Orphan Island

Orphan IslandOrphan Island
by Laurel Snyder
Grades 5 & up

Jinny becomes the Elder on the island the day that Deen gets into the boat to leave. The boat also delivers Ess, who becomes Jinny’s Care. This is the way the island works — each year the boat brings a new youngest child and the oldest must leave. There can be no more than 9 orphans on the island at one time. The island is a safe haven, and all of their needs are provided for, as long as they follow the rules. But when Jinny starts to question the rules, their carefully structured life on the island begins to come apart at the seams.

My only frustration with the book was not knowing how the island came into being, where the children came from, and where they went afterwards. Small clues are given, but no complete answers.

Recommended for grades 5 & up.

eARC provided by publisher via Edeleweiss

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Me and Marvin Gardens

Me and Marvin GardensMe and Marvin Gardens
by A.S. King
Grades 4 & up

Obe is having a really hard sixth grade year. He is watching the fields around his house, which used to belong to his family, be turned into new housing subdivisions. His former best friend Tommy has gone off with the new kids from those houses. He gets nose bleeds all of the time, thanks to Tommy. The one person that he is kind of friendly with is also tormented by Tommy and his new friends. Just when things seem their worst, he finds an unexpected friend. Down by the creek, Obe discovers a new type of animal that eats plastic. He names it Marvin Gardens (an ironic jab at his father’s obsession with Monopoly). Marvin Gardens is exceptionally friendly and Obe enjoys spending time with him, until he starts worrying about Marvin’s safety. He knows he must find a a way to protect this new creature, but how?

I was particularly impressed with the realistic reactions of the adults and the children in this book. No one is perfect and their flaws are accurately presented. It also makes an important statement about our environment and what we are doing to the world we live in, without being too heavy handed. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Sting (Loot #2)Sting
by Jude Watson
Grades 5 & up

Great follow up to Loot! March, his twin sister Jules, and their friends Darius and Izzy are living their dream life after their last big caper when their father’s friend Hamish convinces them to go on one last heist. They are pulling the job in London when things go horribly wrong. Instead of a bag of diamonds, they end up with one lone sapphire. Unbeknownst to them, the sapphire was part of a set of three, cursed by the original owner. Hamish has a buyer, but only if they get all three. Full of twists and turns, this adventure will keep readers on the edge of their seats! Highly recommend for fans of the first book, Ocean’s Eleven, and The Great Greene Heist, grades 5 & up.

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A Rambler Steals Home

A Rambler Steals HomeA Rambler Steals Home
by Carter Higgins
Grades 4 & up

The perfect summer read! Derby Clark, her brother Triple, and her father Garland are ramblers. They spend the different seasons in different places, moving from town to town in their RV with the attached grill. Summers they spend in Ridge Creek, at the stadium of their Triple-A baseball team, the Rockskippers. Derby can’t wait to get back to the place that feels the most like home, but this summer, things are different. The old traditions are falling by the wayside and Derby struggles to make sense of the changes. As she sees the people and the town with new eyes, she realizes that it is time for her to return some of the love and care that she has been given. A sweet look at the importance of kindness. Recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Beautiful Blue World

Beautiful Blue World (Beautiful Blue World #1)Beautiful Blue World
by Suzanne LaFleur
Grades 4 & up

Sofrende is at war and it effects all aspects of Mathilde’s life. Her father is up all night as a safety patrol, which is better than the father of her best friend Megs, who has been drafted to fight. The bombings are coming closer, food is scarce, and Mathilde feels helpless. When Megs decides to take the exam to join the army early, Mathilde does too. As 12 year olds they are the youngest allowed to take it. Mathilde is shocked when she is chosen alone, without Megs. But what she finds is like nothing she had ever expected. While this takes place in a made up world, it feels vaguely reminiscent of the Second World War and somewhat Scandinavian. An important commentary on war in general and nationalism in particular. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Secrets of Hexbridge Castle & Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief

Secrets of Hexbridge CastleSecrets of Hexbridge Castle
by Gabrielle Kent
Grdes 4 & up

