It is with a certain amount of sadness that I write about the last book in the Ranger's Apprentice series. Ranger's Apprentice: The Lost Stories (AR 18.0, Level 6.0) by Australia's John Flanagan is a great end to this adventure-filled series. This series, seemingly appealing to boys, is appealing to both genders. I know of a fifth grade teacher who could not put the first book, Ranger's Apprentice: The Ruins of Gorlan (AR 12.0, Level 7.0), down until the wee hours of the night!
To explain the existence of these short stories, Mr. Flanagan creates a foreword and afterword in which archaeologists unearth these previously unknown tales of the Araluen rangers Will and Halt. These are auxiliary tales that would not fit within the confines of the ten other books and would not have a complex plot in which to write a whole novel.
But what a treasure trove of stories! Stories that answer questions that readers may have wondered about! In these pages, you will find answers to who Will's parents were, how Halt became a ranger, what happened to Horace and Evanlyn, and what happened to Will's love, Alyss. There are also stories about supporting characters like Gilan, Jenny, and Ebony. An especially emotionally resonant story is the tale called, "The Wolf," in which we learn the fate of faithful and loyal Tug.
Flanagan also creates an excellent bridge between his Ranger's Apprentice series and his new series, The Brotherband Chronicles. So, enjoy this last wonderful adventure with Will and his mentor, Halt!
Twelve-year-old Derek is looking forward to a great summer with his best friend. Mom and Dad, of course, have other ideas for the Calvin and Hobbes-loving Derek. Two words: Learning Camp! YIKES! Even worse, he must spend more time at Learning Camp with that goody two shoes, Carly! ICK! What is a fun-loving skateboarder to do? All he has left is his faithful dog, Bodi.
Solve a ten-year-old mystery, of course! Derek finds a clipping about a mysterious death that occurred in Martha's Vineyard when he was just a toddler. When he brings up the clipping to his Mom, she becomes mysteriously close-mouthed. What is she hiding from Derek? And why does the clipping mention that the girl died while trying to save a two-year-old toddler? Is it a coincidence that Derek happened to be at Martha's Vineyard when it happened?
Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans are sure to enjoy My Life as a Book (AR 4.0, Level 5.2) by Janet Tashjian. Each cartoon, drawn by the author's son, is laugh out loud funny. Find out what happens to Derek when he manages to convince his parents to visit his grandmother in Massachusetts!
Don't expect a light-hearted romp of a fairy tale in A Tale Dark & Grimm (AR 6.0, Level 4.6) by Adam Gidwitz. This book, now in paperback, is grisly and horrific. It is specifically geared for 'tweens and teenagers.
Hansel and Gretel are seemingly clue-less in the original fairy tale, as they encounter the witch in the woods. In this tale, the two characters are fully-developed and attain preternatural maturity because of all of the horror they experience due to the mistakes of their parents.
Fairy tales are currently experiencing a resurgence in popularity at the movies and on television. However, the current incarnations of traditional fairy tales seem to taking a darker path than the Disneyfied versions of the past. Adam Gidwitz's novel can best be described as kiddie horror (is there such a genre?) He explains in his biography that he has personally experienced the horrors he has written about. Personally, I hope he is kidding! Read it, to find out why!
Who are Speedy, Kato, Dum Dum Dugan, and Jimmy Olsen? Sidekicks to super-heroes, of course! Jack D. Ferraiolo's Sidekicks (AR 8.0, level 3.9) is all about a sidekick called Bright Boy. Unfortunately, Bright Boy has what has come to be known as a "wardrobe malfunction." Now the laughing-stock of his school, Scott Hutchinson, aka Bright Boy, secretly seethes about his too tight costume.
Meanwhile, some changes in his relationship with his archnemesis, Monkeywrench, alter his feelings about the super-hero biz altogether. Will Scott pursue his increasingly empty life of playing a sidekick in too small clothes or will he demand a change in wardrobe from his mentor, Phantom Justice? What are those dark pages in the book all about? Why are all of the other super-heroes disappearing? Find out in these pages!
If you love those super-hero movies or if you are a fanboy, you are sure to enjoy this book! Up, up, and away to Link+ to find this book or check out a San José Public Library digital audiobook version!
Pam Munoz Ryan's Esperanza Rising (AR 6.0, Level 5.3) follows a resilient character during the time of the Great Depression. Esperanza, a child of privilege, learns about corruption and class disparity when her father dies in Mexico. Escaping from Mexico to Southern California, Esperanza and her mother must eke by, dependent upon the kindness of their former servants.
Esperanza must learn everything from scratch, much to her embarrassment. She continues to cling to her feelings of superiority, until her mother falls victim to a local illness. Confused and frightened, Esperanza must labor to provide for her sick mother despite a growing movement for labor equality by the Mexican immigrants.
This book is inspiring and thought-provoking. If you have an interest in historical fiction or if you are curious about the Mexican immigrant experience, this book is for you!
What does a sycamore tree have to do with a friendship you ask? Read Flipped (AR 8.0, Level 4.8) to find out!
Bryce and Julianna meet when Bryce moves into the neighborhood when they are both in the second grade. Julianna immediately develops a crush upon Bryce, who finds her annoying. The book follows the pair as they move on to middle school.
Through callousness and misinformation, Bryce hurts Julianna many times, until he finally goes too far. Then, we find out why the title is called Flipped! Very amusing and touching, anyone who has ever had a long-term crush will understand the situation that evolves.
Wendelin Van Draanen is known for the Sammy Keyes series (starting with Sammy Keyes and the Hotel Thief) for younger kids. This is an excellent title for middle schoolers. Told from each character's point of view in alternating chapters, the reader will understand both sides of the story!