in the treehouse, she decides to stay there permanently. But, will her parents ever see reason and stop fighting over everything being exactly equal??
The plot touches on issues like divorce, screen time, tv privileges, and other difficulties between parents and children. It’s an engaging story with realistic characters who love and support each other through everything. The format is a group memoir (written by Winnie) and there are cute illustrations and post-its from the other characters throughout the book.
Kids will love the idea of living in a treehouse with their friends and not having to answer to parents. (There is a plot point that prevents the parents or police from entering the treehouse which verges on ridiculous, but the kids won’t mind.)
Recommended to: Grades 3 – 8, fans of realistic fiction, and reluctant readers. Fans of James Patterson’s Middle School series will enjoy this one. 🙂
Brave is the sequel to Awkward, an amazing graphic novel about navigating middle school life. Brave follows the same basic group of kids, with a different main character. In Brave, Jensen (the art club kid from Awkward who is obsessed with sunspots) learns about bullying. He doesn’t think he is a victim at first, but he gradually begins to understand what being bullied really means. He compares his school day to a video game, a constant struggle to avoid the “bad guys” and traps; making it through the day is a struggle for “survival.”
This book has a bit more mature content compared with Awkward. There is no sex or serious violence, but the bullies call Jensen “fatso” and “stupid” and Jensen uses the phrase “makes my life a living hell.” Compared to the overall message in this book, these are tiny considerations. But, as a parent, you should know what you are getting into. Many of our 3rd graders read Awkward and their parents might not think they are ready for this one.
Overall, this is a great book that describes realities of middle school, bullying, feeling alone, making friends, and standing up for yourself. I highly recommend it to 4th grade and up.