A Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket

A Bandit's Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a PickpocketA Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket
by Deborah Hopkinson
Grades 4 & up

After an unfortunate incident in their small town in Italy, Rocco’s parents sell him to a Padrone, a man who will bring him to America in return for Rocco’s working for the Padrone for four years. What Rocco doesn’t know until he gets there is that the “work” is busking for money on street corners and living in dismal conditions. If the boys don’t bring in their dollar a day, they are beaten, starved, and/or locked out for the night. When Rocco meets a well-off pickpocket, he thinks things may have improved, but a series of poor choices leave him worse off than before. A freak spring blizzard and the kind-heartedness of strangers help to turn Rocco’s life around. This fast-paced adventure about immigrant life in 19th century New York City will fascinate readers and keep them on the edge of their seats. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets

Mission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen ToiletsMission Mumbai: A Novel of Sacred Cows, Snakes, and Stolen Toilets
by Mahtab Narsimhan
Grades 4 & up

Dylan and Rohit have been best friends since Rohit moved to New York from India three years before. Rohit and his parents are heading back to Mumbai for a family wedding and although Rohit would rather stay in New York with Dylan, Dylan manages to get himself invited to along instead. Dylan is desperate to escape his family. His very wealthy parents have time for everything but him and his father is clearly disappointed that Dylan is into photography and fantasy books instead of sports like he was. To Rohit, whose parents are much less well off, it looks like Dylan has everything. The two friends find themselves at odds for the first time, as each has family issues that he doesn’t want to talk to the other about. Set among the monsoons and traffic of Mumbai, readers will be drawn into this colorful description of Indian culture and foods. It is made accessible to all through the universal issues of friendship, family, and the need to feel like you belong. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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The Land of Forgotten Girls

The Land of Forgotten GirlsThe Land of Forgotten Girls
by Erin Entrada Kelly
Grades 4 & up

Sol and Ming have recently moved to Louisiana from the Philippines with their father and his new wife. Their mother died shortly before they left; their father remarried quickly. They had a middle sister who passed away a year before that. Now though, their father went back to the Philippines for a visit and hasn’t returned. The two sisters are stuck with Vea, who is cruel and clearly resents them. She punishes them harshly as well as constantly berating the girls. Sol tries to protect Ming, and takes the brunt of the punishment. As Sol tries to make sense of her life in America, she also learns what she needs to take responsibility for and what things are not her fault. A variety of unexpected friendships help to make life easier as well. A touching story about making the best of what life hands us. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Eden’s Wish

Eden's Wish (Eden of the Lamp, #1)Eden’s Wish
by M. Tara Crowl
Grades 4 & up

Eden is the latest in a long line of genies. She has been granting wishes for the past two years, since she was 10 years old. Each genie born in the lamp must grant 999 wishes before they are free; the 1000th wish is their own. How long this takes depends on how quickly the lamp is found each time. So far Eden has granted 33 wishes, and she can’t stand being stuck inside the lamp. She longs for a life on Earth, where she can see the sky and feel the sun. When she discovers a way out of the lamp, she jumps at the chance. But life on earth is not what she expected. She ends up at a middle school in San Diego, trying to find her way through seventh grade. When two different factions of past genies come looking for her, Eden has to make some quick decisions about who and what is most important her. A fun read for grades 4 & up. I’m looking forward to more books in the series.

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Home Team (Books 1 & 2)

The Only Game (Home Team, #1)The Only Game
by Mike Lupica
Grades 4 & up

Jack not only loves baseball, he is really good at it. He is widely acknowledged as one of the best baseball players in his town and this year he and his best friend Gus have a real shot at taking their team all the way to the Little League World Series. Except that Jack is still processing his older brother’s sudden death and decides that he can’t play baseball this season. The decision tears him up inside as does his best friend’s desertion. Jack looks for ways to still keep some baseball in his life, finding new friends and opportunities, while still unwilling to tell his parents and Gus the real reason he quit. This is a powerful book on both an emotional and baseball level. It is full of exciting play-by-plays as well as quiet introspection. Highly recommended for baseball lovers, grades 4 & up. The first in a series.

