Talk It Up! Discussion Guides

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Our Only May Amelia by Jennifer L. Holm

The year is 1899, and May Amelia is the spunkiest 12-year-old in Washington state. She knows she can do anything her seven older brothers can do. So why does Papa keep trying to make her act like a proper young lady? Mama is about to have a baby and May Amelia is hoping it will be a girl so she won't be the only female born on the Nasel River. When mean Grandmother Patience moves in with the family, it's more than May thinks she can take. But soon events take a turn for the worse, and May Amelia's own strength and the strength of her family is truly tested.

Peak by Roland Smith

A fourteen-year-old boy attempts to be the youngest person to reach the top of Mount Everest.

In this "prequel" to J. M. Barrie's 1911 novel, authors Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson offer possible explanations for mysteries such as why Peter Pan doesn't grow up, how NeverLand came to be, and the secrets behind the magic of flight, among others. Peter and a small group of boys from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys orphanage are sent on the dilapidated ship NeverLand to the island of Rundoon, but their ship is attacked and sank by the infamous pirate Black Stache. Peter and his friends find themselves stranded on an island with fellow passenger Molly Aster and her amazing family secret, a village of natives who don't like strangers, and sailors and pirates who are determined not to let a group of children stop them from obtaining a mysterious black trunk and it's unexpected treasure.

Petey by Ben Mikaelsen

Moving to a new town is no fun for Trevor Ladd, and it only gets worse when he protects a nursing home patient from the neighborhood bullies. Walking home from school, he catches the bullies throwing snowballs at a withered old man named Petey. As he chases them off, he can't imagine that his life is about to change. Petey has spent his life in institutions. Born with cerebral palsy, he was misdiagnosed as an infant and grew up in mental institutions. As an adult, he is bound by his wheelchair and struggles to communicate with the people around him. But Petey sees something in Trevor and is determined to become his friend -- and Trevor soon learns that there is more to Petey than meets the eye.

Pictures of Hollis Woods by Patricia Reilly Giff

Artistic 12-year-old Hollis Woods has a habit of running away from foster homes. Now she is staying with Josie, an elderly artist, who wants her and needs her, and Hollis thinks she'll stay for a while. But Hollis worries about Josie's forgetfulness, while also remembering the only other time she was happy in a foster home, with a family that truly seemed to care about her.

Ramona's World by Beverly Cleary

As she starts the fourth grade, Ramona believes that this year will be "the best year of her life, so far." She can show off her calluses from swinging on the rings in the park; the boy she calls Yard Ape sits across the aisle from her; her teacher praises her writing; and she has a new baby sister, Roberta. But best of all, she has a new best friend, Daisy. Little does Ramona know the challenges her fourth-grade year holds in store. Not only must she improve her rotten spelling, but she must also be a good role model for baby Roberta. And her mother wants her to spend more time with the awful Susan. Life isn't easy, especially when she is surrounded by perfect spellers and everyone praises her big sister, Beezus, for being responsible. Sometimes Ramona fails, often with hilarious results. But with the support of family and friends, she discovers something reassuring -- that being imperfect can be perfectly fine.

Red Kayak by Priscilla Cummings

Living near the water on Maryland's Eastern Shore, 13-year-old Brady and his best friends J.T. and Digger become entangled in a tragedy which tests their friendship and their ideas about right and wrong.

Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang

At age twelve, Ji-li Jiang had everything to look forward to -- especially continued success in junior high school. She and her parents believed that a girl in Chairman Mao Ze-dong's New China could go far wit so much talent and brains. However, in 1966, the start of the Cultural Revolution changed all that. Ji-li Jiang and her family were persecuted and humiliated when the old ways and ideas were suddenly deemed undesirable, and anyone with ties to them became suspect. Because Ji-li Jiang's grandfather had been a landlord, her entire family was seen as being opposed to the new values of the Communist Party. Ji-li Jiang is forced to choose between her family and her future in Communist China.

Regarding the Fountain by Kate Klise

Dry Creek Middle School needs a new water fountain. Theirs is all dried up! So Principal Wally Russ calls on Flo Waters, water fountain designer, with a simple request to design a new one for their school. Little does he know, he's contacted a true individual, an artist who will not settle for anything less than the most imaginative, creative, pleasurable water fountain ever. Should it dispense shakes and ice-cream? Should goldfish live inside? Flo contacts students for their original ideas. Meanwhile, a controversy is brewing at Dry Creek. Things are not as dry as they seem. Told through letters, memos, newspaper articles, even receipt stubs, this novel is as engaging as it is hysterical.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family's struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And, too, it is Cassie's story-Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

Room One: A Mystery or Two by Andrew Clements

Ted Hammond, the only sixth-grader in his small Nebraska town's one-room schoolhouse, has two mysteries to solve. How can his little school stay open next year with only five students? And who’s face did he see in the window of the abandoned farm next door?

Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda

The people of Rin are strong and brave. They live simply in the shadow of the mountain, its clear cold stream providing all they need to run their mill and quench the thirst of the bukshah, the gentle friendly beasts on whom the villagers depend for their livelihood. Legend has it that a fierce dragon inhabits the mountain; every morning and evening the villagers hear its roar. One morning, though, the stream has dried up. The bukshah grow thirsty, and young Rowan, who tends them, is frightened. Rowan has always been timid and shy. He is teased by the other children and belittled by the adults. They whisper that he will never be the man his father was. The villagers ask the ancient Wise Woman, Sheba, for advice. She sends seven villagers on a journey to the top of the mountain. But one of the travelers must be Rowan, only his touch can reveal the map the old woman provides. Here is Rowan's chance to step out of his father's shadow and earn the respect of the village. But, frightened by the perils that lie ahead, Rowan isn't even thinking about this possibility. He's just wondering if he can survive.

