March
Take the Key and Lock her Up by Ally Carter
Hooray! finally a book that ends a series. An actual trilogy. I was beginning to think no one did that. This was a satisfactory conclusion to the story of Grace and the kingdom of Adria. To say lots of intrigue is understating this. The story line is a tad slow but the ending is terrific. Readers of her other stories may find this one less engaging and more woe-is-me drama, but still worth reading. Good. YA

Nine,ten: a September 11 story by Nora Raleigh Baskin
Unusual. The story of four families and four kids who end up being connected by the fall of the Twin Towers. Not so tragic as to be too much for younger readers. One of thee kids is a Muslim girl in the midwest. Well done.

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
Prequel to Code Name Verity. This is Lady Julia (Verity in later years) as a 15 year old just leaving her family estate which has been sold for her grandfather's debts. Scottish river pearls play multiple parts in this story about a murder, an assault, Travelers, and Scottish history. The writing is spectacular. The plot is good too, right to the end. Lots of strong women characters in this. The men, not so much. Excellent. YA for a possible sexual assault, but not too explicit..

My Last Lament by James William Brown
Aliki is telling her story as one of Greece's ancient lamenters. But it's really her own lament, her own life. From the execution of her father, the hiding of a Jewish mother and son (Stelios) from the Nazis, and then the chaos at the end of the war which was no end at all. Then there is the unstable Takis who needs a family. So much grief. High School for the sexual content. Possibly 8th grade. This was beautifully written but heartbreaking.

Wandmaker by Ed Masessa
Henry Leach and his sister thought they were normal. Of course their parents were weird, but whose aren't? Turns out he has to save the world along with his sister who has been turned into a blue hedgehog. The plot was OK, and the characters were OK, but I never connected with them and just didn't buy it. Maybe Harry Potter has spoiled all of us. Or Narnia. Or Lord of the Rings. Or maybe it's just mediocre writing. 4th+ Not awful

Theodore Boone: The Scandal: Theodore Boone 6 by John Grisham
Poor Theo. He has to take standardized tests all week. Ugh. But then there's the scandal. I'm not sure kids want to read a novel about testing, but Theo's conflicts are always realistic and I suppose our GT kids will sympathize with his moral vicissitudes. Good. 4th+

Vicious Circle by C J Box (#17)
Now I'll have to wait another year for the next book. sigh. In this one the Cates family (what's left of it) has resurfaced and it's a real threat to Joe Pickett and his family. Dallas Cates is paroled and seems to be as slick and evil as ever. This one has quite a few twists in it and was good to the end. Nate Romanowsky wasn't a good as usual and played only a minor role. Still a good read. Adult for level of violence.

Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan
Alternating chapters between Ravi who is new to America and Joe who has ADP (auditory processing disorder). Both are starting fifth grade and it's awful. And the classic bully makes it that much worse. This is a very quick read--good read aloud. Nice resolution. 3rd+

The Zookeeper's Wife by Diane Ackerman
Historical narrative based on the WWII experiences of Antonina Żabiński and her family in Warsaw, Poland. This is not easily read--it's a bit verbose and unnecessarily prosaic. But a terrific and different view of occupied Poland and rescuers. It had moments to lighten the horror, but it's still pretty depressing. I'm not buying it for middle school mostly because I can't imagine any of our students slogging through this, even if they have an inordinate interest in WWII. Noting objectionable, just long and dry.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Blue Spruce nominee. Time Traveling ship with a mix of odd companions led by Captain and his daughter. They travel by using maps from various time frames, but the Captains goal has always been to return to his wife before her death. Not overly complicated as time travel books go. Lots of Hawaii history in this one. I liked this one. OK for middle school.

Kid Owner by Tim Green
Finding out you are part owner of the Dallas Cowboys was something of a shock, but the real conflict here is a small kid who wants to be a football player in Texas. Just slightly farfetched, but as usual, well written by Green. CCBA nominee and should sell to boys. Not my favorite but not bad.