Alfie Bloom has been miserable since his mother died. His father spends most of his time either working or trying to invent things. He has only one friend at school and she will be out of town all summer. All of this changes on the last day of school, when Alfie learns that he has inherited the mysterious Hexbridge Castle. He knows of the castle of course, his cousins live nearby. But he never imagined the magical secrets that the castle has held on to all of these years and the role he is to play. Full of adventures, twists, and plenty of magic, this first book in a new series will keep readers on the edge of their seats. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief (Alfie Bloom #2)Alfie Bloom and the Talisman Thief
by Gabrielle Kent
Grades 4 & up

Now that Alfie has learned the true story of the the castle he has inherited, he is enjoying exploring it and learning about the rest of the secrets it holds. His best friend Amy is visiting for Beltane, and he is enjoying hanging out with her and his cousins. Unfortunately, the calm doesn’t last for long. Ashford the butler has been sneaking off through a portal. He is followed back one night and the castle is attacked by elves. Ashford is kidnapped and Alfie’s talisman is demanded as the ransom. It is up to Alfie, Amy, Robin, and Madeleine to figure out how to rescue Ashford, save the castle, and defeat the elves. A fabulous sequel! Must read the first book in order to understand this one. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Journey through Ash and Smoke

Journey through Ash and Smoke (Ranger in Time #5)Journey through Ash and Smoke
by Kate Messner
Grades 2 & up

Another excellent entry into the Ranger in Time series. In this adventure, Ranger goes to Iceland and helps a Norwegian girl whose family recently moved there. At first he is confused how can help since she rescues him a couple of times! I will say that the title is somewhat misleading. Although there is a volcano, it is not at the crux of the story. A fun romp through Viking times. Recommended for grades 2 & up.

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Scar Island

Scar IslandScar Island
by Dan Gemeinhart
Grades 4 & up

Slabhenge Reformatory School for Troubled Boys is an old insane asylum on an small rock island rising out of the sea and is just as creepy and evil looking as one would expect. Jonathan Grimsby has been sentenced there, but for what is slowly revealed throughout the book. There are a dozen boys at Slabhenge, and when a freak accident incapacitates all of the adults, the boys must figure out how to take care of themselves. As one would expect, a leader arises but not everyone agrees with his methods. I love that the author is self-aware enough to call out Lord of the Flies in the text. This survival story will grip readers from the first page. Highly recommended to grades 4 & up.

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by Megan Shull
Grades 4 & up

13-year-old Frannie feels so alone in her family. Her older sister torments her and her older brother ignores her. Her parents seem to resent her. Life feels cold and miserable and she is full of fear. When her parents announce a surprise trip for just the two of them over Christmas, Frannie is terrified of being left alone. As her worst fears seem to come true, she falls asleep on Christmas Eve wishing for a new family and a different life. Imagine her surprise when she wakes up on Christmas morning in another girl’s body. She is now Dakota, with two loving parents and an adorable younger sister. Though still fearful, Frannie takes some chances and tries things she wouldn’t have as herself. When she wakes up the next morning, it is Christmas Day again, but this time she is in a different girl’s life. This happens several more times, and Frannie begins to gain both strength and wisdom from her changes. Both funny and poignant, this story helps illustrate that no matter what it looks like on the outside, everyone is fighting their own battles on the inside. With kindness and grace, each of us can find the resilience to go on. Highly recommended for grades 4 & up.

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Lone Bean

Lone BeanLone Bean
by Chudney Ross
Grades 2 & up

Bean is having a hard time at the beginning of third grade. She lost touch with her best friend Carla over the summer and now Carla has a new best friend, leaving Bean with no one. Her older sisters are mean to her. Her father is forcing her to play a musical instrument. And the teacher that everyone says is so nice doesn’t seem to like her. Her only choices for friends at school seem to be Stinky Stanley, Goody Two-Shoes Gabrielle, and Mean Tanisha. Bean tries each one out, in a series of increasingly poor choices. This realistic portrayal of the friendship struggles of a third grader is very relatable. Recommended for grades 2 & up.

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