Ruby Holler by Sharon Creech

Dallas and Florida have been dubbed the 'trouble twins.' They have been shuffled between foster families and orphanages all their lives, longing only for a loving place to call home, though mistrustful that one exists for the likes of them. Tiller and Sairy are an eccentric older couple whose children are grown and long gone, and they're each restless for one more big adventure while their bodies are still spry enough to paddle a river or climb a mountain. Ruby Holler is the beautiful, mysterious place that changes all their lives forever. When Tiller and Sairy invite Dallas and Florida to stay with them and keep them company on their adventures, the magic of the Holler takes over, and the two kids begin to think that maybe, just maybe the old folks aren't so bad.

Rules by Cynthia Lord

Frustrated by life with an autistic 12 year old brother Catherine longs for a normal life, but it becomes more complicated by her friendship with a young paraplegic.

Running Out of Time by Margaret Peterson Haddix

What if you grew up thinking that you lived in a small village in the year 1840 only to discover the year is really 1996 and the whole world around you is a tourist site created by heartless scientists? 13-year-old Jessie faces just that and it is up to her to escape from the village to get modern medicine to save the lives of her sister and the rest of the village children.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the random power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Charter-Mage Abhorsen, is missing, and to find him Sabriel must cross back into that world. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life--and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny.

Sahara Special by Esme Raji Codell

Fifth grader Sahara Jones was placed in special education when her teacher discovered the letters she had written to her father hidden in her desk at school. Sahara's mom pulls her out of special education when she hears about the antics of Darrell Sikes, the other "special needs" child. Sahara returns to the regular classroom but doesn't see the point in working hard when her work will just end up in the counselor's office and be used against her. When Sahara shows up for her second year of fifth grade, there is a new teacher. Her name is Madame Poitier, but the kids call her Miss Pointy. Miss Pointy is like no teacher Sahara has ever known. "She looked less like a teacher and more like one of those burnt-out punk-rocker teenagers who hang out in front of the Dunkin' Donuts." The subjects they study include puzzling, time travel and mad science. When she passes out writing journals to the class, Sahara begins to have fresh hope for the school year. Through Miss Pointy's unusual teaching, storytelling, and quiet support, Sahara finds the courage to overcome her fears and begin to care about school again.

Sasquatch by Roland Smith

When Dylan's mother leaves for Egypt, his father seems to get out of control. He joins a Sasquatch-hunting team, whose mission is to find a Sasquatch and kill it - but Dylan's father is determined to stop them. To make matters worse, the team has headed up to Mount St. Helens, an active volcano that could erupt any day. Without Dylan's mother to look out for his father, Dylan feels he has to try to keep him in line. So he joins an aging field biologist on the mountain, shadowing the hunting party. But Dylan may be in even more trouble than he thought, and on top of it all, Dylan is beginning to realize that his father may not be so crazy after all - maybe the Sasquatch does exist, and it's closer than Dylan ever guessed.

Schooled by Gordan Korman

Capricorn Anderson enrolls at C. Average Middle School and instantly becomes a target. Cap has been homeschooled by his ex-hippie grandma his whole life. He’s never watched television or used a cell phone and has no idea what a “starbuck” is. The other kids find many ways to tease, torment, and bully the new kid, who often doesn’t even realize he’s being picked on. When Cap gets elected class president as a joke, everyone’s sure his term will be a disaster. Or will it?

Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

Every night, Shahrazad begins a story. And every morning, the Sultan lets her live another day -- providing the story is interesting enough to capture his attention. After almost one thousand nights, Shahrazad is running out of tales. And that is how Marjan's story begins.... It falls to Marjan to help Shahrazad find new stories -- ones the Sultan has never heard before. To do that, the girl is forced to undertake a dangerous and forbidden mission: sneak from the harem and travel the city, pulling tales from strangers and bringing them back to Shahrazad. But as she searches the city, a wonderful thing happens. From a quiet spinner of tales, Marjan suddenly becomes the center of a more surprising story than she ever could have imagined.

Shakespeare Bats Cleanup by Ron Koertge

When a fourteen-year-old baseball player catches mononucleosis, he discovers that keeping a journal and experimenting with poetry not only helps fill the time, it also helps him deal with life, love and loss.

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

Shioh, an adorable beagle, runs away from his neglectful owner and is found by a young boy named Marty. Marty knows Shiloh belongs to someone else but it determined to save the dog from more neglect. Against the wishes of the dog's owner and his father, Marty risks everything to protect the dog and make him his own.

Shipwreck (Island, Book One) by Gordon Korman

Six kids. One fate. Nick, J.J., Will, Lyssa, Charla, and Ian. They didn't want to be on the boat in the first place. They didn't want to be stuck at sea with a bunch of strangers. But when you're in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there's no easy way out. And when a terrifying storm hits, there's no way to fully prepare. It's all about survival.

Skeleton Man by Joesph Bruchac

When Molly comes home from school to find that her parents have disappeared without a trace, she knows that something is really wrong. Later when Social Services hands her over to a great-uncle who she had no idea existed, her worries only increase. Her so-called uncle is horrible to look at, more skeleton-like than human. Is there a look of hunger in those hollow, bone-rimmed eyes? Added to all of this, Molly has been having some very strange dreams. Do these dreams hold the answer to the mysterious, frightening things that are happening to her? Molly must rely on herself and the wisdom of her Mohawk ancestors to save herself and her parents.

Skellig by David Almond

Michael was looking forward to his new house and neighborhood, until his infant sister became very ill. Now his parents are constantly frantic, the scary doctor is always coming around, and Michael feels helpless. When he goes out into the old rickety garage, he comes across a mysterious being living beneath spider webs and eating flies for dinner. This creature calls himself Skellig, and over the weeks Michael and his new friend Mina bring Skellig out in to the light, and their worlds change forever.

Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

When Stargirl enrolls at Mica High, all of the students are in awe, but she especially captures the attention of Leo Borlock, a junior at Mica. With her long flowing brown hair, plain face, and rather eccentric outfits, her classmates don't know whether to love her for having the guts to be different, or hate her for breaking the rules of high school. In fact they react by doing a little bit of both. First they embrace her uniqueness by imitating her, and then, just as quickly, they turn on her for being unusual. Despite her status as outcast, Leo and Stargirl become a couple, and he experiences what it's like to be shunned. In hopes of gaining acceptance Leo encourages her to become normal. Together both Leo and Stargirl learn a lesson about conforming to the will of the group versus being yourself.

Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes by Chris Crutcher

Eric and Sarah are school friends with a lot in common: both are misfits--Eric because he's grossly fat, Sarah because of hideous scars from a childhood accident. When Eric joins the swim team and begins to shed his extra pounds, he fears he might lose Sarah's friendship. Instead, as Sarah confronts her past and the fury of an abusive father, that friendship grows in exciting and unexpected ways.

Survival (Island, Book Two) by Gordon Korman

Six kids. One shipwreck. One deserted island. Stranded. Separated. After their ship sinks, Luke, Ian, JJ, Sharla, Will, and Lyssa must find a way to survive. They have no food and very few supplies. They think they're all alone, but they're not. And that's even worse.

Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S. Tolan

Jake has been expelled from school after school and a home school run by the eccentric Applewhite family is his last chance. Each and every Applewhite is an artist except for E.D., who longs for order and predictability. E.D. finds herself paired with Jake in the family's first experiment in "cooperative education" and neither Jake nor E.D. is happy with the arrangement. The only thing they have in common is the determination to survive the outrageous Applewhite family.

Tangerine by Edward Bloor

So what if he's legally blind? Even with his bottle-thick, bug-eyed glasses, Paul Fisher can see better than most people. He can see the lies his parents and brother live out, day after day. No one ever listens to Paul, though--until the family moves to Tangerine. In Tangerine, even a blind, geeky, alien freak can become cool. Who knows? Paul might even become a hero!

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

In the not-too-distant future, when biotechnological advances have made synthetic bodies and brains possible but illegal, a seventeen-year-old girl, recovering from a serious accident and suffering from memory lapses, learns a startling secret about her existence.

The Alchemyst by Michael Scott

When fifteen-year-old twins Sophie and Josh Newman witness a magical battle in a bookshop, they enter a world of magic, legends and myth. Nick and Perenelle Fleming own the bookshop where Josh had taken a summer job, but they are actually Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel, whom records show died in 1418. For seven hundred years the greatest alchemist of all time has been brewing a formula for immortality each month to keep himself and his wife alive and they have studied and mastered many types of alchemical and magical arts. Nicholas Flamel gets his formula for immortality from an ancient text called the Codex, which he is protecting from the Dark Elders and their minion Dr. John Dee. In the hands of the Dark Elders, the Codex could destroy the world. During the battle in the bookstore, Dr. John Dee seizes the Codex and kidnaps Perenelle. However, Josh has ripped out the last two pages of the Codex, the most critical pages for the Dark Elders. Josh, Sophie and Nick Flamel meet up with Scathach, a two thousand year old warrior with the body and face of a seventeen year old girl, and escape the city to the Shadowrealm of Hekate, the godess with three faces. There they discover that the twins have the potential for incredible magical power. Nick insists that the magical potential of the twins must be awakened to win the upcoming battle with the Dark Elders, even though Hekate thinks it’s likely to kill the twins. Meanwhile, Dr. John Dee and the Morrigan, the Dark Elder he works for, discover that the Codex is missing the critical two pages and they plot to get them back, gathering other ancient and terrible forces. An epic battle ensues, involving many creatures from myth and legend.

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

In The Austere Academy, Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are at first optimistic--attending school is a welcome change for the book-loving trio, and the academy is allegedly safe from the dreaded Count Olaf, who is after their fortune. Hope dissipates quickly, however, when they meet Vice Principal Nero, a self-professed genius violinist who sneeringly imitates their every word. More dreadful still, he houses them in the tin Orphans Shack, crawling with toe-biting crabs and dripping with a mysterious tan fungus. A beam of light shines through the despair when the Baudelaires meet the Quagmires, two of three orphaned triplets who are no strangers to disaster and sympathize with their predicament. When Count Olaf appears on the scene disguised as Coach Genghis (covering his monobrow with a turban and his ankle tattoo with expensive running shoes), the Quagmires resolve to come to the aid of their new friends. Sadly, this proves to be a hideous mistake. -- review from Amazon.com

The Barn by Avi

The barn was never going to be the biggest in Oregon Territory. There was a chance, however, it could mean the most. The year is 1855 and Ben is called home from school in Portland to his family's homestead by his older sister and brother, Nettie and Harrison. Their father has fallen into a catatonic state, unable to move on his own or talk. But the one thing Ben believes might help his father would be to build the barn his father had always intended to build. The barn, he said, was to be their gift for Father, who lay sick and silent as a cave on his bed in their one-room house. Ben thought Father should see the progress of the barn. For hadn't the man agreed, with a flick of his eyes, that a barn would make him well? Is Ben fooling himself? Is there any chance for Father to recover?

The Beloved Dearly by Doug Cooney

Ernie is a twelve-year-old tycoon, always on the lookout for a fast buck. This time he stumbles onto a money-making bonanza: pet funerals. He hires Dusty to decorate the burial boxes and Tony to dig the holes, but his prize find is Swimming Pool, a tomboy who delivers a crying jag not to be missed. Business goes through the roof -- until Ernie loses Swimming Pool over a raise and the whole venture unravels.

