Posts Tagged ‘junior fiction’

The Forbidden Library

November 24, 2016

forbidden-libraryThe Forbidden Library

By Django Wexler

When I stumbled upon this book and saw the title, I had to read the cover summary:

“Alice always thought fairy tales had happy endings. That–along with everything else–changed after she met her first fairy hovering in the kitchen, threatening her father. The next day her father left, never to return.

Poor Alice dutifully goes off to live with an uncle she’s never heard of: a mysterious old man with an impossibly massive library full of books she’s forbidden to read. But when she runs into a talking cat who sneaks her inside and an arrogant boy who dares her to open a book, it’s hard to resist. The moment she reads the first line Alice finds herself INSIDE the book, with only one way out.

It seems Uncle Geryon is much more than he claimed to be. Good thing Alice is too, because she’ll need all her courage and wits to face the challenges to come.”

What library person could walk away from a story about magical books that LITERALLY take you to other worlds?  And talking cats are icing on the cake!  I really enjoyed Wexler’s unique book-based magical system.  “Readers” are the wielders of magic, seeking bits and pieces of magical fragments within their huge collection of books.  They then combined the found fragments to create magical books that can contain portals to other worlds and prisons for holding powerful magical creatures.

Alice is a smart, crafty girl who overcomes the many obstacles in her way by thinking outside the box.  There is a bit of mystery and intrigue as Alice comes to learn that people’s intentions are not always clear and most things are never simply black and white.  A few pictures are sprinkled throughout the book to help illustrate the unusual places and creatures Alice encounters during her adventure.

This book is part of a series which has two more books, The Mad Apprentice and the Palace of Glass, and a fourth expected sometime next year.

the-mad-apprentice the-palace-of-glass

I would recommend this middle grade novel for readers who enjoy magic, fantastical creatures, and strong female characters.

Reviewed by: Meredith (Harrington Library)

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October 7, 2016



By Sharon Creech

What happens when 12-year-old Reena and her family transfer from the crowds, noise and hectic pace of New York City to the farms, beaches and beauty of coastal Maine?  More than they ever expect!

Shortly after settling into their new home, Reena’s mother volunteers Reena and her 7-year-old brother Luke to help an elderly, eccentric (and somewhat cranky) neighbor woman named Mrs. Falala with chores around her farm. As the children reluctantly show up for work the first day, they discover that  Mrs. Falala has a menagerie of animals – a pig named Paulie, a cat named China, a snake named Edna and one particularly stubborn, ornery and slobbering cow named Zora. As the two children progress from menial jobs to a close relationship with the animals and their owner, they learn the meaning of hard work, patience and kindness.  Maine isn’t all about the blueberries, lobsters and cold weather their New York friends had told them about.  It is that and much much more!

Through a mixture of prose and free verse poems, Creech packs descriptive images, landscape and emotion into this beautiful tale of a developing friendship and the cranky cow that brought them all together.

Recommended for grades 3 – 5.

Reviewed by Connie (Schimelpfenig Library)



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Unidentified Suburban Object

September 22, 2016

Uunidentified-suburban-objectnidentified Suburban Object

By Mike Jung

Chloe Cho is tired of everyone assuming that all Asians are the same.  As the only Korean American as well as the only Asian American in her school, she’s heard it all — she’s a straight-A student because she’s Asian, she’s good at the violin because she’s Asian, her parents know how to discipline because they’re Asian — and she’s had enough!  It doesn’t help that her parents seem just fine with people confusing them for Chinese or Japanese and never seem to want to talk to her about their lives back in Korean.  Things finally start to look up for Chloe when a new teacher comes to town and she’s Korean American too!  Finally, she has someone to talk to who understands her!  But Chloe’s world starts to unravel when a class assignment about her family history forces her parents to share an out-of-this-world family secret.

I’m not going to lie; the book cover is what originally drew me to this book; just look at the face on that fish!  After reading the summary on the book cover, I was hooked.  Racial stereotypes and unintended racism can be hard topics to address and even harder to sell to young readers, but I think Jung does a great job giving it enough humor to help the medicine go down in the most delightful way.  Chloe has such an authentic voice and is very relatable.  It really sounds like a story told by a seventh grade girl.  While a lot of authors struggle with the balance of character emotion, Jung is able to portray Chloe at her whiniest, most miserable low point without alienating the reader (pun intended).  I really enjoyed the emotional roller coaster and I loved the little twist at the end.  Who knows, maybe this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Miss Chloe Cho…

Reviewed by Meredith (Harrington Library)

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Tru & Nelle

September 16, 2016


Tru & Nelle

by G. Neri

In their small town of Monroeville, Alabama, in 1930, misfits Tru and Nelle strike up a friendship and find a mystery to solve when someone breaks into the drugstore and steals some candy and a fancy brooch.

This is a fictionalized account of the real-life friendship between two of America’s great writers, Truman Capote and Harper Lee, so for adults, it’s really fun to see the ways parts of this book mirror things that happen in the books that Capote and Lee wrote as grown-ups. But it’s also a really satisfying story of friendship, small town life, standing up for yourself and your friends, childhood adventures, and dealing with tough situations in life, and also about sometimes having to let go when you’ve found a person and a place you really connect with. No prior knowledge of Truman Capote or Harper Lee are necessary to enjoy this book immensely! Definitely well worth a read for aspiring writers, mystery fans, and those looking for adventures in everyday life.

