Framed! (T.O.A.S.T. Mystery #1)Framed!
by James Ponti
Grades 4 & up

Florian Bates has moved a lot because of his parents’ jobs. In order to help him cope with constantly being the new kid in school, he developed TOAST. No, not the bread kind. TOAST stands for the Theory of All Small Things — the idea that by looking at many small details one can put together a more accurate picture of what is actually going on. When Florian moves to Washington DC, he makes a better friend than he has ever had. Margaret lives a few houses away and is immediately intrigued by TOAST. Together they turn it into a game, exploring the city and searching for clues. When the museum his mother works at is robbed, Florian’s attention to detail puts him center stage in the investigation. Even the FBI is impressed — so much so that they hire him as a covert asset. And that’s just the beginning! Car chases, kidnapping, and the Romanian mafia, as well as Margaret’s search for her birth parents, keep this book going nonstop! An exhilarating mystery, it will have readers on the look out for the Small Things and trying TOAST on their own. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

eARC provided by publisher

Posted in Mystery | Leave a comment

Insert Coin to Continue

Insert Coin to ContinueInsert Coin to Continue
by John David Anderson
Grades 5 & up

Bryan Biggins is your average middle school kid, concentrating more on his video game obsession than his schoolwork. He is determined to find the secret level at the end of his new video game, which he has beaten several times already. But when he wakes up in the morning after beating it for the tenth time, he finds not a secret level, but instead that his entire life has become a video game, complete with the old school “insert coin to continue” slots hanging in mid air. Suddenly he is gaining Experience Points and losing Hit Points as he maneuvers the minefield that is middle school. Today is more treacherous than usual, with math lessons turning into Tetris, Shakespeare being rewritten in English class, and teachers sending him on quests throughout the school. Will he make it through the day before he sees Game Over? Insert Coin to Continue is a clever and funny look at the day in the life of a middle schooler, turning the usual obstacles into video game challenges. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up.

eARC provided by Edelweiss

Posted in Science Fiction | Leave a comment


by Sharon Creech
Grades 4 & up

When both Reena’s parents are laid off from their jobs, she suggests they move to Maine. She is quite surprised when they actually take her up on the suggestion, leaving their apartment in the big city for small town life in Maine. Reena and her brother explore their new town and are intrigued by the teenagers working with the cows at the farm down the road. They are less intrigued by Mrs. Falala, the eccentric older woman whom their parents volunteer them to help out. She lives by herself with a pig, a cat, a snake, and a very stubborn cow named Zora. As Reena slowly begins to make friends with Zora and learns how to show her at the Fair, Luke makes friends with Mrs. Falala. Told mostly in verse, this is a lovely story about looking under someone’s somewhat prickly exterior for the goodness inside. Plus it will make you want to move to Maine. And hug cows. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss

Posted in Animal Stories, Realistic Fiction | Leave a comment

Outrun the Moon

Outrun the MoonOutrun the Moon
by Stacey Lee
Grades 6 & up

Mercy Wong is determined to make a better life for her family. She doesn’t want her father to have to keep working 16 hours a day in his laundry and she especially doesn’t want that to be all that waits for her little brother. But growing up in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1906 does not leave her a lot of options. Mercy is resourceful, entrepreneurial, and brave, however, and she manages to finagle a spot for herself at a prestigious girls’ school. But the battle is not over. The other girls are hesitant to accept her and some are downright hostile. Just as she starts to make a little headway, the earthquake hits. Their school is destroyed and most of San Francisco, including Chinatown, is burning. Is this the end of Mercy’s plans for the future? Or has the earthquake literally leveled the playing field? This book has everything a reader would want in historical fiction — a clever heroine, a great tragedy, and a little bit of romance. Highly recommended for grades 6 and up.

Posted in Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

The Best Man

The Best ManThe Best Man
by Richard Peck
Grade 4 & up

Archer Magill’s fifth grade year is full of change. His grandfather, whom he idolizes, becomes ill. His teacher goes out on maternity leave half way through the year, and in addition to a new teacher, his class has a student teacher, the first male teacher in the history of the school. Then sixth grade doesn’t start like he expected at all. Luckily he has his dad and his Uncle Paul to guide him through the rough spots. Archer is fairly clueless about some things in life, but also easily takes them as they come. His best friend Lynette always knows everything before he does, which only bothers him if she doesn’t tell him. Written in celebration of the Marriage Equality Act, this book opens with one wedding and closes with another. Along the way it is full of both lighthearted and poignant moments, just like real life. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

ARC provided by publisher.