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

For as long as Omakayas can remember, she and her family have lived on the land her people call the Island of the Golden-Breasted Woodpecker. Although the chimookoman, white people, encroach more and more on their land, life continues much as it always has. Every summer the family builds a new birchbark house; every fall they go to ricing camp to harvest and feast; they move to the cedar log house before the first snows arrive, and celebrate the end of the long, cold winters at maple-sugaring camp. In between, Omakayas fights with her annoying little brother, Pinch, plays with the adorable baby, Neewo, and tries to be grown-up like her beautiful older sister, Angeline. But the satisfying rhythms of their lives are shattered when a visitor comes to their lodge one winter night, bringing with him another invisible enemy that will change things forever.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Liesel Meminger is only nine years old when she is taken to live with the Hubermanns, a foster family, on Himmel Street in Molching, Germany, in the late 1930s. She arrives with few possessions, but among them is The Grave Digger’s Handbook, a book she stole from her brother’s burial place. During the years that Liesel lives with the Hubermanns, Hitler becomes more powerful, life on Himmel Street becomes more fearful, and Liesel becomes a full-fledged book thief. She rescues books from Nazi book-burnings and steals from the library of the mayor. Liesel is illiterate when she steals her first book, but Hans Hubermann uses her prized books to teach her to read. This is a story of courage, friendship, love, survival, death and grief. This is Liesel’s life on Himmel Street, told from Death’s point of view.

The Boy in the Burning House by Tim Wynne-Jones

Trying to solve the mystery of his father's disappearance from their rural Canadian community, fourteen-year-old Jim gets help from the disturbed Ruth Rose, who suspects her stepfather, a local pastor.

When 9-year-old Bruno’s father, a high-ranking military officer, is given a prestigious assignment, the entire family is forced to move away from their beloved home in Berlin to a more isolated house far away from anything but a vast fence. Bruno struggles to understand why he has to move from his comfortable life and why everything is so different at “Out-With” where he has no other children to play with except a Jewish boy in gray-striped pajamas who becomes Bruno’s secret friend.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull

Nate moves to a new town at the beginning of fifth grade. Luckily he makes friends with some kids near his house who have a club; they are called The Blue Falcons. After school one day, they stop by the new candy shop. The owner tells them she will give them some of her special candy if they do some jobs for her. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But you know what they say: never take candy from strangers! Soon Nate, Summer, Trevor and Pigeon are in over their heads and in the middle of a battle between rival magicians.

The Carbon Diaries, 2015 by Saci Lloyd

Told in diary and scrapbook format, the story follows teenage Laura Brown during Britain’s first year of carbon rationing. Her family’s lifestyle is completely disrupted and the family bond is in danger of falling apart. Laura tries to stay normal with her band, having a crush on a boy, and her wicked sense of humor, but the family drama and general mayhem of shortages, blackouts, and freaky weather makes it hard to figure out what normal is anymore.

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The electricity is turned off from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. each day in this strange dark City of Ember. During the "day" when it is on, it fails often. Doon and Lina have just received their permanent job assignments. Neither is satisfied with the assignment given. Lina is thrilled however when Doon offers her the chance to trade her underground pipeworks job for his messenger assignment, the very one she'd been hoping for. Doon has had his heart set on a job in the electrical works so he could help solve Ember's problems with failing electricity and disappearing supplies. But there is a connection between the pipeworks and the electricity, and Doon believes he can learn more about it. Lina's dream of a city of light is a shining contrast to the often dark City of Ember. Lina and Doon come to combine their dreams and talents on a quest to save the people of Ember.

The Conch Bearer by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

A mysterious old man invites Anand to accompany him on a journey to return a magical conch shell to its home high in the Himalayan mountains.

The Doll People by Ann Martin

Annabelle Doll is 8 years old--and has been for over 100 years. Nothing much has changed in the dollhouse during that time, except for the fact that 45 years ago, Annabelle's Auntie Sarah disappeared from the dollhouse without a trace. After all this time, restless Annabelle is becoming more and more curious about her aunt's fate. And when she discovers Auntie Sarah's old diary, she becomes positively driven. Her cautious family tries to discourage her, but Annabelle won't be stopped, even though she risks Permanent Doll State, in which she could turn into a regular, nonliving doll. And when the "Real Pink Plastic" Funcraft family moves in next door, the Doll family's world is turned upside down--in more ways than one! Summary from Amazon.com

Avon is a snail who longs for adventure. He's never had an adventure like those he reads about in books, and he is sure that the only way to be truly happy is to have an adventure. Avon decides to set out in the world with his new friend Edward, a confident ant who seems to know more than Avon about journeys and excitement. Along the way, they encounter many strange and wonderful creatures and learn that friendship might just be the best adventure of all.

The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly

A young girl struggles against the gender roles set out for her in 1899 Texas, as she attempts to further her interest in the natural sciences, joins her cantankerous grandfather on his naturalist quests and deals with her seven brothers and a mother and father determined to see her act like a young lady.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

It was no ordinary life for a young girl: living among scholars in the hallowed halls of Jordan College and tearing unsupervised through motley streets on mad quests for adventure. But Lyra's greatest adventure would begin closer to home, the day she heard hushed talk of an extraordinary magical dust--found only in the vast Arctic expanse of the North--rumored to possess profound properties that could unite whole universes. But there were those who feared the particle and would stop at nothing to destroy it. Catapulted into a terrible struggle, Lyra was forced to seek aid from witches, gypsies, and armored bears. And as she journeyed into unbelievable danger, she had not the faintest clue that she alone was destined to win, or to lose, this more-than-mortal battle .