The Extra Yard (Home Team, #2)The Extra Yard
by Mike Lupica
Grades 4 & up

This second book in the Home Team series takes Jack, Gus, Teddy, & Cassie into football season. (This one is told from Teddy’s point of view.) A new league has formed in their area, one step above Pop Warner and the three boys try out. It has always been Teddy’s dream to play football, and after his transformation in The Only Game, he finally gets that chance. He still lacks self-confidence, but with Jack, Gus, and Cassie on his side, he plays his hardest and makes the team. His life at home is shook up when his father (whom he has seen 6 times in 8 years) moves back to town. To complicate matters more, Teddy’s father is good friends with the football coach and starts showing up at all of the practices. Teddy doesn’t want to let his dad back into his life, but he may not have a choice, since he also wants to be the best football player that he can. Filled with drama both on and off the field, this book will appeal to football players and fans of the first book. I recommend reading the series in order for a better understanding of the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book, which will hopefully be basketball. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Lily and Dunkin

Lily and DunkinLily and Dunkin
by Donna Gephart
Grade 6 & up

Lily knows that she is a girl, even though the rest of the world (except her mother, sister, and best friend) think that she is Tim. Norbert (aka Dunkin) first meets Lily on the day she is brave enough to wear a dress outside. Having just moved to Florida from New Jersey, he is battling his own body image demons as well as bipolar disorder. Lily is picked on horribly as eighth grade starts, and for reasons Dunkin can’t understand, he is befriended by the same group of jocks tormenting her. Both Lily and Dunkin feel as though outwardly they must project an image they are not, and both handle it in different ways with various degrees of success. Told in alternating viewpoints, this is a compelling story that will resonant with middle schoolers as they try to figure out their own place in the world. Highly recommended for grades 6 & up.

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Waylon! One Awesome Thing

Waylon! One Awesome ThingWaylon! One Awesome Thing
by Sara Pennypacker
Grades 2 & up

Waylon is having a rough start to fourth grade. Arlo (the most popular boy) is splitting the boys into two “teams.” As much as Waylon wants to be on the same team as Arlo, he is upset about being separated from his friends. He doesn’t really understand what the point of this is or why it would be fun. When a former student with a bad reputation returns to their class, Waylon finds himself pulled in a third direction. Things are not easy at home either, with his teenage sister pulling away from the family and into a downward spiral of moodiness. All Waylon wants to do is learn fun science facts and invent things to make the world better. But how can he do that when he is stuck between these different factions? A great story about the friendship and the power of the images that we projects to others. Highly recommended for grades 2 & up.

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Wing and Claw, Books 1 & 2

Forest of Wonders (Wing & Claw #1)Forest of Wonders
by Linda Sue Park
Grades 3 & up

Raffa is the son of apothecaries and a very talented young apothecary himself. He sees and hears things as he is combining herbs that allow him to create perfect mixtures. When an injured bat crashes into his house, Raffa and his cousin Garith venture into the Forest of Wonders to find a vine that his great grandmother once found, something his father thinks may be the bat’s only hope. They find the vine, but the effects when they try it are much more than they had expected. Raffa sets off to the city to warn Garith and is even more surprised by what he finds happening there. There is plenty of humor sprinkled through this adventure. A fabulous start to a new series! Highly recommend for grades 3 & up.

Cavern of Secrets (Wing & Claw #2)Cavern of Secrets
by Linda Sue Park
Grades 4 & up

This second book in the Wing & Claw series finds Raffa, Kuma, and Garith at the end of a hard winter. Now that spring has come, and Roo has woken up from hibernation, the three decide to return to civilization to find out what has been going on. Unfortunately, they are still wanted by the Chancellor for the events in the first book. It is clear as well that she is continuing on with her evil and secret plot. Will they be able to stop her with even more obstacles in their way? Recommended for grades 4 & up. You really need to read this series in order.

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Weekends with Max and His Dad

Weekends with Max and His DadWeekends with Max and His Dad
by Linda Urban
Grades 1 & up

Max’s parents have recently divorced, and now that his dad has a new apartment, Max is spending some weekends there. It is an adjustment for both of them to get used to the new place and new routine, but they work together to problem solve and find the good things about their changed relationship. They go out for breakfast, on secret spy adventures, and get to know the new neighbors. This sweet and charming chapter book accurately portrays third grader Max’s feelings and reactions as he works his way through this change. Both funny and poignant, this would be a fun read aloud for younger children as well. Highly recommended for grades 1 & up.

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Some Kind of Courage

Some Kind of CourageSome Kind of Courage
by Dan Gemeinhart
Grades 4 & up

The only thing Joseph has left of his family is his beloved horse Sarah. When she is sold behind his back, he sets off on a quest across Washington state to find her. On his first day out, he meets a Chinese boy about his age who has lost the people he was traveling with. Although they don’t speak the same language, Ah-kee and Joseph set out together. Their journey takes them much farther than they had expected, and they encounter a variety of situations (bears, snow, rushing rapids) and people, both good and bad. This is a fast paced adventure with a satisfying ending that will keep readers’ interest from the start. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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