Posted in Realistic Fiction | Leave a comment

In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

In the Footsteps of Crazy HorseIn the Footsteps of Crazy Horse
by Joseph M. Marshall III
Grades 4 & up

When Jimmy is teased for not being Lakota enough, his grandfather takes him on a road trip to the important places in the life of Crazy Horse, who was called Light Hair as a boy. They travel through South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and Montana, stopping both at national monuments and lesser known spots along the way. Grandpa Nyles, whose own great-grandfather was there, explains the significance of each stop to Jimmy, giving him a tangible connection to his own history. The stories of the battles, the westward expansion of the Whites, and the ultimate surrender of Crazy Horse are told from the Lakota perspective, providing a much needed alternative to what is usually taught in schools. The vivid descriptions of the battle scenes will keep even reluctant readers engaged. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

Posted in Realistic Fiction | Leave a comment

Maxi’s Secrets

Maxi's Secrets: (or what you can learn from a dog)Maxi’s Secrets
by Lynn Plourde
Grades 4 & up

Timminy is not excited to be moving to the small town where his father is set to be the Assistant Principal at the middle school. He is even less excited that the middle school starts in fifth grade, so he will be going there as well. Exceptionally short for a fifth grader, he knows that he will undoubtedly be teased and picked on. As a consolation, his parents offer to get him a dog. He picks out a Grand Pyrenees puppy. Maxi is an incredible dog and Timminy is stunned to learn that she is deaf. With the help of his next door neighbor Abby, who is blind and in sixth grade, Timminy learns to appreciate all that Maxi can do. With Maxi and Abby’s help, Timminy begins to make friends and negotiate middle school. He realizes that every cloud does have a silver lining if you look for it. Each chapter ends with inspiring life lessons, or secrets. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up. (Note: Bring Kleenex. I sobbed my way through the end of this book.)

ARC provided by publisher.

Posted in Animal Stories, Realistic Fiction | Leave a comment

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto YoshitsuneSamurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune
by Pamela S. Turner
Grades 5 & up

This well-researched, heavily documented look into the life of one of the first superstar samurai is also a well-crafted, action-packed adventure story. Minamoto Yoshitune was spared as a baby when his father was defeated by the Taira, a rival samurai family. Raised by monks, he escaped as a young teen and eventually reunited with his half-brother to try and regain control of Japan as well as family honor. He was a daring warrior who lived life on the edge, creating as many enemies as admirers. Turner does an excellent job differentiating between the facts and her assumptions used to fill in the blanks. The story is rounded out with her somewhat snarky but often hilarious opinions. The author’s note and chapter notes (at the end, so they do not interfere with the flow of the story) anchor this book firmly in the context of the world in which it was lived. Highly recommended for grades 5 & up.

Posted in Biographies, Nonfiction | Leave a comment

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog

The Inquisitor's Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy DogThe Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz
Grades 5 & up

Set in France in 1242 and told in the style of Medieval travel tales, The Inquisitor’s Tale follows three children who are either heretics or saints, depending on how one views their accomplishments. Jeanne, a peasant girl, has “fits” and sees visions of the future. William, son of an African mother and French crusader father, is both exceptionally bright as well as big and strong. Jacob, a Jewish boy, can heal with plants and prayers. Along with the saintly dog Gwenforte, these three children travel across France. At first they are running for their lives, later on they are trying to save the wisdom of the ages. This brilliant story is both action-packed and introspective, making readers consider their lives and biases today through the lens of the Middle Ages. Highly recommended for grades 5 and up. It includes an excellent Author’s Note as well, explaining which bits are actual history.

ARC provided by publisher.

Posted in Historical Fiction | Leave a comment

Far from Fair

Far from FairFar from Fair
by Elana K. Arnold
Grades 5 & up

When Odette’s father takes a voluntary layoff, the family sells their house and keep only what they can fit into an RV. Odette is miserable — she has to leave all of friends, most of her belongings, and go on the road sharing a single cell phone with her family. They are making their way from Southern California up the coast to Orcas Island in Washington, where Grandma Sissy is very sick. Along the way Odette has plenty of time to think about the friendships she left behind and what the future will bring to her family. When they do finally arrive, they find Grandma Sissy much sicker than expected and some hard decisions must be made. Odette realizes that while life is far from fair, certain things do have a way of working out. It’s all in what you make of it. Recommended for grades 5 & up.

Posted in Realistic Fiction | Leave a comment