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens escaped death at a very young age, but it looms everpresent in his life. Everyman Jack is out to find him, and when he does, he'll kill him. Luckily for Nobody, he toddled into a graveyard full of friendly, for the most part, ghosts, who agree to raise, protect and educate him within the safe confines of their world. His Guardian, who travels between both worlds knows what lies in store for Bod out beyond the cemetery gates - but he can't keep Bod within and safe forever. Winner of the 2009 Newbery Award.

The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

10-year-old Lucky fears her legal guardian will abandon her and return to France so she determines to take matters into her own hands by running away and finding her own Higher Power.

The Homework Machine by Dan Gutman

Four fifth-grade students--a geek, a class clown, a teacher's pet, and a slacker--as well as their teacher and mothers, each relate events surrounding a computer programmed to complete homework assignments.

The House of Dies Drear by Virginia Hamilton

A huge, old house with secret tunnels, a cantankerous caretaker, and buried treasure is a dream-come-true for 13-year-old Thomas. The fact that it's reputedly haunted only adds to its appeal! As soon as his family moves in, Thomas senses something strange about the Civil War era house, which used to be critical stop on the Underground Railroad. With the help of his father, he learns about the abolitionists and escaping slaves who kept the Underground Railroad running. While on his own, he explores the hidden passageways in and under the house, piecing clues together in an increasingly dangerous quest for the truth about the past. Newbery medalist Virginia Hamilton creates a heart-pounding adventure with this absorbing classic for older readers. (from amazon.com)

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

When twelve-year-old Hugo, an orphan living and repairing clocks within the walls of a Paris train station in 1931, meets a mysterious toy seller and his goddaughter, his undercover life and his biggest secret are jeopardized.

The Killer's Cousin by Nancy Werlin

David Bernard Yaffe, an 18-year-old boy recently acquitted of murder, is forced to move to Cambridge Massachusetts to live with his aunt and uncle in order to complete his last year of high school. They offer him housing in the upstairs of their apartment, housing that will potentially provide escape from incessant questions from the media and timid and cautious looks from neighbors and ex-friends. The attic that David is given to live in is nothing of what he expected, and he later begins to hear odd humming sounds and even sees ghost like shadows, shadows that remind him of something from his past. In addition to the humming sounds and ghosts, David has to put up with his Aunts inhospitable attitude, and his cousin Lily. Her unwelcoming behavior causes him to constantly avoid her, but there is no escaping. The longer he stays in the attic, the more he learns about Lily, and how she oddly yet surely relates to their unforgettable past.

The Landry News by Andrew Clements

New to Denton Elementary, Cara Landry is stuck in a class where no one wants to be. The teachers read the newspaper all day while the children occupy themselves, often with mischief. But Cara, a budding journalist, has an important story to tell about what's really going on in Mr. Larson's class. Her newspaper, called The Landry News, is just a handwritten sheet at first. It soon grows in size and in circulation, transforming Cara and re-energizing a teacher who had long ago forgotten just how much he loved his profession.

The London Eye Mystery by Siobhan Dowd

Ted lives in South London with his mum, his dad and big sister, Kat. One day they get a letter from his Aunt Gloria that she and cousin Salim are coming to visit before Aunt Gloria starts her new job in New York. Ted is nervous about visitors, but he and Salim meet and get along well. The first day of the visit, they decide to go ride the London Eye, the world's biggest Ferris wheel and one of Ted's favorite activities. While they are waiting in line, a man offers Salim a free ticket to go up in the next group. Salim takes it and enters the capsule at 11:32 a.m. It takes exactly 30 minutes for the Eye to rotate. At 12:02 p.m. Salim does not come out of the capsule. Somehow he has completely disappeared. Ted and Kat overcome their prickly relationship to work together to find clues, evaluate theories, and find their cousin. The way Ted's brain works - which his family calls his "syndrome," and Ted calls "a different operating system," and is most likely Asperger's Syndrome - helps the pair solve the case.

The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo

In the city of Baltese, Peter lives with the old soldier Vilna Lutz as his guardian and a daily routine of stale bread, small fish, and pointless army drills. One day at the market, Peter decides to spend his only florit (which isn't even his) not on bread and fish, but instead on a fortuneteller. She tells him that although his mother and father are dead, his sister lives and he must "follow the elephant" to find her.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up in the middle of a maze with no memory. He must work with others to put together the pieces of his memory, while figuring out his surroundings and fighting to stay alive.

Edward Tulane, a cold-hearted and proud toy rabbit, loves only himself until he is separated from the little girl who adores him and travels across the country, acquiring new owners and listening to their hopes, dreams, and histories.

The Moorchild by Eloise McGraw

The Moorchild is set long ago in an unfamiliar place where fairy folk and humans sometimes intermingle. Half-folk and half-human, Saaski has no place in either world. The human villagers ridicule and taunt her because she's different. They blame her for a pox that's plaguing their children and for the death of their cattle. Her life is threatened. But Saaski has no desire to hurt others. She is searching for the truth about herself and for some place where she can finally fit in.

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse

Mila creates headlines around the world when she is rescued from an unpopulated island off the coast of Florida. Now a teenager, she has been raised by dolphins from the age of four. Researchers teach Mila language and music. She learns, too, about rules and expectations, about locked doors and broken promises, disappointment and betrayal. The more Mila finds out what it means to be human, the more deeply she longs for her ocean home.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

After passing a series of mind-bending tests, four children are selected for a secret mission that requires them to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened, where the only rule is that there are no rules.

The Other Side of Truth by Beverly Naidoo

Will the truth harm them -- or save them? When Nigeria's corrupt military government kills their mother, twelve-year-old Sade and her brother Femi think their lives are over. Out of fear for their safety, their father, an outspoken journalist, decides to smuggle the children out of Nigeria and into London, where their uncle lives. But when they get to the cold and massive city, they find themselves lost and alone, with no one to trust and no idea when -- or if -- they will ever see their father again. The Other Side of Truth is a gripping adventure story about courage, family, and the power of truth.