Happy reading!

Reviewed by: Lara (Haggard Library)

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Hoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

August 30, 2016

hoodooHoodoo by Ronald L. Smith

Looking for a page turner?  I picked up Hoodoo, because I heard it would keep you on the edge of your seat.  Set in 1930’s Alabama, Hoodoo Hatcher, twelve, needs to learn to conjure to defeat the “Stranger,” threatening the town with black magic.  Be sure to know your reader, because this story might be too scary.  But it’s perfect for those who like a bit of a shiver.  After all, Halloween is just two months away!

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The Wild Robot

June 7, 2016

The Wild Robot

By Peter Brown

Roz the robot (otherwise known as ROZZUM Unit 7134) is the sole surviving robot of a cargo of 500 lost at sea after a hurricane.  When Roz’s crate washes ashore on an island, otters play with her protective packaging and accidentally push the button which activates the robot.  As the robot opens her eyes, she announces “You may call me Roz”. This unexpected pronouncement terrifies the sea otters who think this unknown creature is a monster.  Roz is confused by her presence on the island but her robot brain is programmed to learn and master tasks. In other words, she is programmed to survive. This is, of course, a handy trait to have when lost on a remote island. Equipped with the human senses of sight, smell, touch and hearing, Roz observes and learns and becomes more and more acclimated to life on the island.  But she is lonely as the island’s animal residents fear her and stay away from her. Due to her powers of learning and observation, Roz is eventually able to learn the language of the wild creatures (each species with its different “accent”) which enables her to ask the other animals for their help when a terrible accident occurs.

As Roz becomes acclimated to life on the island, the island’s creatures adjust to their new neighbor who ultimately becomes their friend.  Life settles into a happy routine for the animals and Roz until environmental and technological dangers threaten the island community.

Middle grade readers who enjoy robot and/or animal stories with a taste of adventure will enjoy this delightful story of a robot with very human attributes and the difference she makes to her island home.

Peter Brown’s striking gray-scale illustrations complement the story and set the atmosphere for this unique novel.

Recommended by Connie (Parr Library)



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Escape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

May 27, 2016

By Chris Grabenstein


Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.
Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.
In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience. (taken from Goodreads)

This fun, entertaining book has many elements that engage the reader. I enjoyed all aspects of this story. The clues and puzzles are cleverly done and the children have rewards and consequences for their actions.

This is a great book for older elementary age kids, who will have an opportunity to discuss the book in our ‘Tween You and Me Book Club at Parr Library this summer.  You can find more information about the book club, and other great summer events at the library here

Happy reading!

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May 19, 2016


By: Ally Condie

This is a deeply emotional coming-of-age story about twelve-year-old Cedar Lee, who moved to Iron Creek, Utah, for the summer with her mother and younger brother, Miles. The family is struggling to recover after an accident claimed the lives of Cedar’s father and brother Ben. Cedar quickly befriends Leo, a hometown boy, who helps her get a job at Summerlost, the town’s yearly Shakespeare festival. The enterprising young people team up to give unofficial walking tours about a legendary actress, Lisette Chamberlain, from their hometown. A couple of different mysteries are woven into the story including mysterious trinkets that keep appearing on her windowsill that remind Cedar of her brother Ben. Another mystery involves the circumstances surrounding Lisette’s death. However, the heart of the story revolves around Cedar coming to terms with her grief and her new relationship with her friend Leo.

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Dash by Kirby Larson

April 22, 2016

DashjacketX6W1G7TADash by Kirby Larson

Historical fiction is my favorite genre, because I love learning about other time periods and other perspectives of life.

Dash is set during World War II. The story revolves around Mitsi, who is separated from her dog, Dash, when her family is sent to a Japanese internment camp.  Based on the story of a real life person, the story touched my heart.  Larson’s writing pulls you into a young girl’s emotional perspective.  Fortunately, Mitsi and Dash are reunited, but unfortunately the internment camps were a reality that impacted so many people in America in a negative way.

I have read a couple of Kirby Larson books for teens and kids, and I’m glad I tried this one. On page 200 of the book, one of the adult characters who has created a tumbleweed garden at the camp, says, “…if you look with your heart, you can find beauty anywhere.” This book would be great for young readers and adults who are willing to discuss the past and look to the future!

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Ruby Lee & Me

April 20, 2016

Ruby Lee & MeRuby Lee & Me

By: Shannon Hitchcock

It’s 1969 and everything is changing for twelve-year-old Sarah Beth Willis. Sarah blames herself when her six-year-old sister, Robin, is hit by a car and is seriously injured. There is also racial tension in North Carolina where Sarah lives and it affects Sarah’s friendship with her best friend Ruby Lee. Sarah, who is white, has been best friends with Ruby, who is black, since she was a small child. In addition, the school the girls attend is being integrated and they will have their first black teacher. Despite the title of the book, the story centers more around the relationship between Sarah and her little sister Robin. Sarah tries to ease her guilty conscience by giving her sister something she has always wanted.

This is a touching story with well-developed characters and a realistic historical setting.

Reviewed by: Renee (Parr Library)

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