Bad Magic

Bad MagicBad Magic
by Pseudonymous Bosch
Grades 4 & up

Clay and his brother used to do all kinds of magic tricks together, but when Max-Ernest disappears, Clay swears off magic forever. All of his bad feelings about magic and the disappearance of his brother two years before are brought back to the surface when their class performs Shakespeare’s The Tempest. He is accused of graffitiing “Magic Sucks” on the side of the school building, and in order to be admitted to seventh grade, he must attend Earth Ranch camp on a volcanic island. Once at the camp things go from strange to stranger, as weird references to The Tempest keep appearing. Can Clay figure out what he must do before it is too late? And what does all of this have to do with his brother’s disappearance? The first book in a new series. Recommended for grades 4-7.

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Orbiting Jupiter

Orbiting JupiterOrbiting Jupiter
by Gary D. Schmidt
Grades 7 and up

When Joseph Brook comes to live with Jack’s family as a foster child, Jack’s entire world changes. Joseph was just released from a juvenile facility because he tried to kill one of his teachers. He also has a three month old daughter, who he would do anything to go see. But as Jack soon learns, Joseph’s story is so much more than that. Told in lyrical prose, this moving story of Joseph and the odds stacked against him is hard to put down. Highly recommended for grades 7 & up.

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Piper Green and the Fairy Tree

Piper Green and the Fairy TreePiper Green and the Fairy Tree
by Ellen Potter
Grades 1 & up

What a fantastic beginning chapter book! Piper lives on a small island off the coast of Maine. She and her younger brother take a boat to school everyday. Piper is starting second grade and is most upset that her older brother is away attending high school on the mainland. This sweet book shows a realistic portrayal of a second grader’s way of dealing with such big changes. Piper is fun and feisty, and readers will wish they had a friend like her. Highly recommended for grades 1 & up.

Too Much Good Luck (Piper Green and the Fairy Tree)Too Much Good Luck
by Ellen Potter
Grades 1 & up

In this super cute second book about Piper Green, she is unhappy about a new girl coming into her class. Camilla is allergic to rabbits, so they have to give their beloved class pet away. The realistic situations and fun resolutions make this a fantastic choice for beginning chapter book readers. Highly recommended for grades 1 & up.

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Screaming at the Ump

Screaming at the UmpScreaming at the Ump
by Audrey Vernick
Grades 4 & up

Casey lives with his father and grandfather at the Behind the Plate umpire training school. Baseball is his life, though more than wanting to play he wants to write about it. The first day of middle school is also the first day of the five week Umpire Academy, the highlight of his year. As he and his best friend Zeke work on behind the scenes aspects of the Academy, Casey finds that middle school brings its own challenges. First, there is his mother, who wants to be back in his life after leaving several years ago. Then there is the school newspaper, which has never let sixth graders write articles before. Add to that the possibility that one of their umpire students is actually a disgraced baseball player accused of drug use, and this is a very different Umpire Academy indeed. For baseball lovers, grades 4 & up.

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The Graham Cracker Plot

The Graham Cracker PlotThe Graham Cracker Plot
by Shelley Tougas
Grades 4 & up

It is painful to read a book where the main character is continually making bad choices, even when they are the only option available. Daisy is positive that her father (The Chemist) has been wrongly jailed, and is determined to break him out of prison (Club Fed). Her good friend Graham is sick of his life and wants to run away to Canada. Together, they join forces and enlist Graham’s brain-damaged cousin Ashley to drive their getaway car. As you can imagine things go from bad to worse as everything that possibly can go wrong does. There are some hard truths realized by the end of the book, which makes it worth reading. Recommended for grades 4-7.

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The Orphan and the Mouse

The Orphan and the MouseThe Orphan and the Mouse
by Martha Freeman
Grades 3 & up

(I really wish this book had a better cover. It short sells the exciting story inside by having a really boring cover.)

Caro is a an orphan living in a fairly well-off orphanage in Philadelphia in 1949. A chance encounter with one of the mice who lives in the walls brings an unexpected friendship for both Caro and Mary Mouse. The mice, who forage for food and art (postage stamps) during the night, discover a surprising plot of kidnapping and other illegal schemes and take it upon themselves to warn Caro. There is also intrigue in the mouse world. Helping each other, the mice and the children form an unlikely friendship that helps them both. An exciting story, recommended for grades 3 and up.

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Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake

Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake (Eleanor, #3)Like Carrot Juice on a Cupcake
by Julie Sternberg
Grades 2 & up

Eleanor and Pearl have been best friends forever, but when a new girl transfers into their school, their friendship is put to the test. Combine this with Eleanor’s new puppy being sent away to obedience school, and her lead role in the 4th grade play, and life is very stressful indeed. While there are many books about these types of issues, this book is particularly well done. Eleanor’s voice rings true, and her concerns will be shared with elementary school girls everywhere. This is the third book about Eleanor. Though you do not need to read the other two to appreciate this one, you may want to go back and read them when you finished it. Recommended for grades 2-4.
(See review of Like Bug Juice on a Burger here.)

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by Eleanor Glewwe
Grades 4 & up

The city of Ashara is divided between two castes of people — the kasiri, who have magic, and the halani (or sparkers) who don’t. Marah is a halan girl trying to make her way through school with many odds against her. Through a chance incident at the marketplace, she becomes friends with a kasari family. One of the brothers shares her love of foreign languages. Between them they translate an old and forbidden text, uncovering answers to a mysterious illness that has befallen their city.

There are underlying messages about the systemic oppression of racism and the need to fight against it, though not too heavy handed to get in the way of the story. What I am most curious about, however, was the use of Hebrew names for the majority of the characters. I just want to know why the author did that.

Recommended for fantasy lovers, grades 4-8.

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The Doll People Set Sail

The Doll People Set Sail (Doll People, #4)The Doll People Set Sail
by Ann M. Martin
Grades 2 & up

The Funcraft and Doll families are back in their fourth adventure! Annabelle and Tiffany are enduring their punishment for events that occurred during The Runaway Dolls, when their human owner gives them some unwelcome news. Due to redecorating, all of the dolls will be going into storage in the attic for a month or two. But in the middle of a last minute rush, the box they are packed in is donated and heading overseas to children in need. As if this isn’t bad enough, three members of the family fall out of their box and onto the big container ship bound for England. This time the job is too big for just Annabelle and Tiffany, so the rest of their families get involved too, as well as some other living dolls in nearby cartons. Recommended for fans of the series, grades 2-4. It would be better to read the other books first.

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Watch the Sky

Watch the SkyWatch the Sky
by Kirsten Hubbard
Grades 4 & up

Jory trusts his step-father Caleb, and believes what he says about the signs he sees everywhere. Jory and his mother are indebted to Caleb — he saved them when things were really bad. And now Caleb promises to save them again, from a secret Danger that he won’t give Jory details about. Instead Jory, his mother, Caleb, his secret sister, and even his baby brother are required to dig a bunker at night in the canyon outside their farmhouse. This is to provide shelter for them when the Danger comes. Caleb has always taught Jory to question authority, except when that authority is him. Now that Jory is re-enrolled in school (he had been home-schooled for many years), he finds that he has more questions than ever. The biggest one of which is whether or not Caleb is really protecting them. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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