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place by E. L. Konigsburg

How many of you have been to camp? And do you remember it fondly?

The Same Stuff as Stars by Katherine Paterson

Eleven-year-old Angel Morgan needs help. Her daddy is in jail, and her mother has abandoned Angel and her little brother, Bernie, at their great-grandmother's crumbling Vermont farmhouse. Grandma, aged and poor, spends most of her time wrapped in a blanket by the wood stove and is as much of a handful as Bernie. In this dreary world of adult worries and loneliness, there is only one bright spot -- a mysterious stranger who appears on clear nights and teaches Angel all about the stars and planets and constellations. Angel's determination to carve out a new life for herself and Bernie gets a boost from her star-gazing friend, and from Miss Liza, the ancient withered town librarian.

The School Story by Andrew Clements

Natalie's best friend, Zoe, is sure that the novel Natalie's written is good enough to be published. But how can a twelve-year-old girl publish a book? Natalie's mother is an editor for a big children's publisher, but Natalie doesn't want to ask for any favors. Then Zoe has a brilliant idea: Natalie can submit her manuscript under a pen name, with Zoe acting as her literary agent. But it's not easy for two sixth-graders to put themselves over as grown-ups, even with some help from a couple of real grown-ups who are supportive but skeptical. The next best-selling school story may be in their hands,-but can Natalie and Zoe pull off their masquerade?

Carmen, Tibby, Bridget, and Lena are the Septembers, a group of friends whose friendships started before they were born. They are all now fifteen-years-old and are spending their first summer apart from one another. To keep them together if not in body then in spirit, they form the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, a club of sorts where each gets to wear these "magical" jeans for a period of time, and then send them on to the next girl as the jeans collect the intimate story of each girl's individual summer. The pants link the novel's four individual storylines, and connects the "Sisterhood". Each character's summer adventure brings life realizations and learning experiences.

Wiley and Jeff have been best friends for all of their 11 years. Notorious for the nicknames they have awarded the people in their school, they are quick to dub their new teacher, Mr. Hughes, the former high-school football coach with a booming voice and can-do attitude, Mr. Huge. However, their game soon begins to backfire. A bet with a classmate--that nicknames don't stick unless they fit--has unpredicted results. Cassandra, an interesting and attractive new student with a passion for wildlife conservation, seems to defy all labels. Wiley and Jeff's clever moniker for their class, the Dim Bulbs (as opposed to the Bright Lights for class 6A), has everyone believing that they are incapable of doing well on a state reading test, which puts Mr. Huge's job in jeopardy. As the two boys vie for Cassandra's attention, their nicknaming turns to name-calling and they find the stability of their friendship threatened. From Joy Fleishhacker, School Library Journal

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

The adventures of Despereaux Tilling, a small mouse of unusual talents, the princess that he loves, the servant girl who longs to be a princess, and a devious rat determined to bring them all to ruin.

The Teacher's Funeral by Richard Peck

In rural Indiana in 1904, 15-year-old Russell's dreams of quitting school and joining a wheat-threshing crew are disrupted when his older sister takes over the teaching at his one-room schoolhouse after mean old Myrt Arbuckle "hauls off and dies."

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

Because of his bragging--and his great skill at thievery--Gen lands in the King's Prison, shackled to the wall of his cell. After months of isolation, kept sane only by his sharp intelligence, Gen is released by none other than the King's Scholar, the Magus, who believes he knows the site of an ancient treasure. The Magus needs the best thief in the land to help him steal it, and that thief is Gen. To the Magus, Gen is simply a tool. But Gen is a survivor and a trickster--and he has ideas of his own. The surprise ending will leave you breathless!

The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke

Prosper and Bo are runaway brothers who have found friendship and shelter with a gang of young rascals run by Scipio, a boy who calls himself The Thief Lord. As winter arrives in Venice, the private detective hired to find them is getting close and Prosper and Bo find themselves involved in a web of intrigue and deceit revolving around a magical merry-go-round.

Set in 1832, this sea story begins with a warning to the reader: "Not every 13-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty." Charlotte Doyle is a spunky, intelligent American girl whose English education has shaped her to be a lady. No wonder that, from the moment she boards a merchant ship headed for home, she feels out of place. She's the only passenger, her cabin's a dark hole, and the captain's name terrifies burly dock workers. The old cook Zachariah offers friendship and a knife for Charlotte to protect herself as the voyage home rapidly turns into a dangerous adventure. In mutiny and in hurricane, ultimately in murder and in judgment, Charlotte-as a member of the crew-learns hard lessons about work, truth, loyalty, fairness and human worth. Although echoes of Treasure Island and Moby Dick are heard in the rigging, the story Charlotte tells is uniquely her own.

The Trumpet of the Swan by E.B. White

Louis is a young trumpeter swan who faces the unthinkable situation of not having a voice. Helped by his father, who steals a trumpet for him, and by his 11-year-old human friend Sam, Louis overcomes his situation and becomes a great musician. Many readers say this book is even better than Charlotte's Web or Stuart Little. Read it and see what you think.

The View From Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg

For the first time ever, the sixth grade Academic Bowl Team might just be able to defeat the seventh grade team. That possibility has the school buzzing. Each of the four team members tell their individual story of how being a part of this surprisingly successful team helps them to learn more about themselves.

The Wanderer by Sharon Creech

Thirteen-year-old Sophie, her two cousins, and three uncles sail across the Atlantic Ocean to England to visit the ailing patriarch of the family, Bompie. Sophie conveys her fascination with the sea in journal entries and retellings of Bompie's stories, "The sea, the sea, the sea. It rolled and rolled and called to me. Come in, it said, come in." Cousin Cody writes his own journal entries and reveals that Sophie is an unreliable narrator and not always telling the truth. What happened in her past? Why does Sophie tell us things that Cody says are not true? These questions will motivate readers to keep reading to discover the answers to Sophie's secrets.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham: 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis

In a book that is often hilarious and sometimes sad, ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Watsons of Flint, Michigan, are heading for Birmingham, Alabama. Kenny's older brother has gotten into trouble one too many times and now the family is taking him 'back home" for some straightening out. What crosses their path is one of the darkest moments in American history — the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church in which four black children are killed.

The Willoughbys by Lois Lowry

Tim, Jane, and the twins, Barnaby A and Barnaby B, are four rather ordinary children. They just happen to have extraordinarily horrible parents. And that requires some extraordinary scheming! Summary from www.loislowry.com

The Year of the Dog by Grace Lin

It’s the Chinese Year of the Dog. The Year of the Dog is considered a good year for friends and "finding oneself." Pacy starts right away to search for her talent and make new friends but doesn’t find it easy going. After a struggle to find her talent and learning to cope with disappointment, Pacy makes a new friend and learns that the year of the dog was a lucky one after all!

Ailin is born into the Tao family at a time when China is in great turmoil. The foreigners, known as the "Foreign Big Noses," are eroding the empire by bringing in Western philosophies. More spirited than her older sisters, 5-year-old Ailin refuses to have her feet bound, causing the family of her intended husband to break the marriage agreement. Though an excellent student, Ailin seems doomed to a life of servitude and "low standing" until she is introduced to an American missionary family. At fourteen she becomes the amah, or governess, for the Warner children and embarks on a new life that grants her happiness far beyond her dreams.

Time Stops for No Mouse by Michael Hoeye

Hermux Tantamoq, up until now a mild-mannered mouse, is in love. He is charmed by the beautiful and adventurous Linka Perflinger who has brought him a watch to fix. Though he works feverishly to restore the watch, Ms. Perflinger never returns to claim it. Hermux sets out to unravel the mystery of Linka's disappearance and to do it he will have to outrun a squad of ruthless lab rats and decipher a trail of intriguing clues.

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen

Within Cole Matthews lies anger, rage and hate. Cole has been stealing and fighting for years. This time he caught Peter Driscal in the parking lot and smashed his head against the sidewalk. Now, Peter may have permanent brain damage and Cole is in the biggest trouble of his life. Cole is offered Circle Justice: a system based on Native American traditions that attempts to provide healing for the criminal offender, the victim, and the community. With prison as his only alternative, Cole plays along. He says he wants to repent, but in his heart, Cole blames his alcoholic mom, his abusive dad, wimpy Peter -- everyone but himself -- for his situation. Cole receives a one-year banishment to a remote Alaskan island. There, he is mauled by a mysterious white bear of Native American legend. Hideously injured, Cole waits for death. His thoughts shift from anger to humility. To survive, he must stop blaming others and take responsibility for his life. Rescuers arrive to save Cole's body, but it is the attack of the Spirit Bear that may save his soul.

True Believer by Virginia Euwer Wolff

In this second novel from the Make Lemonade trilogy, fifteen-year-old LaVaughn faces new challenges in her struggle to rise above poverty and difficult circumstances. A boy from her past, now a gorgeous and seemingly eligible young man, returns and creates turmoil the reader never expects. LaVaughn's oldest friends join the Cross Your Legs for Jesus club without her. Her mother dates a man for the first time since her father's death. And LaVaughn's determination to make it to college means an advanced biology class, Grammar Build-Up, and a job folding laundry at the Children's Hospital. Can LaVaughn find the courage to succeed without alienating those around her?

Tucket's Gold by Gary Paulsen

Tucket, Lottie, and Billy are fleeing for their lives. After narrowly escaping the grasp of the Comancheros, a group of fierce bandits, Tucket must keep Lottie and Billy, two orphaned children, out of harms way. At the same time, Tucket is searching for his family after being kidnapped from their wagon on the Oregon Trail over a year before. Now, after discovering a hidden treasure, could luck be changing for the better? Only time will tell.

Turnabout by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Melly looks fifteen, acts fifteen, and seems fifteen, but the secret is out--she's not fifteen. Melly is one hundred and eighty-five years old thanks to Project Turnabout, a secret experiment in which fifty people about to die from old age, were injected with a drug that "unages" them. Now it is the year 2085, and both Melly and Anny Beth, a fellow participant in the project, are faced with a difficult task: what do they do when they become too young to take care of themselves? The agency, set up by the doctors to care of the project participants, seems to have ulterior motives. Melly and Anny Beth decide there is only one logical solution: they must leave the agency and look for parents.

Twisted by Laurie Halse Anderson

High school senior Tyler Miller used to be the kind of guy who faded into the background. But since he got busted for doing graffiti on the school, and spent the summer doing outdoor work to pay for it, he stands out like you wouldn’t believe. His new physique attracts the attention of queen bee Bethany Milbury, who happens to be his father’s boss’s daughter, the sister of his biggest enemy— and Tyler’s secret crush. And that sets off a string of events and changes that have Tyler questioning his place in school, in his family, and in the world.

Under the Blood-Red Sun by Graham Salisbury

December 7, 1941 -- thirteen-year-old Tomikazu Nakaji and his best friend Billy Davis are playing in a field near their homes in Hawaii when the Japanese launch a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. As Tomi looks up at the sky and recognizes the Blood-Red Sun emblem on the amber fighter planes, he knows that his life has changed forever. His father and grandfather, both Japanese-Americans, are quickly arrested and taken to concentration camps. His mother loses her job because she is Japanese. although Tomi feels frightened and ashamed of his native land, he is forced to become the man of the family. Under the Blood-Red Sun is an unforgettable tale of courage, survival and friendship.

Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor

When Addie and her mom move into a tiny trailer under a freeway, life is far from normal. Mom's never home, there's no food in the fridge, and Addie's best friends are the owners of the nearby convenience store and her hamster. But maybe a determined girl like Addie can find her way to normal, with the help of microwave pies and people who care.

Walk Across the Sea by Susan Fletcher

Eliza Jane lives with her family high above the stormy seas in a lighthouse on the California coast. Her only connection to the nearby town is a narrow strip of land exposed by the sea for a brief period twice a day. When the waves threaten to sweep her and her stubborn goat out to sea, a Chinese boy comes to her rescue. It's 1886 and Chinese immigrants are being driven out of California for fear they will take jobs from the white people - a move even her beloved father supports. Soon Wah Chung will need Eliza's help. Will Eliza defy the townspeople and her father to help Wah Chung or will she turn away?

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

When 13-year-old Salamanca Tree Hiddle's mother left on a trip to Idaho she told Sal that she'd be back by the time the tulips bloomed. When she doesn't return, Sal and her grandparents take off on a car trip from Ohio to Idaho in search of her. To pass the time while riding in the rickety car, Sal tells the story of her friend Pheobe and soon we learn that there are many ways to "lose" your mother.

Whale Talk by Chris Crutcher

At Cutter High, fifty miles up-country from Spokane, sports are almost a matter of life and death. Earning a letter jacket makes you a member of Cutter's aristocracy. But not if you're T.J. Jones, an adopted mixed-race natural athlete with brains, compassion and an attitude. In a school without a pool, T.J. organizes an in-your-face swimming team of misfits with the goal of everybody earning a letter. As the participants come together, practicing at the All Night Fitness pool, they gradually become a team, learning to respect and help each other under T.J.'s leadership. But trouble's brewing-some people don't like this insult to Cutter-style sportsmanship. Throw in a child-and-wife-abusing sociopath and you have the volatile mix that makes for tragedy. T.J. tells the story, in very contemporary language, with a great sense of humor. But he has his own and his dad's issues to deal with-an absorbing subplot that moves Whale Talk to its unexpected conclusion.

What Happened to Lani Garver? by Carol Plum-Ucci

Hackett Island has never seen anyone quite like Lani Garver. Everything about this new kid is a mystery: Where does Lani come from? How old is Lani? And most disturbing of all -- is Lani a boy or a girl? Claire McKenzie isn't up to tormenting Lani like the rest of the high school elite. Instead, she befriends the intriguing outcast. But within days of Lani's arrival, tragedy strikes and Claire must deal with shattered friendships and personal demons-and the possibility that angels walk the earth.

When My Name Was Keoko by Linda Sue Park

The voices of 10-year-old Sun-hee and her older brother Tae-yul tell the story of their Korean family during the Japanese occupation of the 1940s. As they struggle to maintain their identity and dignity, they are forced to give up many of their customs. They cannot even use their Korean names. Difficult conditions become even harder as the impact of World War II forces each of them to make tough decisions.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

As her mother prepares to be a contestant on the 1970s television game show, "The $20,000 Pyramid," a twelve-year-old New York City girl tries to make sense of a series of mysterious notes received from an anonymous source that seems to defy the laws of time and space.

When Zachary Beaver Came to Town by Kimberly Willis Holt

Toby Wilson is having the toughest summer of his life. It's the summer his mother leaves town to try her luck as a country singer in Nashville. The summer his best friend Cal's brother is serving in Vietnam. And the summer Zachary Beaver, the fattest boy in the world, arrives in Toby's sleepy Texas town. Seemingly abanonded in a trailer as the driver in a truck pulls away, Zachary isn't getting out and everyone in town is trying to get in. After Toby and Cal befriend Zachary, they learn that everyone has a different perspective in life and that making one friend in a summer can be a great thing.

Minli, an adventurous girl from a poor village, buys a magical goldfish, and then joins a dragon who cannot fly on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon in hopes of bringing life to Fruitless Mountain and freshness to Jade River.

Witness by Karen Hesse

Written in free verse form, Witness tells the story of a small town in Vermont in the 1920s faced with a new force in town. That force is the Ku Klux Klan, an organization of men that spreads fear and hate for everyone else that is not white. We learn how the Klan and other important cultural events of the time impact people's lives and their values through the voices of eleven different citizens of the community. In particular, the words of 12-year-old Leanora Sutter, an African-American, and 6 year old Esther Hirsh, a Jewish American, offer the reader a chance to see humans struggling with profound issues of good and evil.

Zach's Lie by Roland Smith

Jack Osborne was a pretty average kid -- was, that is, until the night masked men break into his house, threaten his family, and ransack their home. Why? As it turns out, the small airline that Jack's dad owns is actually a front for illegal drug trafficking. Now Jack's dad has been arrested and his "business associates" want to make sure he doesn't talk. The only way to safety for Jack, his mother, and his sister is the Witness Security Program, which means that Jack Osborne from Texas will now be Zach Granger from Nevada -- and no one can ever know the truth about their real identities and former lives. In Elko, Nevada, Zach starts middle school where he meets Sam, a custodian with secrets of his own, and Caitlin, a girl who might make Zach's new life worth the trouble. ' But just as Zach finally begins to put the pieces of his life back together, he finds himself in danger -- and what he does now could mean life or death for everyone he cares about most.

Zen and the Art of Faking It by Jordan Sonnenblick

When thirteen-year-old San Lee changes schools again, this time in the middle of the year, he needs a way to stand out. Luckily he just learned about Zen Buddhism at his old school. Now when his new teacher begins a unit on it, he already knows the answers. When his new classmates start believing he is a Zen master he goes along for the ride. What can go wrong?

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